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Meade 8″ LX200 ACF Review: Not Recommended

The Meade 8” LX200 ACF might be worth considering if it was sold for half price, but it offers little in the way of features or value to justify the outrageous markup compared to its competition or really to justify its own existence at all.
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When you read one of my reviews at TelescopicWatch, you can trust that not only have I gotten to use the product, but I’ve compared it to numerous others and tinkered with it down to the literal nuts and bolts. When I'm not writing reviews, I'm out under the night sky with my own homemade or modified telescopes, with over 7 years of hands-on experience in astronomy, having owned 430 telescopes myself, of which 20 I built entirely.

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3.6
/5

The Meade LX200 telescopes have been the flagship of Meade’s product lineup since their debut in the 1990s, and were some of the first GoTo telescopes that were actually consumer-friendly in price and function. In an era where film and hand guiding dominated astrophotography and German equatorial mounts were rarely big enough to hold Schmidt-Cassegrains, the heavy-duty LX200 was also a decent choice for deep-sky astrophotography and was designed with the job in mind. 

Today, however, the LX200 line doesn’t have much of a purpose. For astrophotography, it’s a poor choice compared to a modern German equatorial mount, while it’s rendered redundant for visual use by Meade’s own LX90 ACF line, not to mention the other Schmidt-Cassegrain telescopes from Celestron and Meade. I find it rather shocking that the LX200 line continues to stumble along even after production was halted and restarted during Orion’s acquisition of Meade.

As of the time of writing, the 8” LX200 ACF retails for over $4,000 USD. This is roughly double the price of the Celestron NexStar Evolution 8”, which retains the same basic form factor and similar optical performance, but has features like a standard Vixen-style dovetail, a built-in battery, and a WiFi adapter – not to mention a hand controller that is at least a little more modernized. The Meade ACF optics do have a flatter field compared to standard Schmidt-Cassegrain, making them better for astrophotography purposes, yet I’ve found the Celestron EdgeHD to be a more versatile choice as it is compatible with a wider range of accessories and reducers than the rather poorly supported ACF telescopes.

Meade 8″ LX200 ACF

How It Stacks Up

Rank

Telescope

Rating

#42

Meade 8" LX200 ACF

3.6

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What We Like

  • Great optics
  • Sturdy mount
  • Some astrophotography capabilities

What We Don't Like

  • Outdated software and hardware protocols
  • Inferior to a German equatorial mount for imaging, while pointlessly heavy for a visual telescope
  • Extremely expensive considering lack of features
Not Recommended Telescope

A relict dinosaur from the past, the Meade 8” LX200 ACF is really not worth purchasing over the 8” LX90 which itself is hardly a screaming deal compared to offerings from Celestron and others. At this price you could get multiple telescopes with a shared mount and far greater capabilities than the LX200 has to offer, a huge Dobsonian, or a really nice imaging rig.

The Optical Tube

The Meade 8” LX200 ACF is an aplanatic Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope (SCT) that features an 8” (203mm) aperture and a focal length of 2032mm. It uses a spherical f/2 primary mirror and an aspheric secondary mirror which “folds” the image path into its stubby tube, directing light out the back through a hole in the primary mirror, while its Schmidt corrector removes spherical aberration. The ACF design’s use of a highly aspheric secondary mirror reduces the coma and field curvature seen in a normal Schmidt-Cassegrain, but not as well as the Celestron EdgeHD design which uses corrector lenses. The 8” ACF’s oversized primary mirror and baffle tubes mean that you won’t have vignetting issues with a 2” eyepiece or medium-sized camera sensors like the Celestron C8 XLT, but the Celestron 8” EdgeHD does not have this problem either.

Meade 8" f/10 LX200 ACF Computerized Telescope
Pic by Zane Landers

The 8″ LX200 ACF is capable of providing great views of the Moon, planets, and many small deep-sky objects when it is properly collimated on account of its 8” of aperture. However, as it typical for an 8” Schmidt-Cassegrain, I’ve noticed the scope’s long 2032mm focal length restricts its field of view to about 1.3 degrees across, or about 2.5 times the angular size of the full Moon, even when I use a 2” eyepiece or an f/6.3 focal reducer. This isn’t as wide as the field of view offered by 8” or 10” Dobsonians (which can reach over 2 degrees) and can prevent you from fitting the largest deep-sky objects in the field of view.

