Last updated: 22 June 2005
Subject: New ETX-125PE, one bad LNT, but amazing views! Sent: Monday, June 20, 2005 11:31:20 From: Peter Chenoweth (PeterChenoweth@mailblocks.com) Long time viewer (since I bought my ETX-70 4 years ago), but first time emailer. I purchased an ETX-125PE this weekend and I just had to share my story. With all the tales of bad LNT's and funky slewing problems, I thought maybe I could help others like me who were hungry for information on this scope. I hope this isn't too long.... I have been seriously considering purchasing an Orion 127mm Mak or am 8" Dob for several weeks, spending hours on the 'net trying to find reviews or comparisons of these vs. the ETX 90/105/125. I really wanted a scope that could do double duty as a very good terrestrial scope, so the Dob was pretty much out. I had been pretty happy with my ETX-70, so I wasn't really itching to leave the Meade line. I just didn't know if the ETX-90 would be that much of an upgrade to what I had, and didn't know if the 125 would pass the WAF/B (Wife Acceptance Factor/Budget) test. So I recently sold my ETX-70, and armed with a little extra budget money I found myself standing at a local shop that sells Meade telescopes. I was the only one in the shop, so we talked at length about the ETX-90 vs. the ETX-105 vs. the ETX-125 scopes, as well as some of the other Meade offerings. He made me an offer I could refuse on an ETX-125PE, which brought the price down close enough to the budget range to make it happen. So, the rest is history. Carefully unpacked everything when I got home and then immediately hit the web to read any stories, helpful hints, or warnings on putting this thing together. I was extremely careful of the LNT and the SmartScope installation, as I know that can be a source of problems. Assembled everything and it seemed to work ,except as so many reported, no red dot in the SmartScope. After over an hour of fiddling, adjusting, and taking part of the LNT apart to check things I determined that there was something wrong with the tiny fiber-optic cable that emits the red light. Mine turned on, but even on intensity 14 it was barely visible in a pitch-black room, and I mean barely visible when looking right down the cable, not at the SmartScope. The little fiber optic cable was actually protruding from the LNT by about 1/8 inch, and that didn't seem right. One accidental brush and it would be snapped off. Perhaps that's what has happened anyway. Since that Smartscope isn't really required for the thing to work, and there's nothing I could do about it anyway, I took it outside for a surprisingly (for a telescope-purchase night) clear night sky. I trained the drives in the dark by pointing at a neighbors potted plant on their front porch that was illuminated by a street light. As I adjusted the controls, I could tell that this scope was going to be amazing. I could see details in the petals, even at night, that were quite amazing. So with a freshly trained scope, I set out to do some stargazing from my overly-lit (gotta talk to that neighbor about their backyard lights...) back yard in a town of 20,000. I'm familiar with the AutoStar alignment procedure, so that worked just fine for me. I did somehow miss the part in the manual about parking the scope all the way counter-clockwise in the mount before you start. That's important!! The first time it hit the stops trying to slew to Arcturus, I knew something was wrong and quickly discovered my error. My first surprise was when I punched in my zip code it just sat and beeped "NOT FOUND", until I powered off and back on again. Punched in the zip code for the city of 100,000, 30 miles away and it worked just fine. The slewing picked Arcturus again, which was (of course) directly behind a giant oak tree. I just hit ok on the alignment, throwing caution to the wind. The second star was Vega, easily found by me but not by the scope. It was several degrees off, but in the general area. Manually slew to Vega and got a successful alignment. Jupiter beckoned from high in the west, so I thought that a good a target as any. I knew from the first glimpse of Jupiter that this scope (or it's replacement for the bad LNT) was a keeper. Cloud bands really popped, and the moons were simply stunning. I could definitely make out the differences in color and albedo between the moons. Something I was not readily able to do with the 70. After about 5 minutes I did notice that the scope wasn't keeping up with Jupiter, requiring small burst of correction every now and then. I chocked it up to not finding Arcturus correctly. After 10-15 minutes of Jovian enjoyment, I headed over to the most beckoning target, the moon. Wow. Not since looking through the big 10-12 inch scopes back in college have I seen the moon look that great. Lots of depth to the image, with some beautiful shadows falling into craters along the terminator. Decided it was time for one last test for the night, the easy double, Alberio. Slewing was a little bit off, and it took some time to locate it after slewing, but I did find it eventually. Very nice. I've never seen this much of a color difference before. Nice orange and steel blue. Absolutely no abberations when focusing, and out-of-focus stars are a nice perfect donut - I think that means everything is aligned well. I'm not an expert, but this scope is impressive! So the next day I called the owner and explained the situation. Rather than deal with Meade he said to just bring it back and he'll exchange it for a different