Last updated: 18 November 2002
Subject: Update on EXT-105EC Review Sent: Monday, November 18, 2002 13:39:37 From: email@example.com (Floyd M. Teter) Now that I've used the EXT-105EC for six months, I thought your users might appreciate an update of the review written 5/27/02. [below] The optics are wonderful. However, the poor performance of AutoStar and a recent glitch with the mechanical system have really detracted from my enjoyment of this scope. THE GOOD NEWS ------------- I voiced my enthusiasm for the UHTC optics in the original review, and I continue to stand by that opinion. The images rendered are very sharp and clear (when seeing conditions allow), even in my light-polluted skies. The optical strong points really stand out when observing planets and globular clusters. The optical performance has exceeded my best hopes for a scope of this size. THE BAD NEWS ------------ The AutoStar performance is awful. In fact, my family refers to the 105 as "Mr. Magoo"... I've been through three hand controllers, none of which has demonstrated any consistent accuracy in either polar or alt/az modes. I've worked carefully through training and re-training the motors. I've also checked out my alignment with Meade's instructions (and Mike's book) - no improvement in accuracy. Frankly, I've found the AutoStar with my ETX-70AT to be much more accurate and reliable than the AutoStar with the 105. I've recently started switching off between AutoStar and the basic hand controller for the 105...right now, the basic hand controller works better for me. The motor system continues to be quiet and smooth. However, the motor system also burned out last Friday evening after displaying the infamous "Proc. Trap 2" error message on my AutoStar hand controller - After about two seconds, the smoke appeared and I shut down the power ("Houston, we have a problem"). As I write this, I'm working with Astronomics to return the scope to Meade for a warranty repair or replacement. I can't say I'm receiving any type of quick response on arranging the return, so I'm betting the 105 will be out of action for some time to come. THE BOTTOM LINE --------------- The optics of the 105 are great. However, I could have purchased comparable optics without the "GoTo" capability for a much lower price. Given my experience with the poor performance of AutoStar and the recently burned-out motor, I think I'd have been happier with a six-inch Dob at half the price of the 105 :( --FMT--Mike here: Most Autostar problems turn out to be user related but obviously the motor should not burn out! There may have been a circuit board flaw that caused both problems.
Subject: ETX-105EC Review Sent: Monday, May 27, 2002 20:12:02 From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Floyd Teter) Hope this rather lengthy review will help others in their telescope purchasing decisions. Best Regards, --FMT-- A Review of The ETX-105EC, or "How I Spent My Memorial Day Weekend" --------------------------------------------------------- An awful lot of folks out there were supporting me while I went back and forth on ETXs versus LXDs versus StarMaxs versus aperture versus UHTC versus whatever else I could think of. Seems like the least I could do is give a review on the scope I finally purchased. For those of you who don't want to wade through this rather wordy review, there's a summary at the end. I bought an ETX-105EC with UHTC optics, including Autostar, on a Meade 884 Deluxe Field Tripod. Bought the rig from Astronomics (the Discovery store had a better price, but was unable to provide the UHTC optics), along with a FlexiFocus (a very necessary accessory) and Power Supply from ScopeTronix. Everything showed up by the Friday morning of Memorial Day weekend. All the equipment arrived in great shape, as all the components were very well packed. Assembly was pretty easy. I just followed the instructions and the scope mounted on the tripod in less than 20 minutes after unboxing the components. I immediately noticed that the 105 was very well built, even more solid than the 125s Ive had the opportunity to use. The #884 tripod also seemed pretty stout. Couldnt wait to get it outside to see how solid it really was. I also noticed that the right angle viewfinder location on the 105 seemed like a really poor design choice. I was sure it would be an obstruction when attempting to look through the eyepiece. Being an AutoStar kind of guy anyway, I removed the viewfinder retaining rings by using the allen wrench supplied with the scope. Finally, the turning motion on the focusing knob was very stiff. It continued to be stiff even after adding the FlexiFocus. Hopefully, it will loosen up a bit with more use. First Light ------------- So, outside we go. First light was NOT a happy experience. I immediately discovered that this version of AutoStar did not recognize the 105, only the 90 and the 125. Fortunately, I knew from reading the notes at Weasner's Mighty ETX web site that things would work fine if I chose the 125. I then proceeded to begin training the drives. Unfortunately, I found that I could not use the AutoStar hand controller for slewing. I pressed the arrow keys on the pad, but got no response from the scope. The standard controller worked just fine, but not the AutoStar controller. After a few hours, I finally figured out the problem. Each time I turned on the AutoStar, the arrow keys were disabled until I changed the slewing speed not sure if thats a software bug or my own ignorance. I also noticed a lack of responsiveness in the AutoStar controller keys. Unfortunately, the clouds rolled in while I figured this out. Got the drives trained by using a streetlight and called it an evening. Not exactly a promising start. I should note here that I called Astronomics the next morning about the AutoStar controller. They immediately agreed to ship out a replacement. Those folks always seem to provide great service. Second Light ---------------- Second light went a bit better. I carried the 105 and tripod (already assembled) into the back yard, removed the dust cover, let the unit cool down for an hour, inserted a Meade 4000 26mm EP, and used the Easy Align method to start the evening. Once aligned, I selected Jupiter (an easy target at the time) and AutoStar took over. Oops, no Jupiter in the eyepiece. A couple more tries and I decided to remount the viewfinder. Once I had the viewfinder in place and aligned with the scope (a 10 minute procedure), AutoStar was accurate enough to place