If you have a very tight budget that does not extend into the triple digit range, it’s essential to make the right buy the first time.
For this reason, you must consider the Zhumell Z100 telescope.
You can get far more “scope” for the money, it’s extremely lightweight, and it’s perfectly suited to grab-and-go observation and travel.
But, there must be compromise for such a low price, right?
Stay tuned if you want to know what you gain and what you may have to go without.
✔️ Best Feature: Portable & lightweight
❌ Worst Feature: No primary mirror collimation
👌 Ideal For: Celestial Viewing, Stargazing, Lunar & Planetary Observation, DSO Viewing, Beginners
- Optical Design: Reflector
- Aperture: 100 mm (4”)
- Focal Length: 400 mm
- Focal Ratio: f/4
- Eyepieces Included: 17 mm, 10 mm
Our Verdict: For the price, the Z100 is literally one of the best reflector telescopes under $100. It does have its disadvantages, but its price point and features may outweigh them if you need something reliable right now. It’s a highly recommended telescope for any beginner on a budget.
Who is the Zhumell Z100 Portable AZ Best Suited to?
The Z100 is best suited for beginner users to reflector telescopes. It’s intended for sky-viewing and is not usable for terrestrial observation. Since it has a Dobsonian-style design, it’s one of the easiest telescopes to use with simple optics and a simple mount. Its price point is incredibly cheap for the amount of “scope” that’s offered, and as such, it’s a great telescope for the beginner or child.
Additionally, due to its tabletop and lightweight design, it’s extremely lightweight and ready for travel. It can be grabbed in an instant for immediate observation, and it’s very portable thanks to its short tube and lightweight assembly. For anyone looking for a quick, grab-and-go platform, this is about as cheap as it gets without compromising on the optics.
How Does the Zhumell Z100 Portable AZ Perform?
Regardless of its small package, the Z100 is very capable of performing well like its larger alternatives. While it does have a smaller aperture compared to other Dobsonians, and so it can’t handle extreme high power very well, it still offers excellent DSO (Deep Sky Objects) observation thanks to its 100 mm aperture.
You can achieve more than adequate viewing capability of the moon and planets within our solar system including Saturn’s rings and the Cassini Division, both Saturn’s and Jupiter’s moons and cloud bands, and even Mars’ ice caps.
With its extremely portable design, it’ll be easy to pack this thing around and place it on any secure surface or even a tripod. Talk about portability to the max, right?
Features & Benefits
Portable & Lightweight
If you’re tuned in, you should have established that the Zhumell is built to be one of the best portable telescopes. It’s a tabletop telescope that is designed to be placed on a flat surface like that of a table for observation. Buyers have also used the hood of their car quite successfully.
Weighing in at a total of 6.2 lbs, it’s significantly lighter than a 6” and 8” Dobsonian by 10 lbs and more. And, due to its very short focal length, the tube itself is short, so it’s definitely designed with portability in mind. The base also has a carry handle to make things easier. Stick the base and the tube in the backseat of your car, and you’re ready to go.
Although the Z100 is not marketed as a Dobsonian per se, it has some of its iconic features including the Alt-azimuth mount. It’s simple and easy to use for the beginner. It works on the “lazy-Susan” principle as it can move both altitude (up and down) and azimuth (left and right). With this in mind, you can make small adjustments to manually track objects in the night sky, but it’s obviously not equipped for the type of tracking needed for astrophotography.
The mount is pretty basic, but it has real Teflon pads for smooth azimuth motions. There is an altitude tension knob that allows you to keep the tube in place but loose enough to move it by hand. The tube attaches to the mount via a plastic Vixen dovetail saddle. The base is melamine-covered particle board, has a carry handle, and can conveniently be mounted to a camera tripod.
For under 100 bucks, you still get a 4” parabolic mirror and not a spherical one. With such a fast telescope as this, you must appreciate the use of a parabolic mirror as it eliminates spherical and chromatic aberration that would otherwise become apparent.
Also, this fast telescope is prone to coma. Fortunately, the included eyepieces work well within the scope’s optical parameters and coma is not observable, but if you were to install a low magnification eyepiece down to 14-16x, the edges of the field of view would show distortions on off-axis objects further away from the center. Not a huge deal for visual purposes, and thanks to the alt-azimuth mount, you can center the object for better viewing.
The Zhumell Z100 comes with two eyepieces, a 1.25” rack and pinion focuser, and a red dot finderscope. The finderscope works fine for its purpose with this 100 mm telescope, and the focuser works acceptably with little to no movement and shake.
The eyepieces are all-metal Kellner 17 mm and 10 mm accessories. They provide 24x and 40x magnification, so they’re on the low-end for power. However, they work adequately with this telescope with no aberrations and coma. To take advantage of achieving more power, you may want to buy a higher power eyepiece of 2x Barlow. Try not to exceed 150x power as 200x is the maximum theoretical magnification, so think 75% of useful magnification as the max.
No Primary Mirror Collimation
Unfortunately, the compromise is the fixed, static primary parabolic mirror cell. There is no collimation of the primary mirror available. With a reflector scope, collimation is important for optimal focus, but for visual purposes, being “close-enough” is usually more than acceptable for the amateur observer.
You can collimate the secondary mirror, but as this is usually something that’s not needed, it’s a moot point. Fortunately, the Z100 holds collimation quite well, but this is something you definitely should be aware of as you may need to make modifications or upgrade as soon as you outgrow this telescope.
While the fast f/4 ratio is quite ideal for wide field observation and even deep-sky photography, it is not long enough for DSLR cameras to achieve focus. Neither the focal specs nor mounting system is designed for astrophotography.
Is the Image Inverted or Right-Side Up?
The Zhumell Z100 is a reflector telescope, and as such, it provides images that are inverted. It is not designed for terrestrial viewing. The reflector telescope provides ideal optical specs for celestial viewing where image orientation presents no consequences except for user learning curves.
Is this a Dobsonian Telescope?
There are specific requirements, both optical and mount related, that qualifies a telescope as a Dobsonian. While the Z100 has many features of a Dobsonian, Zhumell has not marketed it as a Dob. Zhumell makes Dobsonian telescopes and they market them as such, but there may be unknown factors that went into the making of the Z100 that differs from a traditional Dob. Regardless, the Dob-like features it does have work extremely well for its price point.
Can You Take Photos with the Z100 Telescope?
It’s not compatible for astrophotography just as Dobsonians in general are not designed for astrophotography. Granted, many users often modify their Dobs for photography, but the Z100 lacks the appropriate specs and additional equipment to do so. You may be able to purchase a smartphone adapter and try out lunar photos with your point-and-shoot (smartphone) device, but it would only be sufficient for amateur photography and not professional use.
What’s the Difference Between the Z100 and Z114?
The Z114 has a larger aperture by 14 mm which results in an increase of 26% more light-grasping power. It also has a collimatable primary mirror, incorporates adjustable tube rings in the mount, and is closer in focal specs to a 5” Dobsonian. While it does weigh 11 lbs, approximately 5 lbs more than the Z100, it cannot be mounted to be a tripod like the Z100 can. Accessories included with the Z114 are the same.
The Zhumell Z100 telescope is an excellent and highly-recommended buy for the first-time buyer on a strict budget under $100.
It’s one of the best budget telescopes for the money without optical and mechanical compromise. Granted, you can’t collimate the primary mirror, which is a valid concern, but it does come collimated from the factory and should hold up well over time.
For visual observation of the moon, planets, and DSOs, the Z100 performs great and its portable and lightweight setup can’t be beat.