Celestron AstroMaster 102AZ Review: Should You Buy It?

Celestron AstroMaster 102AZ

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Welcome to my Celestron AstroMaster 102AZ telescope review!

In this review, I’ll cover all the pros and cons and the telescope’s suitability for beginners and novices who will be looking for ease of use and versatility, as well as a satisfying performance and of course a value-added price.

Celestron’s AstroMaster 102AZ Refracting telescope is extremely easy to set up and comes ready to perform straight out of the box. The 4″ OTA, alt-azimuth mount, and tripod are accompanied by two 1.25″ eyepieces, 20mm and 10mm. This telescope is great for observers who want clear views of the Moon, planets, star clusters, and more. It is extremely portable, meaning you can bring the 102AZ with you on camping trips. The telescope is very well built. While the alt-azimuth mount is sturdy enough to support the telescope, there are a few niggles that could be ironed out. Overall a nice starter package to get you started in astronomy, with the added benefit of being a great choice for terrestrial use.

Pros

  • High-quality optics.
  • Dual-purpose telescope suited for terrestrial as well as astronomical use.
  • Easy to set up and use.
  • Affordable & perfect for beginners.
  • Rugged tripod with steel tube legs.
  • Limited astrophotography.

Cons

  • Mount could be better.
  • Not suitable for serious astrophotography.
  • Not powerful enough for fainter DSOs.

Celestron AstroMaster 102AZ Review

For those in the market for an affordable, beginner-friendly refractor the Celestron AstroMaster 102AZ Telescope has you in mind. 

The telescope has two smaller siblings, the AstroMaster 70AZ and the AstroMaster 90AZ

Out of the box, this telescope is powerful, easy to assemble, and allows for general ease of use that Celestron swears is perfect for beginners and families alike. 

When it comes to refractor telescopes this one offers a decent amount of power for a very affordable price, it is not very complicated and does what it sets out to do.

Optical Performance

Designed as a dependable and highly portable starter scope, the Celestron AstroMaster 102AZ 102mm f/6.5 Alt-Az Refractor Telescope is a complete observational platform for making detailed observations of the moon and planets or for comet-hunting. 

The quality of optics AstroMaster 102AZ has to offer is great; even superb for the money. 

The telescope comes with a pair of eyepieces – 10mm, providing 66x magnification, plus 20mm giving you 33x magnification – as well as a red dot finder scope for pinpointing subjects more accurately.

The optical elements have fully coated lenses that provide exceptional levels of clarity, contrast, and brightness. 

This AstroMaster 102AZ is great for observers who want clear views of the Moon, planets, star clusters, and more. 

It is extremely portable, meaning you can bring the 102AZ with you on camping trips and star parties. 

Since this is a refractor telescope, there is no need to align the instrument’s optics (collimate). This is a definite plus when getting the AstroMaster 102AZ, especially for a beginner.

What Can You See With The AstroMaster 102AZ?

This is great for a family or beginner astronomer who wants to explore everything that the night sky has to offer. 

Though the aperture is only 4 inches, the telescope is certainly powerful enough to show the Moon in wonderful detail, delivering clear and bright images of its valley, peaks, and craters

It can also show you Mars’ rusty red surface and polar ice caps, and Jupiter’s e gaseous cloud bands, and the Great Red Spot

You can even see Jupiter’s four biggest moons. Saturn’s rings are clearly visible too.

The Celestron AstroMaster 102AZ is not really made for very faint or distant deep-sky objects but works exceptionally well for viewing all Messier objects like M31 (the Andromeda Galaxy) and M42 (the Orion Nebula)

I highly recommend buying better eyepieces or a Barlow lens if you want to expand the range of what you can see with this telescope.

Terrestrial Viewing

The AstroMaster 90AZ features an Image Erect Star Diagonal so that the views produced are upright rather than inverted. 

This makes the 90AZ a dual-purpose telescope that is perfect for viewing terrestrial landscapes and wildlife, in addition to observing the night sky.

It is ideal for terrestrial use, including looking at ships at sea, views over distant landscapes, but also with a close focus of around 8 meters, it can also be used for looking at birds in your garden.

Mount

The mount is a plastic alt-azimuth with some important parts being made of metal.

An alt-azimuth mount allows movement across two axes: here being up and down plus left and right. 

The telescope’s alt-azimuth mount features a panning handle/ altitude cutch so that you can tilt the telescope to any angle you need.

Though it is indeed that simple to use, I found the panhandle to be quite stiff in operation, and not as fluid as I would have liked.

The mount is actually the only disappointing part of this telescope. But it’s not really a deal-breaker because most branded telescopes in this price range come with mounts that could have been better.

Thankfully the telescope’s dovetail mount is threaded so you could mount it to a better tripod that is smoother and easier to use.

The telescope also includes a full-height steel tripod onto which the scope is slotted into place, with two screws tightened to prevent it from sliding about in its mount. 

Portability

While this telescope is relatively large and heavy, it remains a portable model, allowing you to use it outdoors. When fully extended, the optical tube is about 36 inches. 

It weighs 20 pounds, therefore, you can carry it on your shooting excursions or hunting expeditions to locate targets and wildlife.

Astrophotography

This telescope is not meant for serious astrophotography. The alt-az mount doesn’t allow tracking of celestial objects like an EQ mount so that they can be photographed.

Also, the small aperture of this telescope doesn’t allow the sky object images to be clear and crisp when you photograph them.

However, you can use CCD-style cameras or your smartphone camera along with a phone adapter to take decent pictures of the moon and planets.

Basically, this telescope can be used for short exposure astrophotography but not for long exposure where the objects have to be tracked for more than 30-40 seconds.

Drawbacks

As I said before, the unstable mount is this telescope’s only limitation. That said, you can’t really expect much at this price range.

Included Accessories

The AstroMaster 90AZ comes with 10mm(66x) and 20mm(33x) Kellner eyepieces, a red dot finder, and an erect diagonal for terrestrial viewing.

You also get Starry Night astronomy software CD to help you integrate the telescope with your computer for record-keeping, planning, and photography. The software allows you to see up to 10,000 celestial objects at a go.

You also get a useful accessory tray to keep eyepieces, telescope’s lens, and eyepiece caps, and other accessories safely and within your reach.

Conclusion

Is Celestron AstroMaster 90AZ telescope worth it? Arguably, it might be one of the finest models in the budget price category, especially due to the fact that it comes supplied with top-shelf features and most of its flaws can be bypassed and corrected. 

Beginners and first-timers adore its user-friendly and easy-to-use design while a bit more experienced astronomers like it for its high-quality optics.