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Meade ETX 80 Telescope Review – Partially Recommended

Many of the product reviews you read are based on a scope provided by a manufacturer to a reviewer who has had it less than 60 days when they write the review. This one is different.

I purchased the ETX 80 Observer and have owned and used it for over two years. So this will not only be a product review but a long-term user review of Meade ETX 80. 

You may be interested to know that I have also owned the ETX 60, ETX 80 AT and the ETX 125 EC. And it seems that many of the members of my astronomy club own or have owned a Meade ETX scope. This is a very popular line of products.

The Meade ETX 80 observer is part of the new, updated ETX Observer series which also includes new versions of the ETX 90 Observer and the reintroduction of the ETX 125 Observer. These scopes have been so popular over the years that Meade just keeps improving and enhancing them.

How It Stacks Up

Ranked #14 of 20 ~$300 telescopes

Rank 14
Meade ETX 80

I wanted a telescope that was light, easy to move around, quick to set-up and quick to put away. I had spoken to people who had started out with a scope that was too big. They produced great views but were so heavy or cumbersome to move, set-up, then break down and put away that they rarely used them or gave up on astronomy.

After months of research, I came up with the following criteria for my first scope.

  • A computerized scope, also called a GoTo scope, to help me find things in the sky
  • Tracking – Once I found the target I wanted the scope to keep it in the field of view
  • Clutches that can be released so it can be used manually, with the computer turned off
  • Light and portable for quick set-up for home use as well as quick toss in the car for remote darker sites
  • Compact so I could take it on a plane in my carryon or in a very packed car on a vacation
  • Possible use for video based imaging
  • Options to attached a DSLR camera someday
  • Based on industry standards so other brands of accessories can be used
  • Large user community
  • A major brand with a reputation for good service and support

I took delivery of the ETX 80 observer in October of 2016. This is the same scope that is available today. As a quick summary, as a two-year owner, I have been very happy with it and have recommended it to many people. 

The Meade ETX 80 Observer’s compact size and ease of use make it a great first scope for an adult or young teen. And due to the tracking and wide views, this is a great first family scope as you can find things fast and it will keep them in view as various members of the family come to take a look. 

With manual, non-computerized scopes, kids can become distracted as you hunt through the sky trying to find something interesting. Or guests become annoyed as you have to take the scope back when they bump it and can’t see what was in view. The ETX 80 eliminates these issues.

Note that the ETX 80 Observer in the photo is shown as it would be used as a spotting scope with the included 45 degrees diagonal attached at the rear. For stargazing that would be removed. I will comment more on that rear port later.

What Can You See With The ETX 80 Observer?

I will touch what comes in the package later as that is available on any listing of the scope. What you really want to know is what you can see with this scope. 

Well after two years I have seen a lot. Let me share some of it with you.

I have used my Meade ETX 80 Observer to view Mars and Mercury. I have seen the phases of Venus. I have seen Jupiter, Jupiter’s cloud bands and Jupiter’s great red spot. I have also seen the four Galilean moons of Jupiter. And there is little that is more spectacular than the rings of Saturn. I never get tired of Saturn.

The Meade ETX 80 is also great for viewing beautiful open star clusters like the Pleiades, the Hyades, the Double Cluster, Owl Cluster and so many more. These are great targets, even in light polluted areas.

The Orion Nebula and the Ring Nebula look great in the Meade ETX 80 even from my light polluted suburban location. The ETX 80 Observer has no problem finding them.

Double stars are stars that appear to be a single star but are actually two stars that are very close together. Using the ETX 80 I have been able to split many doubles so that I can see the two, and sometimes three or four stars. I have used it to split double stars like Albireo, Mizar and Alcor and others. Sometimes what appears to be a single white star is actually a blue and yellow or red star once you split them. They can be quite beautiful and double stars are not particularly affected by light pollution. 

Many of the showcase targets are quite wide. The Andromeda Galaxy is over three degrees wide. The Pleiades is close to two degrees wide. Many nebula requires wide view capability. But many scopes have a narrow field of view design. Some have a field of view of less than 1 degree. But the ETX 80 can provide over 2.5 degrees field of view with the standard eyepieces. Add a 32 mm Plossl eyepiece and you approach a 4-degree field of view. Many scopes simply can’t do this.

And let’s not forget the Moon. I have used the ETX 80 to see the Apollo landing sites, (no you can’t see the flag or the landers), huge craters and mountains on the moon, some of which extend out into space along the edge. After years of enjoying astronomy, there is still so much to enjoy on the Moon and the ETX 80 has done a great job of showing me the sights.

