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I cut my astronomical teeth on Celestron's refractors and as such the company is synonymous with nostalgic fondness in my mind, however, that was a long time ago and the world of astronomy has moved on since then. Have Celestron managed to keep up with the curve with their low cost reflector, the Astromaster? Well, the answer is yes...and no.
The Astromaster's strength undoubtedly lies in it's affordability and all of its attributes should be judged primarily against this criteria. Are there better optical performers out there? Yes! Are there sturdier and more solid mounts out there, without question! But few scopes manage to provide these things at such an alluringly low price.
The optics are solid and perform competently whether you're viewing the lunar surface or taking in those wispy and ethereal 'faint fuzzies' comprised of distant galaxies and nebulae. At F5, the larger more diffuse galaxies stand out well and are beautifully framed in lower powers, as are the myriad open clusters that dot the northern hemisphere but with a focal length of 650mm the use of higher powers will be needed to discern fine detail on planetary discs.
The scope is relatively light at around 24lbs and setup is quick and straightforward , it's always a relief lifting a tube this light when compared to my main 12" Dob which weighs almost as much as I do!
The CG-3 mount is adequate but does suffer from vibration issues and is too wobbly to be considered excellent. It does serve its purpose though and when you're only parting with £150 it's hard to be overly critical.
It even comes with an erecting eyepiece (though very cheap and plasticy) which means you can indulge in a little twitching (if you're that way inclined). The job of the erecting EP is to orient images the 'right' way up so when looking through the eyepiece, the object appears as it would through the naked eye rather than upside down or turned about.
All in all a plucky scope that is ideal for the frugal Astronomer and beginner alike. It provides those on a budget with a basic (but functional) tool with which to view the heavens and as such must come highly recommended.