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The Meade Infinity 102 AZ


The Meade Infinity 102 AZ Altazimuth Refractor A Review by Bill Steen September, 2014 This review is in response to feedback I requested and received on an article submitted to Cloudy Nights on my thoughts on the two new lines of Meade entry level scopes, the Infinity Altazimuth and Polaris Equatorial series. After a few weeks, I received a cryptic email from Meade telling me that an Infinity 102 AZ Refractor and a Polaris 130 Equatorial Reflector were being sent to me for my review, with no other words.
Attached File  The Meade Infinity 102 AZ.pdf   888.94KB   8427 downloads

  • JIMZ7, Urban Observer, jaybiker and 3 others like this


33 Comments

Thank you, Cloudy Nights, for posting my review.  I would appreciate any feedback from the readers, especially on any ideas on how to make the document better.  Corrections of typos, etc. are certainly welcome and I will include them in an update at some point.  I will use your feedback for guidance on future reviews.

 

Thanks,

 

Bill Steen

    • choran and Sanjeev177 like this

Thank you Bill for the nice detailed review and small tips for improvements on entry level scope. I am in process of acquiring one wide field achromat and didn't know where to look but your review has helped me to narrow down my search.

Thanks for the feedback, Sanjeev!  I am glad that you found the review helpful.  If there are any questions still left unanswered, please let me know.  Best Regards,  Bill

    • astroscope likes this

I too found the review really informative. I am actually trying to decide between the infinity and starnavigator 102, and perhaps you can help me since apparently you have both of them. From the review it appears the infinity has a better focuser but I assume ou kept the other one from your sig. My main concern is overall image quaility without making any mods (for now), and I can't quite gather which that would be from what you wrote. I know there is no all purpose scope, but I don't yet have a specific area i want to focus observation on, so if you were to chose one as a starter scope without the mods could you please let me know which you would go for and why. Thanks.

Hello Astroscope,

That is an interesting question. I read you post this morning and have been thinking about it off-and-on all day. I had a long day and am quite frankly brain dead right now. I will write you and answer tomorrow evening. I think your question deserves a thorough answer, but I cannot give it to you right now. I will say that you will not go far wrong with either scope. Each has its strong points, which I will talk about and tell you what I know.

Best Regards,

Bill Steen
    • astroscope likes this

Please don't stress yourself over this. While I hope your answers will aslo help others it is not urgent for me to find out right away so just relax and enjoy the weekend.

OK, I will think some more and probably write things down in my word processor first, read it over, and then post.

Bill Steen
OK. A lot of what was going through my mind to tell you would really be outside the limits of a post and would really need to be written in another article. This includes my experiences with the AutoStar mount, which I do know a lot about, and tripods. Instead, I will keep my comments to optical things, which is really what you were asking about.

I have a DS 2102 optical tube that I bought from Telescope Warehouse. I have one Generation 2 mount that I received from Meade at my request. I asked for a mount that was sent in as defective to take apart and see what the changes were from the Generation 1 mount.

I do not have a Star Navigator handset, but I do have two older 497 handsets, predecessors to the Star Navigator, and an LS 8 with Star Navigator inside. I turned off the sound on my LS 8 to keep from disturbing neighbors and felt like I had lost a friend. It can get old sometimes, but it can also be fun, especially with kids or just new people to astronomy in general.

The 2102 optical tube is a nice entry level telescope. Mine shows to be slightly within the 1/4 wave undercorrected limit in spherical aberation, which is normal. My Infinity 102 optical tube shows to be better than 1/8 wave undercorrection at worst and maybe be very close to zero.

With the DS 2102 being f/8, it does do better than the Infinity 102 at high magnifications. Even though I have modified my DS 2102 with a two inch focuser, the image is good only to about 2.5 degrees True Field of View (TFOV). With a 30 mm UWA, which gives 3 degrees in this scope, the image falls apart outside 2.5 degrees and bright stars look like badmitton birdies. Since the normal focuser allows for only 1.25 inch eyepieces, they cannot go beyond maybe 2.2 degrees TFOV, so the real limit of the optics on the wide end is not seen.
The Infinity 102, with the same 30 mm UWA (Meade 5000 series) is good to nearly the very edge with only a very tiny amount of coma, which is not objectionable to me. That is 4 degrees TFOV. The mount, however, cannot take the weight of the eyepiece.

At high magnification with double stars and viewing the moon, the DS 2102 is better. Even though the Infinity 102 can get there, the image is not as good. I have had both scopes to 300X on the moon. That could be beyond the best spot for the Infinity, but I have cataracts and the higher magnification gives me more information even though it is not as prettty as lower magnification. I have had the DS 2102, after I worked it over, up to 320X on the moon and had a higher quality image than the infinity 102 at 300X...not surprising.

Normally, I find short focal ratio scopes to have more problems with light pollution than longer scopes, with all else being equal. However, the Infinity 102 has three baffles in it while the DS 2102 has only one. Light pollution fighting with the scopes coming straight out of the box is about the same with maybe the Infinity doing a touch better.

General quality of the optical tube of the Infinity 102 is better, but the shorter focal ratio is more intolerant of any imperfections that might be there. The DS 2102 is not quite at the same level of quality, but the longer f/ratio is more tolerant. The collimation of the Infinity was dead on, right out of the box. When I put the better focuser in the DS-2102, I found that the cut on the tubing at the focuser end was off square a very tiny little bit...maybe under a fiftieth of an inch. I fixed that. Since that time, my DS 2102 has amazed me.

