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Celestron ExploraScope 114AZ Review – Not Recommended

Celestron’s ExploraScope 114EQ is plagued by poor design all around - we’d recommend steering clear.

Celestron’s ExploraScope 114AZ represents yet another flawed inexpensive scope from Celestron’s lineup. Once again a Bird-Jones with poor-quality eyepieces and a rather lacking mount, the only really good thing we can say about this instrument is that it’s cheaper than the rest, the mount is better and a little more of the issues can be forgiven as a result.

How It Stacks Up

Ranked #24 of 26 ~$100 telescopes

Rank 1
4.5
Rank 24
Celestron ExploraScope 114AZ
2.9
What We Like

  • Decent aperture
  • Works
  • Mount is acceptable


What We Don't Like

  • Poor optics
  • Poor accessories
  • Mediocre mount


Bottom Line
Not Recommended Telescope

The ExploraScope 114AZ is yet another strike out for Celestron – designed based on marketing terms and not performance. It’s certainly ironic that Celestron markets this scope as being able to achieve the “brightest, most detailed views, day or night” of any of the ExploraScope line of telescopes. The 80mm refractor marketed under the ExploraScope line almost certainly beats the 114AZ at all of those and has a slightly better low-power eyepiece to boot – all at a lower price tag.

But as it does command a much lower price than the AstroMaster 114EQ and other Bird-Jones instruments, the ExploraScope 114AZ definitely deserves more of a pass when compared to some of its Bird Jones competitors.

The Optical Tube

Celestron ExploraScope 114AZ

The ExploraScope 114AZ is a Bird-Jones 114mm f/8.8  – identical to the Celestron AstroMaster 114 and 114LCM. These scopes are very difficult to collimate and even when collimated the images fall short of being sharp. They’re based on Newtonian reflectors, but have a poorly designed and poorly manufactured corrector lens to fix the aberrations caused by their flawed spherical primary mirrors. It’s a nice design on paper, but Celestron’s implementation of the Bird-Jones design makes for a poor-quality scope with mushy images at best and unusable ones at worst.

Disturbingly, the ExploraScope manual neither tells one about the existence of collimation, nor how to do it or that the 114AZ needs it. 

The focuser on the 114AZ is a usable 1.25” rack-and-pinion unit made almost entirely out of plastic. It could probably use an additional shim or two on the drawtube as it seems to wobble a little during use, but it’s functional as-is and this modification is very cheap and easy to do yourself.

Let’s Look At The Accessories

Like the AstroMaster and PowerSeeker Newtonians, the ExploraScope 114AZ comes with a 20mm erecting eyepiece of a Kellner-like design, a 4mm Ramsden eyepiece which is of low quality and provides too much power for the scope to handle, and an outrageously bad 3x Barlow lens made entirely of plastic. 

Of these, only the 20mm is usable and it is not a great eyepiece – the cheap erecting design and low-quality coatings result in a lot of light loss and dim images as a result, the field of view is quite narrow at maybe 35 degrees or so, and the 50x it provides is a little much for a low-power eyepiece. The eyepiece also results in even fuzzier images than what is already provided by the Bird-Jones optics.

A 32mm or 25mm Plossl would be an order of magnitude better than the 20mm erecting eyepiece, as would a decent Plossl or even Kellner eyepiece for higher magnification. This stupid “erecting” eyepiece design is provided solely for the function of advertising the scope for terrestrial viewing, because Celestron has a habit of marketing their cheap scopes at “nature/science” stores and other places where the consumer’s knowledge is basically limited to what the scope says on the box.

The StarPointer red dot included with the ExploraScope is ideal for such an instrument and works well. You can easily detach and reattach it with the two hand knobs that are provided if needed for transport.

Lastly, the ExploraScope is offered with a smartphone adapter which grips your phone and eyepiece and has adjustments to center your phone’s camera. You can take some relatively sophisticated lunar photos with these, but the planets are difficult to shoot without a mount with tracking and a CCD/CMOS camera or DSLR would be arguably better for such a task.

Mount

The ExploraScope mount is an alt-azimuth fork design on a lightweight (but sturdy) extruded aluminum tripod. Due to the way these mounts operate and the scopes they are designed for (long refractors) it is rather hard to get the desired fine motion capability with a very short optical tube like the 114AZ, but it does work acceptably. It’s nowhere near as good as a Dobsonian or a good equatorial mount, however, and is likely to result in a lot of frustration when trying to keep the scope aimed at a target at high magnification.

Should I buy a Used ExploraScope 114?

Unless it’s free, you really shouldn’t bother with a used ExploraScope. It’s not worth much of anything.

