60 Day Review - ETX 80
Reason for purchase: First telescope after starting with 10X50 binoculars. Old 60mm Sears scope did not work very well and provided very narrow views
- Wide “binocular like views” as a step up from 10X50 binoculars rather than going to larger binoculars and p-stands
- Under $300 – Was still not sure I was committed to the hobby
- Available through Amazon. Had credits that I could use to help pay for a telescope
- Very stable tripod – had read many reports of entry level scopes on wobbly tripods
- GoTo – Wanted help finding objects in my very light polluted skies (Bortel 7)
- Clutches that can be released so it can be used manually with the computer turned off
- Light and portable – Convenient transport and set-up for home use as well as quick toss in the car for remote site or travel use
- Compact – possible to take on a plane or in a very packed car on a vacation
- Possible use for webcam based astro video/photography
- Accessories available
- Large user community
- Major brand with good optics reports
Summary: I purchased the ETX 80 AT version in August 2015 from Amazon on sale for $230. I have been very happy with it. This was my first scope after entering astronomy via 10X50 binoculars. I like The ETX 80 and would recommend it to anyone looking for an entry level short FL scope that is very portable with easy to use GoTo features. Also suitable as a first scope for a young teen with minimal adult assistance once they know how to use it. And due to the tracking and wide views this is a great first family scope as you can find things fast and it will keep them in view as various members of the family come to take a look.
More on my selection criteria and what I learned before I purchased the ETX 80
Video overview of the backpack version – same scope, different tripod and accesory package
I have a Sears 60 mm telescope from the 1960s which does not work very well after sitting in the basement over 45 years. The views are very narrow too. So I don’t consider that my starting point. I started in astronomy in June 2015 with inexpensive 10X50 binoculars. I really liked the wide views. I spent about 2 months with a planisphere, “Turn Left at Orion” and various internet tools. I joined two astronomy forums.
In August I decided I wanted to expand my glass so, was I going to 15X70 binoculars or would I go for my first scope? After reading a LOT on the forums I decided I wanted a short FL refractor that could give me similar low power wide views to larger binoculars but would also give me stable views, Goto and the ability to go up in magnification. The ETX 80 seemed to meet that criteria.
The included 26 mm Meade Super Plossil eyepiece provides a 15X 3.4 degree field of view which is very binocular like in feel. I use this eyepiece more than any other. The included 9.7 mm eyepiece provides 41X and relatively wide 1.3 degree view. I have since added a Meade Super Plossil 6.4 mm eyepiece for 62X. When combined with the built in 2X barlow this gives me 15x, 30x 41x, 62x, 82x and 124x. That is a pretty nice range of magnifications.
Views of the moon, Saturn and stars were very good. I observed a number of Messier star clusters and Deep space targets such as the Andromeda Galaxy, the butterfly cluster and others. I split the double star Alberio and found the “coat hanger”. These all looked great in the wide views provided by the ETX 80. I later added external 2X and 3X barlows which took my top magnification to 186X which I have used on Saturn and the moon. Overall I would say anything over 150X is only useful on very bright objects. For most objects I find I typically use it under 100X. High magnification is not that the strong suit for this telescope but even in my larger scope, which I purchased later, I do most of my observations at 150 X or less.
Some people don’t like the focuser as it is a fine tuning focuser. I understand their concern but I don't find it an issue. By design this is a fine adjustment focuser so it is slow if you want to make a large range focus adjustment as would be needed when using the internal flip barlow. However once you are in the general focus range of you eyepieces the amount you need to turn to go to a different eyepiece is quite small and you can really fine tune the focus. I am fine with it.
The internal barlow works well but, as noted above, you have to turn the focuser a LOT when using it. It is better than nothing but an external barlow is more convenient. I later picked up a separate 2X and 3X barlow which I can also use with other telescopes. This has eliminated this focuser issue. Refocusing with these is quite easy.
My skies have very few stars and some areas have no visible stars so having a GoTo scope that could find things was important to me. The GoTo has been quite good and accurate once I trained the drives, as described in the manual. However I noticed that running it on the internal 6 AA batteries only provides about 5-6 hours of useful life, especially in cooler temperatures. Then the scope gets slow and I start to get drive failure issues. I actually returned the first ETX 80 for Drive Fault errors as I thought it was the drives. I now believe the first scope may have been fine and the issue was low batteries. I have since purchased a car adapter cable and now I can plug it into a power port in the car or run it off a car jump start pack. This works GREAT! Slews, the moving of the scope from target to target, are fast and no more drive fault issues. I highly recommend this $12-$20 accessory
I love the GoTo but I also want to learn to star hop the way one would do with a manual scope. I like that I can release the clutches and use the scope manually. I later learned that not all GoTo scopes allow this. I use the ETX 80 manually about 50% of the time. I bought a Telrad finder scope for it but have not installed it. I tend to do my star hopping with binoculars then target the scope using a $5 green laser mounted on the telescope with rubber bands. This works extremely well. Looking through the 26 mm/15X eyepiece is like looking through the finder scope on many other telescopes so I find I really don't need a separate finder scope.
