Zhumell Z12/Apertura AD12 is a bit too much in every way, in a good way.
Before the review, I have to remind you that Zhumell Z12 and Apertura AD12 are the same telescopes. They are just marketed under different brands. For the sake of simplicity, I will use the name “Zhumell Z12” for the rest of the review, but everything I say applies to Apertura AD12, as well.
Zhumell Z12/Apertura AD12 is a powerhouse.
There is nothing different about this telescope other than the fact that it is stupendously large and powerful. It has the same mirror quality, same movable bearings, same base, and same focuser as the other Z Series telescopes. Everything is the same other than its size.
If you are going to get this telescope, you should be ready for some muscle work. A place where it can stay permanently would be great. You would have a small observatory for yourself.
If you are planning to move the telescope constantly, I suggest you go for smaller sizes. A 8″ is much more portable, and a 10″ is not that hard to carry.
You will have a hard time carrying the Z12, no matter your size.
The primary mirror is 12″ (305mm), and the optical tube is 59″ (1500mm). The primary mirror is the same quality as any other SkyWatcher, Orion, or LightBridge Dobsonian. At these price ranges, the quality of the optics don’t move around.
These specs should be enough explanation. In short, this thing gathers so much light it is impossible for it to provide any kind of low-quality image. It gathers %44 more light than a 10″ Dobsonian, which already provides incredible sharpness and resolution.
The only weakness of Zhumell Z12/Apertura AD12 is the coma at the edges of the image. This is due to the low focal ratio of f/5.
Expect some coma around the edges.
The coma problem is solvable with a coma corrector. SkyWatcher 0.9 Corrector is an excellent solution, but it is 130$. A come corrector is not necessary; depending on your financials, you may get it immediately or after some time. Or you may pass it altogether.
Planetary and Lunar Performance
You won’t get the planetary performance Z12 is able to provide out of the box. This is due to the low-quality, 9mm Plössl eyepiece. It is nowhere near enough for a telescope this size.
With a decent planetary eyepiece such as a Goldline, you get an insane planetary performance with Z12. I will assume a decent planetary eyepiece in this section, but with the 9mm eyepiece, expect half of the performance I will write below.
Jupiter’s many stripes, The Great Red Spot, and its 4 Galilean Moon’s will be crystal clear. The moons will appear as spheres instead of bright disks. The color accuracy you will get will be on-point, with gorgeous shades of beige, yellow, red, and brown.
Rings of Saturn will show its separate lines, with Cassini Division easily observable in the middle. There will be some stripes around the planet, and the yellowish color of the planet will appear. Its many moons will appear, and its largest moon Titan will show itself as a disk.
Mars will show a significant amount of surface detail as red, black, and white stains. The white stains are the ice caps, and the black-red colors are due to the nature of the surface. You can get a glimpse of its moons as well.
Venus will appear as a yellow sphere, and its phases are effortless to observe.
Neptune and Uranus will appear as blue disks, with Triton orbiting around Neptune.
Mercury and Pluto will appear as tiny dots. They are incredibly hard to observe with any amateur telescope.
Z12 will change your outlook on life.
The Lunar surface will show a countless amount of craters and mountain ranges. You will start to get a sense of actually staring at the Moon from a spacecraft. At this point, Lunar observations become more of a cognitive experience instead of casual observations.
Overall the planetary performance is out of this world.
Deep Space Performance
The deep-space performance of Zhumell Z12/Apertura AD12 is even better than planetary for two reasons: The 2″ Focuser and f/5 focal ratio. The images are wide, exceptionally bright, and razor-sharp. At this point, nebulas, galaxies, and star clusters start to show some color.
All of the Messier Catalog is within reach for Z12. If you know about the object, then you probably can observe it. No Messier object is out of the question.
If you manage to use the Z12 in a dark environment, be ready for a life-changing experience. Countless stars, galaxies, nebulas, clusters will reveal themselves from the endless depth of the Universe. Your whole outlook on life will expand.
