Last updated: 13 December 2001

Sent:	Tuesday, November 13, 2001 16:24:50
From: (Paul)
Meade DS2130 Review  (Part 1):

I had first seen the new series DS2130 at a local Wal-Mart a couple of
months ago. What caught my eye was the single arm mount typical of what
Celestron has used for some time now. When I returned home I searched
the internet for hours looking for any information on this new Telescope
but found none. Two months later I searched again and only found some
blurbs in the news groups from others also seeking info on this new
scope. Knowing my curiosity on this, and Wal-Mart's generous return
policy, I decided to buy this $350 Department Store grade telescope and
see what it was all about.

My comparisons would be against the older DS series and, of mechanics
and design, against the ETX series.

When unpacking the scope I had expected to see a lot of plastic  and
other poorly fitting pieces as is typical of scopes in this low price
class. What I had found was a different story.

The metal scope tube itself housed a 5.1" mirror on a 3 point adjustable
and vented mirror mount. The 3 main mirror adjustment screws were
Philips head types as are those on the secondary mirror mount making for
very easy collimation with no special tools. Three additional thumb type
locking screws were also used to help keep the main mirror locked in
place after collimation. Although the focuser draw tube is chrome plated
plastic, it is placed in a rather robust mounting. Metal rack and pinion
gearing and a very well placed tensioning/lock screw made for very
precise and wobble free focusing, much better than I had seen on most
low end scopes. Unfortunately, the focuser only had adapters to support
.96 and 2" eyepieces. Meade will mail you a 1 1/4" adapter free of
charge for the asking. The 5 X 24 finder scope is mounted in a plastic
but very ridged stalk having adjustment screws at both ends. The finders
optics were very clear and distortion free as compared to the older DS
series. A rubber eyecup and tall position makes for very comfortable
viewing and adjustment. Dust covers for both the main tube and focuser
are included. I expected the 3 included eyepieces would be total junk as
in other low end scopes but again were surprised to see they were of
very good quality. The barrels were of chrome plated metal with rubber
eyecups included. They provided excellent, distortion free imaging, not
quite that of the Meade 3000 series but excellent for beginners and
public viewing. They are the .96 dia type.

Of great interest to me (and others) was the single arm mounting so
untypical of Meade. I was mostly interested in how it would handle
tracking and goto accuracy provided by the #494 Autostar, better than
the older DS series hopefully. Again I expected a flimsy plastic mount
not nearly capable of supporting a 6" X 38" long Newtonian tube
assembly. When removing it from the packaging I first noticed the weight
and solid feel. This thing is not plastic, but an aluminum casting from
top to base. The only plastic found were the covers protecting the
electronics and battery cover. It had the look and feel of a very well
made, well designed system. No visible screws or holes seen anywhere,
proving that someone  had put some thought into this design. The mount
somewhat resembled an ETX mount with one arm, including setting circles
ETX style found at both axis. Simple assembly required only that the
aluminum telescope tube clamp (inside half) be screwed to an aluminum
counter piece in the arm with 4 Philips type screws, and the finder
scope be attached to the optical tube. The outer half of the tube clamp
is made of a ridged plastic material and hinged at the bottom for easy
tube removal.

The older DS series showed considerable slop on it's Altitude axis and
is one thing that contributed to poor goto accuracy. The older system
also used very small (about 1" dia) ring gears on the Alt. and Azm. main
shafts which further decreases accuracy (compare this with the 4.9" ring
gears on the LX90). This new mount, although not utilizing axis shaft
ball bearings, uses a very precise bushed system which seems self
tensioning to reduce any play to a minimum. The ring gears are nearly 3
inches in diameter and made of a very strong phenolic type material
being  over 1/4" thick at the gear end and widening at the center hub
with embossed ribs added for strength. The mating worm gear is of the
same material. The rest of the drive system is more robust and stronger
then it's predecessor and ETX. The drive motors seem larger and the
encoders are better sealed from dust and dirt. The ring-worm gear mesh
is self loading and requires no adjustment. The 8 AA battery pack is
hidden inside of the mounting at the top of the base and the only
exposed wiring is the cord to the Autostar. No cord wrap problems as in
the older DS scopes. The motors are somewhat noisier then the previous
DS or ETX.

The all metal mount base (which contains the azimuth drive assembly)
sits neatly in a mating all metal cup type holder which also serves as
the tripods head. The tripod legs are attached directly to this cup
holder. The azimuth axis is rotated by moving the entire telescope and
mount within the mating tripod head by loosening the lock screw at the
bottom of the tripod head. The mount has 3 Teflon pads at it's bottom
and the cup has 3 small flanges at the sides to allow a wobble free and
smooth rotating motion. The altitude axis can be unlocked from the drive
by turning a large knob on the side of the mount arm as with the ETX. 
The aluminum tripod itself utilizes a 3 point spider halfway down the
legs to stiffen up and help support the legs. A plastic tray which holds
the eyepieces and Autostar is mounted to one of the spiders arms. The
spider is locked into position by turning a center knob a quarter turn.
With this, the whole system breaks down into 3 main parts within
seconds. Turn one knob to open the clamp and remove the tube assembly,
unscrew the large knob under the tripod head to remove the arm mount and
last, turn the spider lock knob 1/4 turn and lift to close the legs. The
tray does not need to be removed.