ETX 80 on a skywatching party

The photo on the right was taken at a solar eclipse event in August 2018. A local college invited me and one other person to their eclipse party.   

I added solar filters to my Meade ETX 80 Observer, on the right in the photo, and my Meade ETX 125 EC, on the left. I set them to track the Sun which they did for hours.  People lined up to view the solar eclipse as it progressed. It was great fun and I received a lot of inquiries about the ETX 80 from those who were interested in getting their first scope. 

I have also purchased a video imaging kit that I will add to the ETX 80 Observer for what is called EAA, electronically assisted astronomy. This replaces the eyepiece with a camera. You can display the image on a screen so a group can see it. Or you can capture a stream of frames and process them on the computer, called stacking, to produce images that approach those obtained by advanced astrophotography, AP, at a fraction of the cost of an AP set-up. 

For EAA to work well you need a scope that tracks. The tracking feature of the ETX 80 Observer is more than sufficient for this purpose. I have not explored this much yet but plan to in the future.

EAA will allow a small scope like the ETX 80 Observer to present images that have previously required much larger scopes and expensive imaging equipment. Once I have gotten more deeply into this I will do a combined review.

The Joy of a Computerized System

Many people buy telescopes only to lose interest after a short time because they can’t find the wonderful things that are in the sky. But with the Meade ETX 80 Observer you have a fully computerized and robotic system. Once you do the alignment, which only takes a few minutes, the scope can find thousands of objects in the sky.   

The system is so easy to use. If you use a GPS in your car, home computer apps or phone apps, you will find setting up the ETX 80 Observer to be very simple. In fact, I brought this to a meeting of my astronomy club recently to demonstrate the computerized GoTo features and people were quite impressed as to how easy it was to use.

Let’s say you wanted to see the Pleiades, one of the most spectacular star clusters in the constellation of Taurus. Would you know where to look or how to identify the Pleiades?  Let’s see how you would find the Pleiades, also called Messier 45, using your ETX 80 Observer.

Using the handset, select the Messier objects menu and enter 45. The ETX 80 Observer would then turn the scope to the location and put M45 in the field of view of the 26 mm eyepiece that comes with the scope. Using the arrows on the handset you can adjust the position if necessary. 

If you were to find M45 with a manual scope you first need to know where to look. Then you would have to get it into the field of view of the eyepiece. Then you would have to constantly adjust the position of the scope to track the target as it moved through the sky.   

The ETX 80 observer finds it for you and then tracks it for you. You can go into the house to get a drink or call your family. When you came back outside, the earth would have rotated and the stars in the sky will have moved. If you were using a manual scope, the Pleiades would no longer be in view. But the ETX 80 Observe will follow it in the sky so your family and friends can take a look without you having to find it again or to reposition the scope after each person. 

Believe me, this tracking capability makes observing the universe so much more enjoyable than having to constantly keep adjusting the scope to track your target. It also lets you spend more time enjoying the view and less time trying to keep the target in sight.

M45 is one of over 100 wonderful targets that were cataloged by the French astronomer Charles Messier. The Messier Catalogue includes star clusters, galaxies, nebula, and other objects, all of which can be found for you by the ETX 80 Observer. The Messier list is a favorite of new telescope owners.

The darker your location the better these objects will look. Since the ETX 80 Observer is light and compact it is so easy to put it in the smallest car for a trip to a darker site. You can even put it in the included backpack and jump on your bicycle or motorcycle for that trip to a darker location.   

The ETX 80 Observer also has a cool tour feature that will take you on a tour of the best objects in the sky tonight. If you don’t know what you want to look at tonight, just take the tour.

The earlier ETX 80 AT and Backpack Observatory only had 1,400 objects in the AutoStar database. One of the upgrades from earlier ETX models is that the new AudioStar hand controller included in the ETX Observer line boasts over 30,000 objects.

Another new feature is that the new AudioStar hand controller includes audio descriptions of the things you will see. If you tell it to go to Jupiter it will tell you all about the king of planets. It has a volume control so you can adjust the sound to your preference. Kids love this feature!

Another extra benefit with Meade’s computerized telescopes is that virtually all of them use the same AutoStar or AudioStar system to control the scope. So if you want to upgrade to a larger Meade scope later, you already know how to use it.   

I recently had the opportunity to use an observatory telescope at the Vanderbilt Planetarium. They have a Meade LX200 16 inch. That big Meade scope costs well over $15,000 but it works almost exactly like my ETX 80 Observer. 

