Meade LX200R 10 inch Telescope Review

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by Art Stithem

I am relatively new to amateur astronomy. I’ve had a Meade ETX-125 for about 6 years, but it is only within the last 2 years that actually I found time to use it. Although it is a very capable telescope for its size, I wanted a bigger light bucket that was better suited for deep sky objects. I spent several months investigating all the available telescopes in my planned price range, but couldn’t really make a decision. I was seriously considering the LX200 model, although I was concerned about the weight. Then in January Meade announced the LX200R with Ritchey-Chrétien optics. I immediately placed my order for the 10-inch UHTC version, and waited.
The telescope arrived approximately 6 weeks after I ordered it. It came by ground delivery in two boxes, one for the OTA/fork unit, and one for the tripod. Both boxes appeared to be undamaged, although the box with the tripod produced enough rattling noise when handled that it made both the delivery driver and my wife nervous.

I unpacked the tripod box first, and to my relief I found there was no damage. The noise was due to the inner segments of each leg rattling within the outer segment. Installing the lock knobs in each leg eliminated the rattling.

The OTA and fork assembly were double boxed and packed in close fitting foam. The OTA was wrapped in plastic and tissue paper. Special compartments in the foam cushion contained boxes and bags with the hand control unit, cord, microfocuser, finder scope and bracket, 5000 series Plössl 26mm eyepiece, 1.25? star diagonal, users manual, and software CD.

Although the foam was sealed in plastic, a few places had torn or worn through, and foam particles were clinging to the OTA/fork assembly. Otherwise it appeared to be pristine.

Outwardly the LX200R is identical to the LX200. The base unit is labeled as an LX200GPS. The only indication this is the LX200R is the red “R? after the LX200 under the Meade name on the sides of the optical tube, and the “ADVANCED RITCHEY-CHRÉTIEN? sticker on the corrector plate ring.

I definitely had reason to be concerned about the weight with this model. The 10-inch version weighs 64 pounds, which is a lot for a telescope that is intended to be portable. Although there are two handles on the front and back sides of the forks, they are not well positioned to be of much use. I find the best way to lift it is by grasping the bottom of each fork, near the base unit.

I had heard about the infamous first light curse, but I was plagued with an especially bad case. The weather was bad for the first 10 days after I received the scope. While I was waiting I replaced standard 1.25-inch diagonal with a 2-inch diagonal, and changed the steel eyepiece screws on the micro-focuser to brass screws. I didn’t want my expensive diagonal and other accessories marred by the steel screws. In a telescope this expensive I would have expected a brass compression ring in the micro-focuser instead of straight-through steel screws. When the weather finally did clear it was still turbulent and hazy, so I wasn’t able to experience the full visual capability of the scope on the first night out.

Setting up the LX200R was reasonably straight forward. When it was first turned on, it identified itself as an LX200 GPS, displayed the customary “Welcome to Autostar? message, and then went to the Automatic Alignment start message. Based on my experience with the ETX, I skipped the automatic alignment the first time. Instead I updated the Autostar II software to the latest version (4.0l) and performed the calibration and drive training functions. After completing those activities I restarted the telescope and initiated the automatic alignment process. It took about 3 minutes to determine its home position, level, true north, and GPS-fix. After those initial steps it proceeded with a two star alignment. In each case the predicted position was off by about 10°. After correcting the alignment for each star and completing the alignment process, I was somewhat concerned with how accurate the pointing would be.

The last star in the alignment process was Rigel, so my first selected target was the glorious Orion nebula, something that had only been little more than a smudge and some stars in my ETX-125. The LX200R made a short shift east and north, and there it was, perfectly centered in the 21 mm eyepiece. Despite the slight haze in the atmosphere, the view was outstanding. Perhaps it was just because I had never seen it through a telescope of this size before, but I was astounded by the detail and contrast. After admiring Orion for several minutes, I chose my next target, the stately Lord of the Rings, Saturn. Once again, the target was centered in the eyepiece. Despite the haze at least 3 moons and the Cassini Division were visible. I was only able to admire Saturn for a short while before the wind picked up and it became necessary to retreat.

I’ve been asked by several people about how much of a difference the Ritchey-Chrétien optics make. I can’t answer that question directly because of my limited experience with this scope and other scopes of this size. However, as I understand it, the Ritchey-Chrétien optics will provide a flatter field for astrophotography but won’t make much difference visually.

It has been two weeks since I was able to use the LX200R, and I’m still waiting for the weather to improve again. I know this telescope will provide a lifetime of enjoyment, if the weather will ever cooperate.

Pros:

  • Sturdy construction.
  • Advanced features (mirror lock, electronic micro-focuser, auto-level, GPS).
  • Remarkable pointing accuracy.
  • Excellent brightness and contrast.

Cons:

  • Steel micro-focuser screws. I replaced these with brass screws.
  • Automatic alignment can’t seem to accurately locate north on its own. This could be due to a local magnetic anomaly. I’ll know for sure after I try it at different locations.
  • The 1.25-inch diagonal disappointing for a scope of this capability. I replaced it with a 2-inch diagonal.
  • Heavy for portable use.
  • Case options are limited. Two of the three that I could find are soft cases that use the packing foam that came with the scope. I settled on the hard case with custom foam.

I have no affiliation with Meade Instruments Corporation, or any other business that manufactures, sells, or advertises astronomical equipment.

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