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Meade RCX 400 10” would you buy one!?

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#1 Supernova74

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Posted 11 July 2021 - 02:25 PM

Hi guys I’m relatively new to this side of the forums.

well I’ve heard some plus and negatives regarding the Meade RCX line up of scopes,and on occasions has been rather lukewarm! Affair,so from my understanding the RCX 400 was released in around 2004-05 in 10”12”14” and far as I’m aware maybe be wrong also a 16” And was there even 20” on Meades max mount.So the plus points i here was the best optically sct cassagrain ever produced and how does those claims add up to the more modern ACF optics of today in my current 12” ACF is it marginal or literally spot the differences,in very small increments of optical noticeable gain,also the versatility of being able to collimate from the handset also motor focus which is a added bonus.

 

Now for some of the negative aspects I’ve heard!? from the imformation ive received,these scopes are prone for being unreliable due to the complexed electronics and kind of have a feeling for the time the scope was released it was leaps and bounds ahead of its time infact and did Meade take a major blunder in reliability.so is some of this information accurate or based on hearsay or a bit of both,you guys tell me and hopefully you can put me in the picture a little from the facts and the fiction I think it’s also safe to say now that most of us,not just Meade owners are aware by now about the law suit against the company and now is owned by a Chinese optical firm of some description however I’ve also received yet again more info that might of changed ownership again.

So for the once home grown USA brand admittedly seem to be uncertain times for the brand.ive also paused now due to being aware that the only two Meade engineers that are qualified to work on these scopes have now retired here in the uk and even I come from an engineering background myself I’m uncertain I would even try to attempt in a repair,or major fault issue if anything did go majorly wrong,so those are the cons ive been hearing please enlighten me as I have a small window of opportunity in owning one in mint condition collecting dust on the preowned market which is the 10”RCX 400 for around £1300-1400.

 


Edited by Supernova74, 11 July 2021 - 02:28 PM.


#2 Peterson Engineering

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Posted 12 July 2021 - 03:22 PM

Consider.  1% defective is sometimes considered pretty good.  But if you have something such as a thing-a-mcbob where 100 things that have to work correctly, calculate the odds yourself.  Purely theoretical of course. Now what was it you were asking?


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#3 SkipW

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Posted 21 July 2021 - 09:32 PM

Our club bought a 14" RCX 400 (used, I think) back in the aughts (2000 - 2009 period), before I was involved with the club. It has been mounted in their 20' diameter observatory dome since - it replaced a 16" f/6 Newtonian on an "iron" (not computer controlled) clock-driven equatorial mount. 

 

Here are what I consider serious downsides to this equipment:

 

The mount is massive, but still a bit shaky for a telescope with 2800 mm FL. We have an external focuser, and it takes a few moments for it to settle down after manually focusing (and see below).

 

The internal focus and collimation are motorized and tightly integrated with the mount electronics and controlled through the AutoStar II handset. If the mount conks out and can't be repaired, the OTA could probably be de-forked and moved to another mount, but we would lose the ability to use the internal machinery for focus and collimation unless someone has cooked up an aftermarket interface to the motors that move the corrector/secondary assembly. Replacement parts for this machinery are not available from Meade; if those motors or associated parts fail, they would have to be replaced from salvage, or a different system devised to emulate their function.

 

Because the same handset buttons are used to focus, collimate, and move the telescope, using them often involves switching between modes. It's not hard to do, but we often find ourselves in the wrong mode, slewing when we're trying to focus or changing the focus when we meant to tweak the pointing. Using the motor focus instead of the manual focuser eliminates the shake mentioned earlier, but often it's easier just to live with the shaking and focus by hand. Collimation presents a worse problem: when you change the collimation, the direction of the optical axis changes, so it's necessary to nudge the pointing as you adjust the collimation to keep your target star near center. I presume you can see where this is going....  That last issue can probably be mitigated by using an external application to handle the pointing while you're using the HC for collimating; we haven't tried that yet, but it's a nuisance to have to involve in another computer to do this (but a joystick or one of those game thingies, if supported, could be operated entirely by feel - a plus).

 

Speaking of "parts not available", we had some questions about how to put part of it back together (one of our more audacious members took it upon himself to do some "maintenance" and made a dog's breakfast of it). Our initial inquiry to Meade Technical Support was encouraging, but when we followed up were told in no uncertain terms "we no longer support this equipment, and no parts are available". Zero support. Nada. We didn't need parts and did get it working again without their help, but that really puts a damper on any inclination to put money or effort into it.

 

The optics of our RCX400 very nice, but in my opinion, the system is inflexible and is very much living on borrowed time. The short answer to the original question is, for me, a hard no unless it was known to work, and really, really, really(!) inexpensive, because it's going to be a doorstop as soon as any one of a large number of things quits working right.


Edited by SkipW, 21 July 2021 - 09:52 PM.

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#4 carolinaskies

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Posted 22 July 2021 - 06:40 PM

Our club bought a 14" RCX 400 (used, I think) back in the aughts (2000 - 2009 period), before I was involved with the club. It has been mounted in their 20' diameter observatory dome since - it replaced a 16" f/6 Newtonian on an "iron" (not computer controlled) clock-driven equatorial mount. 

 

Here are what I consider serious downsides to this equipment:

 

The mount is massive, but still a bit shaky for a telescope with 2800 mm FL. We have an external focuser, and it takes a few moments for it to settle down after manually focusing (and see below).