There is an old saying, "An average scope with a superior collimation will out perform a superior scope with an average collimation." I believe this is true.

The MA eyepieces that come with the Infinity 102 are better than the MA eyepieces coming with the DS-2102, in my opinion. If you get the Star Navigator, I recommend Plossles. I used the Meade Series 4000 eyepieces for a long time with my 2102 in 32, 20, 15, 12.4 mm with a 2X and 3X short barlows. They worked great for me with that scope.

In summary, either scope can do well for you. If your interests are more along planetary and double star lines, I would get the Star Navigator. If you want to see wider vistas, then the Infinity 102 is better.

Hope this helps!

Yes, it has, thanks. But it has also raised some more specific questions I would like to ask you if you don't mind. Please let me know if I should post them here or PM them to you and I'll try to compose them in a somewhat organized fashion in the meantime.

I think the moderators will go along with things a ways, if we do not digress too far from the original topic, since you are trying to determine whether you want to purchase an Infinity 102 or not. I am confident the moderators will keep us in line. (smile)

That was my concern esp since most of my questions will be about the Starnavigator since you have already done such a thorough job reviewing the Infinity. I feel I know more about it even though yours is the only review I have seen while there are a few out there for the other telescope. One area of debate if what the actual clear aperture of the Starnavigator is. It looks like you got 100mm, but is that due to the lens diameter or because it only uses a 90mm diameter tube that partial obscures some of the light cone and could any of this also be responsible for the coma?  Otherwise the only thing I don’t think you directly addressed regarding observing capabilities is how they compare on DSO. So it would be great if you could elaborate for they compare in terms of light gathering ability and true FoV for a couple of the more common objects such as Andromeda or Orion.

 

If possible I would also like you to elaborate on the differences between the two mounts and tripods. You mention the vibrations on the infinity tripod and I noticed the Infinity mount can’t support the heavier eyepieces (though I don’t think that will be an issue for me yet), so are the Starnavigator mount and tripod more sturdy overall? Also can it be adjusted manually if you run out of batteries? I assume so since it says it is also good for terrestrial observations, but is it more complicated to do so than for the Infinity? And while on the topic, have you attempted to use either for terrestrial observations, and if so which would you recommend?

 

As far as the eyepieces go I was surprised that you found a difference in quality since I thought they were the same kind from the same manufacturer.  I was thinking of getting an 8-24mm Zoom and then seeing what additional eyepieces I would want later, though a lot of people seem to even stick mainly with the zoom. From what I’ve read most zooms are better than most eyepieces shipped with the telescope and they seem to have a fairly good resale value if I want to upgrade to better ones later. But if you feel the Infinity eyepieces and barlow are good enough so I don’t need to upgrade right away that is obviously a plus. Also if I’m not mistaken I believe the starnavigator doesn’t actually include a barlow so is that another extra expense?  Any advice on what eyepieces would be best for either is greatly appreciated.

 

I am, however, wondering if the difference in eyepieces and optical tube quality might actually be due to the Infinity being produced a few years later with possible improvements in the production process, or perhaps they made sure you got the best of the batch since they sent them to you specifically for the purpose of the review. And as a general note I would also like to mention that I am in a suburban urban transition zone for observing conditions if that impacts any of your recommendations in any way.

 

Finally I would like to ask you which telescope would be better to get if I was actually willing to make some modifications to it to use as an intermediate scope instead of buying a new one. So could you please tell me for which telescope is it easier to remove and reassemble the dew shield, lens, and focuser without risking actually making things worse while doing the mods. Hope I haven’t raised too many question but I’m sure there’s still something I’ve overlooked, though you really can’t figure out everything before you try it yourself. Again, no rush on a reply and many thanks for taking the time.

This is my first and second edit in my response. The third and fourth edits, which are about tripods and mounts are included in the post following this one. I appreciate the moderators' indulgence in the length of these posts.

On the diameter of the two scopes: The DS-2102 optical tube measures 100 mm clear diameter. The lens itself measures 102 mm in diameter, but there is a 1 mm ledge running around the inside of the mount body that holds the lens in place. The Infinity 102 has a clear diameter with the actual diameter of the lens being larger. I am guessing the extra for the lens would be about the same as on the DS-2102, which would make the Infinity 102 actual lens diameter about 104 mm. As far as any difference in light gathering power, it is the difference in the area of the lens openings. The Infinity 102 has about 4% more light gathering power by area than the DS-2102. You would not be able to tell the difference.
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The Infinity 102's optical tube is full bore for a 102 mm telescope. What they did on the DS-2102 was to figure in the fact that the light going through the tube is a cone that tapers down. They made a really long head for the lens that attaches to the 93 mm tubing that is used for the DS-2090. That boundary or connection point serves somewhat like a first baffle.

The 93 mm tubing does not cut into the light cone of the image. If it did, it would not affect the quality of the outside of the image that I was seeing with the 30 mm UWA eyepiece, it would be a fuzzy vignette where the image tapers off to black around the outside rather than seeing a crisp edge.

