Sound advice would usually steer a beginner away from this type of telescope, but there are some beginners that must have GoTo – no exceptions.
This is where the NexStar 4SE comes into the big picture.
The 4SE has a 4” aperture and slow focal specs in a Maksutov-Cassegrain optical design. There are some advantages to this, but it’s not without its drawbacks.
If you’re after a huge field of view, look elsewhere.
If you want high-power and close-up details on the brightest objects with some astro-imaging opportunities, this NexStar may be for you.
Celestron NexStar 4SE Telescope Review
✔️ Best Feature: NexStar GoTo
❌ Worst Feature: SkyAlign firmware issues
👌 Ideal For: Celestial Viewing, Terrestrial Viewing, Lunar & Planetary Observation, Bright DSO Viewing, Limited Astrophotography, Beginners, Intermediates
- Optical Design: Maksutov-Cassegrain
- Aperture: 102 mm (4”)
- Focal Length: 1325 mm
- Focal Ratio: f/13
- Eyepieces Included: 25 mm
My Verdict: In my opinion the NexStar 4SE is a fantastic telescope under $500. Its optical design allows for multiple benefits, and since it comes with a GoTo mount, locating and identifying objects will be easy and interesting for new astronomers.
Who is the Celestron NexStar 4SE Best Suited to?
The NexStar 4SE is intended for beginners but having been mounted on an alt-azimuth mount with GoTo, I don’t think it’s going to be easy to master the learning curve. While the recommended advice is to steer beginners towards easy-to-use, non-GoTo alt-azimuth mounts to start with, some users want to get a taste of everything from the get-go. The NexStar telescope can provide that.
Intermediates may look to this model as a grab-and-go or ready-to-use telescope. With its NexStar features, an intermediate can develop or use their experience to experiment with astro imaging. While I think the 4” aperture is limiting on DSOs, amazing shots can be taken if you know what to do.
How Does the Celestron NexStar 4SE Perform?
I believe the NexStar 4SE is a little workhorse. It allows for a lot of possibilities between GoTo, astrophotography, and excellent visual use for both celestial and terrestrial viewing. It’s a “slow” telescope, so high-power observation is its strong-suit, so I think you will absolutely be disappointed if you’re after whopping fields of view.
With the latest firmware updates, the SkyAlign alignment process works well. Even though the NexStar doesn’t come with a whole lot of extra free apps, it is compatible with many advanced systems, and of course, WiFi. The dual-axis mount is adequately matched with the OTA and offers a built-in wedge for EQ movement on a solid and sturdy tripod.
Features & Benefits
The 4SE is computerized automated technology packed into a convenient hand control. It’s what controls the motorized movement of the mount that allows the OTA to automatically slew to objects in the sky. It allows access to a 30,000+ object database, multiple alignment options, and nine slew speeds.
While the setup has a GPS module, it does not come with a GPS receiver although you can purchase and use one since it’s compatible with the Nexstar. It’s not a must-have, but if you plan on using it at another location (dark and remote) that’s a long way from home, you may want to consider this option.
Powering the NexStar is straightforward. Use a 12V power supply and make sure to install 8x AA batteries in case you lose power. No power options are provided, so these must be user provided.
Mount with Built-in Wedge
The mount has DC servo motors on both axes that provides computerized alt-azimuth movement. Celestron also provides a built-in wedge. It’s a wedge tilt plate that can be adjusted in latitude for polar aligning the telescope for EQ movement. This allows the scope to track and counteract for field rotation providing the user with astrophotography possibilities.
You can slew the OTA manually, but you must never do this during “Hibernate” mode. Whenever you slew manually or even move the tripod, say, to extend or retract the legs, you can either perform the Set Mount Position procedure to recover your alignment or you’ll be forced to realign the telescope from the beginning.
The NexStar 4SE is a Maksutov-Cassegrain telescope also known as a Mak or a Mak-Cass for short. It’s a catadioptric telescope that incorporates a long focal length with a much shorter tube length, spherical mirrors, and corrector lenses.
The 4SE has a spherical primary mirror with a center hole, a meniscus corrector lens, and a baffle tube. There is no secondary mirror as the meniscus corrector lens with its aluminized spot serves as the secondary mirror. With the small 4” aperture, this is of no consequence and it also eliminates the spider veins.
Peeking into the OTA, you may see a black tube that extends out from the center hole on the primary mirror. This is a baffle tube that keeps stray light from getting through to the eyepiece. The mirror has enhanced multi-layer coatings to increase light transmission and the corrector lens also has a multi-coated treatment to provide anti-reflection benefits. Due to this optical design, there is little to no chromatic and spherical aberration.
