Founded in Irvine, California in 1972, Meade Instruments (typically shortened to Meade) have been producing telescopes, binoculars and other accessories for almost half a century, widely recognized as the world’s largest manufacturer.
As such, they have garnered a deserved reputation for creating some of the best optical instruments around. Beginning as a humble mail order service, nowadays they are mass-distributing hundreds of different models globally.
Given the size of their existing catalog, you may be intimidated by the sheer amount of choice. That’s where we come in! Having selected five of the biggest fan favorites, highly rated by fellow customers, there’s bound to be one here to suit you.
If you’d like to find out exactly what characteristics you’re looking for in a high quality telescope, our Buyer’s Guide will provide you with all of the important information. From magnifiers to tripods, everything you need to know is right there.
Similarly, for those with lingering questions or concerns, we’ve also put together a set of FAQs. Made up of the most frequently posed inquiries from other customers, hopefully we’ll have covered yours too.
Need The Best, Right Now? Here’s Our Top Pick;
OUR TOP PICK
- Meade Instruments Portable Refracting Astronomy Telescope
- Meade Instruments 222000 Adventure Scope
- Meade Instruments EXT125 Observer GoTo Astronomy Telescope
- Meade Instruments S102 Refractor with Smart Phone Adaptor
- Meade Instruments Polaris 127 EQ Reflector Telescope
- Buyer’s Guide
- Frequently Asked Questions
Ideal for those new to astronomy or a younger budding astronaut, this achromatic refractor telescope is one of Meade’s most favored.
Its universal appeal and excellent specifications earned it the number one spot on our list!
An 80mm aperture offers sharp, bright images whether you’re seeking objects on land or in the sky; bringing the rings of Saturn and the surface of our Moon to your very own eyes, it’s an incredible starter scope for the price.
Thanks to the precision altazimuth mount, bolstered by a slow motion control rod for easy tracking, you’ll be able to locate objects with ease.
Three interchangeable eyepieces offer a variety of magnifications, easily doubled with the 2x Barlow lens!
There’s also a red dot viewfinder, which makes pointing your scope at the objects you’re trying to focus on even easier.
Plus, accessory trays can store all of your stargazing equipment whilst you’re exploring the vast reaches of space!
Inside the box you’ll also find free astronomical software and an instructional DVD, making this a truly wonderful gift for a child who is showing an interest in physics or astronomy.
It’s also brilliant for those pursuing STEM with their kids.
- 80mm aperture, 400mm focal length (ratio f/5)
- Three magnification lenses and bonus 2x Barlow lens
- Red dot viewfinder for precision searching
- Free DVD and astronomy software in-box
- Pricey for a beginner’s scope, but certainly worth the price!
An affordable scope available in apertures of 60mm and 80mm, the 22000 Adventure Scope is an achromatic refractor that’s both high quality and easily portable.
That’s a pretty difficult combination to achieve!
You’ll find two eyepieces included for low and high magnification, as well as a red dot finder scope for assistance in locating celestial objects.
Lightweight yet sturdy, the aluminum tripod can be transported with minimal fuss and assembled in seconds.
Ideal for on the go observation, it comes with a rugged backpack that fits the scope, tripod and all accessories.
Carefully transport everything you need to check out the night sky wherever you’d like, without worrying about potential damage.
360mm of focal length is impressive for such a budget friendly telescope, and paired with either of the available apertures, you’ll be able to see even deep space objects.
Focusing is easy enough to achieve, with a standard rack and pinion mechanism.
It can be used during the day or at night, meaning this dual purpose scope is suitable for checking out views on land as well as in space.
Everything you need to start exploring space, all in one purchase!
- Two magnification eyepieces included
- Aluminum tripod is lightweight
- Works day and night - dual purpose
- Free storage bag for safe, easy transportation
- Some customer reviews suggest that the accessories are not of the same quality as the scope itself
Boasting a 123mm Maksutov-Cassegrain aperture, the EXT125 Observer is an excellent investment for the more experienced astronomer.
Leading to a focal ratio of f/15, a focal length of 1900mm is one sign of a truly exceptional telescope.
Also included are a pair of Super Plossl eyepieces at 9.7mm and 26mm respectively, protected by Ultra-High Transmission Coatings (UHTM).
Taking mobile astronomy to a whole new level, prepare for detailed closeups of clusters, nebulae and more.
