Meade Instruments Corporation

Meade began in 1972 in California as an importer of small refractor telescopes and accessories. Today it is one of the largest telescope manufacturers and is well know for its technical inovation. The company has been offering Schmidt-Cassegrain instruments for two deca

4" SCT's 8" SCT's Larger SCT's

4" SCT's

2045S 2066 Schmidt Camera
Meade's began offering Schmidt-Cassegrain telescopes in 1980. Offerings based on Mead's 4" f/10 optical tube included Model 1020, which was then marketed as a 1000mm telephoto lens. Model 1022 was a spotting scope with a 5x24 finder, .965" diagonal and eyepiece. By 1987 the spotting scope version of this telescope was called the 107D In 1992 this spotting scope version was changed to 2045S. This sold with a finder, 1 " diagonal and eyepiece. In 1980, a Model 2066, 4" f/2.64 Schmidt camera was introduced, but had little demand, although inexpensively priced.
2040 2044
A complete telescope with the above optical tube assembly on a single fork arm drive base, AC spur gear drive and a flat table tripod was also introduced in 1980 and called Model 2040. In 1984 the 2040 was given tripod legs 'a la Questar' and renamed 2044. Later, in 1985? the single arm was replaced by a regular dual fork and sold as the 2045. The 2045 became the first of the 4" series to garner serious interest. This telescope was provided with the basic features of the larger SCTs along with table top legs and a case. This made for an excellent travel scope as long as you stayed in the hemisphere that you bought it in, or else bought one motor for each direction.
2045 LX3 2045D
In 1987 the 2045-LX3 became available. Although the main drive remained a spur gear system, the AC/DC voltage and drive corrector aspects were made available as describe for the larger LX3 units described below. A multicoated corrector plate and carrying case was added as part of the package.
In 1989 Meade brought back the 2045 after a 2 year hiatus on the market as the 2045D. The former telescope was given a DC stepper motor drive more like its larger cousins which operated off of AA batteries located in the base. This allowed operation in either northern or southern hemisphere, which was quite practical for a smaller telescope made, in essence, for travel. It came with the same dual fork mounting as before, table top legs, a 1 " star diagonal and eyepiece and a 5x24 focuser. It looked similar to the 2045 LX3 except for the lack of controls on the base and the handbox.

