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Solomark Polaris 130mm EQ Review: Not Recommended

The Solomark Polaris 130mm EQ has acceptable optics, but is weighed down (albeit only figuratively) by a poor design, mediocre accessories, and its rather high price tag.
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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.

Tested by
TelescopicWatch
2.7
/5

Score Breakdown

Optics: 4/5

Focuser: 2/5

Mount: 2/5

Moon & Planets: 2/5

Rich Field: 3/5

Accessories: 2/5

Ease of use: 4/5

Portability: 4/5

Value: 2/5

Read our scoring methodology here

At first glance, the Solomark Polaris 130mm EQ didn’t seem that bad to me. But it’s in many ways flawed in the same manner as the Celestron AstroMaster 130EQ that I’ve tested earlier.

The optics are acceptable and the telescope certainly works okay. But its overall design and included accessories are less than acceptable, let alone at the price it commands, which rivals that of a 6” Dobsonian. I also have to consider the fact that the Polaris 130mm EQ is more expensive than even a good 114mm or 130mm tabletop Dobsonian telescope, which provides me with much better visuals overall.

If you must have a 130mm equatorial reflector, I’d recommend the Gskyer 130mm EQ or Orion SpaceProbe 130ST instead. A tabletop Dobsonian like the Sky-Watcher Heritage 130P or the larger Heritage 150P would be even better.

I’ve also observed that, as with many less-than-good beginner telescopes, reviews on Amazon of the Solomark Polaris 130mm EQ are biased, with many people just happy to get a semi-acceptable view of the Moon or Jupiter at low magnifications with this telescope and giving it a 5-star rating. Don’t worry; I’ve adequately examined and tested this telescope for you.

Solomark Polaris 130mm EQ

How It Stacks Up

Ranks #17 of 22 ~$500 telescopes

Rank

Telescope

Rating

#17

Solomark Polaris 130EQ

2.7

See All Telescopes' Ranklist

Best Similar Featured Alternative: Orion SpaceProbe 130ST EQ Reflector

What We Like

  • Good optics
  • Included eyepieces and finder are acceptable
  • Fairly wide field of view
  • Portable and lightweight
  • Usable, if slightly undersized, mount

What We Don't Like

  • Low-quality plastic focuser
  • Bad finderscope
  • Poor value for the money
  • Needs a screwdriver to adjust primary mirror collimation
  • Not very easy to aim
  • Nonexistent customer service
Not Recommended Telescope

I would recommend a tabletop Dobsonian—or at least an alternative and higher-quality reflector model from a different brand—over the Solomark Polaris 130mm EQ. 

The Good Optics Quality

The Solomark Polaris 130mm EQ is a 130mm (5.1”) f/5 Newtonian reflector with a focal length of 650mm.

The optics in these telescopes at least seem to be parabolic, though there is the concern of shoddy spherical mirrors (which cannot provide a sharp image at high magnification) being swapped in, as is, unfortunately, the case with the Celestron AstroMaster 130EQ. The Sky-Watcher Heritage 130P, Zhumell Z130, and Gskyer 130mm EQ all feature proven 130mm f/5 parabolic optics, the same as the Polaris 130mm EQ, and are vastly superior telescopes as a whole.

In my experience, an f/5 telescope performs acceptably with most 1.25” eyepieces, though the edge of the field of view can have some aberrations like astigmatism, particularly with cheap oculars like the ones supplied with the Solomark Polaris 130.

Collimation of Optics

At f/5, collimation (alignment of the primary and secondary mirror optics) is something that I consider fairly critical for good performance.

Unfortunately, a screwdriver is needed to collimate the Polaris 130mm EQ, and the screws for collimating the primary mirror are hidden behind a cover that I have to pry off the back of the telescope. The secondary mirror can be adjusted with a hex key, which is standard for most telescopes.

A collimation tool is not provided with the Polaris 130mm EQ, but you can easily make one yourself.

The Questionable Focuser

The focuser on the Polaris 130mm EQ is a 1.25” rack-and-pinion unit made entirely out of plastic. This is not the focuser I typically see being supplied with cheap reflectors but rather a very low-quality focuser taken from a 60mm or 70mm “department store” refractor with an adapter fitted on.

It is unusually tall, which I think it owes to its origins as being designed for a refractor. And it suffers from a huge amount of backlash and sloppiness, making focusing at higher magnifications difficult.

I’ve also noticed a fair amount of shift when I focus the telescope, displacing my target from the center of the field of view and exacerbating the problems of the Polaris 130mm EQ’s less-than-stable mount/tripod, which I talk about later in the article.

Acceptable Eyepieces

The Polaris 130mm EQ comes with two 1.25” Kellner eyepieces: a 20mm providing 33x and a 10mm providing 65x.

These eyepieces have metal barrels and glass optics and provide fairly sharp views, though the apparent field of each is only about 50 degrees. And the 10mm is rather short on eye relief, requiring me to jam my eye into it to take in the whole field.

The provided eyepieces are acceptable. But you’ll want more and better eyepieces if you are stuck with the Polaris 130mm EQ in order to get the best possible views out of it.

