Wednesday, 25 March 2020

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Friday, 24 January 2020

Meade’s 10-inch LX600-ACF Telescope - Sky & Telescope review

Review by Dennis di Cicco first published in Sky & Telescope magazine, May 2016.

The value of the LX600 comes as much from its timing as from its advanced technology.

Fork-Mounted Schmidt-Cassegrain telescopes have been around for more than half a century. That’s a sobering thought for those of us who vividly remember the first advertisements for them appearing in the pages of this magazine in the 1960s and their popularity growing almost explosively after Celestron introduced an attractively priced 8-inch model a few years later. By the early ’80s Meade too was building Schmidt-Cassegrains, and the familiar silhouettes of stubbytube, fork-mounted telescopes were ubiquitous along the skyline at every star party large and small. Schmidt-Cassegrains were the telescope to own whether your interests lay in visual observing, astrophotography, or both.

Frequent improvements, especially ones made for astrophotographers, occurred as Celestron and Meade volleyed design tweaks back and forth vying for market share, all the while keeping the telescopes priced within the reach of many amateurs. Nevertheless as the 20th century drew to a close and digital imaging replaced traditional film-based astrophotography, Schmidt-Cassegrains surrendered much of their dominance to optical designs, albeit expensive ones, better able to cover large digital sensors corner to corner with quality star images. 

While it has the outward appearance of the fork mounted Schmidt-Cassegrain telescopes that have served several generations of amateur astronomers, Meade’s new LX600-ACF line has state-of-the-art optics and electronics in a newly engineered telescope and mount that have been designed for deep-sky astrophotography. For several months last year, the author tested this 10-inch LX600-ACF from the driveway of his suburban-Boston home.

Economics played a role, since astrophotographers able to afford large-format CCD cameras were also the ones able to afford expensive telescopes. High-end astrophotography was shifting to an elite group of individuals who had significant sums to spend on their hobbies. At first blush, it looked like deep-sky astrophotography’s love affair with Schmidt-Cassegrains was ending.

But times change, and now there are moderately priced DSLR cameras that perform exceptionally well under the night sky. As such, these cameras are making top-notch, long-exposure astrophotography once again something that falls within the budgets of many amateurs. And that’s fuelling a market for reasonably priced telescopes that work well for deep-sky photography.

Enter Meade’s new line of 10- to 16-inch LX600 telescopes. Designed specifically for deep-sky imaging, the LX600 series is everything that the previous generation of Schmidt-Cassegrain astrophotographers dreamed about and then some. And after months of testing a 10-inch model that we borrowed from the manufacturer for this review, I can confidently say that it’s the best telescope of its type that I’ve yet tested for astrophotography.

First the Basics

Meade touts “revolutionary new technology” for its LX600 scopes, but even the newest technology involved — StarLock’s automatic, full-time autoguiding — is a few years old. But that’s a good thing, since it means that it’s innovation that’s already survived the test of time. What is new, however, is how all this technology is wrapped in updated hardware designed from the get-go as a platform for long-exposure astrophotography. Here’s a quick look at the LX600’s major features.

Optics. Meade avoids calling the LX600 a Schmidt-Cassegrain, using instead the acronym ACF for Advanced Coma-Free optics after a change the company introduced to the traditional Schmidt-Cassegrain optical design more than a decade ago. In addition to being photographically faster than the original f/10 Schmidt-Cassegrain design (which Meade still offers in its other telescope lines), the f/8 ACF produces nice, round star images across full-frame DSLR cameras. My review of Meade’s then-new design, which was introduced under the moniker RCX but later changed to ACF, appears in this magazine’s February 2006 issue (page 78), and includes side-by-side comparison images made with 12-inch versions of the original f/10 and new f/8 optical systems. There’s no question that the ACF optics perform better for deep-sky photography.

The LX600 optical-tube assembly (OTA) has an improved mounting system for the primary mirror that virtually eliminates image shift as you focus the instrument. And there’s now a very smooth, dual-speed focuser that aids with critical focusing. But achieving precise focus, which is paramount for maximum imaging performance, still requires a delicate touch on the fine-focus knob, and many astrophotographers will want to use an optional electric focuser (models are available from Meade and other manufacturers).

Tripod, X-Wedge, and mount. While outwardly similar to other Meade scopes, especially the LX200 line, the LX600 is substantially more robust. Simply put, the 10-inch model I tested is the most stable 10- to 12-inch fork-mounted scope I’ve yet reviewed, with the possible exception of Meade’s long-discontinued 12-inch RCX400. And stability is what helps make the LX600 such a successful imaging platform. 

But there’s a price to pay for this — weight. The complete telescope setup weighs more than 160 pounds (73 kg), including the 44-pound tripod and optional 28-pound X-Wedge (a must-have accessory for long-exposure astrophotography). The OTA and fork mount, without the StarLock guide scope and tube counterweights, tips the scales at almost 80 pounds. This makes it about 30% heavier than Meade’s corresponding 10-inch LX200 and almost 60% heavier than its 10-inch LX90. With StarLock and counterweights, the assembled scope weighs close to 90 pounds. Furthermore, it is an awkward scope for one person to set up despite four handles and two handholds on the fork and a single handle on the back end of the OTA. 

