Meade’s Infinity 70AZ is certainly one of the more decent sub-$100 telescopes I’ve seen, and certainly one of the better cheap 70mm refractors I’ve reviewed. However, like any telescope at its price point, there are bound to be some compromises.
The Optical Tube
The Infinity 70AZ is a 70mm f/10 achromatic refractor in the standard Fraunhofer crown/flint objective arrangement, like most achromatic refractors sold today. The f/10 focal ratio makes the chromatic aberration pretty tolerable and it has little impact on the views, but you will notice it. Optically, it’s pretty good in quality keeping in mind that it’s a cheap 70mm achromat.
The scope has an ample-length dew shield, but it isn’t painted very well on the inside. I recommend roughing up the inside with some coarse grit sandpaper (the dew shield comes off the scope very easily – just pull) and spraying some flat black spray paint on it.
The inside of the optical tube isn’t painted the greatest and it isn’t baffled particularly well, so glare can be a problem with this scope on/around bright objects. Also, nearby stray light will have an easier time getting into the tube.
The focuser on the Infinity 70AZ is a standard 1.25” rack and pinion unit, with a tension knob to adjust the force needed to adjust it. This knob is nice because you can tighten the focuser with heavy eyepieces/accessories or lock it down completely if need be (for example, if you’re using it around children).
The Infinity 70AZ comes with two eyepieces: A 26mm Kellner (Meade calls it the MA for Modified Achromat but it’s basically a Kellner) giving 27x and a 9mm Kellner giving 78x. Meade also supplies a 2x Barlow allowing you to achieve 52x with the 26mm Kellner and 156x with the 9mm Kellner – the latter magnification is slightly above the limit of what the scope can technically handle. The 2x Barlow is mostly plastic but does seem to be at least usable, although it really isn’t much more helpful than a dedicated 12.5mm eyepiece would be. I think the scope would probably be a better buy if the Barlow were simply excluded and the price slightly lowered to reflect that change.
The Infinity 70’s supplied diagonal is an all-plastic Amici prism allowing for correct left-right images. The Amici design inevitably produces a spike effect on bright stars and the planets, but other than that it works surprisingly well. Care must be taken in handling it as it is somewhat fragile and is easily damaged.
The Infinity 70’s plastic red dot finder is decent in quality and more than adequate for a 70mm telescope.
The Infinity 70’s mount is a simple double-fork altazimuth design with a metal rod to assist in fluid altitude motion – a design which has been around on inexpensive refractors since the 1950s and is highly variable in how well it’s actually executed. While not the most aesthetically pleasing and lacking slow-motion controls, the long tube of the Infinity 70 makes it surprisingly tolerable to simply push the tube to move the scope. Tensioning on both axes can be adjusted with two large plastic hand knobs which increase the friction on the bearings.
The tripod is made of extruded aluminum and reasonably steady, although it does start to get a little jiggly with high magnification. This is to be expected considering the price of the scope, and it’s not the end of the world.
The Infinity 70 will show you a lot of detail on the Moon, Mercury and Venus’ phases, the ice cap on Mars when it’s at opposition, as well as Jupiter’s cloud bands, the Great Red Spot, and its satellites. Saturn’s rings and its moon Titan are visible, and on a good night some of Saturn’s cloud bands and the Cassini division in its rings may be spotted. Uranus and Neptune are tiny bluish dots that will be difficult to locate without a lot of time consumed.
Outside the solar system, you’re limited by the Infinity 70’s small aperture. The Orion Nebula and many bright open clusters can be spotted, along with Andromeda and a few other galaxies, but don’t set your expectations too high, especially if you live in or near a city. Globular clusters are nothing more than dim smudges with 70mm of aperture, and M82 is probably the only galaxy which won’t be a circular or ellipsoidal fuzzball.
There are also a fair amount of double stars and asteroids which can be spotted with this scope.
While the Meade Infinity 70’s low price does inevitably lead to some cheapened parts and small aperture, it is vastly better than the other cheap small refractors sold at its price point. That being said, I would recommend saving up more for something better with a larger aperture, but for its price the Infinity 70 can’t be beat.