The Size and Weight Problem
There is a necessary sacrifice for all the optical power you get from the Zhumell Z12/Apertura AD12. Carrying this device is a challenge. Some astronomers use wheelbarrows; some use wheels attached to metal trays. Some don’t use anything and carry the optical tube with pure muscle power.
The optical tube weighs 66 lbs (29 kg). It is possible for one person to carry it, but a helping hand would make things a lot easier.
The base is 38 lbs (17 kg). It is hard to carry, as well.
I suggest using a specialized wheelbarrow with Z12 for your spine health. It will make things a lot easier. Or, it would be best if you carried this thing with a friend. Trust me, a single, unwanted fall will break the primary mirror, and your 1000$ will go to thrash.
The Dobsonian mount design is fairly simple. It only moves up, down, left, and right. It uses rollable bearings instead of Teflon.
The base is rock-solid and super-responsive.
The base gives a feeling of “gliding” instead of butter-smooth due to the rollers. Both Teflon and roller bearings are superb, but roller bearings on the Zhumell Z12/Apertura AD12 are a little more responsive and easier to move.
The tensioners on the sides are movable. The operations is not easy, though. You have to detach the optical tube, unscrew the tensioners and screw them into their new position. This is even harder with the heavy optical tube, but no other Dobsonian brand comes with such a feature.
Tensioners are hard to move but useful.
Balancing the optical tube is easier due to the movable tensioners, but still, you will need additional weights attached to the optical tube. You can’t reach a perfect balance with only moving the tensioners.
The base is particleboard. It is not a high-quality material and will get damaged if its coverings get peeled off. Upgrading it wouldn’t be a bad idea, but it is not necessary.
Overall the combination of the mount and the base is pretty good. The weight is a problem, and the particleboard base is not pleasing. But other than that, the whole thing performs beautifully.
30mm Eyepiece – 9mm Eyepiece – Laser Collimator
The eyepieces are the most disappointing part of the package. Zhumell probably assumes most buyers of Z12 already have high-quality eyepieces, and they are right most of the time. But first-time-buyers should be ready to spend an extra 200-300$ on new eyepieces.
The 30mm eyepiece is vastly better than the 9mm.
The 30mm, wide-angle eyepiece is actually decent. It adds a little coma, but it gets close to Zhumell Z12/Apertura AD12 potential. It is vastly better than the 9mm eyepiece, which is annoyingly small and has a short eye-relief. The 9mm eyepiece should be the first accessory you should upgrade.
The finder is a right-angle 8×50, and it is perfectly adequate for Z12. It is easy to look through, and the images it provides are of decent quality. It is much better than flat finders that come with most other Dobsonian models. A Telrad would be a good upgrade.
The laser collimator that comes in the package is a treat. It makes the aligning process a breeze. It usually comes misaligned, so you may have to align the laser yourself.
2″ Crayford Focuser
The dual-speed, 2″ Crayford focuser is much better than those that come with other Dobsonians. It is sturdier, smoother, and more reliable. It has fine-tuning for high magnifications. The focuser itself is an important factor in the dominance of the Z Series across the Dobsonian realm.
The focuser is much better than Z12’s competitors’.
The cooling fan is something only Zhumell sends with the package. It is useful for adjusting the primary mirror’s temperature and prevents steaming and airflow in the optical tube.
Other than the budget eyepieces, the accessories will last you for many years to come. They are the reason why the Z Series is a notch above all other Dobsonian models. The telescope feels more complete out of the box.
The budget eyepieces that come with the telescope cannot make use of the potential of Z12.
It is always a challenge to transport the telescope. It is the only telescope in the Z12 line that may not fit in your car, and a falling accident will damage the primary mirror. This makes the whole carrying experience not only tricky but dangerous for the optics as well.
Z12 is pure power. If you are looking for that, there is no better Dobsonian you can get. You might want to check out collapsible models and truss tube models before buying the Z12. But the truss tube models are harder to assemble, and collapsible models are insanely expensive.
Zhumell Z12/Apertura AD12 is the most powerful and complete telescope you can get at the 12″ Dobsonian category. There is no doubt about that.