For visual observation and astrophotography, few telescope styles can compete with the tried-and-true refractor. Refractors provide incredible contrast and a full unobstructed view of whatever is in the eyepiece, and they’re the go-to for many serious astronomers and astrophotographers.
The Celestron Advanced VX6 refractor is an impressive scope that’s feature-rich and perfectly suited for visual astronomy and astrophotography. Today, we’re going to take an in-depth look at this powerful instrument to help you decide if the VX6 is a wise choice for you.
The VX6 refractor belongs to the VX series of telescopes, one of Celestron’s most comprehensive telescope lines. All told, there are 11 different models, including several refractors, SCTs, Maks, a RASA (Rowe-Ackermann Schmidt Astrograph), and even a few enticing-but-pricy EdgeHD models. You can see the full range on High Point Scientific’s site (opens a new tab).
While the scopes in this range are all very different, they all share the Celestron Advanced VX mount, a proven performer for visual observation and astrophotography.
The VX series scopes are aimed squarely at the experienced astronomer who is looking to take a step up from a beginner or novice outfit. These scopes range from around $1000 at the low end to $3,000 for the top-of-the-line 9.25” EdgeHD model.
The VX6 refractor which we’re reviewing here comes in around the middle of this range, and it will set you back around $1,600 (see today’s price – link opens in a new tab).
Things to Consider Before Buying
The VX6 is an excellent choice for astrophotographers and visual observers alike. It’s full of high-end features that can help elevate the hobby of astronomy to the next level for you.
Still, there are some essential details to consider before you decide to purchase one. Sure, the VX6 is an excellent telescope, but is it an ideal telescope for you? Read on and decide.
Who is This Model For?
The VX6 is an excellent jack-of-all-trades telescope in the sense that it’s a wise choice for both visual astronomy and astrophotography. The f/8 focal ratio provides a nice field of view that’s wide enough to enjoy views or take photos of the deep sky but still within the more narrow sweet spot that you’ll want for lunar and planetary shots and views.
While there are a few minor caveats with this telescope that we’ll cover in depth below, the build quality of all the components is exemplary, and this telescope is built to provide you a lifetime of enjoyment.
From a value perspective, the VX6 becomes even more attractive. It offers impressive optical quality, a rock-solid mount, and several quality accessories that will help you take your hobby to new heights. Yet, it’s still priced much more affordably than many other scopes aimed at the intermediate astronomer looking to upgrade from a beginner telescope.
Who Should Not Buy It?
Most astronomers who choose the VX6 do so to use it as an astrophotography instrument. To that end, this telescope is a proven performer. But, if you’re an experienced photographer who needs a scope to take your shots to the next level, you may be disappointed by the VX6.
While this refractor offers all the contrast and clarity you could ever ask for, this scope is an achromatic refractor, not an apochromatic. As such, you can expect to see some degree of chromatic aberration in images.
If you’re searching for a professional-grade astrophotography instrument, the VX6 is going to fall slightly short of expectations. However, apochromatic scopes are substantially more expensive (think at least double the price of this scope) and so the VX6 is very attractive for the more casual astrophotographer.
The other thing to look out for affects you if you’re planning to use this telescope for visual observations. There’s no disputing that the large, unobstructed lens of the VX6 delivers inky-black skies and pin-sharp stars and planets.
However, at its heart, it is still just a 6″ telescope. It may be as good as an 8″ Dob – the contrast seen in a refractor often makes up for its smaller aperture – but it’s not going to out-perform a 12″ Dob (like this one) when it comes to fainter deep sky objects. And the Dob is hundreds of dollars cheaper.
Features and Benefits
When shopping for any telescope, whether your budget is $100 or $10,000, you’ll always want to evaluate the features and benefits the instrument will offer you. Here are the areas you’ll want to consider, which we’ll discuss in greater detail below.
- Optical performance
- Mount performance
- Included equipment
- Setup & Use
- What You Can See
Let’s take a look at each of these in turn.
Standard Magnification Table
The table below shows the magnification levels you’ll achieve with this scope using a 25mm, 18mm, and 10mm eyepiece. The bottom row shows what this would be with a 2x Barlow Lens.
|With 2x Barlow:||96x||133x||240x|
One of the most critical areas to evaluate is the quality of the optical components inside the optical tube assembly (OTA, i.e. the telescope itself). At this price point, all the other aspects of a telescope become irrelevant if its optics aren’t rock solid.
The VX6 delivers impressive marks when it comes to its optical performance. A 6” refractor like this one sucks in plenty of light, providing the illumination you need to bring darker objects into focus in all of their glory.
Unlike a reflector, this refractor has no central obstruction stopping light getting into the tube. This is why refractors deliver more light per inch to your eye and with incredible contrast and clarity.
Both the inside and outside of the OTA are exceptionally finished, and the internal paint job is pristine, leaving no room for shadows or aberrations caused by stray light. All of the lens components are fully multicoated to provide exceptional optical performance.
