Some people buy an inexpensive telescope on a whim and use it perhaps three times before sticking it in a cupboard, never to see the light of the stars again.
Others persevere a little more, read a few books and articles, and eventually become skilled enough that what used to be a fairly intimidating piece of gear starts to look a lot like a kid’s toy.
Before too long, you’re in the market for a scope that can do more. Especially if you want to start taking good pictures of what you find, features that used to be nice-to-haves become very important.
At the same time, you probably don’t have NASA’s budget to work with, so selecting a new telescope that does more with less is certainly worth the effort.
Though too complex for most beginners, the Celestron PowerSeeker offers great performance at a discount price.
- Newtonian Reflector Type
- 1,000 mm Focal Distance
- 127 mm Aperture
- Manual Equatorial Mount
The PowerSeeker 127EQ at a Glance
This is where the Celestron PowerSeeker 127EQ comes in. You can certainly find cheaper telescopes that aren’t as capable, as well as upscale models with better features, but the Powerseeker 127EQ manages to hit a kind of sweet spot that will be just about perfect for many people.
Of course, telescopes with truly stellar performance at a bargain price are about as common as unicorns. There’s always a trade-off, and in this case you’ll have to spend some time getting to know the ins and outs of the Powerseeker.
If you’re willing to put in the time to expand your knowledge of practical astronomy, this Celestron product will probably put a smile on your face.
If, on the other hand, you’re just interested in seeing some pretty lights floating in the sky, pass on this one. A scope like the Orion StarBlast, which has similar optics but a much shorter learning curve, will suit you much better.
The Celestron PowerSeeker 127EQ: A Solid Choice for Astrophotography
Let’s start by listing some of this telescope’s best features. You’ll see that it has a lot to offer, but don’t forget to also scan through its drawbacks further down the page.
- Pretty affordable for a scope with 5 inches of aperture
- Long 1,000 mm focal length
- Uses German equatorial mount
- Works well with both DSLRs and smartphones
Plenty of Resolving Power, Even on a Budget
In case the 127 mm aperture number above doesn’t mean much to you, let’s keep things simple: this tells you how much light enters the telescope. Everyone knows that stars and planets are far away, but it’s difficult to grasp just how distant they really are. By the time light from them reaches us, there’s just not much left to work with.
applies, so essentially the 127EQ produces an image that’s 25% brighter than that of the slightly smaller 114EQ model and 2½ times as bright as the even smaller, mirrorless 80 mm PowerSeeker. This makes a huge practical difference when looking at faint, deep-sky objects like nebulae.
Clearly, any telescope’s ability to gather light also has a major effect on its maximum magnification factor: darkness seen a thousand times larger is still just darkness.
The 127EQ comes with 4 mm and 20 mm eyepieces, giving you 50x and 250x views right out of the box.
You can also fit the included Barlow lens over either eyepiece to further expand things by a factor of three. Additional eyepieces and filters are available from the same manufacturer at a reasonable price and will expand your viewing options greatly.
Photographers, Take Note
In terms of optics, the PowerSeeker 127EQ is a relatively slow scope with an f ratio of f/7.9.
A simpler way of saying the same thing is that pictures taken through it will be less distorted than with a low-f scope, especially around the edges of the field of view. Another advantage is that a bigger f/number generally makes it easier to get an attached camera into focus.
The major drawback of a slow telescope is that, all things being equal, you’ll need to use a longer exposure time for photography. This is where this telescope’s special mount comes into play.
Most cheaper hobbyist telescopes have a mount – the mechanical widget that connects your scope to its tripod – of the alt-az variety. This means your field of view is aligned to the surface of the earth wherever you happen to be.
An equatorial mount, however, can be adjusted to point parallel to the North Pole and makes it much easier to compensate for the earth’s rotation.
The PowerSeeker 127EQ comes with an equatorial mount.
To illustrate what this means, remember that the world turns at a rate of one degree every four minutes. This doesn’t sound like all that much, but given that Jupiter as seen from earth is only about 40 arcseconds wide, it actually moves by more than its own diameter during a 30-second exposure.
The solution here is to track whatever you want to photograph as it travels through the sky.
With an alt-az mount, this means having to adjust your field of view in two directions. The 127EQ’s German equatorial fitting lets you get the same result by tweaking only one knob.
This comes in useful if you’re willing to keep looking at the same object for however long it takes to get the perfect shot, and even more so if you invest a couple of extra bucks in a tracking motor that allows you to take exposures of up to several minutes long.
The Celestron PowerSeeker 127EQ: Too Steep a Learning Curve for Some
It’s painful but unavoidable: if you want to buy a high-performance telescope with a few stand-out features at a low price, you have to accept that a few corners will have to be cut somewhere.
