Last updated: 12 January 2002

Sent:	Tuesday, December 11, 2001 9:38:44
From:	mdaffron@the-rma.org (Meade Daffron)
Hello everyone! I'm a former ETX-90RA and ETX-90/EC owner (one year's
ownership of each), and I've had the pleasure of using an ETX-125/EC at
several star parties. Last Friday, I picked up my new Orion Starmax
127EQ from Company Seven in Maryland
(http://www.company7.com/home.html). Here's a link to the telescope's
page at Orion:
What follows is my review of the 127 compared to the ETX line. I feel
fairly qualified to do this because of my two years' experience with the
ETX and my nearly three decades in the hobby. Here goes:

First, a disclaimer. We're not comparing apples to apples, exactly. The
Orion 127 is only $539, but it does not come with -- nor is there an
option for -- GOTO capability. (You can purchase a dual-axis, variable
speed drive for $119 from Orion.) However, I feel Orion has put its
money (actually China's Synta, the maker of the Starmax) into much more
important stuff like optical and mechanical quality.

Please realize that since I sold the ETXs and wound up with a Starmax,
I'm naturally biased toward the Starmax. (One does not move DOWNWARD in
this hobby!) Still, though, I'll attempt to be fair to the ETX. That
said ... read on ...

The 5 things I liked about the ETX line:

Excellent optics
Great portability
Electric slow-motion controls (I never purchased the additional-price
Great looks
Portable tripod legs (interestingly became an additional-cost "option"
on the /EC)

The 5 things I hated about the ETX line:

Poor plastic mount -- jiggles and all
Poor size and placement of finderscope
Poor quality of declination lock (continues to plague owners to this day)
Cheap flip-mirror arrangement
Meade's nickel-and-dime policy (Charging extra prices for Autostar,
tripod and carry case)

Now, here comes the Starmax. Here's what you get for $539:
127mm (5-inch) all-metal Maksutov-Cassegrain telescope tube
EQ-3 German Equatorial mount with setting circles, slow-motion cables on
both axes and polar alignment scope
Adjustable aluminum tripod with bubble level and storage tray
25mm Plossl eyepiece
1-1/4 inch mirror diagonal
Covers for front cell and eyepiece opening
6x26mm correct-image finderscope on dovetail-type removable bracket
Covers for front and rear of finderscope
Carry bag for scope (comparable to ETX additional-cost case, but with
extra zippered pockets)
All necessary tools (wrenches, screwdriver, etc.)
Instruction manual
One-year warranty
The first thing that struck me when I took the Starmax out of its box
was its heftiness. There is no plastic to be seen anywhere. The rear
cell of the telescope is metal, as is every piece of its German
Equatorial mount save the knobs. Even the tube and front and rear cells
of the supplied 6x26 finder are metal. (And BTW, the finder is mounted a
good five inches away from the tube of the telescope -- so it's very
easy to sight through without bumping into the eyepiece holder, a
complaint I had with my ETX-90. And since it's on a GEM, the scope and
mount never block use of the finder.)

The telescope came together in about a half-hour and I experienced no
difficulties. The supplied tools are all that is needed to assemble the
mount and attach the tube to it. (I do wish Orion had included knob-type
screws to attach the scope to the mount -- it would've made it much
easier to assemble in the field. However, I found a company
(www.scopestuff.com  ) that sells such knobs
for about $5 a pair. Problem solved.)

I bought the scope from Company Seven in Maryland because Company Seven
performs a free-of-charge star test and quality check on each telescope
prior to selling it. We've only had one non-rainy day since I brought it
home -- Sunday -- and I took it out and gave it a first-light look at
Jupiter, Saturn, M42, M36, M37, M38, M35, the Double Cluster and Castor.
Man, the cloud belts on Jupiter were much better than anything I ever
saw in my Meade 8-inch newtonian reflector, and for the first time in my
life I had a great view of Saturn's Cassini Division! Plus, unlike my
old newtonian, which weighed in at 75 pounds, I can -- much as I could
with the tripod-mounted ETX -- grab this thing and move it around the
yard for the best view without the lights next door getting in my way.
(The whole 35-pound package is a little heavy, but I can move the whole
thing in one piece from the house to the yard, and around the yard, as
long as I'm careful. Also, heft means stability!)

