Celestron has been one of the most trusted names in the telescope industry since its inception in 1960. Their telescopes are well-regarded by professionals as well as experienced hobbyists and newbies alike. The AstroMaster 70AZ is one of their most affordable scopes, and it’s one of the most popular options for beginners.
This scope is part of Celestron’s AstroMaster LT line, including a 60mm refractor and a 76mm reflector telescope. New astronomers looking for a refractor scope should stick with the 70mm version for the extra light it gathers.
One of the reasons for the popularity of these scopes is their attractive price point. Most telescopes in the sub-$150 price range (check today’s price – link opens a new tab) are basically toys, but this telescope is a capable, if limited, stargazer that allows you to enjoy bright night sky objects, without breaking the bank.
Things to Consider Before Buying the AstroMaster 70AZ
The AstroMaster LT 70AZ scope from Celestron is an ideal starter scope for anyone interested in astronomy, particularly children (click here for our best telescopes for children, which will open in a new tab). But, there are some things to consider before deciding if this is the best scope for you.
The most notable feature of this telescope is its price. It can be purchased for about $150, which is a small ticket for a decent telescope, but sacrifices have to be made in a model this cheap.
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With this telescope, you’ll be treated to crisp and sharp images of many of the solar system’s showpiece objects, including the moon, stars, and planets. However, the 70mm aperture only gathers enough light to provide you with good views of the sky’s brightest objects.
At this price, the AstroMaster LT 70AZ represents a very low-risk opportunity to break into astronomy. You’ll want to temper your expectations from the outset, always remembering that this is a beginner telescope intended for beginner astronomers.
If you’re looking for a more advanced scope that can illuminate the deep sky, Messier objects, far away galaxies, and nebulae, this telescope is woefully underpowered for your needs.
Astronomers interested in seeing these more elusive objects will need to invest in a scope with a larger aperture capable of sucking in enough light to show these dimmer objects, like this 4.5″ SkyQuest from Orion.
Features and Benefits
Whether you’re evaluating the 70AZ or any other telescope for that matter, there are several different criteria you’ll need to evaluate to find the perfect scope for your needs.
Here’s what you’ll want to consider to select the perfect scope:
- Optical Performance
- Mount Performance
- Included Equipment
- Set-up & Use
- What You Can See
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:||72x||100x||180x|
Arguably the most important factor to consider when evaluating any telescope is the quality of the optics. Optical quality determines how much clarity and detail you can capture when you look through the scope.
The Celestron AstroMaster 70AZ offers a 70mm (2.75”) aperture refractor, the 70mm measurement is the diameter of its objective lens. The lens is set in a long tube giving a focal length of 900mm, which gives good color clarity by pretty much eliminating chromatic aberration.
(Chromatic aberration is where white light splits into its separate rainbow colors and can be an issue with some refractor scopes, read more here.)
The crown and flint glass used in this telescope is fully coated to provide good light transmission and clear, crisp imaging. Considering how affordable this scope is, the quality of the optics inside is rather impressive, but…
You can’t escape the impact of a small aperture. We are laboring the point so that you’re under no illusion, a sub-3″ aperture can only deliver rewarding images of bright objects. It’s great with double stars, the Moon’s craters, and brighter planets, but delivers a limited performance on dimmer objects.
The small aperture and long focal ratio of this scope combine to deliver a relatively small field of view, and that’s ideal for observing the brighter objects of the solar system.
The 70AZ offers a 1.25” rack and pinion focuser, which feels well built despite being made almost entirely from plastic.
The finderscope is a cheaper red dot type. It’s perfectly good for this model, making it easy to see and center the object you’re trying to view within the center of the telescope. Learn how to align a finderscope here.
The included 10mm and 20mm Kellner eyepieces are, as you’d expect, at the cheaper end of the eyepiece spectrum. They provide magnifications of 35x and 70x, respectively, and give good enough results until you’re ready to upgrade.
