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Thoughts about the new Meade introductory scopes
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Thoughts and Observations on the New Meade Infinity and Polaris Lines of Entry Level Scopes
By Bill Steen
June 15, 2014
I am a moderator on the Meade 4M Community Forum, with an interest in beginning astronomers and the equipment they would first use. Knowing my interests, my contact within the Meade organization sent me information sheets on each model of the two new lines of entry level telescopes.
I started writing this article as a way to collect my thoughts on the new scopes. My plans were to send it to my contact with Meade, just to let him know what I was thinking, since I communicate with beginners looking for what scope to purchase. I decided to include a quote from “Refractor Rod” and sent the document to him, asking his permission to use his post. Rod liked what I had written and suggested that I submit it to Cloudy Nights. I was not sure if that would be proper, since I am affiliated with Meade in a way, and was actually a small stock holder at one time.
Since there is information contained in the document that can help beginners choose a scope with a given set of characteristics, regardless of the particular brand, I decided to do that. It is not being submitted to sell Meade products. It is being submitted to give anyone interested a “heads up” on what should arriving in the US sometime around the end of August, 2014, and to help beginners understand the differences between different types, sizes, and focal lengths of telescopes they are considering, whether they are Meade or any other brand.
I intend for this document to be a “living document” and not completely cast in stone. I am interested in comments from others about it. I most certainly want to fix any mistakes and correct any fact that is wrong. I am interested in any input that would help the document be a better one for a beginner to use. I hope to end up with a document that I can send to beginners asking questions about different scopes. Then, when they have read it, ask a few pertinent questions related to their specific needs, and then be in a position to get the right scope for their immediate situation the first time.
My comments on the new Meade lines of entry level telescopes are being written with the philosophy of “Refractor Rod” on the “60 mm Refractor Club.” He as many different scopes, from small 40 mm refractors all the way to, I think, a 14 inch SCT. His comment that I quote below was injected in a conversation discussing the different attributes of 60 and 70 mm by 700 mm focal length refractors. We were trying to help someone choose which one to get.
“It is my considered opinion that any telescope, no matter how small, will provide more than a lifetime's observing pleasure. Even my tiny 40mm and 50mm Unitrons are impossible for me to exhaust their full potential. The more you use them, the more you see. With viewing conditions in a constant state of flux, who can honestly say that they have gotten the best out of their instruments? I know that I haven't. I'm still being amazed with what my tiny scopes provide. You never know when some unique circumstance will occur when perfect conditions exist and you get a glimpse of something you've never seen before. So for me, this discussion about whether to pick a 60mm scope or a 70mm model, misses the point. Both will make you very happy with a little tender care and handling. There is no wrong choice!
telescopium minima forever!
refractor rod “
Eyepiece Trays and Eyepieces: In my humble opinion, no telescope manufacturer that I know about has ever put enough usable eyepiece storage holes in the eyepiece trays of introductory scopes and many expensive ones as well! To save words, this is true with every telescope in both lines, from what I can see in the pictures. In my mind five or six holes is the minimum required, with eight being much better. On many of my scopes, I have built my own eyepiece trays which normally have either eight or twelve holes, depending on what intentions I have for the scope. Having plenty of eyepiece holes is a good thing for both the observer and for the eyepiece maker. Therefore, I am puzzled why the number of holes is always so limited. With more holes, the observer then has enough places to put all of his eyepieces and Barlow(s) and it sends a subliminal message to the newcomer that he needs to obtain a more varied selection of eyepieces to get the most out of his telescope.
It is possible to have too many eyepieces and simply spend all of ones time switching from eyepiece to eyepiece. But, three holes for eyepieces and Barlows is not enough. For the 2, 3, and 4 element eyepieces that most beginners use, the narrower field of view necessitates more eyepieces to cover the different situations and to give small enough steps in magnification change to accommodate a beginner.
