It’s a refractor, and it has a huge 6” aperture, and it’s under $1000.
I don’t think you’re going to find better than this for the price.
The Explore Scientific AR152 is designed to be a budget achromat for those after maximum apertures while sticking to a decent price.
This large telescope is a fast achromat refractor, so you may already have some automatic prejudices against it.
Hear me out and see how it actually performs as a wide-field observer, for DSO viewing, and even planetary views.
Explore Scientific AR152 Telescope Review
✔️ Best Feature: 6” refractor
❌ Worst Feature: No eyepieces & mount
👌 Ideal For: Celestial Viewing, Stargazing, Lunar & Planetary Observation, DSO Viewing, Intermediates, Experts
- Optical Design: Refractor
- Aperture: 152 mm
- Focal Length: 988 mm
- Focal Ratio: f/6.5
- Eyepieces Included: None
My Verdict: I think for those who already have at least one telescope under their belts, the AR152 may be the next obvious addition to the collection. It has a large aperture, it’s a refractor, and it’s setup to be a wide-field DSO performer at home or on the go. It’s a telescope that is often picked up quick by those who recognize its value – and in my opinion value it has!
Who is the Explore Scientific AR152 Best Suited to?
The AR152 is a large telescope, and the fact that it’s sold by itself with no mount and tripod means that it’s an expensive buy for the beginner. It also lacks instructions in the packaging, so I think a novice would be forced to fend for themselves.
This AR152 model is designed for intermediates with some foreknowledge of telescopes. As is, they’ll be able to work with it and maximize performance for use as a daily, go-to telescope. Experts may be interested in the AR152 because of the good deal, and they have the background and experience to customize it and achieve a platform that is truly their own.
Remember, you must tack on extra costs for eyepieces and a mount. Expect to shell out hundreds of dollars more. If you don’t have the budget or already own appropriate equipment for it, you best look elsewhere for a different scope.
How Does the Explore Scientific AR152 Perform?
The AR152 is a fast telescope with a 6.5 focal ratio and its focal length is under 1000 mm. With a 6” aperture, it’s a light bucket in its own right. With its crown and flint achromatic doublet, I think it provides excellent resolution and contrast. It has .77 arcsecond resolution from the factory, but if you know what you’re doing, you could slightly improve it. Of course, quality and appropriately chosen eyepieces will be a large factor in what you can see.
Obviously, with its large 6” aperture, I believe it’s an excellent choice for deep-sky viewing. Nebulae, galaxies, globular clusters, and open clusters are guaranteed to be seen and enjoyed. The moon shows great contrast and details and even planets will reveal their iconic features.
Even though it’s a great refractor telescope and has little need to be collimated to the degree that reflectors do, it does have a collimatable cell, and may only need very slight adjustments. With its great build and optical quality, I think it’s a performer.
Features & Benefits
The 6” aperture on a refractor is certainly an attractive feature. It’s also relatively lightweight and has a tube that’s under 1000 mm. These features and the fact that it’s an achromatic doublet is why it can be priced under $1000.
With such a larger aperture, you can see more into deep space and the light grasp rate is much higher. I like that it has excellent contrast and sharpness, and with its fast focal ratio, it’s a wide-field performer. Better yet, the optics are within a closed tube, it’s nicely baffled with no reflections, and it has a collimatable cell.
Unlike reflector telescopes that have mirrors that can often come out of alignment, refractor scopes have a series of lenses that are locked into position within a cell. The AR152 is collimated at the factory, and it’s likely you won’t have to make any adjustments.
When checking the alignment of the optics and you have determined it needs recollimation, it can be done. You must remove the dew shield and dust cover to expose the 3-point collimation system. Using a Cheshire collimation eyepiece can help to make the process fast and easy.
Even though the Explore Scientific telescope is lacking in accessories, I think what it does have are great. It comes with a 2” Crayford-style 10:1 dual speed focuser. It’s not a helical Crayford, but it is better quality than rack-and-pinions usually offered with entry-level telescopes. Importantly, it provides smooth adjustments, and it can hold heavy loads without creeping even when you are near zenith.
