It’s an attention-worthy conversation starter if it’s planted in your living room, and even though it’s a beast to transport, it will perform regardless of the location.
But, there are a few trade-offs you should be aware of before you pull the trigger on the buy.
Let’s go through what it has to offer, what to look for, and if the included accessories are better than expected.
Zhumell brings quality and value to Dobsonian telescope shoppers. Their Z12 is a 12” telescope that is huge but is not without high-performance features that justifies its heft and size.
✔️ Best Feature: Large 12” mirror
❌ Worst Feature: Size and weight
👌 Ideal For: Celestial Viewing, Lunar & Planetary Observation, DSO Viewing, Limited Astrophotography, Beginners, Intermediates
- Optical Design: Reflector
- Aperture: 305 mm (12”)
- Focal Length: 1500 mm
- Focal Ratio: f/4.95
- Eyepieces Included: 30 mm, 9 mm
Our Verdict: The Zhumell Z12 Deluxe Dobsonian is a true performer for those deep-sky, open, and globular star clusters. You’ll have a nice, wide field of view and plenty to explore including star colors. With good accessories, sound build quality, and big optics, the Z12 is an excellent telescope under $1000 and is a buy you won’t regret.
Who is the Zhumell Z12 Deluxe Dobsonian Best Suited to?
The 12” is a big telescope and is definitely about as large as a beginner should go. Intermediates may find this to be a great upgrade from smaller Dobs they may have owned, but the most important factor to consider beyond just skill level is strength. If you buy this telescope, you must be able to adequately handle its sheer size.
Whether it’s getting set up for a stationary position at home or if you plan to hit several locations to explore the night sky with it, it will absolutely take some additional equipment and strength to get it done.
How Does the Zhumell Z12 Deluxe Dobsonian Perform?
The Z12 is a quality Dobsonian telescope and definitely has value, and compared with its performance at its price point, you’ll be pleased. It has a 12” primary parabolic mirror, 1500 mm focal length, and fast f/4.95 ratio. Immediately, you may be wondering about coma due to the fast f/5 ratio. Unfortunately, coma will be noticeable with the low magnification eyepiece, so a coma corrector will help with this issue for both imaging and viewing.
We’ll get into the mount and mechanics later but suffice it to say that smooth motion is the name of the game. This isn’t your typical Teflon bearings and spring tension system, it’s something different altogether. Stay tuned.
Features & Benefits
Large 12” Mirror
The primary mirror is a 12” parabolic. It’s big, but you know the saying, “bigger is better.” But, why is that? In the telescope industry, there are many that refer to telescopes as light buckets. The bigger the bucket, the more light is collected. The more light collected means you can see very dim objects better and brighter than you would with a smaller bucket.
The amount of light that can be “collected” is determined by the size of the objective lens – the aperture. It also affects how much useable magnification you can take advantage of. However, the larger in size you go, the more you will sacrifice portability, ease of handling, and of course, a lightweight and compact design.
Fortunately, reflector telescopes, which this is, offer more value than refractor telescopes when it comes to getting more scope for the money. Mirrors are cheaper to manufacture than the types of glass needed for refractors, and mirrors only need to be shaped on one side. So, you can land a reflector scope with a larger aperture at a better price than a refractor scope of equal size.
However, reflector scopes with a fast focal ratio suffer from coma which is noticeable around the edges of the field of view. A coma corrector may very well be needed to take full advantage of picture quality the Z12 can provide.
We’re accustomed to seeing Dobs with Teflon bearings against laminate and some sort of tension adjustment system either with springs or knobs. Well, the Z12 maintains the laminate-covered particle board base, which you can replace for a lighter weight or due to damage in the far future.
The differences in this mounting system incorporates ball altitude bearings which is also the tensioning system that slides along the tube to maintain balance. The azimuth bearings are roller style and provide smooth, gliding movement.
The Z12 has a nifty feature that the other Zhumell Dobs don’t have – a cooling fan for the primary mirror. The cooling fan is located at the base of the optical tube. It allows for a battery pack to be plugged into it to provide power to bring in outside air. The fan cools down the cell much faster than without one to return it to its thermal equilibrium.