Offers a Bad Barlow and a Finderscope

A 1.25”, 1.5x “erecting Barlow” is included with the Polaris 130mm EQ, which, when used, is a low-quality prism/Barlow lens that provides fuzzy images (though technically upright and slightly magnified). The optics and body are both plastic, and we really don’t need an erecting prism for a Newtonian reflector telescope anyway. It is basically complete garbage, I’d say.

For a finder, Solomark includes a 6×30 magnifying unit.

But unlike the 6x30s provided with many other beginner telescopes, which I consider acceptable quality if uncomfortable to look through, the Solomark 6×30 is complete junk. It has a plastic bracket that’s hard, if not outright impossible, to adjust for alignment. It also has plastic optics that provide fuzzy and dim views. It makes aiming the already tricky-to-aim equatorial mount nearly impossible and causes me a lot of frustration when trying to find pretty much anything besides the Moon in the night sky.

A SmartPhone Adapter That Works

A smartphone adapter is also provided with the Polaris 130mm EQ, which features a built-in 1.5x loupe to scale up the image for smartphones. This works well.

When I tried it, it could clamp onto most cheaper 1.25” eyepieces without difficulty, such as aftermarket “Goldline” and “Redline” oculars as well as the ones provided with the scope.

An Unnecessary Moon Filter

Lastly, a 1.25” “Moon filter” is provided to screw onto the eyepieces. It dims the image by 87%, making the view slightly fuzzy. I don’t think it’s really needed. Although moonlight seems bright, it is far too dim to hurt our eyes, so I think the increased viewing comfort provided by the filter isn’t worth the sacrifice of image clarity.

The EQ-3 Mount

The Polaris 130mm EQ uses the same “EQ-3” mount as many inexpensive equatorial 130mm reflectors, like those from Celestron, Orion, and Gskyer. It is a German equatorial mount (there is no “German Technology” here like the advertising claims—it’s all made in China).

The EQ-3 mount is easy to motorize with a suitable aftermarket drive, which allows you to track objects hands-free and take stacked images of the Moon and planets. However, the mount, tripod, and focuser of the Polaris 130mm EQ are not up to the task of deep-sky astrophotography in any form.

The Not-so-easy EQ Mount Setting Process

Setting up this mount is a little complicated.

You have to extend and level the tripod, balance the telescope and counterweights, and then get the mount approximately polar aligned. Once you do so, the mount is fairly simple to use: you unlock the clutches to aim at a target, lock the clutches, and then use the slow-motion cables on the mount to fine-tune your positioning. You then use the right ascension slow-motion cable to track your target as it moves from east to west across the sky.

There is some slop and backlash in the EQ-3’s controls, but they work well enough.

The Instability Factor of The Mount

The extruded aluminum tripod legs are not the sturdiest, and the telescope is certainly not as steady at high magnification nor as easy to aim and set up as a Dobsonian telescope.

Putting a weight on the accessory tray or filling the legs with sand, as well as not extending the legs if you can avoid it, helps with stability. But it’s still a bit wobbly and hard to aim precisely.

Should I buy a Used Solomark Polaris 130mm EQ?

I don’t really like the Polaris 130mm EQ in the first place. But if one comes up at a suitably low price, it’s worth it, especially if you’re willing to do some tinkering to make it more stable and improve the focuser. As usual, check for obvious damage and make sure the mirror coatings are not corroded.

Alternative Recommendations

The Polaris 130mm EQ is far from our first pick in its price range. Here are some of our alternative recommendations:

Under $300

  • The Sky-Watcher Heritage 130P has the same optics as the Solomark Polaris 130mm EQ, but is easier to collimate, features better accessories and a better focuser, has a collapsible tube, and is mounted atop a sturdy and easy-to-use tabletop Dobsonian mount.
  • The Zhumell Z114 and the copycat Orion StarBlast 4.5 Astro have less aperture than the Solomark Polaris 130mm EQ, but come with better accessories, easy-to-use tabletop Dobsonian mounts, and better quality control.
  • The Orion StarBlast II 4.5 EQ shares the optics and features of the StarBlast 4.5 Astro but is mounted atop an equatorial mount like the Solomark Polaris 130mm EQ, which is less stable but works if you must have an equatorial mount and tripod.

$275-$350

  • The Sky-Watcher Heritage 150P has more aperture and thus better performance than the Solomark Polaris 130mm EQ, with a tabletop Dobsonian mount, quality included accessories, and a collapsible tube for portability.
  • The Popular Science Celestron StarSense Explorer DX 100AZ Refractor has similar light-gathering and resolving capabilities to the Solomark Polaris 130mm EQ, but its alt-azimuth mount and tripod is rock-solid, the included accessories are decent, and the Celestron StarSense Explorer technology assists you in navigating the night sky with your smartphone. However, being a fast refractor, it does have some chromatic aberration that impairs high-power viewing.
  • The Gskyer 130EQ Reflector offers many of the same basic features of the Solomark Polaris 130mm EQ, but with better accessories, a better focuser, and more attention to quality control.

