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Thread: Review: Meade Adventure Scope 80mm refractor

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    Default Review: Meade Adventure Scope 80mm refractor



    I'm travelling 750 miles this August to catch the total solar eclipse. I haven't decided yet whether I will be driving or flying to my destination, but either way, even my "little" 8-inch Dob will be a difficult thing to lug around with me everywhere for the few days I am gone. I needed something more portable, so if I had to haul it with me on an airplane, I could.

    I don't need a lot of aperture to see the eclipse, but on the other hand, I didn't want to buy a telescope that would be used only during the eclipse. I wanted something that would find a place in my observing plans even when my 12" Dob was sitting beside it. I briefly considered a small Mak-Cass, but honestly, there was no way it could compete with my Dob on magnification or detail. It might offer great views for its size, but there's no way I would be impressed with even M42 if I'm comparing it with the view through my Dob.

    So instead of getting something with a long focal ratio, I decided to go the opposite route. Something with low magnification but a wide field would be a nice counterbalance to my Dobs. Something that could fit the entire Pleiades or Double Cluster or maybe even M31 in a single field. A Cluster Cruncher and Milky Way Monster. After some research, I decided on the Meade Adventure Scope 80.



    Designed to fit inside a backpack, this would be a perfectly-sized telescope for me. My in-laws live on the Caribbean island of St. Lucia, so when I visit them I will now have something a little better than binoculars to enjoy the sky with.

    Opening the box revealed the backpack, with the scope already packed away inside:



    The bag felt surprisingly light and comfortable to carry over my shoulder. It felt about like I was carrying a laptop. The scope and tripod were wrapped well with a combination of bubble wrap and tissue paper. The eyepieces and diagonal were packaged in a padded envelope made from bubble wrap.

    Once assembled, the telescope pretty much looked like what you'd expect a $100 department store refractor to look like:



    MOUNT

    As light as it is, the little scope is too heavy for this mount. Even tightening every screw all the way, I could tap the mount and the entire scope would wobble back and forth a bit. This is made worse by the fact that the adapter plate they use to connect the telescope to the mount has a plastic pin offset from the mounting screw. It's a bit hard to see here, but it's to the right of the central screw:



    There's a hole on the bottom of the telescope for this pin to rest in, to help lock the telescope in place, but I found that the pin had a tendency to pop out of the hole, which made the telescope precariously loose on top of the tripod. I went and grabbed a cheap tripod I used with my digital camera and noticed it had a metal pin on it. I swapped it out and attached it to the telescope and the slippage problem went away.

    While I was swapping it out, why not just swap out tripods, too? The adventure scope's tripod is adequate for a quick setup, but it's necessarily a bit short in order to be able to fit inside the backpack. This made it a bit uncomfortable for me to use while standing, but would probably be perfect for a shorter person or a pre-teen.

    Another option, of course, is to use my adjustable observing chair and then it wouldn't really matter how high or low the tripod sat. This is probably what I will do when using the scope locally, but on longer trips when I can't bring my adjustable chair, I can see it becoming a bit of an issue.

    I knew from the online reviews that the tripod and mount were going to be a little undersized for this telescope, so none of this really surprised or disappointed me. There are ways to beef these up without spending a lot of money. As long as it delivered in the optics department, I would be pleased with my purchase. It certainly has the portability I was wanting. It was time to try it out.

    FINDER

    The AS80 comes with a red dot finder. Many people hate RDFs, but I think it's the perfect finder for this telescope (which, with its low-power, wide-field views, is already somewhat of a finder scope). The RDF has a dimmer switch to make the dot as dim or as bright as you need, depending on the sky conditions. In full daylight, the dot was difficult to detect without placing one of my hands in front of the RDF, but by doing this, I could get reasonably close to my target.

    And really, with a wide field telescope, "reasonably close" is good enough. I took aim at the chimney of a nearby house and was able to get the RDF aligned pretty well using the two thumbscrew adjustment knobs. The brightness knob is an almost identical thumbscrew and I had to be careful not to accidentally readjust the finder when I was trying to adjust the dot's brightness.

