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Celestron NexStar 4SE Telescope Review

While small GoTo telescopes aren’t particularly great for beginners interested in astronomy, Celestron’s NexStar 4SE is an okay-choice for those who must have GoTo.

But the scope is too small for the GoTo to be worth it, and the telescope makes a number of promises that fail to deliver.

This review will explain all you need to know before buying the 4SE.

Choice..

3.7/5

Basic Features

  • Optical Design: Maksutov-Cassegrain
  • Weight: 30 pounds
  • Dimensions: 32.4 in. x 27.2 in. x 13.4 in.
  • Aperture: 102 mm (4.02 in.)
  • Eyepiece magnification: 53x
  • Coatings: StarBright XLT
  • Mount: Single fork arm
  • Focal ratio: 13

The Celestron 4SE Optical Tube

The NexStar 4SE is a Maksutov-Cassegrain and shares much of the heritage of Celestron’s C90, of which the 4SE is basically a scaled-up version. The Maksutov-Cassegrain design uses a very fast spherical primary mirror with a meniscus corrector lens and an aluminized “spot” on the corrector serving as the secondary mirror.

The 4SE, like the C90, is of a variant called the Gregory-Maksutov, where the secondary is nothing more than an aluminized spot on the back of the corrector lens.

Maksutovs have small secondary mirrors, usually with great optics, and long focal lengths, which makes them great for lunar, planetary, and double-star viewing.

The auto-orientation feature makes you view the image right side up instead of the inverted view that is typical with Cassegrain telescopes.

The 4SE comes with a single 25 mm 1.25ʺ Plossl eyepiece, which is good for low power, though you may want a 32 mm Plossl for the widest field of view. Additional medium- and high-power eyepieces of shorter focal length would be good to get the most out of your 4SE.

The 4SE is rather small, and this and its long focal length of 102 mm means that this is more of a planetary telescope. You’re limited to the brightest deep-sky objects.

The NexStar catalog contains 40,000 objects. This is a mixed bag. You’d be lucky to be able to see more than a couple of hundred deep-sky objects even under dark skies, thanks to the 4SE’s small aperture.

There are no asteroids in the catalog, and the Sky Tour function often lists objects which are too dim for the 4SE or not in a convenient position for viewing.

The only use of such a large catalog is in using the massive stellar database to locate asteroids, which one does by finding a star in the same field of view of the said asteroid in a planetarium app then entering said star into the hand controller, and for locating variable and double stars.

Even then, the “40,000 objects” advertising is a gimmick.

Mount's Stability and Alignment Easiness

The 4SE mount is fairly steady, and the 4SE’s tube does have a Vixen dovetail, so it can be put on other mounts, but then it would be at an odd orientation. However, it is very much antiquated.

The hand controller’s small buttons are difficult to operate with gloves on, and one must enter the time and date every time you set the scope up (how hard would it have been to install an internal clock?), and this will very quickly consume battery power.

An external power supply is required. And don’t forget to put AA batteries in the mount for backup energy, because if the power supply’s connection cuts, for even half a second, the entire telescope will reboot, and you’ll need to enter in the time, date, and align the telescope all over again. It has to use eight AA batteries.

Also, changing location is quite complicated. The scope really needs to come bundled with Celestron’s SkySync GPS module for updating the time, date, and location, which costs over a hundred dollars. The SkyPortal WiFi app will also solve this issue and allow you to control the scope with your phone, but either option is expensive (and the latter really requires the SkySafari app which is another $20).

Aligning the 4SE is supposed to be a breeze with Celestron’s SkyAlign technology, which, in theory, allows one to point it at any of the three bright targets (even the Moon or planets) and be aligned in seconds.

However, after hundreds of ALIGNMENT FAILED messages that I’ve seen with every NexStar telescope I’ve ever used when trying to SkyAlign, I can say with confidence that SkyAlign is an absolute joke and never works. The Auto Two-Star method is accurate, but won’t let you select any star you want, and tends to force you to align to stars that aren’t the brightest, or may not have the most memorable names.