Overview Of ETX 80 Observer

The Meade ETX 80 observer is a very complete package with some unique features. Unlike many introductory telescopes, the Meade ETX 80 Observer contains everything you need to get started.   

The first and most important feature is a very comprehensive easy to follow manual. Many of the entry level scopes I have seen lack a telescope user guide, leaving it to the buyer to figure out how to assemble and use the scope. Meade has taken great care to see that you have the guidance you need. They even include a brief chapter on basic astronomy.   

A red dot finder is included. This is a good match to the ETX 80 Observer as this is typically only needed during set-up. Once you have the scope aligned you can turn this off as the scope will find the targets for you.

Picture of meade ETX 80 on use

There is a software DVD included. And Meade also provides an instructional video to show you how to set-up and align the scope. The video can be found here.

You get an 80 mm refractor telescope, two eyepieces, a built-in 2X Barlow lens, dew shield, and lens covers. There is a compass and bubble level that helps with the set-up.  The scope has an integrated 90-degree star diagonal which gives you the best position for viewing the sky.

That integrated star diagonal also has a port on the back, not something you will see on other telescopes in this class. Purchase the appropriate adapter for your brand of DSLR camera and you can mount your camera to the back of the scope. You can look through the eyepiece and then flip the mirror and have the light go to the camera.

This is also where you would mount the included 45-degree correct image diagonal that turns the ETX 80 into a spotting scope for daytime use. Take in out for bird watching, watching boats on the lake, ships in the harbor, climbers on the mountain or deer in the field. 

I have set up the ETX 80 Observer to see nesting birds down by the beach and to observe hawks atop distant trees. The included correct image 45 degrees diagonal is optimized for daytime use. The images are correctly oriented, just as they would be in a dedicated spotting scope or binoculars.

You get a fully computerized and motorized mount with the new AudioStar hand control that has over 30,000 objects in its database. And it provides the ability for you to add more objects either by downloading them or by adding your own targets right into the handset.

The six AA batteries go inside the base of the scope so there are no external battery packs or power supply needed. Some other computerized scopes require an external pack which can be inconvenient to use, or which can be forgotten at home. I recently had a newbie bring over his new computerized telescope, not an ETX 80 Observer, so that I could help him set it up. But he left the battery pack home so we could not make it work.

A great feature with the Meade ETX line is that you can use it manually.  Let’s say your batteries died. Many other computerized scopes would be dead, unusable, but not the ETX 80 observer. If you want to use the scope manually, which I do from time to time, you can unlock the clutches and point the scope yourself. Many computerized scopes do not allow you to do this, but the ETX 80 Observer makes it easy. Some nights, when I know exactly what I want to see and where it is, I just point and view.

Another interesting enhancement is that the optical tube can be easily removed from the mount with two screws. Previous versions made it very difficult to remove the optical tube if you wanted to put it on a different mount. In fact I have been thinking of making an adapter plate for my digital camera to put it on the ETX mount to take advantage of the tracking for taking long exposure photos of the sky with my camera, using the camera’s lens.    

Another great advantage of this design is that you can use the Meade ETX 80 Observer on the included tripod or as a tabletop scope. This is different from most computerized scopes where the drive system are integrated into the tripod. 

With the ETX 80 Observer the brains are in the base of the scope and the handset. Take it off the tripod and put it on a table and you have a fully functional computerized robotic system. This makes it even easier to take traveling as you don’t have to bring the tripod.

It all comes packaged in a very nice quality backpack along with a fold-up tripod so you can pack it away, toss it in the car for travel, take it on a hike or hang it on the wall for storage. For teens, they can put on the backpack and bicycle to the local schoolyard or park.

Over time, we telescope owners like to add eyepieces.  Eyepieces are what magnify the image. The included 26 mm eyepiece gives you 15X. The included 9.7 mm eyepiece gives you 41X. Flip in the included integrated 2X Barlow lens and 15X becomes 30X and 41X becomes 82X. However, that is not the limit of what the ETX 80 can do.

I have since added Meade and other brand eyepieces that will let me take the ETX 80 to much higher magnifications. Since it adheres to the 1.25” industry standard for eyepieces and other visual accessories you can add eyepieces, filters, Barlow lenses, and other accessories from Meade or other brands.

My favorite eyepiece in my ETX 80 is an 8-24 mm zoom eyepiece that works like the zoom lens on a camera. Meade makes a nice one that would be an excellent addition to the ETX 80 observer.