The telescope breaks down into four major components:  a 44-pound tripod, the optional 28-pound X-Wedge (shown here attached to the tripod), a 34-pound base with fork arms, and a 55-pound optical tube assembly (OTA). Stripping the OTA of its finder, counterweights, and StarLock guide scope reduces its weight to 44 pounds, but the author still found it difficult to safely assemble the telescope in equatorial mode by himself.

To make assembling the scope more manageable, Meade has designed a nice system for separating the OTA and fork arms into pieces that, for the 10-inch, weigh 44 and 34 pounds, respectively. This helps, but it still makes assembly challenging for one person. Indeed, rather than getting bogged down with details, and despite the fact that I set the scope up by myself nearly two dozen times, I will just say that I don’t recommend it as a safe process for one person. Even with the OTA stripped to its minimum configuration (no finder, StarLock guide scope, or counterweights), I struggled to align the safety catches on the OTA’s declination trunnions with their mating pieces on the fork tines. It would be easier to do this with the scope set up for altazimuth operation, but with the fork tilted for astrophotography on the wedge, it’s an intimidating operation for one person. The real solution is to have a friend lend a hand when setting up the scope.

The heavy-duty X-Wedge gets a thumbs up for its design and construction. Ball-bearings and large hand knobs on the azimuth and elevation adjustments make easy work of precisely moving the heavy telescope during polar alignment.

In addition to the scope’s 10-inch main aperture and 50-mm finder pointing skyward, there’s StarLock’s 80-mm f/5 guide refractor and a small-aperture, wide-field camera, which together perform a variety of important tasks beyond just autoguiding the main telescope for astrophotography. These include precision centering of celestial objects in the field of a camera or eyepiece, and helping refine the telescope’s polar alignment.

Autostar II. The brains for the LX600’s GoTo pointing (including catalogs containing more than 145,000 celestial objects), tracking, and a host of other advanced features are in the Autostar II control system, which has been on Meade’s high-end scopes for more than a decade. It is a mature system that works exceptionally well. Despite its sophistication, Autostar II is relatively intuitive and easy to operate in the dark with the hand control. You don’t need to keep a printed manual at hand, since even rarely used features are typically accompanied by instructions that scroll across the hand control’s 2-line LED display. There are far too many Autostar II features to write about here, but you can find many of the details in the 72-page LX600 instruction manual, which can be downloaded as a PDF file for free from Meade’s website ( 

StarLock. This is really amazing technology, and it sets the LX600 apart from any other fork-mounted telescope on the market, bar none. In a nutshell, every time you slew the LX600 to a new target, StarLock automatically acquires a suitable guide star and begins guiding the telescope accurately enough for astrophotography. There is no need for an external computer or even so much as a button push of input from the user. The system is 100% autonomous. And it’s also non-intrusive, meaning you can go about using the telescope any way you want without interference from StarLock. The autoguiding begins within about a minute of the scope being moved to a new location (by either GoTo slewing or the observer pressing the direction buttons on the hand control), and it’s instantly overridden whenever the scope is moved to a new position by any means. A single red LED on the StarLock guide scope indicates when the system is autoguiding and you can begin shooting pictures.

StarLock also performs a variety of other tasks, including the precision centering of targets in the field of an eyepiece or camera; training the periodic error correction (PEC) of the scope’s motor drive; and refining the telescope’s polar alignment. I detailed StarLock’s performance in a review of Meade’s LX850 German equatorial telescopes in this magazine’s December 2013 issue, page 60, so I won’t rehash that material here other than to say I remain extremely impressed with the system. 

As expected, with the telescope only crudely polar aligned, an unguided exposure (left) shows significant image trailing. But with StarLock turned on (right), the tracking was picture perfect. These back-to-back 5-minute exposures of the globular star cluster M13 in Hercules are with a Nikon D700 camera and Barlow lens.

I did, however, encounter a few differences this time. Most notably, unlike my previous experience, StarLock did not autoguide flawlessly “out of the box.” I first had to train the PEC and perform what Meade calls an Automatic Rate Calibration (ARC). These steps are highly automated, involving only a few button presses on the hand control and about 15 minutes of time. And since the PEC information is stored in the scope’s memory, you only need spend a couple of minutes running the ARC during subsequent observing sessions. In hindsight, it was my experience with the LX850 that was unusual, since Meade clearly states in the LX600 manual that these steps are “an essential procedure to obtain peak tracking accuracy.”

My original StarLock testing with the LX850 was under tranquil summer skies. Under similar conditions StarLock performed equally well with the LX600, but when the frequently turbulent seeing conditions of our New England winters eventually rolled around, StarLock had a good, but not perfect, track record autoguiding. To be fair, any autoguider will struggle under crummy seeing conditions, so I wasn’t surprised to have a few guiding failures now and then.

