There is quite the market for APO telescopes.
They provide excellent imaging quality for those who want more out of their astrophotography aspirations.
The Explore Scientific CF ED 102 APO telescope has all the bells and whistles.
From top-notch optics to lightweight and astrophotography benefits, it has the potential to be your go-to telescope for every trip out of the house and everyday use at home.
Here is what you must know before you buy.
Explore Scientific CF ED 102 APO Telescope Review
✔️ Best Feature: APO & ED optics
❌ Worst Feature: ES finder tube
👌 Ideal For: Celestial Viewing, Terrestrial Viewing, Stargazing, Lunar & Planetary Observation, Bright DSO Viewing, Astrophotography, Intermediates, Experts
- Optical Design: Refractor
- Aperture: 102 mm (4”)
- Focal Length: 714 mm
- Focal Ratio: f/7
- Eyepieces Included: None
My Verdict: I believe the Explore Scientific CF ED APO telescope is a scope that does it all. For visual, you’ll have excellent views with pinpoint sharpness, true color, and a wealth of objects to find. For imaging, sharp stars and great resolution makes for great pics. It’s an expensive buy, but since when has carbon fiber, APO and ED optics, and a lightweight tube ever let you down?
Who is the Explore Scientific CF ED 102 APO Best Suited to?
Simply due to the price, its astrophotography potential, and that it’s a standalone tube buy, I am confident this isn’t a telescope designed for beginners. I think it would be appropriate for intermediate and expert users looking for an APO refractor with the bells and whistles.
As a lightweight telescope, it’s also an excellent option for those who get out often to dark skies. Having the advantage of APO optics and little effort in setup may be the difference between heading out for the night or staying in.
In my opinion the scope that’s light enough and fast enough to get setup is the scope you want to take out. It proudly features on our ten best telescopes overall page.
How Does the Explore Scientific CF ED 102 APO Perform?
The Explore Scientific 102 APO telescope is a high-quality system with superb optics. It’s a medium-speed telescope with its f/7 focal ratio and its 102 mm aperture, you’ll be able to see details on the moon, the division between Saturn’s rings, have a clear view of Jupiter’s cloud bands and moons, and much more.
You’ll have a wider field of view, especially if you can incorporate some wide-field angle eyepieces. You can search large constellations and open clusters and then turn your eye to smaller nebulae. While you may not be able to resolve detail on faint DSOs, you can make out more on what you can see thanks to the APO optics with ED.
As a standalone tube buy, you’ll have to choose the mount and accessories that will best fit your needs. This does mean more of an investment required by you, but this will be a long-lasting telescope that you won’t ever put aside.
Features & Benefits
APO & ED Optics
The Explore Scientific carbon fiber telescope is not only an APO refractor, it also incorporates ED (Extra-low Dispersion) glass into the optics. To be an APO optic, it must have three glass elements that make up the triplet assembly. It brings three wavelengths into focus for better color fidelity, contrast, and sharpness. Furthermore, the ED enhances the chromatic aberration-free effects of having an APO optical design.
The APO optics are made from Hoya in Japan, and this type of glass is classed as FCD100. It has a slightly higher Abbe number than FPL-53 often seen in ED doublet telescopes. It’s specifically used in Explore Scientific’s FCD-100 series of telescopes designed for astrophotography.
Since the triplet lenses are air-spaced, they require coatings. The company uses a proprietary EMD enhanced multi-layer coating on all air-to-glass surfaces. With an exceptional optical system with more than just the basics covered, you’ll have absolute confidence that you will experience the night sky like never before.
Carbon Fiber Tube
Having a carbon fiber tube is going to add value, and therefore the price to any telescope. The CF in this telescope model name stands for Carbon Fiber. You guessed it; this telescope has a carbon fiber tube.
First, the bad. CF tubes have an outer plastic covering, so be sure not to over-tighten the tube rings or you will leave marks that can’t be buffed out. There may be a little more glue in the telescope due to the fact that the aluminum fittings are epoxied on. But, for the price, you can count on having great quality guaranteed during the bonding process.