If there is one weakness in the package it is that the tripod is a bit lightweight. This is in keeping with the backpack, lightweight and easily portable concept of the ETX 80 observer. This can lead to some image shake during focusing or in a strong breeze.  This is a common issue for entry-level scopes. Initially this bothered me, but I learned to adjust to it. 

If you wish, Meade does sell an optional tripod that is heavier and more robust should you wish to add that in the future. Of course, you don’t have to use the tripod at all, just place it on a sturdy table, stool or a level rock and you are all set.

Final Verdict

When I consider this package based on price, the included accessories, the backpack, and the beautiful wide views I can achieve, I consider it a very good value. This would be a great starter scope for anyone. The lightweight, compact size and ease of use would make this a great starter for a teen. You don’t have to know a lot about the sky to get started and the scope will let you use it manually when you like. 

People are also using this scope for entry-level astrophotography, video imaging and more. There are lots of videos on YouTube.

As I have learned, over time people tend to have more than one scope. I have four. This is my grab and go scope.  It is also my wide view telescope. Some targets look better in the ETX 80 Observer than they do in my larger scopes.

This is also the one I take on vacation. And I prefer this one when I am showing the sky to people at an astronomy outreach session. It packs up small, and the tracking comes in so handy to serve a crowd. The computer, GoTo system, makes it so quick and easy to move from target to target.    

Will the Meade ETX 80 Observer be a good scope for you? Well, if your criteria are like mine then yes. If you think this is going to compete with a $1,200 200 mm scope then you will be disappointed. 

If you are looking for a first scope that can find things for you in the sky and track them, this is a great choice. If you are looking for a compact scope for travel and vacations, this is a great choice. The ETX 80 Observer is a great wide view computerized GoTo scope at a good price with lots of accessories and options available. It also makes a great second scope to complement a larger scope. I will have this a long time. Even now that I have other larger scopes, the Meade ETX 80 continues to get its share of sky time and that’s why such a positive review about ETX 80.

Tips for Getting the Most Enjoyment with your ETX 80 Observer

Batteries – The scope uses 6 AA batteries for power. Meade recommends alkaline batteries and they work fine. However, I find that the AA lithium batteries work better and last a lot longer. I only use lithium batteries in mine.

If you are going to be observing at home you do have the option to buy an AC adapter and do away with the internal batteries. Or you can buy an adapter cord to plug into your car’s 12V power port. I have used one of these cables and an auto jump start pack to power my ETX scopes from time to time.

Light Pollution – If you are observing from a very light polluted area, as I do, focus your observing time on bright targets such as the Moon, planets, open star clusters, and double stars as well as some bright nebula and globular clusters. Save galaxies, most nebula and dimmer globular clusters for occasions when you can get to a darker area. 

Even with my larger scopes, I follow this practice as the glow of the sky washes out the targets at my home location. Some targets look so much better at darker locations regardless of what scope I am using.

The Moon is a wonderful target but it is also a source of light pollution. Look at the stars in your sky when there is no Moon. Now, look when there is a full Moon. You will see far fewer stars when the Moon is out. The light from the Moon reduces the contrast between the sky and deep sky objects. They will look better when the Moon is not in the sky.

Speaking of the Moon, the full moon is the worst time to observe the Moon. The surface is evenly illuminated resulting in very low contrast. The best time to observe the Moon is when the Moon moves from first slivers after the new moon and continuing on into the first quarter. These are the best time to observe the moon. And the same is true from the last quarter to the final slivers. There are deeper shadows on the craters and you can see more detail. And don’t forget to note the outer edges were craters and mountains extend out into space.

Many people like to use a Moon filter. I often use one. There are many types which are rated by the percentage of light they transmit. With the Meade ETX 80 I prefer a 25% or 40% filter. The 13% filters are for much larger telescopes.

Consider where your best view lies in the sky. For me, it is northeast to southeast. This is the darkest part of my sky so I focus my observing there. For you, it may be in a different area of the sky. But try to spend the majority of your observing time in the darkest part of your sky.

Just a few tips that may help enhance your enjoyment of your observing time.

Clear skies!

42 thoughts on “Meade ETX 80 Telescope Review – Partially Recommended”

  1. Hi, Nice review. I owned ETX 80 but still try to get use of it. I find it hard to get the scope aligned using stars.

  2. Like anything else related to computers, you have to follow the procedure exactly and you have to practice.

    • I was thinking about getting an 80 based on this review but saw your post on Cloudy Nights about having to replace the 80 and now I’m concerned about the quality. Do you recommend the 80 still or do you think the 90 is better? I’m a newbie and would like a telescope that do the tracking in order to share with my family. Thank you in advance for your help!!

