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A New Take on Simple Astrophotos: Celestron Inspire 100AZ Review

The Celestron Inspire 100AZ is a 4-inch/100mm achromatic refractor. Credit: Jamie Carter

Celestron Inspire 100AZ review: novel features make this a good all-rounder for beginners interested in astrophotography

Smartphone adaptors for telescopes have been around for a while, but should afocal photography be a default part of every telescope? On the front of the Celestron Inspire 100AZ’s 26-inch/660mm optical tube is a most intriguing lens cap. By attaching an eyepiece to a hole in that lens cap and strapping to it a smartphone using some precision engineering and a bunch of elastic bungee cords (no kidding!) the lens caps doubles as a smartphone adaptor.

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Its lens cap doubles as an impressive smartphone adaptor for afocal photography. Credit: Jamie Carter

Elsewhere this 4-inch/100mm achromatic refractor impresses with other unusual features, notably a small red LED flashlight that can be placed in the tripod to point down at an eyepiece tray underneath.

An array of bungee cords is used to strap down a smartphone for afocal astrophotography. Credit: Jamie Carter

Its simple and fairly solid panhandle-driven tripod, altazimuth mount, and StarPointer Pro finderscope make it relatively easy to point and shoot. The views through its 10mm and 20mm Kellner eyepieces are good, with lunar craters sharp and bright, though there is a touch of chromatic aberration (a.k.a. false color) appearing as a purple line around the Moon and bright planets. Its performance with faint deep sky objects is just about enough to make it an all-rounder, albeit only for beginners.

A red light is provided on the mount that illuminates the eyepiece tray below. Credit: Jamie Carter

The way a smartphone is attached to the lens cap for afocal photography is really simple, but it does bring a few challenges. The process of securing a smartphone and an eyepiece to the dust cap takes a few minutes, by which time the target in question will have probably moved out of view. Without slow-motion controls it’s a little tricky to get objects back into the field of view. So it’s best to aim its optics ahead of the object and have it moving into the center before removing the eyepiece to construct the smartphone rig. We also had a few issues with the tiny screws that keep the eyepiece in place, which are fiddly and easy to unscrew – and detach completely – in the dark. That built-in red-light really did come in handy.

Eyepieces included are Kellner 10mm and 20mm products. Credit: Jamie Carter

A good quality and versatile beginners telescope with a few unusual features, the Celestron Inspire 100AZ’s lens cap-meets-smartphone adaptor concept is excellent, though it’s largely a novelty and likely to be used only once or twice. If it’s going to be used more than that we advise purchasing another eyepiece that can be left attached to the dust cap.

A short dovetail mount is used to attach the optical tube to the tripod. Credit: Jamie Carter

Website: www.celestron.com 

MSRP: 100mm version: $360; 80mm version: $270; 70mm version: $126

 

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About Jamie Carter

A science, travel and technology journalist for over 20 years, UK-based Jamie Carter writes for Forbes Science, Sky and Telescope magazine, the BBC's Sky At Night, Travel+Leisure and the South China Morning Post. He edits WhenIsTheNextEclipse.com, leads tours to see eclipses, and regularly tweets about stargazing (@jamieacarter) and eclipses (@thenexteclipse).

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