The 8” LX200 ACF has three small screws at the front of its secondary mirror holder for adjusting collimation. More information on how to collimate Schmidt-Cassegrain telescopes can be found in our collimation guide. As with most Schmidt-Cassegrain telescopes, the 8” LX200 ACF has a threaded port at the back and a knob on the rear that acts as its focuser. This knob moves an internal rod, which moves the primary mirror, adjusting the spacing between the primary and secondary mirrors and thus moving the focal plane location for different accessories, cameras, etc. The diagonal/eyepiece or camera adapter attach to the back of the telescope with standard SCT threads and remain static when focusing is adjusted. As with all Schmidt-Cassegrain telescopes or other instruments with a moving-mirror focuser, there is a potential issue of “image shift” where wobble or out-of-square alignment of the focusing rod can cause views to appear to bounce around when turning the focus knob. This is relatively minimal with the 8” LX200 ACF. The issue of “mirror flop”, where long-exposure astrophotos tend to become out-of-focus as the mirror shifts on ther focusing rod, is solved by a mirror locking knob which you can tighten after focus is achieved with your camera.

Accessories

The 8” LX200 ACF includes Meade’s standard basic accessory set for their ACF Schmidt-Cassegrain telescopes. You get a 1.25” prism star diagonal, a 1.25” visual back to attach it to the telescope, and a single 1.25” eyepiece – a 26mm Plossl yielding 78x magnification with the 8” ACF optical tube. It is a decent, if basic eyepiece with a 52° apparent field of view, translating to a true field of almost exactly ⅔ of a degree with the 8” ACF.

The finder scope Meade provides with most of their ACF telescopes is a 9×50 straight-through unit with crosshairs and an upside-down field of view. You can focus this finder by twisting the eyepiece, a nice bonus. The field of view is 6°, which is plenty wide, and the finder shows stars a few magnitudes fainter than what your eye alone can show thanks to its 50mm aperture. It is overkill for aligning a GoTo telescope but works just fine for the job, while the Meade/Explore Scientific finder shoe attached to the 8” ACF optical tube does allow you to interchange the provided 9×50 unit with other finders via a compatible adapter or bracket.

Mount

The 8” LX200 uses an alt-azimuth GoTo fork mount. The telescope is more or less permanently attached to the mount; removing it is a time-consuming and tedious procedure that should only be done once if at all – to put a dovetail on it and ditch the fork. The LX200, much like the LX90, runs on servo motors, which I find inferior to steppers for astrophotography due to their lack of precision, not to mention their noisy operation. However, for visual work and other less-demanding applications like planetary imaging it does the job, and you can autoguide the mount if you use it on top of a wedge to convert it to an equatorial fork. The mount has clutches and azimuth/RA slow-motion adjustments for manual aiming, but these will ruin your GoTo alignment if the scope is powered up, and manually aiming the LX200 in altitude/declination is not really possible due to the lack of fine adjustments on that axis. The setting circles on the mount are similarly little more than a useless decoration lacking the precision to be a working tool of any sort.

The LX200 mount is a little beefier than the LX90 design, reducing vibrations somewhat at the cost of increased weight – with the 8” LX200 ACF clocking in at 45 lbs vs the 33 lb 8” LX90 tube/fork package, though both telescopes use Meade’s Standard Field Tripod weighing in at 19 lbs. The 45 lb LX200 fork/OTA assembly is heavier than any 8” or 10” Dobsonian optical tube, and similar to that of a solid-tubed 12” Dob. The total 64 lb assembled weight is on par with a 10” Dobsonian. And if you think it’s less awkward due to the stubbier profile – think again. A Dobsonian just has to be roughly set on its mount; the 8” LX200 needs to be delicately maneuvered to at least line up a hole in the center of the fork mount assembly with a center post on the tripod. Many users purchase a Starizona Landing Pad or similar aftermarket/DIY tool to help with this process. 

Assembly of the 8” LX200 ACF consists of assembling/leveling the tripod and accessory tray and then putting the scope/forks atop, then powering up for alignment. You can run the scope off eight C batteries but a DC/AC power supply is a more economical and convenient option, though keeping batteries in the compartment works as a failsafe in the event external power is briefly lost, avoiding a need to align the scope again and start all over.

