Orion StarBlast II 4.5 Equatorial Reflector Review
- in depth Review of Features
Telescope Reviewed: Orion StarBlast II 4.5 Equatorial Reflector Telescope
- Larger aperture than most beginner telescopes creates brighter images
- Better optics than many telescopes in this price range
- Rich-field telescope with enough power to take advantage of the larger aperture
- Easy collimation makes this an accessible reflector for beginners
- Easy to set up and use
- Light weight makes it highly portable
- Some minimal vibration on adjustment of the German equatorial mount
- At times needs the additional magnification from an eyepiece
The Orion StarBlast 4.5 Equatorial Reflector is an excellent telescope for beginners and even for experienced hobbyists. Because of its larger than normal aperture on a beginner telescope, it offers a larger field of view and greater ease of use. The aperture size, coupled with its good magnification makes it a rich field telescope that will allow for more detailed views of larger swaths of the night sky.
Like many telescopes in this price range, it is best used for observing the moon, planets and brighter deep sky objects, but unlike some other beginner scopes, it needs additional accessories in order for use in viewing terrestrial objects.
One thing that really sets this scope apart from other telescopes in the same price range is the quality of its optics. The sharpness of images when viewing with the StarBlast is impressive and beyond what you would expect.
The StarBlast is portable and easy to set up, which could make it a good grab and go scope, as well as making it a good choice for those amateurs looking for a scope they can take into the field.
Its easy collimation especially could make it a good choice for those looking for a reflector telescope in this price range, but who are intimidated by the sometimes difficult task of collimating a reflecting scope.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
How Does It Compare?
The PowerSeeker is lower priced than the StarBlast, and it's much more of a true beginner scope in its specs. Because it's a refractor without any internal light folding, the PowerSeeker is also a bit longer and more cumbersome to transport. It does come with a full German equatorial mount, but can also demonstrate some stability issues. The PowerSeeker is an all-around good beginner scope, but doesn't have the capabilities of the StarBlast.
The StarMax 90mm offers greater stability because of its tabletop mount. The trade-off is that it doesn't offer some of the flexibility of the StarBlast. Because of its Mak-Cass design, which "folds" light within the tube, the StarMax also offers a smaller package, which is a boon for those looking for a grab-and-go scope, or for one that they can travel with.
The 114eq has a smaller aperture, which results in a slightly smaller field of view and brighter images. The StarBlast also offers more stability, which means it's a much better option for those looking for a scope they can use for astrophotography.
The GoScope, just like other the other tabletop scope on this list, offers good stability and supremely easy setup. The trade-off is the flexibility it lacks because it doesn't have a full mount and tripod. The 127eq might appeal more to you if you're looking for that flexibility, or if you're looking to do some astrophotography. In the final analysis, it's hard for the beginner astronomer to beat the GoScope's optics at such a good price.