Looking at Orion, the DS-2102, with a 32 mm Plossl has a magnification of 25X (800/32). The Apparent Field of View through the eyepiece is about 50 degrees. Therefore, 50/25 is 2 degrees True Field of View. This will allow you to see pretty much the whole of Orion's Sword. The Infinity 102 has 3/4 the focal length so the TFOV with the same eyepiece is 2 divided by 3/4 or 2 and 2/3 degrees. This allows you to see the whole sword with context space around it....in my opinion,a nicer view. With Andromeda, it is a bit more difficult to describe, since the Andromeda Galaxy goes out so far and dims down to where I cannot see the outer parts due to light pollution. Looking at the disk shown in the Pocket Sky Atlas, the long axis is about 3 degrees. Even the Infinity 102 will not take all of that in with a 32 mm Plossl, but it will take in a third more than the DS-2102. Either scope should take in the central hub, and the two satellites, M-32 and M-110...if you can see both under your level of light pollution. Both can be seen with a 60 mm refractor under dark skies.

The eyepieces that come with the DS-2102 were manufactured, I am confident, by Meade's supplier before Sunny bought Meade. The eyepieces that come with the new Infinity and Polaris lines come from another supplier, probably a subsidiary of Sunny, as do the scopes. I have both types and the new ones have better contrast, sharper images, and less glare from reflected light, IMHO. Two of the eyepieces with the new scopes have different focal lengths than the older ones....26 vs 25 mm and 6.3 vs 6 mm. It needs to be noted that the DS-2102 comes with 25 and 9 mm eyepieces. The Infinity comes with 26, 9, 6.3 mm and a nice little 2X Barlow....pretty much a complete package.

As I have watched astronomy products come from China, I have seen them gradually improve in quality. I do believe that the general level of quality control has improved as has various techniques of the manufacturing process. I suspect that these various products are bought in large lots. As you point out, the DS-2102 scopes were most likely made at an earlier time than the Infinity 102. The DS-2102 optical tube is made to a standard that I would expect of an entry level scope. It is normal. I get the feeling that the Infinity has been made with a greater desire to put out a better product. The scopes I have received from Meade that were made by Sunny are definitely better than normal.

I really have not used telescopes for terrestrial viewing other than maybe once or twice in a rather casual way. The Infinity 102, however, does come with a correct image 90 degree diagonal, rather than a standard one where left and right is reversed in the image. You may, however, want to get a 45 degree correct image diagonal, which is sold separately for terrestrial viewing. I would expect the size of your eye's pupil will come into play more during the daytime than it does at night, since your pupil will be much smaller.

As far as eyepieces go, I have never used a zoom eyepiece and cannot speak to them at all. Mostly, with my DS-2102 scope, I have used Meade 4000 series Plossles. Normally, I would use a 32mm, 20mm, 12.4mm, then 15 with a 2X Barlow, 12.4 with the Barlow, sometimes the 9.7mm with the 2X Barlow, but sometimes switch to a 3X Barlow and the 15 mm and start on down from there if needed and usable. I later purchased a set of Meade 5000 series 5 element Plossles in 1.25 inch format, which I think are better than the 4000 series, but are no longer sold. The Barlows I have used with the DS-2102 are the Meade #126 2X and the #128 3
X short Barlows. I have many other eyepieces that are very nice and quite a bit more expensive than the 4000 series Plossls, which I enjoy. However, I have the firm opinion that I could have a fruitful lifetime of backyard observation with only the set of Plossls and a few Barlows. I have no experience with zoom eyepieces and will have to defer to someone else to guide you about their quality and use. As far as the eyepieces that come with the scopes go, I am quite comfortable with the ones that come with the Infinity due to its basic wider field of view, even though the field of view is restricted to 45 degrees. However, having a good finder eyepiece that can give at least a two degree true field of view is pretty important for a beginner, IMHO. A 32 mm Plossle serves that purpose for the DS-2102 and either the 32 or the 26 mm does so with the Infinity 102. Due to a decrease in the size of my pupils because of age, I have had to go to shorter focal length eyepieces with wider fields of view than the 32 mm Plossl. I currently consider my Meade 5000 series 26 mm Plossl, a Meade HD-60 25 mm, and an ES 24 mm 68 degree to be my main finders. Of those three, the HD-60 seems to work the best for me. The image is a bit brighter and I see a little bit more detail than the Explore Scientific eyepiece, even though the difference is very small. The 5000 series Plossl is probably my second best finder eyepiece, but it is no longer sold and is really not relevant for you. I just do not see those being sold in that focal length in the used market compared to other eyepieces. At times, my pupil is small enough that I have to use a 20 mm eyepiece, normally with the Polaris 130 that I am currently exploring. That is a captivating eyepiece and is a better performer than the 24 mm IMHO, even though it does not take in quite as much sky.

When I received the two new scopes from Meade, both boxes were damaged by a fork lift. I have seen that exact kind of damage in boxes at work and know for sure what did it. The damage did not hurt anything inside the boxes, just damaged them enough that they would not have been able to send them to a normal distributor. Sending them to me was the smart thing to do. With the Polaris 130, the damage was slight enough that it was obvious that nothing was hurt inside, it was just a messed up shipping box and scars on the fancy printed box inside that. In the case of the Infinity, the fork actually stuck inside the box. The outer boxes was opened to make sure there was no damage to the scope. Fork had stuck into the area of the tripod, but had not hurt anything. The box with the optical tube was unopened and had its original seal still intact. I believe the choice of the scopes being sent to me was made by an inattentive fork lift operator somewhere along the line and not by someone being ______.

I live in a suburban environment also. Going by a dark sky map, I currently live in a dark red zone. My old house was in a bright red zone fairly near a white one. The DS-2102 has been used in both environments and the Infinity 102 only at our present location. Either scope can work well in that environment. In their original state, the Infinity will probably do a little better, but just slightly so. You might not be able to tell any difference.