 

The internal focus and collimation are motorized and tightly integrated with the mount electronics and controlled through the AutoStar II handset. If the mount conks out and can't be repaired, the OTA could probably be de-forked and moved to another mount, but we would lose the ability to use the internal machinery for focus and collimation unless someone has cooked up an aftermarket interface to the motors that move the corrector/secondary assembly. Replacement parts for this machinery are not available from Meade; if those motors or associated parts fail, they would have to be replaced from salvage, or a different system devised to emulate their function.

 

Because the same handset buttons are used to focus, collimate, and move the telescope, using them often involves switching between modes. It's not hard to do, but we often find ourselves in the wrong mode, slewing when we're trying to focus or changing the focus when we meant to tweak the pointing. Using the motor focus instead of the manual focuser eliminates the shake mentioned earlier, but often it's easier just to live with the shaking and focus by hand. Collimation presents a worse problem: when you change the collimation, the direction of the optical axis changes, so it's necessary to nudge the pointing as you adjust the collimation to keep your target star near center. I presume you can see where this is going....  That last issue can probably be mitigated by using an external application to handle the pointing while you're using the HC for collimating; we haven't tried that yet, but it's a nuisance to have to involve in another computer to do this (but a joystick or one of those game thingies, if supported, could be operated entirely by feel - a plus).

 

Speaking of "parts not available", we had some questions about how to put part of it back together (one of our more audacious members took it upon himself to do some "maintenance" and made a dog's breakfast of it). Our initial inquiry to Meade Technical Support was encouraging, but when we followed up were told in no uncertain terms "we no longer support this equipment, and no parts are available". Zero support. Nada. We didn't need parts and did get it working again without their help, but that really puts a damper on any inclination to put money or effort into it.

 

The optics of our RCX400 very nice, but in my opinion, the system is inflexible and is very much living on borrowed time. The short answer to the original question is, for me, a hard no unless it was known to work, and really, really, really(!) inexpensive, because it's going to be a doorstop as soon as any one of a large number of things quits working right.

Essentially then the mount is actually peforming correctly.

The installation platform your RCX400 is mounted on is flawed, if you're seeing shake then look at how it is secured.  Likely something has loosened in how the mount is attached to whatever pier system being used, or a substandard pier is in use that is not deadening movement. 

Mode selection issues are operator error misunderstanding or not properly watching the read out to know you have switch modes.  This is a common new-user error for those unfamiliar with Autostar operation.  And it happens occassionally even to us seasoned owners.  Again, operator error... not a flaw in design. 

As this is in a permanent location and has been for years it's about time your organization invested in external control from a PC/Tablet which would also eliminate mode button mis-selections, as well as allow a hands-off operation which might also deal with any settling issues.  

The process of collimation of ANY SCT will result in a centered star becoming uncentered... this IS NOT a flaw in the design it is NORMAL result of moving a spherical secondary.
 
Collimation of an RCX400 should be done at the start of a session and unless there is an issue with one of the three focus motors not moving in unison with the others collimation should remain rock steady and not be necessary.  In a permanent location I wouldn't expect for visual use to need to recollimate in a session and likely not for several.

There is an RCX400 group on Groups.io, and there is an individual who did engineer a control system for deforked RCX400s and he is active on that group.  He would have to source some new components but has a stock of the boards he created for this purpose. 

From what owners have advised, issues with the focus motor drive/collimation often stem from someone dismantling the front dust cover and not understanding that the motors of 10-14" models have an end-stop for each motor that can be lost and should be accounted for when disassembling and reassembling.  If you are experiencing problems with setting collimation or focus it is likely that when the RCX400 was disassembled one or more of these end-stops were not reinstalled. Contacting the Groups.io RCX400 group would likely help identify and correct this problem.  

The general idea that lack of support for the RCX400, which was discontinued more than 10 years ago, is somehow a ghastly problem makes me laugh... try and source an obscure part for any 8 years or older limited electronic device(less than 5,000 units produced) from the OEM manufacturer, you'll likely get the same reply that they don't support it.   Understand, the RA/DEC/GPS are all the same as any LX200...  other components may or may not fail, but that's the chances we take with any old advanced telescope mount. 

Try and get parts for some of the Celestron Ultima mounts, or hand controls that went obsolete for the early Nexstar.  It's not an uncommon dilemma IF A PROBLEM OCCURS.  Which is not in any way a certainty or guaranteed that it will occur to an irreplaceable component of any vintage telescope mount.

Anyway, the issues you raised are mostly installation/operator error.  Concerns about failures/replacement parts are the dilemma of any owner of electronics and telescope mounts which aren't simplistic in design.  Thus logic pretty much indicates there is no more risk for the RCX400 than for any other choice in the grand scheme.  

Imagine if your organization had a custom control system for a telescope mount and had to find someone to re-engineer it from an old 286 architecture with clock-based calculations.  One of my old clubs had to deal with this issue for an ancient Clark refractor which had upon installation in the 1980's, a state of the art computer control.  Years down the line that system had to be re-engineered twice to bring it into modern computer control.  That's a lot more worrisome than the RCX400 let me tell you!  

   



#5 Jon Isaacs

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Posted 22 July 2021 - 07:30 PM

Try and get parts for some of the Celestron Ultima mounts, or hand controls that went obsolete for the early Nexstar.  It's not an uncommon dilemma IF A PROBLEM OCCURS.  Which is not in any way a certainty or guaranteed that it will occur to an irreplaceable component of any vintage telescope mount.

