There are many telescope packages that are a bad combo from the start. Perhaps a too heavy OTA setup for a light-duty mount or poor accessories that would have been better if they were just left out from the start.
Fortunately, the Meade Polaris 130 EQ isn’t one of those packages.
The Polaris 130 actually has a good OTA, comes with a quality mount, and it even has better than average accessories.
Having passed the bar on all three telescope aspects, the Polaris is a scope worth buying.
✔️ Best Feature: Parabolic mirror
❌ Worst Feature: Light-duty mount for astrophotography
👌 Ideal For: Celestial Viewing, Stargazing, Lunar & Planetary Observation, DSO Viewing, Limited Astrophotography, Beginners, Intermediates
- Optical Design: Reflector
- Aperture: 130 mm
- Focal Length: 650 mm
- Focal Ratio: f/5
- Eyepieces Included: 26 mm, 9 mm, 6.3 mm, 2x Barlow
Our Verdict: The Meade Polaris 130 EQ Reflector telescope is an excellent visual setup for those in light polluted cities. Explore the Messier catalog and other DSOs from the comfort of your backyard. For the price, the Polaris is a good buy that comes with a boatload of accessories and a good mount for viewing.
Who is the Meade Polaris 130 EQ Best Suited to?
The Polaris 130 EQ is one of the best telescopes under $300 and is intended for those who want the largest aperture from the series. As a Newtonian on an EQ mount, it’s not the easiest telescope to start with for a beginner, but it offers some growth and limited astrophotography that a learner will desire from the Polaris.
Intermediate users may already know the ins and outs of a Newtonian, and they’ll opt for this model for its quality optics and its lightweight setup with EQ movement. Of course, the Polaris can be upgraded with a motor drive to take imaging to the next level.
How Does the Meade Polaris 130 EQ Perform?
The Polaris 130 is a fast f/5 telescope with a 5” (approx.) aperture. It’s a good setup for both low-power and wide-field viewing for stargazing. You can dabble in both DSO viewing and lunar and planetary observation to explore the night skies.
The optics are collimatable which is essential for a reflector telescope, and there is very little noticeable coma around the edges at low power which is inconsequential for visual viewing – based on your tolerances. As a visual telescope, it’s a winning setup. Astro imaging benefits are limited, so if you’re basing your decision solely on your ability to setup a DSLR, this doesn’t have the mount for you.
Features & Benefits
For a cheap reflector telescope package, I’m impressed to see the Polaris with a primary parabolic mirror. Since the 130 EQ has fast focal specs of f/5, it’s important to see the spherical aberration-free benefits that a parabolic mirror provides.
There is some coma that may be noticeable at low power, but it’s not anything to be concerned about for visual purposes. Besides, there really isn’t a market for 1.25” coma correctors anyway, but every now and then, an unknown brand comes out with one that you may be able to try out.
Meade tied up any possible loose ends with their Polaris telescope. Parabolic mirror – check. They’ve also made sure that both mirrors can be collimated. This is important to note as many lower-end reflectors lack this important feature. While the 1.25” rack-and-pinion focuser is mostly made from plastic, it does have a metal piece that holds the eyepiece, so it will last a lot longer than most plastic focusers.
What can you see? It does quite well as both a lunar and planetary and DSO telescope. It offers a good, wide field of view for DSO viewing. Explore the entire Messier Catalog from your backyard, and if you’re more experienced, Herschel Catalogs are within your reach if you’re in a dark, remote location.
Impressively, the Polaris comes with a bunch of accessories. Included are three eyepieces, 26 mm (25x), 9 mm (72x), and a 6.3 mm (103x). They’re all 1.25” Kellners, but they work more than adequately for their intended purposes. It’s nice to have the variety of multiple eyepieces as you can go much further than just the moon and planets.
Double those magnifications with the included 2x Barlow lens for high power. The lens is plastic, but it works okay. If you happen to have a better-quality Barlow, use it. Otherwise, it will suffice until you can replace it.
The Polaris also comes with a red dot finder which is decent and easy to use. It is slightly dimmer to look through, but it does the job.
Unfortunately, any photography that you were hoping to do with a DSLR camera is out of the question. The mount is basically an EQ-2 mount that has a payload capacity of 9 lbs and the OTA pretty much weighs that. What is additionally disappointing is that the tube rings are setup to allow the ability to piggyback a camera and a lens, but the mount will not support it.
The eyepiece holder also has T-threads, so you can use a T-ring and ditch the adapter. Your only option if your heart is set on using a DSLR is to switch out the mount which is possible since the OTA has a Vixen dovetail bar.
As is, it can support the weight of a webcam CCD camera or the like. With this, lunar and planetary imaging is the name of the game with a high-quality Barlow lens. Of course, since this is a manual EQ mount, you have slow motion controls but no motor drive. A motor drive will keep you on target and is likely why you wanted an EQ mount in the first place – to snap some shots!
Light-Duty Mount for Astrophotography
The EQ-2 mount isn’t a bad one. It’s a decent light-duty aluminum mount with 1.25” steel legs. The mount and tripod weigh 18 lbs (approx.). There are quite a few plastic parts on it which will likely break and fail with regular use. However, the OTA can be switched out to a different mount which you may want to seriously consider if you want to develop some better astro imaging skills.
The mount’s payload capacity is approximately 9 lbs, so it can’t support heavy loads, and surprisingly it can’t support lightweight OTAs. Imaging becomes too unstable and wobbly, and fortunately, the 130 EQ is just long enough that it’s ideal as a visual setup. For imaging with a DSLR – you’ll need an upgrade.
Does the Polaris have a Spherical Mirror?
There is some confusion as to the shape of the primary mirror in the Polaris EQ series of telescopes. It seems the 114 EQ has a spherical mirror and the 127 EQ and 130 EQ have parabolic mirrors. While the 114 EQ features a spherical mirror, it has a longer focal length of f/8 (approx.) that doesn’t adversely affect performance versus the shorter f/5 of the 130 EQ if it came without a parabolic mirror.
The 130 has the parabolic mirror because it needs it to correct for related aberrations.
Is this a Good Telescope for Astrophotography?
Although the OTA is outfitted with features for a DSLR like the tube rings with the ¼” 20 thread for piggybacking and an eyepiece holder with T-threads to go without a T-adapter, the mount is unsuitable for imaging with a DSLR.
As such, it’s not the best telescope for astrophotography. However, a webcam style CCD camera or a smartphone will do the trick for short exposures. If you were to add a motorized drive for tracking, you may as well upgrade the mount while you’re at it.
Does the Meade Telescope come with a Collimation Cap?
Unfortunately, no collimation tools are included with the Meade Polaris telescope. You will have to purchase your own collimation tools. For example, a collimation cap is the standard, but a laser collimator is preferred by some for speed and ease.
How Portable is the Polaris 130 EQ Telescope?
For a telescope, it’s about as portable as it can be. The entire assembly weighs about 26.5 lbs which is much more doable than 40 lbs plus some. Heavy weights are usually always associated with larger apertures and heavier mounts.
The mount and tripod on the Polaris setup weigh 18 lbs and the OTA weighs 8.5 lbs (approx.). The mount can be detached quickly from the tripod to separate the setup into three lightweight pieces to haul. The tube length is approximately 28” which will fit in the backseat of your car.
The Meade Polaris 130 EQ telescope is for the observer that wants a Newtonian with the ability to upgrade it in the future for some astrophotography benefits.
As it stands today, it’s an excellent visual telescope system with a whole lot of accessories that gets the beginner started.
With EQ movement, good accessories, and the largest aperture out of the series, the 130 is the best EQ Polaris telescope.