When modification time comes to the optical tubes, the two elements of the DS-2102 are cemented together. The two on the Infinity are air spaced and have a thin shim between them. On the Infinity, I would consider them a unit and try to keep them together. Being slow, methodical, careful work is the key with either, but a little more so with the Infinity. You do not have to do any work with the focuser on the Infinity, but will need to check out a few things on the DS-2102 focuser. If you were to replace it like I did, you will probably have to make some shims to fill in some space between the optical tube and the new focuser, unless you buy and expensive one. The big thing with both scopes is to sand groove rings around inside the dew shields. The dew shields are a tight fit on the lens housing, but with a little care and patience they can be worked off. Blackening the edges of the lenses is the next most important, followed by anti-reflection treatment to the lens retainer ring.
Well, this is actually my third and fourth input into my response. I could not add it to the first response post somehow, so this post is on tripods.

As to tripods, I like the one on the Infinity 102 better, even though I have not actually used one of the modern tripods on the DS-2102 or Star Navigator. The Infinity has the locking eyepiece caddy which really tightens up the tripod and it has thumb screws which you can tighten down and have control of the pressure holding the leg at the desired length. The Infinity legs are stainless steel, which does work more like a spring and help sustain wiggle longer, but there is a fix for that.

The experience with my older DS tripods is that they are made out of aluminum, which sustains wiggle a bit less, but they have a plastic snap lock to hold the legs at the desired length. The leg brace and eyepiece caddy do not lock together to form the basic rigid structure of the Infinity tripod, allowing more play for wiggle, even though the legs are better and diminishing it. The problem with these tripods, other than wiggle, is that the snap locks, if operated in very cold weather can be damaged. They will later fail, with the whole telescope crashing down. I did that with one telescope and will describe the results later. Now, I put C-clamps on the lower leg at the point where they come out of the upper leg as insurance against a failed snap lock.

On these older tripods, the snap lock is on the back side, with the internal piece that contacts the lower leg flat surface being an ell shaped lever that pops into place as the outer end of the leaver is moved. On the newer ones, just going by the pictures, the snap lock is on the outside and interfaces with a curved surface, which may take enough stresses off the lever to keep it from being damaged. However, I would not operate one when it is really cold.

The newer tripod legs are most likely steel formed in a semi-circular shape. I do not think an aluminum tripod leg could be formed with that small of a “diameter” and be strong enough. However, all this about the newer tripods is speculation on my part.

A note on wiggle: All scopes wiggle, the issue is it bad enough or long enough that it irritates you and makes you want to do something about it. There are three basic steps you can take to significantly diminish wiggle on scopes like this:

1. Get a “mouse mat” which is about half as thick as the old mouse pads. Cut it up in two inch (5 cm) squares. You will need twelve of them by my testing. Cut three pieces off the end of a 1 by 4 board about four inches long each, (roughly 2 by 8 by 10 cm). In the center of one of these pieces of board, glue a stack of four pieces of mouse mat. I put a thin bead of window caulk around the edge of a piece and stuck it down, then stacked the next piece on top of that with caulk until I had four pieces. I did not put any caulk in the middle of the pads to keep from making them too stiff. When the caulk had dried or set up, place one each under the feet of the tripod. I actually tested with thicknesses of these pads from zero to five pieces thick. The dampening increased until I got to four pieces. Five pieces might have had a tiny bit more dampening, but the whole scope seemed to float a bit like a car does with shock absorbers that are too soft.

2. Install weights on each leg somewhere in the middle or at least away from the centerline of the tripod. These will have a lot of angular inertia and serve as dynamic pivot points for wiggle. As the scope wiggles from some adjustment you have made, the weights will resist a position change and make the tip of the legs try to move more than they would have on the vibration pads built in step 1. Energy of the wiggle will be dissipated faster. For a weight, I built a ten inch diameter eyepiece caddy from two thicknesses of three quarter inch plywood and drilled a dozen holes in it for 1.25 inch eyepieces. With eight holes around the outside, I stuck a lot of heavy eyepieces in the holes. Other heavy relatively heavy weights will work as well. I did this on the Polaris 130 equatorial reflector that started out with a wiggle time of over four seconds on concrete and dropped it to around 1.5 seconds (very rough number from my memory and not from my notes.

3. If the center tripod leg braces are not locked together like with the Infinity and Polaris tripod, affix something on the braces to make them stiffer and cause the tripod legs to move in unison. With the Infinity/Polaris tripod, the whole mechanism I made can be unlocked and removed as a unit in order to fold up the tripod.

The Infinity 80, 90, and 102 mount is a nice entry level mount for scopes in that size range. Its basic configuration has been around for a very long time and made by many different manufacturers.

In this particular model, an outer shell revolved around a slightly conical inner core. When a clamping device is released, the mount can be turned using the handle on the upper mount tee-shaped section. When the clamping knob is tightened, the only way to turn the mount in the azimuth dimension is with the fine adjustment knob.

