We recently received a Meade 6” LS (Advanced coma free) telescope to test and to see if the Firmware could be reloaded to the system.
The owner had brought me the scope because the software got corrupted and he could NOT figure out how to reload it.
I got a chance e to update software, test the scopes optics, test collimation and to see if the LS is really as user friendly as Meade claims.
The OTA on the single fork mount weights about 25lbs, very close to an lx200, The OTA is Blue textured paint and the arms and base are flat black. It has built in speakers.
The tripod that came with the instrument is the same size height and weight of the tripod sold with the Ioptron Mid Tower. It is a little light for the Meade, but this is not the first time we have seen under sizing as this is done by every manufacturer. However, the tripod is adequate but, expect vibration.
The spreader is plastic (not metal) you will find the complete set up TOP HEAVY when you move it in one piece.
Though the telescope has a single fork arm , the Arm very heavy duty ( massive) and contains a few new inputs and outputs previously not available in any other manufactures mounts.
There are TWO USB version 2 Ports and “A” style (like a thumb nail drive) and a
“B” Style, like a laser printer connector. The later is used to load software, drive the scope with a computer or other device.
Also, the USB connector ( B) is the only one that currently that can be used) but it saves a of headaches and frustration of having to buy special cables or wire your own. (USB cables are available at Walmart, Radio Shack etc.) .
The other connectors are a Video output, ( not sure what for) and Audio output, and a focuser output.
Software: The Autostar Suite with star charts and firmware and updating software .
Meade includes a CD with lots of Software and Manuals for every single telescope EXCEPT the LS. After loading the Autostar suite (Version 5.5) I had to connect to the web to download the software to update the LS. From Meade, the software did this automatically.
A few words of caution if your planning to install the Meade software. Loading the complete suite consumes a lot of time, if you opt for Hubble telescope images and the Moon map, even longer, therefore, bypass these if you need to get other work done or you’ll be sitting by your system for a long time answering install questions. You can always add the Hubble and Moon images later.
Optics: The secondary is larger than the normal SCT about 35%, the views however, were quite crisp more Refractor like than SCT. (Epsilon Lyre) for example was text book. However, the LS image seems a little dark for a 6 inch closer to a 5 inch SCT possibly due to the larger secondary .
I viewed for a bout and hour and was able to make out two of the Galaxies in Andromeda but not the third; The ring looked great as well as M11, M29, M103, all of the images were superior to regular SCTs' except the Celestron 9.25 which is the best SCT on the market Optically with a 1/10 wave output.
Updating Software: After I loaded all of the software on my computer. (1.5 hours) and connected the computer for updating, the autostar suite needed to download the LS firmware from Meade’s website. Almost every Computer vendor has a firmware upgrade program for laptops and desks tops etc. Overwriting firmware is normal and is done quite often by PC Techs. These programs know knows how to flash memory, update Firmware etc, etc. Not so with the Meade firmware, you have to nudge it a little. The first attempt I got the message, this version is already on the system ( even though it was corrupted) I was never asked if I wanted to overwrite or replace the firmware. I had to force it to update, but was able to do so.
Performance of the Computer and GOTO system.
Meade includes a brief quick start sheet with simple directions. for detailed explanation you need to print out what is on the CD.
So initially you can’t tell if the Goto system is working or not because, Meade states the unit does such and such when you turn it on initially, but mine did not.
This is what I found out.
You have to point the system northward and level it.
The telescope will try and connect to 4 GPS satellites if successful it will continue on its own, if not, you must enter the data manually. Then, the scope will align itself buy using a wide-angle camera that takes photos of constellations that have alignment stars, like Vega; it then reads the photos and uses the image to align the scope.
During the aligment test the stars were always out of the FOV and never centered in the FOV, but the telescope aligned anyway. The accuracy of the Alignment was another matter, however, but you could sync the alignment to an object to improve your alignment.
The LS has a lot of bells and whistles on it and the Hand controller is a new version and completely redesigned (AUTOSTAR III) The new version is not as user friendly as the earlier versions. (Example, cannot find a set up menu which reads GPS data) It is probably there somewhere but I couldn’t find it.
There is also and Audio presentation with the system that explains what your about to see, and few extra buttons but less menu items..
Audio presentation example: GOTO Venus
You will get a voice explaining what it is, where is and some info about the planet and then the scope will try to find it. The presentation can go on for a long time before the scope actually moves, I found it better to by pass the presentation by hitting the media key. ( one of the new keys)
In my opinion the audio presentation would be more effective as an educational tool if the scope went to the object first and then while you were viewing the audio gave a information about the subject ( Venus) this would reinforcement the learning experience as you would be seeing as well as hearing.
In my opinion this is the most important thing to the new student of astronomy, which, is what this instrument is, supposed to be tailored for.
Nice try Meade but it doesn’t quite work as advertised. This telescope is intended for beginner, or former stamp collector and although the auto alignment worked and is less problematical than their other models, If something goes wrong as it normally does, your at square one.
Also,this telescope cannot move manually,something Meade never did before, so power is required for the telescope to use.
New model Problems??? Did I get a Lemon to test??
A new out of the box instrument should not need to be reprogrammed, however, since these instruments are being carried by everyone from sporting good stores to Walmart, problems are to be expected. My advise is, If you are going to purchase one of these instruments, purchase from a (telescope dealer) and have them inspect the unit before shipping. Most dealers will do this if you ask, even if they charge a fee it is worth it.
The camera is to my knowledge only for alignment, (I don’t believe you can take pictures with it. The original add for the scope was miss leading, but I think they have recently reworded the add. Also , there are three version of this instrument, I only tested the advanced coma free version.
Pluses and Minuses.
1)Optic very good but large obstruction darkens image.
2)Best computer interface to date, and the software is very nice and has a lot of extra features, Hubble images, and a moon map with NASA pictures
3)Heavy duty base and fork arms.
4)Some Audio info useful for Novice but a lot of superfluous information about objects.
If your looking to get a computerized scope there are many better and less expensive options. The Celestron’s and Orion models are lighter, less expensive and can do single star alignments. If your a beginner wanting to learn the sky, try joining a club for twenty dollars,this method is more cost effective and you have live people to talk to.
Anthony R Costanzo
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