      • I did have a problem with my ETX 80. Meade replaced it with an ETX 80 Observer. I am enjoying the replacement.

        Personally, I prefer the ETX 80, a short tube F5 refractor, as a first scope. The 80 is optimized for low to medium power use. I like the wide field of view. The 90 is a very different type of scope. The ETX 90 is a long focal length Maksutov-Cassegrain. It is optimized for higher power and the low power views are much narrower than the ETX 80.

        If you are not familiar with the different types of telescopes, this article may be helpful.

        I would take the ETX 125 over the 90 for its larger aperture, but it is much higher priced. I have the ETX 125 also.

        A lot depends on your goals and preferences. Is this a first scope or a second scope? I have 5 scopes ranging from 80 mm to 305 mm, all different. The ETX 80 was my first scope and it gave me a great start in the hobby. Today it is my wide view scope. I also like it for outreach events.

        • Thank you so much for your input. I have 2 other telescopes, a Celestron Starsense DX 102mm I purchased as a training aid and
          to help me locate objects I can’t find on my own and a Meade Infinity 90mm I use along with my planisphere and for my wife or niece to look at objects while I find something else to look at.

          The other night after experiencing having to re-adjust targets I thought the ETX 80 or similar tracking telescopie would be useful. At this time, I feel like wide field views and bright objects would be plenty to keep me busy for a while but am concerned I may be duplicating my equipment.

          Thank you for your response and the article, I’m about to do read it.

          • If you want to track, the ETX 80 will deliver but you will have a lot less aperture than your DX102 which gathers 62% more light than the ETX 80 and has a fairly wide field of view itself. But if tracking is your focus, the ETX 80 gets it done.

            I don’t know what your budget, storage or weight restrictions would be but I would suggest you move up in aperture. After my ETX 80 I went to an 8″/203 mm Orion XT8 Intelliscope. It is a PushTo, like the Starsense, but works differently. It does not use your phone and it does not use plate solving. But it will guide you to your targets and it will gather almost 4X the light of the 102.

            Orion SkyQuest XT8 Intelliscope Review

            Give it some consideration. The DX 102 makes a good grab-and-go scope. With a 32 mm Plossl eyepiece it provides a fairly wide field of view and it has slow-motion tracking controls. I would look to more aperture for your next scope.

  3. Hello. I have recently purchased the etx 80, I am a beginner in the art of the telescope. I have a few questions for you if there is anyway I could get in contact with you for a moment or would be greatly appreciated.
    Keep your eyes on the skies my friend

    • Kyle,

      I would be happy to answer any questions you have. Feel free to post them here so others can benefit from our exchange.

      • Ed, thank you for requesting that he post questions here. It is a great help when a community learns together!

        Great review. I am about to get this for my son and his partner based on it.

  4. I have an ETX-BB Backpack Observatory Telescope & have had a couple of problems with it.
    1 The tripod supplied was faulty & was replaced.
    2 I noticed that the plastic base containing the motor had cracked. I’ve had the base cover off &
    found that the attachment screw holes are not perfectly true. So I’m not surprised that
    the case has cracked. I doubt that I can get a new base cover.

  5. I have the Revolution Imager R2.
    It works quite well, and my plan is to use the ETX 80 as the platform for this. But I have found, for the moment, that I prefer visual astronomy, eye at the eyepiece, rather than looking at a screen. Just a personal preference.

    I would recommend the RI2 package for someone getting started in EAA, electronically assisted astronomy and imaging.

    • Ed, thanks for this review. It was so thoughtful and detailed. I am looking for a portable starter scope that I can take camping and eventually play with astrophotography. Two questions: why the ETX 80 over the 125 that you also own? Second, for EAA I often travel with a laptop. Is there a ccd camera you’d recommend that doesn’t come with a monitor? I also have a Fuji DSLR. Wondering what the advantages of a dedicated CCD are.

      • Thanks for your comments. I am happy you found the article helpful.

        Clearly, the ETX 125 has a larger aperture so gathers more light, but it is much heavier. It is a very different design. The ETX 80 is a short tube wide-angle refractor optimized for low to medium power wide views. The ETX 125 is a high focal ratio Maksutov-Cassigrain, optimized for higher power use. Completely different optical tube design.

        Different types of Telescopes

        I am not an imager so I would not presume to advise you on cameras. However, this article/review might be helpful.

        • Another fantastic article, Ed. I’m coming from (terrestrial) landscape photography. While things like aperture and focal length and chromatic aberration are familiar to me, there we’re things like focal ratio that I was struggling to understand.

