Subject: ETX-LS Feedback Sent: Thursday, October 1, 2009 01:15:13 From: Timothy von Nardroff (email@example.com) 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 upgrade. *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 tripod. 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.
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