objects at least near the center of the viewfinder. However, AutoStar did not always place objects (even easy targets like Jupiter) into the FOV of the EP. Seems Ill still need a viewfinder, although I may replace the right angle with something better configured for this scope. Off to Jupiter again: several cloud bands and 4 moons clearly visible. Moved to Pollux and tested the collimation: bright airy disks at when either under focused or over focus. Tried the Beehive next: nice detail, but unable to view the entire open cluster at once due to the narrow FOV. By this time in the evening, Ive noticed that the motor is really smooth and quiet. Minimal noise, no sudden jerks, no backlash, no nothing. In fact, its so quiet when not slewing across large portions of the sky that Im not sure that AutoStar is tracking at all! The Moon was out, so I lined up the Sea of Tranquility and walked away from the scope for 30 minutes. When I returned, I saw exactly the same view in the EP. Wow! I cant overemphasize how smooth and quiet the drives are for the 105. Easily split the double star at Castor. Also split the double at Mizar & Alcor. Just as it was time to get serious, the clouds rolled in againmust be that new telescope curse. The Comparison Test -------------------------- On the evening of May 26th, there was not a cloud to be seen. I lined up the EXT-105EC with my ETX-70AT and a friends Orion StarMax 127 for an evening of viewing under the heavily light-polluted skies of Southern California. Why the StarMax? I originally purchased a StarMax 127, but reluctantly returned the setup because manipulating the setup was a bit much for my very weak back. The two of us agreed to limit our comparison to about 30 Messier objects near and dear to both of us. We also agreed to stick with the Meade 4000 26mm and 15mm eyepieces (sorry, but Im now too broke to afford a Nagler). My comments below are limited to the high points of the comparison. After letting the scopes cool off for about 45 minutes (on an evening in the mid-60s), we found that the 105 was ready for viewing but the StarMax needed some more time. Back indoors for another slice of chocolate cream pie. After a total cool-down period of 90 minutes, the StarMax was ready to go. With the smallest aperture of the three scopes, the 70 could not keep up with the other two scopes in this comparison. However, I am compelled to point out that it was the best scope for viewing some of the open clusters. For example, all present agreed that the Beehive looked best through the 70. Although the larger scopes showed a bit more detail, the 70 was the only scope that allowed for viewing the entire Beehive through either the 15 mm or 26mm EP. Im definitely keeping my 70! As the evening progressed, we noticed several things: 1) It was much easier to bring out and setup the 105 than the 127. In fact, I had both the 105 and the 70 aligned long before the 127 was setup. 2) Using the 127 required more time looking for things, while using the 105 or 70 allowed for more time looking at things. AutoStar, or the lack thereof, made a big difference in this regard. Keep in mind, however, that a buyer pays much more for AutoStar and a 105 than for the 127. 3) Using the same eyepiece, images were larger in the 127. However, most of the images in the 105 were just as bright and detailed as those in the 127. In some of the brighter objects (magnitude 6 or brighter), the detail in the 105 was slightly better than that in the 127. We were both puzzled by the latter part of this result, but were guessing that the UHTC optics in the 105 may have something to do with this (guessing is the best result to be hoped for when a lawyer and an accountant discuss physics). However, the wider aperture of the 127 allowed us to observe three very faint NGC objects that did not show up well in the 105. 4) The 105 on the 884 tripod is definitely the most solid of the three rigs, even though the 127 on Orions EQ-3 tripod is heavier. In fact, klutz that I am, I kicked the 884 tripod at least twice during the eveningdidnt even need to realign after either booting! Its almost as solid as a rock. 5) Having both looked through ETX-125ECs in the recent past, we both agreed that the 105 with UHTC renders performance comparable to the 125 without UHTC. Well try for a comparison of a 125 with UHTC as soon as Meade starts shipping them 6) We also agreed that the 105 is the best built ETX either of us have seen. Less plastic, more metal, and simply a well-built product. At the evenings end, I concluded that I was very happy with my recent purchase. I wanted an easily portable telescope with high-quality optics on a solid mount. The ETX-105EC has exceeded my expectations. SUMMARY ------- I made three trade-offs in purchasing the ETX-105EC. First, I opted for instant gratification over aperture. I've been told by Meade representatives that the 125 with UHTC will not ship any earlier than late June 2002, and that the waiting list will be quite long when it does ship. The 105 with UHTC was available right now, no waiting required. Maybe I'm impatient, but I could not see letting an entire summer's viewing pass without a moderate-size scope. Second, I traded "goto" capability and portability for aperture. I could have stuck with the StarMax 127. However, it was too heavy for me to transport and manipulate easily. I also found that I really like integrated "goto" capability. Yes, I could have upgraded the StarMax tripod and purchased a third-party "goto" drive. Just seemed like an awful lot of trouble for such a heavy scope when the 105 was available. I could also have purchased one of the Meade LXD rigs with more aperture, but then we're back to that weight thing. Third, I opted to pay a much higher price in order to obtain the UHTC optics. The Discovery Store had a great deal on the 105 with the 884 tripod, but no UHTC. Gotta admit that I paid a substantial premium for UHTC. However, having seen the performance of UHTC, it's worth the price paid. In fact, the performance of the UHTC really mitigates the trade-offs I made on aperture. Performance of the 105 with UHTC looks to be about a "push" in comparison to a 5-inch aperture scope without UHTC - in some respects, it may even be a touch better. The bottom line here is that I'm pretty satisfied with the trade-offs I made and the results I got. I'm looking forward to many evenings of great viewing with the 105. Dark Skies! --FMT--
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