This Mak-Cass has a long focal length of 1325 mm and a slow focal ratio of f/13. I think this makes it better suited to high-power observation and high-power photography.
Right off the bat, a beginner is going to start with taking photos of the moon and planets. I think its focal specs are well-suited to high-power astrophotography. With the mount and its tracking abilities in alt-azimuth, you’ll be limited to short exposures. The Precise GoTo function helps to center objects within the field of view for high-power viewing or astrophotography.
If you incorporate the built-in wedge to polar align for EQ movement, you potentially have more astro imaging possibilities to explore, for example, long exposures. There are some trade-offs, i.e. you mustn’t accidentally move or tap the telescope and you’ll have to wait for a while to allow the camera to work its magic.
You can take excellent lunar, planetary, and DSO photographs even with its limiting 4” aperture. Bright nebulae photos can be amazing, and it may present an opportunity to learn about mosaic capturing and processing.
I feel the only questionable aspect is the mount’s payload capacity. It can handle up to 10 lbs, and with the OTA weighing in at 6 lb and adding the red dot and eyepieces, you’re pretty much maxed out. You may want to learn how the GoTo Approach feature in the NexStar works. It compensates for backlash when using heavy astrophotography loads. Some buyers have used lightweight webcam cameras and DSLRs. You’ll have to experiment and see which setup suits your style best within the limitations of the mount.
Portable & Lightweight Tripod
I reckon this is an incredibly portable telescope and can be ideal for travel. Its small 4” aperture and Mak-Cass design are features that lends to its compact and lightweight package. The tripod is easy to setup and the leg brace that is mounted in the center provides stability and support. It also doubles as the accessory tray. The tripod comes with a detached bubble to ensure you have accurate leveling during setup.
As a complete package, the total kit weighs 23 lbs. The tripod weighs 10 lbs, the mount weighs 7 lbs, and the OTA weighs 6 lbs. The tube length is a short 13.5” and is 4.9” wide. I think it’s a convenient setup for transportation to say the least.
SkyAlign Firmware Issues
This may be a non-issue as of late as Celestron has fixed the firmware bug that prevented the SkyAlign feature from working accurately. This has been the downfall for many 4SE owners. But, the firmware update in 2019 corrected for this issue and it should be assumed that any updates released in the future will only get better.
With that said, the NexStar will require updates and perhaps additional apps and programs to unlock its full potential.
Other Telescopes to Consider
If your budget is around the $500 dollar mark then some comparably priced telescopes I recommend looking at are the Orion SkyQuest XT8 Classic Dobsonian, the SkyWatcher Traditional 6″ Dobsonian and the Celestron Astro Fi 130.
Well, the NexStar with its motorized mount is the attractive feature of this Celestron telescope, but it does have a dovetail bar that is compatible with Celestron’s CG5 mount and will likely fit other standard alt-azimuth and EQ mounts.
The mount itself has standard mounting bolts, so it can be switched out to another tripod if you so desire. While the NexStar is not a tabletop telescope, it does have rubber “feet” per-se that allows it to sit on a flat surface without a tripod. However, the flat surface must be rock solid and level to allow the GoTo to function correctly.
There are a few determinants to seeing planets clearly with the 4SE. The OTA has the ability to spot planets – Jupiter and Saturn are often the targets for beginners. High quality eyepieces will help to achieve improved resolution and contrast for features and details.
Don’t try to view the planets as they’re rising above the horizon where atmospheric conditions are at its thickest. Wait for them to be 20 degrees above the horizon at the least. If you’re in a dark location with good seeing, you should be able to make out Saturn’s rings, the Cassini Division, Jupiter and Saturn’s moons, and cloud bands.
The NexStar comes with a 2-year warranty covered by Celestron. It’s a standard warranty as far as warranties go, and the owner is responsible for shipping and insurance fees when sending the scope for repairs or replacement and expecting to receive the repaired or replaced product.
The little 4SE proves to be a good introduction to GoTo for beginners.
But, navigating the skies with a small field of view and high power is a difficult task, so a beginner will quickly learn must-have astronomer skills. In my opinion the NexStar will make a better astronomer out of you. Of course, there are those who will want to go bigger and faster next time, but as an extremely mobile GoTo telescope system, I believe the 4SE offers great balance between cost, performance, features, and aperture.