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Meade 395 - worth mods?

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#1 JimB1

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Posted 08 September 2018 - 06:21 AM

So I have this old Meade 395 that I bought new back in the early 90s that I used for a year or two then went to college, I think it counts as a classic by age if nothing else :) I had it in storage for almost 30 years as life intervened and now I am starting to get back into skywatching. It’s not a bad scope as far as I can tell. Just some minor issues that I am trying to work though with vibration. 

 

The equitorial mount has a little more play then I like so I did some minor adjustments per the manual to push the gears a little closer to create more friction. This helped a little but still some extra play. Livable though. I took a piece of butcher block I had lying around and cut it to fit above the tripod leg brace and cut an old black rubber bungee to make bumpers where it touches the legs. This keeps the lower legs from flexing inward, adds some extra weight, and keeps the legs under tension so they can’t drift. I went to the store and picked up some rubber feet, like you put under a washing machine, to set the tripod on. Finally I added about 5 lbs of weight to the butcher block shelf. All this has made it a much nicer experience. Less wobble in the mount and the time it takes for an image to stabilize after changing the focus has been cut in half. I think my next thing to try is attaching a length of chain to the tube to help absorb the excess vibration. I think that’s about all I can do without spending much cash. 

 

My question is, are the optics in this scope worth spending money on mods? I see people buying them for $50 - $100 so selling it or trading it in on something seems like it wouldn’t be a good move because replacing it would cost significantly more and optically I don’t think this gives up anything to the new, similarly sized units but I haven’t looked to hard at this point. If I want a tracking drive for this, they are tough to find (Meade 531) and pricey (there’s one in a UK shop going for about $110 plus $20 shipping to the US). I have read here and elsewhere that the GSO Focuser is a common upgrade as well to help image stability and 2” eyepieces give a better field of view. 2” eyepieces are a bit pricey but those can be used on other scopes as well so I don’t consider those an upgrade to the scope, more like an accessory that can be moved to a different scope later if I want to. 

 

Right now I am really looking at viewing the night sky and learning stuff. I’m pushing 50 so I’m not a beginning teenager or looking to make this a career, just a hobby but I also am not into beating myself up by using the wrong tool for the job either. 

 

So what do you all think? Spend a few hundred making this scope more useful or put that few hundred towards something else? If you think it’s worth doing the mods, what ones do you recommend? 

 

Thanks

-Jim


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#2 apfever

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Posted 08 September 2018 - 07:17 AM

A few hundred? No.

Handy, around the house improvements like you've made? Oh yes!

 

The Meade 395 should be on a GEM (German Equatorial Mount).  The optics have a tendency to be pretty good. Meade was holding good quality control into the early 90's before dropping off to commercialism during the 90's.  The scope is good enough to fall in the middle play ground. Some will modify the OTA (optical tube assembly) for special purposes, maybe upgrade the focuser, but I wouldn't spend 'focuser' money on one if keeping the whole set up stock for just getting back into viewing. It is a good stock scope to start back up again, save the funds for moving up if you 'get back into it'.   90mm is a nice size refractor to start up.  

 

For the OTA, the focuser can be a week point. I'd leave it alone if it works OK.  There are shims in the focuser body that sometimes come loose. You'll know it if that happens since the draw tube will become flop slop.

It's an easy fix with double sided tape and there are strings here in CN on how to do it. I wouldn't buy anything new for it when the classifieds here will likely have something easily half the price. 

 

It is a good optical tube if the focuser maintains. Use it 'as is' to get back into viewing. It is very much the right tool for the job. Save your funds for moving up. You can get to 2" eyepieces later if you advance. 

Set up the GEM mount correctly to use the single axis control tracking ability, but you don't have to spend a lot of time on anal polar alignment for visual. Just a rough visual alignment can keep an object in the view for several minutes instead of several seconds, with just the manual single axis slow motion control.  For visual, I have my GEM set at the right latitude, hold the scope in front of me, line up on Polaris, and set the scope down.  If it is level enough to be stable and comfortable for use, then it's good enough to go for visual.  Just a few viewing sessions will get you tuned in to polar alignment, it's a quick learn.

