Meade StarPro AZ 80 Telescope Review


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Is this a kid’s toy or a kid’s telescope?

Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference when many inexpensive scopes are made of plastic, feel cheap, and seeing quality is poor.

Fortunately, the StarPro AZ from Meade is a real telescope where its quality sets itself apart from the crowd.

Even better news though, it’s a telescope that would make a great starter scope for an adult.

In fact, it can be used and shared among multiple users old and young. When you have a smartphone adapter included in the buy, you can even share your views with others.

Here are the details and why the StarPro should be at the top of your list if you’re looking for a quality starter telescope for a very interested amateur astronomer – kid or adult!

Zooming in…

✔️ Best Feature: Good optics

Worst Feature: Marketed for kids

👌 Ideal For: Celestial Viewing, Telestial Viewing, Lunar & Planetary Observation, Bright DSO Viewing, Limited Astrophotography, Kids, Beginners

  • Optical Design: Refractor
  • Aperture: 80 mm
  • Focal Length: 900 mm
  • Focal Ratio: f/11.3
  • Eyepieces Included: 26 mm, 9 mm, 6.3 mm

Our Verdict: The Meade StarPro AZ 80 refractor telescope is not just for kids. It’s an excellent, affordable, beginner telescope for an adult and can be shared with the entire family. The lightweight and easy setup makes for a telescope system that’s enjoyable to use as it can be used anywhere, anytime.

Who is the Meade StarPro AZ 80 Best Suited to?

The StarPro AZ is a great telescope for a beginner whether it’s a child or an adult. It has a newly-revamped single-arm fork mount, a sturdy tripod, and great optics that will satisfy the eager amateur. As a real telescope, it’s going to cost more than a kid’s model, but the ability to see more than just the moon is usually a requirement a newbie has from a beginner telescope.

The Meade telescope is also very lightweight and easy to setup and disassemble. Due to its portable design, it’s extremely convenient to take on the road to a dark location or a hilltop to observe wildlife and distant land-based targets.

If you’re after a telescope that is affordable, easy to use, has quality parts, and is portable, the StarPro will meet your needs.

How Does the Meade StarPro AZ 80 Perform?

As a telescope on the slower side of things, it performs quite well for planetary observation and high-power astrophotography, and by photography, we mean amateur astro-imaging. The 80 mm is a great aperture for a beginner. It’s large enough to allow in maximum light for viewing objects up to the 10-12-ish magnitude range in ideal seeing conditions.

Seeing details on the moon and spotting planets is its greatest optical achievement. Meade also supplies a smartphone adapter for taking photos of these bodies, so you can share your beginner skills with others. Both Saturn and Jupiter are clearly visible through the StarPro. Cloud bands, rings, and moons can all be seen. With color filters, you may be able to bring out more detail and contrast.

What about DSOs? Due to the aperture, you will be limited, but there is plenty to explore. The popular open star cluster known as M45 or The Pleiades will easily fit within your field of view, and M42 known as Orion Nebula can also be seen. These DSOs are easier for a beginner to find and begin with observing as they develop telescope skills.

Features & Benefits

Good Optics

As a refractor telescope, it has lenses that are fully coated. Although it’s not fully multi-coated, the anti-reflective and light transmission rate increase is still appreciated to improve seeing quality. There is little chromatic aberration on very bright objects and some coma noticeable due to the design of the eyepieces, but with an upgrade, seeing quality will improve.

Even though it has an 80 mm aperture, it’s plenty large enough to allow light grasp suitable for lunar and planetary observation and imaging. It’s also large enough to spot and observe the brightest DSOs. As you develop your telescope skills, you can upgrade to something larger and faster.

Portable

The lightweight setup of around 10 lbs makes for an easy telescope system to head out with. The tube length is approximately 2.5 feet long and with the dew shield installed, it’s almost 3 feet long. The StarPro gets dibs on the back seat or should be safely secured in the trunk of the car.

The tripod legs can be retracted to provide a compact size of 24”. It extends to a full length of 3.5” (approx.) to the mount. The OTA is fast and easy to detach from the mount via the optical tube attachment knob.

Slow-Motion Controls

It’s great to have slow-motion controls on an inexpensive telescope as it allows the user to make very small movements to manually track an object and keep it within the field of view. To move the telescope, you simply unlock the vertical and horizontal locks knobs to move the tube for up/down and side-to-side movement and then retighten the knobs to keep the tube in place.