The 8” LX200 ACF’s provided AudioStar hand controller has a variety of alignment possibilities, but generally, 2 or 3-star alignments are the most accurate and straightforward for a night of observation; the quick align and auto align features can often suffer from lack of pointing/tracking accuracy over long periods or between multiple objects. The provided Meade AudioStar controller, is basically an updated Autostar controller. Like the Autostar, which itself dates back to the 1990s, the AudioStar features an unappealing red LED display; its selling point is more of a gimmick in that it can relay auditory information about what the scope is pointing to or doing. There really isn’t much benefit to this, and the interface can just feel slow, uncomfortable, and outdated compared to a Celestron or Sky-Watcher controller. Thankfully, it is possible to install an aftermarket WiFi adapter to control the scope over SkySafari Pro or Stellarium, or just plug the scope into your PC with the correct serial port adapter cables.

Like the AudioStar controller, the GPS unit in the 8” LX200 ACF is barely more than a gimmick. It saves you a few seconds of effort setting up the telescope by entering in the location, time, and date information, but a WiFi adapter can just get that information from your phone (and you can just pull up that information anyhow regardless); in addition to adding to the cost, the GPS unit can fail to sync or simply stop working entirely, though it won’t affect operation if it does fail. Meade and Celestron used to trumpet this feature a lot more than nowadays with their respective GPS telescopes as if the GPS was some sort of way to help the telescope navigate the night sky. Thankfully, it is now more of a footnote.

Should I buy a Used Meade 8” LX200 ACF?

There is about as much of a point in buying a used 8” LX200 as there is a new one. These telescopes are just cumbersome for what they provide. Older LX200s are often sold for outrageous prices as many people seem to think little has changed between versions or simply that these telescopes retain value better than they actually do. Pre-2007 LX200 telescopes will lack the ACF optics; early ACFs are labeled “LX200R” due to some nomenclature/marketing terminology Meade was using at the time. The pre-ACF LX200 telescopes (including the LX200R) use an AutoStar controller in lieu of the AudioStar, while the first LX200 or “Classic” telescopes use a very antiquated hand controller. You won’t notice much difference in typical use between an old LX200GPS, LX200R, and the current ACF versions. The LX200 Classic telescopes are unable to accept an AutoStar or AudioStar handset and use tantalum capacitors which are prone to shorting themselves; these telescopes are severely limited by the technology of their time even if they still work (being over 25 years old) and should probably be avoided.

As with any used Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope, make sure that the corrector coatings on the 8” LX200 are free of damage and that the mirrors are not corroded. A cracked corrector or one with coating “fog” cannot be repaired economically. The electronics should also be tested before purchasing if possible.

Alternative Recommendations

Normally we categorize our alternative recommendations by price range, but with such a wide selection (combined with the 8” LX200’s sky-high price) we’ve elected to give you some simpler guidance instead.

Dobsonians

  • The Sky-Watcher Flextube GoTo Collapsible Dobsonians are available in 8”, 10”, 12”, 14”, and 16” apertures as well as manual-only formats for the smaller three. These telescopes are compact and the GoTo functionality seamlessly allows manual aiming thanks to the Sky-Watcher FreedomFind encoders, while the simple FlexTube design increases portability without adding too much complexity for setup.
  • The Apertura AD/Zhumell Z/Orion SkyLine Dobsonians are available in 8”, 10”, and 12” apertures. These telescopes provide some of the best “bang for your buck” of any telescope sold today and offer fantastic views at the eyepiece, sturdy mounts, and a decent bundle of provided features and accessories.
  • The Explore Scientific Truss Tube Dobsonians – available in “hybrid” and deluxe 10” as well as 12” and 16” apertures – are all-metal Dobsonian telescopes with buttery-smooth mounts, extremely compact designs when dismantled and of course excellent optical performance. However, they include little in the way of useful accessories and a truss tube scope is of course more complex to assemble in the field.
  • The Celestron StarSense Explorer Dobsonians, available in 8” and 10” apertures, feature an optimized, lightweight mount design and Celestron’s StarSense Explorer technology to help you find your way around the night sky with your smartphone. However, few accessories or other features are included.

