If you’re looking for a beginner telescope specifically for searching out the skies, you’ll want something bigger than the current offerings in the market aimed towards first-time buyers.
I think the Zhumell Z114 is a fantastic buy for someone just getting started in the hobby with its 4.5” aperture and Dobsonian-style mount.
As a tabletop telescope, it provides an additional benefit – it’s portable.
The entire scope system is lightweight, compact, and ready to go, which I love.
Let’s find out if the Zhumell is too good to be true for the price, or if it’s an underdog that has risen to high ranks deservedly.
Zhumell Z114 Portable Altazimuth Reflector Telescope Review
✔️ Best Feature: Parabolic mirror
❌ Worst Feature: Not for astrophotography
👌 Ideal For: Celestial Viewing, Stargazing, Lunar & Planetary Observation, DSO Viewing, Beginners
- Optical Design: Reflector
- Aperture: 114 mm (4.5”)
- Focal Length: 465 mm
- Focal Ratio: f/4
- Eyepieces Included: 17 mm, 10 mm
My Verdict: In my opinion the Zhumell Z114 is one of the absolute best starter Dobsonians a beginner can buy. It has excellent quality and features for its price point and should absolutely be a final candidate on your short list.
Who is the Zhumell Z114 Portable AZ Best Suited to?
I think the Zhumell Z114 telescope is a superb telescope for a beginner, but with some additional investment, it can be an excellent optic for an intermediate user as well. As it is, the Zhumell is simple and easy to use, and its optical quality and clarity provide better than average detail compared to a smaller aperture telescope and reflectors with spherical mirrors.
II think it also has decent eyepieces, and of course, one of the easiest mounts to use, an alt-azimuth mount. For the price, I reckon it’s a fantastic telescope for the first-time buyer.
How Does the Zhumell Z114 Portable AZ Perform?
Thanks to the parabolic mirror and its large size, it provides very good image viewing. The wide FOV (Field of View) is well-suited to stargazing, but the fast and short focal specs severely limit astrophotography in my opinion. While it’s a performer in viewing DSOs (Deep Sky Objects) due to its fast ratio and low magnification, it may fall short when seeking up-close and personal details of planets.
You can still view Jupiter, moons, cloud bands, and the Red Spot, and you may be able to discern separation between Saturn’s rings and possible icecaps on Mars. I think it really shines for lunar imaging and deep space observation. This is because it has a larger aperture than most other entry-level telescopes with a 70 mm or even 100 mm aperture. The gist is, the Zhumell telescope performs.
Features & Benefits
For the low price, I’m incredibly surprised to see a parabolic primary mirror on the Zhumell. This is a great start to promising observation with no aberrations. At its price point, a spherical mirror would have been justified but with its focal specs, it would have essentially made the scope unusable.
With its highly reflective coatings and slightly larger aperture than the Zhumell Z100, it offers 26% more light-gathering power. Seeing those DSOs like nebulae, galaxies, and star clusters is well within your capability with the Z114.
It’s great to see that both the primary and secondary mirrors can be collimated. This isn’t the case with the Z100. However, no collimation tools are included with the package, so you may want to buy some tools and/or look up online tutorials to do this efficiently. Surprisingly, many buyers state their scopes came collimated, and even if it wasn’t perfect, it didn’t noticeably affect their observation.
The telescope is designed as a tabletop device but I think it is an excellent portable telescope you can travel with. Place it on a solid and stable surface and start observing. This may not be everyone’s favorite setup, and a disadvantage is that you would need a table, and this could be a limiting factor if you plan to travel. It does have its place though.
It can make observations more comfortable since you can sit in a small chair, and if you use the right table height, it might reach perfectly to the eye. If you plan on looking at bodies at or near zenith, you may have to learn contortion, but if you get creative, you should be able to work around it.
As far as portability, the entire assembly weighs only 11 lbs. Although it’s just shy of a 5” Dobsonian, it weighs significantly less. This is obviously an attractive feature for those who want to grab and go or to allow older children the liberty of setting up and using the telescope.