When I travel as part of my work, I take a small, long tube refractor, with Plossl eyepieces for general viewing in 32, 20, 15, 12.4 mm focal length, along with 2X and 3X Barlows. (six eyepiece holes needed) When using them, I normally go from 32, to 20, to 12.4, then to 15mm with the 2X Barlow, then switch to the 12.4 with the 2X, then 15mm with the 3X, then 12.4 with the 3X. I stop along that path when I reach the magnification that I need. This pretty much covers the range for most things and I am not taking my expensive eyepieces along in case something bad happens.
In my humble opinion, a good set of Plossles and a Barlow or two is all anyone really needs for a lifetime of enjoyment for most observing. Anything beyond that is really getting into the finer points of astronomy.
There is nothing really wrong with other eyepieces, such as achromats or eyepieces of a more expensive nature and I hope that the beginner does not get caught up with thoughts that a whole bunch of additional, expensive eyepieces are needed, or the world will come to an end. The MA eyepieces that come with most of these introductory scopes will certainly get the job done. Plossles are a bit better, normally. More expensive eyepieces are nice to have if you can afford them, but not necessary to enjoy astronomy. Astronomy is more of a hobby of the mind and not necessarily dependent on the particular tools used, even though a particular tool may help with a particular aspect of the hobby.
Tripods: The tripods on the three smaller AZ refractors are known items, pretty much. It is the tripods on the three larger AZ scopes and all of the Equatorials that I want to comment on. The legs, leg brace, and eyepiece tray appear to be identical and similar to an AZ mount sold by another company. The yokes on the Meade tripod legs, where they attach to the mount are definitely a different casting, being more roundish and appear to be a little beefier.
Mounts: The three larger AZ refractors all come on the same mount and tripod combination. There is a thumb wheel attached to a captive mounting bolt with a plate on either side of the wheel, for stability. The bolt threads into the bottom of a dove tail piece attached to the refractor tubes. A couple grooves can be seen on the end of the dovetail plates, which may indicate other posts or bars sticking up on the mounting plates to hold the scope in place.
I have been told that the mount for the three largest AZ scopes, Infinity 80 through 102, have a handle that is not included in the pictures I have seen, that the observer can use it to move the scope around, in addition to two fine adjustment knobs
All three of the larger AZ refractors and the three of the equatorial refractors seem to have the same dovetail plate mounted on them. Therefore scopes may be interchangeable from one type of mount to the other, but that is speculation on my part.
The three reflecting scopes have a similar, but longer, dovetail bar with two mounting rings.
On the equatorial mounts, the dovetail plate slides into a slot. I cannot see a thumb screw to tighten in the pictures. It may be on the other side of the mounts. The mounts for the two smaller refractors have the spring can on them that one sees on e1 mounts, but the 90 through 130 mounts are different than the first two. I have confirmation that all of the mounts and tripods for the four larger equatorial scopes are identical.
Infinity 50 AZ Achromatic Refractor:
50 mm diameter, 600 mm focal length – H25, H12, and SR 4- 1.25 inch eyepieces (no more 0.965 inch format). For the new comer, the Huygens and Ramsden eyepieces supplied can be good eyepieces if properly made. They are, however, very old designs with two lenses instead of the three than the MA eyepiece on other models have. Their limiting factor is a 30 degree Apparent Field of View (what you see when you look through the eyepiece) instead of the roughly 45 degrees of the Modified Achromats (MA) that come with the other scopes.
The two piece rectangular aluminum tripod legs have the lower portions telescoping inside the upper one. I believe this is a pull around type mount but may have a handle like a camera tripod. The finder is 5x 24mm optical, a telescope in its own right.
I have never really used a 50 mm refractor. The only one I have ever had was one being sold on clearance at Walgreen Drug for $10. I said when I saw it, “OK. I am hooked. What is in the box for $10?”……not a lot was in the box, but the objective lenses could have been pretty good. In the case of that scope, the plastic of the focuser, lens housing, and dew shield was too soft and pliable for any hope of it every working correctly. I seriously doubt that is an issue with the new Meade Infinity 50.
