Celestron’s LCM (“Lightweight Computerized Mount”) line, being the lowest priced of all of Celestron’s GoTo offerings, would seem to offer surprisingly good value. Unfortunately, the LCM line, particularly the 114mm model I’m reviewing here, is simply too compromised to meet its price point to be of much good use to a beginner let alone an experienced astronomer.
The Optical Tube Assembly
I’ve talked enough about Bird-Joneses that you can simply read my review of the AstroMaster 114 here to get an idea of exactly how they “work”, but if the simple version is that it’s a catadioptric Newtonian with a spherical primary and a Barlow lens acting as a “corrector” to “fix” the spherical aberration, which in practice doesn’t work at all and causes further problems when you inevitably need to collimate the telescope – collimation requires disassembly of the focuser and tiny “corrector” unit and careful checking with a laser, obviously not the easiest for a beginner who’s never collimated anything before let alone an experienced astronomer. As the scope is also natively around f/3.5 without the “corrector”, collimating it also requires high precision should you be able to remove and replace the “corrector”.
The OTA has the same weird (and in my opinion ugly) plastic castings as the AstroMaster 114, but the scope lacks tube rings and it’s alt-az mounted so it’s not an issue beyond cosmetics.
The Celestron 114LCM comes with a standard “StarPointer” red dot finder and an extremely short orange anodized aluminum Vixen style dovetail. This short dovetail combined with the lack of tube rings (which the OTA’s castings would probably get in the way of anyway) means it’s rarely possible to have the telescope be well-balanced, which causes strain on the mount’s drive gears.
The Celestron 114 LCM telescopes come with extremely cheap 25mm (40x) and 9mm (111x) Kellner eyepieces. They are so cheap that they don’t even have rubber eyeguards. These eyepieces are certainly sharper and offer wider fields than the utterly destitute Huygens and Ramsden eyepieces Celestron supplies with their cheapest telescopes, but are still not really up to par with modern quality standards. The 9mm is probably too much magnification for the scope’s optics to handle despite it being well within the magnification possible with a quality 4.5” telescope, which the 114LCM is of course not.
For some reason, some photos of the 114LCM on Amazon and other retail sites shows it being supplied with an Amici erecting prism diagonal. Not only is this accessory of course not included, but it would be completely useless and non-functional with the 114LCM.
The Lightweight Computerized Mount
The Lightweight Computerized Mount is laughably cheap, even for an inexpensive computerized mount. The internal gearing is cheap and prone to stripping and inaccuracies. You can power it with a bunch of AA batteries but it will gobble them during regular use, so you’ll need a 12-volt rechargeable lead-acid or lithium-ion battery.
The LCM’s hand controller is Celestron’s standard NexStar+ hand controller. Unlike with their more expensive telescopes with catalogs with over 40,000 objects, the LCM’s hand controller’s database contains only 4,000 objects, but a 4.5” telescope probably will be lucky to show half them anyway. Alignment is the standard two-star alignment procedure – Celestron’s “SkyAlign” pretty much never works and on the legendary occasion when it doesn’t give an “ALIGNMENT FAILED” message it will tend to be inaccurate anyway. Using the Auto Two-Star method is quite easy and only requires knowing the names and locations of a handful of the brightest stars in the sky.
Despite being very cheaply made, the Lightweight Computerized Mount is pretty accurate in its slewing and tracking and works just fine. However, it has two fatal flaws. For one the design of the Lightweight Computerized Mount puts the telescope’s optical tube to the side of the center of the tripod at all times, unlike almost all good alt-azimuth mounts (computerized or not) which use dual or bowed fork arms to keep the tube centered on the tripod and thus the center of mass fixed. This offset design not only decreases stability, but with the scope’s extremely lightweight makes it especially liable to being toppled over by children, pets, or even just the user if they’re not careful.
The LCM’s supplied tripod is an utter joke. Not only are the legs thin-walled, asymmetric aluminum “tubes”, but it’s also incredibly thin and cheap. The legs also don’t have proper tips or fat but rather simple flattened ends with some rubber slapped on. The spreader, leg retaining hardware, and the fasteners/clamps for keeping the legs extended/retracted are also all-plastic.
As a result of all this, the 114LCM only weighs 13.2 pounds assembled and has the stability of Jell-O. Even at low power, with the legs extended at all the scope will wobble when the focus knob is turned. Forget high power. And with the legs retracted, the scope is way too short to be used effectively, even if the user happens to be seated in a chair.
Also, being so lightweight, in addition to the instability, it is super easy to accidentally bump the scope’s tripod and move it. Doing this will ruin the GoTo alignment, and resetting it requires rebooting the scope and starting the alignment all over again.
I would like to say that the scope’s light weight is an attempt by Celestron to make it more convenient, but it’s not. It just makes the shipping cheaper and allows them to skimp on material costs.
So, all this being said, do I recommend the Celestron 114LCM? Of course not. Not only are there far better manual telescopes with good optics, stable mounts, and larger aperture available for its price, but for just a little more you can get a decent GoTo telescope of the same size if you really must have one.