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Last updated: 16 October 2009
Subject:	ETX-LS Feedback
Sent:	Thursday, October 1, 2009 01:15:13
From:	Timothy von Nardroff (
I posted this on Amazon recently, I'm very new to astronomy and I come
at this from a regular consumer pov:

With scopes a buyer has to approach with patience and the right
expectations. There are plenty of articles out there describing what you
can expect and what types of scope you can use for different types of
viewing and it's well worth reading up on this before buying any scope.

I bought this scope because of the LightSwitch feature. This means the
onboard computer uses a combination of GPS, digital compass and pattern
recognition to figure out where the scope is and to align it so it can
find objects stored in it's Go-To database and so it can track objects
as they move across the sky. Go-To scopes without LightSwitch require
some knowledge of the location of different stars and manual alignment
steps before you can use them to locate and track objects.

The advantage of LightSwitch is that instead of slewing the scope to the
vicinity of the object you choose to view, leaving you to do final
adjustments, it will put the object in the eyepiece every time.

The other attractive features of this scope are it's portability, the
always excellent Meade optics, ACF which reduces distortion in the image
and the price which is a grand lower than the less portable 8" LX200
without LightSwitch.

Being an early adopter of this scope I have battled through a few bugs
and shortfalls in the design, but bottom line when this scope does what
Meade intended it to - and provided you have the right expectations -
it's very rewarding and very easy to use.

If you're thinking of buying this scope or you have one and it's giving
you problems you might find some points from my own experience useful:

*The scope's primary interface is fairly rudimentary - a single-line LCD
on the hand controller - and can be extremely frustrating, especially
when the scope does not seem to be functioning properly. However this
scope has an RCA video output which can be used to display additional
information: multi-line menus; status info (such as GPS signal stength);
error messages; on-board Astronomer Inside media collection. I found the
video display makes this scope *much* easier to use. You'll need to
provide your own monitor. You can buy dedicated field monitors, I use a
cheap portable NTSC DVD player with an AV-in.

*The scope can be powered by 8 C-type batteries in the internal battery
compartment. IMHO Meade should have omitted this entirely. Battery life
is short and if it goes in the middle of observing you'll have to
replace them (in the dark) and go through the alignment process all
over. Apparently though two batts in the compartment nearest the
eye-piece will ensure that internal state, like time and location, will
remain after the scope has been switched off. I use a portable 12v DC
power supply purchased for less than $100. When updating the firmware
you should use a constant power supply since this takes a while.

*The scope has an SD card slot but the manual is not entirely clear
about what type of card you need. It's actually a mini-SD card, I use a
Toshiba 2Gb MiniSD card that comes with an adaptor. It must be formatted
as FAT32. The slot for the card is a little awkward and you should use
care when inserting/removing. When upgrading the firmware of the scope
put the card in *before* switching on, When using the SD card to store
pictures insert it *after* switching the scope on - otherwise you'll
just get a blank display.

*Take the lens cap off the CCD finder carefully. Meade did tell me that
the CCD can be twisted when removing the cap which could cause it to
fail later. The computer uses the CCD finder to snap pictures of the sky
so it can locate stars for alignment, if the CCD doesn't work
LightSwitch won't work.

*Before taking the scope out it's worth testing the CCD camera to make
sure it's functioning properly. Just use the Snap and Store function
from the menu with the lenses cap off and the formatted SD card in - I
simply took snaps of the inside of my apartment - then load the SD on
your computer to view the pics.

*Heavy light pollution and clouds or other objects blocking the view of
the sky can also cause the CCD finder to fail to do it's job, make sure
you're going to use this scope in a darkish open area.

*The mount for the red-dot finder on the early models was somewhat
flimsy and the finder was prone to movement during shipping. Make sure
the red-dot finder is secured tightly with screws - as in the newer
iterations. Before taking the scope out you'll want to align the finder
by centering an object a few tens of feet away, then adjust the finder
so it points at the same object. Don't forget to switch the finder off,
if the finder battery dies it's replaceable by sliding it sideways out
of the center of the finder where it says in tiny letters "Battery".

*Some of these scopes have a problem obtaining the correct location
using GPS. These scopes shipped with firmware version 1.07 and this
problem was fixed in version 1.2g. You can download this from Meade and
save it on the SD card, insert the card and switch the scope on to

*The accompanying AutoStar software suite can be used to control your
scope from a laptop, *but* the driver is *not compatible* with Windows
Vista or Mac OSX. I use Windows XP 64bit installed on a virtual machine
(VMWare Fusion) on my Mac laptop. After the driver has been installed,
go to the hardware manager and look at the Meade USB device properties
to find the COM port it is simulating. Then in AutoStar make sure the
set the same COM port under the "Telescope" menu and away you go.

*This scope does not have an option to use an equatorial mount at this
time, so it's not practical for astrophotography with exposures longer
than maybe a minute or two. Most astrophotography requires very long
exposures *or* many shorter exposures in the same orientation - which
requires an equatorial mount. Since it is a single-fork design it's
possible there never will be an equatorial mount option or if there is
it might not be very stable.

*If your scope has the correct GPS coordinates and the CCD finder is
able to take pictures but the scope consistently fails to align this
could be due to drive inaccuracies or misalignment of the CCD finder.
There are menu options under the "Setup" menu to align the CCD finder
(Center Finder) and to train the drive.

*If you've read all the above and your scope still doesn't function
properly send it back and get a replacement. Make sure the supplier
gives you free shipment because this scope weighs 30lbs without the

In summary employing a video monitor and 12v DC power supply and going
over as much verification of the scope before heading out can mean the
difference between an extremely disappointing/frustrating night out in
the cold and a fantastic rewarding journey through the Universe.

Go back to the User Observations page.

Go back to my ETX Home Page.

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