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Meade ETX90-RA

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#1 mloffland



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Posted 15 December 2009 - 12:40 PM

Meade ETX90-RA

#2 LBartolomei


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Posted 15 December 2009 - 02:38 PM

More or less on point with my experience. When I first saw the ETX RA, it was in the Lumicon store in Livermore, CA. My wife and I were visiting from MN back in 1996. I was immediately struck with the its "cool factor" - so compact and yet so hyped by Meade in terms of performance. The gentleman I spoke to at Lumicon called it "an overpriced toy".

I have to disagree in retrospect. It is compact, easy to take with you camping, and the optics are far beyond "toy" quality. I find mine to be very sharp and very much comparable to any fine 90mm Mak.

I once compared the views against my Questar Duplex, and while the Questar bested the ETX in terms of light transmission (my Duplex had BB coatings, the ETX has Meade's then-standard non-UHC coatings), they were about the same in terms of everything else! I was surprised to say the least. Mechanically, of course, there was no contest.

I also kept the Sky and Telescope magazine (1996) with its introductory article on the ETX. I like how it and the manual instruct you on how to clean the inside of the tube by simply unscrewing the corrector off the OTA! The article starts by pointing out that there was a black market caused by a delay in the availability of the scope. Sound familiar? There was such a market indeed, as the scope retailed for $495, but immediately available ETXs were being sold for up to $700. What a sensation that little scope caused! After the introduction of the goto version, the so-called ETX M or ETX RA went for about $169.

#3 Rat


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Posted 15 December 2009 - 03:27 PM

I bought two new ETX-90RA on closeout around six years ago for $150 each. Still own and use them often mainly because of their portability and good optics. On the negative note, the OP is correct that the finder is absolutely useless. Instead, I use a GLP as my finder. Secondly, there is a lag in the engagement of the RA gears. Probably takes around 30 seconds to engage and track. Other than those two problems, I love my ETX-90s!

#4 8ballsct



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Posted 15 December 2009 - 10:56 PM

You have put out a prodigious number of reviews in a very short time, and they have proven to be very good. You bring a good deal of experienced observations to Cloudy Nights. Keep up the great work please.

There is one item, although not directly related to this article, is often misunderstood in some reviews. Many reviews claim, out of hand, that MCT’s have a small central obstruction. The initial view of the silvered spot that is used for a secondary would give that impression. However there is often a baffle for the secondary mirror that is ignored. On the ETX125 this baffle is 2 inches in diameter, just under 40% by diameter. (Sky & Telescope October 1999, and also Skywatch). Yet some reviews on the Internet call this a small central obstruction! I cannot find the diameter of the ETX90 baffle so I cannot comment on this scope.

I know many have found the view through a Mak wonderful. I believe that there are other factors that are also in the Mak’s favor, for instance the high f-number makes the work of the eyepiece easier, the baffling may allow less stray light in the view, and so on.
Thanks for the soap box
John H

#5 Zamboni


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Posted 15 December 2009 - 11:08 PM

Thanks for the insight!

Probably the biggest thing in the mak's favor is that the individual surfaces are a lot less demanding to figure than those of an SCT, and thus easier to keep aberrations out of the finished product. They do require a LOT of glass for that heavy meniscus, though!

#6 highfnum



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Posted 17 December 2009 - 06:57 PM

I love my etx90-ra -- well after I replaced that dippy finder scope with a laser pointer
I once had a chance to compare to a 3.5 questar
the etx held up well in the optics catagory
but of course the body is another story

#7 Darenwh



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Posted 18 December 2009 - 11:45 AM

I got my ETX90-RA at a garage sale. Still in the origional box. Looked like it had never been used, for the grand total of $40.00. It has been a very nice grab and go scope. I am quite happy with it though the mount is as much in need of tinkering as any dob I have ever seen.

#8 tjbdallas


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Posted 08 January 2010 - 07:24 PM

My first scope was a Meade ETX90-RA. Optically this scope was worth every penny although I wish the go-to model was out when I bought it. I agree with the finder. Basically worthless. I eventually settled on a 90 degree replacement. I also added a focus cable to keep shaking to a minimum. My first attempt at imaging was with the ETX and a simple digital camera. My Moon images are still better than anything I took with my 8" LX90 (see my website below).

It's also fun to use with a solar filter and I was able to get the mercury transit a couple of years back.

I will never sell this scope (although I had considered it when purchasing my LX90 - glad I didn't)and will continue to use it from time-time. May even eventually mount the OTA on top of my LX90.

Good article!

#9 mayidunk


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Posted 17 October 2012 - 12:08 AM

Nice review on what I also believe is an iconic instrument.

I bought my ETX-Astro back when they first came out. Despite the baffle having moved itself halfway across the secondary spot, and then moving itself back into place, with no apparent damage as a result (not even any glue remnants on the secondary!), it still looks and works as good today, as it did the day I first bought it home! As for the screw-on lens cap, I learned almost immediately that a very tiny bit of silicone lube on the threads pretty much ended any issues with screwing it on and off. I applied it only once and it has remained squeak free, and trouble free ever since!

From time to time, I kick around the idea of blowing some of my savings on a Questar. However, every time I start thinking about it, I come to the conclusion that the ETX gives me what I'm looking for. It ain't perfect, and it may not be a Questar, but for what it is, it's still pretty nice! :D

#10 CollinofAlabama



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Posted 20 October 2012 - 10:54 PM


I liked your review, overall, but you write "they [the Meades] are of very high quality and slightly better than comparably sized Chinese Maksutovs from Synta". What is your basis? You do not mention a direct comparison of your ETX with an Orion/Celestron/SkyWatcher Mak.

I write this because it conflicts, to some degree, with Ed Ting's accessment. Now, I'd tend to agree with the generalization that the QC of Meade AND Synta is not of the Questar, or even TeleVue standard, and that one might randomly pick a 'not so hot' Meade and compare it to an above average Synta, and prefer the Synta (or, perhaps in your case, vice versa). I'm not trying to accuse you of any falsehood, but writing from recollection, as opposed to side by side testing is not the same thing at all.

Could you elaborate on this statement, and what observations may have led to your conclusion?

#11 DocFinance



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Posted 17 January 2014 - 05:20 PM

Looked like it had never been used, for the grand total of $40.00.

Gotta love garage sales.

I found my receipt from Gary Hand just the other day (no date, but it was somewhere in '02 I think). I bought mine new for $199.99, and it's been worth every penny. The Goto scopes were already out and he had a big stock of RA-90 manual scopes.

Can't beat it for nice optics in a small package. I worry about the secondary baffle coming loose one of these days, though. I think I saw something on here about how to fix that, but I don't want it to fall on the primary and THEN have to fix it.

#12 rdandrea



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Posted 18 January 2014 - 02:44 PM

The finder is indeed useless. I shine a GLP through mine to see where the scope is pointing.

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