Zhumell Z114’s The Optical Tube
The Zhumell Z114’s optical tube is a 114mm f/3.9 Newtonian reflector with a focal length of 450mm. An f/3.9 telescope does have a fair amount of coma, which unfortunately just has to be ignored with this instrument as a 1.25” coma corrector does not currently exist and would cost more than the Z114 itself in any case. The good news is that coma is only an issue with the widest possible fields of view and lowest magnifications, and when viewing many targets, you’ll tend to want to use more medium magnification anyway.
Unlike most smaller 100mm instruments, the Z114 can be easily collimated and comes with a parabolic primary mirror that has undergone at least some quality control, so it has no trouble providing sharp images of the Moon, planets, and double stars.
The Zhumell Z114’s focuser is a 1.25” rack-and-pinion unit made mostly of plastic, which works fine. Some units may have a bit of wobble when focusing, which can be fixed with the strategic placement of tape strips on the drawtube and the addition of quality grease or lubricant to the teeth.
The Z114’s optical tube attaches to the mount with a clamshell that allows you to rotate and slide the tube for balance and convenient positioning of the finder and eyepiece; for mounting the telescope on a full-sized mount or tripod, you’ll need tube rings and a Vixen-style dovetail.
Accessories supplied with Z114
The Zhumell Z114 includes two 1.25” Kellner eyepieces, a 17mm unit providing 24x and a 10mm unit providing 45x. These are acceptable quality eyepieces, but neither has a rubber eyeguard and the 17mm will show some edge-of-field aberrations, while the 10mm is rather uncomfortable to look through. The good news is that any quality telescope like the Z114 will allow you to interchange any 1.25” eyepieces you’d like, and the included ones are adequate enough to get you started. Few beginner telescopes come with eyepieces that we’d call anything other than adequate anyway, and the Z114 costs less than some individual high-quality oculars do by themselves.
For aiming the Z114, a red dot finder is provided, which you can easily line up with the telescope. Thanks to the huge field of view at low power with the Z114, you can easily get used to finding deep-sky objects just by roughly aiming the red dot finder and sweeping around for a bit at the eyepiece to locate your target.
There’s no collimation cap included with the Z114, so you’ll have to buy one or make your own out of a film canister. Check out our collimation guide to learn more about collimation and how you can easily collimate your Z114.
The Tabletop Dobsonian Mount
The Z114’s mount is a single-armed tabletop “Dobsonian” mount. What constitutes a Dobsonian and the exact nomenclature is a bit of a hot topic these days, as the Z114’s altitude bearing is a ball bearing and a nut/bolt that doesn’t really use gravity to its advantage the way a true Dobsonian does. It moves side to side, riding on three small plastic pads. You can adjust the friction in altitude just by tightening the large plastic nut, while azimuth tightness requires two wrenches or pairs of pliers (or a socket wrench).
The Z114 is designed to be used on a tabletop surface, but there are other options. It can’t fit on a photo tripod like a smaller instrument, but a variety of other options will suffice, such as a milk crate, a barrel, a bar stool, the hood of a car, or an easily homemade wooden stand.
Should I buy a used Zhumell Z114?
A used Zhumell Z114 reflector is a great scope, and as of the time of this writing, these telescopes haven’t been around for very long, so it’s unlikely you’ll find one with the mirror coatings in poor condition. A Z114 with damaged mirrors is simply not worth buying, however, because recoating them costs more than an entire new telescope. Missing eyepieces or a missing finder, however, are less of a problem-though again, make sure you don’t wind up spending more on replacing those than a new instrument would cost.
Besides the Orion StarBlast 4.5 Astro, which is essentially an identical twin of the Z114, you may want to go for a slightly bigger or smaller instrument depending on your budget. Here are a few other tabletop Dobsonians we’ve picked for you:
- The Sky-Watcher Heritage 150P offers significantly more light gathering and resolving power than the Z114 thanks to its larger 150mm aperture, while its tabletop Dobsonian mount is equally easy to use and the collapsible tube maximizes portability.
- The Sky-Watcher Heritage 130P’s mere 16mm increase in aperture might not sound like much, but translates to a significant increase in light-gathering and resolving power over the Zhumell Z114 while costing only a bit more; the collapsible tube means the two scopes are basically the same volume when stored.
