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Celestron Astromaster 114EQ Review – Not Recommended

AstroMaster 114EQ is frustrating to use and for the price, you can get a very nice budget tabletop dobsonian.

Tested By

TelescopicWatch

2.7 /5
2.7

Celestron’s AstroMaster 114EQ is arguably the second-worst product in the AstroMaster line, the first being the dreaded PowerSeeker 127EQ, the latter being the worst telescope Celestron advertises as a “serious piece of equipment”. Like the 127EQ, the 114EQ is frequently positively reviewed by people who are ignorant of its idiotic optical design and have never actually used it (Amazon doesn’t always verify purchases), or by newbies who have never looked through any telescope previously. As a result, the AstroMaster 114EQ is a best-seller from most retailers, despite having absolutely no right to be such.

Ranked 16th in 16 telescopes
Rank 1
Zhumell Z130
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Orion StarBlast 4.5 EQ
Rank 16
Celestron Astromaster 114EQ
 

Amazon prices as of 2020-09-28 at 15:53

  • It looks like a telescope, I guess?
  • It is technically usable
  • Poor quality Bird-Jones Optical Tube.
  • Undersized, wobbly mount.
  • The equatorial mount is hard to understand for beginners.
  • Way overpriced for a beginner telescope of this aperture.
Optical Tube Rating 30%
Accessories Rating 60%
Mount Rating 40%
Visibility Score 30%
Not Recommended Telescope

Is this telescope even worth the cost? No, it’s a ripoff. Don’t waste your money on the AstroMaster and PowerSeeker telescopes, they’re just not worth it. The AstroMaster 114EQ is a toy telescope that is trying to sell itself as a serious instrument, and not a fun toy at that. While flawed optics can be forgiven for a beginner telescope, an annoying mount can not, as it totally ruins the experience. Don’t buy it. The AstroMaster 114EQ may be slightly better than its cousin, the PowerSeeker 127EQ, but not by much. In short, please don’t buy this telescope, and if you already did so and are reading this review for reassurance, I would recommend canceling your order or returning it before it becomes a hobby-killer.

OPTCorp

Recommended! Why?

Optical Tube Assembly of AstroMaster 114EQ

The AstroMaster 114EQ is supposedly a 114 mm Newtonian reflector with a focal length of 1,000 mm. This should immediately raise some eyebrows, as the optical tube of the telescope is obviously way too short to accommodate such a focal length.

So what’s going on? Well, the AstroMaster 114EQ isn’t actually a Newtonian. It’s a Bird-Jones (or Jones-Bird, depending on who you ask).

As originally designed by Bird and Jones, this catadioptric design uses a spherical primary mirror with a corrector lens just before the secondary mirror. This design allows for the secondary mirror to be shrunken down, the primary take the shape of a sphere that is easy to make (cheap), and allows for a stout and stubby telescope which has a long focal ratio and next to no coma. At the time the Bird-Jones was designed, eyepieces were simple and coma correctors nonexistent, so focal ratios tended to be on the long side to achieve sharp images.

The Bird-Jones design is outdated and no longer needed. The cheap Kellner eyepieces supplied with many entry-level telescopes today would’ve amazed a 1950s amateur with their quality and work well enough with even a relatively fast focal ratio telescope. Furthermore, Celestron didn’t even bother to execute the design correctly – Celestron’s Bird-Jones design places the corrector lens inside the focuser. This causes two problems.

First, it can’t easily be removed, which is basically required to collimate the telescope precisely and achieve sharp images. The Celestron Astromaster 114EQ does have collimation thumbscrews on the back, but you’ll need special optical tools to reasonably collimate the scope–and you may need to take the corrector lens out.

Second, it means that the spacing between the corrector and primary mirror is not fixed, but instead varies depending on what eyepiece you’re using and also whether you’re nearsighted or farsighted. So the correction is constantly varying depending on what eyepiece is used or even who is looking through the telescope.

The problems don’t end here, though. The correctors in these scopes are incredibly cheaply made, and aren’t remotely close to the right shape, being glorified cheap Barlow lenses. As a result, the 114EQ cannot achieve decent images even when well-collimated, which itself is hard to do.