Aftermarket Accessory Recommendations

If you are stuck with the Polaris 130mm EQ, you might as well upgrade it to perform at its best.

On the low-power end, the provided 20mm Kellner provides a rather narrow field of view; the Agena 25mm Starguider provides 26x magnification and a true field of 2.4 degrees with the Polaris 130mm EQ, versus the 33x and 1.5-degree field provided by the stock 20mm Kellner, in addition to having a wider apparent field of view, more eye relief, and better contrast/sharpness, especially towards the edges of the field. 

A 15mm SWA or redline eyepiece (43x) fits nicely in magnification between the stock 20mm and 10mm Kellners. A 6mm “goldline” or “redline” will give you 108x, ideal for planetary and double star viewing. And a 3.2mm planetary eyepiece will provide 203x magnification, at around the limit of what a 5” telescope like the Polaris 130mm EQ can handle (as well as typical atmospheric conditions), but is great for planetary viewing or splitting the closest double stars.

Like many other cheap equatorial mounts, the Polaris 130mm EQ’s mount has some provisions for attaching a motor drive. The Celestron Logic Drive attaches in just a few minutes and will automatically track, saving you the hassle of adjustments at high magnification and allowing for basic lunar and planetary astrophotography as well. 

While somewhat expensive, a UHC (ultra high contrast) nebula filter, namely our top pick, the Orion 1.25” UltraBlock filter, enhances your views of nebulae like the Orion Nebula by only letting through the colors (technically the narrow spectral emissions) emitted by the ionized gases in the nebula. It screws onto the threads on the bottom of your 1.25” eyepieces.

What can you see with Solomark Polaris 130EQ?

The short focal length and thus fairly wide field provided by the Solomark Polaris 130EQ make it ideal for viewing larger deep-sky objects such as open star clusters, particularly with the use of a wider-field eyepiece than the provided 20mm Kellner.

Deep-Sky Targets

Open star clusters can be viewed almost anywhere, even from fairly light-polluted locales, and can feature hundreds of colorful stars inside. The Double Cluster in Cassiopeia, M11 in Scutum, the famous Pleiades (M45) in Taurus, and M35 in Gemini are some examples of showpiece open clusters that I could easily see in the provided 6×30 finder or even with the naked eye under suitably dark skies.

I could also resolve the brightest globular star clusters, albeit barely, with the Polaris 130EQ, though a higher magnification than the 65x provided by the stock 10mm Kellner gives me the best results. Even with the 6×30 finder scope, some globular star clusters can be seen. M3, M13, M15, and M22 all show their outer member stars at high magnification under suburban or darker skies with the Polaris 130EQ. Dimmer ones remain “faint fuzzies” devoid of detail regardless of magnification and viewing conditions, however.

Galaxies can be seen with a 130mm aperture telescope like the Polaris 130EQ, though I’m able to see them best under dark skies with little to no light pollution. Even so, most galaxies are too dim to see much in the way of detail with a fairly small instrument. A few, like M31 (Andromeda) or M82 (the Cigar Galaxy), show dust lanes under good conditions, and galaxy groups like the Virgo Cluster, the elliptical galaxies orbiting M31, or the Leo Triplet can be seen without too much difficulty. In total, a few hundred galaxies are visible scattered throughout the night sky with a telescope of this size. A handful of the brightest and biggest planetary nebulae, like M27 (the Dumbbell), M57 (the Ring), and NGC 2392, can be seen; a UHC filter allows me to see the gigantic Helix Nebula under dark enough skies, too. 

The Polaris 130mm EQ can also show me bright emission nebulae, like the Orion Nebula (M42), the Lagoon (M8), and the Swan (M17). A UHC nebula filter brings out fainter detail and enhances contrast on these objects, as well as revealing new ones like the Veil Nebula in Cygnus and the previously-mentioned Helix planetary nebula.

Solar System Targets

A 130mm aperture telescope like the Polaris 130mm EQ is a great performer on Solar System objects, too.

Mercury and Venus show their phases, and I could see thousands of details on the Moon, with features mere miles wide visible under good-sighting conditions, such as craters, mountain ranges, and ridges.

The polar ice caps and dust storms on Mars can be seen, and the Polaris 130mm EQ can resolve a few dark markings when the planet is closest to Earth and the air is sufficiently steady.

The 6×30 finder scope reveals the moons of Jupiter; their disks are visible at high magnification along with their shadows whenever they transit in front of Jupiter itself. Jupiter shows various colorful and constantly-changing cloud bands and storms, including the famed Great Red Spot, which is visible amidst the southern equatorial cloud belt on a steady night. 

The Polaris 130mm EQ shows Saturn’s rings easily, along with the Cassini Division within them and some cloud belts on Saturn itself on a clear and steady night. A few moons, such as Titan and Rhea, can also be seen around Saturn.

Uranus’ disk can be resolved, but a 130mm telescope is not big enough to reveal any of its subtle cloud details or faint moons.

Neptune is hard to resolve at all but its large moon, Triton, is faintly visible close besides it.

Pluto is too dim to see with the Polaris 130mm EQ; a telescope around twice the size is the minimum I need to guarantee success.

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.

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