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Celestron ExploraScope 114AZ Review – A Poor Choice!

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 I 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…..

The Optical Tube 

Poor Choice..

1.5/5

Telescope's Rank In Category - 10/12

Optical Tube Rating - 1.5

Accessories Rating - 3

Mount Rating - 1

Visibility Score - 1.5

The ExploraScope 114AZ is a Bird-Jones 114mm f/8.8  – identical to the Celestron AstroMaster 114 and 114LCM. Basically a Celestron ExploraScope 114AZ Newtonian with a spherical primary and a cheap Barlow/corrector lens installed in the focuser, these scopes are very difficult to collimate and even when collimated the images fall short of being sharp. Disturbingly, the ExploraScope manual neither tells one about the existence of collimation, nor how to do it or that the 114AZ needs it.

The secondary mirror on the ExploraScope is not collimatable, and the spider only uses 3 vanes, not the usual 4 that’s present on most Newtonians. The secondary would rarely need to be collimated anyway, but the lack of adjustments does present a problem. If the secondary mirror needs alignment, you’re completely out of luck.

The 3 vanes on the spider are actually arguably an improvement over 4 as they present much dimmer diffraction spikes on stars than a 4-vane would, due to the geometry of the arrangement.

The focuser on the 114AZ is a usable 1.25”, nearly entirely plastic rack-and-pinion. 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 unusual, all-black 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 fine. This mount is certainly a vast improvement in usability over the cheap photo-tripod, EQ1 and “CG-3” mounts supplied with many entry-level Celestron telescopes.

Looking For Better Alternatives?

Meade Lightbridge
Mini 114

$100 to $175 Category
  • Rank 1 in category
  • Our expert's rating of 4.7
Best In class

Meade
Infinity 90AZ

$100 to $175 Category
  • Rank 3 in category
  • Our expert's rating of 4.4
Second Best

Zhumell
Z100

Below $100 Category
  • Rank 1 in category
  • Our expert's rating of 4.8

Conclusion

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, and I would say it is definitely a usable beginner’s telescope, unlike some of its brethren. However, I would still recommend a 4” or 4.5” tabletop Dobsonian or small refractor instead at its price range. Either will have much, much better images and come with far more usable accessories.

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.

 

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7 thoughts on “Celestron ExploraScope 114AZ Review – A Poor Choice!”

  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

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