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LX80 Experience and evolving review (2013) Model

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#1 Spacetravelerx

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Posted 30 January 2014 - 11:52 PM

Well here I am, trapped in endless winter storms and cold temperatures in West Michigan, here on business. I brought the LXD75, 130mm APO and the 90mm SMII with me, but who was I kidding - there is no way I will be able to use this equipment on this trip.

In the mean time, I am suddenly becoming like a lot of folks here on CN - a collector of astronomical equipment, lol! Though I am putting it all to use. No really, I am! (No winking!) The LX850 - it is an amazing mount, works as advertised, and fantastic optics too. It truly helps with the Astrophotography process. I still have a lot to learn in the post processing department, filters to use and everything, but it is coming together nicely.

I also purchased the LXD75 for quick "grab and go" purposes, visual use, video astronomy and simpler images on the go - planets, Moon, Sun and bright nebula. It works very well. Meade should have kept building and enhancing it. I personally feel Meade made a big mistake discontinuing it. Oh well!

I am also looking for a high end but portable travel mount for AP and other functions in remote locations. LX850 is wonderful, but I do not want to drag it all over creation. So I am looking at the Asto-Physics and 10 Micron GM1000 HPS stuff. I may just get the Mach1GTO.

But I have been very curious about the LX80. I see the potential with it, the "vision", so to speak. Basically a mount with loads of features and cool functions for a cheap price. For me, I have no expectations it will compete with the LX850, CGEPro on up. The fit and finish will not be the same, the raw PE not the same, and everything else. Sorry, you don't get all that for $1,000. But I do expect it to function as advertised. As advertised I see it going beyond the LXD75 - Multi-mode/multi-OTA out of the box, heavier loads, very good gotos, tracking, and light duty AP. Yeah, I hear that AP can be done on lesser mounts than the expensive ones, and folks do have success, but don't kid yourselves. There is a difference between the cheaper mounts and the LX850, Mach1GTO, 10Micron on up. Still, it is fun nabbing that cool image on a $3k or less mount. A sense of success. For me, the LX850 is indeed my primary imaging mount. But I use all the tools in my tool box, from my ETX125 on up.

Back to the LX80...

A very interesting mount, BUT, there were all the early dramas and chatter on CN. It definitely looks like it was released too early. The tone has quieted, and Meade did sell a lot of them, and folks do use them. Also I have learned, there are people on CN who have an LX80 and enjoy them, but are afraid to say anything because, well, they will get attacked. And they do, which is sad. I have also heard this really is a fun mount from several people.

I do have a use for this mount - education outreach and star parties with easy setup, carrying a heavier load than the LXD75, and some testing with other equipment I have. But, I was back and forth, back and forth on getting it. I saw one recently and the mount seemed fine to me. The LX80 of today and the positive vibes I was getting was not meshing with what I was hearing from recent non-owners on CN. Well after sitting on the fence on this mount, and with there being no wait list, and after another attack session by the folks here on CN, I said "THATS IT! I AM GOING TO BUY ME AN LX80!" At least I can speak from experience vs. theory.

And I did buy it and it came in yesterday, during a brief sunny window between storms right before Sunset - and just as I was turning in a proposal to NASA (a good present at the end of the day when work is done)!

I will do my very best to speak from the heart, my REAL experiences, how it works out AND answer your questions, and lessons I have learned. I am NOT going into battles chatting about the LX80. If you feel this was a dumb purchase, fine, but no need to get abusive. Best we learn and comment about the whole thing. Also, I am FULLY aware of the chats on the LX80 from the past and all the issues. Lets see if they are resolved or crop up. Lets see how the LX80 of today compares to 2012. And yes, I also know there will be a replacement mount coming out soon. Will it be similar or vastly different than the LX80? Who knows, but for this thread I do not care for the time being.

