MEADE ETX-125EC, AUTOSTAR, AND DELUXE FIELD TRIPOD
This is a continuation of my earlier reports on the ETX-125EC and Autostar. Those earlier reports (Part 1 and Part 2) were actually limited comparisons of the ETX-125EC and NexStar5. This report will be ongoing as I spend more time with the ETX-125EC over several months. I'll report whatever I find, both good and bad.
On Thursday, 10 February, I drove down the freeway in the rain to Meade to pick up an ETX-125EC and Autostar. I randomly selected the ETX from a pallet on the shipping dock. Meade also supplied a Deluxe Field Tripod for this evaluation.
At home, I opened the box and found that it included the following:
Adapter plate for the Deluxe Field Tripod (to increase stability)
Instruction manual (combined ETX-90EC/125EC)
Instruction manual addendum for mounting on the Deluxe Field Tripod
Instruction manual addendum for attaching the 8x25 Right Angle Finderscope
Instruction manual addendum on the proper installation of batteries (to avoid overheating/explosion/leaking)
26mm Super Plossl Series 4000 LP eyepiece
8x25 Right Angle Finderscope
Standard Electronic Controller
Eyepiece hole cover
In reading over the manual and the addendums I discovered an error in the tripod mounting instructions. In the manual, Figures 13 and 29, and the tripod mounting addendum, Figure 2, show the ETX mounted opposite from the way it should be. If you followed the instructions and figures, you would end up with the computer control panel on the East side instead of on the West (correct) side of the tripod. The rest of the ETX documentation was pretty good, with lots of explanations of coordinates and the sky for beginners.
I then continued to remove the ETX from its box. Upon removing the interior box top, you see the ETX as shown here:
After removing the ETX from the box you then have to remove the two white foam pieces (see photo on the right) that protect the rear of the scope from damage during shipment. These pieces of foam should be retained for future use if you place the ETX in a case.
I then proceeded to mount the ETX-125EC to the Meade Deluxe Field Tripod. As previously noted, the addendum instructions would have resulted in an incorrect mounting but the rest of the instructions did provide a good method of attaching the adapter plate to the ETX base prior to placing the scope on the tripod. The bolts included with the tripod were sufficiently long to securely mount the ETX. Next the Finderscope was mounted. The manual addendum describes the procedure for disassembling the finderscope tube from its eyepiece. I found that procedure unnecessary; the tube slide through the mounting rings just fine.
One thing you may notice in the photograph below is that I did not extend the tripod legs. I did this for two reasons: 1) I find the single-leg height adequate for me and it is the only height that works for my wife, and 2) I avoid any of the reported leg slippage problems.
I also read over the new Autostar manual. It was newer than the original, thin paper version, and spans 48 pages in a half-height booklet. But those pages provide instructions in five languages (English, Français, Español, Italiano, Deutsch), 9 of which are in English. The information contained in the manual is sufficient for the new user but lacks any technical details that more advanced users want.
Unfortunately, the lousy weather has continued since I received this ETX-125EC and Autostar. The bad weather did break sufficiently today to allow me to take the scope outside and check out the optics, align the Finderscope, and train the drives for the Autostar. The optics seemed OK on a terrestrial object although focusing was slowed by the some hand-induced vibrations. I was able to achieve a crisp focus in a few seconds. Aligning the Finderscope was much easier than on the ETX-90 model as the support screws are much easier to access and turn on the -125 model. Training the drives went well and the scope seemed to respond correctly to requested movements. Now I just need a clear night.
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