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LX600 First Impressions


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#1 FrankM

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Posted 06 July 2013 - 12:44 PM

I've had my 12" LX600 for about a month or so...and finally opened the box this morning for the big scope switch. For the past 6 years, I've been using a 12" LX200R, mounted on an adjustable Pier-Tech pier in one of the original SkyShed PODs. Everything is solar-powered. I live at an elevation of about 6000 feet 26 miles outside of Moab, Utah...under some of the darkest skies in the country.

I haven't powered the scope up yet, but my initial impressions are VERY favorable. The scope and mount are absolutely beautiful. I read a few complaints about the finish on the tripod, but since I will be selling the tripod with my LX200R, I'm not even going to open that box. There were a few places on the fork mount where the black paint was touched up...but they did a very meticulous job of that and you can't tell unless you inspect very closely for it.

I figured the optical tube would be shorter because of the shorter focal length. The tube is about 1/2 inch shorter than my LX200R, and the objective lens appears to be recessed farther in the tube but I did not measure the difference. There is at least 1 1/4" more clearance between the fork mount and the tube when aimed at the zenith. That distance on the LX600 is roughly 8 inches vs. about 6 5/8 inches on the LX200R.

One nice thing is that they included 2 mounts for the finderscope...one on each side of the Starlock tube. I removed one of those mounts and replaced it with my Lumicon Laser Pointer Mount.

One thing that seems a bit messy is the Starlock Cable. That cable is neatly tucked away in all the photos I've seen of the LX600. I'm not yet sure of the best placement for the cable...but it seems that a shorter coiled cable would have made for less cable clutter.

There may be an error in the manual concerning shipping the scope. It states that the focus knob should be turned all the way counterclockwise before installing the locking screw. Mine was turned all the way clockwise on arrival. I was under the impression that, on my LX200R at least, the focus knob had to be turned all the way clockwise and then the mirror locked for shipment. I will check with Meade on that one before I sell my LX200R.


The biggest reason I bought the LX600 was because of the re-designed focusing mechanism. I never liked the image shift in the LX200R and am looking forward to focusing with the LX600 (haven't even looked through the scope yet though). Some have said Meade should have included an electric focuser like they did on the LX200 scopes. I'm glad they didn't. That focuser was noisy and imprecise. I have installed a new JMI motorized focuser with large format adapter on the LX600. I played with it for a few seconds and it is amazingly quiet. It should prove to be a huge improvement over Meade's focuser. I had an older JMI focuser on an 11" Celestron many years ago and liked it very much.

It seems like Meade should also have included a 2" diagonal like they did on the 12" LX200R. An inch and a quarter diagonal? Come on, Meade. Anyhow, no problem there because I've been using a TeleVue 2" diagonal for years...won't even open the box on the diagonal that came with the LX600...or the box for the eyepiece. I've grown accustomed to the TeleVue Ethos eyepieces...and just ordered 2 of the 10mm Ethos to use in the Denkmeier binoviewer.


I've also read that the weights Meade included were not enough. I guess it depends on what you want to hang off the end of the scope. With the JMI focuser and the rather heavy 21mm Ethos eyepiece, the included weights are more than adequate for good balance.

I also read of problems when the forks were manually rotated...some kind of rub or catch if I remember right. I have no such problem on mine. It rotates smoothly and silently. Once I align the scope, I will probably never rotate the base manually anyway. I simply park it at the end of every session.

Headed back up now to adjust the finderscope, train the drive, etc. It looks like it will be a few days or nights though before I get a chance to fire up the scope after dark. I'll return with further observations after that.

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#2 FrankM

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Posted 11 July 2013 - 08:30 AM

I had about an hour to play with the LX600 last night...first light. Overall, I'm VERY happy with the differences between the LX600 and my previous LX200R...but I ran into a few problems.

First, I must say that I absolutely LOVE the re-designed focusing mechanism. The knobs are stiff, but I got very little shake when focusing. In my opinion, the new focusing system alone was worth the price of the upgrade. There is ZERO image shift. You don't have to chase the object around in the eyepiece to focus. It is infinitely easier to focus than the LX200R.

Initial alt/az auto-alignment was easy. However, the alignment may not be perfect, even though I used a 12.5mm laser-etched reticle to center the alignment stars. While it would center an object in the eyepiece, the object would slowly drift to the lower left of the eyepiece over about a 10-minute period. My LX200 would keep an object centered all night. At this point, I'm thinking the problem is operator error. When I powered the scope up and let it go through the auto align procedure, it told me the scope had moved from its last location (presumably the Meade factory). It said "Moab" in the display so I accepted it and let it continue. I'm actually about 13 miles from Moab as the meteor flies. I did not double check the coordinates. I did check the tracking rate.