So time to begin the dialogue during this most cloudy, cold stretch. I truly cannot wait to get home to New Mexico! I am also sure we can all make this a hot topic. ;)

So let me begin. Like I said, I have been MASSIVELY working to get out several proposals to NASA. I knew this mount was coming in, but I was going to try and not focus on it until work was done. But I was wondering about it and a little anxious. Just as I was uploading the last proposal around 4:41 PM EST (before the 5:00 PM deadline, YIKES!), the doorbell rang - the UPS man was here!!!! I raced to the door and told him to go ahead and drop it off while I wrap up things. When I came back, there were 3 boxes waiting for me on the snow covered porch…

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#2 herrointment

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Posted 31 January 2014 - 12:11 AM

I'm looking forward to this........it'll be interesting to say the least!

Good on you, Sir!

#3 frolinmod

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Posted 31 January 2014 - 01:53 AM

If you mentioned what you paid for the LX80, I must have missed it. I hope it wasn't much. An AZ/EQ6 might have suited you better.

#4 Mkofski

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Posted 31 January 2014 - 02:19 AM

The AZ/EQ6 looks like a nice mount but from what I've read it's a chore to change from EQ to AltAz and cost a lot more. I know if it had been available when I bought the LX80 I'd have still made the same choice.

Mike

#5 frolinmod

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Posted 31 January 2014 - 03:04 AM

....it's a chore to change from EQ to AltAz....

Actually it's a breeze to change from EQ to ALT/AZ so long as there is nothing on the mount. If there's any weight (counterweights and/or payload) on the mount then it's difficult indeed.

#6 Mike X.

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Posted 31 January 2014 - 04:52 AM

I conrfirm it is really easy and takes a matter of seconds to change between Alt-Az/EQ mode with an AZEQ6.

#7 Mkofski

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Posted 31 January 2014 - 10:47 AM

....it's a chore to change from EQ to AltAz....

Actually it's a breeze to change from EQ to ALT/AZ so long as there is nothing on the mount. If there's any weight (counterweights and/or payload) on the mount then it's difficult indeed.


I stand corrected... my first mistake this year, I almost had a perfect January! :lol:

Mike

#8 FreddyH

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Posted 31 January 2014 - 10:55 AM

I am looking forward to this truthful review!!!

#9 Starhawk

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Posted 31 January 2014 - 01:46 PM

:gotpopcorn:

-Rich

#10 Awesomelenny

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Posted 31 January 2014 - 03:07 PM

Hey Rich ! Me too! :imawake: :gotpopcorn: :gotpopcorn: :gotpopcorn:

#11 Spacetravelerx

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Posted 31 January 2014 - 03:16 PM

Such a busy day here in gloomy Michigan, but some updates…and yes more review comments to come!

* I paid $939.00 with the AC adapter. I was comfortable with the price.
* The AZ/EQ6 I guess was an option, but not much added value for me near as I can tell, yet more than twice the price of the LX80. The only added advantage might be advanced astrophotography, however that is what the LX850, Mach1GTO, et. al. are for.
* I am very pleased how easy it is to take the LX80 from Alt-Az to EQ mode. I did not know what to expect since I never dealt with this kind of mount before, BUT it is very easy to convert. More on this in a later post.

#12 Spacetravelerx

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Posted 31 January 2014 - 03:42 PM

Here we go…unpacking the LX80.

So far, so good!

Time to take the kiddo and her friends to dinner - I was volunteered for duty!

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#13 brokenwave

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Posted 31 January 2014 - 09:00 PM

Space Traveler, You should be pretty happy with it using it for visual only, Some casual AP at under 30 seconds does work but takes patience. Nice to have a 2 scope mount for under $1000 that is pretty solid with a 25lb total load.

#14 Spacetravelerx

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Posted 31 January 2014 - 11:20 PM

Brokenwave,

Don't forget to add video astronomy to the list!

I see the mount easily handling the easy pictures of the planets, Moon, solar images with the SolarMax II and easy DSO targets. If I get get images up to 90 sec that would be fine, but any real long exposure stuff will be with the LX850 and similar mounts.

Now for more of the story...

#15 Starhawk

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Posted 31 January 2014 - 11:31 PM

Is that the 130 on it?

-Rich

#16 brokenwave

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Posted 31 January 2014 - 11:51 PM

ST,
I am sure it would handle video as well, just wanted highlight what works from my experience.
Just had to keep the naysayers asleep. LOL

#17 Spacetravelerx

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Posted 01 February 2014 - 12:39 AM

I have to say, it is VERY frustrating having the LX80, but I am severely limited on what I can test out due to the weather - and ANOTHER snow storm with up to 9" is about to hit where I am….grrrrr.