Moving on to the mechanical aspects of the OTA, we come to another problem: the plastic castings. The giant casting with the AstroMaster logo that protrudes nearly halfway along the tube, as well as the area around the focuser, means that you cannot slide the tube in its rings to achieve balance on the declination axis in most situations. This strains the mount and is a nuisance while observing as you will always have to tighten the declination axis.

The focuser on the AstroMaster 114EQ is a modest and functional 1.25” rack-and-pinion, mostly made of plastic, apart from the knobs. The finderscope is a standard StarPointer red-dot finder, though until recently most AstroMaster scopes had an obnoxious and often-faulty built-in red-dot finder.

The telescope’s optics are not as good as what a similar-sized telescope with a true parabolic mirror can show, but the optics are honestly forgivable. If this telescope had been fashioned as a tabletop dobsonian, and if the corrector lens was placed in a static position, it might have been decent. Unfortunately, it shipped with a CG-2 equatorial mount, which is a reason why this Celestron AstroMaster 114EQ review is not that positive.

The 114EQ comes with standard tube rings and a very short Vixen dovetail, which would allow you to put the scope on a different mount, although this is the equivalent of putting premium dipping sauce on McNuggets – the prime ingredient is still cheap and the secondary ingredient is never going to compensate for that. One of the rings has a captive ¼ 20 knob, so you can piggyback a DSLR camera on top, but this will further wreck the balance, and is too much for the mount to handle anyway.

Eyepieces

114EQ eyepieces and finder

The AstroMaster “Newtonians” all come with a 20 mm “erecting” eyepiece just like the PowerSeekers for low power. The eyepiece is almost entirely plastic, has a narrow field of view, and isn’t sharp in the slightest. Celestron includes this eyepiece solely so they can sell it at nature and science stores, under the premise of it being capable of terrestrial viewing.

The other eyepiece included with all AstroMaster telescopes is a 10 mm Kellner. It works fine in most other telescopes, though the 114EQ is, of course, incapable of delivering a sharp image with it.

Mount

This is the single worst aspect of the AstroMaster 114EQ. Nothing about this mount is acceptable for this application.The telescope is simply too heavy for this mount. As a result, it is full of backlash, sloppy motion, and slipping. It needs to be balanced just right for the right ascension knob to actually result in slewing along the right ascension axis. On many occasions I would have the telescope pointed just where I wanted it, then I would let go, and the RA gear would drop slightly, the whole telescope would fall down, and what I was looking for would be lost, sometimes requiring minutes to find it again.

The mount Celestron supplies with the AstroMaster EQ telescope is known as the CG-3, though some literature refers to it as a CG-2. Celestron’s CG numbering system is confusing; they should ditch it and stick with the EQ1-8 system that other companies use.

The CG-3/CG-2 is of the run-of-the-mill, cheap, and German equatorial design, with tiny useless setting circles that are little more than decoration. It has 1.25” tubular steel legs and lots of plastic castings on the tripod. The mount also has a Vixen saddle so it can accept other optical tubes interchangeably with no tools needed.

The CG-3 has flexible slow-motion cables for both axes and fine adjustments in altitude, and has an azimuth for accurate polar alignment. You can also equip the mount with Celestron’s logic drive for hands-free tracking.

Close-Up of the CG-2 mount
Close-Up of the CG-2 mount, with the useless RA setting circle

The telescope has two useless setting circles for Right Ascension and Declination. In theory, these are used to align on a given object and use them to find a different object by moving the telescope until the RA and Dec displayed on the circles match that of the target object. In practice, they’re nowhere near precise enough to get you to the object you’re looking for–a star-hop is more fun. To make matters worse, they don’t always turn with the telescope, sometimes they slip.

German equatorial mounts can often place the eyepiece of a Newtonian in awkward positions, and you must rotate the tube in its rings to reposition it somewhere more comfortable.

Normally when doing this you’d have to worry about accidentally sliding the tube forward or backward when the rings are loosened, and thus possibly ruining the declination axis balance, but since the optical tube can’t really slide far in either direction and the balance is so messed up anyways, this is a non-issue.

Also, an equatorial mount is a terrible idea for a beginner telescope. Most beginners have a relatively poor understanding of the motions of the night sky (something which can be improved by constantly observing the sky!) and you must have an understanding of such motions to correctly use the mount. To use it correctly it also requires several minutes of setup and alignment.

