At around $2000, this “light bucket” telescope isn’t for everyone, but if you are interested in big, big aperture and have a little practical knowledge of how to correct some design flaws, then step inside and check out the Meade 16″ LightBridge Truss Tube Dobsonian…
Affordable Big Aperture Telescopes
Affordable aperture – that’s the catch phrase for all dobsonian style telescopes. You trade in drive motors, GoTo systems and the slow motion controls of an equatorial mount for the ease and simplicity of the altaz dobsonian design. Once upon a time, these monsters were all solid tube construction, but new lines of thinking have introduced the truss tube over several telescope models and Meade was one of the first to make it affordable. However, $2000 is a significant amount of money… Is what you get for the buck worth it?
Other Truss Tube Dobsonian Telescopes to choose from:
Inside the Design of a Truss Tube Dobsonian…
Make no mistake. It might resemble two other very notable manufacturer’s truss tube telescopes – but it isn’t. There is a reason the Meade 16″ LightBridge costs about half the price of the competitor models. It has a few design flaws. Let’s address these issues:
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According to Meade: “It’s a big telescope that goes anywhere. New LightBridge truss-dobs from Meade take down and set up quickly. So you can take one of these massive windows on the universe out to your favorite dark sky locations with ease.” Maybe YOU can, but for most of us, the near 70 lbs. of the primary mirror cell isn’t going to be easy to to wrestle in and out of a car… and even left fully assembled at home, close to 130 lbs. isn’t going to be easy to move in and out. But, let’s be fair here. Part of the beauty of this telescope design is that it can be dismantled with ease. Yes. That part is true. It can be assembled and reassembled. But even most experienced hands will find that the upper optical tube assembly is very unstable with a narrow lip and one set of hands to work with – it requires two people to feel secure. The mounting hardware isn’t the greatest and should be replaced. Once assembled, I think you’ll find yourself reluctant to take it apart again, and therefore a good telescope dolly is required.
The next thing you’re going to find is the interior non-reflective coatings can use some help. Again, for experienced telescope users, this isn’t a problem – just an inconvenience. Now that it’s together, protection becomes an issue… And another expense. Meade no longer makes their own brand shroud and cover for the 16″ LightBridge, so you’re off and looking for after market accessories. Hey. No problem. It’s little things like this that a telescope user knows and expects. Now, let’s take it out and use it!
Using the Meade 16″ LightBridge…
“Steel RA Roller Bearings make movements smooth and effortless.” Yep. They sure do. The Meade 16″ LightBridge moves just as smooth as silk. So smooth, in fact, that the included altitude and azimuth tension adjustment knobs won’t stop it from gently drifting its way down to level when aiming at anything lower than about 30 degrees. Again, we have a slight design flaw – felt roller bearings instead of teflon. Again, it is something that can be corrected, but requires a little knowledge of telescope workings. (And don’t be too shocked when you remove them to find that one is even thicker than the other!) Even with the change, the supplied Meade 26mm QX Wide Angle 2″ Eyepiece will make it slowly drop when aiming low. Correction? You got it. Add weight to the back end.
Final Thoughts on the Meade 16″ LightBridge…
And now that all of these changes have been made, just what do I think about the Meade 16″ LightBridge?
Over the years I’ve come to expect things not to be perfect when ordering a telescope that costs a little less – so I don’t fault Meade. These are all minor issues that will work themselves out with time and tender loving care. What I can tell you is Meade’s boast of “Prepare to cross the universe.” is being modest. Prepare yourself to be blown away! As always, Meade mirrors are single-handedly some of the finest optics I’ve ever had the pride and joy to own. There is no coma. There is no issue. Knife edge test?: More like a razor. The mirror on this telescope is absolutely optically perfect. What’s more, the Meade 16″ LightBridge was sweet and easy to collimate. Aluminum coated with magnesium fluoride over coat on both primary and secondary mirrors have withstood the test of time on my other large Meade dobsonian telescopes, and I expect the same performance from this one. The focuser works like a charm and is welcome upgrade from Meade’s original 2″ focusers. The finder leaves a bit to be desired, but hey… I’m an optical finder kinda’ person. You might like the illuminated bullseye.
