Celestron FirstScope 76mm TableTop Newtonian Reflector Review
- in depth Review of Features
Telescope Reviewed: Celestron FirsScope 76mm Tabletop Mount
- Highly portable and light weight
- Ready to go almost right out of the box
- Offers significant value for a low low price
- Not really possible to get a real telescope for less money than this
- Doesn't come with a finder
- Low magnification capacity
The Celestron FirstScope 76mm Reflector Telescope Tabletop is a minimalist's dream. At a rock-bottom price and ready to go almost straight out of the box, this is never going to win any awards for most features on a telescope.
What it is, though, is a solid first telescope for beginners that doesn't require a lot of setup, can be taken just about anywhere, and won't cost you more that the minimal amount you need to get a really good telescope.
While it doesn't come with a finder or an extensive instruction booklet (you can find more instructions online), it will get you started stargazing in a jiffy, and it won't keep you from paying the rent.
76mm (2.99 in)
300mm (12 in)
Focal Length of Eyepiece 1:
20mm (0.79 in)
Magnification of Eyepiece 1:
Focal Length of Eyepiece 2:
4mm (0.16 in)
Magnification of Eyepiece 2:
Highest Useful Magnification:
Lowest Useful Magnification:
Limiting Stellar Magnitude:
1.83 arc seconds
1.53 arc seconds
Light Gathering Power:
118x (compared to human eye)
The Celestron FirstScope 76mm Newtonian Reflector was first introduced in 2009 to commemorate the International Year of Astronomy, which celebrated Galileo Galielei's introduction of the telescope to his community.
With the same spirit in mind, the FirstScope is meant to make astronomy more accessible to a broader audience.The history lesson isn't just for kicks: it says a great deal about what sort of telescope this is, and who it's meant for. That is to say, this is a compact, easy-to-use, affordable tabletop telescope that's meant to take the frustration out of a using a telescope for beginners, and in doing so make stargazing available to the whole family.
Of course, that simplicity and ease of use means that this is truly a no-frills telescope made for beginners. If you're looking for features or high-end optics, check out our Telescopes Page for some guidance on where to look for other choices.
As you can tell by its name, the FirstScope is a Newtonian reflector telescope. As we've discussed at greater length before, reflector telescopes are those that use a mirror or series of mirrors to gather and focus light before it's transmitted to the eye of the viewer.
Reflectors are great because they avoid some of the distortion that can be present in lens-based (refractor) telescopes. It's also much easier to make the surface of a mirror free of defects than it is to make the entirety of a lens perfect, and thus mirrors tend to be cheaper than lenses. This tends to make reflectors less expensive.
The Newtonian reflector is a configuration is one wherein the light that enters the tube is focused by the main mirror onto a smaller mirror angled to reflect the light to the eyepiece. This design is simple and elegant, as evidenced by its continued use over hundreds of years.
Image: Diagram of a Newtonian reflector telescope
In order to make its price even more accessible to all, Celestron made the choice to use a spherical mirror instead of a parabolic one. Spherical mirrors are significantly less expensive to produce than parabolic mirrors. The combination of the spherical mirror and the relatively small focal ratio is that the optics here don't produce the crispest of images. The upshot of this is that in viewing terrestrial and nearer celestial objects like planets, the viewer can see a lot (the moons of Jupiter, craters on our moon, etc.), but the images will never be as crisp as they might be on one of the bigger scopes with higher focal ratios and more expensive optics.
Achieving really sharp focus can be difficult, but that's not to say it's not good.
The FirstScope comes with two eyepieces. The first is a 20mm Huygenian eyepiece that provides 15x magnification. While this does offer the smaller field of view of the two eyepieces (some reviewers have likened it to "looking through a soda straw"), it does offer sharper views.
The second eypeiece is a 4mm Ramsden eyepiece that gives 75x magnification. This can be a bit more comfortable than the 20mm eyepiece because it has a wider visual field. The trade-off is that the magnification level on this eyepiece comes close to being too great to be useful on such a small scope, and it consequently has views that are not as sharp or crisp.Because the FirstScope does not come equipped with a finder scope, some reviewers have indicated that they had some difficulty finding objects, especially given the smaller aperture. While this may make finding some deep sky objects more difficult, it shouldn't present too much of an impediment to finding larger, brighter objects.
In keeping with the no-frills efficiency of the rest of the FirstScope's features, its tabletop mount is simple and easy to use. You just loosen the knob on the side and point.
Pointing with the alt-azimuth tabletop mount is smooth, which helps with locating objects and keeping them in view.While this doesn't offer the functionality that some of Celestron's more complex mounts do, it is super easy to set up and use, and it also provides immense stability.
These are key features for backyard astronomers without a lot of experience with telescopes, and who are just looking for something they can grab and use without a lot of fuss.
The FirstScope comes in a variety of special edition models and packages, so if there's something in particular you're looking for, there might be a design or set of accessories for you.
It's not packaged with the telescope, but Celestron has a free mobile app, SkyPortal, that allows you to locate objects in the night sky. Given that the FirstScope doesn't come with a spotting scope, this can be a fun and useful supplement.SkyPortal is also a fun educational tool, in that it describes the objects you're viewing, and thus can be a great way for beginners to learn more about what they're looking at in the night sky.
How Does It Compare?
The PowerSeeker is a good starting refractor with a slightly higher price than the FirstScope 76mm, but it is also a true beginner scope, and this is reflected both in the quality of its optics and its design. The tripod is also a bit less stable than the tabletop mount. All around good scope at a good price, but longer and a bit better optical performance than the FirstScope.
Larger aperture than the FirstScope, with more of a full mount that allows smooth manual tracking. Its lightweight tripod leads to less stability than the FirstScope. Good magnification with a short tube for good portability. Can't match the travel capabilities of the tabletop mounted scopes like the FirstScope (what can?), but still a good grab and go.
Larger aperture and better optics than the FirstScope, with very good optical performance. Offers really good stability in a full-scale mount and tripod. Jones-Bird configuration on this Newtonian can lead to a bit less image clarity, but makes it a good affordable beginner scope.
Mak-Cass scope with considerable focusing range. Similar size scope, but doesn't offer the same image clarity. Similar stability with the same kind of tabletop mount. A bit more power at a comparable price point. Has a bit more complicated mechanism than the FirstScope, but also a good grab-and-go or travel scope for those that want something they can take into the field or have at home for observing terrestrial and brighter celestial