- The Zhumell Z100/Sky-Watcher Heritage 100P are essentially scaled-down versions of the Z114, but with less aperture and lacking the ability to collimate the primary mirror for the sharpest possible views. However, both are still great choices if you’re on a tight budget.
Aftermarket Accessory Recommendations
The Z114 is fairly inexpensive, so upgrading your accessories past a certain point is of no use when that money could’ve simply gone towards a bigger and better telescope. The Z114’s fast f/3.9 focal ratio also means that you can’t use something like a 32mm Plossl as it will actually provide too low of a magnification; the stock 17mm Kellner is just fine for low-power sweeping. If you must have a better low-power eyepiece, the 19mm Andromeda UF (24x) is the only affordable option that will do much better than the 17mm Kellner; a 16mm UWA (28x) is fabulous and much sharper than either the Kellner or UF but costs half as much as the Z114 itself.
A 6mm redline/goldline, however, is a must-have for high-magnification views with the Z114, since the stock 10mm eyepiece produces a mere 45x – the 75x a 6mm ocular will provide is about the minimum useful magnification for viewing Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn while going further with a 2x Barlow for 150x – or a dedicated 2.5mm planetary eyepiece for 180x, about the highest magnification you can use with this scope – is ideal for the best views (the Z114 cannot handle magnifications over 225x and there are diminishing returns past 180x or so even if conditions and collimation permit).
Lastly, though undoubtedly a costly investment, a narrowband Ultra High Contrast (UHC)/OIII nebula filter can substantially improve your views of nebulae, including the Orion Nebula, when using the Zhumell Z114 or indeed any other telescope. This filter increases the contrast of nebulae against the background sky – especially helpful under light-polluted conditions – by restricting light let into your eyepiece to a narrow range of wavelengths. This may be enough to bring out objects which were completely invisible prior if conditions permit, such as the Veil Nebula supernova remnant under dark skies. As a side effect, a nebula filter also contributes to the ease of locating planetary nebulae by diminishing the brightness of nearby stars and darkening the background sky, resulting in these “faint fuzzies” becoming more clearly distinguishable at low magnifications.
What can you see with Zhumell Z114?
The Zhumell Z114’s wide field of view makes it a great instrument for low-power sweeping and finding your way around the sky. You’ll have no trouble locating dozens of exciting open clusters and many of the bright emission nebulae such as Orion, the Lagoon, and the Swan. Under a dark sky and/or with a nebula filter, you can also spot the Rosette and Veil, two huge nebulae that span across the entire field of view at low magnification. Under a typical suburban sky, Andromeda and a few dozen of the brightest spiral and elliptical galaxies can be seen, but with little detail. Pop the Z114 into the trunk and, under dark skies, you’ll have no trouble spotting Andromeda’s dust lanes, M33’s spiral arms, and features in brighter galaxies like M81, M82, and NGC 7331. M51’s spiral arms are even just barely visible, but they’re too small to clearly resolve, and cranking up the magnification will dim the galaxy to near-invisibility.
Globular star clusters are unfortunately beyond the limit of the Z114’s light-gathering and resolution abilities to see as anything more than fuzzy dots, but you can still go after many double stars and, of course, open clusters.
The Z114’s sharp optics also make it a surprisingly good lunar and planetary instrument. While it is an f/3.9 “light bucket” and collimating it well enough to get perfectly crisp views takes a while, the Z114 will have no trouble delivering views just as sharp and detailed as a high-end small refractor, at a fraction of the price and with better deep-sky views to boot. You’ll have no trouble spotting the phases of Venus and Mercury, tiny craters and mountains on the Moon, and the ice caps on Mars. During the few months biannually that Mars is particularly close to Earth-what’s termed opposition by most astronomers-a few dark markings are visible on the Red Planet on a crisp and steady night, and with careful observing techniques, its outer moon Deimos can even be spotted at favourable times. Jupiter’s cloud belts are easy to see, as are the darker polar regions; the Great Red Spot, which is slowly shrinking and may or may not be red, is a bit more challenging, as are the tiny disks and shadows of its 4 large moons when they transit. Saturn’s rings are, of course, quite obvious even at low power, with the Cassini Division being resolvable most of the time-you may also be able to see a few of its moons and some pale, low-contrast cloud bands on the planet itself. Uranus and Neptune are tiny dots, nearly indistinguishable from stars at low power and with moons too faint to see-just finding the two planets can be somewhat challenging.