          I guess I’m still struggling to form an intuition about what the viewing experience would be like with individual scopes. In the Portable Telescope product guide review for the ETX 80, for example, it says “ being an f/5 refractor it will show a lot of chromatic aberration – limiting lunar and planetary views, and preventing one from going much above 85x.”

          So refractors have good deep sky light gathering for their size, but require high quality eyepieces to be suitable for planetary viewing? Or does one just learn to ignore the chromatic aberrations?

          I am also wondering what focal length is best for balancing deep sky and planetary viewing? I read that wide field works well with planetary, but are those images less impactful (holding aperture equal)?

          Similarly, for a given focal length OTA, we want an aperture that’s wide enough to allow for detail in the planets (with eyepiece magnification?) but not so wide that it causes an uneven field of view?

          In short, I am wondering if there is a better semi-portable telescope that balances deep sky and planetary viewing in a single design, or am I best off getting the ETX 80 and investing in eye pieces down the road that help make up for its shortcomings? For example, I see that Alpine Astronomical offers an 8-24mm zoom that advertises flat field optics.

          I re-read your review of the ETX80 just now, and I think I know the answer. Many thanks again.

          • You are asking good questions but the discussion would go way beyond the focus of this review. Just remember that telescopes are like cars and cameras and such. Each person has their preferences and opinions.

            You might find this article addresses some of your questions.

            Different types of Telescopes

            When my ETX 80 was my only scope I used it for planets and deep-sky objects as well as solar observing and the Moon. I observed Jupiter at 150X with the ETX 80. I saw the rings of Saturn and the cloud bands and great red spot on Jupiter with the ETX 80.
            Today I have 6 scopes and each is optimized a little differently so the ETX 80 is not the one I pull out for planets, but when it was my only scope I did plenty of planetary observing with it. And, while there is definitely more CA with an ETX 80 than a $2000 apochromatic refractor or a Newtonian reflector, I have never found it to be a problem. But others are more fussy about CA.

            There is no single scope that is the best at everything, and the ETX 80 doesn’t try to be the best at everything. It is a good beginner GoTo scope that is inexpensive and can be carried in a backpack. It was my first telescope. I still have it and it still gets used.

  6. Thanks for a really good in depth review.
    I have just ordered mine and can’t wait to set it up when it arrives.
    I spent a good 2-3 days looking at other telescopes in the price range and looked at a few youtube vids but decided on this one after reading your review.
    Its my forst scope ( age 57!) and am joing a few stargazing clubs.
    Thanks again 🙂

  7. I bought the ETX 80 this year the problem I am having is the equatorial mode function does not work. Meade disabled this function in the new ETX 80. Every ETX I have owned since this series came or had the chance to play with and observe with all had this active equatorial tracking mode function. Meade does not disclose this or does most companies selling this version know this they all think like I did and the company I bought my ETX from from it still thought it had the equatorial tracking function and you can use it in this mode if you had a wedge mount for it! Right now the company that sold it to me doesn’t seem to really care! We are very disappointed.

    • Thanks for letting us know. Certainly, Meade does not advertise that it has this feature. It is unfortunate that the seller did not do his homework. You might gives some thought to going elsewhere in the future for your astronomy equipment.

      I have the ETX 80 and ETX 125. I owned an ETX 60 for a short while. I also operate a Meade LX200 at a local observatory which uses a similar AutoStar system to what the ETX scopes use. I don’t use equatorial mode on any of them so I never tested or looked for this feature on the ETX 80 observer. Nor did I expect to find it in the system.

      You might try setting the handset to an ETX 70 and see if that will operate the ETX 80 Observer in EQ mode.

  8. Hi, I have recently purchased an ETX 80 from someone who was clearing out their grandfather’s belongings so didn’t have a great deal of information about it to pass on. Unfortunately, the scope came with very few items that would have been useful – such as the dot finder and audiostar controller. Is the scope completely useless without them or is there a way to buy the additional items second hand to complete the set up? Or can I get by without them somehow? I look forward to hearing from you.


  9. Meade has sold zillions of the ETX scopes so there are parts and used systems available on ebay, Craigslist, and other places. You should have no problem finding what you need used.

    You can use the scope manually, though it is not a great manual scope. However, I have done it often. Just release the clutches and point the scope using the low power eyepiece. You can site over the tube to get close to your target.

    when you have the target in site, just lightly tighten the altitude clutch (right side) enough to hold the tube up. You can then track the target. You may have to release the clutch to adjust the vertical position.