    FIRST LIGHT

    I played around a bit with finding birds in trees and getting used to moving the telescope with the pan and tilt knobs instead of just grabbing the side of the scope and pointing it, like I do with my Dobs. It took a few minutes to get used to having a lens instead of a mirror, but I soon adjusted to everything being "right-side-up" and moving the telescope accordingly.

    The AS80 comes with two Huygens eyepieces (6mm and 18mm), but I didn't even bother trying them out. I will do that at a later date, but I really wanted to test the quality of the optics in the OTA, so I wanted some known decent eyepieces tonight.

    The star diagonal is 1.25", so I picked out two 1.25" eyepieces: 1) a 25mm Plossl that originally came with my Discovery 8" telescope. It isn't a top-quality eyepiece by any stretch of the imagination, but it has provided decent views and has served me well as one of my main outreach eyepieces. With the telescope's 400mm focal length, this will give me a magnification of 16X. 2) an Explore Scientific 82° 11mm eyepiece. This is one of my best and favorite eyepieces. I use it every time I observe. It will yield 36X.

    After dark, the skies were starting to cloud up, but one of the nice things about having a portable telescope is that I could quickly move from spot to spot in the yard. I wanted my First Light DSO to be the Pleiades. I popped in my 20mm Plossl, loosened the pan and tilt screws, and slewed the scope over to the target. Wow! The entire Pleiades cluster was right there in the field of view. It seemed a bit dimmer than normal to me, but I attributed that to the fact that it was already sinking into the local light dome and that I was only seeing pinpoint stars now instead of stars with diffraction spikes. And, of course, I'm only using 3 inches of aperture instead of 12. Still, it looked nice enough that I called out my wife to come and take a peek. She was impressed and hung around to look at a few more things with me.

    I next pointed to M42, the Great Orion Nebula. No green color, no billowing puffs of clouds, not even a 4-star trapezium, but hey, this telescope is a little gal. She's made for quick trips. Hmm. Quick Trips. QT. Cutie. I like it. Okay, so now I have a name for the telescope. Time to get back to M42. I put in the 11mm. Despite the lack of detail compared to my 12-inch Dob (or even my 8" Dob), it was still bright, obvious, and impressive. My wife also liked it.

    Moving right along, I pointed at M41, an open cluster in Canis Major. At only 16X, it looked a lot smaller than I'm used to seeing it, but it still revealed a few dozen stars in a roughly circular shape, with a brighter star off to one side. My wife liked this one as well. Looks like the telescope is a keeper.

    The temperatures were starting to drop a bit and my wife was getting chilly, so went back inside. The skies were clouding up more, as well. While I was in Canis Major, I wanted to get a peek at h3945, a colorful double star. At 16X, the orange star was obvious, but the blue companion was so close to it, I had to wait for the telescope vibrations to stop completely before it became apparent. I popped in my 11mm and the separation was much more apparent now. Nice color contrast, but much dimmer than it looked in my Dobs. I do love those pinpoint stars, though.

    Most everything else was clouding up, so I went around to the back yard to see if anything was visible there. The Moon and Jupiter were just rising above the housetops, but there were clouds hanging above them, so they wouldn't be visible for long. I took a quick aim at the Moon in the 11mm. Half of it was hidden behind a chimney, but it looked nice and crisp, even in the thick atmosphere near the horizon. Several craters were in relief along the terminator. The Moon is also pretty much the same apparent size as the Sun, so it was giving me an indication of how the eclipse will look through the scope.

    I had to try Jupiter before I went inside. I was expecting to see a bright white ball with 4 little stars next to it. And that's pretty much what I saw, only it looked a bit bigger than I thought it would. I stared for several seconds and began to see the equatorial bands popping out at me, as well. Awesome! I did notice a bit of chromatic aberration around Jupiter, but it really wasn't too distracting. I picked up the telescope in one hand, folded up the legs on the tripod, and went back inside.

    FIRST IMPRESSIONS

    The telescope itself appears to be well-made. It feels solid. The tube and focuser are metal. The focus adjustment knobs are plastic, as are the RDF and the diagonal. The little thumbscrew holding the eyepiece in place is metal, but is tiny and feels cheap. The interior of the OTA has been painted a flat black, but it's not as dark as it could be. In bright light, it appears more of a dark gray than black.



