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Celestron Astro-Fi 130 Review – Recommended Scope

Celestron’s Astro-Fi 130 is part of the company’s latest attempts to make GoTo telescopes and stargazing as accessible as possible to newbie stargazers, and completely succeeds with only a few minor drawbacks.
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When you read one of my reviews at TelescopicWatch, you can trust that not only have I gotten to use the product, but I’ve compared it to numerous others and tinkered with it down to the literal nuts and bolts. When I'm not writing reviews, I'm out under the night sky with my own homemade or modified telescopes, with over 7 years of hands-on experience in astronomy, having owned 430 telescopes myself, of which 20 I built entirely.

Tested by
TelescopicWatch
4.1
/5

Score Breakdown

Optics: 5/5

Focuser: 4/5

Mount: 4/5

Moon & Planets: 3/5

Rich Field: 5/5

Accessories: 4/5

Ease of use: 4/5

Portability: 4/5

Value: 4/5

Read our scoring methodology here

Celestron introduced the Astro-Fi line of telescopes relatively recently, and it is such an improvement over their old SLT telescopes (which the Astro-Fi heavily draws from technologically) that I don’t understand why the SLTs haven’t just been discontinued altogether. The Astro-Fi telescopes, along with Celestron’s NexStar Evolution line, are some of the only telescopes on the market with built-in WiFi connection and designed to be controlled with a phone or tablet. This finally brings computerized telescope technology into the 21st century and allows you to forego the confusing, outdated, and quite frankly unintuitive LCD hand controllers that most computerized telescopes still possess.

Astro Fi 130 provides enough aperture to see a fair amount of things in the night sky (properly leveraging the capabilities of the GoTo technology), a wide field of view to fit even the largest deep-sky objects, and it doesn’t significantly strain the relatively lightweight Astro-Fi mount.

Celestron Astro-Fi 130 inside a room

How It Stacks Up

Ranks #8 of 23 ~$500 telescopes

Rank

Telescope

Rating

#8

Celestron Astro Fi 130

4.1

See All Telescopes' Ranklist

Best Similar Featured Alternative: Sky-Watcher Virtuoso GTi 150P is a way better GoTo telescope in every way, but if you specifically need a tripod mounted reflector GoTo in the price range, Celestron Astro Fi 130 is indeed the best.

What We Like

  • Good optics
  • Ample aperture
  • Very easy to use
  • Relatively stable
  • Fast setup time
  • Lightweight

What We Don't Like

  • Mediocre eyepieces
Recommended Product Badge

While a Dobsonian will provide you with somewhat better views and doesn’t require power or alignment, the Celestron Astro-Fi 130 takes all of the stress and confusion out of a GoTo telescope and provides enough aperture to get you started with stargazing.

Buy from Recommended Retailer

For purchasing this telescope, we highly recommend HighPointScientific, the largest telescope retailer in the United States. Their knowledge of the subject, combined with features like a price match promise, free lifetime tech support, a 30-day return policy, and financing choices, makes them a great pick.

The Optical Tube and Capabilities Of Astro Fi 130

The Astro-Fi 130’s optical tube is identical to most 130mm f/5 Newtonians reflectors on the market. These all tend to have good optics, and the 5.1″ aperture is enough to begin delving into serious deep-sky observation as well as lunar and planetary viewing. The f/5 focal ratio of the telescope also enables a relatively wide field of view: 2.1 degrees (that’s over 4 full Moons across) with the included 25mm Kellner eyepiece, over 2.5 degrees with a widest-field 1.25” aftermarket eyepiece, and up to about 3.5 degrees if you can adapt a 2” eyepiece to it.

With good collimation and air seeing conditions, the Celestron Astro Fi 130 can handle magnifications up to 260x, though you’ll probably want to use less than that on everything except perhaps the tightest double stars on the best of nights.

The most noticeable difference that I can point out between the Astro-Fi 130 and many other 130mm Newtonians is its 2.5” rack-and-pinion focuser, which it only shares with Celestron’s other 130mm computerized telescopes, the NexStar 130SLT and SkyProdigy 130. This focuser is a little confusing; it is technically capable of fitting a 2” eyepiece, but Celestron doesn’t seem to always supply a 1.25″ to 2″ eyepiece adapter to make this possible. One of the Astro-Fi 130s I received had one, while the other did not. When I called Celestron customer support about the lack of the 2” adapter on the latter, they told me they knew of no such part in existence. Thus, if your scope doesn’t come with the aforementioned adapter and you wish to use 2” eyepieces with it, you may need to 3D-print or otherwise manufacture your own adapter to make this possible.

Collimating the Astro-Fi 130 might be a little difficult for a first-time user, especially since the telescope doesn’t include a collimation tool out of the box. We recommend checking out our collimation guide to learn more about this process.

