Meade StarPro 70 is a bold improvement over the already brilliant Infinity 70.
The most common problem with budget telescopes, and a very annoying one, is their mounts. The usual altazimuth mount is wobbly, mostly plastic, and lacks slow-motion controls. Although they are usable, they are no one’s favorite part of the package.
EQ mounts are also unusable at the budget range. They have so many parts attached without any bearings they shake in the slightest breeze.
StarPro 70AZ’s mount is innovative and smart.
When Meade came out with the StarPro, it was clear that they have attacked this problem in their new model. They eliminated most of the useless parts of an altazimuth mount. They have used a single, sturdy part to connect the optical tube to the tripod.
This bold design choice has resulted in one of the best beginner telescopes in the market; period.
70mm is not the most passionate aperture.
First things first, we have to talk about the optics. StarPro 70AZ doesn’t have the most powerful optics with its 70mm aperture. It will allow you to see the major Solar System details such as the Rings of Saturn, moons of Jupiter, The Great Red Spot, and on ideal conditions Polar Ice Caps of Mars.
As for deep space objects, you are going to be able to see the brightest Messier objects. These include the Andromeda Galaxy, Orion Nebula and the Pleiades Star Cluster. The images will look rather ghostly. Don’t let that disappoint you since this is the case with most beginner telescopes.
Moon with the StarPro 70AZ
The Lunar performance of StarPro 70AZ is top-notch. Although there is some chromatic aberration, which we will get into later, the amount of detail you are able to see with such a small scope is tremendous.
Try to do your observations in the darkest environment possible. As I’ve mentioned before this is not a particularly powerful scope, therefore the slightest light pollution will affect your observation quality.
The only good thing about the 70mm aperture is that it is effortless to attach it to a long optical tube. A long optical tube is especially important with refractors since it will reduce color defects and increase detail. The 700mm optical tube of the StarPro 70AZ is able to increase color accuracy to a notable level.
The f/10 focal ratio is vital.
Overall the optical design of the Meade StarPro 70AZ is pleasing. It is not the most passionate starter telescope, but it is an ideal design and has sufficient power to mesmerize most beginners.
First of all, I have to make this clear. The mount is not rock-solid. You will have slight shakes and wobbles from time to time, especially at high magnifications. And it doesn’t have the butter-smooth motions of a Dobsonian either.
But, the design is such a vast leap forward from the usual altazimuth, it is jaw-dropping. The attachment to the optical tube is managed with a singular, solid part. The connections are smooth and are supplemented with slow-motion control knobs. The mount is made of plastic, but it is a weirdly sturdy, feel-good kind of plastic.
Although other budget refractors have managed to connect the mount to the optical tube with solid connections, they just can’t be connected to the tripod in a sturdy enough manner. StarPro 70AZ managed to achieve this by creating a tangled connection part to the tripod. And the key point is that there is only 2-3 parts connected to each other.
If there is a problem to be found with the mount, it is the height. The mount is slightly shorter than most. This might become annoying if you are a particularly tall person.
StarPro 70AZ’s mount is unbeatable among budget refractors.
Overall, the mount is the best I’ve ever seen on a budget refractor. That includes the all altazimuth and EQ mounts among the budget price range.
There is nothing impressive in the accessory part of the package. They are much better than anything that comes with Celestron’s beginner telescopes, so I am alright with that.
The eyepieces are Kellner’s. They have 6.3mm, 9mm and 26mm apertures. They are usable and will serve you well in the beginning, but a better eyepiece such as a 25mm Plössl would improve the image quality by a lot.
The 2x Barlow lens is an unnecessary accessory. In theory, it should provide 156x magnification power with the 6.3mm eyepiece. In reality, this is impossible. The 70mm aperture simply doesn’t collect enough light for a sharp image. And with the 9mm and 26mm eyepieces, you won’t use the Barlow since the 6.3mm eyepiece will already provide the amount of power you need.
The 2x Barlow is unnecessary.
The red dot finder is common among beginner scopes. It is a humble device that merely projects a red dot on a screen. It is easy to align and sturdy. It is much better than any plastic scope type finder.
The diagonal that comes with the StarPro 70AZ is not very pleasing. Although it is perfect for terrestrial observations, it slightly lowers image quality with astronomical objects. It creates a faint line across the image and tiny spikes around the stars. But this is an acceptable sacrifice to keep the cost down since a star-diagonal is really expensive.
The focuser is sturdy and smooth enough for a 70mm refractor. It is not metal, but this didn’t surprise me considering the price. I am OK with a plastic focuser as long as it doesn’t affect the observation experience, and that is the case with StarPro 70AZ.
There is also a smartphone adapter that comes with the package. There is not much to say about it as you might guess. It does its job. It is a sweet entrance to the astrophotography world.
The most critical weakness of the StarPro 70AZ is its 70mm aperture. At the budget prices, the smallest increase in the aperture makes a huge difference. A 90mm refractor, for example, would have %65 more light gathering ability. That is a serious advantage.
Another drawback would be the 2x Barlow. It doesn’t have any function, and it drives the price up.
The base is shorter than usual.
StarPro 70AZ is just delightful. There is not a single part of this scope that is annoying or tedious. On the contrary, every part of the package is well thought out. Infinity 70 was already one of the best starter models, and Meade managed to improve it with the StarPro 70AZ.
This scope is a no-brainer.