I tried to calibrate the sensors but ran into a problem. After centering Polaris and hitting Enter, the hand controller display said "Align/Automatic" but the little spinning cursor that indicates the controller is thinking just kept rotating. I let it go for 5 minutes. It did not stop and the scope did not move. I hit Mode to see if it would GOTO Saturn. The scope moved very slowly for about 5 seconds and then stopped. I powered down and went through the auto align procedure again, and did not retry calibrating the sensors.

I'm wondering if the problem might have been Starlock. The scope is in a SkyShed POD which is open to half the sky. While the POD dome seldom gets in the way when trying to view toward the zenith (pier is offset from the center of the POD), my thought is that the widefield Starlock sensor might see the dome and interpret it as clouds. During the next session, I will disable Starlock when I try to calibrate the sensors.

Starlock is impressive though. High Precision pointing is activated as a factory preset. When performing a GOTO with High Precision activated, the scope first slews to a bright star near the desired object. Starlock automatically centers that star and then goes to the object. That works flawlessly. While I only had time to view Saturn and M5 last night, both were placed dead center in the 21mm and 13mm Ethos eyepieces. I wanted to try the new 10mm Ethos eyepieces in the Denkmeier binoviewer, but did not have time.

I found two things I did not like about the Starlock assembly itself. The red light on the back of the unit is way too bright. Hopefully, there is a way to disable that light. I may just tape some neutral density filter material over it. And the Starlock mechanism itself gets in the way. I wear a small Brunton LR4 headlamp (great astro headlamp) during viewing sessions. The headlamp hits the back of the Starlock when trying to view through the eyepiece. I solved that by moving the Starlock assembly as far forward as possible on the optical tube...but don't know if that might cause any problems. There are two notches in the plate attached to the Starlock tube that I assume were made for the mounting screws, but the screws are now not even close to those notches. The back of the Starlock assembly is now flush with the back of the optical tube. I haven't checked yet to see if the mounting plate on the Starlock tube is adjustable.

The optics are superb. The two objects I had time to view seemed clearer and sharper than a few days ago in my LX200R...but that could have just been seeing conditions, though I think conditions last night were worse than a few days ago. It got really smoky yesterday because of western wildfires. Collimation is off very, very slightly...but may not be far enough off to require adjusting.

#3 quattroman

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Posted 11 July 2013 - 08:47 AM

Thanks a lot for very interesting and helpful insights!
I'm close to order a LX600 myself.. Looks promising.

Looking forward to more reviews..

Regards
Marius

#4 FrankM

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Posted 14 July 2013 - 06:08 AM

I ran into another roadblock with the LX600 last night. The Denk II Binoviewer
that I used on the LX200R will not focus at the lowest power on the LX600. It
focuses at medium and high powers with both the Denkmeier 21mm eyepieces and
Televue 10mm Ethos eyepieces. Though I did not try, I believe it would focus if
I removed the JMI EV focuser from the light path, but that is not something I
want to do every time I use the binoviewer. I've emailed Denkmeier to see if
they have a fix.

#5 FrankM

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Posted 23 July 2013 - 03:03 PM

So it appears the 12" LX600 does not have as much backfocus as my 12"
LX200R....which could be a problem when adding accessories to the
viewing/imaging train. Russ at Denkmeier has shipped me one of their new 2" IVB
diagonals (without the IVB parts) which will couple directly to the powerswitch
mechanism on the binoviewer, eliminating the eyepiece connector and 38mm of
light path. Hopefully, this will solve the problem. If so, the Denk diagonal
will mount permanently to the binoviewer...and I will simply swap the Televue
diagonal with the Denkmeier diagonal/binoviewer unit when I want to use both
eyes. I WAS able to focus by removing the JMI focuser, but that needs to stay
in place. The JMI focuser is actually 5/16" shorter than Meade's microfocuser,
so the problem would be worse with Meade's unit.

#6 cgordo5

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Posted 28 July 2013 - 02:37 PM

I got my LX600 at the end of April. I've only had it out about a half dozen times because of personal travel, work travel, smoke from wildfires, and weather. However, I'm making progress with learning the scope and software and I've seen several dozen objects that I've never been able to see before.

I bought the 4000 Plossl 1.25" eyepiece kit, the basic camera adapter, the lighted reticle eyepiece, and wideband and OIII filters.

