The Celestron Inspire 100AZ telescope ($ 359.95 / £ 249) is worth investigating if you want to get great views of the moon, planets and more while experimenting with some basic astrophotography.
Celestron Inspire 100AZ: main specifications
Optical design: Refractor
Opening: 3.94 in / 100 mm
Focal length: 25.98 in / 660 mm
Focal ratio: f / 6.5
Focal length of the eyepiece: 0.8 inch / 20mm (33x) and 0.4 inch / 10mm (66x)
Total weight of the kit: 20 lbs / 9.07 kg
Mounting Type: altazimuth
A basic 4-inch / 100mm refractor, it has no “go-to” features, so you’ll need to be sure enough to find your lenses in the night sky.
If you’ve ever thought about taking pictures of the moon, you’ll love the innovative smartphone camera mount hidden in the dust cap. It’s an accurate way to position your smartphone over the eyepiece with any slip, although in addition to this novelty there’s a good-value telescope that offers good views of the moon, planets, and deep sky.
Celestron Inspire 100AZ telescope: Design
- Panhandle movement
- 1.25 inch eyepiece holder
- Achromatic lens
An achromatic refractor with an aperture of 4 inches / 100mm and a reasonably short focal length of 660mm, the Celestron Inspire 100AZ is designed to be used at home by beginners for planets, the moon and deep sky objects. It is perched on a simple alt-azimuth stand that moves from side to side and up and down, with a handle to find the exact desired position and lock it in place.
Additional kit supplied with the telescope
Kellner 10mm and 20mm eyepieces
Camera holder with dust cap
StarPointer Pro red dot finder
Erect the diagonal of the image star
Red LED light
Celestron Starry Night Basic Edition software
The Celestron Inspire 100AZ is quite light. Weighing in at 20lbs / 9.07kg in total, it’s by no means a heavy telescope, but the 26in / 660mm long optical tube and large tripod give it a reasonably large footprint. That said, it can be built and disassembled quickly and easily, so it could definitely be put in the back of a vehicle and taken on trips to dark-sky destinations.
It also comes with a StarPointer Pro finder and also an upright 90º image diagonal, which makes it more convenient and convenient to view objects at the zenith.
Celestron Inspire 100AZ telescope: performance
- It excels with lunar views
- Slight chromatic aberration
- Deep space objects lack the wow factor
Rising to the east just as we started the review, Saturn was easy to locate using the bullseye-style finder scope and 20mm eyepiece. A bright image with many details can be obtained through the 20mm eyepiece, but not so on the 10mm, which was constantly blurry in comparison. We found the same on super bright Jupiter, where wide-field views revealed a purplish halo around the giant planet. However, this “false” color chromatic aberration is quite minor on the 100AZ and far less distracting than some cheaper competing refractors. Ditto for the moon, which we observed from a crescent moon during its full moon phase and got some great close-ups of its craters, although a purplish line around her limb was visible, albeit not dominant.
Move deeper into the cosmos and the 100AZ continues its good work, clearly showing Andromeda (M31) and some of the brightest star clusters, although it lacks the opening to explore the true deep sky.
Celestron Inspire 100AZ telescope: Functionality
- Easy to assemble and disassemble
- Built-in red light / flashlight
- Integrated smartphone adapter
The Celestron Inspire 100AZ is really easy to set up. The telescope tube itself attaches to the tripod mount using a Vixen-style dovetail plate, so it’s simple to assemble and disassemble. Unfortunately the altazimuth mount is of medium quality, it lacks precision. For example, the left-to-right swivel is stiff and must be extended well beyond the target because it recoils slightly when the panhandle is released. However, once in place, the altitude movement is more precise and can be locked in place using the panhandle. Thanks to the relative solidity of the mount it is therefore possible to simply push the eyepiece slightly to follow, for example, the moon as it begins to move out of the field of view.
The tripod has an accessory tray that doubles as a stabilizer, on which you can store a pair of eyepieces in custom slots, which is convenient. However, something it has here too is a red light. It points down and can light up the accessory tray upon request, although you can remove it just as easily as it’s actually just a red flashlight.
If it’s an unusual and clever design, so is the Celestron Inspire 100AZ’s innovative dust cap. The idea is that a smartphone can be clipped to the front and fixed in place with its camera on a circular hole in the dust cap. It works well, with elastic straps provided to secure a smartphone in a fixed position. You then need to remove a small cap in the dust cap and insert the top of the eyepiece, which then needs to be secured using a pair of tiny thumb screws.
With everything in place, the eyepiece can then be inserted into the diagonal with a perfectly positioned smartphone to start taking focal photographs. It works well, although it’s worth being quick to set it up because once you’ve hooked your smartphone and fixed the eyepiece, your lens will have drifted away. The only way to get it back will probably be to use the same eyepiece. Users are advised to obtain a second 20mm eyepiece.
It is worth noting that due to its rather unusual hood design, the Celestron Inspire 100AZ cannot accept sunscreens, so it should never be used for observing the sun.
Should you buy the Celestron Inspire 100AZ telescope?
It’s not perfect and it excels, and like most refractors, it does its best with the moon and planets, but the Celestron Inspire 100AZ has more to get excited about than many of its cut-price rivals. The build quality, especially the tripod, is a step up while its openness is barely enough for beginners to explore objects beyond the solar system. The icing on the cake is its clever lens cap, which transforms into a smartphone holder for astrophotography, instantly giving it another dimension. If you want to avoid the bottom of the market but don’t want to spend a lot, the 100AZ is an interesting solution.
If the Celestron Inspire 100AZ telescope isn’t for you
If you want help orienting yourself in the night sky, consider the Celestron StarSense Explorer DX 102AZ, which comes with a smartphone holder and an app to create a satellite navigator for the night sky.
For the widest aperture that can access bright images of deep sky objects, try the Celestron StarSense Explorer 8 inch Dobsonwhich is great in size and value. If you are looking for something as small as possible and are only interested in the moon, then a mini-Dobson like the Celestron FirstScope 76should appeal.
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