The Meade Infinity 102 mm AZ Refractor telescope is an entry-level scope with good value.
To offer a 4” aperture at such an inexpensive price, the Infinity comes with a light-duty AZ mount and an inexpensive objective lens.
It’s a performer when it comes to low power and wide fields of view, and it provides sound functionality that is expected at this price range.
Some beginners may be a little confused with the accessory package and how they work, and they may not be sure where this telescope’s strengths lie.
This review will reveal its strengths and weaknesses so that you know exactly what to expect from the Infinity 102.
✔️ Best Feature: Refractor telescope
❌ Worst Feature: Light-duty mount
👌 Ideal For: Celestial Viewing, Terrestrial Viewing, Stargazing, Lunar & Planetary Observation, Bright DSO Viewing, Kids, Beginners
- Optical Design: Refractor
- Aperture: 102 mm (4”)
- Focal Length: 600 mm
- Focal Ratio: f/5.9
- Eyepieces Included: 26 mm, 9 mm, 6.3 mm
Our Verdict: The Infinity 102 would make a good buy as a first-time telescope for a young astronomer or an adult beginner. It comes complete as a telescope package with accessories, mount, and tripod, and the larger aperture allows for further reach into deep space. Even though it costs more than other beginner telescopes, it has the quality to back it up.
Who is the Meade Infinity 102 AZ Best Suited to?
The Meade Infinity is a budget telescope designed for kids, adults, and beginners. It’s excellent for viewing the moon and reaching out to deep stretches of night sky to observe stars and nebulae. New astronomers will quickly learn how to use the simple mount, and the slow-motion controls will provide just that little bit of extra versatility to track objects that even a beginner can master.
The price may be considered somewhat of an investment for a beginner as a first-time telescope, but it provides decent seeing quality that is ultimately better than many telescopes half the price. When you want to see more detail, explore objects past the moon, and reach out to deep space, the Infinity with a larger aperture is what you want.
How Does the Meade Infinity 102 Perform?
The 102 mm telescope is a refracting telescope. It has a 4” aperture that’s considered the entry-level size for deep-sky observation, and it doesn’t disappoint. It provides a rich and wide field of view, and you’ll enjoy exploring open clusters, nebulae, and other bright DSOs.
As a fast telescope with an entry-level objective lens, it is somewhat limited on providing intimate detail of planets. What is expected with these focal specs and a refractor is chromatic aberration, and it’s present. It will be visible on the moon with its stark contrast against the night sky and bright illumination. While you can spot Jupiter and Saturn and their most iconic features, it will struggle to resolve details and maintain color fidelity.
With its alt-azimuth mount, it’s incredibly easy to put together and get observing right away. It also has slow-motion controls which is an appreciated feature if you want to manually track objects.
As a budget, entry-level refractor telescope with a large aperture and fast focal specs, it’s designed to be a low-power, wide-angle champ with weaknesses in the high-power performance side. If you know what you want, you won’t be disappointed and can plan accordingly.
Features & Benefits
A refractor telescope is more expensive than a reflector telescope when you’re comparing aperture between the objective lens of a refractor and the primary mirror of a reflector. However, refractors have closed optics, require little to no collimation, and typically have better contrast and sharpness.
This telescope is an achromatic refractor, meaning, it has two lens elements that make up the doublet objective lens assembly. The two elements typically mean that one element helps to correct for chromatic aberration (CA) which is the color fringing you may see on bright or high-contrast objects. Even so, the Infinity 102 does suffer from some CA but is still a step up from single-element refractors.
At its 4” aperture size, the refractor is a good choice for those who are after a rugged, portable, and dual-use telescope.
The Infinity has a very easy to use alt-azimuth mount with slow-motion controls on both axes. The mount has a very basic tripod connection with its 1/4” 20 mounting screw. There are pre-drilled holes on the dovetail rail and an attachment knob helps you thread the receiver into the holes.
Interestingly, the dovetail rail is mounted far towards the front and the altitude slow motion control is beneath the tube’s optical plane. There may be some balance issues there, but they can be mitigated by locking the tube in place.
Slow motion controls allow for minute adjustments of the telescope tube. You can track an object and keep it within the field of view. Each slow-motion control is moved independently, and they function quite well considering the price and build of the Infinity refractor. There is some backlash, but it’s not excessive to the point where it will inhibit use.
The tripod is made with stainless steel legs which are sturdy enough for stable seeing, but you can definitely tell it’s a light-duty tripod. There is some initial shakiness, but the time it takes to correct itself is reasonable.
