Aug 20

I was writing a review on this telescope on Amazon, since that was where I bought it, when Mama Bear suggested I put it here also.  So here is my review of the Meade ETX 80 telescope.

The ETX80. First, the good; As a beginners telescope, this seems to be a pretty good telescope.

The Goto functionality is nice, it makes finding objects much easier than trying to find on your own. It is fairly easy to set up, once you understand the process, unless you have to reset the computer, which I had to do. After trying to align two nights in a row, I found a forum that discussed how to reset the computer to factory defaults, as soon as I did that and started the process over, the telescope aligned first try. So in that respect, it is a good beginners scope but if you have problems aligning it, reset the computer and start from scratch. That was nowhere in the manual I could find.

Being able to use the electronic control for moving without aligning is nice, when you are using it for something like the sun (only with approved filter material) or the moon, finding them is easy, you don’t need a computer to point them out.

It is easy to pack in the included backpack and fairly easy to set up an a remote location, so it easily transportable.

The eyepieces seem to be a decent quality, something you would expect from Meade, the included 45 degree prism can be useful, except for the catch I point out below about range of motion. I don’t use the eyepieces, I am mainly interested in photography, I’ll get into that below also.

Now for some of the cons that I have run into; the “clutches” that bind to the Goto drives are not the best in my experience. The lateral clutch is somewhat loose, the lever that tightens it is limited in range of motion, so you can’t just keep tightening it, and the up-down adjustment clutch is difficult for me to get tightened and loosened easily, and still have it tight enough to not slip.

I found the focus knob to be “loose”, not that the knob is loose in the mount, but that there is play in either direction and it feels like you have to take up that slack before the focus changes, but going back you have that slack feel in the other direction then. So sometimes focusing can be frustrating because if you go a little too far, turning back seems to me to be hard to recover and I end up going too far and starting over again.

The tripod is very lightweight, and not totally in a good way. The aluminum tubes and clamps are light enough to worry me a little, when fully extended that getting hit might cause it to buckle. This has not happened to me, it just feels that way and I am careful to avoid that happening.

What isn’t obvious is that for photography, DSLR – not hold your iPhone up to the eyepiece photography, even though it is advertised with the T adapter and camera mount available on Amazon the range of motion seriously limits the telescopes use for photography, almost to the point of being unusable. The T adapter mounts to the rear of the optical tube assembly, when you look at a picture of the telescope, envision a camera hanging off the back end, now envision trying to swing the tube higher than about 35 degrees above the horizon… it cannot be done, the camera impacts the base of the mount as it swings down into the “U” shaped yoke mount. You can spin around 360 degrees, but only below 35-45 degrees above the horizon, depending on your camera.

Maybe I am missing something obvious, but I don’t think so, I haven’t found another alternative. So the only obvious alternative is to get an eyepiece T adapter, which I understand causes issues with the focal length. I have read of people cutting the tube you insert eyepieces to shorten the length to the camera, not something I am interested in trying. Unfortunately I did not think that through and by the time it occurred to me it was past the return date.

My solution to the range of motion for photography was to build my own 45 degree mount, take the plate off the tripod and mount the plate to my “redneck” mount. Then mount the telescope to the plate, which is now pointing up at about 45 degrees with the tube “level” to the mount, similar to an equatorial mount, but not quite. At least I can shoot the eclipse this way.

The bottom line to me; for a beginner looking to explore the solar system and maybe the near universe, this might be a good place to start. If you are interested in astrophotography at all, this is probably not the best place to start, in fact I would say it is a bad choice for that unless you plan on remounting the telescope, then why buy something with a Goto system as remounting will most likely make it unusable unless you go to a true equatorial mount so the computer can be aligned. Note, the Goto system does have an equatorial alignment option I think, so it would work if you do I assume, but I haven’t tried it.

Here is a shot of my “redneck” mount in use

Eclipse prep

Eclipse prep

Categories: Astronomy ,Blog ,photography ,Wood working

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