Meade Model S102 comes with a terrible mount that pulls the whole package down.
Meade S102 is a sad story because it is clear what Meade is trying to achieve with this one. S102 seems like a telescope that has a great optical tube and useful accessories. It is a no-brainer, right? Unfortunately no. The reason this telescope is so well priced is its god awful base.
The optics are actually pretty good, and this makes the whole situation a lot more upsetting. The 102mm aperture is enough to observe some of the major Solar System details such as the Galilean Moon’s of Jupiter, The Great Red Spot, Polar Ice Caps on Mars, and Rings of Saturn. You can also get a stupendous amount of detail from the Lunar surface with this optical tube.
The only problem with the optics is the chromatic aberration. It is a colorful halo that appears around bright objects, and it is an unsolvable problem that comes with short refractors such as this one. Some people find this tolerable, and some people don’t. I suggest you look it up on Google and get an understanding of what it is before you buy a telescope.
As for the deep space performance, it is pretty good as well. It is not at the level of any Dobsonian or tabletop, but quite pleasing considering how small this scope is. The brighter objects such as Pleiades, Hercules, and Orion look detailed and bright.
Apart from the severe chromatic aberration, the optical performance is pretty good all-round. If you can find a good mount to place this optical tube, it can serve you well for long years.
None of the beginner refractors that come with tripods have ideal mounts. They are all plastic and wobbly. But the one that comes with Model S102 is especially bad. The attachments to the optical tube are weak, the mount overall is flimsy and doesn’t provide enough smoothness.
The wobbly combination of the tripod and the mount makes finding and focusing on the objects you want to observe frustrating. This reason alone is a deal-breaker.
Is it usable? Yes. But it is definitely not a sensible choice to go with this mount, especially if this is your first telescope. It will discourage you from stargazing.
Then what is a good choice at this price range? A tabletop telescope would have the best mount at this price range. They are rock-solid, butter-smooth, and easy to use.
The eyepieces that come with the telescope are below-average but usable. The 26mm eyepiece will be the one you will mostly use since it provides a bright, sharp, 23x, wide-field image. The 9mm eyepiece is preferable for planetary detail. It provides 67x magnification, which will be more than enough for the Moon’s of Jupiter and Rings of Saturn.
I admire Meade for not sending a 6.3mm eyepiece with the package. They are not near usable and should be excluded to drive the price down like this one.
The 2x Barlow should have been excluded as well, but Meade sends it anyway. It doesn’t provide decent image quality; in contrast, it dims and blurs the image. It is usable with the 26mm eyepiece, but I’d rather use the 9mm eyepiece by itself to get a higher-powered image.
The red dot finder is the simplest finder you can get. It just provides a red dot on a screen. It is easy to use and reliable.
The diagonal that comes with the scope is an amici. Amici diagonals lower the image quality by creating a spike in the middle and adding blur, but better diagonals are pretty expensive. So it gets a pass.
Apart from the 2x Barlow, the accessories are pretty good. There isn’t a single accessory that drives the price up for no reason apart from the Barlow, and both of the eyepieces have a specific use. The finder is useful, and the diagonal works adequately.
The mount is too weak for this optical tube, and this is not a small problem. The optical quality of the scope, which is the sole reason for buying any telescope, is driven down severely by the shaky base. If you own an altazimuth base to attach the optical tube, then S102 gets much better.
The 2x Barlow is an unnecessary accessory. It should have been excluded to drive the price further down.
It is sad to see Meade shipping Model S102. They are the only ones who try to do some innovation with their starter scopes, especially with their StarPro series. But as long as people buy these stuff, they will continue manufacturing it. This the reason why this website exists. To help you make the best purchasing decision, and it is not the S102.