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Meade 12.5" Dob (a beginners perspective)
I am submitting a review for a 12.5” Meade Starfinder dobsonian telescope that operates at F 4.8 with a focal length of 1525mm. I am a newcomer to astronomy and have been observing for about 1 year. As you will see by my review, it will be quite non-technical in nature. I live in the Kansas City area, and my favorite things to observe are deep space objects.
Explain My Choice
I took the advice offered by every astronomy website and joined a local astronomy club. After attending a couple star parties, observing through several types of telescopes, and talking with members, I was ready to buy. I wanted the largest aperture telescope I could find for around $1000, and easily transport in my SUV without help of a second person. I bought the 12.5” Starfinder dob from Lymax, a local dealer in Kansas City. I am not mechanically inclined, and knew the added service from a local dealer would prove quite valuable. (especially knowing of the quirks of the Meade dobs) The telescope was in stock, so I didn’t even have to wait.
The telescope came with a telrad finder, 10x50 finder, and 2 Meade series 4000 eyepieces for $1000. Originally it just came with the telrad, but I negotiated adding the 10x50. The best part? It was already assembled!!! The telescope came equipped with inadequate feet to provide a solid foundation and it was quite wobbly. The dealer replaced them with solid treated wooden blocks and the base is now solid as a rock. Also, as you moved the scope up and down vertically, it clunked and was quite quirky. The dealer replaced the pads and it moves up and down very smoothly. At Lymax, they also made adjustments to the base, to allow for smooth left and right motions with just the right amount of tension. Now it glides in all directions quite nicely and holds its position in any position. I find it very easy and effortless slewing and tracking objects. They also attached some heavy washers to the base of the mirror cell to get it in perfect balance. Try getting that service with an online purchase!! I definitely recommend buying from a dealer.
The tube weighs 55lbs and the base weights 41lbs. I can easily get the scope where it needs to be in 2 separate pieces. Keep in mind the size because some people might have trouble carrying around the tube. Also, this scope will not fit in a sedan. A minivan, SUV, or vehicles with back seats that fold down are a must. The tube is 15.1”x58” long. Keep that in mind. Setup time is just about nothing. I keep the scope in my family room, and my setup time is the time it takes me to carry the tube and base outside, which is just about 1 minute.
I feel that the optical performance is excellent. Meade dobs are known for having good optics. Being inexperienced, I cant go into technical detail about how the mirror performs. Plenty of club members have commented on the sharpness and crispness of the images. I’ll take their word for it. I have no complaints. I have tried the scope on a variety of objects and have been very pleased with the views. I have compared views next to larger and more expensive telescopes, and was very pleased with the results. I have made direct comparisons with a 10inch Lx200, and the brightness and sharpness was astonishingly better in the 12.5 Starfinder. Much more than I would have expected with only a 2.5-inch jump in aperture. I made direct comparisons next to a Celestron C-14 scope, and the little Meade dob held its own quite well. I have been able to see great detail in M27 at 157x along with several imbedded stars in the nebulosity. The Ring Nebula is fantastic and bright at 118x! I easily tracked Neptune at 314x and saw Triton. That same night, taking advantage of great seeing conditions, Saturn and the ring divisions were stunning at 314x. The detail in the Lagoon nebula was spectacular at 59x. Any jump in magnification, and I would have to pan around to view the whole lagoon. I found the telrad very helpful in pointing. I find it easy to find objects by first pointing with the telrad, then star hopping over through the 10x50 finder. I don’t know what I would do without it. Collimation is easy and quick. I have never had to make any adjustments to the secondary, but the primary adjusts quickly and easily from 3 positions on the rear of the mirror cell. The mirror came center marked from the dealer to easily collimate.
Most negatives associated with the telescope relate to its cheap construction and mechanical operation. It comes standard with a cheap plastic 2” focuser. As soon as it breaks, I’ll surely get a nice Crayford. The mirror cell is cheaply made and enclosed with little ventilation. The altitude and azimuth motions need to be improved for smooth operation. The base is wobbly. If you think about it, that’s about all of its mechanical operations!! As noted above, many adjustments are necessary to give the scope a solid foundation and smooth slewing functions, but can be quickly and easily fixed.
I would recommend the Meade 12.5-Starfinder. It has several mechanical shortfalls because of its cheap construction. All of these can be easily remedied. If you find a good dealer, you wont even have to make any adjustments. I didn’t!! In fact, it took the dealer about 2 hours to make all necessary adjustments while I waited. By the way, they did not charge extra for the modifications. Most people will agree that the optics in the Meade Starfinders are quite good. I think this is the perfect telescope for the amateur who wants large aperture but doesn’t want to spend $2500-$3500 for a quality 12.5” truss dob. For about $1000, it is well worth its price and any necessary modifications.