If you’re willing to spend more on a refractor telescope within the mid-range budget, I believe you’ll inevitably come across the Omni XLT 120 by Celestron.
In my opinion it’s a high-performing telescope with a quality tripod that justifies the cost. Its focal specs are right there in the in-between world for being good for both lunar and planetary observation while also reaching into the distance for DSO (Deep Sky Object) viewing.
But, to really maximize its full potential, I think some upgrades in accessories might be needed.
So, is it really worth spending more for?
Let’s find out.
Celestron Omni XLT 120 Telescope Review
✔️ Best Feature: All-purpose telescope
❌ Worst Feature: Limited astrophotography
👌 Ideal For: Celestial Viewing, Terrestrial Viewing, Lunar & Planetary Observation, DSO Viewing, Intermediates
- Optical Design: Refractor
- Aperture: 120 mm (4.72”)
- Focal Length: 1000 mm (39”)
- Focal Ratio: f/8.33
- Eyepieces Included: 25 mm
My Verdict: I believe the Omni XLT series offers legit value for refractor scopes. The XLT 120 is the pricier model of the series, but I feel it offers the most versatile platform for all kinds of observation. For a refractor telescope under $600 with a more-than-decent mount and tripod, it’s worth the buy.
Who is the Celestron Omni XLT 120 Best Suited to?
While some beginners with a generous budget may be tempted towards the Omni XLT 120, it will take some time to find a groove with the learning curve required. As such, I think it’s best geared towards an intermediate level user who does have some experience with telescopes and equatorial mounts.
This will prove true when it comes time for upgraded accessories to maximize efficient use. The XLT 120 is an one of the best telescopes under $1000 and has a lot of potential and provides a lot of room to grow with it, and it’s with the after-market extras that I believe can help turn this solid telescope into a high-performing beast.
How Does the Celestron Omni XLT 120 Perform?
As is, I think the Omni performs extremely well. I feel it’s suited to both low magnification, wide-field viewing and deep-sky observation, but it also excels in high magnification and lunar and planetary viewing. Due to its setup, you may be wondering about astrophotography, and on paper, it may seem like a great hobby to pursue with this scope, but there must be some modifications made to achieve quality imaging – more on this later.
The Omni is also relatively lightweight weighing in at 30 lbs (approx.) plus some if you count the included counterweights. As such, I don’t think it’s too bad for transportation and even the 40” tube length is adequate for travel.
Features & Benefits
The XLT 120 is a refractor telescope with a 120 mm aperture and an f/8.33 focal ratio. Due to its specs, it’s right within the middle range that I believe makes it an ideal telescope for multi-purpose viewing and imaging. Due to its larger aperture, it “collects” more light for seeing faint and dim objects, especially those deep-sky bodies you’ll want to explore.
But, its focal ratio provides a good balance between wide-field stargazing and DSO observation or high power for exploring details of the moon and planets.
Additionally, since it’s a refractor telescope, it can also be suitable for terrestrial viewing with an erect image diagonal. You can use it for short range observations on land, and since it has a minimum magnification of 17x, you can certainly experiment with wider fields of views and differing powers with additional eyepieces.
Great Optical Quality
I think the viewing optical quality is excellent and can be stunning for imaging. While some additional equipment and upgrades will be required for astrophotography, the Omni is capable of imaging.
You should be aware that there is some chromatic aberration, but it doesn’t take away from the visual experience. You can see exceptional lunar and planetary details, seek out further and observe double stars, nebulae, and galaxies in all their glory. For the price of this scope, I believe you’re getting a heck of a good deal on the amount of detail you can resolve.
The CG-4 mount on the Omni XLT 120 is the new and improved version that is praised for quality and dependability. It’s completely metal, has 1.75” tripod legs, and it has a max payload capacity of 20 lbs. Seeing as the optical tube weighs 12.5 lbs, it’s right within fully operational weights.