There are two slow-motion controls that look like ball-end rods and can be rotated to provide movement. These controls allow for very small adjustments to track an object.

Accessory-Packed

There are a lot of accessories that come with the StarPro AZ telescope. The first set are the eyepieces. There aren’t just one or two eyepieces but three that are included in the buy. The 26 mm provides wide-field viewing with low power of 35x magnification. The 9 mm provides 100x magnification and the 6.3 mm provides 143x magnification.

Even though they’re MA (Modified Achromat) eyepieces, (Meade eyepieces similar to Kellners) they’re appropriate for this telescope package and work fine since this scope has a longer focal length. Naturally, the high-power eyepieces may become uncomfortable to use due to the short eye relief, but as a starter kit, you get an idea of what different eyepieces do and how they work.

You may find that the 26 mm provides excellent seeing even though the object seems smaller and further away than when you use the others. Remember, smaller and sharp views on objects are better than large, dark, and blurry images.

Included is a 2x Barlow lens to double the power of any given eyepiece. A 90-degree erect image diagonal is an excellent accessory to include for a beginner. It provides correct image orientation for viewing land-based objects during terrestrial viewing, but it also provides better comfort for celestial viewing when observing near Zenith. You won’t have to break your neck achieving awkward contortions to see through the eyepiece.

Lastly, a red dot viewfinder is included and works just fine with the setup. It does need to be installed and is easy to do so with its dovetail bracket and locking knob. Meade also provides instructions on aligning the viewfinder with the telescope in the included manual.

Limited Astrophotography

The only astrophotography benefits the StarPro AZ is capable of providing is with a smartphone. Meade throws in a smartphone adapter with the package so that you don’t have to purchase an additional accessory to get it done. The adapter is easy to use and install and eliminates the struggle of trying to line up the camera freehand with the exit pupil through the eyepiece.

The telescope is not designed for serious astrophotography with a camera. Even if the mount and tripod are sturdy enough to provide a steady image, the slow optics would require a longer exposure time, and without the ability to automatically track an object, imaging quality will be compromised.

Limitations

Marketed for Kids

There are no real disadvantages about the StarPro AZ telescope. In fact, the only flaw is that it’s often marketed as a kid’s telescope when it’s suitable for adults too. As a kids-only telescope, it’s on the expensive end of the spectrum, but it allows for far greater seeing quality than almost all kid’s scopes in the market.

It also has a decent mount and tripod that provides sturdy support which is just as important as the optics. The fact that it also comes with a lot of accessories that actually work and are paired suitably with the telescope is an appreciated bonus.

If you were to see the telescope for what it is – a starter telescope for beginners including older children and adults, it’s actually on the inexpensive end of the spectrum. With that in mind, the StarPro AZ is suitable for all and actually has economic and performance value.

Popular Questions

What Type of Mount does the Meade StarPro Telescope have?

The StarPro AZ is on a redesigned alt-azimuth mount with dual-axis slow-motion controls. It provides up/down and side-to-side movement with the ability to provide minute, independent axis movements to manually track an object. The mount and tripod are fixed together and are preassembled at the factory. The OTA is easy to attach to the mount with the optical tube attachment knob that secures the tube to the mount via a dovetail bar.

Can the StarPro AZ 80 be Used for Terrestrial Viewing?

 Absolutely! The StarPro comes ready to use for terrestrial viewing with the included 90-degree erect image diagonal that allows for an upright and lateral-correct image. You will want to use to wide-field, low power eyepieces to make the most of your land-based observations.

Is this a Good Telescope for an Older Kid?

An older child would be thrilled to own the StarPro AZ. It’s good enough for beginner adults too. Children 10 years and older will require some guidance on how to assemble, care for, and use the telescope. Star charts, apps, software, and other resources will help beginners learn how to find objects in the sky. Slow motion controls are smooth and easy to use to keep an object within the eyepiece and multiple accessories are included to provide ultimate seeing.

What is the Warranty on the Meade Telescope?

A 1-year manufacturer warranty covers the StarPro AZ 80 mm refractor telescope. The warranty starts from the day of purchase and is not owner transferable.

Conclusion

The StarPro AZ is an excellent example of a kid’s telescope done right.

It will cost you double the price of current kid’s telescopes in the market, but it’s of a higher caliber of quality than its inferior competitors.

You can see more than just the moon, it’s suitable for adults, and it’s highly portable.

Is it worth the investment for your child or yourself?

Definitely!

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