All in all? The Meade 16″ LightBridge is a great telescope. Since first light it has collected countless open clusters and resolved double handfuls of globular clusters. It has made its way to the distant galaxies, and shown me spiral arms, dustlanes and stellar cores. It has walked across the central star in the Ring Nebula, blasted the blue right out of the Saturn Nebula, and revealed the braiding in the ring of the Helix. The Meade 16″ LightBridge has shown the Casinni Division of Saturn’s rings as wide as a highway, and Jupiter’s Red Spot and black holes of galiean transits.
What’s more, the Meade 16″ LightBridge is one helluva comet hunter… And that’s what I like about you.
18 Replies to “The 16″ Meade LightBridge – That’s What I Like About You…”
I’m the proud owner of a Meade 12″ Lightbridge, quite an upgrade from my old 3″ reflector. It’s been 4 months now and I have to agree with everything said here. It’s not quite as powerful as the 16″ but at less than half the cost I’m not complaining. I live in the middle of Toronto’s light soup and it can still show me fine details of planets and even many (northern) galaxies. A shroud is a must for this thing, and a better mirror cover. The laser finder of the deluxe model is pretty impressive with 4 reticles to choose from. I haven’t upgraded the felt bearings, I just use my leather jacket slung over the bucket as counterweight when going low toward the horizon. I highly recommend the Meade laser collimator as well, and a minivan to transport it without disassembly to somewhere a little less soupy.
I was at the East Coast Starparty on the Coast of NC a few months back. A buddy brought along his new 16″ Lightbridge. He is primarily an astrophotographer and this scope with no DSC’s was new to him. Me, being a Dob driver, quickly gave him a fun tour of some nice spring galaxies with his scope! =-)
I have to %200 concur with everything said in this article. Optically, the scope was great! All the white parts in the light path were irritating. The real Achilles heal of this scope are the bearings which is exasperated by the terrible balance. Since this was the first time he used the scope, we didn’t have the materials on hand to balance it out – which made for a frustrating time staying on target…
When compared to the cost of a 15″ Obsession or a 16″ Starmaster, this really is a good scope. Spend a couple hunder more tricking it out and you are way ahead in the end!
I think the 16-inch LightBridge is a great starting point. Definintely needs a lot of modifications. For my 16-inch LB I got the JMI wheely bars and I just got the JMI TNT (Track and Train) for the LB and that replaces the felt “bearings” with steel roller bearings. The TNT also reduces the need for as much counterweights as I used to use. I used to have about 8 pounds at the back, now I have 4 pounds. You can read my thoughts on this device at the Yahoo Group.
I also somewhat eleviated the problem of moving the beast from place to place. I disassemble the secondary and truss tubes and with the wheely bars I created a wooden ramp so I can wheel the bottom half of the assembly into my SUV with on swift motion, eliminating the need for brute strength and lifting. It works very well and saves my back.
I agree on assembling the truss tubes.
Optically the Lightbridge series are really good. Pretty sharp and clear and the added apearture doesn’t hurt.
Gosh, I want one of these so bad. Sucks it’d cost one-half of my total salary of last year.
A telescope is definitely on my to-buy list after college, though!
I’m so jealous of anyone who owns one.
Gentlemen? I am very glad to see your comments in here. Because you have encountered exactly the same problems that I have with the LightBridge, I think others will be more comfortable with reading my equipment reviews. These aren’t things you would know unless you had one!
Like TXCheng, it ended up with a JMI transport. This, too, is a very sweet product and deserves its own review. The LightBridge could be moved without assist, but it ain’t easy – and that will make you use the telescope less than it deserves.
