Celestron Powerseeker 70AZ telescope review

The Celestron Powerseeker 70AZ is frequently a top recommendation when people ask me what telescope they should get their kids as a first telescope. Let’s find out why.

Celestron Powerseeker 70AZ telescope

Their First Telescope

That first telescope is much more important that most parents realize as it can help foster an interest in astronomy and science in general, or completely destroy the child’s interest. You probably wonder how that could be, and that is an excellent question.

Let’s look at this a different way; assume your kid wanted to play little league baseball. You went out and bought them a glove and a ball but when it came to the bat you bought one of those foam bats you can hit people with and not hurt anyone. Every time they tried to hit a baseball, the bat would simply flex and never actually make the baseball do anything. Since they never got a hit, always struck out, they would quickly loose interest and give up the game.

Who wants to play a game where you never even have a chance of winning no matter how hard you practice and try? No one, that’s who.

So now let’s switch to astronomy; you buy them a great book on astronomy and a cool map showing where some amazing objects are, then you give them a telescope that even when used by a professional could not identify a car across a football field much less the planet Jupiter in the night sky. It wobbles, it’s blurry, and it is extremely hard to navigate. What do you think their reaction would be? 

The good news is that you don’t have to spend a fortune to get a reasonable telescope that will keep them interested, and this telescope is one of those.

The Celestron Powerseeker 70AZ

The Celestron Powerseeker 70AZ telescope is a refractor telescope with a 70mm aperture on an alt/az mount and is pretty well made for it’s price of around $80. A large part of the telescope and mount are actually metal and have more stability than you might expect from a telescope of this size.

From the minute you unbox the Celestron Powerseeker 70AZ you can tell it is a much better telescope than those cheap department store models. Setup is pretty easy and straight forward consisting of a few thumb screws and requiring no tools.

Celestron Powerseeker 70AZ side view

The current model of the Celestron Powerseeker 70AZ comes with an adequate 5x24mm finder scope (just barely), a 20mm eyepiece, a 4mm eyepiece (useless) and a 3x barlow (also useless).

Celestron Powerseeker 70AZ accessories

You are probably wondering why I like the Celestron Powerseeker 70AZ when I use terms like barely adequate and useless when I describe the accessories. Good question.

Virtually every manufacturer of lower end telescopes these days throws in some junk so that their “specifications” are better than the competitor’s, and the Celestron Powerseeker 70AZ is no exception. It is simply a sales tactic and it does not apply to just astronomy equipment. The last time I bought a toaster oven it came with racks and trays I have never had a use for, but it sure looked cool on the box that it came with all this extra stuff. Same thing here.

I don’t really penalize the Celestron Powerseeker 70AZ for doing what everyone else does, particularly since the quality of the scope is high enough for the price that I could simply throw away the 4mm eyepiece and barlow.

In comparison to other telescopes like the Celestron Powerseeker 80eq, the Celestron Powerseeker 70AZ has a longer focal length making it a better choice for close ups of the moon and viewing planets.

Comparing the Celestron Powerseeker 70AZ to something like a Celestron Powerseeker 127eq reflector telescope it does not require near the cool down time (the 127eq has two mirrors which need to acclimate to the outside temperature before use or extremely blurry images could result) and requires no maintenance or adjustments such as the collimation required by the 127eq. The 127eq also requires learning how to use an equatorial telescope mount whereas the alt/az mount on the 70AZ is pretty much intuitive even to children with no experience. This makes the Celestron Powerseeker 70AZ a better choice for kids and first time telescope users.

Using the scope

Where the Celestron Powerseeker 70AZ shines is actually using the telescope. With the alt/az mount there is nothing to learn, point it at something and look through the eyepiece, simple as that. 

The optics in this little scope are surprisingly good. No, they are not as good as say a $350 Orion Astroview 90mm refractor, but then again they are close enough to ignore considering how much cheaper they are. Images of the moon are very impressive although I would really like to have a moon filter (stay away from Celestron’s own moon filter) to make viewing a little more comfortable.

Saturn and Jupiter are clearly identifiable and a joy to watch, as is the Orion nebula and Andromeda galaxy. From there it is a mixed bag with objects such as the Pleadies being easy to see and pretty spectacular, The Lagoon and Eagle nebulae are quite pleasing but require a bit more effort, while the Ring and Dumbbell nebulae are virtually impossible to get any enjoyment out of with the Celestron Powerseeker 70AZ beyond finding them.

