The Bushnell Voyager 700x76mm Reflector Telescope is definitely one of the lesser-quality telescopes I have reviewed, though not the worst. There are definitely some good ideas and commendable features here, and clearly, some work was put into the design. However, the execution of the scope’s design is basically a failure, and the included accessories are among the worst I’ve ever seen.
The 76mm Newtonian Optical Tube
The Bushnell Voyager 700x76mm Reflector Telescope is, as the name says, a 76mm (3”) Newtonian reflector with a 700mm focal length, making it f/9.2. It has a spherical primary mirror, but with a 3” f/9.2 mirror a sphere deviates so slightly from a parabola that it falls well within the tolerances as to what is considered acceptable for a telescope’s primary mirror. The optics in this scope are about the only thing I can really say is good about it; everything is just downhill quality-wise from here on.
The Voyager 700x76mm does, oddly enough for such a cheaply-made scope, have a 1.25” focuser. However, it is all plastic and doesn’t work particularly well.
The optical tube attaches to the mount via the most simplistic system I have ever seen on a commercial telescope – two wingnuts attaching to bolts through the tube. The last time this was acceptable on a consumer-grade telescope was in the 1960s, with telescopes such as the Edmund Space Conqueror and Super Space Conqueror – and even back then, people complained about how cheap and inconvenient it was! The wingnuts are quite small and easy to use, and prevent one from sliding or rotating the telescope tube to balance it or move the eyepiece to a convenient location; additionally, the bolts are annoying to deal with when transporting the scope.
The Voyager 700x76mm comes with three Huygens eyepieces: A 12.5mm (56x), an 8mm (88x) and a 4mm (176x). These eyepieces are almost entirely useless, with narrow and aberrated fields of view and tiny lenses. Additionally, there’s no low-power eyepiece with a focal length of above 20mm, and the 4mm eyepiece provides too much magnification for the telescope to handle. Strangely enough, Bushnell doesn’t include a cheap Barlow lens or market it on the basis of “power”, so why they put a 4mm Huygens in and didn’t include a low-power eyepiece puzzles me.
The Voyager comes with a strange “Sky Tour” device that gives you coordinates to find the object of your choice using the scope’s setting circles, as well as a talking voice to tell you interesting facts and information about the objects you select. For whatever reason, rather than including an actual object catalog the Sky Tour merely enables you to find constellations (why you’d do this with a telescope is beyond me), tells you about mythology (mildly interesting, I suppose), and helps you find the planets (which you really don’t need assistance finding as you can literally see five of the seven observable ones with the naked eye; Uranus and Neptune are pretty unremarkable with a 3” telescope anyway). I think the constellation mode can give you a tour of deep-sky objects, but the whole system is convoluted enough that I haven’t figured out how to use it. Thankfully, none of this matters because an app like SkySafari for your phone or Stellarium for your PC can give you the altitude/azimuth coordinates of anything without having to navigate a keypad to do it.
Aside from the fact that in 2019 you can just use an app to get coordinates and information of sky objects, using the setting circles has other challenges we’ll go into momentarily.
The included red dot finder is absolute garbage and is hard to get working or aligned at all. It is amazing that Bushnell failed on this seeing as a decent red-dot finder can now be obtained for under twenty dollars.
The Unique Voyager Mount
The Voyager 700x76mm has one of the most unusual mounts I have ever seen on a modern telescope. The design is similar to that of a camera tripod, with an alt-azimuth configuration that places the tube on top of the altitude axis – albeit lacking in any kind of handle to move the telescope around.
The result of having the tube above the altitude axis is that it will not balance at certain altitudes without tightening the altitude clutch, which is a pain. There are (primitive) slow-motion knobs affixed to the mount.
The mount has setting circles on both axes which, when combined with coordinates provided by the Sky Tour device (or your phone) can theoretically allow you to locate objects with pinpoint precision. There’s even a small illuminator for them built into the telescope. However, the altitude axis issues and the small size of these setting circles means that this all is little more than a pretty gimmick; you’d be lucky to get the target in the field of view at all and the lack of quality of the included eyepieces certainly doesn’t help.
The Voyager 700x76mm’s tripod legs are extruded aluminum, and for once are actually the strongest selling point of this telescope as they actually carry the mount head and OTA remarkably well.
It’d be all too easy to say that no thought besides making a quick buck was put into the design and manufacture of the Bushnell Voyager 700x76mm Reflector. From my analysis, I can say that there actually was some thought put into it, and definitely some good ideas. The setting circle system, if well-executed, would honestly be a really great feature if the circles were enlarged – I see plenty of people copying the system on the Voyager for large Dobsonians and using it to great effect. And the fact that the scope isn’t actually undermounted is commendable.
Even if you just replaced the eyepieces and finderscope this scope would be pretty good.
Alas, the commendable good ideas are completely ruined by the fact that the Voyager’s accessories are completely useless and the sloppy execution of the setting circles and mount head. It’s a real shame because Bushnell actually came pretty close to achieving a quality product.