I was born and raised in Michigan and I am reminding myself how very precious good star gazing sessions are here in the midwest. During the time growing up I would just read lots of books, draw star charts, oogle over the Edmund Scientific catalogue, and draw up designs for a trailer to transport my RV-6. It is a test of patience being an Astronomer in Michigan. I feel very blessed living in New Mexico now. And I really appreciate the effort of those in this field of study who do not live in wonderful areas like the desert southwest.

So for now, my testing and evaluation is a bit limited. I have been getting to know the LX80, but I really want to get it under the sky. Some observations before I pass out tonight:

* For an under $1000 mount the construction is surprising good for this class. Is it build like a Mach1GTO? Nope! Built like an LX850? Nope! However for under $1000 I think physically it is well implemented; actually I am surprised what you get for the price.
* Biggest positive and surprise - the tripod Leg Levelers! Ingenious! Now, I would not want this for something like my LX850 - I want things rock solid for astrophotography. But, for an easy setup, leveling, and visual and simple imaging uses this is brilliant. I am over all surprised how solid the legs are themselves.
* The only slightly negative? The plastic spreader bar, though again I understand this is for an under $1k mount. Still, it seems solid enough, it has plenty of holes for eyepieces and seems to do an adequate job. The key thing here - don't over tighten this puppy!
* Though it is designed to run just off 8 x AA batteries, and I will use batteries on a few occasions, I simply like to have a steady supply of electricity via AC when I can get it. So I purchased the AC adapter with the mount. It works fine, BUT…playing around in Alt-Az mode the cord goes around and gets all over the place. So I made a trip to Home Depot (Lowes is fine too), and picked some velcro wraps. I snugged up the power cord, but left enough play in it for the mount to move around. I will post pictures on that tomorrow (I am too tired right now). This seems to do the job.
* Like my LXD75 - no where to put that hand controller! On my LXD75 I put some velcro strips on the upper tripod legs and the back of the hand controller. Stick the controller on the mount and you are good. So, I did the same thing with the LX80…but where to put the strips (and not on the leg levelers)? The final choice - I put a couple of velcro strips on the spreader bar. It seems to work for Alt-Az and Eq modes. Just stick the controller on the tray and it stays in place. I will post some picts tomorrow how that came out too.
* The AudioStar Hand Controller - familiar operation across the board between my ETX125 (I am not selling her), LXD75, and LX850 with obvious alterations to the software depending on the mount. I like this. It makes life easy. I did a pseudo test Alt Az align and goto using SkySafari on the iPad as my "sky". The LX80 seemed to go to the targets as expected. Of course the real test will come when I finally get home. Stay tuned.
* AudioStar Part II - well, I never have owned the fabled AudioStar before this week. I never saw one in the wild either. My first "test goto" was Jupiter - suddenly I got music and a ton of facts! Cute, interesting and fine for me, but I will turn it off when I am alone with this mount. But then I ran it with my 13 year old daughter - BINGO! She LOVED IT! Her friends loved it! I get it now - new Astronomers old and young will love it. I don't think I will use it at my outreach events, but on field trips I will let the kids use it I while I let the box chat away.
* Bonus points for Meade having the "Multi-Function Hex Head Tool" built into the mount and it is used to adjust the mount. This makes things very simple and all in one place. Well thought out and nice perk. Picts pending on this too.

Note on capacity. By golly Meade says 40 lbs Alt-Az/Eq and 70 lbs dual, I want to find out for myself. I am curious! So yes Rich, that is the 130mm APO on the mount with many of the add ons, putting it around 30 lbs. Observation #1. The motor seems to handle it without any troubles in Alt-Az mode. Of course the real test is under the night sky. Stay tuned to see if this mount can handle it.