 

The Celestron Ultima is a 20 plus year old design and can be deforked. 

 

In the case of the rcx-400, it is best to think of it as a complex obsolete mount, buy it assuming it will fail and will be unrepairable.  They were a disaster from the beginning. Rather than supporting them and fixing the problems, Meade just abandoned them, leaving many with expensive scopes that just didn't work.

 

Jon



#6 carolinaskies

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Posted 22 July 2021 - 09:53 PM

The Celestron Ultima is a 20 plus year old design and can be deforked.

In the case of the rcx-400, it is best to think of it as a complex obsolete mount, buy it assuming it will fail and will be unrepairable. They were a disaster from the beginning. Rather than supporting them and fixing the problems, Meade just abandoned them, leaving many with expensive scopes that just didn't work.

Jon

They weren't a disaster from the beginning, and most owners love the performance so much as to defork them IF the mount fails.

Take the time to be informed about those years at Meade and why decisions and model support ended, let me clue you in. It comes down to EXECUTIVE DECISIONS rather than engineering mistakes. Sorry to burst your bubble, but in that time frame Meade was actually trying to do a huge amount of advancement of the hobby with the release of the RCX400 and the other R/C models as well as the LX800, and other mounts. Meanwhile top executives decided to cash in on the IPO and take operating capital that would have seen to wider product support. They did stick with the LX800 and finally arrived with the LX850 and Starlock but didn't have the finances to support multiple platforms. At that time they'd decided the LX800 project was more important as a replacement for the failed LXD650/LXD750 mounts with a total re-engineering. So the RCX400 was the victim.

Honestly the RCX400 is much more advanced than current models. It had features still not available on SCTs today like USB, built in dew heater, built in collimation, fixed primary mirror. All things which any serious astroimaging afficianado wishes they could have as standard features. Too bad for the hobby in general that the RCX400 wasn't supported because it was forward looking.

Edited by carolinaskies, 23 July 2021 - 09:14 AM.


#7 SkipW

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Posted 22 July 2021 - 11:30 PM

Essentially then the mount is actually peforming correctly.

The installation platform your RCX400 is mounted on is flawed, if you're seeing shake then look at how it is secured.  Likely something has loosened in how the mount is attached to whatever pier system being used, or a substandard pier is in use that is not deadening movement. 

Mode selection issues are operator error misunderstanding or not properly watching the read out to know you have switch modes.  This is a common new-user error for those unfamiliar with Autostar operation.  And it happens occassionally even to us seasoned owners.  Again, operator error... not a flaw in design. 

As this is in a permanent location and has been for years it's about time your organization invested in external control from a PC/Tablet which would also eliminate mode button mis-selections, as well as allow a hands-off operation which might also deal with any settling issues.  

The process of collimation of ANY SCT will result in a centered star becoming uncentered... this IS NOT a flaw in the design it is NORMAL result of moving a spherical secondary.
 
Collimation of an RCX400 should be done at the start of a session and unless there is an issue with one of the three focus motors not moving in unison with the others collimation should remain rock steady and not be necessary.  In a permanent location I wouldn't expect for visual use to need to recollimate in a session and likely not for several.

There is an RCX400 group on Groups.io, and there is an individual who did engineer a control system for deforked RCX400s and he is active on that group.  He would have to source some new components but has a stock of the boards he created for this purpose. 

From what owners have advised, issues with the focus motor drive/collimation often stem from someone dismantling the front dust cover and not understanding that the motors of 10-14" models have an end-stop for each motor that can be lost and should be accounted for when disassembling and reassembling.  If you are experiencing problems with setting collimation or focus it is likely that when the RCX400 was disassembled one or more of these end-stops were not reinstalled. Contacting the Groups.io RCX400 group would likely help identify and correct this problem.  

The general idea that lack of support for the RCX400, which was discontinued more than 10 years ago, is somehow a ghastly problem makes me laugh... try and source an obscure part for any 8 years or older limited electronic device(less than 5,000 units produced) from the OEM manufacturer, you'll likely get the same reply that they don't support it.   Understand, the RA/DEC/GPS are all the same as any LX200...  other components may or may not fail, but that's the chances we take with any old advanced telescope mount. 

Try and get parts for some of the Celestron Ultima mounts, or hand controls that went obsolete for the early Nexstar.  It's not an uncommon dilemma IF A PROBLEM OCCURS.  Which is not in any way a certainty or guaranteed that it will occur to an irreplaceable component of any vintage telescope mount.

Anyway, the issues you raised are mostly installation/operator error.  Concerns about failures/replacement parts are the dilemma of any owner of electronics and telescope mounts which aren't simplistic in design.  Thus logic pretty much indicates there is no more risk for the RCX400 than for any other choice in the grand scheme.  

Imagine if your organization had a custom control system for a telescope mount and had to find someone to re-engineer it from an old 286 architecture with clock-based calculations.  One of my old clubs had to deal with this issue for an ancient Clark refractor which had upon installation in the 1980's, a state of the art computer control.  Years down the line that system had to be re-engineered twice to bring it into modern computer control.  That's a lot more worrisome than the RCX400 let me tell you!  