 

You have a good scope for the job. So good that you may find you want to keep it and even upgrade it AFTER you get some more viewing experience.


Edited by apfever, 08 September 2018 - 07:18 AM.

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#3 shredder1656

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Posted 08 September 2018 - 07:23 AM

I had the 390, which is, I believe, the same scope optically, but just happens to ride on an altaz mount.  My nephew now has it, and it is a very sharp scope.  I think with the eq mount, it would be that much better.  But, like apfever says, a big investment is probably a point of diminished returns...  They're nice, but have their limits.  


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#4 memento

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Posted 08 September 2018 - 07:54 AM

Hi Jim,

 

as the others said, I also think the best way to go on is just use the scope with as little improvements are needed to make it enjoyable, but otherwise rather keep it "stock" for now.

 

Just an example, a "rich field" refractor optical tube such as a Chinese 102/500mm sometimes pop up for a little more than 100 Euros, complete with optics and normally including a 2 inch focuser. That one will always beat your Meade 395 when it comes to low magnifications and maybe would be just a nice complimentary scope at some day!

 

On the other hand the 395 should be quite versatile "as is" even with the stock focuser!

 

I have a Vixen 90M which has exactly the same data (90/1000) and find there's actually an abundance of nice objects one can watch at around 33x magnification (with a good 30mm / 32mm Plössl). And many objects (small open clusters, planetary nebula etc.) ask for even a bit more than that. It's a small scope but under dark skies it can show a lot nonetheless and I don't see an absolute "need" for 2 inch equipment. Last not least these scopes give nice views of the Moon and planets.

 

Still you might find some day that your scope has some limitations (every scope has!!) and then you have gained some experience to tell you how you really want to upgrade your equipment. Maybe more aperture, or what else ...

 

What eyepieces do you have for your scope? If you want to "upgrade" something the eyepieces are often a good idea. Especially given that you'll be using good eyepieces for any scope that you might buy in future as well ... Thomas


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#5 JimB1

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Posted 08 September 2018 - 09:03 AM

Thanks for the replies. Pretty much confirmed what I was thinking. Best not to put too much into the scope for now. Work with it for a while and see where the limitations are before thinking about upgrades. 

 

I did purchase a couple of things last week since I only had the 25mm eyepiece it came with. I read some reviews and ended up getting a Meade 8-24mm zoom, a Meade 2x Barlow and a Meade moon filter. I may invest in a light pollution filter as I am in NJ not far from NYC so probably one of the worst light pollution areas in the world. 

 

As as it is, I get some great views of the moon in the early morning and early evening the other night I had a very nice view of Jupiter. I was able to view the equitorial bands and 4 of its satelites very clearly. The brightest thing in my sky right now is Antares so that is a cool target too. I need to find some open area around that I can setup at night. In my yard, trees block a lot of my horizon view so Mars and Venus are not visible to me most of the time right now. 

 

I need to figure out the equitorial mount. I have read the instructions and watched a video but haven’t really gotten the hang of it yet... 

 

-Jim


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#6 Migwan

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Posted 08 September 2018 - 09:33 AM

I started with an orion 90mm  with what looks to be the same or similar mount and tripod.  I tried pretty much the some fixes on the tripod that you have mentioned and a couple you didn't.   Ultimately what worked the best for vibration dampening was the insertion of rubber washers between the mount and tripod legs.  I also placed a thin rubber tubing on the fastener so there was no metal to metal contact.    

 

There are plenty of targets to find with that scope, so enjoy.  jd


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#7 Chuck Hards

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Posted 08 September 2018 - 10:08 AM

I have both the Taiwanese Meade 90mm and the Orion Chinese 90mm OTAs.  Both test surprisingly well under DPAC.  I gave-away the alt-az mount that came with the Meade but the OTA's aren't bad at all, optically.

 

90mm is enough aperture to see lots of planetary detail yet at these focal lengths, the scope isn't inordinatley long.  A good compromise, IMO.