I few things I've learned:
- the 26 mm eyepiece won't fit into the basic camera adapter. The next size down that I have is a 15mm and it and shorter focal length eyepieces all fit into the basic camera adapter OK.
- the 10" piggyback camera mount won't fit on the LX600. The bolt patterns are wrong and even if it did fit, there's no room for a camera to clear the forks
- the software has taken me a while to work out. Almost all of the issues have been caused by incompatible versions. Initially, I was having trouble getting my Wndows 7 computer to connect to the Starlock. Luis Marin at Meade was very helpful in pointing out updated USB drivers on the Meade website. When I updated the drivers, I was able to connect and use the Starlock Utility program. Then Autostar Updater wouldn't update my handbox or the Autostart software. Also, it incorrectly identified my telescope as an LX850. I found an updated version of the Autostart Updater on the Meade web site, installted it, and then the Autostar Updater worked correctly. The PEC Utility isn't working correctly for me yet, but I'll keep after it and call Meade if I can't figure it out. The software documentation could be better, but I guess I expected this because Meade is a fairly small company with probably not many software resources.

The Polar Drift Alignment hasn't been working for me. When I select the drift alignment from the handbox, it says "Rises at xx:xx:xx AM" where xx:xx:xx is some time, usually about 1/2 hour later than whatever the current time was. Then nothing else happens. I've called Meade about this and am waiting for their response.

The go to functions work very well. When I select an object, the LX600 centers it perfectly in the eyepiece. The tours are pretty interesting and show a good variety of objects.
I recently was able to observe through a Celestron 11" and my LX600 compared very favorably to it.

I'm really eager to get back out with the LX600 again. It's the monsoon season here in New Mexico, so it's been cloudy every night.

I've made a few photographs. I've attached the first one I took. It's the Lagoon Nebula. In Photoshop I stacked 4 30 second exposures taken at ISO 1250 with my Nikon 300D.

Charles

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#7 cgordo5

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Posted 03 August 2013 - 08:20 AM

I leaned a few more lessons about the LX600 in the last few days. My telescope had been tracking well. However, I upgraded the Autostar and Starlock software and then the next time I took the telescope out, it was not tracking correctly in Right Ascension. Most of the time it was too slow, and it also went too fast at two times. Using a 32 mm eyepiece, the tracking error was enough that the object would go out of the field of view in 30 seconds or so. Using shorter focal length eyepieces, the object went of of the field in 10 seconds or less. The problem occurred with the Starlock on or off - it didn't seem to make a difference. In fact, the Starlock had a tough time locking onto objects because the RA drift rate was so high. I tried different RA rates via the Starlock Set RA Rate menu item, but it didn't make any difference. The Go To functions worked correctly, as did all of the different slew rates.

I have Autostar 1.1g installed (the handbox says LX600 SL 1.1g when it starts up). I have Starlock 1.1x installed as the firmware.

I was able to solve this RA tracking problem. It turned out the the PEC training was not correct.

Here's how I figured it out. I got a chance to get my telescope out this weekend and I noticed that the RA tracking varied from too slow to too fast regularly. This looked suspiciously like a PEC problem, and also I saw a warning when I installed the new software that the PEC data would get lost. The RA tracking was off enough so that the Starlock could not compensate for it. So I turned off the Starlock and changed the Tracking Rate to Custom and adjusted the RA rate enough so that the telescsope could keep an object in the field of view. Then I turned the Starlock back on and ran the RA PEC training. The RA tracking was then good, so I changed the RA Tracking Rate back to Sidereal and the RA tracking remained very good.

Charles

#8 Spacetravelerx

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Posted 03 August 2013 - 09:51 AM

Cgordo5,

Very good info on the LX600.

I have the LX850, however some of your experiences might match up with mine on the StarLock front...maybe.

Where in New Mexico are you? I am in the Rio Rancho area - since June the monsoons have rendered telescope usage to nil. I am travel again, but I think the rate things are going I won't get out until September...
-- Andrew
World Explorer,
Satellite Development,
and all that...

#9 cgordo5

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Posted 03 August 2013 - 02:56 PM

Andrew,

I'm in the mountains here in Alto. Weather has been a problem for me, too. But I've been able to sneak out a few times. I feel like I'm making progress learning the telescope and getting it configured. I can't wait to use it some more and do some more photography.

Charles

#10 swebb77

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Posted 23 August 2013 - 06:06 PM

Just got my new 14" LX600 today and I swear there is NOT a travel screw. The location of such in the picture has a rivet type 'thing' in the location where the travel screw would be located but is not removable and want to reach out to the crowd (few I bet) that have a 14" LX600 to see if they knew the answer to this mystery?? Please let me know as I don't want to take a chance on damaging it by trying to focus. All the best!!