The scope has a focal ratio of f/12, or 600 mm focal length divided by its 50 mm objective lens diameter. Just looking at a picture of this one, with my experience with 60 mm scopes, an f/12 refractor of this size should actually be capable of very nearly 150X (3 times the diameter in mm) when viewing the Moon, and 100X for most other things if that much magnification is needed. This scope is probably capable of the 150X if the SR4 mm eyepiece can hold up to the task. The H12 with the little 2X Barlow can give 100X or 2X the diameter, which is a reasonable normal limit, again assuming the eyepiece and Barlow can hold up to the task. The H12 eyepiece, by itself should give a real workhorse magnification of 50X with a pupil size of 1 mm. This combination makes the scope good for a lot of things. The H20 provides a good all around magnification of 30X, but given the limited field of view, it is not a good “finder” eyepiece.
I recommend that someone with a scope like this pick up at least a 25 mm MA or other type achromatic eyepiece on eBay for finding purposes, if nothing else. They do not cost much. A 25 mm MA eyepiece would give a true field of view (the amount of real sky that is being seen) of over 1.8 degrees. This is good enough for searching, even though I prefer the 2 degrees that a Plossl eyepiece would give, and should allow the viewer to just barely see the Pleiades Cluster, which I consider a must for a beginner.
I am very happy to see that this scope has a 1.25 inch focuser on it! I think this one improvement takes the optical tube from being a toy to being a potentially serious telescope, albeit a very small one. With the inside of the dew shield and lens retaining ring being sanded to make circumferential grooves, then painted with a thin coating of flat black paint; the objective lens edges blackened with a “Sharpie;” and the focuser truly collimated, this optical tube would be ready for real work with good eyepieces.
The mount appears to be more of a push-pull type, which will work well with this level of magnification. I am glad to see a real optical finder on this scope instead of a red-dot. For anyone with funds limited enough to need to purchase this scope, replacement of batteries when the observer forgets to turn off the finder would be an issue.
The big question mark in my mind, after the eyepieces, is the tripod. I expect that mounts and tripods for scopes of this size are pretty light. It looks nice, but I would have to actually see it in action. For the higher magnifications, the observer may need to add some weight to the eyepiece tray, or do something to stiffen the tripod. However, that is speculation from simply looking at pictures.
I think this scope is a reasonable competitor in the class of scope that it will be competing against and has some advantage, due to the larger format eyepieces, if the purchasers are astronomically educated enough to understand the difference. I hope Meade advertises that fact and its importance on the box.
At least, going by the flyer, this is a good over-all system for that class of scope in a mass market.
Infinity 60 AZ Achromatic Refractor:
60 mm diameter, 800 mm focal length – MA25, MA9 eyepieces, 2X Barlow, 1.25 inch format. Yoke mount has the traditional altitude fine control bar. The tripod has a standard triangular eyepiece tray.
This is a well proven design. With an 800 mm focal length, the field of view is a bit limited for a beginner, but will prove an advantage for planetary and lunar viewing.
The down side:
For me, on scopes similar to this that I have used, the altitude adjustment bar is a headache and frustration. Instead, I think it would be better to but a rail underneath the tube near the focuser, with an adjustable weight for balancing the tube. Put some sort of plastic friction washers on either side of the telescope tube on the altitude shaft. The astronomer could adjust the tension on the wing nuts to get the right tension and adjust the weight position to hold the scope in position (just barely) when an eyepiece is taken out. Throw away the fine adjustment bar.
The eyepiece tray and its attachments have been standard for many years. The triangular tray is ok, if it has six 1.25 inch holes and not just three. If it is like the ones I have had, I think the scope needs a stiffer rig attaching the tray to the tripod to strengthen it and eliminate some wiggle.
This scope deserves to have the 6.3 mm eyepiece, which it does not have. That eyepiece is provided with other scopes in this line and all scopes in the Polaris group. It would give the scope its highest magnification for general viewing, while the 9 mm with the 2X Barlow would give the scope the top magnification for the Moon.
