Synta versus Sky-Watcher refractors
I have to say that I haven’t had any experience of the two instruments you mention. I am currently testing a small number of telescopes, not including those, and it takes a long time to really get through them. As you say, there are so many telescopes around these days, and no-one really gets the chance to compare them all. So what I say will have to be based on guesswork and prejudice!
I require a telescope that is compact and easy to set up and that will provide me with excellent views of deep-sky objects (nebulae, star clusters and galaxies) as well as reasonable views of the planets. I have been looking through Astronomy Now and have seen two scopes that I think may be suitable:
(1) Helios [now Sky-Watcher] Startravel-102 short tube refractor, objective lens 102 mm, focal length f/5;
(2) Synta Sky-Watcher Maksutov Viewmax D90, focal length 1250 mm.
Both scopes come mounted on EQ1 mounts. My budget is £300 and I do not wish to purchase a reflector.
I am not a fan of refractors, because of the false colour. Short-focus refractors in particular are susceptible to this fault, so I don’t think the Helios 102 would be very good for planets at all. It is probably good for low-power views of deep-sky objects, and would give noticeably brighter views of them than the smaller Maksutov. The Mak, on the other hand, should be good on planets and should have much less false colour. Its views of deep-sky objects will be rather restricted by its limited aperture. I have tried the Sky-Watcher 127 mm Maksutov and it was of good quality.
This wouldn’t matter too much if you have a good dark-sky site, but if there is a lot of light pollution around, the larger the telescope the better views you will get of deep-sky objects.
So you have to choose between a telescope that should give good views of the planets, which will in any case be more readily observable if you live in a light-polluted area, and one that is more suited to deep-sky objects but won't be all that good on planets. If deep-sky objects are more important to you, then on balance the Helios refractor
would probably be the better bet.
I don’t know how good the optics of either instrument are. Really you need to be able to compare them with other instruments of similar aperture, which of course is tricky even if you have lots of friends with telescopes.
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