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Askar FRA500 Full Review - Our New Favorite Beginner Telescope!

Updated: Sep 28, 2023


Askar FRA500 refractor telescope

The Askar FRA500 is a compact beginner refractor telescope with an aperture of 90mm, a focal length of 500mm, and a focal ratio of f/5.6.


The telescope can be used with full-frame cameras, and the built-in reducer/flattener means you do not need to calculate the back focus.


Attaching the Askar field-flattener/reducer will turn this telescope into a wider and much faster instrument, more info on that later! We have been using this telescope from our light-polluted backyard as well as from the desert, and we are very impressed with the images we were able to achieve. Learn more about this great beginner telescope in this post!


Askar FRA500 telescope full astrophotography review

 

Tables of Contents

  • Introduction

  • What's in the Box?

  • Imaging the Christmas Tree and California Nebula with the Askar FRA500

  • Askar FRA500 Specs & Price

  • Lunar Photography with the Askar FRA500

  • Accessories (Reducer, Conical Extender, Filter)

  • Full-Frame stars

  • Pictures Taken with the Askar FRA500

  • Final Thoughts


 

Askar FRA500 - What's in the Box?


The Askar FRA500 telescope comes in a nice sturdy aluminum protective case with all the slots you need for additional accessories, like a filter box or the field flattener/reducer.


The picture below shows the inside of the case. The slot for the filter case is just under the manual.


Askar FRA500 in the box

Here is what is included with the Askar FRA500:

  • The Askar FRA500 Telescope

  • Tube Rings

  • A Detachable Handle

  • A Small Losmandy Dovetail

  • The "Conical Extender"

  • An M86-to-M68 adapter (only needed if you plan to attach the 0.7x reducer)

  • A Manual, a focuser screw, and Allen Key

Recommended accessories we personally decided to get:

This makes the telescope faster with a wider field of view, but does have a drawback. More info on this later.

A great duo-band filter for narrowband targets, and does not show halos even on bright stars.


You can watch our unboxing and first-light video on our YouTube channel.


 


Imaging the Christmas Tree and California Nebula with the Askar FRA500


Let's show you a couple of pictures we took with the Askar FRA500 before we dig into the specifications. One of our favorite images with this telescope so far is the one of NGC 2264 which we took with the Askar duo band filter.


Small refractor telescope in backyard at night

We imaged this cluster and nebula from the backyard (Bortle 9) and spent 33 hours on it! We used our QHY600C full-frame camera and the Askar 0.7X reducer/flattener to get the widest possible view on the object.


You can see so much gas all around the image below, and the shape of the Christmas Tree itself.



Another nebula we photographed with this exact same setup and location is the California Nebula. This target is rich in Hydrogen Alpha, and its large size also meant we were glad to have a wider view made possible by the reducer. You can check out our full blog post about the California Nebula to see our previous attempts, or just appreciate the one taken with the Askar FRA500 below on the right.


Want to process your images following our own workflow? Download our guide HERE!


GEAR USED:

Camera: QHY600C

Mount: ZWO AM5

Processing: Pixinsight

ACQUISITION DETAILS:

Total Exposure Time: 33 hours & 29 hours

Exposure Time per frame: 10 minutes

Gain: 26


 

Askar FRA500 Specs & Price


The Askar FRA500 is small and compact, making it a great telescope for beginner astrophotographers and especially those who often image away from home. The 452mm length and weight of 9 pounds make this a nice portable telescope, and the handle at the top is welcome to carry it around easily and safely.


General Specs


The Askar FRA500 in hand before attaching the rings
The Askar FRA500 in hand before attaching the rings
  • Aperture: 90mm

  • Focal Length: 500mm

  • Focal Ratio: f/5.6

  • Design: Quintuplet Petzval

  • Image Circle: 55mm

  • Back Focal Length: 74mm from M48 thread

  • Tube Length: 452mm

  • Weight: 9 lbs (4.1 kg)


And below is a drawing showing the size of each component on the FRA500 telescope. In this case, the default conical extender is attached.

Askar FRA500 specifications and size

 

The FRA300, FRA400, FRA500, and FRA600


The Askar FRA500 has several other versions with different sizes, so you should decide on which focal length would be good for you before making your decision.


Indeed, the "FRA" series include the FRA 300, FRA 400, FRA 500, and FRA 600. The number following the letters FRA is for the focal length, which is directly linked to the size and weight of the scope.



Askar FRA300 Pro

The Askar FRA 300 is one of the best affordable beginner telescopes out there, and has the following specs:

  • Aperture: 60mm

  • Focal Length: 300mm

  • Focal Ratio: f/5

  • Tube Length: 303mm

  • Weight: 5 lbs (2.7 kg)



Askar FRA400

The Askar FRA 400 is slightly bigger, and has these specs:

  • Aperture: 72mm

  • Focal Length: 400mm

  • Focal Ratio: f/5.6

  • Tube Length: 317mm

  • Weight: 7 lbs (3.2 kg)



Askar FRA600

We own the FRA 500, but if you're looking for something a little larger, you can go for the FRA 600, which has the following specs:

  • Aperture: 108mm

  • Focal Length: 600mm

  • Focal Ratio: f/5.6

  • Tube Length: 493mm

  • Weight: 14.3 lbs (6.5 kg)

 

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Pricing


The Askar FRA500 telescope is priced at $1,999. The other telescopes in the FRA series all have different prices depending on their size, the most affordable being the FRA300 Pro at $949 and the most expensive being the FRA600 at $2,599.