The up side:
The red dot finder looks to be much better and sturdier than what Meade 60 mm scopes have had in the past. I like it.
Having an 800 mm focal length, resulting in a 13.3 focal ratio, this scope stands a very good chance of reaching its potential of useful magnification, somewhere around 180X for lunar observing and around 120X for general viewing.
This should be an excellent scope, capable of a lot of things, with proper attention being paid to reduction of internal reflections and good collimation.
Infinity 70 AZ Achromatic Refractor:
70 mm diameter, 700 mm focal length – MA25, MA9 eyepieces, 2X Barlow, 1.25 inch format. Yoke mount with traditional altitude fine control bar. Has a standard triangular eyepiece tray.
As with the Infinity 60, this is a well proven telescope configuration with the same pluses and minuses of the general rig. With a larger objective, but a shorter focal length of 700 mm, the optimum eyepiece selection is a little different. The 9 mm eyepiece with the 2X Barlow is about right for maximum general viewing magnification…maybe a bit high, but is lower than what the scope is capable of for the Moon. Adding the 6.3 would help general viewing but would probably be a little over the top when combined with the 2X Barlow for lunar viewing.
The shorter focal length than the Infinity 60 gives it a definite advantage for large star clusters as well as being able to see dimmer stars with its greater light gathering power. It will end up having a slight advantage on double stars, but will fall behind the 60 a bit with the Moon, due to simple mathematics of the eye piece selection and telescope focal length.
This scope needs the same attention to the mount and tripod bracing as the Infinity 60.
This can be a serious telescope with proper attention to internal reflection reduction and a good collimation. Its strengths will be slightly different than the Infinity 60.
Infinity 80 AZ Achromatic Refractor:
80 mm diameter, 400 mm focal length – MA25, MA9, MA6.3 eyepieces, 2X Barlow, 1.25 inch format. The mount has altitude and azimuth slow motion control knobs on short cables and a handle for rough positioning.
This should be a superb rich field scope. I am excited about the mount being used. I have confirmation that it is the same as on the Infinity 90 and 102. There should be no appreciable wiggle with this scope, mount, and tripod combination.
Due to the short focal length, the scope may have some difficulty with lunar observation…at least in comparison to a longer focal ratio Infinity and Polaris refractors.
This scope has the good looking red dot finder. The mounting bolts for the finder go across the optical tube instead of parallel to it. I believe this is a more standard attachment pattern in the industry rather than being different than other companies, possibly increasing the choices of finders that can be used on the scope.
The locking eyepiece tray is a great idea that helps stiffen the tripod.
Having three MA eyepieces with the scope is certainly a plus for the beginner. The MA 25 will provide magnification of 16X with a true field of view of 2.8 degrees, a wonderful wide angle view for finding purposes as well as viewing truly large objects. This is much more than enough to pull in the Pleiades. The pupil size with the MA 25 is 5.0 mm, which will work for many people, but some elderly people may have trouble with it.
A 20 mm Plossl with its apparent field of view of 52 degrees would provide a magnification of 20X, with a true field of view of 2.6 degrees and a pupil size of 4.0 mm, a good size for almost anyone. I think this is the eyepiece I would use with this scope as both a finder eyepiece and for wide field views.
The 9 mm MA would provide about 44X magnification, a good working magnification for many things. The true field of view (TFOV) would be about 1.0 degree. Combining that eyepiece with the 2X Barlow would yield 88X magnification, which would also be good for many things needing more magnification.
The 6.3 mm eyepiece will give 63X, again a good working magnification. The 6.3 mm eyepiece with the 2X Barlow would provide 127X, a good working higher magnification.
In order to reach the theoretical magnification of a telescope this size, a 3X Barlow would be needed, assuming this scope can reach that limit.
The questions I have about this scope are:
1. How much fringing will be apparent with high light level objects, such as the Moon and Jupiter? Planetary and lunar observing is not going to be the strength of an f/5 scope, so this could be an issue for a beginner not knowing that fact.
