The Celestron NexStar range of computerized telescopes are some of the most popular on the market.
There are 12 telescopes in the range:
- four in the SLT category
- four in the SE category
- four in the Evolution category
But of these telescopes, what are the differences and which one is right for you? Below we assess them all and outline the pros and cons of each.
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1. Celestron NexStar SLT telescopes
Celestron NexStar SLT summary tableTable could not be displayed.
Celestron NexStar SLT telescope reviews
The Celestron NexStar SLT range are computerized telescopes with four different models. These are:
“SLT” stands for “Star Location Telescope”.
These are a range of refractor, reflector, and Maksutov Cassegrain telescopes.
(If you want to read more about different types of telescopes and what it means, see our guide on what to look for when buying a telescope).
The numbering – 90, 102, 127, 130 – refers to the aperture of the telescope as measured in millimeters (rather than inches, for the SE telescopes above).
These telescopes are most aimed at beginners and are the most “entry-level” of the different NexStar types.
- The SLTs are computerized (or GoTo) telescopes and can find objects in space for you automatically.
- They are relatively light and portable – especially the 90SLT and 127SLT.
- The SLT telescopes are generally the cheapest in the NexStar range (although please check live prices as these change).
- The SLT telescopes also come equipped with tripods but these are notably less sturdy than those that come with the SE or Evolutions.
Some basics of the NexStar SLT range are covered in this Celestron video:
- Celestron NexStar 90SLT
- Pros: Small and portable, easy to use
- Cons: Lowest power (aperture)
- Celestron NexStar 102SLT
- Pros: Relatively small and portable
- Cons: Relatively low aperture
- Celestron NexStar 127SLT
- Pros: Small and portable, more powerful than the similar 90SLT
- Cons: Greater investment required but worth considering the 4SE at a similar price bracket
- Celestron NexStar 130SLT
- Pros: Good value in relation to the power it offers
- Cons: Fairly large and heavy
2. Celestron Nexstar SE telescopes
Celestron NexStar SE telescope summary tableTable could not be displayed.
Celestron NexStar SE telescope reviews
The Celestron NexStar SE range of computerized telescopes has four different models. These are the:
The numbering – 4, 5, 6 or 8 – refers to the size of the aperture of the telescope. So the 4SE has a 4-inch aperture, the 5SE 5-inches, etc.
Power & light-gathering capacity – what you will be able to see
The higher the number, the wider the aperture, the greater the light gathering capabilities, and the greater the performance of the telescope to see objects in space.
Therefore, the 8SE is more powerful than the 6SE, and the 6SE is more powerful than then 5SE, and so on. In effect, this means that with a more powerful telescope the objects you are brighter and easier to see.
This is obviously one of the most important factors to consider when buying a telescope – what will you be able to see through it and what are its limits?
All four of the telescopes will enable you to see the planets in our Solar System, detail on the moon and even far off galaxies and deep sky objects. The difference between the four telescopes is that with each step up in size from the 4SE to the 8SE, the clearer and brighter these objects will appear.
The telescopes are programmed with a database of 40,000+ objects in space that can be automatically located and tracked.
Of course, there are other factors that will affect what you will be able to see through your telescope, particularly your location and how much light pollution you might have to deal with (this is particularly an issue around big cities). In fact, some argue that if you live in cities you could favor the smaller 4SE or 5SE models as any additional power above the 5SE will not be effective as light pollution will cancel it out.
This should not be your only consideration though. It is worth thinking about the size and weight of the telescope and whether you need it to be portable. A smaller telescope is much easier to move around and take on trips.
Ease of use
This range of telescopes is designed to be as easy as possible for set up and use and so can be suitable for beginners.
Less experienced users will have some learning to do to align the telescope, but the process is about as easy as it gets.
Some basics of the NexStar SE range are covered in this Celestron video:
Another consideration is, of course, price. The cost of these telescopes increases from the smallest model (the 4SE) in steps up to the largest model (the 8SE).
For most people, these telescopes would make reasonable investments and so be sure to think about what your budget is.
- Celestron NexStar 4SE
- Pros: Smallest and most portable. Most affordable. Easy to use
- Cons: Most limited in terms of what you will be able to see. Many of the objects in the database will appear quite dim.
- Celestron NexStar 5SE
- Pros: Upgrade from the 4SE in terms of power and performance. Still relatively light and portable.
- Cons: A little extra weight and extra cost when compared to the 4SE
- Celestron NexStar 6SE
- Pros: More powerful than the 5SE still. Still relatively light and portable.
- Cons: More expensive, but substantially cheaper than the 8SE.
- Celestron NexStar 8SE
- Pros: Most powerful, providing the best images of deep sky objects and capable of facilitating astrophotography of galaxies and nebulae.
- Cons: Most expensive, heaviest and least portable.