Observation #2: The 130mm APO and LX80 in EQ mode. WHOOPS - I do not have enough counter weights for it. GRRRRR. I forgot about this. The counter weights for my LXD75 do not fit on the LX80. So last night I ordered two 11 lb counter weights. This test will have to wait until next week. (Rich, you may have caught that little counter weight is way too insufficient to balance the 130mm). One thing that was interesting - it is VERY easy to go from Alt-Az to Eq mode and I do not have to remove the OTA. Nice!

My next simple test - dual use with the 130mm APO and the SMII 90mm. This should put the payload over 55 lbs. The "in home" test will be simple. The real test won't be until next week in New Mexico (weather permitting of course!). BTW, I really won't use this configuration very much. The most likely solar configuration will be pairing the SMII with the PST. The purpose of this test - let's load up the mount and have some fun!

One last item, as Mike Kofski has noted elsewhere in CN, the LX80 mount head is indeed heavy - it weighs in at 35 lbs. I like that it is heavy and seems solid, BUT be aware as Mike has noted if you have back issues - this would be true of any heavy mount. The heavy weight does give me a sense it can handle the payload, at least visually. I guess for me it is one thing seeing the brochure, it is another thing picking up the mount for real. The legs and mount head are certainly solid. I would put this combo at the limit of my portability zone. Which btw for advanced AP in remote locations (like White Sands, Chaco Canyon, etc), I am gravitating to the Mach1GTO or the 10 Micron 1000. I am always reminded (and Rich and others have pointed out often), if you go to remote locations OR if you have to set and and tear down often, you really do not want to lug heavy systems all over creation or tear it up and down every single night.

So far, so good on the LX80. BUT I need to get under a clear sky to REALLY test it out.

Up next…some photos of the velcro tie downs and attachments, and connecting the LX80/SkyFi/SkySafari/iPad/Macintosh combo!

#18 Spacetravelerx

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Posted 01 February 2014 - 12:42 AM

ST,
I am sure it would handle video as well, just wanted highlight what works from my experience.
Just had to keep the naysayers asleep. LOL


Always good keeping them asleep! ;)

I suspect the LX80 will work perfectly for most video uses.

#19 mmalik

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Posted 01 February 2014 - 07:08 AM

I am looking forward to this truthful review!!!


Following is not a critique per se, rather statement of "facts" from yester year or so. NO need to panic; if any of it is no longer correct, I would like know? Regards


•LX80 points/tracks (unguided) in ALT/AZ mode for visual work ONLY

•LX80 doesn’t point/track properly (unguided) in EQ for visual/astrophoto work, especially with heavier payloads

•Guiding in ALT/AZ is NOT available by design

•NO record of successful guiding in EQ; NO record of 5 min or longer PHD guiding

•NO record of successful serial pulse guiding of 5 min or longer

•No ST-4 guide port on the mount

•NO record of ST-4 guiding with old/cloned accessory port module (APM); OLD APM module is NOT compatible with LX80

•LX80 plug-in APM module for ST-4 guiding was never made by Meade

•Guiding with Meade Envisage doesn’t NOT work

•NO record of comprehensive PEC testing/analysis

•Numerous accounts of catastrophic tripod collapses

•China stopped making LX80 and shipped tooling to the US

•Not sure if all new (post-China) LX80s are being made today?



References:
LX80 RA tracking...
I'll wait for the NEW !! Meade LX80 Mounts...
LX80 for astrophotography...
Meade LX80 Mount...
LX80 upgrade LX85...
Thinking of Meade LX80...
LX80 problems to be addressed...
A letter to Meade about the LX80...

#20 gaz-in

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Posted 01 February 2014 - 07:09 AM

Thanks tons for taking us on this journey with you...first thing I did this AM was check this thread....

#21 Spacetravelerx

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Posted 01 February 2014 - 09:13 AM

gaz-in,

No problem!

And it is a fun way to cover the winter blahs!

#22 Spacetravelerx

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Posted 01 February 2014 - 10:05 AM

mmalik,

You did not read my initial comments.

First off, if any are no longer correct, I will definitely let you know.

