Meade Polaris 80 has a well-made optical tube attached to a poor mount.
Polaris 80’s optics are designed for high-magnification performance. The 80mm aperture is considerably small. The long focal length makes up for the small aperture but still, the images are not that bright.
If you are specifically going for planetary details such as Moons of Jupiter, Rings of Saturn, The Great Red Spot, craters on the Lunar Surface or phases of Venus; the optics will provide the best images possible for the price.
The optics are able to provide high-magnifications easily, but with narrow field-view.
Deep space performance is another story. You will only be able to get sharp images of bright deep space objects. The dim ones are not visible because of the small aperture. This doesn’t mean you can’t get good views of deep space. Popular celestials such as Pleiades Star Cluster, Andromeda Galaxy, and Orion Nebula are all still visible. If you are specifically going for deep space performance, we recommend larger aperture models such as Meade Polaris 130. (Don’t go for Meade Polaris 127, you can read our review here.)
The mount is not ideal for a beginner.
The equatorial mount is not terrible. It has a learning curve. Keep in mind at this price range you won’t get an incredibly stable mount. You can only get that with Dobsonians or tabletops. But the base of Polaris 80 is still too weak by any standard.
The accessories are average, but this is to be expected at this price range.
The focuser is smooth and solid. It doesn’t bring up any complaints.
Overall Meade Polaris 80 is a decent beginner’s telescope. If it wasn’t for the plastic EQ-2 mount, it would be one of my top recommendations.
In case you need help setting-up and aligning Meade Polaris 80 here is a helpful video.
In-Depth Review and Technical Specifications
To be honest, at this price range you shouldn’t expect anything exceptional. What Meade Polaris 80 provides is pretty good planetary and Lunar performance.
Optics and Eyepieces
The 80mm aperture is well enough for planets and the Moon. It gathers enough light for brighter celestials. You will be able to see 4 Galilean Moon’s of Jupiter, Rings of Saturn distinguishable from the planet, and ice caps on Mars. There are other details visible but you get the point. The long focal length and small aperture provide pretty good high-magnification performance. Adding to that the small aperture doesn’t get affected by light-pollution as much as large-aperture models. So if you are living near a big city this is a real advantage you should keep in mind.
The deep-space performance is pretty good as long as the image you are trying to see is exceptionally bright. Andromeda Galaxy, Pleiades Star Cluster, Orion Nebula and brighter objects in the Messier Catalog are all easily visible. This is usually enough for beginners.
Only the brighter deep space objects are visible.
Small aperture and deep-space don’t go together well. There are definitely better models for deep space at this price.
Color defects are almost non-existent.
You are going to get some chromatic aberration since this is a refractor telescope. But the slow-f/11.3 ratio reduces optical defects quite a bit.
The eyepieces have 26mm, 9mm and 6.3mm apertures. They are cheapened versions of Kellner’s and actually quite good for the price range. The 6.3mm eyepiece is absolutely unusable and belongs to the trash can. But the other ones will be quite adequate for the beginning. Of course, if you get better eyepieces such as Plössl’s they will provide much better images.
The mount of Polaris 80 is it’s weakest area. The problem is most mounts at this price range are plastic. As long as there are lots of plastic-on-plastic parts on the mount, it will be squeaky and wobbly. That is the case with the Polaris 80. There are simply too many moving parts that are cheap plastic.
The red dot finder is quite common among beginner telescopes. It simply reflects a red dot on the sky so you can easily focus on the object. For such a high-magnification telescope you may need a better finder such as a 6×30. But the red dot will prove enough for the beginning.
The focuser is a rack-and-pinion model. It is 1.25 inches in size and mostly plastic. It is surprisingly smooth and solid. It doesn’t bring up any complaints about any magnification range. It is a little stiff in the beginning but it loosens up in time. It will work well with any 1.25-inch eyepiece in the market.
The 2x Barlow lens is mostly plastic but it does its job quite well. But we recommend lower aperture eyepieces instead of a Barlow for high-powers. A 6mm Goldline eyepiece would do the job.
The accessories are average, the focuser is well-built.
The 90-degree prism corrects the images’ rotation and saves you from bending over to look at the images. Unfortunately, it dims the image quite a bit. We only recommend it for terrestrial observations.
The mount is shaky and weak for such a long optical tube.
The eyepieces are below-average.
The red dot finder should be changed with a better model.
Planetary and Lunar images this telescope provides are enough to mesmerize any beginner. Especially for the ones who are living near big cities.
But the mount is hard to use and wobbly. That is why, Polaris 80 is not recommended. It is buyable in some cases, but I wouldn’t choose it as my first scope.