Trueman832? Right on, brother. The after market AstroZap shroud and TeleGizmos 365 cover made the difference on ambient light and made me a whole lot more confident about storing it where temperature and dust control aren’t always perfect. The jacket idea is superb – cuz’ pretty much the same thing happened here! (ended up taking the el cheapo route and using some drilled out steel plates on the back for counterbalance instead of going with the new ring balances. figgered it didn’t matter since you can’t see it in the dark anyhow!)
And RapidEye? You are also spot on. I am also a Dob person and have had the honor of using other folk’s Obsessions and Discoverys. While they really DID work out all the design flaws, I feel like the Meade optics are absolutely every bit as good and the few extra dollars and effort made the scope worth it.
Hang in there, James… Good things come to those who wait, and maybe all the little bugs will be gone from the system when it’s your turn!
James – I know your pain! I have been hugely into astronomy since I was knee-high to a grasshopper, and had to deal with lusting after telescopes in the magazines for the best part of 15 years. All through university I wanted one badly, but the money to buy one and time to use it just weren’t there. Then I graduated, got myself a job, and got myself a scope. Best thing I ever did, and believe me – you’ll get there too before you know it.
In the meantime, a good deal of the joy of owning a scope often comes from knowing about what you’re looking at – it transforms what can often seem like faint little smudges in the eyepiece into objects of incredible grandeur and scale in your mind’s eye. So keep your head in the astronomy books! It got me through the pre-telescope doldrums…
Can anyone explain what “issue” means as in “There is no coma. There is no issue.”
I’m not lazy. I googled several telescope terminology pages, and no joy.
I have not looked through one of these telescopes – a member of the York AS in England has bought one but its daylight all the time at the moment and the weather has been poor but reading the review it would seem Meade have another product half finished. I have a LXD-55 5-in refractor and (in a word) I am always rebuilding it.
Try Mike Weasner’s LXD-55.com for ideas.
Regards all von Dawson’s Expres
Common issues with mirrors can be spherical aberration on either the primary or secondary (induced by stress or just plain bad optics), astigmatism (stretching of the image), turned down edges, image roughness, speckles, sleeks, etc. I should have mentioned that the 16″ LightBridge also has a short and sweet f/4.5 focal ratio, a 15.5 magnitude reach and a 0.29 arc seconds of resolving power. They don’t advertise their wavefront error, but I am sure it is not only well within tolerance, but impressive.
As for von Dawson’s Express’ comments. Sigh… It’s sad, but true. I never wanted anyone to think I’m a Meade-basher, because I own a shocking dollar amount of Meade products – but I’ve used very few of their products that didn’t exhibit a design flaw of some type somewhere along the line. And this problem isn’t recent – it goes back – way back. But, as with many of us, we tend to turn a blind eye to those faults for the quality of the optics, patch it up and go on.
Again, I appreciate the comments. This will help others to understand when I review a product that I am being honest about its qualities and not partial to manufacturers.
I’ve owned the 16″ for about 6 months now. Got a killer deal on a used one. I added 10#’s of weight to the back and it balances perfectly with a Telrad, 9×50 right-angle finder, and my 24 Panoptic with no tension at all on the alt adjuster. I made a cross member from angle aluminium with two holes that are screwed to the back with the rubber feet to hold a 10# barbell weight. That way I didn’t have to drill any more holes, or pay the price for the leg replacement weights, and the weight doesn’t restrict access to the collimation knobs.
The Astrozap shroud is a must, and I also have the Telegizmo 365 horizontal cover which worked extremely well for a full week at the Texas Star Party.
At home I leave it on a furniture dolly I picked up from Harbor Freight for about $16. I can just roll it out from the garage when I want to observe. It adds a few inches to the height, so I need a single step at zenith, but don’t tend to observe objects there anyway. The scope is always setup on the dolly ready to go.