I really enjoy the portability. All up it is about 12 pounds. It lives in the garage with my accessory box. I can scoop it up with the accessories, walk to my observation site, set up and observing manually in 5 minutes. If I want to use the GoTo add another 5 minutes. The ETX 80 is so easy to toss in the car for quick hops. I love it! I have not used it as a table top, off the tripod, but it is good to know I can leave the tripod home and take it with me when space is limited or on an airline in checked baggage. Everything is built into the scope so you don't need the tripod if you have a table.
Aligning the GoTo is a simple process once you have done it a few times. The first time you do this you put in a location, time and date. Those are retained in memory so you only do this once. Meade provides a compass/level that goes in the eyepiece hole. You level the scope and point it North. Then lock the two clutches so the motors can turn the scope. Turn on the computer and select the EASY alignment option. The scope selects a bright star that should be easily visible in your sky. You don’t have to know where the star is, the scope knows. Using the 26 mm eyepiece you confirm the star is in view and you center it, then hit enter. The scope selects a second star and goes to it. Again you confirm it in the eyepiece and center it with the arrows on the control. Hit enter and you are done. So easy! Now it can find stars, planets, Messier Objects, deep space objects and more.
The ETX 80 also has a cool Tour feature that will take you on a tour of the best objects in the sky tonight. It goes from the brightest to the dimmest. Depending on how light polluted your skies are will determine how dim of an object you can see. If you don’t know what to look for the scope will show them to you. In this way you start to learn some of the bright stars and some of the brighter objects in your sky. You can change eyepieces to go up in magnification any time you like. When I do this I often also look at the target with my binoculars to become even more familiar with the sky.
When I consider this package based on price, what I got in the package and the beautiful wide views I consider it a very good value. This would be a great starter scope for anyone. You don’t have to know a lot about the sky to get started and the scope will let you use it manually when you like. The stability, light weight, compact size and ease of use would make this a great starter for a teen too. People are using this scope for entry level photography, webcam video astrophotography and more. There are lots of videos on YouTube.
I have since purchased an Orion XT8i Intelliscope. This is an 8” Dobsonian scope with PushTo computer assistance which I also highly recommend. It was always my plan to have two scopes plus binoculars. One would be a larger scope, 8”, one a grab and go portable refractor and I will always have binoculars. However, with all the options I have at hand the ETX 80 still gets plenty of sky time when I want to be set up fast, when I want to be able to track the target or when I want that wide view experience. I took a 4 hour trip by car recently to a remote site. The ETX came with me. It is amazing how much more you can see under darker skies. I really enjoyed the views.
I recently went to an observing session with one of the local astronomy clubs. I brought the ETX 80 and set it up GoTo so it would track. I put in on the Pleiades and left it there tracking so people could see that beautiful cluster that looks much better in the ETX 80 than in my 8” Dob. Later I put it on the double star Albireo with the 9.7 mm eyepiece so they could see the double star split and left it tracking for half an hour. In parallel I set up my Orion XT8i Intelliscope Dobsonian to show some of the other things in the sky while the ETX 80 tracked whatever I wanted it to track.
At some point I plan to try webcam based video photography and the ETX 80 will be my telescope of choice for this use.
Will the ETX 80 be a good scope for you? Well if your criteria are like mine then yes. If you think this is going to compete with an 6” $800 SCT, or a 6" Dob then you will be disappointed. If you are looking for high magnification than this is not the scope for you. But if you look at it for what it is, a great entry level, wide view GoTo scope at a good price on a solid mount with lots of accessories and options available then it is a great scope and a great value. I will have this a long long time. Even now that I have the 8" Dob the ETX continues to get its share of sky time.
ETX80 Scope I purchased
Review of the ETX 80 AT version
Video overview of the backpack version – same scope, different package
They demonstrate the Goto features.
Using with a CCD camera with ETX 70 – from 2009
This was the earlier version which had a smaller aperture.
Edited by aeajr, 26 October 2015 - 11:13 AM.