   

Thanks for the detailed reply. That's good news about the groups.io RCX group, and even better news that they may have a way to focus and collimate without the mount. I did not know about them (just joined). I joined the LX200 group years ago when it was still on Yahoo, and the participants there (and here on CN, but there's a lot of overlap) have been my best resource for working with this telescope. No one had mentioned the RCX group.

 

I think you misunderstand some of the comments I made, though.

 

I realize that the act of collimating a telescope will decenter a star. My concern was the need to constantly flip between modes to adjust, re-center, adjust, etc. This requires the operator to have to take his eye off the eyepiece, look at the handset, change modes, then go back to do the other operation. Rinse and repeat. The system does seem to be operating as designed, there may not be a better way to do that with a single handset, and as you note, since it's permanent it's not necessary to do often, but occasionally it is. I do think this is something a prospective buyer who might be thinking "oooh.... electronic collimation using the handset. Cool!" should be aware of.

 

Similarly, yes, being in the wrong focus or slewing mode is an operator error. It's also an easy error to make (at least it is for me). When you're looking through an eyepiece (or a screen), getting the focus jussssssttt right, critically looking at the view for a while, then nudging the pointing just a tad when Boom! it goes out of focus because you forgot you hadn't taken it out of focus mode is still annoying. Again, the system is working as designed, but here I think it could have been done better. [N.B. This comment is coming from someone who wrote embedded system software as a career, and I've too often heard someone to say, "it can't take more than a few lines of code to do that... how hard can that be" (they were always wrong), but, to me, this seems like a significant UI design error. Some systems (this is one) are far better if routine operations can be operated by feel (cars are another - I hate driver controls implemented by touchscreen - but that's a discussion for elsewhere).]

 

Shake: I have no reason to think it is an improper installation. It's bolted to a 2' diameter, 15' tall reinforced concrete pier set in bedrock. This telescope shook as described when it was alt-az mounted, and still shakes now that there is a Meade Giant Wedge between adapter plate and telescope base (no surprise there). Smacking the adapter with the heel of your hand does not cause the image to shake at all, and smacking the base of the telescope mount (which is firmly firmly screwed to the wedge plate with 4 bolts) doesn't produce much shaking, either. Touching the back end of the telescope, however, does. If this is not normal, whatever is wrong just about has to be somewhere in Meade's fork mount system, not how it's anchored through the pier to the ground, as far as I can tell. Maybe is is something we've done wrong, but I've checked the obvious.

 

Support: Fortunately we have not needed parts (yet), and do not expect manufacturers to stock parts for out of production equipment indefinitely. What was disappointing was Meade's absolute refusal to even offer advice on how some parts are supposed to fit together. Did they destroy all of their internal documentation when they stopped production? It is what it is, though, and this is something that any potential buyer should be aware of. Fortunately we were able to solve the problem ourselves, so that particular crisis was averted.

 

I disagree that the RCX400 is no more of a risk than other computerized telescopes since some critical functions within the OTA are integrated with and depend on the mount electronics. Because of this, these telescopes can be rendered completely useless (without substantial effort to modify it) if a vastly larger number of things go wrong. This is unusual. Most OTAs are not nearly so dependent on a particular mount's functionality (in fact, for most now, no dependence at all as long as the dovetail is reasonably common)  and can be moved from one mount to another with substantially less effort, and no technical effort at all.

 

Your anecdote about the Clark refractor is not relevant. You're describing what sounds like an aftermarket (or, most likely, amateur) hack as a retrofit to much older equipment, and comparing it to a premium product sold as an integrated system with all-in-one functionality that was produced by a respected manufacturer. Even in the '80s, timing loops were considered a very poor technique for exactly the reason you described - they're hardware dependent. The fact that it was a 286 system is significant if the designer also took some not-recommended but often done liberties with segment register usage that no longer work with newer systems, and by "newer" I include some that are now quite old. Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do, recommended or not, to get a system working, but you describe the typical result quite well - the system cannot be maintained long term. Honestly, you'd be insane to try to re-engineer the 286 code and equipment. Why in the world would you want to do that? Modern systems have far better performance than needed for tasks like this, so hard to maintain programming-down-to-the-bare-metal tricks aren't necessary to get needed performance, and system resources like timers are commonplace and well documented. Since it was a retrofit, anyway, just toss it and start over from scratch - the result will be easier, cheaper, and would just about have to be better.  And it can be maintained (for a while, anyway; longer if properly designed).


Edited by SkipW, 22 July 2021 - 11:31 PM.

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#8 carolinaskies

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Posted 23 July 2021 - 07:59 AM

Addressing the shaking... since you mentioned the telescope had been dismantled at one time that would make me think that someone did not properly reinstall something. Also if it does have a rear focuser as you remarked it's also possible that when that was installed one of the screws that holds it in place is not properly tight or is cocked and some way which could cause image movement. Those would be two areas I would inspect and again going back to the rcx400 group on information of what to check up front if the reassembly was incorrectly done.

Concerning software control you have to remember that every telescope company has to drive its own software and firmware and the physical and mechanical controls and components. And there are many devices that have idiosyncrasies in operation that engineers found acceptable and made it into production despite how the varied consumers who may use the product are able to understand and operate that product.