An included one-piece 2” diagonal is very high quality. It’s made from carbon fiber and has 99% dielectric coatings which are specialized glass coatings to promote maximum reflectivity and little to near zero light loss. The diagonal is what will help with comfortable viewing through the eyepiece on a refractor as you crank up altitude. It also has a 1.25” adapter with a compression ring that allows you to use and secure 1.25” eyepieces.
Lastly, an 8×50 straight-thru finder is included. Unfortunately, I don’t think it lives up in performance compared to the other accessories with the AR152. First off, it’s a straight-thru finder, and I feel it’s not the most comfortable to use. You can replace it, but you’ll have to keep the quick release bracket and finder rings since it has a non-standard shoe. Explore Scientific has compatible, so it may be worth it check out right-angled models.
The tube by itself is obviously portable, but the mount and tripod of choice will also determine how easy it is to pack up and set up at various locations. Due to its design, the tube weighs 23 lbs. It’s not as lightweight as some Dobsonians, but it does have a long tube and offers excellent sharpness and clarity.
No Eyepieces & Mount
The cost is obviously put straight into the optical tube, and it’s why I believe it’s such a performer. However, you will have to budget more or package in a mount and eyepieces. The good thing about having to buy these parts separately is that you can choose from the get-go exactly what you want.
Many telescopes are praised for the optics, but the mount and/or tripod are severely lacking and limiting. In this case, you are responsible for choosing the most appropriate equipment for your needs and can customize your setup, which I think is great.
No Instructions Included
Many buying experiences of the AR152 mention the lack of included instructions or a manual. As such, this is not a telescope for the beginner or novice. This scope is intended for intermediates and even experts that already know what they’re dealing with. This may be a trial-and-error process, but fortunately, instructions can be found online.
Other Telescopes to Consider
While the AR152 by Explore Scientific is a fantastic option, there are a few other telescopes out there around the same price that have different pros and cons. Check them out and see if any of them are more suited to what you are looking for. They are the SkyWatcher Evostar ED80 Pro, the Orion ED80T CF Triplet Apochromatic, and the Celestron Omni XLT 120.
With the appropriate mount, you very well could take photos. It has a large aperture to capture stars and deep-sky targets, but it also has a medium-fast focal ratio that would work well for wide-field photography.
However, it’s the chromatic aberration that might get you. Due to this type of aberration, color fidelity is compromised and is exaggerated in images than they are visually. You can correct for color fringing by using different types of filters. It will require more of an investment in acquiring the right equipment, though not out of the question.
What about phones adapters? Many ask if the Explore Scientific AR152 comes with a cellphone/smartphone adapter, the answer is no. You can purchase it separately and take amateur photographs with it.
The AR152 has a Vixen dovetail plate that is compatible with most equatorial and alt-azimuth mounts. You can also use motorized drives for tracking if you’re willing to fork out the extra expense. However, if you don’t plan on doing any astrophotography, you can always opt for a mount that has slow-motion controls and put more of your investment into a sturdy and reliable option free of electronics.
Yes. The diagonal has a 1.25” adapter that enables you to insert and secure a 1.25” eyepiece by way of a compression ring that holds it in place. While price may drive you towards 1.25” eyepieces, you can take advantage of a wide total field of view at low magnification with a 2” eyepiece. Having an eyepiece collection allows you the ability to mix-and-match eyepieces for the right viewing quality when appropriate.
It may take some experimentation, but there are recommended filters by owners and users of the AR152 that can be found online. The Semi APO provides the same benefits of a “stack” of filters that would considerably reduce CA (chromatic aberration) but can dim the view on DSOs.
A Fringe Killer filter will also significantly reduce CA without compromising brightness on DSOs and will also improve contrast simultaneously.
In my opinion the Explore Scientific AR152 is not a premium-grade optical tube, but it is an excellent buy for the money. It doesn’t need any immediate upgrades, but they can be done if you already have your own preferences. I think the fact that it doesn’t come with a mount is a good thing – you can save that money and put it into the right one without fear of performance and compromise.