The Autostar II hand control operates every feature of the LX600 from GoTo pointing to the advanced functions of StarLock. The LX600 telescopes can be powered by a set of eight C batteries (four housed in each fork arm) as well as via a conventional 12-volt DC input jack on the scope’s base. A set of fresh batteries will last for about two nights of observing.

The Takeaway

Overall I was very impressed with the LX600. As someone who started doing deep-sky photography with an 8-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain in 1972, I can tell you that back then the LX600 is what we all dreamed a “perfect” astrophotography setup would be like, except we never imagined computers controlling the telescope’s pointing and digital eyes doing the guiding! 

I can certainly recommend the LX600 for anyone who has experience with a fork-mounted Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope, especially one polar-aligned for astrophotography. You’ll be right at home with the LX600. And because Meade still includes accurate setting circles on the LX600, virtually any method you want to use to polar align the scope will work (something that can’t be said for any of today’s scopes that have dispensed with mechanical setting circles). 

I’d be equally enthusiastic about endorsing the LX600 for beginning astrophotographers if the scope’s documentation was a little better. For example, the all important polar-alignment instructions that are mandatory when setting up for astrophotography (the ones that scroll across the hand control), while technically correct, are almost physically impossible to do — you can’t point the OTA to declination 90° and look through the eyepiece while spinning the telescope “rapidly” on its polar axis. My neck hurts just thinking about it. Nevertheless, beginners have surmounted these obstacles in the past with fork-mounted scopes, and I’m sure they will with the LX600. And when they do, they will be amply rewarded with a robust astrophotography setup that is incredibly powerful.

What We Like:

  •   Solid fork mounting designed for astrophotography
  •   Automatic full-time autoguiding (StarLock)
  •   The Autostar II control system’s myriad time-tested features

What We Don’t Like:

  •   Weight requires two people to set up safely
  •   Documentation possibly confusing for beginners

Dennis di Cicco has been writing about equipment in the pages of Sky & Telescope for more than 40 years.

Wednesday, 6 November 2019

Meade’s 115-Millimeter ED Triplet

Review first published in Sky & Telescope magazine.

This 4.5-inch apochromat packs a lot of bang for the buck.

This is a great time to be in the market for a premium refracting telescope. The price for high-quality refractors has fallen dramatically in recent years, and you can now purchase a 4- to-5-inch extra-low dispersion (ED) apochromatic (APO) telescope that’s almost entirely free of the false colour that plagues achromats for a fraction of the cost commonly seen a decade ago.

I’ve had a ball with my own recently purchased apochromat after using almost nothing but Schmidt-Cassegrain telescopes for many years. However, I still consider myself a refractor novice and was eager to see how others performed. So, when I was approached about evaluating Meade’s 115mm Series 6000 ED Triplet APO, I was certainly up for the task.

First impressions are important, and when I unboxed the scope on the day it arrived, I lit up when I saw it. This is a pretty refractor. Although similar in appearance to many current APOs, it has the distinctive “Meade” blue lens cap and trim. The build quality is very good for the price; not quite the same as units costing twice as much or more, but solidly built. The multi-coated objective coatings were visibly effective; incident light falling on the lens seemed to practically disappear.

The Meade 115mm Series 6000 ED Triplet APO ready for a night’s activity, shown with an optional 2-inch mirror diagonal. The scope also accepts finderscopes that attach using a standardized dovetail system commonly found on small refractors.

The scope includes a 3-inch Crayford-style focuser with a 10-to-1 fine-focus knob that incorporates a non-marring compression-style system to secure your star-diagonal, camera, or eyepiece. The focuser itself can be rotated independently of the tube, a big help for astrophotographers when composing shots. Up front is a sliding dew shield that can be retracted when installing solar filters, or to save space when storing or transporting the scope.

Accessories included with the 115 ED are few. A nice set of tube rings are bolted to a robust Vixen-style dovetail bracket. The rings are drilled on top to accommodate an optional bracket for a guide telescope or other accessories. Finally, there’s an attractive lightweight carrying case for the telescope. While this aluminium-framed plastic case holds the scope snugly in place with die-cut foam and is sufficient for storing and transporting the scope, it’s not meant to take much abuse.

The telescope’s 4½-inch triplet objective
showed reflections only under bright sunlight.
Meade provided several optional accessories with the telescope, including a 2-inch mirror star diagonal, though no finderscope, which is an extra-cost option. Luckily, the scope is fitted with the industry-standard finder base, which permitted me to use the 50-mm finderscope from my own refractor.

The 115 ED is an f/7 triplet refractor with one ED element to improve colour correction. This is a sizeable aperture telescope as APO refractors go, yet it weighs in at a mere 12.2 pounds. I was curious to see how well this reasonably priced 115mm APO performed, and was expecting good things.

How much detail can this modest aperture produce on some of my favourite targets? As you’ll see, this refractor novice now concedes that some of the stories about the telescopes’ performance I used to dismiss as myths are true.

First Light

When you take the false colour of simple achromatic objective lenses out of the refractor equation, you are left with an instrument featuring superior sharpness and contrast thanks to the lack of an obstructing secondary mirror, which reduces contrast in the views through reflectors and compound telescopes.