Catadioptrics (Visual/Planetary)

  • The Celestron NexStar Evolution 8” offers basically the same features as the 8” LX200 ACF at a small fraction of the price, with bonus features like a built-in battery and WiFi adapter and a universal Vixen-style dovetail system to remove the optical tube and easily install it on another mount. The StarSense/EdgeHD version adds EdgeHD optics – superior in performance to the ACF – and the StarSense AutoAlign tool. Neither scope is much better for astrophotography than the LX200 on the stock Evolution mount, but swapping the tube over to a capable German equatorial mount will allow you to shoot deep-sky objects much more easily.
  • The Celestron Advanced VX 9.25″ Schmidt-Cassegrain GoTo is undermounted for deep-sky astrophotography but the Advanced VX can easily be used for imaging with a smaller telescope optical tube, while the C9.25 XLT optical tube packs quite a punch compared to a standard 8” Schmidt-Cassegrain without much of an increase in weight or physical size.
  • The Celestron CGEM II 1100 offers huge 11” aperture and is extremely capable for planetary viewing and imaging. However, it’s of course unsuitable for deep-sky astrophotography and the 2800mm focal length severely limits the maximum field of view even with a 2” eyepiece, while setup is quite cumbersome compared to a similarly sized Dobsonian. The CPC 1100 GPS features the same optics on an alt-azimuth fork mount like the LX200; it is simpler to assemble but breaks down into fewer and heavier pieces.

Imaging

Deep-sky astrophotographers should consider a telescope on a German equatorial mount for the task in lieu of a fork-mounted Schmidt-Cassegrain. While a handful of decent astrophotography telescopes are sold paired with good equatorial mounts, in most cases you’ll get a better mount a la carte, and the majority of these telescopes are sold as optical tubes only. Check out our Mount Rankings page for more information.

  • The Celestron EdgeHD telescopes – available in 8”, 9.25”, 11”, and 14” apertures – provide the same features as the Meade ACF scopes such as field-flattened optics, mirror locks, and a wide illuminated image circle, but are better performers and are compatible with far more accessories such as the Starizona HyperStar f/2 conversion kit. The 8” and 9.25” models make for an ideal pairing with the Celestron CGX mount.
  • The Celestron RASA telescopes are essentially EdgeHD units permanently converted to f/2 Schmidt cameras with a built-in corrector system like the Starizona HyperStar. The 8” version is very friendly to smaller mounts while the larger 11” is a beefy but capable choice too. Both are limited in their compatibility with many cameras, however, especially monochrome units.
  • Various apochromatic refractors and imaging Newtonians are sold for deep-sky astrophotography; most beginners start with refractors thanks to their simplicity. Check out our OTA Rankings page for more information.

Aftermarket Accessory Recommendations

A dew shield is a good idea for any catadioptric telescope and the 8” LX200 ACF is no exception. A dew shield is necessary to protect the corrector plate from condensation and it will lessen any glare or external light coming into the telescope, while also keeping it safe from dust, pollen, dirt, and debris. You’ll also definitely want to pick a 2” screw-on dielectric mirror star diagonal such as the one from Apertura, which will allow you to get the largest possible true field of view with this telescope by utilizing 2” eyepieces.

Eyepiece selection is a matter of personal preference, especially if you have a big enough budget to be getting an 8” LX200 in the first place – but at the minimum, you’ll want 3 or 4 eyepieces. Our top picks would be an Apertura 38mm SWA (53x) to max out the scope’s field of view, a 21mm Baader Hyperion (97x), an Explore Scientific 14mm 82-degree or Baader 14mm Morpheus (145x) and an Explore Scientific 8.5mm 82-degree (239x). The 8” LX200 ACF can take up to 400x magnification under ideal conditions, but this is unlikely to be usable often, and generally magnifications of over around 200-300x are rarely of much utility anyway. The f/10 focal ratio of the 8” LX200 ACF and most other Schmidt-Cassegrains makes it amenable to nearly all eyepiece types, even fairly cheap designs like Plossls and SWA/Erfle arrangements, so don’t be afraid to experiment. A Barlow lens can also work in lieu of a high-power, short focal length eyepiece and also is a great accessory to have on hand for planetary imaging.

Additionally, a good UHC (ultra-high contrast) nebula filter such as the Orion UltraBlock improves contrast on emission nebulae through the eyepiece of almost any telescope; a 2” unit will screw onto a 2” to 1.25” adapter if you elect to use the 8” LX200 ACF with 2” eyepieces and thus works with either size ocular. 

