Pros:Auto skew, lightweight and easy to manipulate. Very affordable!
Cons:High power slop. Needs fine tuning out of the box but thats a given.
The Bottom Line: Really a 3.5 in my book. I would recommend to a friend if I felt they had patience to deal with the slop effect learning curve.
Got this scope for Christmas. I was plenty excited about getting one after years of wanting a scope. I am a total amatuer in the field. The last scope I had was a long red Tasco many many years ago. I will review this just as I see it. I've never been near a fancy expensive scope, let alone use one. I put it together real quick. Put the batteries in (obviously any electronic field equipment is going to require batteries).
Recommend this product?
I got to set it out finally after a week of overcast skies. I turned it on and set up the time, date, daylight savings time, zip code and other initial settings. I used the included compass/level and set it to North. I went through the 'easy align' setup where it pointed to two stars. I don't really know the star names or locations but I would try to adjust it to the nearest brightest star I could see. The first and second alignments did not take. It was way off in the end. Eventually on the third try I realized that I should turn the daylight savings time 'off' and reset the clock. This fixed me right up. Once I did my third alignment, I found Saturn first time. I had purchase, as an accessory, the zhumell 1.25" EYEFIL set and started from the 25mm set and worked my way down the the 4mm. I found the higher the magnification I got the more the slop in the gears and mechanisms I noticed. When I would turn clockwise on the focus the scope's view would skew right. I learned I could over compensate slightly and refocus in the other direction to bring back the image. Its not so bad with the 9mm size lense but with the 4mm, you lose sight all together and you have to reacquire the target which shows other issues. When you skew the drive left it will send your view down slightly and then move as commanded. Again not so bad with the 9mm but borderline frustrating with the 4mm. The up and down skew does the same thing. Skew up and the view will move to the right some. It sounds like a nightmare of slop but in reality its liveable with some practice. It got cloudy on me so I packed it up for the night (that and I was freezing at 38 degrees)
Day two. Now that I was more familiar with it I dug in to the book and checked the faq sections on Meade.com. I calibrated the motors and checked alignments and mechanisms. I oiled the built in 2x barlow and it worked a lot smoother. I had to reset the azumith dial and I checked closely why I was seeing the slop. Its due 100% to construction. The forks are not sturdily built as they look and warp with the torque. There is a setting in the options for changing the backlash. I did not notice any improvement in the slop with this setting at max. I took it out again on a nice clear night. I had no problem getting it aligned in and I had a much easier time centering in and keeping targets in place even going to the higher powers with the barlow engaged. I used the Guided Tour option and I looked at Saturn, glimpsed Mars setting, The Great Orion Nebula, the Paliedes, and Cluster stars. I don't know how they did it but this little controller has a ton of information and it told me everything about what I was looking at. It has the ability to find whatever your looking for which is terrific for me.
It can also track satillites including the International Space Station. It says that satillites are best viewed in the morning or evenings because of the sun reflecting on the object. I haven't yet tracked any sats but I commanded it to find the ISS and it skewed into position and had a countdown timer. Apparently when the counddown is finished I look into the eyepiece for the target and push enter for it to follow. Is that cool or what? The government don't need to spend billions of dollars on fancy satillite tracking equipment. Just hire a friendly neighborhood nerd, pay him minimum wage and give him this telescope. Even Goerge W could use this!
With a communication cable you can use the included software to update its database for more recent finds or launches or firmware updates. I haven't loaded the software yet so I can't say if its good or not. I've heard there has been many issues with the software installing and right now I don't want the headache.
ALL TOGETHER, this is a fun telescope even with the high power slop. It is the best price/ bang for your buck at only $270. You cannot expect a super quiet, metal geared, cast fork, monstrosity for 270!. Instead expect a smart, compact, lightweight, 'plastic, tin, aluminum, made in korea' scope for the passing amatuer that will show you Saturn's rings, right out of the box and have enough money left over for fun accessories that can transfer over in a few years to something bigger and more expensive!
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