The legs come out of the short end of the stick and this will be obvious when you find the eyepiece is much lower than what is convenient. However, I feel this is a solvable problem with an extension that gets more lift out of your tripod. You’ll have to consider cost, added weight, and portability consequences if you go this route.
The mount itself has tube rings, ball bearings in axes, setting circles, and slow motion controls. As is, yes, you can make small adjustments and track bodies in the night sky.
I think the included accessories aren’t great, but they work. The good thing is, the rack-and-pinion focuser is all metal – no plastic here. It’s a 2” focuser with single speed, can be tricky to focus at high magnification, and it may creep with heavier loads such as astroimaging equipment. But, for swapping out eyepieces for viewing, I think it does great. Oh, and it may need some extra lube as some users claim it to be a bit sticky and stiff to use.
There is only one eyepiece included with the buy: a 25 mm (40x) Plossl eyepiece. It’s multi-coated, offers a 50-degree field of view, and has long 20 mm eye relief. The image quality is excellent and stable, which is great. There is some chromatic aberration on very bright objects, but for amateurs, very little may be noticeable or you can try to correct it with appropriate filters.
The 6×30 finderscope has been described as either unusable or difficult to use, so you may want to replace with a red dot or even a laser. Lastly, a 1.25” star diagonal is included, but if you want to use your telescope for terrestrial viewing, an erect image diagonal will be required.
Unfortunately, while the telescope may have minimal chromatic aberration interfering with image quality, the mount itself is rated to a 20 lb max payload capacity. The tube weighs 12.5 lbs, and if you were to add additional camera and other equipment, you’d find yourself at max capacity rather quickly which in my opinion puts strain on the setup.
Even if you were to upgrade CG-4 with a motor for tracking, it may not be able to keep up adequately due to the extra weight. So, being completely honest, I feel outstanding astrophotography will be a struggle to achieve.
If you were to make the weight modifications needed for both optimal long and short exposure astrophotography, you may need an off-axis guider to capture photos and guide simultaneously, a guiding eyepiece, motor drive, reducer lens, and perhaps other equipment. Adding up the costs quickly becomes expensive, but the potential is there.
Other Telescopes to Consider
There are a couple of other telescopes that are under $1000 that have different pros and cons that I think would be worth investigating to see if they are more suited to your needs. They are the SkyWatcher Evostar ED80 Pro and the Orion ED80T CF Triplet Apochromatic.
Yes! Celestron has a dual-axis motor drive and polar axis finder that are compatible with this telescope. Purchasing this equipment will allow automatic and accurate tracking and visual alignment of your mount with Polaris and true north.
The achromat 2-element design of the prisms allows for red and green light to be corrected, however, blue light focuses at a different point. This can create what’s known as chromatic aberration often described as color fringing. You can purchase colored eyepiece filters or Celestron’s refractor filter to reduce CA and improve color fidelity, resolution, and contrast.
Given that we’ve established that the mount’s capacity is 20 lbs, it’s risky business. The focuser may not be able to hold the weight without creeping, and if you require additional equipment, you’d be pushing it or likely already over the weight limit.
If you’ve already made modifications or considered weight issues, yes, you can mount a camera and other equipment. The focuser already has a built-in T adapter, but you’ll need to purchase a T-ring for your specific camera.
The optical tube weighs 12.5 lbs, the tripod 12.5 lbs, and the mount and counterweights weigh 21 lbs. This brings the entire assembly to 46 lbs. It’s certainly doable for transportation and portability, but extra gear like a tripod extension and camera equipment will add to that.
In my opinion the Celestron Omni XLT 120 has excellent optics and build quality for the price, the tripod is dependable and sturdy, and the overall solid foundation provides a platform that is worthy of upgrades to maximize its potential.
Yes, it may mean investing in more accessories to get the ideal setup that you want, but for its low price and high quality, the Omni has value.
I think intermediate users will be playing with this telescope for a long time to come.