To some extent this can be improved with a couple of better eyepieces but I personally would probably suggest moving to a nicer telescope such as the previously mentioned Orion Astroview 90mm refractor if you find you outgrow the Celestron Powerseeker 70AZ and still want more.

I was originally a little concerned about the plastic rack and pinion focuser but after using it a few times it has proven to be remarkably smooth and tight, allowing virtually no play but still being easy to use. I think that the light weight of the diagonal and eyepiece along with the relatively small size of the telescope tube allows plastic to work well here whereas it would not in a larger telescope.

Speaking of the diagonal, the Celestron Powerseeker 70AZ comes with one made of plastic and a little unusual. Where most diagonals are angled the one included with the Celestron Powerseeker 70AZ is more of a ball shape with two tubes coming out. It also seems to be much more enclosed than a standard diagonal which should help keep dust, dirt and dew out of it over time.

 I am not really a fan of the finder but it serves it’s purpose fairly well. Like all finders, be sure you set it up during the day using a far away object such as the top of a telephone pole, water tower antenna, etc. Once it is adjusted it is acceptable. Of course, no telescope in this price range has a good finder because that would take money away from making the actual telescope better and we do not want that. You can do without a finder, but a terrible quality main telescope will just make the whole thing a waste of money, and the Celestron Powerseeker 70AZ is certainly not a waste.

Final thoughts

You will be hard pressed to find a better first telescope for a beginning astronomer. I really like to recommend the Celestron Powerseeker 70AZ because it is inexpensive, light weight, breaks down and stores small, requires no maintenance and provides more than adequate views of the most popular objects in the night sky. 


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Explore Scientific AR127 review

I recently bought an Explore Scientific AR127 (sometimes called the ES127 or just ES AR127) and thought I would add my experiences to the other ES AR127 reviews.

Back in October I bought an Orion 90mm f/11 scope to do visual. I didn’t want to spend much because I really don’t do much visual and didn’t have much of a desire to. Recently I have been wanting something a little more, a little larger. Not too large mind you because it won’t fit in the car with all the AP rig already in there (and I drive a full size car, Buick Lucerne). I looked around for something in the 120-130mm range, any larger and it would be too big a pain in the rear to use and I would have to have a new mount for sure. Too small and there won’t be much of an improvement over what I already have. I also really hate the finderscope on the old Orion but it used a weird mount so you can’t just slap a different finder in there. I would also like to use all the 2″ equipment I already have for my APO since the APO will be imaging while I use this. I wanted something much higher end than the standard starter 120mm scopes offered by Orion and Celestron, but where to look?

All the reviews pointed to Explore Scientific refractors, specifically the Explore Scientific AR127, as the finest non-ED/APO out there right now even discounting issues with their focusers. I chatted and emailed them and got really depressed. The chat was about the finderscope they include, an 8×50 finder with a proprietary mount, and the possibility of buying just an OTA with rings as I have no need for the finder or diagonal in their “kit”.

The employee in the chat session, Langlee, informed me that they had no alternative to the finder on the AR127 but I could contact one of their distributors, Camera Concepts, as they carried many different types of adapters.

After a quick call to Camera Concepts I was relayed a message from the owner and told to use double sided tape as they had no adapters for the Explore Scientific AR127. Yes, that is why I am looking to get a high end achro scope, so I can mount my accessories with double sided tape. Langlee also said they could probably get me just the OTA but he had to talk to accounting and would get back to me. So on to email which was the response about buying just the OTA and rings, which was from David. After many volleys back and forth the general gist of the conversation was that no, they would not sell me anything but their kit, and I should be happy to have it. I also found out that they have an entire machine shop dedicated to things like making finderscope mounts fit for customers (seems Langlee had no idea that part of the company even existed). So would they take the existing finderscope, mount and diagonal in trade for putting a $15 aftermarket vixen style shoe on the scope before they shipped it to me? Absolutely not because it is “Hard to pay our machinist with parts.  He prefers cash for some reason.” Yes, that is exactly what David told a prospective customer.

So I have to assume that even they don’t believe their finderscope and diagonal is worth $15. But enough of that, I want the Explore Scientific AR127 for the optics which are supposedly first rate, and indeed David challenged me to find another doublet with equal optics which he claims are 1/4 wave or less PV. This was right before David suggested velcro instead of double sided tape for my finder, LOL! So you may ask, if I was already this unhappy with their customer service, why would I buy their scope? Simple, I could not find anyone with a scope that had comparable optics in a comparable price range, anywhere, or I certainly would have bought elsewhere. Because of their terrible customer service, I decided to buy my AR127 from a different vendor, such as from Amazon HERE instead of direct from ES to add a safety net into the equation so I did not have to deal with ES at all.