And yes that can be annoying because some programmer or engineer thinks things should be one way or another and we consumers have to Simply live with how things were designed or redesigned. In fact this week I found that my smart TV had been updated and the menu changed bye some engineer in the latest update. To my consternation the design had changed so that the ease that I'd had with the previous design was no longer present and I had to go through an extra two steps to do something that had only taken me one previously. This is the bane of the consumer and is not definitely limited to the rcx400 the autostar Meade products or any telescope or electronic device mass-produced on this planet. We learn to live with it.

Going back to the rcx400 and expectations for failure again you're going down the road of expecting failure and expecting problems and expecting hurdles to overcome for support. Join the rcx400 group and you can discuss the idiosyncrasies of the everyday users of the telescope and how they still enjoy it. And I think that they would all say that there's no reason to be afraid of purchasing one as long as you go into the decision knowledgeably. But the same holds true for anyone attempting buying even new equipment as there are many people who go out and spend thousands blindly and find a do not have the patience understanding or tenacity to put all the different component operations together and get the results of successful NASA apod images.

Anyways I again I will reiterate I do not think there is any reason to not consider the rcx400 and likely those who do acquire one will be of the mindset of not being afraid of any challenges they might face with it.

#9 dcaponeii

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Posted 23 July 2021 - 11:23 AM

Consider.  1% defective is sometimes considered pretty good.  But if you have something such as a thing-a-mcbob where 100 things that have to work correctly, calculate the odds yourself.  Purely theoretical of course. Now what was it you were asking?

However, having just finished replacing the encoder in my LX600 I can see that certain engineering short cuts were made that have affected the reliability in a negative direction.  The c-clip spacer under the encoder with the open hole cover comes to mind.  The failure of the hand controller from weather and corrosion effects also.  It's starting to look like that encoder is 100% failure after about 24 months as is the hand controller.  For something with a typical lifespan measured in decades (I still use my old 2080 which is clock motor in the base after nearly 30 years now) I myself have been a little disappointed in having to replace/repair parts of the drive after such a short amount of time.  Still a great mount but I would have easily paid another $500 for a bit of weatherization of the mount.



#10 SkipW

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Posted 23 July 2021 - 08:39 PM

Addressing the shaking... since you mentioned the telescope had been dismantled at one time that would make me think that someone did not properly reinstall something. Also if it does have a rear focuser as you remarked it's also possible that when that was installed one of the screws that holds it in place is not properly tight or is cocked and some way which could cause image movement. Those would be two areas I would inspect and again going back to the rcx400 group on information of what to check up front if the reassembly was incorrectly done.

Concerning software control you have to remember that every telescope company has to drive its own software and firmware and the physical and mechanical controls and components. And there are many devices that have idiosyncrasies in operation that engineers found acceptable and made it into production despite how the varied consumers who may use the product are able to understand and operate that product.

And yes that can be annoying because some programmer or engineer thinks things should be one way or another and we consumers have to Simply live with how things were designed or redesigned. In fact this week I found that my smart TV had been updated and the menu changed bye some engineer in the latest update. To my consternation the design had changed so that the ease that I'd had with the previous design was no longer present and I had to go through an extra two steps to do something that had only taken me one previously. This is the bane of the consumer and is not definitely limited to the rcx400 the autostar Meade products or any telescope or electronic device mass-produced on this planet. We learn to live with it.

Going back to the rcx400 and expectations for failure again you're going down the road of expecting failure and expecting problems and expecting hurdles to overcome for support. Join the rcx400 group and you can discuss the idiosyncrasies of the everyday users of the telescope and how they still enjoy it. And I think that they would all say that there's no reason to be afraid of purchasing one as long as you go into the decision knowledgeably. But the same holds true for anyone attempting buying even new equipment as there are many people who go out and spend thousands blindly and find a do not have the patience understanding or tenacity to put all the different component operations together and get the results of successful NASA apod images.

Anyways I again I will reiterate I do not think there is any reason to not consider the rcx400 and likely those who do acquire one will be of the mindset of not being afraid of any challenges they might face with it.

Our loose cannon member took it upon himself to take the corrector plate out to clean it. He botched that (it now has a huge scratch), then had a devil of a time getting it put back in at all, and still left the heater wire dangling. We requested suggestions from Meade about how best to reattach the heater to the corrector plate, but were told in so many words that they no longer support this equipment at all and wouldn't help us at all. There was nothing to do with the mounting. Besides, the shaking had been there before that particular fiasco. None of this was explicitly stated in my reply, so your conclusion that this may have been the cause of shaking in the mount is understandable, but is not correct. Why Meade does not support this equipment is not our concern; the fact that they flatly don't support it, is.

 

I understand about compromises and idiosyncrasies. My original reply was to the OP's request for thoughts about whether or not he should buy one now, and I gave an honest appraisal of the particular things I find bothersome about the system that someone considering one should be aware of, and what I consider the very real risk of the whole system becoming unusable if one part of it fails. Nothing more. As a seasoned telescope user (both purely mechanical and go-to, although, admittedly, not so much with Meade products) I am well aware that every telescope and mount design is a compromise, and some designs are better in some ways, and do certain things better than others, and vice versa.

 

This may have been a very forward-looking design (in some ways) 20 years ago, but USB 2.0 ports are of limited usefulness now (and will become less useful as time goes on), and the tight integration of so many disparate functions (with no fallback if one goes awry) may have seemed like a good idea to some at the time. Modularity has really been the better way to go all along for making something more "future proof" and also limits the damage when something eventually breaks and can't be repaired or worked around at a reasonable cost and level of effort. The OP was asking if buying an RCX400 was a good idea now, not 15 years ago. To me, the answer is a clear 'No', for the reasons stated, unless it's very inexpensive. I apologize if my intentionally vague comment about the source of our denied support request may have been misleading - I was trying to be circumspect even though recalling it still makes me angry three years later - but I stand by the conclusions in my original response.


