Review - Meade StarPro™ AZ 102mm Refractor
Posted: 13 February 2019
StarPro™ AZ 102mm
Meade recently announced a line of StarPro™ Refractor telescopes. The telescopes come in aperture sizes of 70mm ($129), 80mm ($179), 90mm ($199), and 102mm ($239). Meade provided me with the 102mm refractor model.
The telescope comes with three 1.25" MA eyepieces: 26mm (25X), 9mm (73X), 6.3mm (105X), and a 2X Barlow Lens. It also includes a red-dot viewfinder, 2" Rack & Pinion Focuser (with 1.25" adapter), 1.25" 90-degree erect-image diagonal, and the Meade Smartphone Adapter (which I previously reviewed). The mount is a single arm, alt-azimuth mount with slow motion control cables on both axes. The mount has a Vixen-style dovetail receiver, so other small telescopes with Vixen dovetails can be attached. Also included is the AutoStar Suite® Astronomer Edition Software on DVD (Windows only). The specifications for the 102mm model are: f/6.5, focal length 660mm, fully-coated Achromatic Refractor, weight 11 lbs. (Specifications for the other models are different.)
The telescope arrived and of course there was an extended period of cloudy nights, with periods of rain and even snow. A rainy day project was to unbox the telescope, assemble it, and do some initial checkouts.
The manual is well written and is appropriate to the new telescope user. There was a Phillips screwdriver provided, but the thumbscrews to attach the slo-motion cables were slotted. The only Phillips screws that I could find were in places where you normally should not need to loosen or tighten. The slo-mo cables worked fine with just finger-tightening on the cable attachments. The tripod is sturdy, has extendable legs (one section), and 1.25" eyepiece storage on the leg braces. The dovetail receiver has one bolt to secure the telescope. The refractor telescope has a dew shield which can be slipped off if necessary. The focuser has large knobs and focusing is smooth and firm. There is a lock screw to prevent the focus from moving when using heavy eyepieces or camera. The slow motion controls are easily accessible while looking through the finderscope and eyepiece. The photo at the top of the page shows the assembled telescope in front of my observatory.
The sky finally cleared and I got a chance to do some observing with the StarPro AZ 102mm refractor. "First Light" was on a thin crescent Moon. The views of the Moon with all the included eyepieces and 2X Barlow Lens were crisp. There was some very slight color fringing at the Moon's edge, but it did not detract from the view of the Moon and Earthshine.
I mounted my Meade 2" 99% Reflectivity Diagonal and 24mm UWA Eyepiece on the telescope:
The view of the Moon with the eyepiece (27X) was very nice. The eyepiece and diagonal were just a little heavy for the Altitude lock. There was no slippage from the weight but I did have to provide some assistance when using the Altitude slow motion control to slew the telescope. This may or may not be an issue with other 2" diagonals and eyepieces.
I also viewed M42 (the Great Nebula in Orion) using the three included 1.25" eyepieces. The views of the nebulosity were clear and all four of the Trapezium stars were sharply visible at all three magnifications. No coma or other distortions were visible in the field-of-view with any of the eyepieces.
The Alt/Az mount was sturdy and induced vibrations dampened out in 1-2 seconds. I wish the tripod had another leg segment to put the telescope a little higher as I had to kneel to look through the red-dot finderscope when the telescope was pointed high in the sky.
During my initial tests with the StarPro AZ 102mm refractor I did some astrophotography. The first tests were with an iPhone 8 Plus attached to the 26mm eyepiece using the included Meade Smartphone Adapter:
I photographed the Moon and M42 (Orion nebula) afocally at 25X:
On other nights I photographed the Moon using the iPhone 8 Plus afocally at 73X (9mm eyepiece) and 147X (9mm eyepiece + 2X Barlow Lens):
There were no problems using the slow motion controls to slew the telescope. The weight of the Smartphone Adapter and iPhone was minimal.
I also mounted my D850 DSLR at prime focus with a 2" adapter:
As with the heavy 2" diagonal and eyepiece, the DSLR was slightly too much weight for the mount. There was no slippage but I did have to help the telescope move when using the slo-mo controls.
The image could not be sharply focused with this configuration. With the D850 DSLR mounted on the 1.25" diagonal using a 1.25" adapter the image could be almost be focused:
Without the diagonal but using the 1.25" adapter the image could be precisely focused. Using this configuration I imaged the Moon and M42:
Orion Nebula (full-frame)
The StarPro AZ refractors are nice spotting scopes for terrestrial use. I pointed the 102mm refractor at Kitt Peak National Observatory (65 miles away):
The Mayall 4-meter telescope dome is easily seen at the right of the mountain top in the iPhone 8 Plus afocal 25X photograph.
StarPro AZ Mount
The StarPro AZ Mount can have other small telescopes attached to the Vixen-style dovetail receiver. I removed the StarPro refractor and mounted my old Meade ETX-105 OTA:
Balance and slo-mo slewing were fine with this telescope.
With the StarPro refractors having a Vixen-style dovetail I mounted the 102mm refractor on my old Meade LXD55 German Equatorial Mount (GEM). That mount has an AutoStar #497 so I could have a GOTO 102mm refractor.
The Meade StarPro™ AZ series are a nice beginner telescopes that provide a lot of value for their low costs. Using the 102mm refractor reminded me of the many nights I spent enjoying my 3" telescope as a teenager back in the early 1960s. With its Altitude/Azimuth mount, slow motion controls on both axes, and good optics, the StarPro series will provide nice views of both astronomical and terrestrial objects. The inclusion of a smartphone adapter means that anyone can (and should) delve into some astrophotography and long distance photography using a smartphone.
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