Celestron Nexstar Evolution 8 Telescope Review (Schmidt-Cassegrain)


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A couple of the most frustrating things about owning a GoTo is having to buy various forms of power supplies depending on where you are observing and having to depend on a hand control for any type of telescope performance while you’re in the dark.

Does this sound familiar?

The Celestron NexStar Evolution 8 addresses this just for astronomers like you.

While having WiFi on a telescope is nothing new and having to power it is expected, the Evolution 8 takes things to a whole new level of convenience and performance.

Stay tuned to find out what’s so great about this SCT!

Zooming in…

✔️ Best Feature: 8” SCT

Worst Feature: Price

👌 Ideal For: Celestial Viewing, Terrestrial Viewing, Lunar & Planetary Observation, DSO Viewing, Limited Astrophotography, Beginners, Intermediates

  • Optical Design: Schmidt-Cassegrain
  • Aperture: 203.2 mm (8”)
  • Focal Length: 2032 mm (80”)
  • Focal Ratio: f/10
  • Eyepieces Included: 40 mm, 13 mm

Our Verdict: The NexStar Evolution 8 is an SCT through-and-through, so it comes with all the SCT benefits and drawbacks. It has attractive perks that you may have been waiting to see on a scope for a long time. Hint – smartphone control with no adapter, no external power supply required, GoTo, and a good, decent-sized aperture.

Who is the Celestron NexStar Evolution 8 Best Suited to?

The NexStar Evolution is an expensive telescope to buy, and due to the price alone, it would not normally be recommended for beginners. However, the Evolution 8 model offers decent simplicity while also offering high-performance quality that would satisfy experienced users as well.

With the AZ GoTo mount, it’ll be easier for beginners to use, but serious imagers will be limited with the mount. You can purchase an EQ wedge for it, but if this is your scope for imaging, you may as well go with an EQ GoTo system from the start. If you’re using this scope mainly for visual with some imaging here and there, the Evolution 8 may work well for you.

How Does the Celestron NexStar Evolution 8 Perform?

The NexStar Evolution 8 is a medium to slow speed telescope with a focal ratio of f/10 and a large 8” aperture. While you will see finer details of objects and reach faint DSOs, field of view will be compromised by the long focal length. This is also noteworthy for imagers as long exposures will take much longer to achieve, and that’s if you get this rig set up correctly for it.

As a visual telescope which would be my primary recommendation for it, it’s a workhorse. It’s compatible with Celestron’s SkySafari app (for a fee) that allows access to its 120,000+ object database. It provides for familiar and convenient control with its built-in WiFi network that allows user control from your smartphone or other WiFi-connected device.

With brass worm gears that are known for their machined accuracy, you have precision, tracking, and smoothness. But, the mount load capacity is light if you’re going to be adding heavy DSLR or autoguiding equipment. It’s best suited for CCD cameras.

Features & Benefits

8” SCT

The NexStar is a Schmidt Cassegrain telescope with an incredibly long focal length of 80”. But, of course, tube length is not 80” and is instead a short 17” scope. The super long focal length also helps to correct for aberrations related to having a spherical mirror, but it also means you’re losing out on field of view.

Even if you were to add some wide-field eyepieces to the mix, you’d barely improve it. So, the Evolution 8 is good for high-power imaging and will especially get you up, close, and personal with the planets with a low-medium eyepiece.

The larger aperture will have you seeing more DSOs. Under good seeing conditions, you’ll see double stars including faint stars, globular clusters, nebulae, galaxies, and great detail with possible faint color may be achieved. It’s safe to say that you won’t be running out of objects to explore anytime soon.

Unfortunately, there is no mirror lock on this SCT, and only the secondary mirror is collimatable. Luckily, the Evolution 8 holds primary mirror collimation well which you’ll find out with all the focusing you will be doing while searching out various objects in the dark sky.

GoTo AZ Mount

The 8” model will require assembly before you can scan the skies. The OTA will have to be attached to the single fork arm via the dovetail bar and quick release knob. It has a CG-5 dovetail, so it will be compatible with other Vixen-style dovetail mounts. If you’re not imaging and using heavy loads, you’ll want to balance the tube so that you can see the word “Evolution” clearly across the OTA when mounting it.

Once attached to the mount, the mount then needs to be attached to the tripod. This is done with aligning the center post on the base of the mount over the tripod head and rotating the mount until it clicks in place and sockets are aligned with three holes. You must then secure the mounting bolts through the holes for secure attachment.

The mount can be slewed with nine speeds, has a dual-axis motor, 4x AUX ports, and can be polar aligned with a wedge (purchased separately).