Known for their very sturdy bases, the Z114 has a tabletop Dobsonian mount, but there’s a key difference to inferior tabletop telescopes – this one has tube rings. The tube is attached with a dovetail mount and adjustable tube rings that allow you to slide and rotate the tube to the most comfortable position for viewing through the eyepiece, which I like.
There is no computerized or motorized tracking, so all adjustments are made alt-azimuth style. Another point of interest is that it has Teflon bearings providing excellent azimuth motion. The base is basically just melamine-covered particle board, and it conveniently has a carry handle built-in for easy portability.
Included with the Zhumell are two Kellner eyepieces: 17 mm (24x) and 10 mm (40x). The 17 mm offers wide FOV observation with low magnification and the 10 mm puts you into deep space observation. Maximum theoretical magnification is around 225x, but in my opinion you won’t want to push it that much.
Your best bet in getting even better quality or more power is to buy a Barlow lens and/or maybe a Goldline eyepiece. With an upgrade you will be able to get planetary viewing, but as-is, I think the eyepieces are not bad at all.
The 25 mm seems to be more comfortable to use for most users as the 10 mm has very unforgiving eye relief, and with no rubber eyecaps, you may have a sore nose from pressing into the eyepiece for so long. However, quality must be noticed where it exists, and these eyepieces are all glass and metal with zero plastic which I love.
Not for Astrophotography
Unfortunately, as this is a fast telescope, this is not an ideal model for long exposure astrophotography. DSLR cameras will be unable to achieve focus. You may be able to experiment with a smartphone adapter and use a smartphone for amateur lunar and planetary photography. As this is a telescope for visual purposes, it does not have the ability to provide astrophotography capability.
Those who have bought Zhumell telescopes are more than happy with their buy, but it’s obvious that they are not as widely recognized as brands like Orion and Celestron. This is not a reason to disregard Zhumell. There is issue as to who actually manufactures the telescopes, and there seems to be confusion as to whether GSO still makes them or if Celestron Acquisition LLC has entered the picture.
Regardless of the lack of transparency, they do have a customer service department in California, USA, and their telescopes are often desired for the quality versus cost ratio.
Other Telescopes to Consider
Unlike the Z100 that has a base that is compatible with mounting to a tripod, the Z114 does not have this capability. You can switch out the mount to an equatorial one if you wish, but the base is as-is. Weighing in at 11 pounds, it should provide sufficient weight to be placed on a tabletop for steady and secure viewing.
The Z114 is well-equipped with quality features that many scopes of the same caliber lack. However, the focuser is mainly my primary gripe. It’s plastic, as are many other focusers that come with entry-level telescopes, but you’ll want to learn how to tune your focuser to achieve optimal performance.
While the red dot finder is meh and works fine with this telescope, you can remove it and replace it with an accessory of your choosing with a Vixen Synta-style shoe. An additional quality eyepiece would be a fantastic idea.
As a reflector telescope, the image is inverted. So, it will appear to be upside down. This has no consequence during celestial observation but is obviously ill-suited to terrestrial observation.
First of all, they’re two different optics. The Zhumell is a reflecting telescope that uses mirrors instead of glass prisms that are in binoculars, and secondly, the Z114’s primary mirror has a large aperture of 114 mm that is not typically a size seen in binocular objective lenses.
If you were to compare a 15×70 binocular with this telescope, the Zhumell is capable of providing more power, light grasp is significantly increased, and you don’t have to focus for binocular vision – two eyes.
In terms of cost, if going the binocular or spotting scope route, glass quality is extremely important. So, the better the glass, the more it will cost. The larger in size, the more it will cost. Spotting scopes and high-powered binoculars of this kind cost significantly more than the Zhumell that already has a large aperture and uses mirrors.
The praises keep coming when people get their hands on the Zhumell Z114 telescope and I can see why.
It’s big enough, is incredibly easy to use (a child could use it), and it’s portable, compact, and lightweight which is great.
Most importantly, I believe it has great optical and mechanical quality.
In my opinion, it’s a high-ranking telescope that would serve a beginner and amateur user well.