c8 vs c9.25 vs c11 vs Meade LX-200 12" R(ACF) Comparison Review
By: Vlad Fedosov
My quest for the search for the right SCT that will fit my observing style started with the common c8. This was not my first SCT, before that I have owned a Meade LX-200 8”, 10”, and 12” among a few other OTA’s that are in the same size range. I was content with my fully upgraded c8(Feather Touch focuser, Bob’s Knobs, flocked on the inside) riding on top of an LXD-75 mount. It was such a wonderful setup because I could grab it fully setup and carry it out the back door and be observing in minutes. This started to change when I acquired a Losmandy g11 mount. Since I now had a mount that can support a larger SCT, my quest for the ultimate SCT was in motion. I soon found myself with a C8, C9.25, C11, and a Meade LX-200 R(ACF) 12” OTA’s. Let's take a look at what I have found comparing these wonderful scopes!
I did this comparison from my mag 4 backyard over a period of about a month. Since I had just previously compared the c8 and c9.25 I already had a good idea of the performance difference of those scopes. The c9.25 did produce a noticeably brighter image on DSO but was also quite a bit bigger. The c11 and Meade 12”(M12) where the new contenders. I used m42 for comparing the views quite a bit as it has both a fairly difficult multiple star system and a lot of nebulosity to compare the view. I first mounted up the c11 and immediately noticed much more detail on the center of m42 compared to the two smaller scopes. The ‘e’ and ‘f’ stars where also much easier to pick up and where just there for the taking. Switching to the M12 I was greeted with a similar view. I do believe it was a bit brighter and perhaps showed the detail in the nebula itself a bit better. Comparing the field on surrounding stars I did notice that the FOV of the ACF optics of the M12 was flatter than the standard Celestrons. I have personally never found this to be a huge difference however but some people do. The other difference that I will point out is that all of the Celestron units had very minimal image shift. The M12 had quite a bit more. It was not horrible but noticeable. From what I understand this is really kind of a luck of the draw type of thing.
I did do a bit of comparing the scopes on the view that they produce on Jupiter and I could not see too much of a difference on my average night of seeling. I live right under the jet stream and my seeing here in the northwest is usually fairly crummy. It's very rare that I can get away with using more than about 150x on the planets. This would not be the case for you if you live in an area that typically has better seeing.
Physically the scopes are all quite a bit different. The c8 is like a toy compared to the larger scopes. And I do not say this as a bad thing. If you want a portable grab and go rig, in my opinion, a c8 is hard to beat. I have always been able to carry one out mounted out the back door. The c9.25 is very similar in size to the c11. I do like the c9.25 but honestly, I do have a hard time recommending it if you have a mount that can handle the c11. The M12 does weigh about 10lb more than the c11 so it is quite a beast. It is also physically quite a bit bigger even though the aperture is only 1” larger. I love the build quality and overall feel of the Meade 12” ACF but I do feel that it really belongs in a permanently mounted observatory setting(which I’m working towards). It only weighs a few lbs. less than a c14 so it’s a bit hard to justify if not permanently mounted. I say this form a purely weight-based point of view. The optical performance of the scope is very, very good.
Conclusion:Overall I would say that the c11 and M12 are definitely in a different league for deep sky object(DSO) use. They start to produce an image of the brighter DSO’s that look very interesting and can keep you busy for a lifetime with the fainter fuzzies. If you are interested in DSO as a primary use for an SCT and do have the mount that will support the c11 I would defiantly go that route. If you are interested in planetary viewing I would consider your local seeing conditions. If you have seeing that is good on average still get the c11. If not the c8 on most nights will show you just as much detail. The same is true for double star work. There are not very many double stars that a c8 cannot resolve on a typical night of seeing. If this is going to be your only scope, or if you only have a Vixen clone type of mount(LXD-75, AVX, CG5…) I would strongly recommend the c8. There is a reason that it is such a popular OTA. It gives you a lot of aperture in a VERY compact and light size. So what scope did I end up with? I’m still to decide between the c11 and M12. I will post an update on witch scope I end up with(might even be the c14 for all I know!).