SkyWatcher Virtuoso provides a set of barely useful features for a high price.
SkyWatcher Virtuoso resembles a low-quality Swiss Army Knife. It is packed with weird features that you can carry anywhere with you. But, it is not for most astronomers. There are a few reasons why that is the case.
Firstly, this telescope strongly leans towards planetary performance. Although it provides sharp and clear images of Solar System objects such as Jupiter and Saturn, deep space performance is disappointing.
Secondly, the photography features of the mount are not well done, and won’t be used by most of the astronomers.
Thirdly, the astrophotography features are not at the professional level. They are barely adequate for amateur beginners.
Lastly, the tracking feature is not perfectly built. It will lose the object in a few minutes if not adjusted. And, it makes an annoying machinery noise that will ruin a dark, quiet night.
Overall, Virtuoso is a good planetary telescope, but it won’t provide the all-round experience a beginner is looking for. Most of the price you are paying for the Virtuoso is going to features that you won’t use.
SkyWatcher Virtuoso is a Maksutov-Cassegrain. In short, it is built for gathering detail from planets. It will easily go up to high-magnifications and will focus effortlessly at those levels.
In return, it sacrifices field-view. The images you will get from this telescope will be narrow. You won’t be able to fit most of the Deep Space Objects inside the view.
Planetary and Lunar Performance
What can you see with the Virtuoso? Jupiter’s moons, cloud bends, and The Great Red Spot are easy targets. Rings of Saturn and its largest moon Titan is also visible. Mars will show some surface detail with an expensive eyepiece, but it will look like a tiny red dot with the ones that come with the telescope.
All the other planets; Venus, Neptune, Uranus, Mercury; will look like colorful tiny dots.
The Lunar surface looks pretty good with countless craters and mountain ranges, with little
Deep Space Performance
Deep space performance is not good at all. As I’ve mentioned before, the field-view is narrow, and the 90mm aperture doesn’t gather enough light for dim deep space objects. You can fit some portion of Pleiades, Andromeda, and Hercules inside the view, but still, they will look rather ghostly.
An expensive, 1.25″, deep-space eyepiece is strongly recommended for the Virtuoso. Perhaps a 32mm.
The mount is made of fiber-board. It is a cheap material, but it is sturdy. It is perfectly suitable for a telescope at the size of Virtuoso, but it will get damaged easily from moisture and water.
The mount comes with a few kind of useful features that can be activated from the keypad. The most important and the most used one is the tracking mode.
The Tracking Mode of Virtuoso is not perfect. It will only keep the object in sight for about 5-6 minutes, 10 minutes at best. But at the price range Virtuoso is in, there is no other telescope that comes with such a feature.
The tracking also makes an annoying machinery noise. It will probably ruin the experience for most astronomers who are looking for some quiet time on a beautiful night.
The tracking mode is not hard to use. You just enter the latitude of your city and point to Polaris. That is it. You turn on the mount, and you are good to go. SkyWatcher did a good job by making the set-up procedure for tracking effortless.
The mount can save any position you are looking at. Let’s say you are observing the Moon, and suddenly some bright star took your interest. You can save the position, look at the star, and go back by pressing the button you saved the position into. It is a nice little feature that works well.
This feature is not useful for astronomy. It can be useful for photographers, but that area is not my specialty, so I won’t be able to say much in this area.
The cruising function lets you save up to 6 spots, and the mount will “cruise” from 1 to 6. You can adjust the speed of the mount for cruising. If you attach a camera to the mount, it will automatically take pictures on every spot. Or you can simply take a video.
You can attach a DSLR camera or a phone to the Virtuoso for astrophotography. But the exposure time won’t be long since the tracking feature is not well built. Although it is better than nothing, don’t expect much in this area.
The 5×24 Finder that comes with Virtuoso is not comfortable to use. It is hard to look through and provides narrow-dim images.
The 25mm Plössl eyepiece is useful for the beginning. It is a below average eyepiece so changing it as soon as possible is a good idea.
The star-diagonal doesn’t lower the image quality. It is pretty good.
The Solar Filter works well. It will provide some detail from the Solar Surface.
The essential problem of the Virtuoso is the lack of tech support. For such a complicated mount, there must be super-responsive tech support. SkyWatcher doesn’t have one.
Deep space performance is disappointingly bad.
The tracking feature is not perfect, or good even.
Using the features that come with the mount is frustrating at times.
Around 300$, SkyWatcher 6″ and Orion StarBlast 6 are sitting at the corner waiting for their new owners. They are not even comparable to the Virtuoso in terms of astronomy. Forget about the tracking feature; the images these scopes provide are so much better the little noisy motors aren’t even worth mentioning.
I don’t know who SkyWatcher Virtuoso is for, but I know it is not astronomers.