While the 115mm would not have stressed out my lightweight Go To German equatorial mount (GEM), I chose to place the Meade on my 50-pound payload-capable GEM to give the scope its best chance to shine. The triplet is noticeably front-heavy, thanks to its 3-element objective lens. Fortunately, the tube rings provide plenty of room to find balance even with heavy eyepieces, binoviewers, or cameras attached.

First light in my backyard was spent soaking in views of bright stars and the first quarter Moon. Nothing tests the mettle of a refractor like our nearest celestial neighbour. But first I turned to brilliant Vega, riding high in the West. While it’s not uncommon for an ED refractor to display a little colour fringing on a bright star that’s slightly out of focus, this wasn’t the case with the Series 6000. Vega was an icy blue, both in perfect focus and just barely either side of focus.

Left: The beefy 3-inch focuser included with the 115 ED includes a blue anodized 10-to-1 fine-focus knob. Right: The unit’s drawtube is marked in centimetres to help quickly repeat focus with your favourite eyepieces and other accessories. The 2½- to 2-inch visual back can be independently rotated by holding the large knurled ring and turning the “captain’s wheel” with aluminium pegs.

And views of the Moon? If I tried, I could see an unobtrusive yellow-green rim on the lunar limb, but that was it. The terminator was awash with sharp craters, and the shadows within were inky black, without a hint of the purple tinge often seen in a lesser instrument.

My main impression, however, was the sharpness of the lunar landscape. One other thing I appreciated was the Meade’s f/7 focal ratio. While f/6 APOs are popular, I found the scope’s slightly longer-than-average focal length allowed me to use somewhat longer (and more comfortable) eyepieces to reach high powers. The telescope took all the magnification I could throw at it under good seeing.

Views of the Moon were colour-free, with inky-black shadows within the craters along the limb at first quarter.

Star tests on the 115 were as I had hoped. Diffraction ring patterns of a slightly out-of-focus star on both sides of focus looked nearly identical, a sign that its objective is well-corrected. While I observed a few deep-sky objects from my backyard, I did most of my deep space cruising on a visit to the Deep South Star Gaze in the dark piny woods of Louisiana. It was amazing what this scope could do for globular star clusters.

Looking at M15 in Pegasus, I had to keep telling myself this was a “small” telescope. The relatively tight globular can be a test for instruments in this aperture range, but not for the 115. I was easily able to resolve its outer halo of stars, both because they were tiny in the telescope’s sharp images and because its excellent optical quality allowed me to really push the magnification, making resolution easier.

The Meade 115mm Series 6000 ED Triplet is shipped in a hard-sided plastic case with metal trim and form-fitting foam.

Although the 115 did a nice job on medium-sized deep-sky targets, it was with the big objects that it really shone. With a 35-mm wide-field eyepiece in the focuser, I had stunning views of the huge North America Nebula (NGC 7000) and both bright sections of the Veil Nebula. While the scope doesn’t provide a lot of aperture horsepower, I was still amazed at what this modest refractor could reveal. Not only were the east and west loops of the Veil visible, but with the aid of a light-pollution reduction filter I was also able to detect Pickering’s Triangle, the dim patch of nebulosity lying between the two halves of the Veil. Of the big galaxies, M31 was particularly marvellous, easily showing off one dust lane. Andromeda’s normally subdued satellite galaxy, M110, was bright and obvious.

Imaging Performance

The Meade 115 ED functioned well visually, but that’s only part of the power of these instruments. The critical question was whether this reasonably priced telescope would be up to the rigors of deep-sky astrophotography. In imaging, mechanical soundness is at least as important as optical quality. I’d been impressed with the focuser and other mechanical qualities of the 115mm during my visual run, but astrophotography will stress any telescope.

The star field around NGC 869 and NGC 884, the Double Cluster, was tack-sharp when using field-flatteners. The author used an off-brand flattener for this photo that doesn’t reduce the telescope’s focal length, to take full advantage of the scope’s resolving power. Although a relatively small target for a 4½-inch instrument, M27, the Dumbbell Nebula, displays a wealth of detail in this image captured with the 115 ED and a Canon 400D DSLR operating at f/7.

The typical weak link in refractors is the focuser. The Meade’s 2½-inch Crayford-style focuser acquitted itself well in the most crucial test. I inserted my heaviest DSLR camera and field flattener into the focuser and pointed the telescope near the zenith. Would it slip without the focuser being locked down? Nope. Despite its easy focusing action, it never even threatened to slip. I can forgive many focuser faux pas if this requirement is met. The unit also had plenty of range; I had no problem bringing any camera or eyepiece combination into focus, though I secured the draw tube lock knob when imaging.

There were, however, a few minor deficiencies with the scope’s focuser. While the 10-to-1 fi ne-focus knob is a boon for achieving sharp images, this particular telescope’s fine focus action exhibited some backlash. I’d focus inward, let go of the knob, and it would spring back slightly. Although this never prevented me from achieving proper focus, it was nevertheless something I always needed to be aware of. 