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#8 memento

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Posted 08 September 2018 - 06:38 PM

I did purchase a couple of things last week since I only had the 25mm eyepiece it came with. I read some reviews and ended up getting a Meade 8-24mm zoom, a Meade 2x Barlow and a Meade moon filter. I may invest in a light pollution filter as I am in NJ not far from NYC so probably one of the worst light pollution areas in the world.

The 8-24 zoom should cover almost all magnifications you'll really need. Not sure if combining it with the barlow will work really well, but at least until around 6mm resulting focal length (set the zoom to around 12mm) should give some nice extra magnification on the Moon.

 

The only other eyepiece you'll eventually want to add is a 32mm Plössl. There's many choices and they are not expensive. That 32mm will give the lowest magnification for any scope that only takes 1 1/4" eyepieces. But still the 32mm Plössls have a nice around 50° apparent field of view (no "tunnel view"). There are also 40mm Plössls but then the apparent field of view gets really a bit small as otherwise it won't fit within the 1 1/4" barrel. So 32mm is the way to go IMO. That and the Zoom should have you prepared for almost any object for quite a while. Thomas


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#9 beanerds

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Posted 08 September 2018 - 09:45 PM

I had the alt/az version years ago and was also impressed with the sharp and bright views it gave , I just used it as it was and enjoyed it  . I gave it to a young member of our astronony club when I up-graded to a C102 SP .

 

Fast forward to now and as both those scopes are long gone I had the itch to get another good 90-100mm f10 achromat and as it happened a Saxon 102mm f10 was for sale in our local ' Ice in Space ' astro website for $90aud so I grabbed it .

 

My wife kinda ended up using it a lot so I was on the lookout for one for her and as luck would have it a Saxon 90mm f10 OTA came up for $100 on IIS but no one seemed to want it and it's price dropped to $90 then $70 then $60 so I jumped on it .

 

I have a classic Mizar ( Japan made ) mount ( Free missing CW and shaft )  , 2 inch Celestron tripod , Long Perng 2 inch duel speed focuser ( Brand new $49 ) 2 inch mirror daigonal ( $39 new ) and being a boilermaker it was easy to machine/fabricate adaptors to fit these 3 together into a super sturdy set up that really performs , and I get to use my 102mm again .

 

I would just use and enjoy your Meade as is , because as said before here , these are a good scope that will get you back viewing and saving up for a 10 inch Dob or C8 that would compliment the 90mm well .

 

Here is my wife's completed 90mm ready for a night out .

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#10 Garyth64

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Posted 09 September 2018 - 10:17 AM

I have a 395 and when I had an AR6 it rode with it.  I wanted to use the 395 at a lower power than the 6", but I would change eyepieces and have the 395 with the higher power.  What I noticed that the 395 was giving much better views.

I still  have the 395, but the AR6 is long gone.

I've left the 395 as is.  It works just fine and gives some very good views.  I shimmed up a little play in the focuser with some felt.  It has been awhile since I looked thru it.  I think I'll get it out and put it on an old Starfinder mount that I've been working on.  When I do, I put up some pics.


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#11 chris charen

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Posted 09 September 2018 - 08:12 PM

I had three 395's over the past 25 years or so. I sold my last one about 14 years ago. Ultimately I found them frustrating, mainly due to the CA in them, which admitted I am sensitive to.

Anything more then 100x and CA became obvious. There was a some mild star test variations in the examples and non of them star tested very well. I adjusted my last one as I thought it had pinched optics but the image was still only usable to 120x and the image deteriorated. In the end I got one of the newly released Orion ED80's which was a revelation at the time with CA free and sharp images.

Do not let me put you off the Meade 395 you may have good example.

 

Chris


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#12 JimB1

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Posted 11 September 2018 - 05:44 AM

I had three 395's over the past 25 years or so. I sold my last one about 14 years ago. Ultimately I found them frustrating, mainly due to the CA in them, which admitted I am sensitive to.

Anything more then 100x and CA became obvious. There was a some mild star test variations in the examples and non of them star tested very well. I adjusted my last one as I thought it had pinched optics but the image was still only usable to 120x and the image deteriorated. In the end I got one of the newly released Orion ED80's which was a revelation at the time with CA free and sharp images.