Explore Scientific AR127 So here is the Explore Scientific AR127 mounted and ready for the night’s observing. How did she do?

Optics: First rate for an achro. Of course not even in the same league as my Orion APO, but then again it is larger and a fraction of the price. Views of stars shows some CA around them, but surprisingly enough Saturn and the Moon show only very minor CA. In fact, the views of the moon were amazing. This scope takes power like nobody! I even went to my 5mm Stratus and it held up well although it preferred the 8mm. Of course this is with my Orion 2″ diagonal. Note the three sets of collimation screws in the image below:

Explore Scientific AR127 objective  

Overall build quality of the Explore Scientific AR127: The tube is nice, paint is nice, rails and rings are very nice. The handle at the top is a really nice touch although it would be pretty useless to mount anything but since I have no need to mount anything I like it. Dew shield is not retractable like my Orion so the scope is pretty long.

Focuser: Although it performed fairly well I see why people don’t like it. It feels cheap, the lock works….kinda, and the tensioner works…kinda, there is no scale printed on it, and it does not rotate. The two knobs for lock and tension are so close together and so close to the same size, I am honestly not sure which I was turning at any given time. I see a new GSO focuser in this scope’s future. I wish it had a focuser like the one on my Orion.

Explore Scientific AR127 focuser knobs Documentation: You mean the packing slip? You must because that was all that was in the box.

Lens cap: Large, with a molded in handle, but plastic and not screw in. I much prefer the aluminum screw in of my Orion, but again, the Orion was a much more expensive scope.

Overall: I think I will keep the Explore Scientific AR127 because the optics are really good. I have a new finder shoe and scope on the way from Orion and am looking at focusers right now. With those two replacements this will be an excellent scope. As it stands I feel I overpaid ($649 with free shipping) for what I got, but maybe the sale of the diagonal and finder on the bay will help bring the cost down a little.

On a different note I mounted this scope on my Orion Skyview Deluxe mount for now which handled the load very well. I did have to make one modification which was a dovetail adapter from ScopeStuff.com as shown here:

Right view of the ScopeStuff adapter and here:

Left view of the ScopeStuff adapter  

I can’t say enough good about this dovetail adapter and the service from ScopeStuff. They shipped so fast I thought they made a mistake telling me when it shipped (same day I ordered it, well after 5pm their time) and it arrived two days later perfectly. The only downside was I had to buy longer bolts and more washers since I was running an aftermarket mounting plate but that was totally my problem and not theirs. If I had been using the factory plate what they sent would have worked fine. If you decide to get your own Explore Scientific AR127 (or ES127, whichever you want to call it) please use THIS LINK to help offset the costs of running this site.

I hope you enjoyed my little review of my Explore Scientific AR127!


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Orion Skyview Deluxe 90mm f/11 refractor

After purchasing my Orion Skyview Deluxe I thought I would share my thoughts on it.

Imaging can take many hours without touching anything. You just sit there. Sometimes I read, sometimes I watch TV, sometimes I browse the internet. Why not look around at the sky? So I found an Orion Skyview Deluxe on the bay that I liked, first because it was a refractor and I really like my refractors, second because it was kind of a classic from the 1980s or 1990s, and thrid because it was Orion and I really like my Orion stuff. I managed to get it for what I though was a reasonable price, just under what a new Orion Astroview 90mm would have cost and this one had a better mount and polar scope to boot. When it arrived there was a problem, they had not packed it well and the top plate where the scope mounts was broken:

Broken mount adapter  

So I emailed Orion, I could hear the laughter from here, no, there is no replacement part for an Orion Skyview Deluxe. I tried Astromart, dead silence. I tried a local welding shop, they laughed saying it was cheap pot metal and there was no way to repair it. They did however suggest a machine shop. After talking to Pat at ELM Machine in Oakhurst it seemed he was confident he could make a new one better than the old, and here is what he came up with:

New custom adapter   This isn’t “better” than the original, this is WAY WAY WAY better than the original! Excellent work Pat! Now my scope is in service and I will have more to do than read or watch TV while imaging for more than eight hours a night.

Orion Skyview Deluxe with new adapter I like this scope so well that even when it is not in use it is assembled and sitting in my living room where I can swing the scope around to look out the back window. I can also carry it through the sliding glass door and set it on the back upstairs deck. With a low power eyepiece the Orion Skyview Deluxe is a wonderful scope for watching the buzzards sitting in the tops of trees.


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