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Celestron AstroMaster 70AZ Review – Not Recommended

Celestron’s AstroMaster 70AZ promises to be a fully-functioning telescope for under 150 dollars in price – and a refractor on a tripod, at that. It doesn’t deliver on that promise.

NOT included in the Ultimate Telescope Shortlist

The Celestron AstroMaster 70AZ is another low-to-mediocre quality telescope hailing from the AstroMaster line. While workable, and certainly better than many of Celestron’s other offerings, the 70AZ is plagued with questionable design choices and accessories that just aren’t quite enough to provide a pleasant user experience – especially for a beginner. It’s also somewhat overpriced for what you get.

How It Stacks Up
Rank 1
4.25
Rank 25
Celestron AstroMaster 70AZ
2

NOT included in the Ultimate Telescope Shortlist

What We Like

  • A functional refracting telescope on a tripod for not a whole lot of money
  • Decent optics and accessories
  • Usable for terrestrial viewing


What We Don't Like

  • Mount is not the steadiest and is not suitable for an astronomical telescope
  • Low-power eyepiece isn’t low enough
  • Diagonal is mediocre optically


Bottom Line
Not Recommended Telescope

While it is a complete working telescope, due to the limitations of the mount and accessories we would not recommend the AstroMaster 70.

An Overview of Astromaster 70AZ

The Celestron AstroMaster 70 is a 70mm f/12 achromatic refractor using a standard Fraunhofer configuration with a crown and flint glasses for the objective lens. The long focal ratio means that there is little in the way of chromatic aberration (false color), although not the near-zero that a 60mm f/15 refractor provides.

The scope has an ample length dew shield, which also serves as a light shield to boost contrast, though it isn’t really painted a good flat black on the inside.

The AstroMaster 70 has a 1.25” rack and pinion focuser, which is mostly plastic. It works well. The red-dot finder is attached to the left side of the focuser and is more than adequate for a small scope such as a 70mm refractor.

Like most of the AstroMaster scopes, the 70AZ can’t be balanced if you have anything remotely heavy on the focuser. The Vixen-style dovetail plate which attaches to the mount is far too short to slide it for balancing, and the scope has no tube rings – the dovetail is directly attached via some screws in the tube.

AZ

Reviewing The Attached Accessories

The Celestron AstroMaster 70 comes with a cheap, mostly plastic Amici diagonal designed to be used for terrestrial viewing. If you’re wondering about the odd shape of the diagonal and the strange grip that seems to be built in, it’s because Celestron has figured out that people tend to grab the diagonal and use it as a handle, and they designed it accordingly to be a little more suitable for that function. The Amici prism produces a bright spike on bright stars and planets and isn’t very high quality. However, a proper diagonal would cost nearly half the price of the telescope, and Celestron does bill this scope for terrestrial viewing, so it’s acceptable. 

The AstroMaster 70 comes with two surprisingly decent Kellner eyepieces – 20mm and 10mm – giving 45x and 90x magnification, respectively. However, 45x is a little much for low power with a 70mm telescope. Therefore, a 25mm or 32mm eyepiece would be better.

For a finder, the AstroMaster telescopes have a decent quality red-dot finder with a really low-quality plastic bracket attached. These are actually a retrofit, as the telescopes originally included very low quality plastic sights that were eventually removed. Due to the nature of the ad-hoc plastic bracket, the included finder can be difficult to actually align with the telescope, making aiming the 70AZ (or indeed, any AstroMaster telescope) rather frustrating, if not nearly impossible.

AstroMaster 70’s Tripod Performance

The AstroMaster 70’s mount is basically a glorified camera tripod, although not with a fluid head (thank goodness – it would be impossible to use if there were such a thing). There is a panhandle, and there are simple locks/clutches for both the altitude and azimuth axes.

This would work fine with a shorter 70mm telescope, but the configuration of this mount presents two problems with such a long refractor. For one, the scope will only be balanced at certain altitude angles – the rest of the time you have to tighten down the altitude lock. Ever wonder why the more expensive alt-az mounted scopes have those weird angled sides? It’s to keep the center of mass of the tube at the center of torque of the mount. The AstroMaster 70’s mount doesn’t do this. The effect is exaggerated by the long tube, which provides a longer moment arm and thus a greater difference in torque depending on how high the scope is pointed.

Second, without slow-motion controls, you’ll struggle to keep objects centered or even in the field of view at all when tracking at high power. This isn’t helped by the fact that the tripod isn’t the most stable, as the legs are quite thin – though it works well enough, especially considering the price.

Alternative Recommendations

We’d recommend quite a few alternatives to the AstroMaster 70AZ:

  • The Zhumell Z100 and the Orion SkyScanner have more aperture and far superior mounts to the 70AZ, with wider fields of view to boot.
  • The Orion FunScope is a bit cheaper than the Z100 and SkyScanner, but suffers from poor quality optics. However, it is still easy to aim and comes with a stable mount and good accessories.

What can you see with the Celestron AstroMaster 70?

If you can get over the mount issues, the AstroMaster 70 will show you Mercury and Venus’ phases, a wealth of detail on the Moon, Jupiter’s cloud belts, moons, and maybe the Great Red Spot, Saturn’s rings and the Cassini division in them (the latter requiring good seeing), as well as its moon Titan and possibly a few other moons such as Rhea and Dione. Uranus and Neptune, if you can even find them in the first place, are tiny bluish dots that will be difficult to distinguish from stars.

Outside the solar system, the 70mm aperture limits you to a handful of deep-sky objects such as the Orion Nebula, some open clusters such as the Double Cluster and M35, and the Ring Nebula. There are also countless double stars to explore if you’re into that. Otherwise, that’s it. The scope is simply too small to show you a lot of deep-sky objects.

Pricing and Availability

When we reviewed the AstroMaster 70AZ back in November 2017, the price used to be $115. Then, in 2020, came COVID, which caused telescope prices to rise by 30% on average. Visit High Point Scientific (*not an affiliate link) to get the most up-to-date retail pricing.

Performance Score Of Celestron AstroMaster 70AZ

2

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

Optics

3/5

Focuser

2/5

Mount

2/5

Planetary

3/5

Rich Field

2/5

Accessories

2/5

Ease of Use

2/5

Portability

4/5

Value

1/5

Not Recommended Telescope

Where to Buy?

Amazon, HighPointScientific, AgenaAstro

We get no money from sales of "not recommended" telescopes from our website because we have decided not to make the aforementioned retailer links affiliate links, though we had the option to.

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

2 thoughts on “Celestron AstroMaster 70AZ Review – Not Recommended”

  1. My son received 2 telescopes for Xmas. The gskyer 70400 I believe and Celestron astromaster lt 70 az telescopes. Which one do you recommend keeping. Or do you recommend returning both and getting something else? Thank you!

    Reply

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