Astrophotography

The optics in the AstroMaster 114EQ are so bad you can completely forget about taking decent pictures with it. Even if this were not the case, a camera, whether directly coupled or piggybacked, would ruin the balance and strain the CG-3 mount too much.

Should I buy a used Astromaster 114EQ?

Since these telescopes are often hobby killers, you will occasionally see them crop up on eBay or craigslist for much cheaper than its original price. If you can get one for under 80 dollars, I’d say it might be worth the cost. If you get one as your first telescope, you’re risking it being a hobby-killer, as the mount can be very frustrating. However, it may be possible to fit the telescope tube on a tabletop dobsonian base (they sometimes crop up without a telescope tube on eBay), or you could build your own dob base out of wood and Teflon. In that configuration, it might be worth it.

What to see?

Close-up of the Moon
Close-up of the Moon taken through the AstroMaster 114EQ with the Celestron NexImage 5 Solar System Imager. This magnified view will require a 6mm eyepiece

The Moon is always nice to look at through a telescope, and there’s no exception here. You can see fairly high detail in individual craters, but it’ll always look softer and fuzzier than it should–not the crisp image you’d expect from a good telescope.

There are dozens of deep-sky objects to look at if you can deal with the annoying mount. The Orion Nebula looks good in pretty much any telescope. Lots of double stars can be split as well.

Nothing in this telescope is as clear and crisp as it should be, but the optical flaws are not the worst part of this telescope, the mount and the price tag is.

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16 thoughts on “Celestron Astromaster 114EQ Review – Not Recommended”

  1. Hello,
    I’m looking for a telescope to look at planets and moons. Don’t really care about taking pictures of them. Just night time observation. I have done research and now I’m even more confused then when I started. Any help would be greatly appreciated
    Thanks
    Holly

    Reply
  2. I actually love my Celestron 114. Have had very good luck with it. I have been able to take some amazing detailed photos of saturn and it’s rings. I plan to upgrade next year and let my son use this one. Over all I’m satisfied with the product.

    Reply
  3. My daughter received this as a gift last year and I cannot get it to focus at all…I think I was on tonight’s full moon because my image was white (ish) but just a gigantic blur. Any advice?

    Reply
  4. My stepdaughter got one of these several years ago (before I was around) and never got it set up right. I’ve offered to see what I can do, but I can’t even get the finderscope and eyepiece to get even part of the moon in both at the same time. There just isn’t enough adjustment in the finderscope. I suspect something wasn’t put together properly from the factory. Any suggestions other than trying to sell it to some other sucker?

    Reply
  5. I get it…it’s not a viable tool for deep space astrophotography. My daughter won this at an academic contest a few years ago. Is it decent enough to photograph the moon and possibly other planets? Or would it make for poor quality images? I’d like to know before buying any accessories and adapters for my camera. I don’t have a $1000 budget for doing this at this time. Thanks!

    Reply
  6. Thanks…then I won’t bother spending any money on it. I’d rather save up and wait for something better. I’ll also check out the link you’ve been telling other’s about.

    Reply
  7. Would you rate the tripod as worth a damn? I bought a 2nd hand skywatcher 120mm refractor scope without a tripod & thought maybe scooping one of these cheaply just to plunder the tripod might be viable.

    Reply
    • The EQ2 mount included with the scope is decently made but it can hardly support the 114EQ, let alone a 120mm refractor.

      Reply
  8. I’ve been impressed by Celestron’s support of their original products- my old C8 Schmidt-Cassegrain was a landmark design and made in the US. However not that many will spend anywhere near that for a first scope, so like everyone else they have to market inexpensive stuff like this. I’ve no problem with basic gear but products like this and the Powerseeker 127 have taken the place of the 725 power 60mm department store telescope. Poorly designed and badly made rubbish scopes will do more to kill off a child’s budding interest.

    I was asked to help set up a neighbor’s 114EQ and there wasn’t much I could do. This is a really awful scope. I wound up loaning him my old Celestron C4.5 Newtonian and the difference is shocking. The C4.5 was made in the 80s by Vixen in Japan and sold by Celestron. Same aperture as the 114EQ but way better image quality.

    Reply

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