The battery pack requires 8x AA batteries to operate. When observation is complete, remove the adapter and the batteries before storing.
Two Plossl eyepieces are included in the package. You can expect a 2” 30 mm wide view eyepiece that provides 50x magnification and a 1.25” 9 mm that provides 167x magnification. The 30 mm does exaggerate the coma around the edges as these objects are further away from the center, but it does give a nice, approximate 70-degree field of view. The 10 mm field of view is narrow and has short eye relief, but they work acceptably with this setup, but don’t put off getting some extra, perhaps, Goldline eyepieces or a 2x Barlow lens.
The focuser is excellent quality as it’s an all-metal 2” Crayford. It has dual-speed and smooth adjustments. You’ll also receive an 8×50 finderscope, 1.25” moon filter, dust cap, and a laser collimator. There has been complaint about the laser, as many find it’s not aligned, but it can be done DIY style if you’re willing, otherwise a separate purchase may be needed.
Weight and Size
It’s obvious that there are advantages to having a telescope of this size – huge 12” primary mirror. There’s plenty to see and even the faintest of objects can be located. However, the entire assembly weighs 75 lbs. The tube itself is approximately 14” wide and 58” long. Bear-hugging will only go so far before you inevitably drop it while trying to line it up with the bearings.
Straps or other transportation equipment will be required to help setup and move the telescope. Then of course, there’s the base that weighs a heavy 38 lbs and can be awkward to carry even with the carry handle. While this scope can be portable if you’re willing to haul it, it’s not necessarily convenient to do so.
The good news is, you can take some amateur photographs with your smartphone, but serious astrophotography like that of capturing stars and galaxies will be disappointing. Dobs aren’t designed for long exposure astrophotography, and even though they have a large aperture, the lack of a tracking mount is significantly limiting.
If you were to switch out the mount, you’ll be hard-pressed in keeping weight down below the recommended 50-75% capacity payload of a mounting system once you take into account the tube’s sheer weight and additional photography equipment needed. This is something to think about if you’re considering this telescope only for astrophotography.
How does the Zhumell Dobsonian Telescope Ship?
The telescope is typically shipped in a set of two boxes: one for the base and one for the tube. You should purchase only from trusted and retailed vendors in case there is an issue. Be sure to check out the return policies prior to buying if you are only shipped one box and not two, or if there is damage due to shipping.
On another note, I would keep some of the foam inserts that should be part of the packaging to make transportation more secure for when you want to travel to another location with your Z12.
Does the Z12 Dobsonian come with a Tripod?
No. The Z12 is designed as a floor/ground telescope as it is an iconic feature of the Dobsonian. While some small 4-6” models may be outfitted with tripod attachments at the base, they are usually tabletop versions. The 12” model is long, large, and heavy and is not suited to tripod use.
Instead of using a tripod, this telescope sits on a rotating-style base often called a “Lazy Susan.” It has an Alt-azimuth mount that allows for altitude (up/down) motions and azimuth (left/right) motions.
Can the Z12 Tube be Mounted to a Different Mount?
Of course, the tube can be used on a different mount, but the new mount must be able to support the weight and size of the tube. If you’re thinking about moving it to an equatorial mount, you’ll need two things: tube rings and a dovetail plate.
Do I Need to Collimate the Telescope Every Time?
To ensure the best viewing quality, it’s recommended that you collimate it every time you use it. However, this may be overkill, but you should be collimating it every time you’ve moved and transported it. Without collimation, you may not be able to achieve focus. Due to its reflector style design, the optics are rather easy to come out of alignment.
The Zhumell Z12 Dobsonian is excellent value for the money. Just because you’re paying less, it doesn’t mean you’re getting “less” in quality or even in accessories with this package. The mechanics and optical quality are top-notch and you’ll be able to discover and study more than you could ever had with a smaller scope. However, the compromise is ease of portability and size.