The other thing I had concerns with was the focuser’s visual back. This is a ring with three “captain’s wheel”-style pegs. In typical operation, you insert a star diagonal or camera and rotate the ring clockwise using the pegs for added grip on the collar to secure the chosen accessory. While my heavy DSLR was held securely, rotating the visual back counter-clockwise to remove the diagonal or camera would sometimes loosen the whole visual back, which screws onto the scope’s focuser. Not a fatal flaw, but annoying nevertheless.

As for the telescope’s imaging performance on deep-sky objects, I gave that a high grade. Without a field flattener like Meade’s optional Series 6000 model, stars near the field edge are radially elongated, as is typically seen in an uncorrected refractor. But inserting the flattener completely removed the distortion, producing sharp, round stars right to the edge of my camera’s APS-C format detector. Stars looked remarkably clean and fringe-free across the entire field.

In my backyard, the f/7 focal ratio of the Meade proved as much of a plus for imaging as for visual observing. While it doesn’t provide quite the wide field of faster focal ratios, the 115mm f/7 still delivers plenty to work with, particularly by offering a larger image scale. The reward for shooting at f/7 was that it allowed me to expose longer in my light-polluted yard before the sky background became overwhelmingly bright.

What’s the best compliment I can give the Meade Series 6000 115mm ED Triplet APO refractor? I was sorry to see it go when the time came to return it. My biggest surprise was how much I enjoyed using this small scope visually. While there’s no such thing as an all-purpose telescope, this excellent instrument was as close to that as any telescope I’ve used in a long time.

What We Like:

  •   Sharp, well-corrected optics
  •   Colour-free views
  •   Attractive finish

What We Don’t Like:

  •   Visual back locking system can be awkward
  •   Focuser backlash

Reviewed by Rod Mollise, Contributing Editor, Sky & Telescope magazine, May 2018.  After decades of using SCTs, Rod has embraced the joys of astronomy observing through refracting telescopes.

Wednesday, 18 September 2019

Meade LX65 Series 8-inch ACF telescope review - BBC Sky at Night magazine

The LX65 8” ACF telescope has been reviewed in the October issue of BBC Sky at Night magazine.

The review mentions the features that stand out, including the two Vixen-style saddles; the main one for holding the supplied telescope and an additional one on the outer side for a second telescope that weighs up to 3.2kg.

The AudioStar hand controller features 30,000 objects covering all the main catalogues of deep-sky targets such as Messier, Caldwell, NGC and IC, along with Solar System targets of the planets, asteroids and comets. It also includes audio voiceovers for 500 objects.

The Meade premium optics stood out once again with the reviewer stating that “optically in our visual test of the field of view it was pin sharp across the whole view”.

The LX65 series stands for quality at a reasonable price and a great user experience. Accessible at a moment’s notice, the LX65 Series combines advanced features and premium optics in an easy-to-use telescope system. The October 2019 issue of Sky at Night magazine is out now.

Find out more about Sky at Night magazine at:

More information about the LX65 series on the Meade UK website:

Wednesday, 31 July 2019

Back and better than ever – Meade Deep Sky Imager (DSI) IV

Original post first published on

Information provided by Bryan Cogdell.

The acclaimed DSI camera series is BACK, and its more advanced than ever. Equipped with a 16MP Panasonic CMOS image sensor, regulated two-stage thermo-electric cooler, and 3.8μm pixels, the new DSI-IV is the ideal camera for all your astrophotography pursuits. The low-noise, high-resolution and fast USB 3.0 readout make this camera suitable for both deep-sky and planetary imaging, making it one of the most versatile astronomy cameras available.

Meade’s DSI-IV has been a long-awaited product. This 16MP camera was designed to enhance your astrophotography experience like never before. The regulated two-stage thermo-electric cooler greatly reduces thermal noise, allowing you to take great long exposure astro-images of galaxies, nebulae, star clusters and more with your telescope. The thermo-electric cooler also keeps control of camera temperature so you can reuse your calibration images night after night. The combination of an on-board fan and thermo-electric coolers helps regulate temperature up to 40-50°C below ambient.


The DSI-IV Colour is referred to as a “one-shot colour” camera; meaning you get colour directly from the camera in a single image without any special processing of filters. There are actual colour dyes on every pixel of the camera, usually in a matrix of red, green, and blue. This is how other cameras, such as the one on your phone, obtains colour as well. One shot colour cameras are very convenient because you get instant colour.  In situations where you need to capture as quickly as possible, like an eclipse, a comet, or an ISS flyover, the DSI-IV Colour is very useful.

Pros & Cons

The colour version is easier to start with and costs less, plus you do not have to purchase as many accessories as you would with the monochrome model. Colour is generally recommended to a beginner, or to an imager that wants an all-purpose camera. The trade-off is because you are always shooting through the colour dyes over each pixel, you are missing some of the potential sensitivity the sensor would otherwise have, especially in certain parts of the visual spectrum. As a result, the colour version is not as sensitive as the monochrome model.