Now, to the good. CF tubes may have more of an aesthetic appeal for some buyers. There is also the thermal expansion and contraction concerns. Various CF tubes will cool down differently among models between manufacturers. It depends on the size, inner lining or no inner lining, how thick the carbon fiber is, etc. But, they are known for maintaining stability during temperature changes. So, when it gets cold, the tube won’t contract, and you can maintain stable focusing.
One of the most noted benefits of a CF tube is weight reduction. This model weighs 7 lbs. Its metal tube alternative weighs 9.6 lbs. In reality, the 2-3 lb weight savings isn’t significant, but the other benefits may help to justify the price jump when looking at its overall advantages.
As a medium speed telescope, you can dabble in both high power planetary imaging and DSO photography. Don’t be fooled by the small 102 mm of aperture as it will allow you to do everything that you would expect of a 4” telescope plus some. Due to the superior optics, you’ll have excellent color fidelity. There should be no present chromatic aberration except for perhaps a slight purple tinge if you can see it at all.
Of course, your choice of mount and camera will determine how much imaging you can take advantage of. You’ll at least need equatorial movement with precise polar alignment and a very accurate and smooth GoTo system.
The tube can attach to a mount with a Vixen-style dovetail mounting system. Almost any mount has this modern and common mounting system. The question is what you intend to do with it. If its for visual only, you may want to consider a manual alt-azimuth mount. Since the tube is lightweight at 7 lbs, it can be a light-duty mount. You can decide whether or not the manual mount you choose has slow motion controls for fine adjustments.
For imaging, you’ll need an EQ GoTo. I believe upgrading to a quality mount with a payload capacity of 30 lbs should do the job. If you need anything more than that for much heavier loads, you may introduce balancing issues with the tube.
ES Finder Shoe
Explore Scientific uses a brand-specific finder shoe for mounting a finder scope. This means you’re limited to their brand of finders, although, you may be able to fit a Bresser or Meade finder with the thumbscrews that secure it.
Lack of Accessories
For a very expensive telescope, it’s disappointing to see that an eyepiece or even generic finder isn’t included with the telescope. You’ll have to add these things to your must-have accessories list along with a mount/tripod, diagonal, and other accessories you deem essential.
Other Telescopes to Consider
If you are interested in the CF ED 102 APO telescope for stargazing, I recommend taking a look at a couple of other comparable telescopes that are also great for stargazing. They are the Celestron NexStar 8SE and the Celestron CPC 925 XLT.
The black model is the featured telescope, the CF ED 102 APO telescope. The white model is essentially the same OTA as the black one, but it’s made from aluminum instead of carbon fiber.
As such, the white model is heavier. The featured telescope with its carbon fiber housing provides additional benefits that the white model may not be able to compete with. While the white model may cool down faster, it may suffer issues that come with thermal expansion and contraction throughout the course of an observation session. The black model will have less issues with focusing since it doesn’t experience thermal changes as temperatures drop.
Explore Scientific recommends the EXOS II Mount w/GoTo, Twilight I, and the Twilight II mounts. Choosing a mount will depend on what your needs are. If you plan on imaging, a GoTo equatorial mount is best. Pay attention to payload capacity. If you’re only using it for visual, a manual alt-azimuth mount will work.
The focuser is a 2.5” hexagonal, dual-speed rack-and-pinion focuser. The knobs are large and can be used with gloves. It also has a tension adjustment feature for various load weights. Apparently, it can hold up to 10 lbs of weight without creeping.
It’s actually a very good focuser that is excellent as-is for visual use. For astrophotography, you may possibly need an extension tube for some eyepieces to come to focus.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a hard case included with the telescope. The only accessories that come with the Carbon Fiber ED 102 APO is a 2.5” hexagonal focuser, integrated dew shield, cradle ring w/handle and Vixen-style dovetail plate, Explore Scientific finder scope shoe base, and a 2” carbon fiber diagonal.
The Explore Scientific Carbon Fiber ED 102 APO telescope is expensive, but it’s also cheaper than some other APO telescopes in the market.
Value is added with its carbon fiber housing and related benefits.
You can’t go wrong with either visual or imaging use – it’s a great telescope that does a little bit of everything with its strengths in its carbon fiber tube and optical system.
In my opinion, if you have the budget and are willing to invest more in high-quality accessories to get it out and observing, the 102 APO telescope is well worth the buy.