Lastly, a power supply such as the Celestron PowerTank Lithium Pro or a Westinghouse AC/DC power supply is a good idea if you can’t just plug your scope into a wall outlet; chewing through C batteries is expensive and particularly inconvenient if you run them down during the middle of an observing session.

What can you see?

The 8” LX200 ACF provides the same views as pretty much any other 8” Schmidt-Cassegrain or any good-quality 8” telescope. Smaller open star clusters that fit in the field of view, such as M35 or M11, look fantastic; large clusters like the Pleiades (M45) will stretch outside the scope’s maximum achievable field of view and might seem lackluster, however. Globular star clusters such as M13 and M15 can be resolved into individual stars with an 8” telescope like the LX200 ACF even under fairly light-polluted skies, and you can see the green and blue colors in planetary nebulae like the Blue Snowball and the Cat’s Eye. Bright emission nebulae like Orion (M42) and the Lagoon (M8) look decent even from the suburbs, especially with a UHC filter, but are best under dark skies. Galaxies are washed-out smudges under light-polluted skies with any telescope, but take the 8” LX200 ACF to a dark sky location where the Milky Way can be seen overhead and you’ll have no trouble resolving dust lanes and other features in many of the brighter galaxies, along with groups such as the Virgo Cluster which may reveal dozens if not hundreds of individual members.

The 8” LX200 ACF is also good for lunar and planetary viewing. You’ll be able to see the phases of Mercury and Venus of course, along with countless tiny details on the Moon regardless of its phase. Mars reveals some dark markings and its polar ice caps when the planet is at its closest to Earth, while the 9×50 finderscope easily reveals Jupiter’s moons, which appear as tiny disks with jet-black shadows during their frequent transits of the giant planet. Jupiter itself shows a wide variety of colorful and ever-changing atmospheric details including its equatorial cloud belts, the Great Red Spot, and various smaller storms. You’ll also be able to see the rings of Saturn and the Cassini Division in them, along with a few of the planet’s moons and some tawny stripes in its atmosphere. Uranus is a teal disk – you might just barely be able to see a couple of its moons under optimal conditions, but a larger telescope is preferable for the attempt. Neptune is a tiny bluish orb and may be hard to resolve clearly at all with the 8” LX200 ACF, but its moon Triton stands out to the keen eye. Pluto is too dim for an 8” telescope to reveal even under dark skies due to its increasing dimness as it heads for aphelion later this century; a 10-12” or larger instrument is required to see it as a star-like point.

Astrophotography

The 8” LX200 ACF can be converted to an equatorially mounted configuration suitable for deep-sky astrophotography, but this requires the purchase of a heavy-duty wedge and precisely polar aligning the scope, as well as adding autoguiding and so forth. Even then, you are unlikely to get the same quality results as a German equatorial mount, all without the option of switching to a different telescope optical tube and with a much more cumbersome and inconvenient setup process. In any case, an 8” Schmidt-Cassegrain can be a bit of a headache to deal with for beginner deep-sky astrophotographers due to the precise collimation, focus, pointing, tracking, and guiding involved. Smaller instruments, preferably with shorter focal lengths and faster f/ratios, are more forgiving.

As with any 8” Schmidt-Cassegrain, the 8” LX200 ACF is good for planetary and lunar imaging with a suitable 2-3x Barlow lens and a high-speed CMOS video camera like the ZWO ASI224MC, coupled to a laptop with capture software. However, it’s not going to be any different than a cheaper 8” SCT or GoTo Dobsonian at a fraction of the price and a larger aperture scope will beat it in resolving power.

Zane Landers

An amateur astronomer and telescope maker from Connecticut who has been featured on TIME magazineNational GeographicLa Vanguardia, and Clarin, The Guardian, The Arizona Daily Star, and Astronomy Technology Today and had won the Stellafane 1st and 3rd place Junior Awards in the 2018 Convention. Zane has owned over 425 telescopes, of which around 400 he has actually gotten to take out under the stars. These range from the stuff we review on TelescopicWatch to homemade or antique telescopes; the oldest he has owned or worked on so far was an Emil Busch refractor made shortly before the outbreak of World War I. Many of these are telescopes that he repaired or built.

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