The DSI-IV Monochrome camera uses the full potential of its CMOS imaging sensor. It is more sensitive than the colour model overall. For deep sky astrophotography, monochrome gives you the edge on imaging very faint detail from nebulae and galaxies. It’s also better suited for Solar Hydrogen-Alpha imaging through a cope such as the Coronado P.S.T and SolarMax series. A colour camera would really limit the amount of light the camera could see in H-Alpha and most of its sensitivity would go unused. But a monochrome camera is ideal for that. And think about it, H-Alpha is only a single colour anyways! Solar imagers simply designate their black and white image as a red image (there are more sophisticated ways to get multi-tone colour but this is the idea)!

Pros & Cons

The DSI-IV Monochrome gets colour images by photographing through a series of colour filters, usually red, green and blue. So to get a single colour image, you have to capture at least 3 times as many exposures! This can also be combined with a “clear” luminance filter which passes as much broad-spectrum light to the sensor as possible. It’s usually better to use the filters in a filter wheel, and these accessories add to the cost of your imaging setup. Switching filters is also time consuming (even if motorised) and therefore not suited for quick action things like an ISS pass or an eclipse. Also, more image processing is required for monochrome cameras since you have to manage and combine all of the different filtered images to obtain a single processed image.

With the use of filters, you have more flexibility. You can do more in light polluted cities with specialised filters. One of the more popular techniques with monochrome cameras is narrowband imaging though specialised narrowband filters. These filters block all but a small portion of the spectrum that only nebulae emit, such as Hydrogen-Alpha and Oxygen-III. These filters are expensive, too, and add to the overall setup cost.

The DSI-IV offers immense value beyond the camera itself. It not only comes with its own high-quality, weather-resistant hard carrying case and AC power adapter, but it also comes with a new version of SkyCapture camera control software. With complete camera control for all major operating systems including Windows, Mac OS X and Linux, SkyCapture can run automatic image capture sequences without the need to purchase additional software. Capture high-quality images and video of galaxies, nebulae, and other beautiful objects of the night sky with Meade’s DSI-IV.

Find out more on the Meade DSI-IV product page:

Monday, 15 July 2019

What you didn’t know you needed - Meade LPI-G

Original post first published on 
Additional information provided by

If you’re looking to capture lunar, planetary, and even solar images at an affordable price, then Meade’s LPI-G might be exactly what you need. This small but powerful camera will give you crisp, clean images that will provide you with an endless gallery of content.

Meade’s LPI-G is made for auto-guiding and astrophotography. With our Solar System and guide camera, experience the universe on a whole new level. Lightweight and portable, LPI-G comes in either colour or monochrome, and a 1280 x 960 pixel CMOS sensor with the ability of capturing 28 frames per second at full resolution. The LPI-G can be used with a variety of telescopes including beginner to advanced models and even Coronado telescopes.

Dual Purpose Camera

The LPI-G Camera is perfect for those looking to make the jump into astrophotography. As an astrophotography camera, the 1.25” barrel size allows you to use it in place of your eyepiece. You will be imaging the Moon, planets, and the Sun (with appropriate filters) in no time with high-performance CMOS image sensor. As a guide camera, the built-in ST4 auto guider port makes for easy connection. The LPI-G is compatible with a number of guiding and image capture programs such as MaxIm DL, PHD and FireCapture.

The LPI-G comes with dedicated Meade astronomy software call Sky Capture, which allows you to record and process video and images.


The LPI-G can operate as an auto-guide camera when used with a Windows based computer through the ASCOM software platform. An auto-guide cable is included with the camera. The auto-guide cable is attached to the telescope’s auto-guide port (ST4-type) on one side and on the camera on the other side. This is the only camera on the market at its price point that can double as an auto-guider, which is an incredibly beneficial feature.

Please note that if you wish to use the LPI-G with a Meade LX90 telescope, the Meade Auto-guider Port Module (SKU: 07509) is required. The port module is plugged into the telescope’s auxiliary port enabling it to be used as an auto-guide port.

Meade’s LPI-G used a guider to image the Veil Nebula. PC: Jimmy N.

Colour vs Monochrome

If you’re looking for high resolution images, Meade LPI-G Monochrome is the way to go. For under £200, you won’t break the bank. This is great for solar-imaging as the chromosphere details are absolutely amazing.

Colour cameras are imaged with red, green, and blue. As you can see from the images to the right, green is typically the dominant colour. Stated by, “This inherent bias is corrected in the process that converts the array into a colour digital image which is called demosaicing. 

Typically all this happens in-camera unless you shoot raw and demosaic yourself, but either way, the process averages the results from an area of pixels on the chip and creates artifacts such as false colours, colour bleeds, jagged edges, and more. 

With a Monochrome camera, you get a 1:1 unblemished result based on a number of photons that hit the pixel well, with non of this immediate pokery that gives you a degraded image straight away.

Although colour cameras are much more simple, the post-processing of a picture taken with a Monochrome camera gives the image vast more detail…with that, you can’t go wrong."