For the altitude adjustment, things are a bit different. There is no locking device that holds the mount in position. At any time, the scope can be moved up or down with the manual handle. There is the equivalent of a friction bearing arrangement (about the only way I can think of to explain it) that is overcome with pressure from the hand of the observer. The fine adjustment knob changes the positional relationship between the scope and the friction bearing arrangement. The tee portion of the mount pivots around the central axis of the scope (vertical axis). It also pivots around a bolt a few inches away from the telescope. This distance allows the center line of the scope to be moved outward from the vertical axis, letting the scope point vertically instead of running into mount parts. The problem with this is that as the scope moves from pointing horizontal to vertical, the scope’s entire mass moves to the rear of the pivot axis with its center of gravity simply hanging out away from the lower portion of the mount. The only thing holding the scope in a particular position is the friction bearing. If too heavy of an eyepiece is put in the scope, the scope can be balanced when pointing level, but will eventually overcome the friction bearing as the scope is moved toward vertical. At some point, the scope cannot hold itself in a particular position and moves until it is pointing straight up. With adjustment and other tinkering, I finally got the mount to hold the Meade 24 mm UWA, which weighs around 1.6 lb, but I could not get it to hold the 30 mm eyepiece in all positions. That eyepiece weighs somewhere around 2.2 lb.

In order to get the most out of the mount, in terms of heavy eyepieces, either the tube has to be moved forward or weight added to the objective end until the mount can barely hold itself up when just above the horizontal stop with no eyepiece in place. (The scope cannot be pointed below horizontal.) The reason for this limit is if the scope is put out of balance in the forward direction even more, the scope will move downward, out of position, when an eyepiece is removed. Then, whatever the weight is of the eyepiece that is just barely hold in place and not fall backward is the limit of the mount.

I want to point out that using eyepieces that heavy is entirely outside the intent and design of the mount. Even though the focuser of the Infinity 102 can handle a two inch eyepiece, the overall system is not intended for that use. The fact that at least some, relatively heavy, two inch eyepieces can be used is simply an unmentioned bonus.

I do not want to get deeply into the AutoStar Mount, simply because I think it is a outside the bounds of the discussion of the Infinity 102. However, for your decision-making process I will tell you the following:

I used to have a dialogue with someone almost continuously on the Meade 4M Forum, concerning various problems that could happen. Mark Sibole, the administrator, bundled up some of my posts and sent them to Meade engineering. The message is received back was that the information was helpful. A while later, the generation 2 AutoStar mount came out. How much influence did my posts provide? I have no idea. What is important is that all the nagging problems were fixed. A couple of potential problems may remain and one small problem was created in the new mount.

1. In the generation 2 mount, if you get one, look under the batter holder. You will see the hex head of the bolt that keeps the mount bottom and top together. Sometimes, they tighten it too tight and it can bind the new, wonderful radial pin bearing underneath. Loosen that bolt until you can turn it with your fingers. Tighten it finger tight, the give it a little tightening twitch with a wrench….just a little bit, but not any more than that. All that bolt does is keep the bottom bell on the scope if you pick the rig up by the arm.

2. Remember me talking about the tripod collapsing? In the generation 1 mount, the weakest spot mechanically is where the bell shaped left end of the altitude shaft meets the pipe shaped right end of the shaft. At that point, there are three slots to allow the legs of a compression nut to slide through as part of the clutch mechanism. If the tripod collapses with a heavy scope on the mount, that shaft will break at that spot. There are not replacement shafts. Unless you are a really astute aluminum welder, the mount is dead and you will need to buy a new one. Looking at the shaft in the generation 2 mount, it looked the same. I have no way of knowing if a stronger material is now being used. If you buy one, be a bit picky about when you use the scope in terms of wind and temperature. You do not want a tripod leg to fail and the altitude shaft to break. I do not consider this to be a knockout problem with the DS-2102 Star Navigator, I just think a person needs to be aware of this problem and use common sense. The mount itself is a real sweetheart, in my opinion. When the generation 2 mount came out, the mechanical troubles posts for new mounts simply stopped.

3. Inside the lower section of the mount, as part of the azimuth drive unit, there is a strip of spring steel that is bent in a funny “U” shape. This works as a spring to keep the final gear of the drive unit (worm gear) engaged with the bull gear that is fixed to the lower bell section of the mount. This spring can compress if the mount becomes stalled, like the scope hitting a tripod leg. The drive unit can drive, the worm gear will climb out of the bull gear against the spring until the worm gear has completed enough of a revolution to allow the worm gear to pop back into the bull gear. If that happens, you will hear a loud popping sound. The mount is not broken. Eventually, after maybe ten years, that spring can weaken and not keep the worm gear engaged in the bull gear. I have had to bend that spring back into shape on one of my generation 1 mounts. Since this is such a long term problem, I doubt if any change was made in it and really do not think one is necessary.

As far as the actual shape of the mount goes, the center of mass of the telescope is always off center from the azimuth axis and the center of mass is always on the axis of the altitude axis. If you balance the scope in its mount ring with some allowance for heavy eyepieces, I think the mount is good enough to handle that situation. It may sag a bit, but it will function properly.

You can loosen the altitude knob and work the scope manually in that direction. But all you can do in azimuth is to loosen the knob that holds the mount to the tripod and turn the whole mount and telescope. Best answer is to use a power supply or larger batteries. There is a batter holder that you keep external to the mount and attaches to the 9 volt battery connector inside the mount. That holder uses “D” cell batteries. I mounted a center positive plug in the battery cover on my mounts and attached a 9 volt clip to it to attach to the scopes clip. I could then use a more standard 12 volt power supply and plug it into an extension cord from the house power. I have been told the motors in the mount are rated for 12 volts and the mount certainly runs with more authority on 12 volts than it does on 9.

The Star Navigator handset is the best in a relatively long line of full function upgradable handsets. By itself, the handset sells for $150, I think. Over all, the DS-2102 Star Navigator setup is a nice one in my opinion.