I agree that the 2-speed focuser is a real pleasure to use. All in all I’m very happy with the scope for the money invested. A friend of mine has a 12″ and we compare views all the time. The extra aperture is immediately apparent when viewing galaxies.
I think that Meade got this one right!!
I don’t know much about Dobsonians, but it seems to me that these would be fairly useless for astrophotography over any significantly long exposure. Do many of you use this scope for that, and if so, how do you control the tracking?
Thanks, Tammy. I obviously misunderstood the syntax. I imagined “issue” was describing a specific type of distortion, perhaps light leakage.
It’s no wonder Google struck out.
Just wanted to comment on the price… Considering that a nice Apple Laptop (my Choice) will reduce my savings by about 3.000 EURO, The 16″ Meade LightBridge looks like a great buy. Maybe Meade should offer some help, i.e. improvements ona can order.
Hi, Steve… It is possible to do very simply astrophotography with a dobsonian – for example some fast work with a planet cam – but they were meant almost exclusively for visual observation. The company “Tech 2000” makes a platform called the dob driver which allows it to act like an equatorial mount, but that’s going off into the realm of why bother with a dob anyhow. Astrophotography doesn’t really require huge aperture since the CCD plates are able to gather so much more light information than our human eyes.
If you built your own, a 16″ f4.5 Newtonian primary alone costs more than the cost of this telescope. Absurdly nose heavy, needs counterweight installation; needs light shroud with special creativity to stay out of lightpath; assembly of upper cage by one person is awful (but easily fixed, see upcoming issue of Amateur Astronomy #60), base is heavy and hard to carry, etc etc. But a little creativity and a small investment in a few fixes and you’ve got 16 inches of glorious window to the heavens. I’m amazed that they aren’t selling faster than they can make them.
My 16â€ Lightbridge just arrived yesterday afternoon. It was up and running in about 1 hour. The laser collimator was pretty easy to use. I bought a set of Bobâ€™s Knobâ€™s to make adjustments to the secondary easier. Not too impressed with how the secondary adjusts but got it done. Also agree with much of the comments here. But all that saidâ€¦ I was blown away with the view!! I enjoy some great skies here in Colorado but not last night. We had a lot of haze and a lot of smoke coming over from California. The moon was very bright and a lot of light pollution from Colorado Spring. But I still saw Jupiter like I have never seen before. The 26mm 2â€ eyepiece that came with it is excellent. I would point this thing at some spot in the sky that I could only see some grey with the naked eye and there would be a magnificent star field. This is my first dob and I love it! I have an 8â€ Nexstar and have enjoyed it but the time it takes to level the tripod, mount the scope, plug it in with an extension cord, level the tube, point it north, enter the locations, run through the 2 star alignment is sometimes prohibitive. With this massive dob, I just wheel it out of the garage on a dolly and in seconds Iâ€™m seeing amazing things.
Well I broke down and got one! I have been using an Meade 8″ LX 200 GPS unit for about the last 2 years and have no complaints about it’s performance. That is until I looked through the 16″ LB. Holly cow what a difference. Even in way less then ideal conditions the view was fantastic. I can’t wait for clear skies.
The issues or problems mentioned above are evident on mine as well and just need some minor tweaking to sort the problems out. A fair bit of cash for the shroud, maybe a little black paint to reduce the reflective light issue, and some counter weights will take care of all my complaints.
All I can say is it is well worth the money even with the minor flaws. Just look through one and you will be sold. As the guy said in the store where I bought it, “Do you have kids? (I answer yes) “When you set this up and look through it, you will give then the 8″ scope” Haven’t done it yet….but it might happen.
I have a 16 on a JMI dolly. It moves easily up and down my gravel driveway but requires an extension on the handle to avoid being stooped-over when moving it around. The designer must have been short.. I wish to blacken the reflective parts of the tube but have not seen any information on what other have used to do this. Is it as simple as masking and using a flat-black spray?
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