The Optical Tube Overview
The PowerSeeker 50AZ is, as the name implies, a 50mm refractor, with a focal length of 600mm and thus a focal ratio of f/12. While absolutely tiny, the achromatic doublet objective lens is actually of high quality (glass, not plastic) and the f/12 focal ratio means there is basically no chromatic aberration, or false color, which you’d typically get on many larger refractors. Of course, the base quality of the optics is almost entirely irrelevant because pretty much every other aspect of the scope is junk.
While the tube is metal, the dew shield and focuser on the 50AZ are entirely plastic. This material choice in itself is not a huge problem – plenty of good scopes use plastic – but the low-quality workmanship combined with it is. The dew shield is shiny and thus can cause glare and reflection issues, while the rack-and-pinion focuser is so poorly made that its teeth are easily broken. Additionally, the focuser is 0.965” format which is no longer a size used by reputable telescope manufacturers, and obtaining quality 0.965” accessories is rather difficult.
The PowerSeeker 50AZ comes with 4 eyepieces: 20mm, 14mm, and 4mm Huygens oculars (providing 30x, 50x and 150x respectively) and a 1.5x image-erecting eyepiece that flips the image right-side up. Along with that, the scope features a 3x Barlow lens and a 90-degree star diagonal to make viewing through the eyepiece more comfortable.
This may seem like a generous amount of accessories for your money, but don’t be fooled. All of the accessories featured with the scope are made from cheap, low-quality plastic that completely bottlenecks the optical performance of the PowerSeeker. The Huygens eyepieces have a very narrow field of view and tiny lenses that make the view feel like you’re looking through a drinking straw, and the construction of all the accessories is almost entirely plastic. The 4mm Huygens is actually too much magnification for the scope to physically handle – and of course, the mount is so shaky that you’d be lucky to see anything at all with that magnification.
The included Barlow is absolutely unusable, being made entirely of plastic with extremely low optical quality. Oddly enough, the star diagonal is actually the worst of all – the mirror is nowhere near optically flat and significantly distorts the image. All of these accessories are of course in the outdated 0.965” format which severely limits upgrades without the purchase of an expensive hybrid diagonal, which converts the scope to the more commonly used format of 1.25” eyepieces. Getting a hybrid diagonal will probably cost nearly as much as the entire scope by itself, as will a quality 1.25” eyepiece or two.
The finderscope on the 50AZ – as with all the PowerSeekers – is a plastic-bodied, plastic lens 5×24 unit. Not only are the views through the finder quite dim and less-than-sharp, but the cheap bracket is poorly made and makes it somewhat difficult to align to the scope. However, while it is very poor quality the 5×24 finder does suffice for aiming the 50AZ – barely.
Overall, the inexpensive accessories included with the telescope make the observing experience more difficult and frustrating than it should be. Replacing them – which would again require getting a hybrid diagonal and 1.25” eyepieces, as well as perhaps a better finderscope would cost several times more than what the scope is worth.
The mount included with the PowerSeeker is an absolute joke, probably one of the worst of any scope we’ve reviewed. The azimuth axis is nothing more than a washer, nut, and bolt, with no friction mechanism, gears, or slow motion controls to speak of. The altitude axis is not much better.
The 50AZ’s tripod is manufactured from extremely thin aluminum tubing – so thin that a strong person can actually crumple the legs with their bare hands. It’s barely sturdy enough to support the insignificant weight of the optical tube. On an ideal night with solid ground, it’s just stable enough to provide decent views if you keep the legs completely retracted. However, if you extend the tripod legs at all (or if the wind happens to be blowing), the legs will buckle and bend and the view even at low magnification will be a wobbly mess. Aiming the telescope is also an exercise in frustration, as the mount is either too loose and will move of its own accord right past your target, or so stiff that it’s jerky and nearly impossible to get and keep it pointed at a target. The poor quality finder and Huygens eyepieces with the telescope itself don’t help.
Should I buy a Used PowerSeeker 70AZ?
If you’re looking for more suitable alternatives to the PowerSeeker 50AZ but have a budget of $100 or below, consider the following:
- The Zhumell Z100 and Orion SkyScanner (which are very similar) have double the aperture of the 50AZ, sharp parabolic optics, a wide field of view, decent included accessories, and are incredibly easy to use with their tabletop Dobsonian mountings.
- The Orion FunScope doesn’t have the greatest optics, but it’s far easier to use than the 50AZ and comes with better accessories.
- The Meade Infinity 70AZ is bigger, has a more stable mount, and is provided with better accessories, but it’s still lacking in aperture.
Aftermarket Accessory Recommendations
By the time you’d have purchased better accessories, you would have spent multiple times more than the actual value of the 50AZ, so it’s not worth bothering with upgrading anything. Save your money for a new telescope or a pair of binoculars.
What can you see?
Because of the fact that the scope is only 50mm (2”) in aperture, the amount of things you can observe with the 50AZ are very limited. The primary celestial objects you would be confined to are the moon, planets, and the very brightest deep-sky objects.
Not only does its small aperture limit what you can see, but also how well you can see them. Objects are far more dim and fuzzy in small-aperture scopes than they are in large ones. You should be able to get some decent detail on the moon and see Saturn’s rings, but that’s about it. Details on Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn, as well as Venus and Mercury’s phases, may be possible, but don’t expect to see individual stars in globular clusters or the swirling dust lanes of the Andromeda Galaxy with this scope, as its resolving and light-gathering power is strictly limited by its small size. Even the Orion Nebula is relatively lackluster with the 50AZ.