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#11 carolinaskies

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Posted 24 July 2021 - 08:28 AM

As I stated a few posts ago, expecting a company to support an old low production model more than 10 years after production ceased is unrealistic.  In this hobby it is NOT uncommon nor has it ever been uncommon to find the manufacturer no longer supporting old systems.  

And you are being rather disingenuous about the forward nature of the design.  Most mounts that are coming with USB on them are still USB 2.0... we are JUST starting to see USB 3.0 being instituted in the last 9mos.  Remember 3.0 is only useful for image download of main cameras not even guide cameras need to use 3.0.  All other components have no need for the extra bandwidth.  I dare say please point out a current telescope mount that doesn't integrate multiple functionality on a PCB inside....  Integration was and still is a cost savings for everything electronic today.  I'm sorry, the idea of modularity while nice, would cost significantly more, and does in fact cost significantly more as any of us who has to buy a seperate dew heating system, manual collimation tools, etc.  

In the past few years iOptron has integrated more functionality in it's CEM line forcing companies like Celestron, Orion and Synta to follow suit in their upper model lines.  The RCX400 did it all those years ago and you're making statements that it wasn't forward looking... a good laugh, thanks.  As I stated in a previous post, many RCX owners love the operation of this design enough to invest in a homebuilt control system to replace the Autostar operation of those integrated features.  I would say that speaks more volumes about the overall reception of the design.  And when looking at integration I should mention the well overpriced Stellina full auto integration for astrophotography.  I would love modularity in that design, but I also respect the effort which went into creating a unique and niche piece of equipment.  

I've stated here and elsewhere that a modernized RCX400 would likely be tremendously received today.  Because it still is forward looking, offering more than the competition in it's class.  

Since I buy used equipment regularly if the opportunity comes up I wouldn't hesitate locally to buy an RCX400 that was operational, and would even buy one not working simply for the opportunity to see if I can get it back functional.  Of course it would fit right in with being from the old school of amateur astronomy where we don't mind getting to the root of things ourselves and developing useful skills instead of always having to depend on others to fix it for us.  Sure there are some things I'm not equipped to do, but I'm not going to cry foul either if something older requires a more hands on approach from me.  Plenty of amatuers in this hobby have tackled issues with their telescopes even to the point of building entire control systems when they can't get help from the manufacturer.  And there are 3rd party individuals who have created successful businesses from supporting obsoleted equipment. 

Maybe because your club's RCX performance concerns you, perhaps you should donate $20,000 so they can get a full Planewave mount and CD-K and solve those idosyncracies that don't make you a fan of the RCX400.   



 



#12 Jon Isaacs

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Posted 24 July 2021 - 09:43 AM

Anyways I again I will reiterate I do not think there is any reason to not consider the rcx400 and likely those who do acquire one will be of the mindset of not being afraid of any challenges they might face with it.

 

I think Skip covered it nicely.

 

It's an obsolete design that was fraught with problems from the very beginning. The problems were never addressed by Meade, instead they just abandoned the mount, the scope and the owners.  

 

A company like Astro-Physics supports their equipment for the long run.. I wouldn't be afraid to buy an old A-P. But this Meade, why take on the headaches and heartbreaks of a failed design, it doesn't make sense.

 

If someone wants an older Meade GOTO, the LX-200 is the way to go, it was a solid, reliable design and Meade supported it, worked out the bugs. There are a few issues today but the repairs are simple and there is third party support.

 

Jon



#13 carolinaskies

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Posted 24 July 2021 - 12:19 PM

I think Skip covered it nicely.

 

It's an obsolete design that was fraught with problems from the very beginning. The problems were never addressed by Meade, instead they just abandoned the mount, the scope and the owners.  

 

A company like Astro-Physics supports their equipment for the long run.. I wouldn't be afraid to buy an old A-P. But this Meade, why take on the headaches and heartbreaks of a failed design, it doesn't make sense.

 

If someone wants an older Meade GOTO, the LX-200 is the way to go, it was a solid, reliable design and Meade supported it, worked out the bugs. There are a few issues today but the repairs are simple and there is third party support.

 

Jon

Obsolete.... ROFL.  There's nothing out on the market similar enough to point to as a successor. Thus obsolescence is an incorrect term.  Ahead of it's time on the other hand is the correct phrase.  

AP hasn't innovated or stepped out of it's comfort zone to produce any ground breaking optics in how many years?  Now if you had said Planewave I'd have no issue.  Planewave has revolutionized not merely gone through easily supported evolutions like AP.  

From a consumer of astronomical equipment standpoint, the niche companies like AP have a simple time supporting products the general hobbist can't afford.  At 5x the cost of a reasonable mounting system and with optics often on a 12-18mos or longer waiting list they don't have to support very many customers.  It's nice to claim they can support a 20 year old mount but then it looks pretty much like the brand new mount too.  As my Dad said when he was looking for a new truck in 1981... why do I want to buy in 1981 a truck that looks just like the one I bought in 1973?  

The OP already has an LX200, and BTW the RCX400 mount uses the same Autostar II system with tweaked firmware control for the added features of the RCX400.  