Overall, the optics seem to be of the same quality as the Meade line. No
complaints. Castor split into its two, 5-second doubles with beautiful
airy disks that touched each other. Out-of-focus images, as in my ETX,
seemed perfect. But I can't say enough for the difference an all-metal
mount makes. This scope is stable! Focusing jiggles weren't a problem
until I pushed things upward of 300x with my 9.7mm eyepiece and Meade

A few picks and praises about the Starmax:

(1) The polar alignment scope requires a lot of tweaking to get just
right -- and besides, I'm not an astrophotographer. I'll put it under
the "nice to have, probably won't use" category.

(2) The finder was a snap to align -- kudos to Orion for that two-screw
bracket! You only have to adjust X- and Y-screws, which operate against
a spring-loaded pin. Then, to remove the finder from the bracket, all
you have to do is pull out on the pin, and voila -- out comes the
finder, which you can remove later and it will "remember" its alignment!
BTW, the bracket's dovetail base is also a quick-release feature. Pull
the pin, loosen one screw, and your finder assembly is ready for packing
in its own part of the supplied carry case!  Cool!

(3) As with many Starmax 127 owners, I found that I only needed the
larger of the mount's pair of weights. (The EQ-3 mount is sold for a
number of telescopes, some heavier than the Starmax -- there's the heft
feature again -- so it comes with an additional weight. That's useful
for future add-ons.)

(4) I love the deep accessory tray in the tripod. Much bigger and deeper
than the one in the Meade #883 tripod I had for my ETX-90/EC.

(5) The focuser is a little tight, but I assume it'll loosen up with
use. (BTW, I found very, very little image shift ... even at
magnifications exceeding 250x.)

(6) The oversized thumbscrews on the diagonal were blessings for my cold
fingers when changing eyepieces.

(7) One quibble about the supplied 25mm Plossl eyepiece. While the
quality appears identical (looks like the same manufacturer, in fact),
this EP didn't come with a bottle! It was just wrapped in plastic in its
box. Meade spoiled me with those bottles!

Speaking of eyepieces, I'm using the following additional eyepieces (all
Meade Series 4000 Plossls): 40mm, 15mm and 9.7mm. Plus I have the Meade
shorty barlow (#126, is it?). Company Seven issues you a printout of
your scope's performance data which includes a handy chart showing your
magnification, with and without a 2x barlow, for many different focal
lengths of eyepieces. Very handy.

The slow-motion cables were very smooth and easy to use, even at extreme
magnifications. Using them did not induce any noticable jiggles. Orion
sells a four-speed RA drive with remote for $59.95 and a dual axis
four-speed drive with remote for $119.95. I'll probably be purchasing
the former since twisting the RA knob to keep things in view at high
power got a little boring after a while.

All in all, I would recommend the Starmax line (they also make 90mm and
102mm versions, starting at $299 with mount, case and now a SECOND free
eyepiece) over the ETX line. I realize that many purchase the ETX line
because of the GOTO capability, but from what I've read and heard, that
GOTO capability seems to be a "capability" at best -- plus you've got to
pay another 100 bucks in most cases to get it. Besides, I feel GOTO
capability takes the fun out of seeking something out and finding it for
yourself -- that's half the fun of the hobby, knowing you "discovered"
something. (Disclaimer -- yeah, yeah, those are MY opinions.)

In a nutshell, I feel the solid mounting and back-to-basics quality of
the Starmax outweigh its lack of electronic gadgetry. To me, $539 is a
steal when the comparable ETX-125 comes to more than twice that once you
buy the tripod and carrying case, and you still don't have GOTO
capability -- add on the Autostar controller and you've spent $100 more
than twice the price. (OK, I'll be fair -- to make the Starmax operate
like the ETX out of the box, you have to add on the $120 dual-axis drive
-- OK, now we're at $660 for the Starmax vs. $1100 for the non-Autostar
ETX 125.)

I am very impressed with the Starmax, and I would urge any would-be ETX
purchaser to take a hard look at it prior to making a decision.
Clear skies,
Meade in Richmond, Virginia

Subject:	Starmax photo
Sent:	Tuesday, January 8, 2002 04:28:09
From:	mdaffron@the-rma.org (Meade Daffron)
I have taken a pic of the telescope in case any of your readers want to
see what it looks like. I've attached it to this e-mail.

Return to the top of this page.

Go back to the ETX Home Page.

Copyright © 2001-2 Michael L. Weasner / etx@me.com
Submittal Copyright © 2001-2 by the Submitter
URL = http://www.weasner.com/etx/guests/guest_125ec_starmax.html