1. Before the review
First off, let’s dispense with the nonsense that this is a “Kid’s” telescope. While it certainly CAN be, it is also huge fun for any stargazer. This SvBony is NOT a “toy”, rather it is an almost shockingly competent and enjoyable instrument. For ANY observer, even experienced ones. “Unbelievable” is used way too often as a superlative, but here it applies.
Second, a few things about me to contextualize my review here.
While I regard myself as an intermediate level stargazer (“astronomer” is too presumptuous to describe my skill set), I have been at it for 8 years and do have, have had, and used some good kit, including (currently) a Stellarvue Access 80ED and Orion ST120, C90 Maksutov, and AT70ED. And over the past 7 months, I have sold my Televue TV85, Takahashi 76, Nexstar SCT 6SE, and Skywatcher Pro 100ED. None of these is anywhere near a fair comparison vis a viz this little Svbony, still, it’s impossible NOT to make. And, spoiler alert, the SV501P does not measure up to any of the foregoing telescopes. Well, duh.
2. The review
Now, as for the SV501P. I keep set up it in a corner just inside the front door for those last-second decisions to do 15-20 minute sessions (like last night when I spent a delightful 20 minutes traipsing about in Cygnus, along with a little lunar time…near full moon) in our front courtyard. The whole thing, scope, and mount, MAYBE weighs 3 pounds——it’s like carrying a small kitchen broom out the door.
I have had it out just 4 times for short “test drive” sessions (mainly because our weather since I received the Svbony has been relentlessly wet and. or total overcast…entire weeks), but enough to know that this is an exceptional little refractor. Remarkable sharpness and detail on the Moon, some nice views of several open clusters, including NGC 4665, the Sagittarius Star Cloud, M8 Lagoon Nebula (okay not great, but it was there) and, one morning, Messier 42, the breathtaking Orion Nebula, along with the Pleiades, the Hyades, some doubles and assorted anonymous star fields.
Because of the 501P’s small (70mm) aperture, the number of stars in these clusters was less than what I see in larger apertures with more light-gathering telescopes, which is to be expected. But what I DO see is near-razor sharp and contrasty, including (and this surprised me) pretty much PINPOINT stars——even more so when I removed the small central dust cover cap to make the 501P, turning it from a short f/4 focal ratio to a “long tube” f/8 or 9, hence even greater sharpness and less chromatic aberration (CA) on brighter objects like the
I ordered one of these in September because, well, it just sounded and looked like it would be a fun thing to have. And it IS!
One more time: This is NOT a toy, rather it is a quality little short tube refractor, ideal for low power wide field observing, and for the price offers astonishingly good performance along with better than you’d expect build quality. I honestly cannot think of a better astronomy Bang for the Buck. Great value here.
I did some iPhone photos of distant (150-200 yards away) trees, bright yellow and veined big maple leaves, some closer ups of fir needles——impressive sharpness, detail, color saturation. As I said, very good to excellent optics.
Is the SV501P as good as my ED refractors? Well, no, of course not. But it didn’t cost $600.00 either.
Now, my SV80ED is ready to go on a Vixen Porta II punt, so I will like to take both out for the same session. And with reasonable expectations.
The kit’s 20mm Kellner eyepiece is more than decent, but 25mm, 20mm, 15mm, and 12mm Plossls kick up the resolution and contrast a noticeable notch. I used both a Celestron star diagonal and an Orion correct-image prism diagonal. And the included 45-degree diag was, well, better than “okay”, just awkward to use when you start pointing the optical tube every higher.
But, if you are going to use this ‘scope for astronomy, invest immediately in a 90-degree diagonal, and I would recommend it be a Correct Image diagonal (i.e. one where Up is Up, Left is Left, etc). Inexpensive but still good ones are easy to find on both Amazon and eBay.
Secondly, SIT while observing. Just grab a patio chair or whatever. MUCH more comfortable, more relaxing, so you can observe a lot longer in comfort while also NOT having to fully extend the tripod which gets a tad wobbly all the way up vs reasonably stable halfway or so extended. Or, better yet, use it on a heavier duty photo tripod.
The 501P is just so much fun to use. And also, strangely, give my other much higher-end ‘scopes . . . …….satisfying.
Keep in mind: Like all short tubes achromatic refractors, the 501P is best-suited for low power wide field observing (for “sweeping the Milky Way”) including brighter DSO (Deep Sky Objects) and does not handle high magnification well. Okay for the Moon, for sure, but not really a good choice for planetary. Or any objects distant and/or dim. You need a lot more horsepower for these. So use the 501P for what it does well.
Oh, btw: I use a green laser pointer as my finder (it’s almost a custom fit in the included finderscope mount; see attached photos). SO easy to navigate using it in conjunction with a low power wide field eyepiece; the Svbony 23mm Aspheric is a high-quality low-cost choice here.
A more general comment. I own a lot of Svbony kits other than the SV501P and have never been anything but 100% satisfied. What they sell seems to always hit the center of the Value-Performance nexus. For sure, order some of their eyepieces once you decide to keep this scope and continue the starry journey.