Do not let me put you off the Meade 395 you may have good example.

 

Chris

Well, at this point in the game, I’m pretty happy when I can see anything so CA isn’t an issue for me yet :) 

 

The 395 is here already, paid for long ago, and seems like a good place to start. I think a large part of that is just that I haven’t looked though a lot of other scopes so I don’t know what I am missing LOL.

 

I am fine to get up to speed with what I have for now and if I feel I need an upgrade because it is insufficient later, at least I will have a clue what I want in a new scope.

 

Thanks

-Jim



#13 terraclarke

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Posted 11 September 2018 - 08:45 AM

Sensitivity to CA in smaller, long(ish) achromats is, in my estimation, on a plane with complaints of sulphites in wine! May I have another glass please? lol.gif

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Edited by terraclarke, 11 September 2018 - 08:47 AM.

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#14 grif 678

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Posted 11 September 2018 - 08:58 AM

I had the 390 model several years ago, the same scope, only with the altaz mount. On this scope, the altaz is more solid than the equatorial, because the mount is not large enough to handle the scope and the counter weight. The 390 had pretty good optics, but a  couple of the celestron C-80 ( japan made I had were better.


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#15 DMala

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Posted 11 September 2018 - 09:09 AM

An upper usable magnification limit of 100-120X is not too bad (not that Chris implied this above) for a start . It still allows seeing a lot of interesting things...  With my own equipment , my own eyes and my own targets/conditions beyond those magnification ranges I seldom see more . 


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#16 aa6ww

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Posted 15 September 2018 - 12:02 AM

To me, if you are a casual observer or plan to be, the Meade 395 is all you need to satisfy your astronomical needs. Again, for a new astronomer who just from time to time wants to get out and enjoy the sky, the Meade is great. 

Its an excellent starting point to build on. Get yourself a nice GSO Crayford focuser and keep an eye out for a CG-4 mount and you will have an excellent all around high quality scope for all types of observing. 

If there's an eclipse in the sky, get yourself a simple white light filter and you will always have an excellent solar scope. There's a comet in the sky now, and a nice bright one heading our way in December. Your scope would be excellent for these objects.

Back yard observing with friends and family, looking at the moon or a few planets, Mars, Saturn, Jupiter even Venus, would make for a nice back  yard evening. Its great on open clusters and star splitting, if you start getting deeper into it.

 You already have a nice scope, these parts I'm suggesting you add would spark your interest and get you excited about astronomy. On a CG-4 or a Great Polaris mount, this would be a beautiful scope to keep set up in the corner of a room.

 

 

My suggestion is the same to every new or interested astronomer. Get out of the equipment forums and start paying attention to the observing forums. Look into the double star forums where a scope like this would excel in. Look in the solar system forums also. 

People in those forums tend to appreciate any scope they can put their eyes into and focus more on whats up in the sky to observe and less on the scope they are using.

 

Get yourself one or two high quality eyepieces a year and a quality diagonal, even 1.25" on eyepieces and diagonal, and you will always be ready to be a part of anything that is happening in the night sky on any given night.

 

The 395 was my first really good optical telescope larger than 60 mm I had back in the early 1990's. I've sold that years ago and a few years back found someone selling an optical tube and bought it. With a few hundred dollars into it, excluding my mount, its a very fun very potent 90mm F/11 refractor. 

 

...Ralph


Edited by aa6ww, 15 September 2018 - 12:02 AM.

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#17 aa6ww

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Posted 17 September 2018 - 08:13 PM

Here's my Meade 395, I'm giving it to my friend who needs a good refractor to compliment his 10" reflector. I have way too many refractors under 100mm.

 

...Ralph

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#18 JimB1

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Posted 18 October 2018 - 06:50 AM

So just figured I’d give an update on this.