Given the low price of this scope, you shouldn’t expect very much from the mount. All things considered, Celestron provides an acceptable quality mount considering the price of this package.
The mount is quite similar to a camera tripod, so anyone with a rudimentary photography background should feel very comfortable working it. It offers an easy-to-grip panhandle to adjust the altitude and azimuth axes. Turn the handle to loosen it for movement and then lock it back in place.
Given the long focal length of the scope, it isn’t especially well balanced on the mount, and in most positions, you’ll need to keep the altitude lock tight to balance the scope. This will cause frustrations when you have to keep locking and unlocking, which makes the scope vibrate.
The mount doesn’t provide slow-motion controls, so it isn’t easy to keep objects centered when viewing at higher magnifications.
The lightweight construction of the mount further exaggerates these shortcomings. The legs are thin, and vibration is a significant issue. Fortunately, there are plenty of inexpensive (and free) ways to reduce mount vibration, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s not great out of the box.
On the positive side, it easy to set up and, when it’s time to put the telescope away, it does pack down quickly and easily by just sliding the accessory tray out of the way.
Given the low price of this scope, there isn’t much in the way of additional equipment. Celestron still manages to deliver a few valuable extras that will improve your stargazing experience.
Beyond the optical tube and mount, Celestron also includes a red dot reflex sight that makes it easy to find and center the objects you’re looking for in the sky. The sight is fixed to the optical tube, so it can’t be removed or replaced, but it’s surprisingly serviceable.
They also include an erect image diagonal, which properly orients images while allowing you to comfortably look through the eyepiece at any angle along the telescope’s axis.
Celestron also throws in an accessory tray for the mount, which allows you to keep eyepieces and other accessories within arm’s reach as you view the sky, but there are no holes in it to hold your eyepieces in place.
Setup & Use
As a scope intended for beginners, it’s important that it’s easy to set up and use. Happily, Celestron delivers in the ease of use department.
Getting started is as simple as unpacking the optical tube and mount, attaching the tube to the mount using the dovetail on the bottom of the scope, throwing on an eyepiece, and finding something to look at. Users will be able to set up this scope and enjoy it in about a minute.
Both the optical tube and mount are light, weighing in at only 18 pounds. You’ll have no trouble transporting your telescope in your car or on foot to wherever you’re headed.
Since it’s a refractor telescope, there’s no need to collimate the scope, which allows you to set up and enjoy your telescope anywhere without needing to worry about calibrating it.
Also included with the package is a copy of the Starry Night Basic Edition software, which allows you to enjoy the night sky with or without the help of a telescope.
This software is a fantastic educational supplement, but its 36,000 object database is overkill for this little telescope, which can’t show you a large chunk of the fainter objects.
What You Can See
The final concern when evaluating any telescope is what you’re able to see with it. As a telescope beginner, you’ll need to temper your expectations of what you can see through this scope.
That said, it still provides fantastic views of many of the showpiece objects in the sky. This telescope will allow you to view incredible detail of the Moon, the brighter planets, and double stars.
It will reveal the moons of Jupiter and its the planet’s bands, but not the Great Red Spot. You’ll see the crescent of Venus, especially when Venus is nearer to us. The rings of Saturn are revealed, but they’re small and blurred, and you could possibly see the polar ice caps of Mars when the Red Planet is near opposition and the seeing is good.
Given its small aperture, you’ll have trouble viewing deep-sky objects and any dimmer objects of the solar system, but you could glimpse both the Orion Nebula and a faint view of Andromeda Galaxy.
For astrophotographers, this scope falls well short, unfortunately. While this affordable telescope’s optical quality is quite good, it simply doesn’t provide the brightness or clarity necessary for astrophotography.
Beyond the optics, the light-duty mount included isn’t sturdy enough to support cameras or additional accessories. Since there’s no motor or GoTo, it’s impossible to track objects accurately enough to photograph them properly.