Last updated: 19 February 2007
Subject: First Impressions, ETX-125PE Blue Tube UHTC Sent: Friday, February 16, 2007 07:05:15 From: Littell, Charles C CIV USAF 88 CG/SCCV (Charles.Littell@WPAFB.AF.MIL) I have edited the text below to reflect info received from Meade customer service. Neither the hard case nor the dew shield fits the new vertical-finder model. Meade showed "no case available" in their records, but were still showing the standard 125 dew shield as compatible (wrong). My replacement scope turned up in perfect condition, yea. Chas =================================== Hi Mike: This is Chas, your Dayton wingman, here. FIRST IMPRESSIONS ETX-125PE UHTC Blue Tube: My new 125PE (Meade model 0515-03-55) arrived, not just with solid clouds but also 12 inches of heavy snow. If only the rainmakers of yesteryear had known this technique. Years ago I read a science fiction story about an android who wrote his android buddies to say he had met the last biological human on earth. When the human complained of the desert heat, the android attempted to service his thermostat, with fatal results. "Humans are different" he concluded. Similarly I conclude that this ETX is different, and I recommend nothing be taken for granted in regard to the documentation based on prior instruments. My PE has a small one-piece SmartFinder, with a pretty colored AR coated optic mounted vertically on top. The Meade dew shield I purchased doesn't fit, the threads on the end of the my optical tube being slightly oversized. They only offer one for the 125's, and customer service thinks it should fit (wrong.) With no proper shield on the market, I may add some tape to the threads temporarily to make it functional. And the hard case also does not have clearance for the vertical finder. Meade customer service is currently advising that there is no hard case for this model (at least they updated their info on that.) It looks like yes, the "red dot" will shift slightly against the background as you shift your view off-center in the optic, but so slightly that this shouldn't be an issue. I suspect that there is a "sweet spot" distance behind the finder, from where the background will appear to stay fixed in aspect to the dot-this is a thought as I am writing, I have not explored the issue. Once I get some clear night skies, I will find out how easy it will be to keep my view in the finder centered, which would make it a total non-issue. I have a stock of phosphor glow adhesive tape, hmmm. Bad news, the scope arrived with a fractured SmartFinder mount (dang that mount looks fragile for the overhanging finder/LNT module!) I purchased thru Adorama Camera ($999), and Mike Peoples at Adorama quickly agreed to replace the entire scope. Hopefully I will have the replacement before I leave on vacation next week, otherwise I will have a very expensive manual scope on the trip (well, maybe duct tape and sensor cal would work.) My initial impression is that Adorama is very nicely customer oriented, and competitive as well (B&H and other Meade dealers are mostly clinging to the ~$1200 price for the new Blue Tube 125PE UHTC). I decided against the option of getting parts thru Meade and tinkering to replace the finder mount. I have run through all the menu items (well, most), and I am VERY impressed at how intuitive the menu structure functions--my first AutoStar experience. It is much easier to walk thru with the control than it is to understand when reading about it. The automatic LNT sensor alignment always points to the same general area of my living room ceiling, so it must be accurate. Everything seems to function exactly as advertised, very impressive. And it's slightly more portable than my 8" Orion Dob (please see eBay seller 'gavelgroup' in the coming weeks if you need one!) The AutoStar Suite and video DVD crashed my desktop computer instead of downloading, grr, probably a bad DVD driver in my computer. My laptop performed perfectly downloading the software, but the scope came with an RS-232 cord, grr again, I guess I will spring for the $40 Meade-approved USB adapter to connect the AutoStar to the laptop (many postings on your site discuss other brands suffering compatibility problems.) Regardless, the 25 minute download of ver 43ed from the Meade site through my desktop to the AutoStar was effortless. The paper manual may undergo revisions from my copy, but there are a number of things that would trap the unaware. The backlash ratio adjustment is woefully described, I will have to read your tips on that when I get a chance. Much of the text is written without technical explanation, as if to a 12-year-old level of understanding. I guess this is job security for you. The manual sounds like a gem dealer I tried to buy rubies from once--I wanted to know exactly how the gems are graded for flaws, clarity, color, etc, and his explanation was "You need to pick the one that speaks to you." Right. The menu tree is incomplete in the book, missing "Automatic" alignment modes, perhaps others. And the alignment instructions are contradictory to both themselves and the software help files. My manual is in many ways a competent reference, but in too many other ways just plain wrong! I haven't checked the Meade website to see if similar problems are in the versions available there. Finally, while practicing indoors as the snow flew outside, I noticed a slight catch when I manually rotated the R.A. (horizontal) axis. Later, I found the horizontal axis was trapped in a less-than 360 degree rotation, half the normal freedom of motion. After unlocking and fumbling the rotation manually again, I felt the same snag a few times, and finally realized that this must be an intermittently ineffective end-of-travel stop. Something must be loose in the innards. This one will be packed up for return anyway, so I am not too concerned, but I hope the replacement doesn't develop similar issues. It would presumably be easy to get the axis past the point where wires would be twisted off internally, though currently the unit is again functioning correctly. In summary, I can't imagine being happier for the money. In fact, I am amazed at the value for the dollar. First light will confirm the alignment and tracking accuracy and optical quality. All indications, and input from current ETX owners, leaves me expecting the best. My lessons learned are to beware the model redesign issues, handle the instrument like a Christmas ornament, and be prepared to treat the manual with a grain of salt. Charles Littell, Dayton, OH, USA Feb 2007
OK, now I'm confused. Clear skies (10 degrees F of course) gave me a chance to calibrate sensors. Every time, Polaris ended up off by oh 15 degrees. Vertical, dead on. Finally in frozen desparation I set Daylight Savings to "ON", and that calibration brought Polaris dead on. Has foreign aid reached the gods? Chas
I apologize for the worst email etiquitte, I pestered you without thinking things through first. My email suggested that "Daylight Savings" setting was what corrected my Cal Sensors Polaris alignment. This is illogical, since polaris never moves--~! Further, the LNT provides factory-set Zulu time. So, adjusting Daylight Savings must only affect the *displayed* time for my longitude (confusing since non-LNT models would work differently!) This has me worried, why did my sensor cal misbehave, after motor cal and gear training? The only factors I suspect are possible failure to set the home position tripod orientation "west of north", and/or failure to level the OTA (not supposed to be required, but I noticed the most erratic results when the OTA was farthest from level.) For now, I won't argue with success...even if I don't understand it. Thanks for all--Chas
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