    I have done this many times.

  10. I’d heard in one of the videos that the ETX 80 has a time chip in it which allows for entering the date and time upon initialization so you never have to enter date and time again, only location (lat & long.). Is that true?

  11. Thanks for the great review. I’ve got one of these on the way and am very much looking forward to using it.

    I’m thinking of adding a 8-24mm zoom lens to this setup. Are there any other lenses that you would recommend for this that really stand out?

    • I use my Celestron 8-24 zoom with the ETX 80 all the time. That and a 26 mm Plossl eyepiece are what I use most with that scope. There is a built in 2X barlow which works. However, I prefer a regular Barlow lens for that scope. A 2X, 2.5X, or even a 3X would work well with the zoom.

    • Thanks for the question.

      I never heard of the Seben scope so I can’t comment. In general, a larger aperture is better however that is a manual scope. You will have to find the targets yourself. The ETX 80 is a computerized scope that will find the targets for you once you align it.

      the Seben is on an equatorial mount. While the EQ mount was specifically designed for astronomy, I don’t generally recommend them for first-timers unless you have someone to help you who knows how to use an EQ mount. They are not intuitive.

      I have no idea what the Seben costs. So the question is really manual EQ mount vs. computerized mount. 80 mm vs. 150 mm.

      My preference, for a first scope would be the ETX 80, but naturally, your smileage will vary. 😉

  12. Cheers for the excellent and detailed review. Your review clinched it for me and I am an owner of a new ETX80 for a couple of months now. I have a question, hope your don’t mind? I’ve been trying to get some clarity with Jupiter. i.e. I’ve been looking at Jupiter but the best I am able to do it get a very week defined, bright, white sphere/disc. I can see the 4 moons too. But haven’t been able to get any colour detail on Jupiter (different bands etc). I’ve been using 15mm, 9.6mm and 6mm eye pieces with the inbuilt 2X Barlow. The conditions have been quite good here (in Netherlands) so I wonder what could I do? Any tips, suggestions, pointers? Cheers again and thank you for your time!

    • How high was Jupiter? If it is low on the horizon you are looking through a LOT of atmosphere and the image will be poor. Preference would be to have it at least 20 degrees above the horizon.

      I prefer to observe objects 30 degrees or higher, but Jupiter and Saturn are not that high this year so you may not have a choice. But don’t observe them when they first rise. Let them get as high as possible in the sky.

      At 120X you should be able to see the two main cloud bands on Jupiter and likely the polar area too.
      If the “seeing” is excellent you may see more although you are not going to see much in the way of color. I have seen the Great Red Spot in my ETX 80 at about 75X, if I recall correctly.

      Observing Jupiter

      Observing Saturn

      My favorite eyepiece in my ETX 80 is a Celestron 8-24 zoom combined with a 2.5X or 3X Barlow.

      I have pushed my ETX 80 as high as 187X on Jupiter but that was on an exceptionally clear night with excellent seeing. (6.4 mm in 3X Barlow) Normally that would be too high for this scope, but it was one of those perfect nights. I think it was winter, dry air and Jupiter was high in the sky. I think this was about 4 years ago.

      Read the articles for more information.

      • Thank you for your time!
        Indeed, I did read up on your articles after posting my question. Jupiter was below 20 degrees, and makes a lot of sense digesting your information. Thank you for the tips and the excellent information for us amateurs/beginner’s! *Thumbs up*

  13. Thanks for the great article.

    I recently purchased an ETX80 knapsack observatory.

    I’m having difficulty operating it and wonder if you could help me.

    This evening I used it to look at the moon. I found that I had to constantly adjust the telescope with the arrows on the controller to keep it pointing at the moon. I was under the impression that the telescope would follow the object of interest. Did I misunderstand something?

    Also where do you hang the controller? There seems to be no place on the telescope or the tripod to hang it. Is it okay to just let it hang to the ground?

    I keep reading that the ETX80 doesn’t have a finder device. But my kit came with a device with a red laser for helping to align the scope. Is there something more than the red-dot device I need?

    • The earlier models did not come with a finder. The current ETX 80 Observer does. As a GoTo scope, that is all you need as you really only use it to help you do your Goto alignment. Then you really don’t need it.

      When you did your Goto alignment, did you carefully center the alignment stars in the eyepiece? Not the red dot finder, the eyepiece. This helps with the accuracy of the finding.