Second - I had followed those threads ad nauseam. Much of it is related the initial problems, and then referencing those initial problems, and then of course the future speculation which is fine with the latter. My focus - things did evolve a little bit with this mount since the initial "too" early of a release (what is it with Meade and Celestron doing these releases too early?), so I want to see where the LX80 is at TODAY. The beat down was so horrible on CN, most folks are too timid to say anything here. Me? Let's have some fun and see where the LX80 is today - and where it is evolving too? AND I want to speak from actual facts vs all this hand waiving.

I do think the LX80 is a remarkable concept, and the price is very good. BTW, and not trying to sound arrogant, if people want pro-like images and a series where you don't have to throw away lots of subs, you really do have to invest some coin. I know you can get some really good stuff, wide field, with even a barn door mount and DLSR, and folks have some nice images with the CGE, but long focal length imaging and 20 min subs where you don't have to throw away lots them, folks need to get real. I know it is nice to spend $1k - $2k, and think you are in the league with a $7k and up mount, but we are not there yet. I have NO expectations the LX80 will compete with my LX850 nor the Mach1GTO and 10 Micron.

Like I said, I am looking for a fun mount that does dual/single modes, reasonable quality, visual for outreach, education and other stuff, video astronomy and LIGHT duty AP. Any of the advanced AP - that is what my LX850 is for, and it is a remarkable mount.

Now, to answer some of your comments...

[quote name="mmalik"]

Following is not a critique per se, rather statement of "facts" from yester year or so. NO need to panic; if any of it is no longer correct, I would like know? Regards


•LX80 points/tracks (unguided) in ALT/AZ mode for visual work ONLY

[/quote]

Yep, I know this. So? Why the heck would I want to guide in ALT/AZ mode? Seems rather silly.

[quote]

•LX80 doesn’t point/track properly (unguided) in EQ for visual/astrophoto work, especially with heavier payloads

[/quote]

That is what I hope to find out in this rev once I leave the endless dark, cold and snow of the midwest and head back to New Mexico.

[quote]

•Guiding in ALT/AZ is NOT available by design

[/quote]

Yep - so? Who the heck wants to guide in ALT/AZ when there is EQ mode? Who wants to guide in ALT/AZ in general? That is of zero interest for me.

[quote]

•NO record of successful guiding in EQ; NO record of 5 min or longer PHD guiding

[/quote[

I have minimal interest in guiding the LX80 over 5 min let alone 2 min, but I might explore this for fun. This is why I own an LX850 and I am looking at the Mach1GTO and 10Micron for light weight, field use.

[quote]

•NO record of successful serial pulse guiding of 5 min or longer

[/quote]

No interest for me in this…same refrain.


[quote]

•No ST-4 guide port on the mount

•NO record of ST-4 guiding with old/cloned accessory port module (APM); OLD APM module is NOT compatible with LX80

•LX80 plug-in APM module for ST-4 guiding was never made by Meade

[/quote]

There was a small batch of the plug-in APMs made for the LX80. I am not really looking at extensive guiding with this mount at all, because, well, that is what my LX850 is for. Having said that it would be fun to see how far guiding can be taken. I have spoken with Meade regarding the APM, have ordered one and I should have one near term. I will likely use the Orion auto guider kit. Yes, I will be see how the regular folk do guiding compared to the wonders of the LX850. You have to understand, the LX850 is an amazing near turnkey imaging system (you still have to do the rest - FOV, filters, figure the weather, post processing, etc.) - I much prefer this over any lesser mount. Not trying to be arrogant, just honest and realistic. Still, I am looking at having some fun with the LX80 in this realm. If I even get close to 5 minutes with the LX80 I will be shocked.

[quote]

•Guiding with Meade Envisage doesn’t NOT work

[/quote]

No interest, I will not be testing this.

[quote]

•NO record of comprehensive PEC testing/analysis

[/quote]

Unlikely to happen on my end - no interest. Now, I guess when I get the 10 Micron or Mach1GTO I will get PEMPro with them, but I will likely not waste my time doing this on an LX80.


[quote]

•Numerous accounts of catastrophic tripod collapses

[/quote]

I think I have seen two out of how many sold? And the one collapse, Mike admitted it was his fault AND MEADE STILL TOOK CARE OF IT!

Please provide the actual rate of catastrophic tripod collapse.