Not even in Wonderland can you have your cake and eat it too.
Before spending a sizeable chunk of change on this scope, you’ll want to make sure that you can live with the following:
Where It Falls Short:
- Collimating it is hard
- Finder scope is difficult to use
- Stand isn’t very sturdy
Reading the Manual Is Not Optional
None of the PowerSeeker 127EQ’s shortcomings are exactly critical; they’re like having to take the stairs because the elevator is broken, not being inside it when it breaks. Still, if you’re buying this as a gift for a young person or you’ve never had to deal with anything more complicated than an entry-level refractor, something like the Orion StarBlast may be more your speed.
Refractor telescopes use lenses to concentrate light; unless they’ve been damaged, you should be able to get them into focus just by twisting a knob.
Reflector telescopes like this rely primarily on mirrors for magnification and have to be re-aligned periodically to keep images sharp.
To begin with, pretty much all reflector telescopes need to be collimated from time to time, including when you first take it out of the box. This isn’t a design flaw, but rather an inherent part of the way they’re constructed.
What is under the engineers’ control is how easy this is to achieve, and in the PowerSeeker’s case collimation really isn’t straightforward. Once you understand what needs to be done, it should take you no more than ten minutes every time you set it up, but you’ll probably spend much longer on your first few tries:
Aligning the finder scope (the smaller, less powerful telescope mounted to the main tube) with the actual viewing direction is also not the easiest thing in the world, and it tends to stray. This scope also turns images upside-down, while the 20 mm eyepiece switches them back to the normal orientation, making the finder somewhat tricky to use until you get the hang of it.
Gently Does It
You can, of course, replace the finder scope with something more capable. You may want to do the same with the tripod, too.
Telescope tripods are all characterized by a maximum load. This isn’t the amount of weight each can support before crashing to the ground in a pile of twisted metal, but rather how much it can carry while remaining stable enough for astronomical observations.
With the PowerSeeker 127EQ, the supplied tripod seems to be pretty near this limit. You’ll have to take care to balance your scope correctly, both along the tube using the mount’s hoop clamps and around the ascension axis using the counterweight. Attaching a fairly heavy camera to the focuser will make this all the more difficult (and essential).
Finally, this isn’t a scope designed to be slewed into position willy-nilly.
Screws control the amount of friction between the mount and tube; the idea is to loosen these, get it pointed in roughly the right direction, then clamp them down and use the fine-adjustment knobs to find the perfect field of view. Assuming that you know what you’re doing (and can manage it without disturbing the tripod), this works pretty well, but – especially if you use the included finder scope – patience will serve you well until you learn the ropes.
This telescope’s detractors like to throw shade on the PowerSeeker for its lack of user-friendliness, but in our view this is unfair. Sure, collimation takes a while, but this is something the owner of any reflector scope has to be able to do.
The tripod could be better, but that’s really a small price to pay for the convenience and capability of an equatorial mount. Improving something like this costs money, and some of us will happily pay less for an item that requires just a little bit more work to use.
What Kind of Views Can I Expect?
It’s kind of hard to quantify the overall visual quality of a scope. A person with good night vision, or good vision in general, will always see more.
Pictures, too, may say a thousand words, but the final result depends a lot on what camera, settings, extra equipment and even image-processing software was used to generate it. Still, the following photos can serve as a starting point for someone looking for the perfect telescope.
A Long Story Short
If your main goal is to drive fast, you’ll probably look for an affordable car with a large engine and reliable transmission. Comfortable seats and pristine paintwork will be less important to you.
This pretty much sums up this telescope: powerful and quite inexpensive compared to many similar options, but not necessarily the easiest to use.
For example, the PowerSeeker 127EQ uses a spherical rather than a parabolic mirror. A special lens compensates for the resulting distortion, though, so this isn’t a huge deal in practical terms – though you’ll want to remove the corrector lens when collimating this scope.
The second-rate quality of the tripod and finder scope is a bit of a let-down, but totally forgivable at this price (and both are fairly cheap to replace if you find dealing with them too burdensome).
The book-sized user guide, on the other hand, is a definite plus, as is access to Celestron’s SkyPortal app, which includes short audio clips of someone sharing a few interesting facts about major celestial features.
While it’s not exactly pocket-sized at 35 inches long and 30 pounds in weight, it’s easy enough to transport in the trunk of your car as long as you’re willing to collimate it at your destination.
So, if you’re pushing the limits of what you can do with your current telescope – particularly as far as photography is concerned – and don’t want to spend too much money, the Celestron PowerSeeker 127EQ is definitely worth checking out.
Not sure yet? Feel free to check out all our other telescope reviews.