Find out more on the Meade LPI-G product page:

Thursday, 6 June 2019

Meade LX65 8" ACF SkyNews review

Original review by Ken Hewitt-White published in SkyNews magazine, January/February 2019.

We test-drive Meade’s latest computer-controlled catadioptric reflector.

Meade’s freshly minted LX65 8-inch telescope certainly has extras. It boasts Advanced Coma-Free (ACF) optics, a computerized GoTo mount with motorized tracking, capacity for two telescopes and Meade’s AudioStar control system software, which offers brief “Astronomer Inside” recorded voice descriptions of chosen celestial objects.

Meade LX65 8" ACF.
Get up and GoTo. Meade’s new LX65 8-inch ACF features a computerized single 
arm alt-az mount with computerized,  GoTo pointing and plenty of extras. 
Note the convenient holder for the hand unit and helpful handles on the tube assembly 
and mount. Fully assembled, the instrument weighs about 18 kilograms (40lb). 
Photo by Gary Seronik.
The instrument arrived in two reinforced cardboard cases. The 8-inch telescope and various accessories, (a red-dot finder, a star diagonal and a 26mm Super Plossl eyepiece) filled one box; the mount, tripod and electronic accessories were in the other. Before observing, I took out the well-packed components and examined them carefully.

The optical tube assembly, or OTA, is 46 centimetres (18 in) long. With its compact catadioptric design, the instrument resembles a conventional Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope with a 2,032-millimetre, f/10 optical train. The OTA is relatively light (under 5. 5kg/12 lb) and easy to carry, thanks to a handle at the back. And it’s well built. The LX65 passed an unplanned test (kids, don’t try this at home) when it rolled off a low storage shelf in my office and fell exactly one foot onto the carpeted floor – to no ill effect. Whew!

The altazimuth (alt-az), single arm fork mount likewise sports a helpful handle. This hefty unit (almost 8.5 kg/19 lb) attaches without tools to the adjustable-height steel tripod via three thumbscrews beneath the tripod head. The mount’s Vixen-style dovetail bracket and locking knob ensure secure attachment of the 8-inch OTA. Interestingly, a second dovetail bracket allows users to attach an additional scope on the same mount. However, the mount’s alt-az nature means that it’s not suitable for long-exposure astrophotography.

Dual scoping, anyone?

Thanks to its dual dovetail saddles, the LX65 mount will accept a second telescope. After attaching a Meade 4-inch refractor (close to the recommended weight limit of seven pounds /3 kg), I expected increased shaking. Surprisingly, the reverse was true – having scopes on both sides of the single-arm fork helped balance the load.  

There are adjustment knobs to make the second scope aim in exactly the same direction as the main scope. Be careful, though: Turn the wrong knob in the dark, and you might cause the companion scope to fall off! I advise trueing up the tubes on a daylight target.

Side saddle. An extra dovetail bracket, far right, permits attaching a second, smaller telescope to the mount. Fine adjustment screws, right, allow the auxiliary scope to be precisely aimed to match the view in the main instrument. The uppermost knob operates the altitude clutch lock.

Setting up

To prepare for an observing session, I set up the telescope in the “home position”. All three components – tripod, mount and OTA – needed to be exactly level, the horizontal OTA aiming either true north or magnetic north. The accompanying 50-page instruction booklet suggests the latter, and an eyepiece-shaped compass with a built-in bubble level is provided to assist in the process. But I found homing on true north was easier for me in my north-facing suburban yard.

Loosening the clutch on the mount’s altitude arm allowed me to manually level the tube. There is no manual motion in azimuth – to move the scope on that axis, one must power up the mount. Electricity is supplied by installing eight C-cell batteries (not included) in the base of the mount. A port on the altitude arm permits using an AC power adapter (not included) or a portable 12-volt DC power supply (cable not included). For the purpose of this review, I stuck with the batteries.

After eyeballing level and north, I switched on the computer-control hand unit and answered the usual prompts in the two-line LCD screen for date and time. (Earlier, I’d keyed in the latitude and longitude of my observing site – a crucial preliminary step). Next was the star-alignment procedure to ensure GoTo pointing accuracy. I expect newbie stargazers will love it.

The “Easy Alignment” option chooses two bright alignment stars for you. During my early-autumn testing, the software decided to start with brilliant Arcturus in the western sky. The machine slewed rapidly (and loudly!) the long way around, through some 270 degrees, to the target. (The AudioStar control system has a “Quiet Slew” command to limit the speed by a little less than half). AudioStar overshot Arcturus, but I nudged the scope in altitude and azimuth until the star was centred in the red-dot finder and the supplied Super Plossl 26mm eyepiece, which gives roughly a ?-degree wide field.

When I keyed ENTER, the sidereal drive kicked in and the LX65 automatically moved to the second alignment candidate, Altair. After centring Altair, I hit ENTER again and the screen displayed “Alignment Successful”. Amazingly, the alignment result was always good, night after night. Subsequent GoTo commands would consistently place my quarry in (or very near) the field of the 26mm eyepiece. My eyeballing worked!

