Meade ETX 80 Review: Deep Space, Automized.
Meade ETX 80 is tempting automation with its low price tag.
Computerized telescopes are usually bad choices. They are too expensive and provide low-powered optics. But Meade sells ETX 80 for only 350$; this is a game-changer.
The most powerful, manual telescope you can get is a 6″ Dobsonian at this price range. It will provide 2x more brightness and sharpness with any space object. But, they are hard to carry, require regular maintenance, and are manual. They won’t follow the objects when you go inside and make a coffee; you will have to focus on the object again when you come back.
Meade ETX 80 counters all these problems. It is easy to carry around, doesn’t require maintenance, and is automated. It also comes with great accessories that you rarely find around this price range.
The GoTo mount is worth it at this price.
If a computerized telescope is your choice, Meade ETX 80 is worth it.
400mm Focal Length
Deep Space Performer
Meade ETX 80 is a deep-space performer at heart, but it can perform well with planets as well. It has an 80mm aperture and a 400mm optical tube, providing an f/5 focal ratio. It has a wider than average image width.
The 80mm aperture can view the major details in the Solar System. These include Galilean Moon’s of Jupiter, Rings of Saturn, some surface detail on Mars, and phases of Venus.
Meade built a 2x Barlow Lens inside the optical tube. It is not better than the usual budget 2x Barlow, but it does provide more detail with planets.
Expect some color inaccuracies with planets.
Chromatic aberration is a problem with planetary views. The lenses inside this telescope can’t bend every color to the same spot; therefore, there is a colorful halo around planets. Suppose planetary performance is a priority to you, for example, viewing the cloud bends of Jupiter. In that case, I suggest you go for a different model, such as a catadioptric or a longer refractor.
Meade ETX 80 performs “adequately” with planets and other Solar System objects.
Deep Space Performance
Deep space performance is better than planetary for two reasons: wide field-view and less chromatic aberration.
The wide field-view is excellent for fitting large objects such as the Andromeda Galaxy inside the view. And deep space objects are not as bright as planets; therefore, the chromatic aberration problem is less significant. And color accuracy is not that important with deep space, so even if there was some CA, it is more bearable.
Meade ETX 80 is ideal for deep space.
Meade ETX 80’s short optical tube makes it ideal for deep-space viewing. Finding deep space objects is also easier due to the mount, which I will delve into now.
Let’s be frank here, the motors in the mount are cheap metal. They make an annoying machinery noise when pointing to a new object. And, the mount is less reliable in terms of breaking down than manual, altazimuth mounts.
But, the mount is larger and chunkier than the usual altazimuth. So it is sturdier, and if you detach it from the tripod and use it on a table, it is rock-solid.
So I suggest you make sure that there is a Meade customer service in your country. If there is, the mounts’ reliability problems become less substantial.
The noise problem is unsolvable. If silence is critical for you, I suggest you check out manual mounts.
The tripod is made of aluminum to decrease weight and increase portability. But as a result, the base becomes flimsier. Meade sells steel tripods, but that would add to the cost.
The tripod is the weakest part of the package, both literally and figuratively.
The “wobble” problem is solvable by hanging a weight from the optical tube or enhancing the connections with some tape. But the situation is not ideal. You can use the telescope as a tabletop if you are annoyed by the tripod and get a steel one.
GoTo and AudioStar
The GoTo computer system is an incredible achievement of the telescope industry. It works the same with any brand, so there is no reason for any comparisons here. You enter any object you want to observe, and the optical tube automatically points to that object and starts following it. It is awesome. And reliable as well.
GoTo and Auto-Tracking work surprisingly well.
The alignment procedure is effortless. You point the optical tube to the North, enter some info about your location, and you are done. It takes 5 minutes tops.
Meade ETX 80 – Canon 7D – EQ4 Mount(Not the one that comes with the package.)
The GoTo Mount is not built for specifically astrophotography, but it is able to do some short-exposure imaging. 30-40 second images are possible, but it is the limit. Long hours of exposure time require more expensive equipment.
The audio feature is useless.
The “Audio” feature is useless. In this day and age, you can ask any question to Google or Siri, and it will give you the same information. Or you can look it up on Google, and don’t listen to that awkward noise that comes from the cheap, stereo speakers of the AudioStar controller.
Overall the tripod is a significant problem that needs solving, and I suggest you check out whether there is a Meade Customer Service near you in case of any problems.
But other than that, the GoTo mount does a pretty miraculous job.
Plössl Eyepieces – Backpack – Finder
Built-In 2x Barlow Lens
The accessories are awesome.
The accessories all add to the temptation of the low-price. They are much better than what you would expect at 300$. I think that is because Meade sells a bunch of ETX 80’s, which is why they can afford to send better accessories.
I expected cheap Kellner eyepieces, but Meade sends Plössl eyepieces with Meade ETX 80. Although they are not premium, they are vastly better than Kellner models. The 26mm is excellent for deep space viewing, and the 9.7mm is suitable for planetary viewing.
There is a built-in flip mirror. It allows for attaching a DSLR camera, which is great for some amateur astrophotography.
There is a built-in 2x Barlow lens as well. It is not better than the budget 2x Barlow in the market, but it is there and appreciated.
Meade sends a great-looking, sturdy backpack with the telescope. I don’t understand how they can afford these things, but it is also appreciated. You can use it for the telescope or anything else you want.
The red dot finder is cheap, but it is acceptable since a GoTo telescope doesn’t require a finder. You will probably only use it when setting up the telescope.
GoTo System Is Prone to Breaking Down
The tripod is the most vital problem. The fact that this telescope is for wide-field viewing makes things a little better, but still, it should be changed with a sturdier model.
The GoTo mount is more prone to breaking down than any manual mount. And, the motors make a machinery noise when pointing to a new object.
Meade ETX 80 has its flaws, but the 300$ price tag makes it almost irresistible. The optics perform well in both deep space and Solar System, the computerized system works well, and the accessories are cherry on top.
Meade ETX 80 is great for people who are looking for an automated grab-and-go telescope.