The adjustable height, field standard steel tripod with built in Tilt Plate allows for polar alignment, whilst a red dot viewfinder makes for easy observation of any object you want to find.
At full size, this is not a telescope made for kids!
A computerized, dual-arm GOTO mount featuring Periodic Error Correction (PEC) technology, as well as an AudioStar controller packed with more than 30,000 celestial objects to find, this is a professional tool for serious stargazing.
Given the highest useful magnification of this bad boy is 254x, you shouldn’t be surprised by the hefty price tag.
That’s not to say it isn’t a huge investment, just to remind you that it’s worth every penny.
- 1900mm focal length, 125mm aperture, f/15 focal ratio
- Steel full size tripod, EQ tilt plate
- Up to 254x magnification capabilities
- Computerized mount with error correcting technology
- A few customer reviews suggest the computerized mount can struggle to align - could just be a defect, however
Another excellent option for beginners is the S102, an achromatic refractor designed to be used on the go, with a large 102mm aperture.
It’s capable of creating bright, sharp images, even at higher magnifications - you’ll even be able to see Saturn!
As part of your purchase, you’ll also receive two additional MA eyepieces, for high and low powered magnification, as well as a 2x Barlow lens to double magnification.
That’s like having four eyepieces instead of two!
There’s even a smartphone adaptor that lets users capture high definition photos using just their cell phone, whether you’re viewing land and celestial objects, as this telescope is capable of clearly capturing both.
The included tripod is sturdy enough for use on uneven ground, with a yoke style mount.
Altitude slow motion panning controls mean that even a newbie can figure out how to find objects, especially assisted by the included red dot viewfinder.
Each purchase comes with a limited lifetime warranty, meaning that if you’re not satisfied with your purchase or something arrives damaged, you’ll be able to come to a resolution with Meade without any trouble.
- 102mm Aperture, 600mm focal length, 5/5.9 focal ratio
- 2 MA eyepieces and a 2x Barlow magnifier for viewing deep space
- Alt-azimuth yoke style mount, slow motion controls
- Free smartphone adaptor for astrophotography
- Mounting system can cause vibration that makes alignment tricky
With an impressive 127mm aperture and 1000mm focal length, to create a ratio of f/7.9, the Polaris 127 EQ is an achromatic Newtonian style refractor.
Even at this price, it’s capable of bringing the wonders of the night sky right to your backyard.
Using a larger than average stable German equatorial mount, slow motion controls make for easy object tracking.
Maneuvering this telescope is easy enough that even beginners could pick it up, especially paired with the red dot viewfinder.
Three MA eyepieces at 6.3mm, 9mm and 26mm respectively, paired with a Barlow lens at 2x, essentially makes for a total of six different magnifications!
You’ll be able to see the rings of Saturn in all their glory.
A rack and pinion focuser, setting circles and latitude control with a corresponding scale also make searching for specific celestial objects much easier.
Made from stainless steel, the tripod is sturdy and arrives pre-assembled.
Each purchase comes with a full year’s warranty, for full peace of mind with Meade’s excellent customer service.
Inside the box, you’ll also find a bonus Autostar Suite Astronomy Planetarium DVD, offering over 10,000 celestial objects to explore.
- 127mm aperture, 1000mm focal length, f/7.9 focal ratio
- Magnification of up to 254x, at half the price of the EXT125
- Three different eyepieces and 2x Barlow magnification lens
- Stainless steel tripod is secure and sturdy
- Heavier than other, more portable telescopes
Telescope 101 - Basic Breakdown
If you’re not well versed in exploring the stars, you might not know there are actually three distinct types of telescope. Let’s go through each one:
Ideal for beginners, refracting (or dioptric) telescopes make use of two lenses, an objective and an eyepiece. The former gather up large amounts of light from faraway space objects and the latter uses that light to focus the image.
Traditional designs have one lens at the front and one at the back, connected by a long tube - they follow the same kind of science as binoculars to enable our human eyes to successfully peer at the vastness of space.
Reflecting (or catoptric) telescopes, however, use several curved mirrors in order to reflect light to form their image. This style was actually invented by Isaac Newton, and the majority of ‘scopes used in official astronomy research are reflectors.
Most primary mirrors in modern variants are cylindrical and composed of solid glass, to form a ‘paraboloid’ shape, which is ideal for reflecting light from the various mirrors. Perhaps the most famous example is the Hubble Space Telescope!