Alternative Recommendations

There are a lot of good telescopes available at a similar price to the ExploraScope 114, all of which feature better optics, better mounts, and better accessories. Here are our top picks:

  • Zhumell Z130  – Significantly better optics, wider field of view, larger aperture, better accessories, and a more stable mount.
  • Zhumell Z114  – Significantly better optics, wider field of view, better eyepieces and a more stable mount.
  • Meade Infinity 90 – Better optics, easier to use, better accessories.
  • Meade Polaris 130 – Better optics, a bit larger aperture, better accessories

What can you see?

The ExploraScope 114 is far from being a particularly good telescope, but if you make some serious effort to get the thing collimated and are understanding of its limitations, there’s still a fair amount to see.

  • The Moon still looks fairly good and will amaze a beginner even with a poorly-collimated instrument.
  • Mercury’s phases are likely to be difficult to spot with the ExploraScope 114AZ. 
  • Venus’ phases should be easy.
  • Mars is likely to be a red dot devoid of detail. During the few months when Mars is close to Earth every two years, a properly collimated 114AZ may just barely be able to show you an ice cap and a dark marking or two.
  • Jupiter’s moons are easily visible, along with the planet’s two main cloud belts. The Great Red Spot and the brown polar zones are more difficult, but possible to see.
  • Saturn’s rings are visible, and its largest moon Titan can be seen. Cloud belts on the planet itself are tricky, as are the other bright moons (Rhea is the easiest of the bunch). The Cassini division is probably not visible due to the 114AZ’s poor optical quality.
  • Good luck finding Uranus and Neptune, let alone distinguishing them from stars.
  • Globular star clusters are fuzzy balls with maybe the tiniest hint of graininess.
  • Open star clusters are pretty, though the stars are less-than-sharp and could be framed better with the wider fields of view possible with faster (and better) tabletop Dobsonians.
  • Bright nebulae such as Orion and the Lagoon look quite good, especially under fairly dark skies.
  • Planetary nebulae are largely out of reach with the 114AZ, with a few exceptions. The Ring is tiny but bright, the Dumbbell fairly large but dim, and most others are likely to be invisible or unrecognizable.
  • Galaxies are simply too small and dim to be of much interest in any 4-inch telescope, let alone one with poor optics like the 114AZ. You’ll be lucky to see the brighter Messier catalog galaxies and maybe the dust lane in M31.


12 thoughts on “Celestron ExploraScope 114AZ Review – Not Recommended”

  1. I’m curious If you feel the same about the 114azSR version? I just got one for my 8 year old daughter for Christmas. It will be our first telescope, and it is actually a sort of in the moment buy. Being the fact I’m totally a novice on telescopes. But excited to learn. I couldn’t seem to pass it up considering I got it the low price of $70USD. I really just want something that’s going to provide great clarity for a great price.

    If you can help I would really appreciate it. Thank you!

    Reply
    • Sorry for the late response. It is basically the same.

      I would recommend getting the Zhumell Z100 or Orion SkyScanner instead if you can afford the additional $30.

      Reply
  2. Hi I also bought the 114AZ -SR , after reading your review I am going to order the explorascope 80 AZ 80MM refractor to compare now . Is that the same one you suggested would be better ? Can you see planet details as well as or better on the refractor vs the reflector? I’ve read both are better for viewing different things , would love to see planet details good.

    Reply
  3. “Both not good scopes “ in your review of the 114 az you said the 80 mmm refractor was better . I’m new at this and already overwhelmed with the choices and have been trying to educate myself on it all and just want one to view planets and have some fun with without spending much more than $150. So just wondering is the 80 mm refractor better in fact like you previously, instead of the 114 az or are they the same for viewing planet details . Thanks in advance

    Reply
  4. Don’t now if you could help me, but I bought this for my son for Christmas and i am having trouble connecting to the wi-fi network. I have changed the battery a few times and still can’t seem to connect. I keep getting a message saying Celestron skyportal can’t make a wireless connection to the scope. I have powered on the scope and still nothing. Anyone having the same problem or did I buy a broken telescope?

    Reply
    • Not sure if you’re asking about the right scope? The one in this review is all-manual.

      If you’re asking about a Celestron Astro-Fi I would recommend calling Celestron.

      Reply
  5. Hi Zane,
    Im surprised you didn’t mention the skywatcher skyhawk 114p .
    It has a parabolic Primary Mirror and fairly good selection of eye pieces.
    Giving a much sharper image both on planets and deep sky objects.
    Its easy to set up and collimate.

    Reply
  6. Hi could you help me i have purchased the 114az and im having alot of trouble the mirror inside is not lining up and i can only see a quarter of the moon i cant get it to focus or anything please help

    Reply

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