About the Astro-Fi Mount

At first glance, the Celestron Astro-Fi mount outwardly resembles Celestron’s NexStar SLT and GT mounts. However, it is a completely different beast.

For one, the gears in the mount head seem to have been improved compared to the NexStar SLT. There is far less backlash compared to most Celestron mounts. Slewing it is dead simple. The only complaint I have is that it takes a bit to move all the way around the sky, even at maximum slewing speed.

RECOMMENDED BUY FOR THE SUPERIOR MOUNT

The Celestron Astro Fi 130 uses a tripod made of black extruded aluminum, unlike the thin tubular steel tripod used with the NexStar SLT scopes. You’d think it’d be inferior, but surprisingly, the Astro-Fi mount seems more stable than the NexStar SLT mount to me overall, probably because it is less prone to bending than the very thin steel used on the SLTs.

Lastly, from what I can see, the design of the spreader has changed a lot. It now has a shelf for your phone and a rubbery gripping substance on it. I find this to be an improvement over the usually useless metal or plastic spreaders provided with many scopes, which do nothing besides serve as a slight structural support.

Like many Celestron GoTo telescopes, the Astro-Fi 130 is powered by 8 AA batteries in a small pack attached to the side of the tripod. Powering the Wi-Fi network will drain these faster compared to a regular, controller-operated telescope, so I would definitely recommend using AC power or a rechargeable 12-volt DC power supply.

Reviewing the Accessories

The Astro-Fi 130 comes with 25mm (26x) and 10mm (65x) Kellner eyepieces. While they do lack eyeguards and don’t work the best at f/5, they’re all-metal in construction and are decent for a telescope in its price range. I’d much rather have them than cheap, plastic Plossls.

Additionally, the Astro-Fi 130 includes a StarPointer red dot finder for aligning the scope, and newer models include a smartphone adapter built into the lens cap. This adapter is rather crude, but it does function better than merely holding your phone to the eyepiece.

Using Celestron’s Skyportal App

Connecting to the Astro-Fi with your phone or tablet is relatively simple. First, download the Celestron SkyPortal app or SkySafari, then turn the scope on. Connect your phone or tablet to the telescope’s Wi-Fi network, then open SkyPortal and hit “Connect & Align”. You should be prompted with alignment instructions.

Alignment is a relatively simple 3-star process based on Celestron’s SkyAlign technology. The entire process, from start to finish, takes about 4 minutes. You can easily set the scope up and be observing within maybe ten minutes, as assembly is tool-free and only requires putting a couple of things together.

However, unlike the unusable, bug-ridden SkyAlign, the Astro-Fi obtains data from your phone/tablet rather than you entering it in for pinpoint accuracy. I have not had any alignment failures with this system and find it very reliable, with very precise GoTos. To test the tracking accuracy, I slewed to M13 at 72x. It was perfectly centered by the scope, and then I left for an hour. When I came back, M13 had moved maybe an arc-minute or two at most. That’s a couple times the apparent diameter of Jupiter, no problem for visual use or planetary astrophotography (which is all this scope is capable of anyway).

RECOMMENDED BUY FOR THE EASE OF USE

I’ve been particularly impressed with the Astro-Fi’s ability to maintain alignment and tracking, even when I’ve walked out of range of the Astro-Fi’s WiFi network or powered off the device. So if your device dies or you need a cup of coffee, it’s no problem.

Alternatives and Competition

The Astro-Fi 130 is our favorite of the Celestron Astro-Fi line. The Astro-Fi 102mm Maksutov lacks enough aperture or field of view to make it worthwhile, while the Astro-Fi 90mm refractor is a bit too heavy for its mount to handle and also lacks a decent amount of aperture. Celestron also sells 5” Maksutov- and Schmidt-Cassegrains and a 6” Schmidt-Cassegrain atop the Astro-Fi mount, but these are not available in the US. The Astro-Fi 127 and Astro-Fi 5 have no real advantages over the 130, while the Astro-Fi 6 is simply unsteady due to the higher weight of the 6” Schmidt-Cassegrain optical tube.

The Celestron Astro Fi 130 is a decent enough telescope, but for the price, you aren’t getting a lot of aperture. It’s one of the better deals on a computerized telescope out there, but an 8” or larger Dobsonian is simply no match for the little 130mm f/5 optical tube, offering significantly brighter and sharper views than the Astro Fi 130 can possibly hope to.