scope. So I did. He mentioned that he's gotten 3 or 4 of these back for the same problem. The second scope features the LNT with the steel metal lock-screw in the front, as well as the three black adjustment screws. The other one didn't. It just the two adjustment screws. From looking at the comments here that appears to be the older style, right? I was worried with this one too because that little fiber optic cable was also sticking out of the LNT, by about 1/16 inch. Seems to me that these cables should be tucked inside the LNT, and not poking out to be bent or broken. Is that the way others' scopes are? I noticed that the ETX-90PE at the shop also had about a 1/16th of fiber optic cable sticking out from the LNT, but the ETX-125PE on display at the store did not. Anyway, this new ETX-125PE's SmartFinder works perfectly. The light is very bright and immediately fell on the SmartFinder lens. To put it into perspective, the first scopes' LED brightness on 14 was equal to this new scope's brightness on 1. 5 minutes later and I had it perfectly zeroed in. I didn't know how useful this would be until I got outside last night. Holy cow! What a difference!! This thing is a breeze to align, and tonight I set up in a place where both Arcturus and Vega were visible. This second scope seems to align better, as it was remarkably close to finding the alignment stars completely on its own. This time I aligned successfully and for the rest of the evening the scope snapped everything into view. Even with the 12.5mm eyepiece, it could slew from one side of the sky to the other and repeatedly put Jupiter dead-center. Impressive!!! Tracking was almost perfect. 10 minutes on Jupiter with a 12.5 and it was still in the viewfinder. Moved slightly, but still in there. That's good enough for me, and I had not trained the drives in this one yet. Enjoyed about two hours of ooh and ahhs until the haze rolled in enough to start seriously degrading the views. Seriously happy with this scope! Someone made a comment that they didn't thing the SmartFinder was useful because as you move your head, the dot moves. True, but what you're looking at moves too! Try it during the evening on some distant object. As your head moves, the red dot moves too - it works exactly like it should and stays right on the object. I can manually move the scope around the sky and place the SmartFinder on stars without even looking through the scope and the scope can identify them correctly. It's that accurate. So all in all, I'm very impressed. I should be, as these aren't cheap scopes. There is still that sense of, "sheesh, I just spent 4 times the cost of my ETX-70 on this thing", but it seems to be worth it. I hope to get out to some darker skies later in the week and really put this thing through its paces, but for now, I'm quite happy. Do you have any advice about accessories? I had a scopetronix flex-focuser for my ETX-70, and I'm thinking that I'll need a new one. But is the electronic focuser worth it? I have a pretty strong eyeglasses prescription, but prefer to view without glasses. So its always a constant focusing battle when my wife or friends want to view. What about the LNT Time update module? I'm aligning just about perfectly now, do these make the initial alignment even better? Thanks for running such a wonderful site. Peter ChenowethMike here: I thought the new LNT module had fewer adjustment knobs. The SmartFinder LNT does stick out a little bit (at least on mine). As to focusing, an electric focuser is handy to avoid creating vibrations but a flexible focus cable or even a clothes pin attached to the focus knob can do almost the same thing.
Right, I thought from your site that the fewer knobs meant a newer LNT. My second has more knobs but is working better. I do have another question that I wonder if you would be willing to help with... How do other's ETX-125 slewing motors sound? Mine definitely has a cyclical whine as slews in either axis. The batteries are brand new duracells. It sounds like the motors are under a different load as the scope moves, and it's not related to raising or lowering the scope. So I get a very distinct wheee-(then decreasing pitch)-whoooo-(then increasing pitch back)-wheee (repeat) noise as I slew. The cycle occurs on a roughly 45 degree cycle. So, for instance, pointing north and rotating clockwise with the scope level, at 20 degrees the motor is starting to decrease in pitch, at 25 degrees it's the lowest in pitch and sounding like they're straining the most, by 30 the pitch is coming back up, and by NE (45) it's back up to the highest pitch. The cycle then repeats. The scope doesn't appear to slow down, nor does the display dim, and I'm probably exaggerating just how large of a pitch change is occurring, but the motors do sound more strained. I ask this because my old ETX-70 pretty much sounded the same as it moved, but the 125 is quite a bit heavier. I also don't remember the first ETX-125PE that I had doing this. At least, not to this level. The pitch change is roughly the same as the pitch change between slewing up vs. slewing down. Is there something wrong with the scope? Should I return it and exchange it for yet another one? Do I just need to buy an AC adapter? What do you think, oh great ETX expert? ;-) Thanks so much, Peter ChenowethMike here: The drives in my ETX-105PE do sound different than in my original model ETX-125EC. But in my case I don't assume that's a problem indicator.
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