The Infinity comes with a ton of accessories best suited for a beginner to experiment with and discover how they work. The 102 comes with three Modified Achromat eyepieces: 26 mm, 9 mm, and a 6.3 mm. They provide 23x, 67x, and 95x magnification.
The 26 mm and 9 mm eyepieces work well with the setup and within the scope’s optical abilities. The 6.3 mm eyepiece is difficult to use due to the unforgiving eye relief and reaching high magnification would be better achieved with greater contrast and resolution with an upgraded eyepiece anyway.
You should note that this comes with a 2” rack-and-pinion focuser with a 1.25” built-in adapter. The diagonal and eyepieces are 1.25” accessories, so the drawtube thumbscrew must be tightened to securely hold the diagonal. The eyepieces attach to the diagonal. You can use 2” accessories with the 102 mm model if you want to, but be weight conscious due to the mount and balance issues.
A 90-degree erect prism diagonal is included. It’s an Amici prism that dims the view somewhat and will cause stars to have a starburst effect that is otherwise known as diffraction spike. It might be one of the first accessories you upgrade.
A 2x Barlow lens is also another standard accessory, and it doubles the magnification of each eyepiece. Unfortunately, I suspect it’s a short Barlow, so there may be focusing issues if you mount it between the objective lens and the diagonal. You may be forced to attach an eyepiece directly to the Barlow.
Lastly, a simple red dot sight is included as the finder for this telescope. It may be difficult to know if you’re right on target when looking through the red dot since it has no magnifying power, but with the scope’s wide field and some help from star charts and other resources, you’ll be able to find your target.
The Infinity can also double as a daytime, land-based spotting scope. While the 90-degree diagonal may not be as comfortable to use as a 45-degree one, it does have an Amici prism design and is suitable for land-based viewing as it provides a correct orientated image. Using the low power eyepiece will provide the widest field of view.
For as good as the OTA is, there are a lot of plastic parts on the mount and tripod, but there is metal where it counts. Unfortunately, the mount is just too light-duty to provide the reliability that many serious stargazers require for either amateur astrophotography, fine focusing, or high-power seeing.
The mounting screw for the photography-style mount/tripod brings it down a notch. Fortunately, you can replace the mount as the mounting holes are actually drilled into a dovetail plate that can mate with most modern dovetail mounts, either AZ or EQ.
Can you see Deep Sky Objects (DSO) with the Infinity Telescope?
Yes! It has a 4” aperture that is large enough and larger than many beginner refractor telescopes to allow as much light transmission needed to see DSOs. Of course, when looking to observe DSOs, seeing conditions are important to consider. You want to try to view sky bodies when they’re high in the sky and to move to a dark location. This is an attempt to create ideal seeing conditions to eliminate light pollution and see through the thinnest layers of atmosphere as possible.
Is the View Through the Viewfinder Upside Down?
No. The 102 mm model is supplied with a red dot finderscope. It does not magnify and presents an image that is upright and left-right correct. Viewing through the red dot will provide correct orientated images for both terrestrial and celestial viewing. However, when viewing the sky, image orientation is inconsequential.
Can you Use the Infinity 102 for Astrophotography?
The Infinity 102 is not made for astrophotography. The best the Infinity can do is amateur photography with a smartphone and adapter. Even if you do hook up a camera with the necessary adapters, you will not be able to track objects without a motorized EQ mount and exposures will be limited. You may also have issue with reaching focus. The supplied mount and tripod are too light-duty for heavy loads and are not suitable for astrophotography.
Is the Meade Infinity Telescope Good for Travel?
The Infinity 102 is a great telescope for travel. The tripod and mount come preassembled and the tube is fast and easy to attach to the mount. The entire setup weighs 12.1 lbs and the tube is approximately 34” long. While the tube is on the lengthy side, it’s a true refracting telescope so it does not have a modified optical path for reducing the physical length while maintaining the optical focal length.
The Infinity 102 may be better for transporting in a vehicle, but it might not be as portable for flight travel unless you pack it securely and snugly into a suitcase.
The Meade Infinity 102 is a large refractor telescope priced as one of the best affordable telescope options for those on a budget.
You get more light transmission, an achromatic doublet, and a whole lot of accessories included in the buy. It would make a great beginner kit for an older child getting into astronomy or even for an adult who wants a dual-purpose telescope for both day and night-time observations.
While there are some things that can be upgraded to improve performance, the refractor telescope is a grab-and-go setup that provides more than decent seeing for exploring the skies at a low price.