2. Will the focuser successfully handle the weight of an HD 60 eyepiece? My contact with Meade believes that it can. With an eyepiece like a 25 mm with a 60 degree AFOV, this scope will give a wonderful 3 3/4 degree true field of view with a pupil size of 5.0 mm that most people could use if they want to get a field of view that wide. Some of the other scopes have a greater need for a 25 mm, 60 degree eyepiece more than this one does.
Infinity 90 AZ Achromatic Refractor:
90 mm diameter, 600 mm focal length – MA25, MA9, MA6.3 eyepieces, 2X Barlow, 1.25 inch format. The mount has altitude and azimuth slow motion control knobs on short cables.
This should be an excellent general purpose telescope, which borders on being rich field. It will not have quite the problems with lunar observing as the Infinity 80, but will probably not perform as well in that capacity as the Polaris refractors.
It is good to have three eyepieces and a Barlow with the scope for the beginner.
The MA 25 will provide magnification of 24X with a true field of view of nearly 1.8 degrees, a good general purpose low power. This is good enough to pull in the Pleiades, even though I like 2 degrees for that, which a 26 mm Plossl can do. The pupil size with the MA 25 is 3.7 mm, which will work for anyone unless they have a real eye problem.
The use of a 32 mm Plossl could give a true field of view (TFOV) of 2.67 degrees at just under 19X. The pupil size would be 4.8 mm, which would be good for most people.
An eyepiece like a 25 mm HD 60 would give nearly that same field of view with the 3.7 mm pupil size of the MA 25.
The 9 mm MA would provide about 67X magnification for a good working magnification for many things. The true field of view (TFOV) would be about 0.7 degrees. Combining that eyepiece with the 2X Barlow would yield 134X magnification, which would also be good for many things needing more magnification.
The 6.3 mm eyepiece will give 97X, again a good working magnification. The 6.3 mm eyepiece with the 2X Barlow would provide 194X, which will be useful for lunar observation but will probably be a bit much for everything else, depending on weather conditions, altitude, etc.
This diameter of scope should normally be good to 180X. With a focal ratio of about 6.7, the scope could be slightly limited, but maybe not. For lunar crater observation, I doubt that it can make three times the objective diameter in millimeters, but it will come closer to its potential than the Infinity 80 or 102.
I have no questions about this scope. I believe it will be a very solid performer for general astronomy.
Infinity 102 AZ Achromatic Refractor:
102 mm diameter, 600 mm focal length – MA25, MA9, MA6.3 eyepieces, 2X Barlow, 1.25 inch format. The mount has altitude and azimuth slow motion control knobs on short cables.
This scope should be another excellent performer in the general purpose category. More light gathering power than the smaller diameter scopes and better potential resolving power. It may have more trouble with glare on bright objects than the 80 or 90. The observer can make an orifice mask to mimic a 90 or 80 mm refractor, reducing glare for lunar or planetary observing.
Again, it is good to have three eyepieces and a Barlow with the scope for the beginner. The MA 25 will provide magnification of 24X with a true field of view of nearly 1.8 degrees, a good general purpose low power. This is good enough to pull in the Pleiades, even though I like 2 degrees for that, which a 26 mm Plossl can do. The pupil size with the MA 25 is 4.3 mm, which should work for just about anyone.
The use of a 32 mm Plossl could give a true field of view (TFOV) of 2.67 degrees at just under 19X. The pupil size would be 5.44 mm, which would be good for many people, but not older observers or younger ones with reduced pupils for some reason like heavy light pollution. The use of the reducing mask mentioned above would reduce pupil size, but also reduce light gathering power.
An eyepiece like a 25 mm HD 60 would give nearly that same field of view of the 32 mm Plossl with the 4.3 pupil size of the MA 25 with no loss in light gathering power.
The 9 mm MA would provide about 67X magnification for a good working magnification for many things. The true field of view (TFOV) would be about 0.7 degrees. Combining that eyepiece with the 2X Barlow would yield 134X magnification, which would also be good for many things needing more magnification.
