Last updated: 12 January 2007
Subject: DS-2102 AT-TC Review Sent: Wednesday, January 10, 2007 22:33:09 From: Michael Magras (firstname.lastname@example.org) Perhaps the following will be of some value to those contemplating the purchase of this model. I saw this Meade refractor with a 4" diameter objective, motor drive and computer "go-to" control selling for about $200 at Costco. It has relatively large aperture (for a department store scope), it's cheap and, if purchased at Costco, can be returned. I purchased it on a lark to check it out. Overall, I found it to be a worthwhile, usable starter scope, though it has many weaknesses. Assembly and set was relatively quick and easy. The instructions included a photo for just about every step. Alignment of the finder to the telescope was complicated by the huge amount of slop in the adjustment screws of the supplied "red dot" laser finder, but once aligned it held alignment and was easy to use. Two "Series 4000 DS Super Plossl China" eyepieces are included, a 26mm and 9.7mm, which, with the scope's 800mm focal length, yield about 30x and 82x respectively. The relatively low magnifications are a good choice since they allow objects to be found more easily, and produce clearer & brighter images. The eyepieces have good eye relief. The included diagonal mirror is made entirely of plastic except, perhaps, for the mirror itself, which is probably plate glass. It is functional. The tripod and mount are just adequate for the (light) weight of this telescope. The computer control and drive unit work. The "Easy Align" procedure is, in fact, pretty easy. It's a two-star alignment so, once aligned, the computer does a pretty good job of pointing the scope to the selected object, usually within the field of the low-power, 26mm eyepiece. The 4" diameter objective lens up front makes objects relatively bright compared to most competing department store scopes, which usually feature 2-3" diameter objectives. The bright, wide-field images, combined with the ability to select an object and have the computer point the scope at it make it easy to view a wide variety of objects. The computer has a 30,000+ object database and many other capabilities. These can be used to learn a lot about the planets, moon, comets, star cluster, and so on. The computer will even point out the constellations. On the down side, this equipment is all made in China. The focuser is terrible and will be a source of immediate and probably continuing frustration. It's entirely made of plastic and tends to stick and jump, making precise focusing very difficult. Again, thankfully, the supplied eyepieces keep magnifications low so, with patience, it is possible to achieve acceptable focus. The objective lens appears to be anti-reflection coated and seems to be of reasonable performance. The eyepieces are ok but I doubt the supplied versions are equal in quality to the Series 4000 eyepieces advertised on the Meade website. As mentioned before, the mount and drive unit are barely adequate to carry the weight of the scope as it comes from the factory. Any upgrades (better eyepiece, diagonal, focuser, etc.) will add weight because you'll be replacing plastic components with metal ones. The drive will carry the weight of an upgraded eyepiece and diagonal, but not the weight of a good focuser. I tried and was rewarded with a slipping azimuth clutch and bogging motor. Comparatively, it seems to me that the DS 2102 AT-TC offers a larger aperture but very low-quality, marginal construction, while the domestically-produced similarly-sized & priced Meade scopes have smaller aperture but are better constructed and include higher quality components. Mike Magras Tucson, AZ
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