The tripod I have seems rather solid save for the plastic spreader bar, though the spreader bar seems sufficient.


[quote]


•China stopped making LX80 and shipped tooling to the US

[/quote]

Yep, common knowledge.

[quote]

•Not sure if all new (post-China) LX80s are being made today?


[/quote]


No more LX80s will be built. BUT, a replacement to the LX80 will come out soon. It may be an evolved version of the LX80 OR in the words of Monty Python "And now, for something completely different…". Stay tuned folks.

Anyways, so far my LX80 seems fine, but I really need to get this mount out of Michigan and back to New Mexico. And hopefully I can confirm any faults, updates and all that related to the LX80. Consider this a fresh review. Everything from the past, the old stuff may no longer be relevant.

And like I said, the past beat down on Meade and the LX80 seems to be scaring off most from CN. But let's forget about this, and treat this as a fun experiment. "Where is the LX80 at now?" "Does it work as advertised?" :question: If it works as advertised then I think we have something here.

Be patient...Stay tuned!

#23 DuiA1

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Posted 01 February 2014 - 10:58 AM

Andrew, have there been any design changes to the mount you have received ? Seems you have some inside knowledge ...would you care to share? The externals look the same but wondering about the internal gears. Can you confirm the fw version and also how well it tracks In RA? Looking forward to your review and posts on this.

#24 dmdouglass

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Posted 01 February 2014 - 11:57 AM

Mmalik....

Good grief man. You have a personal fettish (sp??) against the LX-80, and the world knows it. Give it a break !!

Most of that VERY LARGE itemized post could have been condensed to a single line... That line would be:
You cannot guide the LX-80.

That has been proven over and over. The so-called "fix" with an external box, which was available only for a short time, did not function properly. That was documented.

But even unguided, being in EQ mode helps extend the "time" available for short imaging, over trying it in Alt/AZ.

Lets give Spacetravelerx some breathing space. He went out and spent his own money to "see for himself" what was going on. And he has knowledge of its history.

Note to Spacetravelerx: To my knowledge, there were two tripod failures. I was the first. You made a comment about "do not overtighten the spreader".... Make a note to yourself to remember that. Although i never heard a final report back from Meade (the parts were returned to them for study).... that was the operating theory for the cause of the failure. In summary, overtorqed (sp?) spreader, and resulting "snapped" connection point.

#25 Spacetravelerx

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Posted 01 February 2014 - 01:16 PM

Andrew, have there been any design changes to the mount you have received ? Seems you have some inside knowledge ...would you care to share? The externals look the same but wondering about the internal gears. Can you confirm the fw version and also how well it tracks In RA? Looking forward to your review and posts on this.



Hello DuiA1,

I do know there was a fw update: Firmware update link

Right now I am on the road (actually at a coffee shop while my daughter is at an art class), but I will start up my LX80 and check the fw version. Stay tuned on that front.

What I find interesting is after the fw update, it seems the RA tracking complaints disappeared. However once I am back home and in clear skies I will definitely check it out.

I have no inside knowledge, but I would like some, lol. My guesstimate is - Meade rushed this out, there were fixes and changes along the way (such as the firmware), and either people gave up or many of the issues were fixed. I have no clue on the internal gears, but we will find out soon enough when I put the LX80 to work. I could take it apart (I am not big on doing this), or I could just give Meade a call and find out.

Now, I will be in Long Beach, California for the Space Tech Expo (I am chairing a panel discussion on Wednesday April 2 ). While down there I hope to meet with the folks at Meade to stop by say hi and get to know these guys. Stay tuned there.

But I am looking forward to the review, experiment and learning process too. "What has changed?, What works now?" and all that. I will say this - I am quickly finding I like the concept of this mount a lot and if it can work as advertised for under $1k and think they had a lot of potential with this mount. And we will learn soon enough if the next mount is similar with lessons learned OR something totally new.

And remember, instead of dishing the dirt, lets all try to learn from this - the good and the bad. Let us all put on our tech hats. Also, remember I am not looking for a dirt cheap replacement for the Mach1GTO, LX850, et. al. The question is, does the mount provide a lot of value for the price.

I can't wait to get under clear skies to figure this all out...






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