Orion StarBlast II 4.5 Equatorial Reflector Review

  • Overview
  • in depth Review of Features
  • comparisons

Features

Optics

The Orion StarBlast II 4.5 is a wide-field reflector telescope with a 4.5-inch aperture and an f/4.0 parabolic main mirror. The StarBlast appears to have been designed as a competitor to the Edmund Scientific AstroScan 4 inch f/4 Newtonian telescope, and it is a worthy competitor. The StarBlast's good-sized aperture creates a shorter focal length, thus creating a larger field of view than in a lot of telescopes in this price range, and placing this scope firmly within the category of "rich field telescopes".

Rich field telescopes have that designation because their combination of magnification and wide field allow viewers to see more of the sky in one view. The "rich field" designation typically is reserved for those telescopes with an f value between four and five. This ratio allows viewer to see more of the sky with the same magnification, increasing the ease with which objects can be seen, as well as allowing the viewer to see more objects at once.

Like many of the other telescopes in this price range, the StarBlast is best used for viewing the moon, planets, and brighter deep sky objects such as globular clusters. But because of the quality of the StarBlast's optics, which are some of the better optics in this price range, its views of the planets tend to be better, at times surpassing the image quality of even more expensive telescopes. Images appear with very little coma, mostly at the edges.

The larger aperture provides a larger field of view. It also gives really good brightness to objects, and the detail you can see on planets is really impressive. It also makes it much easier to find celestial objects than on some other beginner telescopes, including locating even some harder to find deep sky objects quickly and with ease. This ability to more easily locate makes the StarBlast really fun to use, and is a really great feature for beginners, who sometimes can be intimidated by the difficulty in finding objects on scopes with tiny apertures at high magnification.

[For more solid telescopes that can be bought for less than $200, check out our article here.]

The theme of good usability extends to collimation, which can be, at times, an exercise in frustration for beginners. As we've discussed at length before, reflector telescopes are those telescopes that use a mirror (actually a series of mirrors) to gather and focus light before transmitting it to the eye of the viewer. Collimation is necessary in reflector telescopes because, unlike in refractors, the optics are not fixed within the tube of the telescope, and thus need to be aligned to achieve optimal performance. In some cases, collimation is so difficult that beginners will avoid buying reflectors altogether. Beginning astronomers need not be intimidated in the case of the StarBlast.

[Want an inexpensive way to collimate your telescope? Check out our article on making a collimation cap here.]

German Equatorial Mount

The StarBlast 4.5 is available with the EQ-1 equatorial telescope mount, which is a German equatorial mount (it can also be purchased on a tabletop mount for a few dollars more). The German equatorial mount, as we've mentioned before, is comprised of a counterweight attached to a t-shaped mechanism, each part of which has a knob at the end. These knobs control each of the planes of movement. The knobs can be turned to manually track objects across the sky. The result is a smooth, easy to use slow-motion tracking of objects in the planes of ascension and declination.

This video has a nice explanation of equatorial mounts and why they're valuable:

The German equatorial mount paired with the StarBlast is quite well-balanced, and balance only becomes an issue when some larger accessories are attached to the telescope. There was some minimal shaking during adjusting, but the scope is so well balanced that it corrects quickly.

Accessories

Tripod:

The StarBlast 4.5 Equatorial mounts on light-weight, adjustable height tripod. This accessory, in tandem with the easy to use AstroBlast, makes the entire rig extremely easy to set up. It can be set up or taken down in just a few minutes. This is another reason why this is a great choice for absolute beginners, but also a reason why it could be a good grab and go scope for those more experienced hobbyists looking for a second telescope.

The light weight nature of the StarBlast's tripod doesn't seem present a stability issue, unlike in some other Orion models with similar tripods. This one is steady enough for viewing rich-field objects in detail.

Another nice aspect of the tripod is that it is stable while having a fairly small footprint. This is important for those of us who have limited space in our homes and apartments. A big telescope is nice, but not if you don't have room for it in your house. Having a tripod that's small enough to be left up is great because it saves you time that you would otherwise have to spend setting up and taking down your telescope before and after each viewing session.

Eyepieces

The StarBlast 4.5 comes with two expanse eyepieces. These eyepieces are particularly welcome on the StarBlast, as its innate magnification isn't overwhelming. The eyepieces include a 6 mm eyepiece that provides 75X magnification, and a 15 mm eyepiece that provides 30X magnification. The expanse eyepieces have a 66-degree apparent field of view, which contributes to the enjoyment of looking at big, rich images with this scope.

Finder Scope

The Orion EZ Finder II is a familiar companion on their line of scopes. The EZ Finder projects a red light onto a screen. The user then places the finder on the part of the sky they want to observe, and (if everything is aligned correctly) this also points the telescope to the same desired spot. We've never been too terrible impressed with the EZ Finder II. It's certainly not a deal breaker, as there are a lot of more important features we look for in a telescope, but it's also not much of an enticement, and at times the red light can be so bright as to diminish the usefulness of the finder.

Starry Night Software

The Starry Night Software can be fun, but like we said with the finder scope, it's neither a deal breaker, nor is is much of an enticement. If nothing else, you can plan your viewing sessions on the software in advance of when you actually set up the telescope, or you can play around on the software on those nights that viewing isn't feasible. In either case, it's nice to have, but there are other things about this telescopes that actually make it attractive.

[For more information on telescopes in general, check out our full buyer's guide here.]