Under $700

  • Best Value 8″ Dobsonian: The Apertura AD8/Zhumell Z8/Orion SkyLine 8 offers 2.5 times the light gathering ability of the Astro Fi 130 and 60% more resolving power, transforming “faint fuzzy” deep-sky objects into recognized and detailed wonders, revealing the disks of the faint ice giant planets, and showing details on Mars and Jupiter that a mere 5.1” of aperture just can’t. The dual-speed focuser, included eyepieces, and features like the built-in cooling fan and adjustable bearings for balance are also excellent value for the price.
  • Best Value GoTo: The Sky-Watcher Virtuoso GTi 150P has more aperture than the Astro Fi 130 and a fully motorized mount with GoTo, controlled via your smartphone or tablet just like the Astro Fi. However, the extra inch of aperture provides significantly brighter views with more sharpness/resolving power, and the scope can be pushed around the sky manually without affecting its alignment with the stars, something the Astro Fi mount cannot do. The collapsible tube and tabletop Dobsonian mount make it quick to set up and easy to transport almost anywhere. The manual Heritage 150P is identical to the GTi 150P in features, performance, and accessories, apart from having the electronics stripped away, leaving you with an all-manual tabletop Dobsonian telescope.
  • The Sky-Watcher Virtuoso GTi 130P features the same optics as the Astro Fi 130 but in the same collapsible tube as the 150P, mounted atop a GoTo tabletop Dobsonian mount. The cheaper Heritage 130P is the same, minus the GoTo and motorized tracking abilities.
  • Most Portable 10″ Dobsonian: The Explore Scientific 10” Hybrid Dobsonian provides 4x the light-gathering ability and double the resolving power of the Astro Fi 130 and collapses into a compact cubic package that is actually almost as easy to store and transport as the Astro Fi telescope package. The included accessories aren’t very good, however, and assembly takes more steps than a solid-tubed scope (though it’s still less complicated than setting up the Astro Fi 130 for a night of observing).

Aftermarket Accessory Recommendations

One of the most useful accessories for the Astro-Fi 130 is a good high-magnification/short focal length eyepiece for close-up lunar and planetary viewing. The 6mm “Goldline” we often recommend with beginner telescopes is certainly a suitable choice, but the f/5 focal ratio of the Astro-Fi 130 means it might be worthwhile to get an even shorter focal length eyepiece, such as the Astromania 4mm Planetary, which will provide 163x with the Astro-Fi 130.

Another useful item is a proper power supply for the mount. You will quickly run through disposable batteries if you use the Astro-Fi frequently, so a rechargeable supply might pay for itself after just a few months of serious use. We recommend the TalentCell 600Mah battery and a male-to-male power adapter. You can use Velcro, zip ties, or duct tape to secure the battery to a tripod leg or let it rest on the scope’s accessory tray.

What can you see with the Celestron Astro Fi 130?

The Celestron Astro-Fi 130 is a great deep-sky telescope. Its wide field of view and decent aperture make it great for viewing open clusters such as M11 and the Pleiades, as well as nebulae such as the Veil, Swan, and Orion Nebula, though the former will require a good UHC or Oxygen-III filter to see. 5 inches of aperture is not, unfortunately, quite enough to fully resolve globular clusters or show you a ton of galaxies, but you still may be surprised by what the scope can do, particularly on the brighter globular clusters such as M13 and M15 and the springtime galaxies such as the Leo Triplet and Virgo Cluster galaxies, and especially, of course, under dark skies.

RECOMMENDED BUY FOR THE VIEWS

The 130 is also a solid instrument for viewing the Moon and planets. You’ll be able to see craters just a couple of miles across on the Moon, as well as the phases of Venus and Mercury, the cloud belts and Great Red Spot of Jupiter, and of course, its four largest moons. Saturn’s rings, the Cassini Division within them, some faint cloud banding, and a few of its moons are also easy targets for the Astro-Fi 130. Unfortunately, Uranus and Neptune’s moons are too faint for the 130 to pick up, and the planets themselves will look like nearly stellar dots.

Can you do astrophotography with the Astro Fi 130?

The mount on the Astro-Fi 130 is an alt-azimuth design. It is accurate and stable enough for visual astronomy, but it can’t really hold a heavy camera for astrophotography or track in an equatorial configuration to let you take long exposures. You could do planetary imaging with the Astro-Fi 130, but to achieve the optimal focal length and image scale, you’ll need either a 5x Barlow or to stack multiple 3x/2x barlows.

Aperture:130mm
Optical Design:Newtonian Reflector
Mount Design:Single-Arm Motorized Alt-Az
Focal Length:650mm
Focal Ratio:f/5
Focuser:1.25"
Fully Assembled Weight:18 lbs
Warranty:2 year

Zane Landers

An amateur astronomer and telescope maker from Connecticut who has been featured on TIME magazineNational GeographicLa Vanguardia, and Clarin, The Guardian, The Arizona Daily Star, and Astronomy Technology Today and had won the Stellafane 1st and 3rd place Junior Awards in the 2018 Convention. Zane has owned over 425 telescopes, of which around 400 he has actually gotten to take out under the stars. These range from the stuff we review on TelescopicWatch to homemade or antique telescopes; the oldest he has owned or worked on so far was an Emil Busch refractor made shortly before the outbreak of World War I. Many of these are telescopes that he repaired or built.

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