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Celestron Astromaster 76EQ Telescope Review – Partially Recommended

The Celestron AstroMaster 76EQ isn’t a terrible telescope, but given its poor value and poor accessories we’d recommend shopping for something else.

Celestron’s AstroMaster 76EQ is the smallest reflector in the AstroMaster lineup – and arguably the best. Unlike the other AstroMaster reflectors, the 76EQ actually has acceptable quality optics. However, it still suffers from some shortcomings. 

How It Stacks Up

Ranked #8 of 27 ~$100 telescopes

Rank 1
4.5
Rank 8
Celestron AstroMaster 76EQ
3.8
What We Like

  • Cheap
  • Easy to collimate
  • Lightweight
  • Stable


What We Don't Like

  • Mediocre accessories
  • Pitiful light gathering capability
  • A bit complicated to set up


Bottom Line
Partially Recommended

The AstroMaster 76EQ is an acceptable telescope for beginners, but with pitiful aperture and accessories you’re probably better off choosing one of the 100-130mm tabletop Dobsonians in its price range. 

Overview Of Astromaster 76EQ Optical Tube Assembly

The AstroMaster 76 optical tube is a 76mm (3-inch) f/9.2 Newtonian with a spherical primary mirror. A spherical primary in a larger, faster telescope such as the 130mm f/5 AstroMaster 130 will cause significant lack of sharpness and definition and is thus unsuitable for an astronomical telescope, but a 76mm f/9 sphere deviates only very slightly from a parabola, so it works just fine.

The only drawback, optically, of the AstroMaster 76 is its diminutive size. By the time one accounts for light loss from the mirrors and the secondary mirror’s obstruction, the AstroMaster 76 performs no better than a 60mm refractor. However, the 76EQ does offer the advantages over a refractor of no chromatic aberration and a shorter focal length – the former giving it better planetary/lunar performance, all other things being equal, and the latter giving it a wider field of view and lower power with a given eyepiece.

Celestron Astromaster 76EQ

The AstroMaster 76 has a decent red dot finder mounted to the front of the optical tube assembly, and a more than adequate 1.25” rack and pinion focuser. Both the primary and secondary mirrors can be collimated – which is a feature that although required, somehow isn’t always available with cheap small Newtonians.

One annoying drawback of the AstroMaster 76 is that the focuser drawtube unnecessarily pokes into the light path when it is racked all the way in. Usually it’s racked out enough for this to not be a problem, but with some eyepieces it may eclipse the incoming light from hitting the scope’s primary mirror by quite a bit. If this bothers you, it’s quite easy to remove the drawtube, chop the offending portion off with a hacksaw, and re-install it with absolutely no negative impact on the telescope’s functionality. 

The other fault of the optical tube is that it has an extremely short dovetail bolted directly to the tube. There is thus no way to rotate the tube to a more comfortable position, nor balance it if you are using heavy eyepieces/accessories.

Eyepices

Like all other AstroMaster Newtonians the AstroMaster 76 comes with a cheap, narrow-field 20mm eyepiece. This eyepiece really provides too much power (35x) to be a “low-power” eyepiece for a 76mm telescope and also has a narrow, straw-like field of view. Furthermore, its useless erecting optics and cheap coatings absorb a lot of light and degrade the image quality. We would recommend replacing it with a 32mm or 25mm Plossl as soon as possible to get the most out of this telescope.

The other included eyepiece is a 10mm Kellner, which provides 70x. It’s a pretty decent eyepiece, albeit largely made of plastic. 

Mount

The mount supplied with the AstroMaster 76EQ is referred to in some literature as the “CG-2” but it is identical to the mount supplied with the larger AstroMasters which Celestron terms the CG-3.

The CG-3 is overkill for the featherweight 76mm Newtonian optical tube, but certainly does a great job. The scope is rock-solid and I have zero complaints about stability. 

The CG-3 has flexible slow-motion cables – there is only one for the right ascension axis, however, and you’ll have to swap it from one side of the mount to the other depending on which half of the sky you’re viewing. The mount also is of course capable of taking other telescope optical tubes, but a different optical tube would likely cost more than the entire AstroMaster 76EQ unit.

The CG-3 can be motorized with Celestron’s Logic Drive for hands-free tracking. Forget astrophotography, though – any kind of camera will make the scope top-heavy and there’s no way to balance it, in addition to the fact that this is an f/10 scope on a relatively simple mount with an only partially metal focuser.

Alternative Recommendations

For the same price as or a little more than that of the AstroMaster 76EQ, we’d probably recommend a tabletop scope: Either the Zhumell Z100 or Orion SkyScanner, essentially identical scopes with a bit more aperture and far superior accessories. If you can expand your budget, the Zhumell Z114 is even better.

For additional options that might be right for you, check out our rankings and Best Telescopes article.

Aftermarket Accessory Recommendations

The only accessory that the AstroMaster 76EQ really needs is a 25mm Plossl eyepiece  (28x). This will work far better as a low magnification eyepiece than the included 20mm erecting eyepiece. A 2x Barlow  to bring the 10mm eyepiece up to 140x also might be a good idea.

Astrophotography

Apart from simple phone shots, forget any kind of astrophotography with the AstroMaster 76EQ. The scope is too small in aperture to do useful work with a CCD camera for planetary imaging (a CCD would also cost more than the entire telescope), and a DSLR will strain the focuser and mount as well as render the telescope unable to balance properly.

For a sub-$200 telescope, though, this is all to be expected.

What can you see?

The 76mm aperture of the AstroMaster 76EQ is only enough to show you the brightest deep-sky objects, but it will do a reasonably good job on the Moon and planets. With the AstroMaster 76EQ, expect to see:

  • Mercury’s phases, with effort and luck
  • Venus’ phases
  • Lots of detail on the Moon
  • One or two dark patches on Mars when it’s at opposition every two years
  • Jupiter’s moons, cloud belts and Great Red Spot
  • Saturn’s rings, its moon Titan, and maybe the Cassini Division and some banding on the planet itself with good seeing
  • Uranus and Neptune as turquoise and azure dots
  • The Orion Nebula, the Ring Nebula, M13, the Pleiades, and a couple dozen of the other brightest deep-sky objects
  • Many double stars


5 thoughts on “Celestron Astromaster 76EQ Telescope Review – Partially Recommended”

    • I think in the US it goes for slightly less than that if you convert the currency. Not a great buy at anything above 100 bucks, but it works…..

      Reply
  1. Hello, thank you for the great reviews. So I see you have a review of the Astromaster 76EQ… I don’t see a review of the Astromaster LT 76AZ, and very little information on it online, although it seems like it would be a decent starter telescope. They both share a lot of the same specs, except the LT 76AZ (Item #: 31036) has a Newtonian Reflector and a manual altazimuth mount. Would you consider both of these to be about the same, then, review-wise? Thank you again!

    Reply
    • The 76AZ comes on a far worse mount – the EQ mount is a little more difficult to learn to use but is overall much higher quality and steadier.

      Do not get the 76AZ.

      Reply
      • Only because of the mount? Or anything else about it make it a better choice? I thought I read that the newtonian reflector was a better choice. Sorry for asking too many questions. I had already purchased the 76AZ for my spouse as a birthday gift this coming week, so trying to figure out whether to exchange it lol. Thanks again.

        Reply

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