For the price, it’s unfortunate that it doesn’t include GPS, periodic error correction, or a 2” dual-speed focuser. But, you can’t have it all now can you? You’d have to spend much more for the setup you deem perfect as there is no perfect telescope.

Built-In Mount Features

An extremely convenient feature these days is the built-in LiFePO4 battery that should last thousands of cycles of recharging without having to replace it. It provides approximately 10 hours of continuous use before needing to be juiced up again. The charger to charge the battery is included with the package. There is also a USB port that you can connect other devices to. Hint, top-up your smartphone while you’re at it.  

Speaking of your smartphone, the built-in WiFi network allows you to control the telescope directly from your iOS or Android phone using the Celestron SkyPortal app via Direct Connect mode. If you’re observing from home, you can connect it to your home network through a router using Access Point mode. If you’re using WiFi, you don’t ever have to pick up the NexStar+ hand control although it’s included which is a nice touch.

Limited Astrophotography

Even though the Evolution 8 has a GoTo system that is often desired for imaging, I wouldn’t say it’s an astrophotography scope. You can do some smartphone and CCD imaging with it, but there are a few things that will require modification for serious or DSLR imaging.

First off, the GoTo has alt-azimuth motion, so it can’t track stars while counteracting for field rotation. To acquire EQ motion, you’ll need to buy a wedge, and fortunately, the scope can be polar aligned. The mount also has a payload capacity of 25 lbs and the tube weighs half that by itself. The general rule of thumb is not to exceed 50% of the load capacity for imaging.

With the weight reduction benefits of going the CCD camera route versus all the imaging gear needed for DSLR imaging, you should be able to avoid causing stress on the gears and tracking inaccuracies. Short exposures and sticking to 1.25” accessories may be okay, but any inaccuracies will negatively affect long exposures.

You may also need a focal reducer to allow the camera to come to focus. It will also improve field curvature at the edge of the field of view, but again, this would be an additional purchase just to get imaging. If you’re going to invest in accessories, a HyperStar lens may prove to be very convenient and will make for extremely fast CCD imaging.

Limitations

Price

The Evolution 8 telescope is significantly more expensive than an 8” Dobsonian. The eyepieces will require upgrading at some point which decreases overall value of the package. So, if you prefer something simpler to use, a Dob would be a better purchase where you can spend more on replacement accessories without having to spend as much.

However, the GoTo is a very attractive feature for astronomers of all skill levels, and the built-in WiFi, built-in battery, and portability benefits may outweigh any concerns you may have about it.

Popular Questions

Can the NexStar Evolution Telescope be Slewed Manually?

Yes. Clutches allow for manual slewing without use of the motors. However, it will cause the telescope to lose alignment and must be realigned when you want to use GoTo again.

What Accessories are Included with the NexStar Evolution 8?

The Evolution 8 OTA, AZ GoTo single fork arm mount, and tripod are the major accessories. You’ll also get two 1.25” Plossl eyepieces (40 mm and 13 mm), 1.25” star diagonal, and a StarPointer reflex sight.

The reflex sight isn’t necessary as you can align your scope using Celestron’s SkyAlignment Procedure which is in the app used to control the scope, but it’s nice to have it included anyway. This is also true of the NexStar+ hand control. It’s included, so you have access to all its features if you choose not to connect to your smartphone for telescope control.

You’ll also receive the accessory tray that goes with the tripod and the charger required to charge the built-in battery.

What is the Difference Between the Evolution and the ES Series?

The OTAs are identical as the differences come with the mount upgrades. While the ES has standard battery or 12V DC power requirements and is used with the NexStar+ hand control, the Evolution scopes have an edge that may be worth the price jump. The upgraded worm gears, built-in, rechargeable battery, and WiFi allowing control with your smartphone are mechanical, performance, and convenience upgrades.

Is the NexStar Evolution Telescope Portable?

The 8” SCT tube is heavier than it seems weighing in at approximately 12 lbs, but it’s within portability standards for an 8” telescope. The mount head weighs 16 lbs and the tripod weighs 12 lbs. This results in a total assembly weight of 40 lbs, and with a short 17” tube length, I’d say this is an incredibly lightweight system for an 8” aperture telescope for travel. Astronomers have hauled out heavier and larger rigs.

Retain the OTA and the mount attached but remove the mount from the tripod for easier transportation.

Conclusion

The Celestron NexStar Evolution 8 is a not a cheap telescope, and its upgrades will cost you about $400 more than an SE model.

You must be the judge of whether it’s worth it or not. For its buyers, it’s extremely convenient to get observing on the go without having to tote power tanks and cables.

Using your phone is genius and provides a level of familiarity. With 8” to explore the skies with, you’ll have plenty to keep you busy for many nights to come.

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