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Celestron Omni XLT 102AZ Review: Recommended Scope

The Celestron Omni XLT 102AZ is a pretty good telescope for the price. But with some more upgrades, it perform at its best.
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When you read one of my reviews at TelescopicWatch, you can trust that not only have I gotten to use the product, but I’ve compared it to numerous others and tinkered with it down to the literal nuts and bolts. When I'm not writing reviews, I'm out under the night sky with my own homemade or modified telescopes, with over 7 years of hands-on experience in astronomy, having owned 430 telescopes myself, of which 20 I built entirely.

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I generally don’t recommend refractors to beginners due to the inherent compromises in cheaper tripod-mounted instruments as well as their high price for their relatively small aperture.

However, I find the Celestron Omni XLT 102AZ to be one of the better options out there. We get good optics with enough aperture for interesting views, a simple and sturdy mount, and a high-quality package with little reliance on cheap materials like plastic or particle board.

However, some shopping for additional accessories is warranted, and you’re not getting nearly as much for your money as a Dobsonian telescope provides. As an experienced astronomer, I see the Omni XLT 102AZ potentially having a place in my collection as a “grab n’ go” telescope alongside a larger Dobsonian or SCT that may take more time to set up for observation.

Celestron NexStar Evolution 9.25″

How It Stacks Up

Ranks #7 of 44 ~$350 telescopes

#1 of 10 ~$300 Refractor

Rank

Telescope

Rating

#7

Celestron Omni XLT 102AZ

4

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What We Like

  • Good optics
  • Acceptable accessories
  • Decent and sturdy mount
  • Wide field of view
  • Fairly large aperture (for a refractor)

What We Don't Like

  • Only one eyepiece provided
  • Not the best value for the money
  • Lots of chromatic aberration
  • Low-quality Amici prism diagonal impairs viewing quality
Recommended Product Badge

If you must have a refractor, the Celestron Omni XLT 102AZ is one of my top picks, especially for its low price. However, there are concessions, as with any tripod-mounted instrument in such a low budget range.

Offers Good Aperture and Good Optics

Celestron Omni XLT 102AZ OTA
The optical tube of Celestron Omni AZ 102. Image by author Zane Landers

The Celestron Omni XLT 102AZ is an achromatic refractor with an aperture of 102 mm, a focal ratio of f/6.5, and a focal length of 660 mm. This shares optics and parts used in many other Celestron telescopes that we’ve tested, such as the StarSense Explorer DX 102AZ, which uses an identical optical tube, and others like the AstroMaster 102AZ, which share optics but are different in construction.

The Expected Problem of Chromatic Aberration

As refractors get larger in aperture and faster in focal ratio, they tend to exhibit more chromatic aberration. I found the Omni XLT 102AZ to be of no exception, and it shows significant chromatic aberration on bright targets.

The achromatic refractor design of the XLT 102AZ, which uses two lenses made of different glass types to control chromatic aberration, is insufficient to fully eliminate this issue at a focal ratio of f/6.5. As a result, the Omni XLT 102AZ shows purple halos of chromatic aberration on bright targets like the Moon and planets and is noticeably softer at higher magnifications compared to other telescope designs or an achromatic refractor with a longer focal ratio.

It still displays fairly pleasing views but runs out of steam at above 100x magnification, and fine planetary detail is somewhat obscured.

Offers a Fairly Good Focuser

The Omni XLT 102AZ is equipped with a 2″ all-metal rack-and-pinion focuser, which is able to handle even fairly heavy 1.25″ eyepieces.

However, the telescope will not balance on its mount with a 2″ diagonal and eyepieces. The scope comes with a 1.25″ diagonal.

The XLT 102AZ lacks a long dovetail bar or tube rings to allow it to slide along in the mount saddle to compensate for the rear-heaviness of a 2” diagonal and eyepieces. I don’t see this focuser to be as sturdy as is generally warranted for using 2” oculars anyway, and the mount would be best without having additional weight placed on it.

You could purchase tube rings to allow the use of 2” accessories with the Omni XLT 102AZ if you wish, but between the rings, a 2” diagonal, and 2” eyepieces, you’d likely spend more than the telescope itself costs just on those upgrades. 

Offers a Diagonal That’s Better Be Replaced

The Celestron Omni XLT 102AZ, like many beginner telescopes sold by Celestron, comes with a 1.25″ Amici prism diagonal, which is designed for terrestrial viewing.

This diagonal produces an image that is corrected for left-right orientation rather than being flipped like a mirror, as is the case with an astronomical star diagonal. Not only is such a feature completely unnecessary, but the Amici design causes more glare and a bright diffraction spike on many targets.

In the case of the unit that comes with the kit, I’ve noticed that the plastic body and low-quality coatings are causing more internal reflections. The poor optical quality of the prism itself hurts the quality of the image, Also, the prism is too small, so that the edges of the field of view are slightly darkened when using the 25mm Plossl eyepiece that comes with the kit.

