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A User Review In Retrospect:
As of September 12, 2008 I have officially replaced the Meade Autostar LXD75 German Equatorial Mount as my primary observatory mount with a Vixen GPD2 German Equatorial Mount (GEM). The Meade LXD75 will be retained as of this writing as my travel mount for primarily observations and wide field SLR Astrophotography. The following write up is my summary and review of the mount from my time using, and maintaining it as my primary mount.
The Meade LXD75 comes complete with a decent tripod and the Autostar GoTo system at an average retail of about $650.00. There are several other contenders within the same price and load capacity class as the Meade LXD75, as well as it's predecessor the Meade LXD55. In my book all of these mounts are what I would call an "economy class" of German Equatorial Mounts that come right out of the box ready to be set up as a modest astro-imaging mount with auto guide capability for long exposure photography. With that said, to get the most out of any one of the various manufactures Economy Class GEMs it takes some user input such as tuning up the mount and performing good regular maintenance on them to get consistent performance.
The Meade LXD75 is in a class of mount known around the various astronomy circles as a Vixen GP clone mount. This class of mounts is known as the Vixen Clone mount because they are all basic copies made in primarily in mainland China of the original Japanese made Vixen Great Polaris GEM. There are a few minor or subtle differences between them, but they are all basically the same design. I cannot speak for the performances of all of the other Clone Mounts out there as I have only owned and operate a couple of them, the LXD75 being one. There has been a Synta EQ5, Celestron CG5, & an EM10 mount in the stall at one time or another as well as I have worked on, repaired, and tuned up a few of them. So with that said The LXD75 is the mount of interest in this article.
The LXD75 has a cast aluminum body, aluminum alloy worm wheel gears, brass worm gears, aluminum declination and Right Ascension main axis shafts, both set in the body with steel sealed ball bearings in the mount at the primary pivot points. The tripod has a cast aluminum head with steel tubular legs older ones have 1 1/2" tubular legs, newer ones have 2". The tripod is very adequate for the loads the mount is truly capable of handling. A good pier setup can be a bit more stable platform for imaging and photography work. The counter weight bar is steel and sturdy enough when not over loaded for the mount.
Meade publishes the mount's maximum operational load capacity at 30 Lbs. (about 13.5 Kg) of equipment. In my personal experience with the mount I have run it with several different combinations of OTAs and equipment on it. From a total equipment load of right at 10 lbs (4.5 Kg) all the way up to 35 Lbs. (15.9 Kg) and I have come up with a kind of a personal opinion/guidelines for what kind of performance one can expect from the mount in the different load outs. My current main observatory setup comes in @ 27 lbs. (12.3 kg) including both OTAs, all of the necessary hardware to mount it on the LXD75 and less the chosen camera setup of the moment. Most of the photographs in my albums came through the use of this setup, and can be seen by following the "Photo Albums" link button on the left of the page.
From my experiences with the mount I would say the mount will give it's best performances for Astrophotography at loads from about 22 lbs.(11kg) down. While my main setup is a few lbs heavier than this bench mark, my LXD75 is not an "Out of The Box" LXD75. I have performed a super tune up on it, you'd be hard pressed to find another LXD75 with the worm wheels as clean and well polished out as mine. The Worm Gear assemblies have been tuned with the addition of smoother interfacing bushings, and I have kept the mount well maintained keeping the gears well adjusted. In doing this I have received some very good performances from the mount considering the class of mount it is. The periodic error in my LXD75 was running 35 A.S. +/- when I first put it to use prior to tuning it, that is just a little under the average for an LXD75, after the tuning and with good maintenance I average around 20 - 24 A.S. Periodic Error with it. Even after the tune up there is some looseness in the worm to worm wheel engagement even when things are at their best possible adjustment point. I have found this to be true of every Chinese made VP Clone I have ever worked on, tightening the gears up to the point the very small amount of gear slop is not present results in the gears being to tight for the mount to track and slew properly.
In closing there is this to be said of the Meade LXD75! It is in a class of telescope mounts best qualified as an economy level entry mount for short focal length DSO photography, and some higher focal length planetary - Lunar imagery. The mount is fairly easy to setup autoguiding on using a Meade Camera with the included Autostar Envisage application through the 497 handset. The ASCOM standards can also be applied through 3rd party software applications and 3rd party cameras to autoguide the mount also fairly easily using the supplied Meade 505 cable through the 497 handset. Having the capability to autoguide fairly easy to setup means the mount is capable of doing some long exposure Astrophotography pretty much hands free.
Under loads with in the actual limits of the mount, 22 lbs (10kg), not the published load capacity, the mount performs fairly reliably with less need for maintenance once you get through the break in of the mount. Under those same reasonable loads the mount is fairly stable and dampens well, even better on a permanent pier. The Autostar can be reasonably accurate, but there is a learning curve and the mount needs to be in top working order. The better you learn how to use the Autostar and master it's idiosyncrasies the better it will perform. There is usually some break in time, checking the drive spur gears to be sure the set screw are holding initially, I had to do this once and once only as I used Blue Loc-tite when I reset them. The worm assemblies will sooner or later need to be adjusted to tame some of the backlash, see my LXD75 Maintenance 101 article. Overall I have had a satisfactory run with my LXD75 accepting that it is what it is and asking it to give me it's best, but not more than it is capable of. If you are looking for a mount to use for some Astrophotography, but have very limited funds then this may be the mount for you as it has been for me. It is certainly a very capable mount for visual observation work, at a price that is easy on the wallet
The Mad One
39 47' 06" North / 85 46' 10" West
The Meade LXD75 Telescope Mount: