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Celestron FirstScope Telescope Review – Partially Recommended

If you absolutely must have a telescope and only have $60 or so, the Celestron FirstScope will do.

NOT included in the Ultimate Telescope Shortlist

Celestron’s FirstScope is probably the only usable telescope that ever retails for under sixty dollars. However, usable does not necessarily mean good, and that’s what we’ll focus on in this review.

How It Stacks Up

Ranked #4 of 27 ~$75 telescopes

Rank 1
3.7
Rank 4
Celestron FirstScope
3.4

NOT included in the Ultimate Telescope Shortlist

What We Like

  • A functional telescope for only $60
  • Easy to use


What We Don't Like

  • Bad optics
  • Terrible eyepieces
  • No finder
  • Can’t be collimated


Bottom Line
Partially Recommended

The Celestron FirstScope is very low-quality and has rather lackluster views, but its stable mount, ease of use and rock-bottom price tag give it a pass in our book. It may not be the best, but for the money, it’s a surprisingly fun little scope that is a great jumping-off point for better things.

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For cheaper telescopes like the FirstScope, we typically recommend Amazon for purchasing since you’d have very little to gain from choosing HighPointScientific as the retailer.

An Overview of FirstScope’s Optical Tube

The Celestron FirstScope is a 76mm (3”) f/3.95 Newtonian reflector with a focal length of 300mm and a spherical primary mirror. If you have done some basic research about telescopes, you probably know that a spherical mirror won’t focus light correctly like a parabolic one does, and that is indeed the case with the Celestron FirstScope. It can not deliver sharp images at anything over about 40x, and even at lower magnifications, stars are a bit bloated and fine details on almost any object are smeared. 

Celestron Firstscope

At f/3.95, precise collimation is critical with a Newtonian. Unfortunately for Celestron FirstScope users, the primary mirror sits on a plastic plate that doesn’t allow for any kind of collimation. You have about a 50% chance that the scope will be collimated well enough to make an image that is at least passable. If your Celestron FirstScope is not collimated when you get it, you can either enlarge the mirror cell mounting holes to tilt the mirror slightly or pry the mirror out of its cell and try to shim it and put it back in. Alternatively, you can simply return the scope to Celestron or exchange it for a new unit.

The focuser on the FirstScope is actually more or less the same thing you see supplied on most cheap small Newtonians, even four times its price – a plastic 1.25” rack and pinion.

The Celestron FirstScope has no finder. You’re supposed to simply sight along the tube. With the low-power 20mm eyepiece that comes with the scope, which only magnifies 15x, this is easy enough to do, but it may take some practice.

The tube of the Celestron FirstScope is wrapped in vinyl with the names of famous astronomers, physicists, and opticians from throughout history. This is a nice touch. This was originally done when the FirstScope was brought out for the International Year of Astronomy in 2009 to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Galileo’s first discoveries with the telescope, and Celestron has kept it in the decade since.

The Accessories with Celestron FirstScope 76

The FirstScope comes with two eyepieces: a 20mm Huygens giving 15x and a 4mm Ramsden (“SR”) giving 75x.

The 20mm Huygens… works. Barely. The apparent field of view is extremely narrow (30 degrees), and the view is fuzzier than it already would be with a good eyepiece in the Celestron FirstScope. The Huygens design also adds some chromatic aberration (something one should never see in a Newtonian). A real Kellner or Plossl delivers much sharper views, but buying one would cost a significant proportion of the overall cost of the telescope.

The included 4mm Ramsden is useless, being the same hated eyepiece supplied with Celestron’s Powerseeker line. It provides too much power for the scope (75x), the eye lens is tiny, it has zero eye relief, it doesn’t perform well with a fast focal ratio telescope like the Celestron FirstScope, and the field is slightly narrower than the 20mm Huygens. It also has an annoying tendency to get stuck in the focuser, the solution to which is to turn the scope upside down, loosen the screws, and shake it—preferably while above a garbage can, where it belongs.

You can buy an “accessory kit” for the FirstScope. All the kit contains is some more garbage Huygenian eyepieces, a useless 5×24 finderscope, and a cheap Moon filter, which you plain don’t need and don’t work well anyway.

Celestron offers a “Cometron” variant of the FirstScope which is exactly the same, except with passable Kellner eyepieces and the same godawful 5×24 finderscope attached. If that’s all you can afford, I would recommend it over the base FirstScope, but really, I would strongly caution you about both.

Tabletop dobsonian mount

The FirstScope 76 Newtonian reflector telescope comes with a simple tabletop Dobsonian mount to which it is semi-permanently attached. Altitude tensioning can be adjusted with a hand knob while azimuth can be adjusted by tightening or loosening the nut in the middle with a wrench or pliers. As to the smoothness of the mount’s motions, they’re pretty good, but it’s more or less irrelevant for a scope that is probably not able to handle more than 40x.