      When you say constantly, do you mean every 2 minutes or every 20 minutes? I have found the ETX 80 does a pretty good job of tracking but it is not perfect. An occasional tweak every 20 to 30 minutes can be necessary. I had mine tracking the Sun for hours. About every 30 minutes I had to tweak it.

      The Sun and Moon move through the sky at a slightly different rate than the stars. I believe you can change a setting for that but I never do. I just to the tweak.

      If you think you have a problem, contact Meade Support. I have found them to be pretty good.

  14. For the controller, try some velcro on the back of the controller plus somewhere on the tripod. Works great for my ETXs.

  15. hi Ed,

    Thanks for the great article. My friend has an ETX 80 that he got as a work anniversary gift. We’re waiting on replacing the broken alt knob to setup auto tracking. We tried to use the scope in manual mode. We were able to see Jupiter but as a bright white object and the moons with the 26mm meade lens. We tried the barlow switch but that makes us refocus the scope with turn knob. It takes several turns to get focus. This is a bit annoying. Still it did not yield good detail on Jupiter.
    Here are a few of my questions if you don’t mind

    1. Should we change the eyepiece on the barlow switch mode to yield good detail of Jupiter ? It is reasonably high these days. We observe just after twilight when Jupiter and Saturn are still high on the sky.
    2. Do we’ve to refocus on a barlow switch or change of eye piece even after the two star alignment ?

    Thank you in advance,

    • ETX 80 Barlow use –
      The built in Barlow works but, as you noted, it requires a LOT of turns to go back and forth between using the Barlow and using an eyepiece alone. So I never use it that way. If you want to switch back and forth, get a standard Barlow. That will not require many refocusing turns.

      I look at the built-in Barlow as a range shifter. I work with the scope with the Barlow out when I want lower power widest views. I leave it out all evening. This works well for scanning the sky and for viewing many deep-sky objects.

      If I am going to be using high power, say for planets or double stars, then I switch in the built-in Barlow, but it stays in all night. Now I do the big refocus turns process only once. For the rest of the night, it is just a little this way and that to refocus.

      When viewing planets, you will tend to use higher power, low number eyepieces. Your 26 mm is your low power eyepiece which is fine if you want to see Jupiter in the context of its moons or the surrounding stars. However, you would normally plan to use your high power eyepiece and probably with the Barlow in. Or buy additional eyepieces. See the article link below.

      Where I am, in New York, Jupiter and Saturn are very low in the sky which means you are looking through a LOT of atmosphere, which will cause distortion in the images. We call this poor “seeing”. This will make them look like you are viewing them through a pot of boiling water because you are viewing them through the air currents and turbulence of the atmosphere. They tend to go in and out of focus rapidly. This has nothing to do with the scope or the eyepiece.

      Observing Saturn

      Observing Jupiter

      Over time you will want to add eyepieces.

      Understanding Telescope Eyepieces- There are recommendations, based on budget, but the meat of the article is about understanding the considerations and specifications to know when selecting eyepieces.

  16. Thank you Ed for your reply. Appreciate your time. I read through the articles. We’ll go with 8-24 celestron zoom lens. I think this will avoid the need to refocus. Am I correct ? Do you still recommend separate barlow ?


    • I think you will like the zoom. As for the Barlow, that is up to you. You have to have goals for the zoom, for the Barlow and for your budget. If you have the money, get a nice 2X, 2.5X or 3X Barlow. I mention them in the Barlow article.

      If you are budget constrained, then use the internal Barlow as I stated in my last reply.

      This is not my decision, it is yours. I write the article to empower you to make informed decisions.

      I do have several Barlows that I use with the ETX in addition to the internal one. I use the external Barlows more often but I do use the internal Barlow as outlined in the previous post.

  17. Greetings Ed. Been referencing your article whenever the inevitable “which scope under $500” question pops up on the FB fora.

    Question regarding EAA. You mentioned you were going to do some experimenting. Did you ever get around to trying that out with the ETX80 (or any other scope)? Let me know if there’s already an article on this. Would love to hear what direction you went.

    • Thanks for the question. No, I never did delve into EAA. It is still on the list for future exploration, but I find that I enjoy visual astronomy so I am going to stay with it for now. But EAA is definitely in the plan and the ETX 80 is the planned platform for my entry into this area. The short achromat will show some chromatic aberration, common to any low focal ration achromatic refractor, but that does not concern me. If I get seriously into it in the future, then I can explore the big $$$ options.

      • Let us know when you do. Seems like there’s so,e exciting tech out there. Hoping it’s about to hit a new level of maturity to simplify the workflow. Unistellar camera software without the $4k scope… 🙂


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