    The first baffle behind the objective appears to be large and perhaps cutting off some of the outer bit of light. I don't know if it's there to block some flaw in the glass near the edge of the objective or if it just seems larger than normal because I'm not used to looking at the sharp light cone drop-off of an f/5 refractor. I'll let another reviewer speak to that.

    The tripod and mount, as I mentioned earlier, are undersized. When I put my 11mm eyepiece in the telescope, I honestly wasn't sure the mount would be able to keep the telescope in place. I had thought about upgrading the focuser to a 2" version, along with a 2" diagonal, but until I get a beefier mount, I think the extra weight would do more harm than good.

    I can overlook the mount problems, however, because of its portability. I had some very enjoyable views tonight. And having a telescope that could offer me a quality view and still fit in a backpack under a seat on a plane is worth a lot, wobbly mount or not. The tripod does have a weight hook on it, so I can always add a bit more stability that way. It just becomes a matter of looking at the trade-offs between stability and portability. Once I discover what the ideal compromise is for my purposes, I have no doubt I'll be enjoying this scope for years to come.
    KT4HX, terrynak, Peppy2 and 13 others like this.

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    Default Re: Review: Meade Adventure Scope 80mm refractor

    Very nice review, Tom!

    Yeah, that's an ST80 with a different paint job, alright. My ST80 has the same baffle inside.

    I do recommend upgrading the diagonal when you get a chance. The stock diagonal that came with my ST80 seemed to dim things a bit. Things seem cleaner and brighter after I added a GSO diagonal to the mix.

    And if you ever feel froggy, Agena has a 2" GSO Crayford with your name on it.



    Thanks for the excellent and comprehensive review, my friend!
    Bryan

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    Default Re: Review: Meade Adventure Scope 80mm refractor

    Nice report and good call on your choice of scope for it's intended purposes. My ST80s are among my favorite scopes. I think you will be surprised at how much you can really see with it at a dark site. You can further increase the scopes performance with a few easy DIY projects. I replaced the stock focuser on one of my ST80s to a GSO 2" dual speed crayford, talk about wide field. Mine see lots of use from piggybacking on the LX200 to use as a good solar scope, it's extremely versatile and portable. One word on the eclipse though, you may prefer to view that event with a good set of filtered binoculars over the little refractor, so I would take a pair of them as well.
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    Default Re: Review: Meade Adventure Scope 80mm refractor

    Awesome review Tom!

    Thanks for taking the time to put this together and share your experience and thoughts on the scope.
    I know Alan(KT4HX) gets a lot from his little 80.
    Have fun and clear skies!
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    Default Re: Review: Meade Adventure Scope 80mm refractor

    Nice review. I agree that the supplied tripod is the weak link in the chain.
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    Default Re: Review: Meade Adventure Scope 80mm refractor

    Thanks for the kind words, everyone!

    One thing I forgot to mention in the review: the grease on the R&P focuser and the R&P tripod height adjustment. Reaching up to adjust the tripod in the dark and grabbing a handful of greasy goo is no fun. I suppose I will instinctively learn to avoid those areas when reaching in the dark, but do you have any other suggestions?

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    Default Re: Review: Meade Adventure Scope 80mm refractor

    A nice looking scope and great review Tom,
    You can clean the goo out and replace it with some better quality (and less) grease or follow Bryans suggestion
    It only takes a few minutes of scrubbing to get the primordial ooze out and fix it up properly.

    Is the screw that is sticking up in front of the baffle the tripod attachment point?
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    Default Re: Review: Meade Adventure Scope 80mm refractor

    Thanks for the great review. The ST80 and its cousins are an incredible value. I find that mine performs well on Jupiter with a 6mm eyepiece. It is worth checking the collimation, which you can adjust using the 3 screws that hold the focuser to the OTA. Adjusting mine helped with image sharpness and contrast.
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    Default Re: Review: Meade Adventure Scope 80mm refractor

    Great review & observations Tom - you'll find it a very fun scope. Bryan is right, the GSO focuser takes it up a whole new level.
    If we meet up during the eclipse you can try mine out. Speaking of the St. Jo, MO eclipse location..... according to good sources they now
    expect 800,000 people to be in St Jo for the event... Pack a lunch the line a McDonald's is going to be long......
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    Moving on.......