 

I took some of your advice and picked up two new eyepieces in the classified here. A 5.5mm Meade 5000 UWA and a 32mm TeleVue Plossl. Both are very nice. The 32mm particularly has become my go to eyepiece and usually what I start out with and end with during a viewing session. I also picked up an Orion dielectric diagonal which is much heavier and physically larger then the stock Meade one that came with the scope. It definately gives brighter images. The last thing I did was remove the focuser and reset the wedges that were coming unglued. There is a post here somewhere on how to do it so I just followed the instructions. It took a lot of the wobble out of the focuser. Between that and the extra weight of the new diagonal and larger eyepieces the image stabilizes much faster now. It’s still prone to movement in the wind and vibration when it’s on my deck but it settles down much quicker now.

 

still deciding on the light pollution filter, it’ll probably happen soon.

 

I’m looking at a few new mounts right now, waiting for some reviews of the new Meade LX85 while I save up some cash. I am still deciding if I want to upgrade the focuser to the GSO. It’s not a lot of cash for the focuser so that may happen.

 

Last thing I am thinking about is converting the current mount to a dovetail. I have an idea on how to do it on the cheap but I am still deciding if it’s worth it. The main issue with this mount is that it is undersized for the long, heavy scope so I am thinking if I can get a smaller, maybe 8 lb or less, shorter scope like a 90mm or 105mm mak or something light like that , then this mount may be fine for that and I’ll have something my wife or in-laws can use while I am using the longer refractor.

 

In the meantime I am having fun learning where things are in the sky and I took some quick moon photos on my phone last night and posted them here: https://www.cloudyni...st-moon-photos/

 

So thanks again for all the help and info.

-Jim


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#19 memento

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Posted 23 October 2018 - 07:16 AM

Give that you already have a set of tube rings, you might find a dovetail that can be screwed onto those?



#20 JimB1

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Posted 24 October 2018 - 04:47 PM

Give that you already have a set of tube rings, you might find a dovetail that can be screwed onto those?

I don’t think the 395 rings are the same. They don’t come off the tube unless you can get them to slide over one end of the tube by taking off the lens or the focuser and they use two knobs to tighten on the mount to get compression to tighten around the tube. 

-Jim



#21 toby493

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Posted 04 December 2018 - 04:52 PM

I have the 390 changed the focuser to a GSO 2” and mount to anEw 2 just having trouble finding the cradle for the rings. Love the scope 



#22 JimB1

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Posted 05 December 2018 - 07:47 AM

Ended up making use of some coupons and Black Friday deals and went whole hog on the scope.

https://www.cloudyni...n-my-meade-395/

 

picked up a refractor cheshire as well but it was pretty dead on with the new focuser so I didn’t need to do anything. 

 

Got to use it the last couple of days, just excellent! The new focuser makes it a whole new scope. Last night was really clear (and cold) so I spent a couple of hours looking at Mars and Neptune, they were relatively close to each other in th western sky last night. In the 90mm scope Neptune is a dot but still cool that I can see that far out. I also think I saw a meteor. I know the Geminid shower is this month so might have been from that. I was just looking south west with a 32mm eyepiece just seeing what I could find and it happened to shoot right past my view. Pure luck... 

 

The only issue is that between the rings, dovetail, focuser and larger 50mm finder, I don’t have enough counterweight to balance the scope properly. The OTA probably picked up a few lbs and the dovetail mount conversion moved the weight a little higher on the mount. I’m still looking at a new mount in the spring so I’ll live with it for now, it’s not too far off.

 

Thanks for the advice and help...

-Jim


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#23 Chuck Hards

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Posted 05 December 2018 - 09:10 AM

I've kept one of those 90mm Meades around for years.  Uncorrected color isn't objectionable, decent aperture, tests surprisingly well under DPAC.  Not top-shelf but good enough.  In recent years it's been getting replaced more often by my 100mm ED scope, which is shorter and not much larger in diameter, essentially an easier-to-manage OTA.  But the old Meade still performs well, despite a compromised coating.


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#24 photiost

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Posted 06 December 2018 - 07:39 PM

I also replaced a horrible 90mm objective in a Konus with the Meade.

 

Meade 90mm objective gives decent images, now a good star party scope.

 

I would not spend hundreds on the 395 mods though.

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Edited by photiost, 07 December 2018 - 03:14 PM.

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