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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.

Tested By

TelescopicWatch

4.2 /5
4.2

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 This finally brings computerized telescope technology into the 21st century and allows you to forego the confusing, outdated, and quite frankly unintuitive LCD hand controllers that most computerized telescopes still possess.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.

Ranked 7th among 20 telescopes
Rank 1
Orion Skyline 6" Dobsonian
Rank 2
Sky-Watcher 6" Classic Dobsonian
Rank 7
Celestron Astro Fi 130
 

Amazon prices as of 2020-11-24 at 12:13

  • Good optics
  • Ample aperture
  • Very easy to use
  • Relatively stable
  • Fast setup time
  • Lightweight
  • Mediocre eyepieces
Optical Tube Rating 90%
Accessories Rating 86%
Mount Rating 90%
Visibility Score 88%
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.

The Optical Tube & Capabilities Of Astro Fi 130

The Astro-Fi 130’s optical tube is identical to most 130mm f/5 Newtonians on the market. These all tend to have good optics and the 5.1” of aperture is enough to begin delving into serious deep-sky observation as well as lunar and planetary viewing. The f/5 focal ratio also enables a relatively wide field of view – 2.1 degrees (over 4 full Moons across) with the included 25mm Kellner eyepiece, over 2.5 degrees with a widest-field 1.25” eyepiece, and up to about 3.5 degrees if you can adapt a 2” eyepiece to it. The telescope is also capable of handling magnifications up to 260x provided excellent collimation and atmospheric seeing conditions, though you’ll typically want to use less than that on everything except perhaps the tightest double stars on the best of nights.

The noticeable difference of the Astro-Fi 130 compared to many other 130mm Newtonians is its 2.5” rack-and-pinion focuser, which it only shares with Celestron’s other 130mm computerized telescopes – Celestron’s 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 an adapter to make this possible – one 130 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.

Celestron Astro-Fi 130

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 greatest at f/5, they’re all-metal in construction and are decent for a sub-$350 telescope. 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.

Price – $1,118.92

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.

Next, the scope uses a tripod made of black extruded aluminum, unlike the thin tubular steel tripod 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, the spreader has completely changed in design, having a shelf (presumably for your phone) and some 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.

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 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 had no 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 of course by the scope – and 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).

If you walk out of range of the Astro-Fi’s WiFi network or power off your device, the scope won’t stop tracking or lose alignment – so if your device dies or you need a cup of coffee, it’s no problem.

What can you see?

The Astro-Fi 130 is a great deep-sky telescope. Its wide field of view and decent aperture makes 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.

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.

Astrophotography

The Astro-Fi 130’s mount is an alt-azimuth design, and while it is plenty accurate and stable for visual astronomy, it is not really capable of supporting a heavy camera for astrophotography, nor tracking in an equatorial configuration to enable 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 ones.

Alternatives and Competition

The Astro-Fi 130 is our favorite of the Astro-Fi line. The Astro-Fi 102mm Maksutov lacks enough aperture or field of view to make it worthwhile, while the 90mm refractor is a bit much for the 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 at the time of writing. 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.

For the same price as the Astro-Fi 130, there are a number of other scopes (non-GoTo) you might want to consider, including the following:

  • The Orion SkyLine 6 offers a significant boost in aperture, a higher build quality, and the simplicity of a Dobsonian mount.
  • The Sky-Watcher 6” Traditional provides similar capabilities to the SkyLine 6 but with a true 2” focuser, allowing for the use of 2” eyepieces.
  • The Orion StarBlast 6 provides similar wide fields to the Astro-Fi 130, but with more aperture and in a tabletop Dobsonian design with the option to upgrade to Orion’s IntelliScope PushTo system later on.

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 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.

9 thoughts on “Celestron Astro-Fi 130 Review – Recommended Scope”

  1. Is there a difference between the Celestron Astro-Fi and the AstroMaster series? Or are they essentially the same?

    Reply
    • Yes. The Astro-Fi telescopes are computerized and are actually decent quality where as the AstroMaster scopes are manually operated and built like garbage.

      Reply
  2. Interesting review. Thanks.
    With the Astro-Fi 130, is it possible to use a 8mm-24mm Zoom Eyepiece or is it too heavy or bulky for the little scope?
    If it is possible… could a Barlow lens be added to the zoom eyepiece or am I pushing.

    Reply
      • I heard that comment before for the low-end zoom eyepieces, but aren’t there any higher-end zoom eyepieces that are fine for the Astro-Fi 130 and that would also be fine later with a higher-end telescope?
        Your colleague Ed Anderson writes in TelescopicWatch about the high-end zoom eyepiece he uses “This is my all-time favourite eyepiece and the one I use more than all the others put together”…

        Reply
        • Personally I don’t agree with Ed – the Hyperion is a good performer and convenient but not necessarily good value, and in your case it seems silly to spend $250+ on an eyepiece for a $400 telescope. You’d be better off spending $650 on buying a better telescope.

          Reply
          • I fully agree with you that spending $250 on an eyepiece for a $400 telescope looks silly. But there are many other zoom eyepieces on the market. For one, Celestron sells 3 zooms: one at 45$, one at 80$ and one at 90$ (all prices from agenaastro.com). Could the 90$ 8-24-zoom #93428 (or another mid-range zoom from another vendor) be as good a choice (mainly from a seeing point of view) than a mid-range 25 mm Plossl with a 3x Barlow, which would also cost around 90$, but with the added convenience?

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