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    Default Re: Review: Meade Adventure Scope 80mm refractor

    Quote Originally Posted by bladekeeper View Post
    Very nice review, Tom!

    Yeah, that's an ST80 with a different paint job, alright. My ST80 has the same baffle inside.

    I do recommend upgrading the diagonal when you get a chance. The stock diagonal that came with my ST80 seemed to dim things a bit. Things seem cleaner and brighter after I added a GSO diagonal to the mix.

    And if you ever feel froggy, Agena has a 2" GSO Crayford with your name on it.

    Thanks for the excellent and comprehensive review, my friend!
    Thanks, my friend! Yeah, a 2" Crayford and diagonal would rock the socks off that scope. But before I start doing a lot of upgrades, I want to get to know Cutie better, and find out whether or not she'll remain a part of my arsenal. If she's a keeper, then I may spring for some implants.


    Quote Originally Posted by Ozman13 View Post
    Nice report and good call on your choice of scope for it's intended purposes. My ST80s are among my favorite scopes. I think you will be surprised at how much you can really see with it at a dark site. You can further increase the scopes performance with a few easy DIY projects. I replaced the stock focuser on one of my ST80s to a GSO 2" dual speed crayford, talk about wide field. Mine see lots of use from piggybacking on the LX200 to use as a good solar scope, it's extremely versatile and portable. One word on the eclipse though, you may prefer to view that event with a good set of filtered binoculars over the little refractor, so I would take a pair of them as well.
    Thanks! I've considered the option of attaching Cutie to my 12" Dob, but then I'd have to start adding a lot of weight to the mirror end of the scope and over-complicating things.

    I appreciate the advice on the eclipse. I'm planning on bringing some binoculars as well. Along with the AS80, I ordered a sheet of astrosolar film, and will be making solar filters for both of my refractors and my binos.


    Quote Originally Posted by kingclinton View Post
    Awesome review Tom!

    Thanks for taking the time to put this together and share your experience and thoughts on the scope.
    I know Alan(KT4HX) gets a lot from his little 80.
    Have fun and clear skies!
    Thanks, Clinton!


    Quote Originally Posted by Pitter View Post
    Nice review. I agree that the supplied tripod is the weak link in the chain.

    Yeah, for $100, there has to be a compromise somewhere. I'd personally rather spend my money on good optics and upgrade the mount later than vice versa.


    Quote Originally Posted by Gabby76 View Post
    A nice looking scope and great review Tom,
    You can clean the goo out and replace it with some better quality (and less) grease or follow Bryans suggestion
    It only takes a few minutes of scrubbing to get the primordial ooze out and fix it up properly.

    Is the screw that is sticking up in front of the baffle the tripod attachment point?
    Thanks, Gabby! I like Bryan's idea of upgrading to a 2" focuser/diagonal, but for now, I want to get used to the scope as-is and see if I'm going to keep her or not. It's been a while since I've spent much time with a refractor and it has different idiosyncrasies than those of my reflectors. Also, I love Biggie Z and I don't want her to get jealous because I'm spending too much money on the new kid.

    And yes, that's a screw holding the plate that the mount screws into.


    Quote Originally Posted by Shelldrake View Post
    Thanks for the great review. The ST80 and its cousins are an incredible value. I find that mine performs well on Jupiter with a 6mm eyepiece. It is worth checking the collimation, which you can adjust using the 3 screws that hold the focuser to the OTA. Adjusting mine helped with image sharpness and contrast.
    That's a great idea, David! I'll have to start reading up on collimating techniques for refractors.


    Quote Originally Posted by sketrip View Post
    Great review & observations Tom - you'll find it a very fun scope. Bryan is right, the GSO focuser takes it up a whole new level.
    If we meet up during the eclipse you can try mine out. Speaking of the St. Jo, MO eclipse location..... according to good sources they now
    expect 800,000 people to be in St Jo for the event... Pack a lunch the line a McDonald's is going to be long......
    Thanks, man! Packing a lunch sounds like a good idea. Although I plan to be on the opposite end of town as the 800,000, I'm sure every restaurant in the area will be jam packed with people.
    Pitter, Ozman13 and Gabby76 like this.

 

 
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