8" SCT's

Meade's well known 8" model was part of the "2000" line introduced in 1980, and model 2080 became the designation for the basic fork mounted f/10 optical tube. The original 2080 drive consisted of a worm gear system with 180 tooth main gear driven by a synchronous AC motor. This was offered without wedge and tripod but included coated optics, a 6x30 finder, 1 " star diagonal and 25mm eyepiece. This basic telescope was also available as the 2080B having multi-coated optics for better light transmission. In 1984 the company improved the machining on the worm gear drive and introduced the "LX" drive. Later the same year they marketed this telescope with a 8x50 finder and erfle eyepiece, along with the addition of improved coatings on the optical surfaces as the LX2. The appearance both models visually is identical to the standard 2080 except for the "LX" mark.
2080 LX3 Panel
In 1985 the LX3 was introduced. This model maintained the same improved gearing and synchronous AC drive motor, but now added quartz controlled dual axis drive corrector electronics in the base of the telescope. A converter was also added so that 12 volt DC power could be used as a supply, and when combined with an optional four button handbox, the system allowed variable frequency tracking for the moon, sun or stars as well as a quartz-locked sidereal rate. A foam lined footlocker carry case was also now included. At this point Meade began including the wedge and tripod as part of the basic system package, something they have continued until now. The tripod supplied was a sturdy variable height, tensioned tripod with micro-adjustment for altitude and azimuth adjustment of the wedge. Also included on the telescope panel were plug-ins for optional a guiding eyepiece and a map light and optional multi-coatings were made available. This represented the first integrated astrophotography system in the mass market arena.
In 1987 the LX5 was introduced. This was functionally the same drive, but with "Pulse Drive" stepper motors in place of the old internal AC motor and converter. This allowed a north and south hemisphere switch to reverse the RA drive. The hand paddle was given new features and was now included as part of the standard package. The drive corrector buttons were given both 2x and 8x speeds for guiding corrections and slow speed slewing, and a map light was integrated as well as buttons for electronic focusing with an optional focusing motor. The new model was accompanied by a huge 9x60 Polaris finder, a 2" star diagonal and a 1 " eyepiece. The multi-coatings now were standard, and of course the wedge, tripod and footlocker case completed the package.
2080 LX5
A GEM version of the Meade SCT was announced in 1986 as the 2080GEM. This package included a sturdy equatorial head with slow motion in both axes, polar alignment scope and a wood tripod. A 1 " diagonal and eyepiece and 8x50 finder were included. Options included a quartz controlled drive and corrector, as well as a hand held computer for finding various objects. Similar to other computers of the time, the user would input an object and manually move the telescope while the readout "zeroed in" on the target.
Meade also introduced their SCTs on a pedestal mount in 1987 as the MTS-SC8. This integrated the fork mount with a sturdy polar mounting and the LX3 drive and hand paddle. These were supplied with an 8x50 finder and 1 " star diagonal and eyepiece.
The next member of the line was introduced in 1988 as the LX6, which was initially released as an f/6.3 optical assembly on both the 8" and 10" scopes. A microprocessor was added to the electronics in the base which allowed connection of optional electronic setting circles or the Computer Aided Telescope system 'CAT' that was released in the same year. Both allowed slewing the telescope manually to a particular object chosen by the user. The setting circles allowed input of RA and DEC, whereas the CAT allowed input of one of over 8,000 objects including planets, stars and NGC objects preprogrammed into the computer menus. A new hand paddle was added with a display for the above options. The same 9x60 polar finder, 2" mirror star diagonal, wedge, tripod, carrying trunk and eyepieces were carried over from the LX-5 in the initial versions.
2080 LX6
By 1990 the LX-6 was offered in both f/10 and f/6.3 focal lengths when Meade introduced its "Premier" series. Initially these were offered in three tiers of option packages. The 30, 50 and 70 models offered various accessory packages with the f/10 focal length, while the 36, 46, 56 and 76 models offered the same packages as f/6.3. Model 30/36 was the stripped down version and came with the basic telescope, 6x30 finder, inexpensive eyepiece, wedge, and tripod. Model 40/46 was Model 50/56 was the intermediate telescope that substituted the better eyepiece, 9x60 polar finder and 2" diagonal from the LX-5 as well as adding the hand controller and a declination motor. Model 70/76 was the full blown package. In addition to the items on the 50/56 it included the digital setting circles, 8,000+ object CAT computer, electric focuser, off-axis guider, illuminated guiding eyepiece and three very high quality eyepieces.
In 1991, shortly after Celestron revamped the drive systems on their SCT system, Meade did the same. The new drive was called "Smart Drive" and a significant improvement was made in the drive gear train. The former 180 tooth ring gear was replaced with a 360 tooth gear and the worm gear was adjusted so as to maintain the same eight minute rotation. As a result the periodic tracking error was reduced from about 1.5 arc minutes to about 50 arc seconds. But improvements didn't end there. Also added at this time was a new Periodic Error Correction circuit. It differed from the Celestron variety in that it retained its training when you turned the telescope off. Thus the designation (PPEC) for Permanent PEC. With the above improvements these became, in my opinion, some of Meade's best telescopes ever for astrophotography. The same model numbers were maintained after the "Smart Drive" was introduced with the exception that a new Model 40SD/46SD became the entry level scope with a 6x30 finder, 1 " diagonal and eyepiece and electronic command center. At about this same time the 70/76 models were dropped as a production item. Those who wanted the computer and/or digital setting circles would just order the 50/56 models and then purchase the other items separately.
Note: There was much discussion over the choice now presented to amateurs using SCTs. For photographers the choice was fairly clear, since the "faster" optics reduced exposure times to less than half. For others though many questions arose. Did the increased size of the secondary reduce contrast too much? Contrast was reduced, but how much is "too much?" Were the images brighter in this "faster" scope? No! Despite some apparently unintentional wording in the first ads that misled buyers to believe that visually as well as photographically that the images "are 2 times brighter." To some visual users the wider field of view offered by this new scope was a draw. Now they could have a large diameter, but compact telescope with a wide field. Of course you could do the same with an f/10 scope by then by adding a focal reducer, but each user had their preferences.
The year 1992 marked the introduction of the LX200 series. The most exciting development here was a microcomputer controlled drive system which allowed "go-to" automation of a mass produced amateur telescope with an alt-azimuth mount. But there was more. A new heavy-weight fork mounting was designed that kept vibration down. The telescope was mounted flat on the tripod without an equatorial wedge, which the computer now made possible. The optical tubes were available in either f/10 or f/6.3 focal lengths and carried Meade's newest "Super Multi-Coatings" and were coupled with 8x50 finders, 1 " star diagonals and eyepieces.
Initially the computers for these telescopes had a standard database of 747 objects, and an 8,000 object memory was available as an option. The drive system operated on 12 volts, and was supplied with cords to power it from an AC source or from a car cigarette lighter. The telescope was controlled by a well designed handbox. By locating and entering two guide stars the telescope would calculate where it was and its relation to the sky. Then entering a catalogue number into the hand control resulted in the telescope slewing to that object in the sky. Buttons were included for all of the necessary features for setting up and programming the drive, making drive corrections if taking photographs, and training the PPEC system. The control panel on the telescope included an LED ammeter, North/South hemisphere switch, plugs for the handbox, the declination drive and optional plugs for a motorized focuser, guiding reticle and encoders. Why encoders? The drive electronics only know where it is pointed based on the initial setup from pointing at one or two stars and establishing then keeping track of its position from there. Any manual adjustment of the telescope causes it to "get lost." Of course, since you can't move the telescope manually in declination while it is powered up anyway, this could be a moot point, but they provided for encoders anyway. Another exciting feature for the technocrat, a plug was added that would allow a CCD system to provide feedback to the computer for automatic guiding for photography. (Of course long exposure photography was only possible with the purchase of an optional equatorial wedge, since the alt-az mode would result in field rotation even though the object tracked would stay in the center of the field.) The whole system was placed on the same tripod used by previous LX models, and in its first release, came with a carrying case.
In 1994 Meade made some improvements on their optical tubes with improved primary baffling to slightly increase contrast. Also the drive system was changed from 12 volts to 18 volts to increase torque and power in the dive system. A new software version released at the same time allowed easier 2 star set-up alignment and now expanded the optional object databases 10,000+ or 64,000+. In 1995 higher resolution encoders and another new software release allowed what Meade dubbed "High Precision Pointing." This increased accuracy allowed for photography of objects that could not be seen with the eye when using the new generation of CCD photography tools. Once aligned, the "go-to" would almost always accurately center any object in the field of view for observation or photography. At this time the standard object database of the computer was expanded to 64,000 objects. Finally in 1997, the earth's moon was quietly added to the database for those with a serious case of "go-to fever."
The LX100 was introduced at the same time as the LX200. This was essentially the same telescope as the LX200, but without the computerized "go to" functions. It had the same tube and fork mount, the same power panel and hand control, a 6x30finder, star diagonal, eyepiece, tripod and carrying case. Since there was no computer to track in the alt-az mode, the 8" models were provided with a standard wedge.
In 1992 Meade announced yet another computerized version of their telescope with the SSC-8. This was a large tripod-mounted german equatorial system that could be outfitted with the same computer technology as the LX 200 models. This gave the consumer a choice between the two long favored mounts for Schmidt Cassegrains. These were available in either f/10 or f/6.3 focal lengths with a 1 " star diagonal and eyepiece, 8x50 finder and dovetail mounting bar on the LX600 mount, used up until then for their large refractors. This mount was a heavy ball-bearing mount with worm gear motion in both axes. Optionally available were a polar borescope, and electronic drive system with PPEC similar to that provided on the LX100, and the computerized electronic drive system that provided the same features as the LX200. The standard field tripod used with the fork-mounted SCT provided suitable stability for the new GEM. This series was dropped quickly, and so is a rare item to be found on the market.
In 1995 Meade announced the replacement for the LX100, which was the LX50. This telescope was similar to its predecessor, but had a simplified electronics package that did not include the Periodic Error Correction and had a simplified hand control with only direction buttons with 4 guiding/slewing speeds. The control system operated from 4 AA batteries placed in a front accessed battery pack, or externally via a 12v DC cigarette lighter cord. It is noteworthy that Meade did not include the field tripod with the LX 50. It had to be purchased separately. The model included a standard wedge, 6x30 finder, 1 " diagonal and eyepiece and declination motor as standard equipment.
In 1996 the 16 year production of the 2080 telescope finally came to an end with the introduction of the LX10. This replacement for the venerable entry level Meade 8" SCT included the latest technology. The optical tube carried the same Super Multi-Coatings used on the top-of-the-line LX200 and was accompanied by a 6x30 finder, 1 " diagonal and eyepiece. The optical tube was placed on a light but adequate fork mount. The tripod was simplified as a fixed height unit. A quality DC worm gear drive was powered by 4 AA batteries that could be replaced easily in the base of the telescope. A hand control was included for correction in RA, and would also correct Declination with purchase of the optional declination motor. This model provided all the essentials for a power independent astrophotography system at low cost.