This model fits nicely into the VX line of Celestron’s, and while each scope is a different design, they all offer the same rock-solid optical quality that Celestron has built their reputation on.
This telescope is provided with a single 20mm Plossl eyepiece, which provides 60x magnification. The eyepiece is well made from quality materials, and it offers a nice wide field of view that’s well suited to deeper sky observation.
It’s a solid start, but you’ll want to add more quality eyepieces to truly get the most out of this powerful scope. Consider smaller focal lengths right away to make the most of that contrast when staring at craters on the Moon or Jupiter’s cloud belts. Adding a 2x Barlow lens is a quick way of doubling your magnification options.
With many intermediate telescopes, the included mount is one of the low points of the entire outfit. Most are either undersized for the OTA they’re paired with, or they’re made poorly from mediocre components.
The VX line is a breath of fresh air in that regard, and it’s an impressive mount by practically every measure.
This computerized mount offers a heavy-duty adjustable tripod with 2” legs for stability and support. Payload shouldn’t be an issue for this robust mount, which can support up to 30 pounds, which is more than ample for both the 6″ refractor telescope and its accessories. The saddle plate is a dual-width model, which is compatible with both CG-5 and CGE dovetails.
Controlling the mount is a breeze with the NexStar+ hand controller, which will automatically slew to any object in its massive 40,000+ object database. The slew speed is impressive, and the mount offers nine speeds and slews at up to 4-degrees per second. The controller also provides backlash compensation and periodic error correction.
The mount is hefty, coming in at 35 pounds (16 kg), and all that weight translates to a stable mount with almost no vibration. Lesser quality mounts tend to vibrate like crazy, which is frustrating at best, and at worst, it’ll ruin your chances at taking quality photos.
However, all of that weight also translates into a model that is definitely not ‘grab and go’. With every telescope there is compromise, here you’re paying for a truly great mount and steady images at the cost of lightweight transport.
Beyond the OTA and mount, there are a few additionals you’ll find with the VX6. You’ll also receive a 9×50 finderscope, which is a capable and useful magnifying finderscope.
The focuser is a 2” rack and pinion model, and it’s built solidly of all metal and includes an adapter for use with both 2” and 1.25” accessories. This is a single-speed model, and it’s a quality piece all around, but it doesn’t have quite the same refinement as a good Crayford would.
The NexStar+ controller is standard equipment for all of Celestron’s motorized scopes, and it’s loaded with features that make it incredibly easy to use, so you can spend your time focused on observation or astrophotography.
The controller provides a database of over 40,000 objects grouped into a variety of catalogs to make browsing easier. The 2-line screen makes it easy to scroll through the catalog and select objects. There are several assignment procedures programmed, including SkyAlign, 1-star, 2-star, solar system, and auto 2-star. There’s also an rs-232 port and auto guider port for computer control of the mount.
Setup & Use
Getting started with the VX6 is relatively simple, and you’ll be up and running in less than an hour after receiving your packaged scope.
All you’ll need to do is attach the telescope to the mount, drop in an eyepiece, enter your coordinates into the NexStar controller, and align the telescope. From there, select what you’d like to view and enjoy! The video below shows how easy it is to Sky Align your telescope.
The VX6 is a weighty outfit, coming in at exactly 75 pounds when it’s fully assembled. The individual components are all fairly manageable, and at just over four feet long, it’s easy to put the OTA into the backseat of any car. So transporting your scope to darker skies in your car is a breeze, but having to move with it on foot is going to be a challenge.
The Celestron PWI Telescope Control software is included. It offers a graphical planetarium interface with advanced modeling for superior tracking accuracy, and it allows for easy integration with third-party controls.
Also included is a copy of the Starry Night SE software, an great supplement for learning more about the solar system and beyond.
What You Can See
The VX6 provides exceptional views of both near sky and deeper sky objects, and it’s a great all-around performer.
For lunar and planetary use, the VX6 truly shines. From resolving tiny craterlets on the moon’s surface to the cloud belts of Jupiter and its Great Red Spot, the VX6 delivers incredible clarity and contrast.
Resolving double stars is a joy, and you’ll have thousands to practice on as you tour the skies. For brighter deep sky observation and photography, the VX6 once again delivers exceptional performance.
The only limitation of this model for visual observing comes from its 6″ aperture lens. This is a great lens for delivering gorgeous detail on bright objects but physics intervenes when it comes to fainter galaxies and nebulae.
That said, refractor lenses offer detail and clarity that makes up for their aperture. You shouldn’t be surprised to discover you can see objects just as well in this scope as you would in an 8″ reflector.
At its core, the VX6 is aimed squarely at astrophotography enthusiasts, so its performance in this category is of paramount importance.
While there are some drawbacks to this scope from an astrophotography perspective, it’s a great alternative to the significantly higher-priced telescopes required for professional-level photos.
The VX6 offers contrast and crispness to spare, but there is some minor chromatic aberration. Thankfully, it can be mitigated with a few inexpensive filters, and for astrophotographers on a budget, the VX6 could be a smart alternative to a pricier outfit.