Should I buy a Used Celestron FirstScope 76?

If you can get a FirstScope for less than the already-low new price, why not? 

Alternative Recommendations

There are a few different options you could choose from instead of the FirstScope, including improved variants sporting additional features and vastly superior accessories:

Under $100

The only alternatives to the FirstScope in its price range are basically rebrands or upgrades with better eyepieces and/or finderscopes, such as the Orion FunScope or Celestron Cometron FirstScope.

  • The Orion FunScope 76 suffers from the same spherical, non-collimatable optics as the FirstScope, but comes with a pair of actually usable Kellner eyepieces and a red dot finder.
  • The Cometron edition of the FirstScope, as previously mentioned, comes with a 5×24 finder (slightly inferior to a red dot) and a pair of wide-angle eyepieces.

$100-$150

Spending more money is certainly a good idea; $150 gets you a 100mm tabletop Dobsonian with real parabolic optics and quality eyepieces. 

  • The Zhumell Z100 and Orion SkyScanner 100 have a similar tabletop Dobsonian design and super-wide field of view to the FirstScope/FunScope but with more aperture, parabolic primary mirror optics, and decent included eyepieces, along with a red dot finder for aiming.
  • The SarBlue Mak60 tabletop Dobsonian technically has less aperture than the FirstScope but in practice delivers similar brightness on deep-sky objects – and will blow away the FirstScope on views of the Moon and planets with its razor-sharp Maksutov-Cassegrain optics.
  • The Orion SpaceProbe II 76EQ has much sharper images and better accessories than the FirstScope, though it is mounted atop a spindly equatorial mount and has a rather long focal length and resultingly narrow field of view.

Above $150, there are more options for larger tabletop and full-sized Dobsonians such as those offered by Zhumell, Sky-Watcher, and Orion. Check out our rankings and top picks pages for more information.

Aftermarket Accessory Recommendations

Instead of buying more accessories for the Celestron FirstScope 76mm Newtonian reflector telescope, you should save up for a better telescope, which will come with better accessories anyway.

What can you see with the Celestron FirstScope?

Surprisingly, the user’s ability to aim the Celestron FirstScope 76 is more important than its optics when it comes to how well it works. Anything besides the Moon, planets, or any other naked-eye visible target is going to be a bit of a challenge to find.

Within the solar system, don’t get your expectations too high. Mercury is a mushy blob. Venus shows its phases, and the Moon looks pretty good (especially if you’ve never looked through a telescope before). Mars is a featureless red blob even when it’s in opposition-not even the ice cap is visible. Jupiter’s moons are visible, and the cloud bands can just barely be spotted. Saturn’s rings and a couple moons can also be seen. Good luck finding Uranus or Neptune, let alone distinguishing them from stars.

Galaxies are, of course, quite underwhelming in the Celestron FirstScope. Under less-than-dark skies, only Andromeda and M33 are big enough to easily identify and show little in the way of detail. If you can escape city light pollution, you’ll be rewarded with a dust lane in Andromeda and faint hints of M33’s spiral arms. With luck, you may be able to spot M81, M82, M51, and some of the brighter members of the Virgo Cluster or the Leo Triplet, but they’re quite tiny at 15x and won’t show any detail. 

Globular clusters can be seen with the Celestron FirstScope, and they can be clearly distinguished from stars even at just 15x with the 20mm Huygens. However, no 3″ telescope, and especially not one with the poor optics of the FirstScope, can resolve stars in them.

Forget observing planetary nebulae—they’re too small to identify at 20x and trying to increase the power will, of course, only lead to blurry views.

Bright, big nebulae like Orion and the Lagoon can be seen through the FirstScope, but for the best views, the sky needs to be dark.

Open star clusters, which are hard to find without a finder, are probably the most beautiful things to see through the Celestron FirstScope because they are bright, don’t have much fine detail, and are usually pretty big. The Double Cluster and the Pleiades, in particular, look excellent and are relatively easy to get the FirstScope pointed at.

Performance Score Of Celestron FirstScope

3.4

Quantitative measurements of how the telescope performs in various performance categories:

Optics

2/5

Focuser

3/5

Mount

4/5

Planetary

1/5

Rich Field

5/5

Accessories

1/5

Usability

5/5

Portability

5/5

Value

4/5

Aperture:76mm
Optical Design:Newtonian Reflector
Mount Design:Single Arm Dobsonian
Focal Length:300mm
Focal Ratio:f/3.95
Fully Assembled Weight:4.3 lbs
Warranty:2 year celestron

An amateur astronomer and telescope maker from Connecticut who has been featured on TIME Magazine, National Geographic, Sky & Telescope, La Vanguardia, and The Guardian.

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