As for Meade decisions supporting the advanced RCX400 ... go ask the golden-parachute executives.  But that has nothing to do with more than 10 years after the fact and whether a buyer has the where-with-all and good old fashioned willingness of the hobbyists whose shoulders they stand on did to repair, refurbish, and find a way to make things work again.   I know plenty of amateurs who aren't afraid of might-happens and what-ifs.  Those fraidy cats should just go on the internet and look at Hubble pictures... which BTW was just fixed with the effort of dedicated individuals, many who weren't even born when Hubble was conceived as a project!  



#14 Lindhard

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Posted 24 July 2021 - 01:52 PM

Our loose cannon member took it upon himself to take the corrector plate out to clean it. He botched that (it now has a huge scratch), then had a devil of a time getting it put back in at all, and still left the heater wire dangling. We requested suggestions from Meade about how best to reattach the heater to the corrector plate, but were told in so many words that they no longer support this equipment at all and wouldn't help us at all. There was nothing to do with the mounting. Besides, the shaking had been there before that particular fiasco. None of this was explicitly stated in my reply, so your conclusion that this may have been the cause of shaking in the mount is understandable, but is not correct. Why Meade does not support this equipment is not our concern; the fact that they flatly don't support it, is.

 

Take a look here, i followed this video to clean my RCX400 and everything went as planned - even if it is in french, you can follow the steps.

 

https://www.youtube....h?v=pmN0An9vfp4


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#15 SkipW

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Posted 24 July 2021 - 06:35 PM

Take a look here, i followed this video to clean my RCX400 and everything went as planned - even if it is in french, you can follow the steps.

 

https://www.youtube....h?v=pmN0An9vfp4

Thanks, Lindhard. We did solve the immediate problem by studying what we had. I'll take a look at the video and bookmark it in case we're in the position of considering doing this again.



#16 SkipW

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Posted 24 July 2021 - 07:39 PM

Maybe because your club's RCX performance concerns you, perhaps you should donate $20,000 so they can get a full Planewave mount and CD-K and solve those idosyncracies that don't make you a fan of the RCX400.   

Now, now... I haven't complained about the telescopes performance (other than the shake). The optics are quite good, and now that we've found out where the bad bugs in Meade's firmware are and worked around them, the gotos are good, and the tracking is fine. We use the external Crayford for visual when we can for focusing and let the shake damp out (it takes less time for it to stop than changing modes does), and avoid touching the OTA otherwise. We are starting to use the backward-looking the RS232 serial port (because it actually works and does something useful) for computer control, and so far continue to ignore the USB port, for which we can find no use (even assuming it works with a currently-supported OS).

 

What worries me, and is the main part of my misgivings about the design, is when (not if) part of it fails. At that point, and depending on what went wrong, we may consider spending the $450 on an adapter for focus/collimation/dew heater (only the first two of which we need) control if it's available (currently it's not, and may or may not be again) and deforking it, or replacing it entirely with something more flexible, like a mount that can accommodate different optics, and optics that can be moved between mounts and parting the RCX out or selling the carcass for what we can get.

 

All those other things are mere annoyances; we have what we have, and it does work, so we happily use it. If we were considering buying one now, however, all of those annoyances would go into the "Cons" column, but the inflexibility, utter and complete lack of support (which is unusual - many vendors will at least offer advice even if they don't have parts) and, especially, interconnectedness that amplifies risk, would go into the "Show-stopper" column of my list. That's the information I was trying to convey when I answered the OP's query. I understand that you have a different view.



#17 Supernova74

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Posted 25 July 2021 - 04:20 AM

Thankyou guys for your feedback!

 

this is my initial thoughts and opinions of the Meade RCX 400

for a short period of time I did have a genral interest in maybe puchasing one on uk astrobuyandsell website i also beleive there is another site based in Canada.the scope looked in near enough mint condition in hardly being used and the only reason why the owner was sellling as it was never being used and from the impressions I received was the scope was puchased originally for his son on a whim,and that was the 10”RCX 400.

 

Also I believe there are two professions in society who do like fabricate the truth to a degree one is salesman and the other is estate agents (real estate) and some salesman infact would try and sell ice to Eskimos and say it’s laced with gold.

as approximately 3 years ago even tho it was still through a respected reputable dealer (will mention no names) I had another opportunity to puchase a 12” RCX 400 then again seemed to be in very good condition.So as time has passed by I’m kind of glad I didn’t go ahead with the transaction as the salesman i beleive was attempting to pull the wool over my eyes which in my opinion was a very poor attempt in the process.firstly his statement was that these scopes like to be used on a regular basis due to the electronics etc,which sounds very unorthodox to say the least as no one should have to babysit a telescope,also the reason why Meade stopped manufacturing these scopes was due to manufacturing costs!

um bullsquirt is putting it nicely.

 

Now fast forward to the more present day I will give any product firstly the benefit of the doubt and come with my own personal conclusion in the information being received in being accurate or not. However the RCX 400 according to Steve collingwood former well known highly regarded Meade engineer! emailed myself personally in statements that made me pause in any prospect puchase.the RCX 400 at the time on the initial launch to the consumer yes technology wise was ahead of its time with offering perhaps the best optics ever seen in a sct cassagrain design with the versatility of being able to collimate and focus electronically,however the major blunder side on Meades behalf was the scope was very poorly executed overall with having unreliable electronics.there is two units that I’m aware of that are for sale in the uk unfortunately 

the truth it seems no one wants them and I can see why.



