Celestron’s Powerseeker line once again fails to deliver with their 114AZ model. Like the Powerseeker 114EQ, the 114AZ sports a surprisingly good optical tube, but the accessories and mount totally fail to live up to it in terms of quality.
The PowerSeeker 114 Optical Tube
The PowerSeeker 114 optical tube (both EQ and AZ versions) is a 114mm (4.5”) f/8 Newtonian reflector, identical to the Orion XT4.5. These scopes provide sharp views, and I used a similar model to view the transit of Mercury back in 2016. Unlike with fast tabletop Dobsonians, collimation is super easy and coma is a non-issue with these scopes. The focuser is a 1.25” rack-and-pinion which works satisfactorily, and both the primary and secondary mirrors in the PowerSeeker 114 are collimatable.
If put on a Dobsonian mount (which would basically make it into a poor man’s Orion XT4.5), the PowerSeeker 114AZ would be an excellent scope, particularly if supplied with better accessories. Unfortunately, this is not the case.
Like all PowerSeekers the 114AZ comes with a 20mm “erect-image” Kellner-like eyepiece (providing 45x), a 4mm Ramsden (providing 225x, too much for the telescope), an all-plastic 3x Barlow lens, and a 5×24 finderscope with optics worse than the ones found in toy pirate spyglasses.
The 20mm erect-image eyepiece uses a prism to flip the image upright so you can use the PowerSeeker 114AZ for terrestrial viewing without the view being upside down. However, this prism is cheaply made and as a result, sucks up a lot of light and causes sharpness and scattering issues. The field of view is narrow, too, at less than 40 degrees – making it feel like one is looking through a soda straw. Also, 45x is rather much for a low-power eyepiece – the 36x provided by a typical 25mm eyepiece is more ideal.
The 4mm Ramsden uses two incredibly cheap and tiny lenses and an optical design dating to the 18th century. The field of view is narrow (about 30 degrees), the eyepiece adds significant chromatic aberration and flares to images, and looking through it is somewhat of a challenge due to the tiny eye lens and non-existent eye relief, forcing one to press their eyeball right up against the glass to see anything. And all of this is rather moot, as the 225x it provides is too much for a 4.5” telescope.
The 3x Barlow probably costs Celestron under a dollar to make and is entirely plastic. Using it with the 20mm eyepiece should result in 135x, but in practice, the aberrations the Barlow adds makes the image so fuzzy that it’s useless. And of course, the 675x it provides when used in conjunction with the 4mm Ramsden is laughably outlandish for almost any backyard telescope, let alone a small 4.5” Newtonian.
The 5×24 finderscope supplied with all PowerSeekers uses a single plastic lens element – arguably worse than the lens in Galileo’s first telescope – and an aperture stop to suppress the aberrations resulting from such a cheap lens, making the already-dim view almost unusable. Additionally, the eyepiece is equally primitive, focusing the finder is difficult, and the bracket is cheaply made and makes it difficult to align the finder with the main telescope. I don’t get why this finder is supplied with cheap telescopes anymore, as a far-superior red-dot sight can be bought for as little as $15 separately and probably could be thrown in without increasing the price by more than a few dollars. You can actually buy one of the said sights and install it right in place of the 5×24 finderscope if you desire without any drilling holes or removing screws/nuts inside the tube, but obviously this doesn’t solve the other accessory issues or the unstable, cheaply-made mount.
The Awful PowerSeeker AZ Mount
The PowerSeeker AZ mount is an extremely primitive alt-azimuth fork. Originally designed to hold 60mm-70mm department-store quality refractors, which already stretch its capacity, Celestron has elected to enlarge the forks to hold the 4.5” f/8 Newtonian optical tube. The thin, extruded-aluminum tripod legs almost entirely fail to hold the scope steady even at 45x and attempting to move or focus the scope results in unbearable vibrations. There are also no slow-motion controls of any kind on the mount. It’s hard to believe, but the EQ1 mount supplied with the PowerSeeker 114EQ is better than the 114AZ mount – at least it has slow-motion controls and holds the mount somewhat-adequately at low powers.
Unless you manage to acquire one of these scopes for a very low price and have the skills and dedication to build a Dobsonian mount and replace the accessories, I do not recommend the Celestron PowerSeeker 114EQ. The mount is entirely unusable, and the accessories are the usual cheaply-made PowerSeeker junk.