If I have confused you, let me know and I will try some more.
    • jambi99 likes this

No, it's not confusing. I found it quite helful actually, though I do still have a couple of questions/comments. AS of right now it would seem like the Infinity has a slight edge in overall quality and comes at a lower price, but the difference is largely in price of the goto mount of the StarNavigator, which may well make up for it. To that end if you can expand a bit more on how accurately it tracks and if it is easy to use manually without the fine adjustment knobs or risk of damaging the mechanism. As far as the tripod goes, would it be worthwhile to invest in a better one (say the meade 884) for either telescope, and is the goto mount actually compatible or easily adaptable with such a tripod? Also, just what kind of temps to avoid do you have in mind? I saw a guy posting that he lived in northern canada and was going out at forty below with a shotgun (bears), but that seems to be turning astronomy into and etreme sport, which I don't plan on for the foreseable future. I must say though, from my experiance with other household objects I have had better experiances with the SN type clamps while the screw type have broken more often from overtightening, but othervise I often found they were not stable to begin with.

 

My question/confusion about the light gathering ability arose from the different F number of the scopes, but thinking about if I think that that only matters in terms of astrophotography and not sure either of these scopes are actually well suited for that (though the SN probably can at least handle the weitght of a camera better). I guess if that was really an issue I could always shorten the SN tube if/when replacing the focuser... though I suppose I need to be careful since light cone issue could come into play then. While unrelated, this does bring up the quetion (not neccessarely expecting you to know the awnser) as to why more telescopes do not use an 'undersized' tube like the SN if it does not cut into the lightcone since doing so should obviously cut down on production costs and make the whole thing slightly lighter, which is also desirable.

 

Now, if I wanted to make some of the improvments you suggest, could I sand in the grooves without actually removing the dew shield? I'm just concearned about not nudging the lense out of allignemnt. That's why I'm also more worried about your second most important suggestion regarding blackening the edges of the lens with a sharpie. That sounds simple enough, but I'm fear I won't be able to properly collimate it afterwards. Is that a real problem and would it be easier to do it on the SN or the Infinity? Also how difficult would it be to add a second spotting scope as you suggest, and could that cause any issues?

 

Finally, it would seem that if opting for the SN, it would be best to get a later make. So do you know just what I shoudl look for in order to assure it is a newer model and not one with the first generation mounts? Also, do you think that SN models produced in the last year (since Sunny took over) are possibly of even better quality than the one you have, or at least that the eyepeices might be of the better quality like those you got with the Infinity? I normally wouldn't ask this, but you seem to have a lot of insight (if you don't mind could you share you connection to them, or are they just nice enough to listen to and send samples to long time customers?) into what is going on with the company, and somehow I immagine you might have the curiosity to find this out for yourself (and have a better chance of finding out than me) if you don't already know.

The really big difference between the two scopes is the computerized system compared to the manual one. In one case, a computer is the driving force, based on what you tell it. In the other, the computer is a human brain.

Once the AutoStar mount is set up with the drives trained to tell the computer what the amount of play is in each of the two drive systems; time, date, and location are set, the scope is ready to go. The user aligns the scope North and level, as part of the startup process, the scope will attempt to find a couple different bright stars. The user must center the stars in the telescope field, then push a button to let the scope know it is properly aligned on that particular bright star. Once all of that is done, there is a reasonable chance that the scope will go to a desired object and it will be in the field of view. Often it will just be in the neighborhood. There is what is called a “spiral search” function that is used to search the area until the object is seen, with a button push to tell the scope to stop the search. The object can then be centered with the arrow keys, the upper left button is pushed and held for three seconds and released. This tells the mount that the object is centered. The mount or handset will beep, the user pushes the same button briefly to acknowledge that the scope has stored the position, and the scope starts tracking the object. The user will have to make adjustments occasionally. With my generation 1 mounts, I found they could hold an object in a half degree field for about 30 minutes as a minimum. The object might wander around in the field a bit, but it would stay in sight.

If each object is re-centered, and the buttons pushed at the end of each observation and the appropriate buttons pushed to let the scope know the object was centered, the finding accuracy improves through the evening. With mounts that I had gone through, I have hit as many as eight objects in a row and had them in the field. The accuracy is not as good as the larger mounts, but it is only a small fraction of the cost as well.

As far as moving the scope around with no battery power, the altitude knob on the right side of the mount can be loosened. For azimuth, the only way to do that is to loosen the mounting bolt under the bottom and turn the whole mount and optical tube together….not really practical. What I have done on my mounts is to install an adaptor in the battery cover that will take the jack of a 12 volt power supply. Meade sells a nine volt power supply with the appropriate connector on it to use in place of the battery pack. There are also external D cell battery holders with an extension wire and nine volt connector for sale on eBay.

As far as tripods go, without some pretty extensive modification, you are pretty well stuck with the one the scope comes with. For the Infinity, the mount and tripod come preassembled as a unit. The DS mount has a threaded hole in the bottom that a captive bolt in the pan on its tripod screws into. I have considered sticking a six inch wooden post in the ground, drilling a hole in the top, and gluing in the right sized bolt, then just threading a mount onto that, but my original tripods with C-clamps installed have worked well enough for my needs.

I would not hesitate to use the Infinity tripod at any temperature. I do not operate the snap locks on my DS tripods below freezing and would most likely not do so below maybe 40 degrees, just because of my personal experiences. With the newer tripod, I really cannot say what temperature limit they should have, if any. If I wanted to take one of those outside in the cold, out of prudence, I would extend the legs to about the length I thought I needed inside, while the locks were warm, then take the scope outside and live with the length set inside.

