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Meade ETX60 AT

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In the interest of full disclosure, I have no financial stake in any of the companies mentioned in the following article.

Several years ago, Meade expanded their family of Autostar-controlled ETX telescopes to include a pair of short-focus, small aperture refractors. They were initially available in 60mm and 70mm apertures and were later discontinued in favor of a single 80mm model which is still in production. The 60mm model was the first to be discontinued, and when this happened many stocks of ETX60s were sold by retailers at discount prices. At this time, my friend (and general astronomy enthusiast) purchased one at a local camera store for approximately $100. The telescope did not include a tripod, but had a socket in the base that made it possible to attach the scope to either a standard photo tripod or an optional tripod specifically made for the telescope by Meade. Instead, we just set it down on a particularly stable wooden barstool.

The two-star alignment WOULD have been a simple procedure, if only the telescope was equipped with a finder. Meade argued that due to the wide field/low magnification design of the ETX60 it would be easy enough just to sight along the tube. This is not the case, and is a bad design oversight. Eventually we managed to complete the alignment procedure. I would recommend that anyone who purchases a used ETX60 add a Rigel Quickfinder, attached towards the front of the tube. This arrangement gives adequate clearance above the tube to make sighting as simple as possible. The Autostar controller is easy and intuitive for a first-time GOTO telescope user. Pointing accuracy was acceptable, but rarely put the object towards the center of the FOV. Typically the requested object would be skirting the edge.

Optically, the telescope is quite good. The objective has very good multi-coatings. A star test revealed a tiny trace of undercorrection and astigmatism. A small amount of chromatic aberration was visible on bright objects but the scope’s small aperture and otherwise well-made optics kept it from being too objectionable. I do take umbrage with the fact that a dew/glare shield is an available “option” but is not included with the scope. Overall, the scope provided very decent wide-field views of brighter deep sky objects, but this is definitely not a scope for planetary observations.

The focus mechanism is best described as odd. A small knob on the rear of the OTA moves the objective lens rather than the eyepiece. This knob is awkwardly placed and hard to reach when the scope is pointed higher than 45 degrees, a problem this scope shares with the ETX 90. It shouldn’t be too hard to jury-rig a flexible focus knob extension similar to that sold by JMI to allow you to focus when the scope is pointed towards zenith.

While of small aperture, the scope is optically on the level and the basic GoTo system is adequate to at least assist in finding objects. Ultimately, however, this telescope is not what I would call “usable” right out of the box. Too many aspects of the design are awkward, as if the designers did not have very much experience with actually using telescopes. I can understand why the telescope was discontinued; it comes across as more of a “Gee Whiz Gizmo” than an actual telescope. If you find one on the used market, I would pass and go with one of Meade’s DS series Autostar-driven beginner telescopes. The DS series, while lacking the apparent “mystique” of the ETX product line, provide a more complete system for a beginning astronomy enthusiast.


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