Meade StarPro 80AZ is better than most budget refractors, but it has a major problem.
StarPro 80AZ has an ideal optical tube for planetary and Lunar detail. The problem is, the optical tube is too long and heavy. Although it provides color accuracy and sharpness, it also creates instability on the mount.
An equatorial mount would be an ideal solution to this problem. But at this price range, equatorial mounts are made of cheap plastic, and they are frustrating to use. That is why a telescope with a shorter optical tube would be a better choice for a beginner.
But still, StarPro 80AZ is worth praise. It is better than most beginner models that are currently being sold. It is one of the rare telescope models that can provide sharp and bright images for a reasonable price.
The optics of StarPro 80AZ can provide high magnifications with narrow field view. It is ideal for providing detail on major Solar System objects such as Jupiter, Saturn and Mars. 4 Galilean Moon’s of Jupiter, The Great Red Spot, Rings of Saturn and on ideal conditions Polar Ice Caps on Mars are possible to observe with StarPro 80AZ.
The Lunar performance of StarPro 80AZ is one of the best ones you can get for the price. A telescope that provides high magnification performance will show a significant amount of detail on the Moon’s surface, and that is the case with this optical tube.
Deep-space performance is rather boring. The problem is that the 80mm aperture is already narrow for most star clusters, galaxies and nebulas. Adding to that, the narrow field view makes it frustrating to find and focus on the object. And when you are able to focus on the object, the amount of detail you can see is limited by the small lens and unusually long optical tube.
StarPro 80AZ is not for deep space observations.
Overall, the optics are StarPro 80AZ lean more towards the high-magnification, a lot of detail speciality. If that is the area you want to focus on, getting this scope is not a bad idea. But most beginners would prefer an all-round performance. That would require a shorter optical tube and a wider lens. As a guide, you can check out the focal ratios of telescopes in the specs sheet. StarPro 80AZ has an f/11.3 focal ratio, which is quite high. For a beginner, an f/6-7 focal ratio would be ideal.
But then again, the choice is yours.
The 900mm optical tube is too much for the mount.
The mount of StarPro 80AZ is much better than any budget refractor mount I’ve ever seen. The problem is that the optical tube is rather long and heavy. So although as good as the mount is, it is not able to provide the sturdiness and smooth motions you desperately need for an enjoyable observation.
The slow-motion controls implemented on the mount are some compensation for the instability. They work surprisingly well and come in handy while observing Solar System objects.
Slo-mo knobs are some compensation.
The tripod is aluminium and not stainless steel. This is not a huge problem since the instability is created by the plastic mount and not the tripod.
The tripod is annoyingly short.
The main problem with the tripod is its height. It is simply too short for most people. It is not easy to observe anything that is higher than 75-degrees on the night sky.
Overall the base is adequate for a 900mm optical tube, but it is definitely not ideal.
The accessories are the same as the ones come with most other budget models. Three Kellner eyepieces that have 6.3mm, 9mm and 26mm apertures come in the box. They are not bad for the beginning except the 6.3mm eyepiece. It provides too much power for this scope.
You will probably use the 26mm eyepiece most of the time since it provides a sharp, bright 36x magnification image. The 9mm eyepiece will provide a 100x, fuzzy image; since it is close to the limit of StarPro 80AZ. I recommend getting a 15mm Plössl in the future for 60x.
The amici diagonal that come with the StarPro 80AZ is not suitable for astronomy. It lowers the brightness, creates a spike in the middle and astigmatism with brighter stars. The reason I didn’t mention as a major weakness is that it is impossible to send a star diagonal at this price range, which is made specifically for astronomy. You will have to buy a better diagonal yourself in the future.
The red dot finder that comes with the scope is easy to use and reliable. It doesn’t bring up any problems.
The 2x Barlow lens that comes with the StarPro 80AZ is completely unnecessary. You can’t use it with the 6.3mm eyepiece, since the image will be too blurry. The same is true for the 9mm eyepiece. It is usable with the 26mm eyepiece for getting 72x magnification. But I would use the 9mm eyepiece for that instead.
Meade shouldn’t have included the 2x Barlow accessory.
The focuser is mostly plastic, but it doesn’t create any noticeable wobbles and instabilities. It is also covered with a weird, sticky oil for additional smoothness. I can say it is among the better focusers at the budget price range.
There is not much to say about the smartphone adapter. It does its job well. Just keep in mind that a smartphone camera will lower the image quality quite a bit.
The 900mm optical tube deserves a more sturdy mount.
The 2x Barlow lens is completely unnecessary and should have been excluded to keep the price down.
80mm aperture is on the narrow side of apertures.
The base is too short.
Although it has its weaknesses, StarPro 80AZ also has advantages over its competitors. The amount of planetary and Lunar detail you are able to gather with this scope is impressive. But for that, this scope sacrifices stability and ease of use.
I recommend StarPro 80AZ for astronomers who are going for high-magnification performance rather than deep space, and willing to suffer a wobbly mount in the way.