The light gathering power is set by the size of the objective. The focal length, combined with an eyepiece determines the magnification and field of view. A particular focal length objective requires a specific length of tube, with minor adjustments being made with the focuser to allow for differences in eyepieces and a person’s particular eye characteristics. If the tube length is shortened, the scope may not come to focus. To get a “faster” focal ratio, you have to have an objective of the right diameter and focal length. It is easier to buy a different scope or at least a different optical tube to get what you want.

So far, none of the Star Navigator scopes have been made by Sunny, as far as I know. When scopes are mass produced to keep costs down, they are really mass produced in large quantities. When/if an automated telescope is made by Sunny for Meade, I am speculating that it would have a different designation of some sort. All of the Star Navigator scopes have generation 2 mounts and are the most modern out there. The change from generation 1 and generation 2 happened several years ago. Other than the tripod of the Star Navigator, which I really do not know anything about, I have a lot of confidence in that scope as a whole. I think it is worth the price. If Sunny ever does make a 100 mm optical tube in the f/8 range for that mount, I will most likely buy one myself.

As far as the inner-workings of Meade goes, I do not know anything more than anyone else. Now that Meade is a privately held company, there is really even less information available than before. I did find out a day or so ahead of time before the Infinity and Polaris lines were announced, simply because I happened to be communicating about something else with my contact and he forwarded the information sheets to me that I wrote my article about the two lines from. He knew I was interested in beginning scopes and passed along the fliers for my enjoyment. My best guess is that Meade is very quiet about what is being planned due to the highly competitive nature of the business. If someone from Meade did actually tell me something ahead of time, I would respect their confidence and keep it to myself until the information was released. However, I do not expect that to happen for anything considered critical to the company.

Thanks, I wasn't really planning to cut up the scope and realize the focus point would change so that the focuser no longer has the right travel to form a sharp image. I'm cautious about even making the modifications you sugested, though I do have the following questions I edited in shortly after making my previous post but apparently after you gor around to responding. Now, if I wanted to make some of the improvments you suggest, could I sand in the grooves without actually removing the dew shield? I'm just concearned about not nudging the lense out of allignemnt. That's why I'm also more worried about your second most important suggestion regarding blackening the edges of the lens with a sharpie. That sounds simple enough, but I'm fear I won't be able to properly collimate it afterwards. Is that a real problem and would it be easier to do it on the SN or the Infinity? Also how difficult would it be to add a second spotting scope as you suggest, and could that cause any issues?

 

Shame about the mount and tripod though. Didn't realize the Infinity was a one piece unit, and had hoped that the screw thread on the SN was compatibale with most other tripods if I ever felt the need for an upgrade and ound a good deal on ebay. I guess setting it up pror to going outside is not an issue and was never planning on going out if it got to more than a few degrees below freezing anyway. But good to know that I don't need to worry about getting teh latest generation mount at least. And of course I wasn't expecting you to reveal any secrets, just if you already knew if Sunny was producing the SN in another place that may maen it has the same quality as the Infinity, but I guess we'll both have to wait and see on that one.

I would remove the dew shield from the scope. Pull on it, straight out from one spot, and it should move a tiny bit. Then move to a different spot and pull again. Just work your way around the dew shield pulling on it, whether it actually moves at first or not. They just push it on with no glue or anything and it should eventually work back off. After the sanding and flat black spray paint, just push it back on.

With the scope pointing vertical, the retaining ring holding the lenses in place should screw out. They cannot tighten the ring too tight or it will pinch the optics and warp the image a little. You can then sand and paint the inside surface of that as well. Try not to get paint on the threads on the outside of the ring or on the bottom edge that touches the lens element. The paint might make the threads stiffer to turn when putting the scope back together. Keeping it off that lower edge keeps paint away from the lens surface. I try to let any paint dry for at least a day and preferably two before reassembly.

If you are not going to blacken the edges of the lenses, then just lay a clean cloth over the top of the lenses or simply set the dew shield's cap over them.

What I have been doing lately to get the lenses out is to use a clean styrofoam cup. I put the bottom of the cup on the lens surface, then turn the whole optical tube upside down. Set the cup holding the lenses on a table and slowly lift the optical tube off. If the lenses do not seem like they want to come out. Hold the tube where you are really carrying the weight of everything with one hand, the styrofoam cup is on the table and the lenses barely touching. Tap on the side of the optical tube gently and the lenses should drop onto the cup. You can then lift the tube off the top.

Leave the lenses in place on the styrofoam cup and just patiently work your way around the lenses with the Sharpie, using the flat side of the cone tip and not the point. Even though it is nice to work your way around the whole thing more than once and get everything totally black, the main point is to get as much surface black as you can. If you miss a spot here or there, it will not really matter that much. It is getting a really large amount of the surface changed that counts. I like to do the bevels as well. You can use the flat side of the cone tip for the outer bevels. For the two that face each other, I very gently moved around the groove between the two lenses and got what I could. I could have taken the two lenses apart and did each one completely, but did not think it would make that much difference, and I do not think it did now.

If you want, do a little bit, then lay a clean cloth or tissue over the lenses and let them dry a bit. Then, repeat the process. When completed, would put the cloth back over the lenses and let them set for at least thirty minutes.

When ready, carefully lower the scope back over the lenses until they make contact. Pick up the styrofoam cup and optical tube as a unit and then turn the optical tube lens end up.