Catadioptric (or compound) telescopes are essentially a hybrid of the above; combining both shaped mirrors and lenses in order to form their images, they tend to be more expensive but eventually lead to much greater error prevention.
Commercially, the Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope is the most recognizable catadioptric scope, which has been in mass production since the early 1960s. Uniquely, it has a longer than average focal length and a folded optical path.
Features To Consider:
Determining the potential for magnification, a telescope’s focal length refers to the distance between its primary lens or mirror and eyepiece, or the point at which the object viewed is focused, so alongside the aperture, it’s pretty important.
In order to calculate a ‘scope’s magnification capabilities, simply divide the primary lens/mirror’s focal length by that of the eyepiece. For instance, with a 900mm primary lens and a 30mm eyepiece, magnification would be up to 30x.
Otherwise known as the diameter of a telescope’s mirror or primary lens, the aperture determines not just how much light your ‘scope can gather, but how detailed the images produced will be overall.
The bigger the aperture, the greater the amount of light collected, and therefore the clearer that fainter or further away objects will become. If you’re hoping to see the flag on the moon, you’re going to want the largest one your budget can buy!
Of course, some telescopes are designed to be handheld and simply raised to the sky with your own two hands, but the heavier and more professional iterations will require a mount, allowing you to maneuver the scope in any direction.
You’ll notice there are two main styles, altazimuth, which can be moved both horizontally and vertically, and equatorial, which follows an axis parallel to the axis of rotation that our planet Earth follows.
The latter is more expensive as a result of the technology required, so you only need to opt for a mount with equatorial movement capabilities if you intend to undertake serious astronomical investigations.
Not every telescope has a finder, but they are especially useful for navigating the night sky in order to find specific objects. Just peering through the lens can be tricky, and a finder guides your eyes to where they need to be.
Traditional finders were simplistic and cross-style, but nowadays you can find more technologically savvy ‘red-dot’ varieties, which can be useful for locating the tiniest details that outer space has to offer.
Should your telescope not come with one, or you’d like to upgrade the one it does come with, they can be purchased separately. It doesn’t have to be a dealbreaker, unlike the aperture and focal length.
It’s possible to purchase these separately if your chosen telescope’s isn’t up to scratch, but looking for a decent tripod as part of your purchase is always worthwhile. At the very least, it’ll save you money and time.
Depending on whether it’s for a child or an adult, you’ll want a different size. Whilst grown ups can crouch, a full-size tripod isn’t going to be usable for a kid, unfortunately. Make sure you check the height before purchasing!
All manufacturers are going to say that their tripods are sturdy - in order to find out for sure, it’s worth checking out the reviews from fellow customers to find out what their consensus is. They’ll have tried and tested, so you don’t have to.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Meade going out of business?
Back in 2019, both Meade Instruments and its parent company, Ningbo Sunny Electronic Co, filed for bankruptcy protection following the loss of a lawsuit from Orion, a competing manufacturer of telescopes.
Products are still being manufactured and customers can still access support when they need it, but it is believed that the company’s intention is to sell itself, in order to avoid a total shutdown.
It is unclear in which direction they are headed, but at the time of writing (January 2021) the business does not appear to have changed hands to new ownership. As such a reputable and respected company, hopefully they can make the sale.
Who owns Celestron?
Meade tried to acquire ownership of Celestron in 2002. This attempt was prevented by the Federal Trade Commission because such a merger would have led to the companies monopolizing the production of Schmidt-Cassegrain telescopes.
As of right now, the company is privately owned by SW Technology Corporation, an affiliate of parent company Synta Technology Corporation, located in Delaware. They purchased Celestron in 2005, dedicated to maintaining its positive reputation.
What size telescope do I need to see into deep space?
According to the BBC’s Sky At Night magazine, you’ll need a telescope with an aperture of at least 6 inches in order to discover deep-sky objects, at least if you want to see more than a wiggly line or blurred smudge.
A minimum magnification of 20x to 30x is required for seeing planetary details.
Unfortunately, for the clearest, most magnified images, you’re going to need highly expensive technological equipment, far exceeding the average customer’s budget.
Preferably, you’ll also have a longer focal length to create a larger image that’s easier to identify, and a larger than average aperture in order to successfully capture and replicate the finer solar details.