The 6.3 mm eyepiece will give 97X, again a good working magnification. The 6.3 mm eyepiece with the 2X Barlow would provide 194X, which will be useful and just about this scopes limit for astronomy other than lunar observation.
This diameter of scope should normally be good to 200X. With a focal ratio of about 6.0, the scope could be slightly limited, but maybe not. For lunar crater observation, I doubt that it can make three times the objective diameter in millimeters. With a black cardboard reducing mask, the scope can effectively work as a smaller diameter scope, giving it a higher focal ratio with less glare and better contrast for lunar or planetary work.
Questions about this scope:
1. The same focuser question as Infinity 80 and 90 related to its ability to handle relatively heavy eyepieces.
2. Can the mount and tripod properly handle the weight of this scope? This scope has been shown at a couple of the large astronomy conventions. People have been able to handle the scope and have given positive comments about it. However, I have not handled one myself in the field, so I do not have a direct answer.
Polaris 70, 80, and 90 Achromatic Refractors:
70, 80, and 90 mm diameters, 900 mm focal length - MA25, MA9, MA6.3, 2X Barlow 1.25 inch - equatorial mounts.
I am commenting on all three of these, simply because my comments are exactly the same, except for comments about the mounts.
These should all be excellent planetary and double star scopes. They should also do well with star clusters and nebula, except for the wider and dimmer ones.
Having three eyepieces is really nice. The MA 25 will provide magnification of 36X with a true field of view of about 1.25 degrees, a good general purpose low power. This is not really a large enough chunk of sky for a beginner to use to find things and I would recommend the purchase of a 32 mm Plossl as a good “finder” eyepiece. The addition of a 32 mm Plossl, with its 50 degree field of view in the eyepiece (AFOV) would provide a magnification of 28X with a much better 1.75 degree field for finding a difficult object. It would allow a view of any open cluster smaller than the Pleiades, assuming the stars are bright enough for the particular diameter of scope.
The 9 mm would provide a 100X magnification for a good working magnification for many things. The true field of view (TFOV) would be a little under a half degree. Combining that eyepiece with the 2X Barlow would yield 200X magnification, which would be a good for viewing craters on the Moon.
The 6.3 mm eyepiece will give 143X, about half way between the 100 and 200X with the 9 mm eyepiece. This will be good for high power general viewing in all three scopes. The 6.3 mm eyepiece with the 2X Barlow would provide 285X, which might be useful for lunar viewing under ideal conditions with the 90 mm version, but not for the 70 or 80 mm scopes.
The 70 and 80 mm versions have a mount that looks like an e1, but may be a bit stronger. I have questions about the ability of an e1 to truly handle a 900 mm focal length scope, especially the 80 mm. I have found an old traditional e1 mount with wooden legs to really not be stable enough for a 60 mm refractor with a 900 mm focal length. The mounts and tripods for these two scopes will definitely have to be sturdier than a regular e1. The tripod legs appear to be splayed out more than older versions, therefore the rig may be more stable than I think. The locking eyepiece tray should help stability, compared to my e1, but more may be needed.
The 90 mm scope has a different mount that is the same as the three reflectors. Since the mount is build for some relatively large reflectors, then there should be no stability problems for this 90 mm refractor.
In the right hands, with proper attention to a few details, these are serious performers and not just beginner scopes.
Polaris 114 Long Newtonian Reflector:
114 mm diameter spherical mirror, 1000 mm focal length - MA25, MA9, MA6.2 eyepieces, 2X Barlow, 1.25 inch format, equatorial mount
This is truly what should have been made all along for the serious beginner that is older than grade school age. With its focal length of 1000 mm and its true mirror size of about 111 mm (allowing for the bevel), the focal ratio is 9.0! If the mirror is done well, the error in images should be below the detection limit of all but the most experienced observers.
