F/13.8 Maksutov Cassegrain, 8x21mm Viewfinder, Eyepiece 26mm Plossl.
Review by Ed Ting
That thing is ssoooo cute! Wherever the Meade ETX goes, the comments are not far behind. To see one, even in a magazine ad, is to want one.
Meade is to be congratulated for creating such an exciting, desirable package. What’s more, the Meade ETX would seem like just the ticket for those astronomers (myself included) who have lusted for a Questar but can’t afford one.
I bought mine used, in excellent condition. After opening up the carton and installing the finder and eyepiece, I did what I think most people do when they first get their ETX: I set it on the kitchen table and just admired it, for almost an hour.
The thing is just beautiful. On the Cool Scale it rates a “10”. Unfortunately for the Meade ETX, I then began to use it. Despite very good optics (at least on mine), there are a number of problems.
- Your First Problem: The Astroscan Conundrum. Where are you going to put it? You can’t set it on the ground. Users wind up putting their ETX Meade telescope on small tables, rolling carts, medium-duty tripods, or, in a pinch, the hoods of their cars.
- All of these will work, of course, but all of them negate the primary reason for buying the ETX in the first place: portability. If I’m going to lug stuff around, I’ll use a bigger scope.
- The Flip Mirror- Rotating the aluminum levers on the back of the telescope inserts a mirror diagonal into the light path. Alas, the mirror never seems to return to the exact same location each time I use it. The position of the mirror has a large effect on the quality of the image (we’re talking fractions of a millimeter.)
- The Clock Drive- When you lock the RA, the clock drive can take up to a minute to engage (if it does so at all; I’ve seen broken ones.) By then the object will have drifted across the FOV (and sometimes out of it), requiring you to re-center the object, lock the RA, and wait again. Can you say “Catch-22”
- Is That Supposed To Be The Finder? Mounted atop the ETX’s OTA is a tiny, round sight tube, about the size of the supplied 26 mm Plossl eyepiece. This finder has such a dubious reputation that an energetic modification aftermarket has already developed, meade telescopes are notorious for these finders. I can think of at least five major criticisms:
- The aperture (21 mm) is much too small on these Meade telescopes.
- The magnification (8X) is too high.
- It’s mounted so close to the telescope that you cannot use it within 30 degrees or so from the celestial pole without breaking your neck.
- As a result of c), above, precise polar alignment is impossible.
- The image-erecting roof prisms steal from the already-meager light supply.
What’s really cruel about this is that with a Meade telescope operating at f/13.8, you really NEED a good finder. It was maddening to try and locate anything unless it was near the horizon.
Perhaps it would make a good planetary telescope (I’ll report back when I can see some), but observing deep-sky with the Meade ETX near the pole is like trying to ride a bicycle with one foot.
Astronomers are an ingenious lot, however. Most long-term Meade ETX users I know install one of the right-angle kits on their finders, making it just passable.
Better figure on getting one. I’ve seen compasses mounted to the drive base to help with polar alignment. And there’s the add-ons from JMI to help you out. All of this, of course, costs money.
I am occasionally asked by readers whether they should buy a Meade ETX or a TeleVue Ranger. The answer, of course, depends on the individual’s needs, wants, and ability. I know of some very happy ETX owners. Both meade telescopes have excellent optics. For me, however, there’s no contest. The Ranger is simple, rugged, and convenient. The ETX Meade telescopes is none of these things.
Meade Telescopes Update: 4/29/98.
I’ve used my Meade ETX a number of times now. Familiarity with a new device usually helps the user cope with its quirks. Unfortunately, I have only added to my list of complaints:
- The controls are so tiny and inconveniently placed that you cannot operate the telescope in cold weather with gloves on.
- The friction on the RA and Declination axes are so rough and inconsistent that panning around the sky is a jerky exercise in frustration. I tossed the 3 spindly little legs and usually use the telescope perched at the edge of a small table. This has partially remedied my minor case of ETX-neck. The central obstruction on my unit is off center by about 15%-20%; otherwise, the optics look decent.
I tested the ETX Meade telescope side by side with my Ranger on M35 and the Virgo Cluster. Both scopes went just as deep in magnitude, although the ETX Meade telescope was more awkward and time-consuming to use. It keeps getting in my way.
I like all 5 of my telescopes, but I have to admit, the ETX Meade telescope would be my last choice to take out observing on any given evening. I cannot escape the thought that this product was engineered for looks (to which end it has succeeded superbly) instead of serious amateur use.
Meade telescopes Second Update, 5/29/98
Readers have noted to me that my negative reaction to the ETX Meade telescope is based primarily on its mechanics. As such, I removed the ETX’s OTA from the fork arms and mounted the telescope Alt-Az on my Bogen tripod.
Unfortunately, things have not gotten any better. Now that I can directly compare the ETX Meade telescopes optics to the Ranger and the F80WA, the little Mak comes up short on resolution and contrast. Its lack of chromatic aberration made its views on bright objects a little more pleasing than on the F80, though.
The ETX Meade telescopes is just terrible on deep sky. I got so frustrated at its dim views that I terminated my test that night. I have tried my best to accommodate this nice looking Meade telescope, but its inconvenient design has run my patience to the limit. I have decided to move on.
About Ed Ting
If you can’t find a review on particular Meade telescopes here, try Ed Ting’s site “scope reviews”. Ed is respected by many on the internet for his views. When it comes to telescopes he knows his stuff!
Meade Telescopes Recommendation
For competitive prices on ETX Meade telescopes try Ritz-camera. Other good retailers for the ETX is the Discovery Store and Vanns.
Also you will find good deals at the Binocular Center and Camera-world who stock this and other Meade telescopes.