 

Lunar Photography with the Askar FRA500


Besides imaging deep sky objects, we also tried some lunar photography with the Askar FRA500. Despite its wide field of view, we were able to get some great lunar surface shots using our QHY462C planetary camera.


The Askar FRA500 refractor telescope was definitely built to capture galaxies, nebulae, and other deep-sky objects, but it also impressed us with how crisp these moon images came out. We have not yet tried to capture planets with this telescope.



 

Askar FRA500 Accessories


Conical Extender


The conical extender is included with the telescope, it is an "all-in-one" adapter that can be divided into four different parts. We wanted to mention this here because we feel it is a smart addition to any telescope, as you in short have one adapter that can be used for four different sizes of threads. The connections that can be used are:

  1. M48×0.75 (You can attach a 2" filter in here)

  2. M52x0.75

  3. M54x0.75

  4. M68x1


 

Askar 0.7X Field Flattener/Reducer


This is the reason we decided to get the Askar FRA500 instead of the Askar FRA300!


The Askar 0.7X Full-frame reducer will make the optics faster and the field of view larger, allowing you to fit larger nebulae in your frame and spend less time per target to achieve great results. In the case of the Askar FRA500, this is how the specs change when using the reducer:


  • Focal Length: 500mm > 350mm

  • Focal Ratio: f/5.6 > f/3.9

  • Design: Quintuplet Petzval > No longer Petzval

As you can see, the downside of adding the reducer is that it cancels out the Petzval design advantage. Without the reducer, you never have to worry about finding the correct back focus with your camera, and your corners will show pinpoint stars no matter what.



Askar f/3.9 reducer flattener

With the reducer though, the Petzval design no longer applies, and you will need to fiddle a bit trying to find the perfect back-focal distance to your camera (usually 55mm in most cases) or the stars on the edges of your images will look elongated.


Going from f/5.6 to f/3.9 is for us a big jump in speed, so we decided to use the reducer for all our pictures. If you want to play it safe, and still get a wide field of view at a reasonable speed, then the Askar FRA300 Pro (f/5) might be the best match for you, plus, it's much cheaper!



 

⚠️ A note about the reducer being full-frame capable.

Askar FRA500 reducer full frame star test
Some tilt can be seen in this test shot. The left side is blurry and the right side has elongated stars

We have been experiencing some slight tilt issues with the reducer attached to the telescope when using our full-frame camera. We're not entirely sure if the tilt is due to the reducer, or if it is due to the camera sensor. After spending many nights testing both the camera and the reducer, we deducted, with our friend Patrick (FlankerOneTwo on Astrobin) that both items were the culprit.


The reducer has a little bit of tilt, and the camera has some as well. Together, the tilt is obvious to the eyes, but if your camera is not affected by as much tilt as ours is, then you might not be able to spot any tilt in your reducer. See screenshots from the tests performed below.

Telescope without any reducer attached


Telescope with Askar f/3.9 reducer attached


In short, the tilt is not too bad and only affects full-frame cameras. No tilt was noticeable when using a cropped-sensor camera like the ASI2600MC. Even if you own a full-frame camera, you likely will not have tilt issues unless your sensor is tilted in the first place like ours is.


 

Color Magic Filter


Askar 6nm color magic duoband filter

If this is going to be your very first telescope, you might want to consider adding a duo-band filter to your order.


This is optional, but a dual-band filter, like the Askar 6nm Color Magic filter, will help tremendously when imaging emission nebulae.


The filter will block all the unwanted light, most of it being light pollution, and only reveal the Hydrogen Alpha and Oxygen III gases. Emission nebulae are rich in Hydrogen Alpha signal, so they can be tough to capture without a filter if you are doing astrophotography from the city.


 

Pictures Taken with the Askar FRA500


Below you will find a gallery of pictures taken with the Askar FRA500. We will only add a few images below, but you will be able to find many more on the other blogs of our website over time. You can click each image to open their associated blog post!


Do you own this telescope? If so, feel free to attach some of your images in the comments section! We'd love to see what you were able to get with it, and it will also help others decide if this telescope is a good fit for them.




 

Askar FRA500 - Final Thoughts


The Askar FRA500 is a nice beginner telescope that is also a perfect fit for advanced astrophotographers not looking to spend $7K+ on a higher-end instrument.


Some key points about the Askar FRA500 telescope to summarize this review are:

  • It is a small and portable refractor telescope

  • Its Petzval design means you do not need to worry about back focal distance

  • The Askar FRA500 has a focal length of 500mm, a focal ratio of f/5.6, and an aperture of 90mm

  • Using the Askar full-frame reducer will change its focal length to 350mm and its focal ratio to f/3.9, but cancel out the Petzval advantage

  • It works well with full-frame cameras

  • The price is $1,999, but other sizes in the FRA series like the FRA300 or FRA400 have more affordable prices


Askar FRA500 telescope imaging in backyard

If you would like to purchase this telescope, you can do so at High Point Scientific.


Make sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube to stay up to date with our work!


Clear Skies,

Antoine & Dalia

Galactic Hunter


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