Its real strength will be planetary observing. It may be the best double star splitter, due to its combination of relatively large diameter and long focal length for a reflector, as long as spikes from the spider do not get in the way.
The MA 25 will provide magnification of 40X with a true field of view of 1.13 degrees, a good general purpose low power. Again, this is not really a large enough chunk of sky for a beginner to use to find things and I would recommend the purchase of a 32 mm Plossl as a good “finder” eyepiece. The addition of a 32 mm Plossl, with its 50 degree AFOV would provide a magnification of about 31X with TFOV of 1.6 degrees for finding a difficult object. This is a bit tight for a beginner, in my opinion, but is workable.
The 9 mm would provide a 111X magnification for a good working magnification for many things. The true field of view (TFOV) would be about 0.4 degrees. This telescope and eyepiece combination should be able to pick up four to five moons of Saturn with the observer using averted vision. Combining that eyepiece with the 2X Barlow would yield 222X magnification, which would be good for viewing craters on the Moon and within reason for high power viewing elsewhere. I normally consider 225X to be pretty much upper limit for viewing anywhere but the Moon with a 4.5 inch long tube reflector under good conditions.
The 6.3 mm eyepiece will give 159X, about half way between the 100 and 200X with the 9 mm eyepiece. This will be good working magnification for high power general viewing. The 6.3 mm eyepiece with the 2X Barlow would provide 318X, which might be useful for lunar craters ideal conditions.
The field of view with a 32 mm Plossl, at 1.6 degrees is a bit tight for the Pleiades but good objects smaller than that. With this scope there is enough light gathering power to start picking up some of the objects that the refractors cannot see.
If the tripod and mount can truly handle this scope, which is a question in my mind until I can actually handle one, then the other three scopes that have the same mount should be in great shape in terms of stability. The only true drawbacks to this scope, other than limited field of view with the provided eyepieces, are the inconvenience of the long tube and the demands it makes on the mount and tripod.
This is the scope that has received comments on the forums where I have posted about the new lines of scopes. This one, in my opinion, should be a real winner. I hope that sales of the scope prove to be a winner also, allowing the product to continue. Some people may not take a 4.5 inch scope seriously, but in the case of this model, I disagree. With its f/9 configuration, it is a serious instrument for a lot of applications. It is capable of providing enjoyment to the user for a lifetime.
Polaris 127 Focal Point Newtonian Catadioptric:
127 mm spherical (f/4?) mirror, 1000 mm over all focal length - MA25, MA9, MA6.3 eyepieces, 2X Barlow, 1.25 inch format, equatorial mount.
This one looks to be something similar to the DS 2130 optical tube on a manual equatorial mount. I have thought that scope should be sold on a manual mount for a long time. I have confirmation, however, that this optical tube is not the same as with the DS 2130, being engineered and built by a different manufacturer. If the new scope is of the same quality level as the DS 2130 optical tube, then it should be a reasonable performer, with plenty of light gathering power for a beginner. Though both of the scopes of this basic type that I have personally used were miserable performers, we have had no complaints about the DS 2130 optical tube on the Meade 4M Community Forum. If this tube is an equivalent performer to the DS 2130, then it is a reasonable offering.
The strong point for this scope is its short length for convenience. The necessary short focal length and spherical nature of the primary mirror, along with needing a correcting lens to take care of the spherical aberration, makes the scope vulnerable to excessive glare and reflections. The long focal length limits the field of view the same as with the 114 model. Optically, this scope has the weaknesses of both a long and short focal length scope, with the only advantage being the convenience of the short tube. The upper limit on magnification will most likely be in the range of 160 to 200X for both lunar/planetary and other objects. This scope will most likely not meet the theoretical limits for a scope this diameter when splitting double stars.
The various magnifications and fields of view with this scope and eyepieces is the same as the Polaris 114. The difference is that this scope will most likely not have the resolving power, a little less contrast, but more light gathering ability.
