Meade Polaris 130 Telescope Review: Power on a Tripod
Polaris 130 rocks an amazing optical tube on a slightly wobbly mount.
Most reflectors around this price range have spherical primary mirrors. Although they lower the price down they bring up problems such as chromatic aberrations and difficult collimation. Thankfully, Meade used a parabolic mirror with this model. The result is decent planetary performance and great deep space performance.
The 130mm aperture is wide enough for major Solar System objects such as Jupiter and Saturn. The moons around Jupiter and its cloud belts are visible including the Great Red Spot. Rings around Saturn are clear with detail including the Cassini Division(the space between the rings) and Saturn’s largest moon Titan.
The primary mirror has a high-quality parabolic design.
The short focal length creates a large field-view. Therefore deep space objects are amazing to look at. Bright objects such as the Andromeda Galaxy, Orion Nebula, and Pleiades Star Cluster are rich and detailed. You can easily see all the objects in the Messier Catalog in a dark-enough environment. All we can say is if you are buying this telescope for deep space observations you definitely won’t be disappointed.
The field view is wide, ideal for deep space observations.
The Moon looks brilliant as you might expect.
At this point, you might think that I am a sales person from Meade. The optics are that good. For this price, you really can’t get anything better unless you are getting a Dobsonian.
The wobbly base is the weak link.
The tripod and the equatorial mount are not that pleasing. The base barely carries the optical tube. Any heavy accessory would create a major instability. But they are alright with just the optical tube itself. If you are considering astrophotography and are going to use a heavy camera, you will have to get a better mount or another telescope.
The accessories that come with Meade Polaris 130 are 3 eyepieces, a Barlow lens, and a red dot finder. They are below-average but they work well for the beginning. Considering the low price this is not surprising.
Meade Polaris 130 has an exceptional optical tube attached to a wobbly, hard-to-use mount. Some people may prefer EQ mounts over altazimuths. If you are one of those people, Polaris 130EQ is a no-brainer. Otherwise, you should get a telescope with a simpler mount.
A good combination of portability and optics is rare with budget telescopes. There are only a handful of models in the market we can think of that provide such a combination. Orion StarBlast II 4.5 or Zhumell Z114 are really good models in that regard. But both have smaller apertures and one is more expensive. So for a lot of people, Meade Polaris 130 is a good choice.
650mm Focal Length
Deep Space Performer
Optics are the main reason why this telescope is such a good model. In contrast to its younger brother Polaris 127, Polaris 130 has a parabolic primary mirror.
A parabolic mirror has a single focal point. This might sound normal but many models in this price range have spherical mirrors that have many focal points. This results in a low-quality image and chromatic aberration.
Parabolic mirrors have higher color accuracy and are easier to collimate.
Adding to that such design is really hard to collimate. Therefore a parabolic mirror is really appreciated and a must in a good reflector.
The 130mm aperture is not that wide but it is enough for major Solar System and deep space objects.
130mm aperture is humble.
As said before details such as moons around Jupiter, the Great Red Spot, Rings of Saturn and its largest moon Titan are easily visible. With a more powerful telescope, you are going to get more detail but these are the objects that can be seen with the majority of the telescopes.
So even though the planetary performance is not as good as the deep space performance, you will still be able to see all of the “popular” Solar System objects.
The Moon is just beautiful to look at with Polaris 130 due to color accuracy and image sharpness of the primary mirror.
Deep space is the area where this telescope really sets itself apart from other models. The wide aperture and short focal length create a large field-view. The absence of image defects combined with good quality mid-level magnifications result in really good star cluster, galaxy and nebulae images. They are sharp, rich in detail and bright.
The eyepieces are low in quality.
The eyepieces that come with the telescope have 26mm(25x), 9mm(72x) and 6.3mm(103x) apertures. They are cheaper versions of Kellner’s and actually are not that bad. In the beginning, they prove to be sufficient but we strongly recommend you to change them as soon as possible. A good eyepiece is a must if you are trying to get good quality images.
The equatorial mount has a learning curve to it. It is not as easy-to-use as a Dobsonian or any alt-azimuth but after a short amount of time, you will get used to it.
The most important thing about any mount is its sturdiness and stability. This is the weakest aspect of the Meade Polaris 130. The mount is mostly plastic and although the tripod is steel it has plastic parts.
The mount is not pleasing to use.
Stability-wise it doesn’t bring up any complaints around mid-level and low-level magnifications. But around high-level, you might get a little shake or movement, and frequently.
The mount is right at the edge of being able to carry the optical tube. If you are only using the optical tube you won’t have any problems. But you can’t use it with a heavy accessory such as a DLSR camera. So if you are going for astrophotography we recommend changing the mount or getting a different model.
The tripod is mostly steel so it is much better than most aluminum tripods around this price range.
Red Dot Finder
The red dot finder that comes with the telescope is cheap and mostly plastic. It is one of the cheapest finders available. But it is certainly better than a small finderscope such as a 5×24 and is more than adequate for the beginning.
The accessories are below-average choices.
The focuser is a rack-and-pinion. It is 1.25 inches in size and mostly plastic. It actually works quite well but is not as sensitive as you want it to be. But this is a minor complaint. It is adequately smooth and will work well with any 1.25-inch eyepiece.
The 2x Barlow lens that comes with the telescope doubles the magnification with any eyepiece. For example, if you are using the 26mm(25x) eyepiece it will provide 50x. It is a below-average, plastic accessory. We recommend using a low-aperture, good quality eyepiece instead of a Barlow.
The main drawback is the plastic, equatorial mount. It barely carries the optical tube and at high magnifications, it sometimes creates tiny movements.
The other drawback is below-average accessories that come with the telescope.
Polaris 130 is not an easy choice for a beginner. Although its optics are ridiculously good, for some the EQ mount is a deal-breaker. In my opinion, a little learning curve is worth it, but it is your choice, after all.