Replacing the 1.25″ Amici prism with a better star diagonal is a must.

A better diagonal can make a big difference in how well the Omni XLT 102AZ works for astronomical viewing by getting rid of problems like vignetting, glare, ghost images, and lack of sharpness that are often caused by the Amici prism. As previously mentioned, the telescope cannot balance with a 2″ diagonal, so a 1.25″ unit is the best option.

Offers an Acceptable, Wide-Field Eyepiece

Celestron provides a single 25mm Plossl eyepiece, providing 26x magnification, with the Omni XLT 102AZ. This is a step up from the cheap 3-element eyepieces often included with beginner telescopes.

This 25mm eyepiece has a sharp apparent field of view of 52 degrees and a true field of about 2 degrees with the XLT 102AZ. I’d like to warn you that there is some slight vignetting towards the edges of the field of view with the stock Amici prism diagonal.

Offers a Comfortable Finderscope

For a finder, the Omni XLT 102AZ is provided with Celestron’s “StarPointer Pro” finder, a battery-powered reflex sight that I see as an attempt to compete with the well-known Telrad. It features a bullseye reticle instead of a dot, like in a normal red dot sight. But otherwise, it handles similarly to a standard red dot finder.

The bullseye reticle may or may not be of any benefit to you. But since the window we look through is a little bigger, aiming felt more comfortable to me.

Offers a Decent Mount, The AZ3

The AZ3 mount provided with the Omni XLT 102AZ is an alt-azimuth single-arm fork mount with the tube mounted off to the side of the altitude (up-down) axis rather than above it like a photo tripod. This avoids any possible balance issues when aimed high in the sky.

The tripod is a sturdy affair made of extruded aluminum.

The AZ3 uses a standard Vixen-style dovetail saddle to hold the optical tube in place and allows for coarse up-down and left-right aiming by simply pushing the telescope around the sky. Fine adjustments for pointing and tracking at higher magnifications can be made using the two slow-motion adjustment cables, which use gears to move the mount in small increments. 

While I consider the AZ3 mount to be a little small for a mount capable of supporting the 102AZ’s fairly large optical tube, it generally works well for me and is even sturdier if I take advantage of the provided accessory tray to place weights to lower the center of gravity of the telescope. This is something I often do with most of the beginner telescope mounts that I use.

However, the backlash from the flexible slow-motion cables is annoying when used at high magnifications, and the mount is not as intuitive to use as a simple Dobsonian mount.

Should I buy a Used Celestron Omni XLT 102AZ?

The Celestron Omni XLT 102AZ’s lack of plastic parts and simple refracting optics mean that it’s relatively hardy even in the hands of less-than-competent owners and resellers.

Any damage to the objective lens, optical tube, or mount/tripod should be pretty obvious.

Expect to pay less for a unit with missing accessories.

The Omni XLT 102AZ is already a pretty great deal at its new MSRP; a used one should be a bargain.

Alternative Recommendations

The Omni XLT 102AZ is a pretty good telescope, but any reflector of equal or greater aperture is likely to prove superior.

Under $350

  • The Sky-Watcher Heritage 150P has 2.25x the light gathering ability and 50% more resolving power than the Omni XLT 102AZ, as well as being free of chromatic aberration and far more portable thanks to its tabletop mount and collapsible tube.
  • The Sky-Watcher Heritage 130P isn’t as big and powerful as its larger sibling, but offers the same features – and plenty more capability than the Omni XLT 102AZ – at an even lower price.
  • The Zhumell Z114/Orion StarBlast 4.5 Astro offers slightly more light-gathering ability and a wider achievable field of view than the Omni XLT 102AZ, without the complexity of the Heritage telescopes’ collapsible tubes.
  • The Popular Science Celestron StarSense Explorer DX 100AZ has similar optics to the Omni XLT 102AZ but a lower-quality, all-plastic focuser. However, you get two eyepieces, and the AZ3 mount has Celestron’s StarSense Explorer technology added to assist you in navigating around the night sky.

$350-$500

  • The Sky-Watcher Virtuoso GTi 150P is largely identical to the Heritage 150P but features the addition of fully motorized GoTo and tracking, all controlled via your smartphone or tablet. Sky-Watcher’s unique FreedomFind encoders also allow you to aim the telescope manually without interrupting the GoTo and tracking functionality. The Virtuoso GTi 130P offers the same upgraded capabilities as the Heritage 130P optical tube.
  • The Apertura AD6 has a rock-solid full-sized Dobsonian mount, a 2” Crayford focuser that can actually handle 2” eyepieces, and of course all of the light-collecting and resolving power of a good 6” reflector.
  • The Celestron StarSense Explorer DX 102AZ is completely identical to the Omni XLT 102AZ, apart from adding a second eyepiece, a simpler red dot finder, and the aid of Celestron’s StarSense Explorer technology to help you find deep-sky objects.