If the booster lens can be removed, collimation will be much easier than if it cannot. Due to the short focal length of the primary mirror, possibly f/4, keeping the scope properly collimated is absolutely essential. The proper positioning of the booster lens in relation to the light cone from the primary and secondary mirror is also vital. Due to these liabilities, I do not in truth consider this scope to be the best choice for a beginner.
Since the mount and tripod is the same as the Polaris 114 model, then stability should not be an issue.
If the primary mirror were parabolized, the booster lens removed, and an appropriate secondary mirror and short focuser installed, this scope would be excellent for rich field viewing. As it is, it can be a reasonable performer as long as its limits are not pushed.
The strengths of this scope are plenty of light gathering power for an entry level scope, combined with easy transport and backyard setup. The short tube keeps the observer from having to change elevation as much as the other scopes, Infinity 80 excluded, for the easiest operation, once collimation is out of the way. For someone with arthritis that is unable to get up and down easily, this scope may be a very good choice. This scope should provide an evening of pleasurable viewing for the casual observer.
Polaris 130 Newtonian Reflector:
130 mm diameter parabolic mirror, 650 mm focal length – MA25, MA9, MA6.3 eyepieces, 2X Barlow, 1.25 inch format, equatorial mount.
This scope should be an excellent general purpose performer with plenty of light gathering power for the beginner or as a secondary scope for someone doing imaging with more expensive instruments. Its strength will be is versatility. If the primary mirror is a good one, this scope should be a real winner. A 32 mm Plossl will give over a 2.4 degree true field of view.
Due to its shorter focal length than the 114, it will not approach its theoretical magnitude limit as easily. Most likely, it will have about the same magnification limit as the 114, with a greater range in field of view. It will have a higher sensitivity to glare and reflections than the 114 for lunar viewing, but less than the 127.
The MA 25 will provide magnification of 26X with a true field of view of 1.73 degrees, a good general purpose low power. This is a better field of view for searching and viewing wide clusters, but I would still recommend the purchase of a 26 or 32 mm Plossl. A 32 mm Plossl would provide a magnification of about 20X with TFOV of almost 2.5 degrees and a pupil size of 6.25 mm. This pupil size will be too large for some people. A 26 mm Plossl would give 25X and a TFOV of just over 2 degrees and a pupil size of about 5 mm, which is much better.
A 25 mm HD 60 eyepiece, on the other hand, would give a magnification of 26X, roughly the same 5 mm pupil size as the 26 mm Plossl, but the true field of view would be 2.3 degrees.
The 9 mm MA would provide a 72X magnification for a good working magnification for many things. The true field of view (TFOV) would be about 0.6 degrees. This telescope and eyepiece combination should be able to pick up four to five moons of Saturn with the observer using averted vision at the very least, but possibly with direct vision under good conditions. Combining that eyepiece with the 2X Barlow would yield 144X magnification, which would also be good for many things needing more magnification.
The 6.3 mm eyepiece will give 103X, again a good working magnification. The 6.3 mm eyepiece with the 2X Barlow would provide 206X, which will be useful. This diameter of scope should normally be good to 250X, but may be limited somewhat by its short focal ratio of 5.0.
This scope may likely benefit from the addition of a 2.5 or 3X Barlow for viewing lunar craters under good conditions.
When collimating this scope, it will be more important to get it exactly right than the Polaris 114, but not quite as imperative as with the 127.
Even though the diameter is larger and possibly be heavier than the 114, its shorter length should place slightly less demands on mount and tripod over-all. This should be a really good choice for most astronomy applications, though other specialist scopes will out perform it in their particular categories.
If I had to pick one scope out of all these entry level scopes to use, and that was the only scope available to me, this is probably the one I would pick, due to its wide range of use and reasonable performance over all. This is not just an entry level scope. This is a serious performer that is capable of lasting a lifetime.
From what I can see, I think these new lines will be a strong combination with some good choices for anyone needing a smaller, relatively inexpensive scope. How inexpensive? I do not know yet. I am certainly looking forward to their availability and reports from anyone using them.
- ylem, caheaton, MarkGregory and 5 others like this