3. Celestron NexStar Evolution telescopes
Celestron NexStar Evolution telescopes summary table
Last update on 2021-09-09 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
Celestron NexStar Evolution telescope reviews
The Celestron NexStar Evolution range are the most advanced telescopes in the range with four different models. These are:
These are all Schmidt-Cassegrain telescopes (a specific type of compound/catadioptric telescope) with GoTo/Computerized capabilities.
EdgeHD corrects for field curvature and coma that are inherent in SCT optics.
Like the NexStar SE range, the numbers indicate the aperture of the telescope tube in inches. I.e. the Evolution 8 has an 8 inch aperture.
A good overview of the Evolution telescopes can be seen in this video:
Comparing NexStar models
So what’s the same and what’s different between these 12 NexStar telescope models?
Let’s examine the key characteristics in turn to investigate this.
NexStar aperture comparison
Starting with aperture – the best measure of a telescope’s light gathering capabilities.
As you can see in the chart below, although the Evolutions are the premier range, followed by the SE’s and then the SLT’s, it is not a straight forward progression in terms of aperture.
- the 8SE is only below the Evolution 9.25
- the SLT 130 and 127 compare closely with the 5SE, and
- the 4SE and SLT 102 are very close by this measurement
NexStar telescope types
The NexStars are mostly Maksutov-Cassegrain (“Maks”) or Schmidt-Cassegrain (“SCT”) telescopes, as you can see in the table below.
These are versions of compound (or catadioptric) telescopes. These are generally great as they are small, compact and portable, whilst offering high aperture and good viewing capabilities. The downside is that they generally cost more than reflectors or refractor telescopes at similar apertures.
|SLT 130||Newtonian Reflector|
|Evolution 8 EdgeHD||Schmidt-Cassegrain|
Only the SLT 102 (refractor) and SLT 130 (reflector) are not compound telescopes.
The SLT 130 reflector is therefore much bulkier than the SLT127 or the 5SE to which it compares.
Maksutov-Cassegrain vs Schmidt-Cassegrain
The differences between Maksutov-Cassegrain and Schmidt-Cassegrain telescopes are fairly minimal but SCTs are generally better performing.
Essentially, Maksutov-Cassegrains have thicker corrector lenses than Schmidt-Cassegrains. This means that they take longer to adjust to temperature changes (for example, when being take from inside to outside).
This is a factor for viewing and taking images as if the telescope has not adjusted it will result in distortion.
This is especially important for large apertures and is why the Maks are the smaller models, and then the larger telescopes are all SCTs.
All the NexStar telescopes use the same Celestron GoTo technology whereby you can instruct your telescope using the included handset to find any object from a database of around 40,000.
Which Celestron NexStar is best for astrophotography?
All of the NexStar telescopes can be used for astrophotography. In general though:
- The SLTs will work best using either smartphones (attached with an adapter) or with small, dedicate astronomy cameras. This is because the mounts they come with are limited in the weight they can take, and so attaching a bigger DSLR camera will be difficult.
- The NexStar SE can work well for astrophotography using smartphones, dedicated astronomy camera, and DSLR/mirrorless cameras attached with adapters.
- The NexStar Evolution models are great for astrophotography and the mount uses a wedge which allows for longer exposures of deep sky objects.
In short: SLTs ok, SEs good, Evolutions excellent.
Celestron NexStar Accessories
Further to this, something that you might not think about is the accessories that you might want to add on:
- If you think you will want to transport it around then you might need a case – like this one from Celestron
- An eyepiece and filter set
- Anti-vibration pads
- If you are interested in using your camera with your telescope to take photos of what you can see then you will need a T-adapter and T-ring. (The links provided here are for DSLR cameras and so be sure to find the right parts tailored for your camera.)
- Also, rather than constantly running the telescope on batteries you may also want to get an electricity adapter.
- Note that tripods are included with each of the telescopes.
- Celestron Accessory Kit with Five 1.25″ Plossl Eyepieces, 2x Barlow & Filter Set.
Conclusion: Which Celestron NexStar is right for me?
Computerized telescopes seek and find the objects in the sky for you when you enter instructions on a built-in keypad, as opposed to manual telescopes where you seek the objects in the sky yourself. These can be perfect for beginners, or those just with less time to dedicate to their telescope.
It’s worth thinking about whether a computerized telescope is right for you. The main benefit is that they make it easier to find what you want to see in the sky and make it so that you can see much more in a session than you would be able to if you were having to find them manually.
The downside is that this automation can take out much of the challenge which is actually the driver behind you learning how to be an astronomer.
There is some more analysis of this covered in this article, which also covers some of the alternatives to the Celestron NexStar range – see the best computerized telescopes.
If a computerized telescope is for you, then the Celestron NexStar SE range can make a perfect option and come in a range of budgets.
If you are a beginner then we’d recommend going for the 4SE or 5SE models. They should give you the power you need and them being smaller and more portable is a huge advantage.
You can always upgrade later if you feel you have pushed their limits and they tend to have good second-hand resale value if you take good care of them.
For further details on these telescopes, you can also check out Celestron’s website.