Aftermarket Accessory Recommendations

A 32mm Plossl eyepiece provides a slightly wider field of view than the stock 25mm Plossl does with the Omni XLT 102AZ, yielding 20x magnification and a 2.6-degree angular field of view.

More eyepieces would also be helpful if you want to get a higher magnification than the 25mm Plossl gives you. At the minimum, for planetary viewing, a 6mm “goldline” eyepiece will produce 108x with the XLT 102AZ, which is about as high as you should probably be using. 

A UHC nebula filter like the Orion UltraBlock filter improves contrast on nebulae with any telescope.

This opens up a lot of previously-invisible targets with the XLT 102AZ under dark skies and compensates for the effects of mild light pollution on some nebulae. You can get it in the 1.25” format, but if you plan on using a larger telescope, a 2” UltraBlock and a threaded 1.25” adapter will allow you to use the filter with the Omni XLT 102AZ and not have to worry about upgrading when you use a larger instrument and 2” eyepieces.

What can you see with the Celestron Omni XLT 102 AZ?

Deep-Sky Targets

I find the Omni XLT 102AZ best suited for viewing large, bright deep-sky objects such as open star clusters and large nebulae.

Many open clusters are visible throughout the night sky, and the Omni XLT 102AZ renders hundreds of colorful, pinpoint stars in them—even with fairly light-polluted viewing conditions.

Most planetary nebulae are too small to distinguish clearly with the Omni XLT 102AZ, but a few, notably the Ring Nebula (M57), the Dumbbell (M27), and the Blinking Planetary, can be seen. With the aid of a UHC nebula filter and under fairly dark sky conditions, we can also see the Helix Nebula. 

Large nebulae like the Rosette, the North America Nebula, or the Veil look fantastic through the XLT 102AZ with a UHC filter and dark skies. The smaller but brighter emission nebulae like Orion (M42), the Swan (M17), and the Lagoon (M8) show up even in the suburbs unfiltered, though darker skies and a good UHC filter give us the best possible views.

Galaxies require dark skies to be viewed well with any telescope, but through the Omni XLT 102AZ, most galaxies appear as indistinct, featureless smudges regardless of how good our viewing conditions are. A few of the brightest galaxies, however, such as the Andromeda Galaxy (M31) or the Cigar Galaxy (M82), show dust lanes and companion galaxies through the XLT 102AZ under dark skies. The Omni XLT 102AZ’s 4” aperture is sufficient for us to see many groups of galaxies as well as larger clusters like the Virgo Cluster, though all of their individual members appear as little more than “faint fuzzies” of varying shapes and sizes.

Planetary Targets

The chromatic aberration and small aperture of the Omni XLT 102AZ make it hard to see the moon and planets.

  • The Moon is a delight in any telescope, with thousands of surface features visible.
  • The phases of Venus are obvious.
  • We can just barely make out the phases of Mercury and the polar ice cap on Mars with the XLT 102AZ, along with any dust storms on Mars and possibly a couple of dark markings on its surface when it’s close to Earth.
  • Jupiter’s four large moons and cloud belts are visible, along with smaller details in the clouds, such as the Great Red Spot. On a good night, with the Omni XLT 102AZ, we can just about make out the disks and shadows of the four Galilean moons when they transit in front of Jupiter, provided we use high magnification.
  • The rings of Saturn are, of course, spectacular, along with the razor-thin Cassini division within and some dull cloud banding on Saturn itself. I could also see a few moons around Saturn.
  • Uranus and Neptune appear as featureless teal and blue orbs, as seen through the XLT 102AZ, barely distinguishable from surrounding stars of similar brightness. The moons of Uranus and Neptune are too faint to see with only a 4” telescope, as is Pluto. A 6-8” or larger telescope is required for any of these objects.
Zane Landers

An amateur astronomer and telescope maker from Connecticut who has been featured on TIME magazineNational GeographicLa Vanguardia, and Clarin, The Guardian, The Arizona Daily Star, and Astronomy Technology Today and had won the Stellafane 1st and 3rd place Junior Awards in the 2018 Convention. Zane has owned over 425 telescopes, of which around 400 he has actually gotten to take out under the stars. These range from the stuff we review on TelescopicWatch to homemade or antique telescopes; the oldest he has owned or worked on so far was an Emil Busch refractor made shortly before the outbreak of World War I. Many of these are telescopes that he repaired or built.

1 thought on “Celestron Omni XLT 102AZ Review: Recommended Scope”

  1. Just bought this at Costco on clearance for 230 canadian, taxes included. Thats about 170 American. Pretty excited.😀

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