#11 quattroman

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Posted 23 August 2013 - 10:33 PM

Hi!

I got my 12" LX600 a week ago. Is the rivet thing a black plastic plug? It should be removable. It is suppose to be put there after removing the travel screw. The travel screw is a long hex-screw with an o-ring on it. A yellow note with a written warning of not moving the focus knob before removing, should also be attached to the screw.

As Frank M pointed out, the focus knob on my scope too were not turned all the way counter-clockwise.
I would think that there may be unwanted movements of the mirror by sudden "shocks" during transport. Could be the focusing mechanism is alright, or not.
Best to contact Meade I suppose, before using the focuser. The 14" mirror contains a lot of mass.

Best of luck!

#12 jrcrilly

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Posted 26 August 2013 - 07:34 AM

Just got my new 14" LX600 today and I swear there is NOT a travel screw. The location of such in the picture has a rivet type 'thing' in the location where the travel screw would be located but is not removable


The current 14" has a mirror lock so there's no travel bolt.

#13 quattroman

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Posted 27 August 2013 - 05:06 AM

Do you have one yourself, or have you seen the scope? I sure can't see any on the pictures.

I see that mirror lock is on the spec list of all LX600 models on Meade's homepage. But I suppose that is only a misguided way of saying that the new focusing system has a "built in mirror lock", since one of the advantages with the new focusing system eliminates the need for a mirror lock.

So, there should be a travel screw, on all LX600 models! No more mirror locks..

#14 croessus

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Posted 30 August 2013 - 03:58 PM

I received my LX600 14" today and I can confirm that it doesn't have a travel screw and instead has a mirror lock/unlock knob above the focus knob at about the 2 o-clock position on the back cell.

This is similar to the LX200-ACF. You can lock it finger tight and unlock it all the way until it can turn no more. It is several turns. I've attached a picture.

So far, the only issue I have found is that one of the tripod leg locking knobs doesn't want to thread into the hole. The tapped holes are a bit tight. I may just go to the local hardware store and purchase a tap to clean it up.

I have not yet fully assembled the scope. If I find any more problems I'll post.

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#15 quattroman

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Posted 31 August 2013 - 08:50 AM

Strange.. Meade has made late changes again?

The mirror, as written in earlier post, in my 12" has a slight movement when tilting the scope straight up/down. May be that Meade has realized that the imageshift free focus system isn't good enough without a mirrorlock after all?? At least not in the bigger scopes (14"-16").

I expect there will be no imageshift when focusing back and forth, but there might be a shift in the mirror when tilting the scope?
I haven't tested mine yet under the starry skies. Hope it doesn't mean that I should have had a mirror-lock on my 12", too.

Congrats on your big new scope:)

#16 quattroman

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Posted 31 August 2013 - 09:02 AM

I also had a problem with motors stalling, after the first startup test. And after opening the front cover/circuit board, the scope worked again. After a couple of days I got I new case of motor stalling. I opened the front cover again, gently moving the wires and also unplugging and reinserting a phone jack wire under there. It was pretty tight so I gave it some slack.
After that the scope works great! Have started aligning a lot of times, no more stalling motors..

#17 FrankM

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Posted 17 September 2013 - 07:07 AM

So referring back to my July 23 post, I've finally solved the backfocus issue with the binoviewer/JMI focuser combo. The Denkmeier diagonal did not do the trick. Russ then sent me a low power arm for the Powerswitch with a different optic. That ALMOST worked but I was still unable to focus at low power. I returned the Denk diagonal and purchased a Baader T-2 Zeiss Prism diagonal that has a much shorter light path. I can now focus at low power with the binoviewer with about 1/3 of a turn of backfocus left. Bottom line: expect backfocus issues with the LX600 that were not an issue with the LX200.

#18 WardyP

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Posted 30 September 2013 - 01:06 PM

This may be a daft question but I noticed that on the Meade website it says that the LX600 performs automatic lightswitch alignment in Alt-Az mode but reading the manual it does say that you have to centre the 2 stars it puts in the view which looks the same process as on the LX200 (talking about easy align). Does anyone know whether Starlock acts like the ECLIPS module in doing the alignment completely automatically (I assume, do not own a LS) or does it only help alignment after initial align or just with guiding for AP?

Not a big deal as I think even I could do these steps but like the idea of the completely automated alignment from a gadget perspective!

#19 FrankM

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Posted 28 October 2013 - 05:22 AM

Starlock is not a "hands-off" alignment system. You still need to center a couple of stars in the eyepiece during the procedure.




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