#18 carolinaskies

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Posted 25 July 2021 - 06:47 AM

Thankyou guys for your feedback!

 

this is my initial thoughts and opinions of the Meade RCX 400

for a short period of time I did have a genral interest in maybe puchasing one on uk astrobuyandsell website i also beleive there is another site based in Canada.the scope looked in near enough mint condition in hardly being used and the only reason why the owner was sellling as it was never being used and from the impressions I received was the scope was puchased originally for his son on a whim,and that was the 10”RCX 400.

 

Also I believe there are two professions in society who do like fabricate the truth to a degree one is salesman and the other is estate agents (real estate) and some salesman infact would try and sell ice to Eskimos and say it’s laced with gold.

as approximately 3 years ago even tho it was still through a respected reputable dealer (will mention no names) I had another opportunity to puchase a 12” RCX 400 then again seemed to be in very good condition.So as time has passed by I’m kind of glad I didn’t go ahead with the transaction as the salesman i beleive was attempting to pull the wool over my eyes which in my opinion was a very poor attempt in the process.firstly his statement was that these scopes like to be used on a regular basis due to the electronics etc,which sounds very unorthodox to say the least as no one should have to babysit a telescope,also the reason why Meade stopped manufacturing these scopes was due to manufacturing costs!

um bullsquirt is putting it nicely.

 

Now fast forward to the more present day I will give any product firstly the benefit of the doubt and come with my own personal conclusion in the information being received in being accurate or not. However the RCX 400 according to Steve collingwood former well known highly regarded Meade engineer! emailed myself personally in statements that made me pause in any prospect puchase.the RCX 400 at the time on the initial launch to the consumer yes technology wise was ahead of its time with offering perhaps the best optics ever seen in a sct cassagrain design with the versatility of being able to collimate and focus electronically,however the major blunder side on Meades behalf was the scope was very poorly executed overall with having unreliable electronics.there is two units that I’m aware of that are for sale in the uk unfortunately 

the truth it seems no one wants them and I can see why.

Compared to a standard SCT the RCX400 is more complicated, having many more technical aspects and parts by a high factor.  I'm sure as a repairman it was a task for Mr Collingwood if he had to delicately manage the RCX400 and of course would have an engineer's view "I would do it this way".  Get 5 engineers opinion on how to do something and you'll get 10 different responses and contradictory viewpoints as to why each response is a poor execution of the task. 

I think it's sufficient to say an RCX400 isn't right for an individual if their view is "it's going to fail".  No one should ever buy something if that is their view because surely they will discover every little thing that displeases them even though others find no such displeasure.  

This discussion has proven once again actual facts in evidence that the RCX400 did and does still perform well carry far more weight in logical deduction than the heresay and worry about 'might happens'.   Those desiring to converse with RCX400 owners should go over to the RCX400 group on Groups.IO where real owners can relay real experiences and converse about the highs and lows of RCX400 ownership.  

Clear skies! 

    

 



#19 rmollise

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Posted 25 July 2021 - 10:43 AM

Hi guys I’m relatively new to this side of the forums.

well I’ve heard some plus and negatives regarding the Meade RCX line up of scopes,and on occasions has been rather lukewarm! Affair,so from my understanding the RCX 400 was released in around 2004-05 in 10”12”14” and far as I’m aware maybe be wrong also a 16” And was there even 20” on Meades max mount.So the plus points i here was the best optically sct cassagrain ever produced and how does those claims add up to the more modern ACF optics of today in my current 12” ACF is it marginal or literally spot the differences,in very small increments of optical noticeable gain,also the versatility of being able to collimate from the handset also motor focus which is a added bonus.

 

Now for some of the negative aspects I’ve heard!? from the imformation ive received,these scopes are prone for being unreliable due to the complexed electronics and kind of have a feeling for the time the scope was released it was leaps and bounds ahead of its time infact and did Meade take a major blunder in reliability.so is some of this information accurate or based on hearsay or a bit of both,you guys tell me and hopefully you can put me in the picture a little from the facts and the fiction I think it’s also safe to say now that most of us,not just Meade owners are aware by now about the law suit against the company and now is owned by a Chinese optical firm of some description however I’ve also received yet again more info that might of changed ownership again.

So for the once home grown USA brand admittedly seem to be uncertain times for the brand.ive also paused now due to being aware that the only two Meade engineers that are qualified to work on these scopes have now retired here in the uk and even I come from an engineering background myself I’m uncertain I would even try to attempt in a repair,or major fault issue if anything did go majorly wrong,so those are the cons ive been hearing please enlighten me as I have a small window of opportunity in owning one in mint condition collecting dust on the preowned market which is the 10”RCX 400 for around £1300-1400.

 

 

No. Not in a million years. Why?

  • Many were defective out of the box and even after service never worked right.
  • Many more didn't work right for long. The way-too-cheap motors Meade used for the collimation/focusing feature were just the tip of the iceberg.
  • If the electronics die, how are you going to easily collimate or even focus the thing?
  • These are now old telescopes, which tends to compound their problems.

All that said, they could be wonderful scopes when they worked right...  http://uncle-rods.bl...e-old-blue.html


Edited by rmollise, 25 July 2021 - 10:47 AM.



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