Celestron Inspire 100AZ Refractor Telescope Review: Not Perfect
Inspire 100AZ won’t disappoint you, but it has its short-comings.
Celestron Inspire 100AZ is a fine telescope that will please most beginners. But the wobbly, plastic focuser is not an easy problem to fix. This puts Inspire 100AZ on the B+ quality of beginner telescopes instead of A.
Other than the focuser, Inspire 100AZ manages to check all the boxes for a good beginner telescope. It has considerable optical power, its base is sturdy, and the accessories that come with it are useful. In my opinion, this telescope can be bought if you don’t have any other brand options in your country.
Inspire 100AZ is a decent choice for complete beginners.
Inspire 100AZ is able to show major Solar System details. These include some detail on Jupiter with its 4 Galilean Moon’s, Rings of Saturn and Mars as a red dot. The Moon will look gorgeous as it does with most refractors.
The 100mm aperture gathers a moderate amount of light.
Deep Space performance will be mediocre. If you are going for deep-space observations specifically, you should try to get the highest aperture telescope possible. At this price range, such a telescope would have at least 130mm aperture. A Zhumell Z130 can be one of the choices.
The low, f/6 focal ratio creates some amount of color defects around bright images. This is called chromatic aberration. It is definitely not a deal-breaker since most beginners wouldn’t notice it anyway. If this is a problem for you, reflectors lack such image defects.
Overall the optical performance of Inspire 100AZ is pretty good. It provides impressive planetary and average deep space performance. It is powerful enough to spark some astronomical curiosity.
The mount is not out of this world. It is an altazimuth, which is a design that only moves up, down, left, and right. It is made of mostly plastic, which should give you an idea about is sturdiness. In short, it is not ideal.
The tripod is pretty solid. It is made of stainless steel, and there are no unnecessary connections on the legs. I don’t have anything negative to say about it.
None of Celestron Inspire 100AZ’s accessories’ are unnecessary, which is a rare aspect at this price range. Especially considering Celestron decided to include some weird, extra accessories such as a red flashlight and a lens cap with a built-in smartphone adapter. But let’s talk about the most important accessories first, the eyepieces.
A 10mm and a 20mm eyepiece come with Inspire 100AZ. The eyepieces are Kellner’s, a common model among beginner telescopes. They are acceptable and useful for the beginning—especially the 20mm since it provides an optimal, 33x magnification.
The 10mm eyepiece is a little too much power for this telescope. It provides a rather dim, 66x magnification image. The lens is a little small and makes it uncomfortable to look through. But it is usable.
The eyepieces and the finder are below-average models.
If you decide to get the Inspire 100AZ, you should consider getting a Plössl eyepiece in the future. It will vastly improve image quality.
The red dot finder that comes with the telescope is a simple, useful accessory. It just projects a red circle on its screen so you can align the telescope easily.
The diagonal that comes with the telescope corrects the images’ rotation but lowers the image quality quite a bit. It is useful for terrestrial viewing.
The accessory tray that comes with the telescope is quite useful for putting eyepieces and some equipment. It also has a slightly dim, red flashlight implemented above it. I think it is a nice touch, especially for dark nights.
The Lens Cap
The lens cap that comes with the telescope serves two purposes: a place for putting the eyepieces and an amateur astrophotography device. Most telescope models don’t include such smart accessories, and the fact that it does its job without any problems is pretty impressive.
But there is a slight problem you should keep in mind. You can’t use it with large smartphones such as a Note 9 or iPhone Pro MAX. But borrowing a friends’ smartphone and sending yourself the images later would easily solve the problem.
If the focuser of Inspire 100AZ was made of mostly metal and it was smooth, Inspire 100AZ would be my highest recommended refractor in this price range. But unfortunately, Celestron used a lot of plastic in the focuser, which creates annoying wobbles at mid and high magnifications. The focusing motion is not as smooth as you want it to be.
This telescope has only one drawback, and it is the plastic focuser. Other than that, Celestron did a pretty good job with Inspire 100AZ.
The mount is plastic and feels cheap.
The plastic focuser aside, Inspire 100AZ is a decent refractor for beginners. Its aperture is well enough for most astronomical objects, and it is quite easy to use. Its also advantageous to buy a telescope from an experienced company like Celestron. Their customer service is excellent, and packaging is without problems most of the time.
Infinity 102 is slightly better, but the difference is not that significant.
Meade Infinity 102 vs Celestron Inspire 100AZ
Infinity 102 and Inspire 100 have the same amount of aperture. The differences between these models are Inspire 100AZ’s 60mm longer optical tube and Infinity 102’s sturdier focuser.
At the moment, Inspire 100AZ costs 50$ more, which may change in the future. In my opinion, such a price difference is not worth the extra accessories and the slightly longer optical tube. Adding to that the Infinity 102 comes with a better focuser, so it would easily be my choice. The extra 50$ can be used for a Plössl eyepiece, which is a major improvement with any telescope.
But ultimately, these telescopes are worth around the same value. So don’t worry about small differences. The price is the most important determiner.