Celestron’s Lightweight Computerized Mount (LCM) line, being the lowest priced of all of Celestron’s GoTo offerings, would seem to offer surprisingly good value – a 4.5” reflector on a GoTo mount for under $300 does sound like a sweet deal, doesn’t it?
Unfortunately, the LCM line, particularly the 114 mm model reviewed here, simply compromises too many features for its low price to be of much use to a beginner, let alone an experienced astronomer.
The Optical Tube Assembly
The 114 LCM’s optical tube is the exact same as Celestron’s AstroMaster 114EQ telescope, making it a 114 mm f/8.77 Bird-Jones telescope, which is not a Newtonian reflector.
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 plastic castings as the AstroMaster 114, which are in my opinion ugly and weird. The scope lacks tube rings and is alt-azimuth mounted, so the castings don’t cost balancing problems like with the AstroMaster 114.
The Celestron 114 LCM 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 telescope comes with extremely cheap 25 mm (40x) and 9 mm (111x) Kellner eyepieces. They are so cheap they don’t even have rubber eye guards.
These eyepieces are certainly sharper and offer wider fields than the utterly destitute Huygens and Ramsden eyepieces that Celestron supplies with their cheapest telescopes, but these eyepieces are still not up to par with modern quality standards.
The 9 mm probably has too much magnification for the scope’s optics to handle, despite it being well within the magnification possible with a quality 4.5 inch telescope, which the 114 LCM is of course not.
For some reason, some photos of the 114 LCM on Amazon and other retail sites show it being supplied with an Amici erecting prism diagonal. Not only is this accessory not included, but it would be completely useless and nonfunctional with the 114 LCM.
The Lightweight Computerized Mount
The LCM 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 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.
Despite consisting of cheap parts, the Lightweight Computerized Mount (LCM) is pretty accurate in its slewing and tracking and works just fine. However, it has two fatal flaws.
First, the design of the LCM puts the telescope’s optical tube on the side of the center of the tripod at all times. This is 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 would be fixed.
This offset design not only decreases stability, but when combined with the scope’s extremely light weight, 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 also incredibly thin and cheap. The legs also don’t have proper tips or feet, but rather simple, flattened ends, with some rubber slapped on them. The spreader, leg retaining hardware, and the fasteners/clamps for keeping the legs extended/retracted are also all plastic.
As a result of all of this, the 114 LCM only weighs 13.2 pounds assembled, and has the stability of JELL-O. Even at low power, with the legs extended, 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, because it’s so easy to accidentally move it, it’s easy to 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 to set up, use, and move around, 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 114 LCM? Of course not.
Not only are there far better manual telescopes with good optics, stable mounts, and a larger aperture available for their price, but for just a little more you can get a decent GoTo telescope of the same size with a real parabolic primary mirror, such as the Celestron Astro-Fi 130.