Astrophotography Capabilities

The 4SE would do well for lunar and planetary astrophotography, and maybe simple, shorter than thirty second exposures. But that’s going to be the limit.

The scope’s f/13 focal ratio is too slow for long exposures in order to capture anything, and the altazimuth-nature and miss accurateness of the mount will cause blurring anyway.

The built-in wedge is a gimmick, and it wouldn’t even matter if it works anyways because of the aforementioned issues.

Jupiter photo using Celestron 4SE
Jupiter, 640x480 webcam, no Barlow
Moon picture using 4SE
Moon, 640x480 webcam, mosaic of 3 images, no Barlow

Pros

  • Works well for lunar/planetary astrophotography
  • Portable and durable
  • Excellent optics
  • GoTo

Cons

  • Short battery life (not included)
  • Small, narrow field of view
  • GoTo technology is complicated, frustrating, and doesn’t always work
  • Built-in wedge is useless
  • GoTo is pointless for a small, planetary-oriented telescope

What's The Bottom Line?

To summarize, if you really must have a small GoTo telescope, the Celestron NexStar 4SE certainly shines as one of the better examples. However, it is still far from perfect and I would definitely not buy another as my first scope.

11 thoughts on “Celestron NexStar 4SE Telescope Review”

  1. I am looking at the 4SE because as you stated I’m a newbie and was intrigued by the features. So I’m looking for a better than average scope for viewing planets and if possible DSO’s. I’d prefer a simple set up and thats why I thought the GoTo appeared helpful, but if you’re saying its gimmicky, I can do without. What I would like is a scope for around $500 that has great optics, that will give me excellent detail of planets and would like to be able to see some DSO’s. I’d also prefer not to have to deal with collimation. Your recommendations please.
    Thanks

    • 6″ or 8″ Dob, maybe a 10″ if you can stretch your budget. Even a 6″ will blow the 4SE away on all objects.

      • Even though I respect the review, I have a 4se and it is pretty good for a newbie astronomer.
        I have made some good astrophotography not only planetary ones. My picture of Jupiter is far way better than that the autor posted on this review. Also, by using the mosaic technique I took lots of pictures of orion’s nebulae.
        Is it necessary an extra effort to achieve satisfactory results? Yes. But it is not impossible at all.
        Also I use its wedge mounting with no problem. It really works.
        Sky Alugn feature? Works like a charm. Rarelly fails.
        I live in south hemisphere and before I first used it I read at celestron’s web site that there was a bug on its firmware wich consisted in alignment failure if it is performed in south hemisphere. So, they offered an upgrade of that firmware.
        I downloaded it, followed the instructions and all get done without issues.
        I use this telescope since 2009. It does its job.

        • Yeah, my astrophotos with the scope suck. Just thought I’d add them.

          It’s really hard to do deep-sky astrophotography the way Celestron advertises, and the wedge is not exactly…. precise.

  2. Hi there I am really just getting into astronomy. I did have a telescope about 15 years ago but like most people it was only a cheap one and I was left disappointed. After coming across this site it has kind of rekindled my interest and am looking to buy a new scope and wanted really to see the planets as best as I can but also as much as I can of deeper space. I read your comments about DOB scopes compared to the celestron 4se I do realise that the two are really for different types of scope and prices but I have been looking at either Celestron 11049 NexStar 4 SE or the SKY-WATCHER SKYLINER 250PX 254MM (10″) F/1200 PARABOLIC DOBSONIAN TELESCOPE… I am leaning more toward the DOB but would really appreciate your view on the matter

  3. May I ask your advice about changing location a little bit more in details? You described the following feature of the telescope. I am going to buy 4SE in the USA and bring it back to Japan. Do I have to buy additional/other GPS module?

    “Also, changing location is quite complicated. The scope really needs to come bundled with Celestron’s SkySync GPS module for updating time/date and location, which costs over a hundred dollars.”

    • Changing the location takes a while unless you happen to be located in one of the cities in its database (which still takes a bit). Not a huge deal, and you don’t strictly need the GPS.

      However, if you like to haul the scope to a dark site several hours from home and observe frequently from both locations, you really need the GPS module.

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