The included #494 Autostar utilizes the later version 11ec firmware and
so has most of the capabilities of it's bigger brothers with only a
smaller database. I am use to using the larger #497 model but found this
smaller unit to be easier to handle and almost simpler in operation.
This proven device undoubtedly adds value to the system.

The Wal-Mart Package comes with a bonus Meade #7165 CCD eyepiece.
Powered by an internal 9V battery it is very compact and fits into the
eyepiece focuser. There is a single knob to turn it off and on and
adjust the contrast (sensitivity). This Black & white CMOS based CCD is
a very elementary type of imager utilizing a video output only. It is 
to be used with a portable TV or camcorder with video input. It does not
connect to your computer (unless you have a video capture card) and
provides real time video imaging as a TV camera would (no still images).
Advertising claims imaging is possible of the moon, planets and stars. I
don't believe this unit to be sensitive enough to capture the light of
dim planets and stars but will still be of interest to those wishing to
get their feet wet in CCD astronomy. I will report on it's capabilities
after testing in the near future.

Also bundled is a version of Starry Night Basic and is a very useful and
entertaining planetarium program.

The Meade DS2130 was much more than I expected. It is not a toy  but a
well designed and fully functional imaging system. It's components,
although not stellar, are well made and very functional. The optics are
on par with any good to high quality scope as far as my preliminary
testing has shown.

Due to weather conditions, I have not yet been able to test the scope
fully under the stars. Goto accuracy is yet to be proven and is of my
most concern. However, if this well built system works as well as it is
designed then it's $350 price tag including the Autostar will be a
bargain and may also end the bad reputation of the department store

I would place this scope in the intermediate category and above the
beginner class. It should be great fun at star parties and for general
viewing. It will not be going back to Wal-Mart.


Sent:	Monday, December 10, 2001 15:23:27
From: (Paul)
Meade DS2130 Review  (Part 2):

Clear weather gave me an opportunity to test the scopes optics and
automation. The infamous star test showed an airy disk with seven or
eight evenly spaced defraction rings on both side of focus, a better
pattern than my ETX 90. No spikes or rough surface indicated and images
seem to pop into focus when racking the draw tube in and out. The
supplied 25mm eyepiece gave a slight distortion at the extreme edges but
was overall acceptable. The supplied eyepieces (25mm, 12.5mm & 4mm) are
threaded for filters and have rubber cups attached. The double cluster
gave tight pin points of light and was in complete view using the
supplied 25mm eyepiece. Images had good contrast for a Newtonian even in
my light polluted sky. When the 1 1/4" focuser adapter comes in I will
report on optic performance using the higher quality Super Plossel 4000
series eyepieces. Since outdoor and indoor temps were nearly identical I
had know way of testing the damp out time. Being a metal tube with a
vented primary mirror would suggest quick acclimation to it's

The one (and only) problem I had with the scope was with the altitude
percentage (backlash) adjustment which had no effect no mater what it
was set at. Slow speed slews moving up and down would take several
seconds before the scope would actually move. The azimuth adjustment
worked fine and seemed best set at 35%. Trying my #497 Autostar fixed
the problem indicating a possible programming error in the supplied #494
Autostar. Since the 494 requires a different computer interface cable
(#506 vs #505) I could not reload or upgrade the firmware to attempt a

After initial set up and alignment, as required by Meade's Autostar, all
objects selected fell within the area of view of the 25mm eyepiece. Goto
precision was on par or better for a scope of this class being about
equal to the ETX series and much better than the previous DS series.
Goto's were much improved when enabling the high precision mode offered
by the Autostar. Objects were nearly centered every time in this mode
and accuracy remained consistent for the several hours of use. No
re-alignments were needed. However, as with most of the Alt/Az mounts I
have tested, objects near the zenith gave the Autostar the hardest time
in centering, even in high precision mode. As expected, focusing with
high powered eyepieces proved difficult because of the less than solid
support offered by the light weight tripod. Most other vibrations damped
out in less than 1.5 seconds and things remained steady even in a
breeze. The optional electronic focuser would be a welcomed first add-on
for this scope.

Taking the telescope from indoors to out was an easy operation. I would
first loosen the axis locks and rotate the tube so I could point it
straight up. I would then unlock the tripod spider and close the legs.
The assembly was then long and narrow making it easy to carry. It seems
that the 38" long optical tube is pushing the mechanical limits of this
single arm mount. A model 2130s is mentioned in the manual as a short
version of this scope (18" long tube vs 38") having the same 5", F7.9
optics. This may be a better choice over the long tube version but there
may be a compromise in the optics if a barlow is built into the focuser
to achieve the same F ratio. I have found no other information on the
availability of the 2130s.

Return to the top of this page.

Go back to the ETX Home Page.

Copyright © 2001 Michael L. Weasner /
Submittal Copyright © 2001 by the Submitter