All in the details. Eight C-cell batteries, above (not included), power the LX65. Input ports on the altitude arm permit connecting to an external power source. The star diagonal, top right, accepts 1 ¼ -inch eyepieces, such as the included 26mm Super Plossl eyepiece shown here. Upgrading to a larger diagonal will permit the use of 2-inch oculars. The corrector plate, right, of the LX65 8-inch is recessed less than one inch from the front of the tube assembly and, as such, is exposed to both wayward fingertips and damp night air. A dew shield would be a useful accessory to have. Left photo by Ken Hewitt-White. Right photos by Gary Seronik.

Exploring with the LX65

It was time to observe. The hand unit’s AudioStar software contains a database of roughly 30,000 celestial objects the telescope can locate and track at the push of a key and offers a “Guided Tour” and “Tonight’s Best” selection of sky objects (accompanied by the “Astronomer Inside” voice descriptions) tailored to when I’m actually observing. Most of my priorities were on those AudioStar tours, but I preferred finding my own way around.

I began by star testing the scope’s optics with my alignment star, Altair. In a 9mm Tele Vue eyepiece (generating 226x), Altair exhibited perfectly concentric rings both inside and outside of focus around a tiny Airy disc – indicating very good optical quality. I detected no astigmatism and found images to be coma-free almost to the edge of the field.

When the evening air was steady, I experimented with magnifications ranging from 78x (the supplied 26mm eyepiece) to 290x (a 7mm Nagler) on a variety of objects. The Moon, of course, was an arresting sight. I’d key in a slow slew speed and cruise up and down the lunar terminator, examining ragged craters, jagged mountains and winding rilles. Even though Saturn rode low on the ecliptic, the LX65 showed the Cassini Division in the ansae of the planet’s impressive rings. It was the same low elevation story for Mars, but the scope picked up the dark mass of Syrtis Major plus a tiny white polar cap on the orangey gibbous disc.

The famous Double-Double, Epsilon Lyrae, resolved beautifully at high power, as did gorgeous Gamma Andromedae – a colourful pair comprising deep yellow and sky-blue dots. The marquee globular cluster M13 yielded considerable resolution in my 7mm eyepiece. The Ring Nebula, M57, was a grey doughnut; the Dumbbell Nebula, M27, a misty apple core.

During the predawn hours, I indulged in some favourite winter wonders. M42, the Orion Nebula, was glorious. Its teensy Trapezium, fully resolved, was enveloped in wispy wings of nebulosity spanning the 26mm eyepiece field. The open cluster M35 was also a glittering, field-filling delight.

All in all, it was a night of very enjoyable backyard viewing.

Quibbles and complaints

Cosmic controller. The AudioStar hand unit is mostly 
intuitive to operate; however, the author recommends 
learning its basic functions indoors before observing. 
An introductory guide to the hand unit, including a 
menu tree, is found in the LX65 instruction 
booklet. Photo by Gary Seronik.
No telescope is perfect, and if I had to highlight this instrument’s greatest shortcoming, it would be that the mount jiggled every time I touched the focuser. Vibrations took at least four seconds to settle down with each of my (admittedly fussy) focusing attempts. Thankfully, the sidereal drive would keep my delicate treasure in place until the shaking stopped. Given that the 8-inch is the largest of several OTAs offered with the LX65 mount, it’s possible that this configuration represents the worst-case scenario.

I also found that in same orientations, high-power images jittered every few seconds as the scope tracked. And there was a bit of backlash: A slow slew in altitude (not azimuth) to centre an object in the eyepiece often resulted in the scope stopping as expected but the backing off almost one-third of a high-power field.

The listing of celestial objects in the hand unit’s software is generally comprehensive but at times frustrating to access. All clusters – both globular and open – are lumped together in one long list. The galaxy entries suffer from a mishmash of names and numbers and are offered in no order a novice would find helpful. 

Under “Named Objects”, there’s a mixture of recognizable stuff (Pinwheel Galaxy, Lagoon Nebula, etc.) but also alpha-numeric exotica like PKS0405-12 and PHL 909 (quasars) and GRS 1915-105 (a black hole!). Under “Deep Sky”, I scrolled past headings for galaxies, nebulas, planetary nebulas, clusters, quasars, and, yes, black holes. After all that came enter-the-number catalogues for the IC, NGC and Caldwell catalogues and, at the very end, the popular Messier catalogue.

The bottom line

Despite the problems outlined above, I enjoyed working with the LX65. The superb ACF optics and GoTo capability enabled me to enjoy a wealth of sky objects in my light-polluted city sky. I can recommend the 8-inch for novices (they’ll love the “Astronomer Inside” and “Guided Tour” features) and for experience observers ready to upgrade to a larger, well-equipped telescope that’s quick to set up and remarkably portable too.


A moderately priced, highly portable 8-inch GoTo scope that produces fine views of planets and deep-sky-objects.

  • Excellent optics
  • Dual telescope capability
  • Convenient handles on mount and tube


  • Slight backlash after shifting in altitude
  • No manual azimuth motion
  • Hand-unit catalogues poorly organized