When the retaining ring is ready, thread it slowly into the lens housing until it barely makes contact with the lenses. Normally, as I get close to touching, I will shake the tube a little and listen for a faint rattle as the lenses hit the edges of the holder. I then tighten a little more and shake again. When the rattle stops, I loosen the ring just a very tiny bit and shake again. I do this until a hear a bit of a rattle. I then tighten the ring back down the smallest amount I can and then shake. This time, when the rattle stops, the tube is set in place. Just put the dew shield back on and the scope is good to go.

Adding a different finder is not a big deal, if you are putting in in place of the red dot finder. The slot for the red dot finder fits the base of Orion finders just fine. Meade does not sell a regular optical finder, at least in a size that would be usable on this scope. I have standardized on the Orion 6 by 30 mm right angle, correct image finders for my reflectors. I think they are about perfect for a scope this size. If you do that, there may be enough weight that you will need to either move the dovetail bar back or add some weight to the objective end of the scope for balance purposes.

If you add a second finder to have both types at the same time, you will need to purchase a base for the second finder and install it on the tube. You will need to remove the focuser, install the base piece, clean out any debris from drilling holes, and put the focuser back on. When reinstalling the focuser, make sure it is pushed as far into the tube as it will go, install the screws without tightening them all the way down. While keeping the focuser pushed all the way in, (maybe by holding the tube vertical with the lenses down), work your way around the scope tightening the screws a little bit at a time as you go from screw to screw. You are basically torquing the screws down evenly. This may not be necessary, but it is at least prudence.

Personally, I think it would be good if Meade put the optical tubes for the Infinity 102, the Polaris 90, and the Polaris 130 on the AutoStar mount, with the Star Navigator controller, then use the legs from the Polaris and larger Infinity scopes. I also think an accessory two pound weight that could be attached just below the leg brace on each leg would be a good thing to offer. As I state in the review, the eyepiece caddy needs to have at least six holes in it for eyepieces.

Those are some real clear instruction, though I guess I'll have to try them out for myself to see how well I can manage. My only questions would be if they are basically the same for either scope and if I need to re-collimate afterwards and how challenging that would be. Don't  want to improve certain aspects only to ruin another. I think the only problem on the scopes we can both agree on is the tripod. Something like the Meade #884 with the 6 eyepiece caddy and sturdier construction and equatorial function would have been great. But I guess that's why it is sold separately as an upgrade... unfortunately not compatible with these scopes, though looking at it I would think with a bit of work it should be adaptable to the autostar mount.

At least for the objective end of the scope, the lenses rest on a little ridge inside the housing. That will not change. As long as you do the little shaking thing while tightening the retaining ring, you should not have a collimation problem if there was not one already.

If you look at a bright star at around 100X and run the focus in and out, the rings you see should stay collimated. The one adjustment you have is to loosen the focuser screws enough to allow you to move the focuser around a little. I can never remember which way to move the focuser so I have to experiment. You either move it toward or away from the direction the center of the star is pushed. This will moved the star out ofthe center of the field also. You have to move the star back to the center of the field to make a judgement call on whether it is better or worse than before. Normally, there is enough play in the screw holes to get things right.

As far as putting the AutoStar mount on a better tripod, the main thing is that it needs a flat surface big enough to sit on flat. There needs to be a hole in the middle big enough for the mounting bolt to go through.

That's a relief. So I shouldn't need to worry if I just blacken the lens and gently put it back, and anyway problems are easily fixable as is imporving upon any initial missalignment? I was leaning toward the Infinity but tempted by the goto mount, and if there are any issue with the tripod I think it would actually be relatively easy to upgrade to the #884 model (or something similar if I cna pick up something on ebay) by simply removing the two screws on the outside edges and drilling a hole in the middle for the bolt on the SN mount.

Yes, the AutoStar mount just needs a flat surface big enough for its base with a hole in the middle big enough for the centered mounting screw to come in from the bottom.

Just FYI, the DS-2102 optical tube may have two or three drops of glue spotted on the edges of the threads of the retaining ring. If you find this, make scores into the glue with an Exacto knife. Then, work your way around the retaining ring, holding the scope with your hands and pressing inward with your two thumbs. Do not get impatient, just continue working your way around the scope slowly increasing pressure. Eventually, the glue will pop. When all the drops of glue have popped, the ring will unscrew. I have found those tubes both ways, with and without glue.

Just want to thank you one more. I appreciate your taking the time to post all those thorough responses. Hope other people will also find them helpful. Don't really have any more questions for now but maybe I'll be able to contribute myself after I decide which telescope to get next month and have a chance to play around with it myself for a while.

You are very welcome. I am happy to help. Have fun with your scope when you get it!

Hello Bill, I was reading your reply and article i.e. the PDF file Pg6 of the above subject and I noticed a very interesting part where you mentioned about the Barlow; "I attempted to use it in front of the diagonal for additional magnification, but I could not bring the scope to focus."
I too was experiencing the same issue but I found an Orion extension tube which worked when placed directly into the focuser barrel then place the Barlow followed with the Diagonal and the eyepiece in that order. Here is the item displayed in the Amazon store which I purchased a month ago; https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0000XMUH8

I took a chance and bought it and it works awesome and have more than sufficient adjustments.

I hope this will help other users. As I read many info about Barlow Lens being placed directly into barrel of the focuser then adding the other items.

Thank you for the thorough and well written review.
    • Bill Steen likes this


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