Larger SCT's

In 1982 a 10" diameter telescope was added to Meade's line of SCTs. This new unit was dubbed Model 2120. The f/10 optical tube came with the same base and accessories as the 2080, but with larger fork arms to accommodate the larger tube. High transmission coatings became available in 1983. Telescopes equipped with these coatings became designated 2120B.

With each new 8" model described above, a corresponding 10" model was also made available. These included the LX3, GEM, MTS-SC, LX5, LX6, Premier, LX200, SSC, LX50 and LX100. These all had the same bases, accessories and options as the 8" models described above with the following exceptions.

The MTS-SC10 substituted a 8x50 finder for the 6x30 of the 8" model.

The 2120GEM came with the heavy duty, fork mount style metal tripod instead of the wood tripod supplied with the 2080.

The Premier 2120 30/36 models and later the 40SD/46SD came with a 8x50 finder, rather than the 6x30. The 2120 50/56 and 70/76 models also provided a heavy duty wedge that became known as the Superwedge. This could also be purchased as an option for any 10" SCT.

The LX100 10" models also came with the Superwedge and an 8x50 finder.

The LX-50 10" model replaced the smaller finder with a 8x50, but included only the standard wedge for mounting the tube assembly to the tripod. Since the tube assembly for the 10" model weighed in at nearly 60 lbs. the standard wedge was not very stable for astrophotography. The "Super Wedge" was available as an option.

Although not included in the price lists, it is worthy of note that the SSC models were made available with a 12" f/10 optical tube on the LX700 mount in 1992, although these are rare animals. Also, in 1994 the 12" model was added to LX-200 line and remains available to the present. Additionally, the flagship 16" LX200 that was the inspiration for the whole LX200 line has been available from 1992 to the present.

© 2001, 2002 - Robert A. Pollock
Page Revised: January 1, 2002