Celestron NexStar 5SE Review: Incomplete Perfection

written by TTB
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The Good


The Bad

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Whatever Celestron NexStar 5SE tries, it achieves perfectly.


If Celestron NexStar 5SE were priced slightly lower, it would be an excellent choice. But it is 700$. 

At this price range, you can probably find a Z12, which would be almost 6x more powerful. So, optical power is not what you are paying for; it is the sturdy mount, portability, and GoTo features.

NexStar 5SE is expensive, but it is not a waste of money.

NexStar 5SE can achieve what most astronomers want from a GoTo telescope; space objects on-demand without the effort of locating. But it has serious problems. The lack of a built-in battery is the most significant one. I will talk about all of the issues in the corresponding sections.



125mm(5″) Aperture

1250mm Focal Length


Planetary Performer

NexStar 5SE is a planetary performer at its core. It has an f/10 focal ratio. The light travels the optical tube two times instead of one. 

As a result, the optics are effortless to focus at high magnifications. It easily gathers detail from the Solar System objects.

The 5″ aperture is among mid-level powered telescopes. I would go for a 6″, but 5″ can provide decent views.

Planetary Performance

What can you see with the NexStar 5SE?

5″ is adequate for popular Solar System details.

Some of the easy things to observe are Jupiter’s moons, The Great Red Spot, and its storm clouds. Rings of Saturn are a piece of cake, its largest moon Titan and some of the smaller moons are visible. 

The image will be better in real life. – It is possible to get more detailed images of the Lunar Surface with NexStar 5SE. 

The Lunar Surface looks mesmerizingly sharp, detailed, and contrasty. Due to the lack of diffraction spikes(a reflector problem), NexStar 5SE would be one of the go-to’s(pun intended) for Lunar observations.

Mars and Venus are not easy to observe with NexStar 5SE. Some surface detail on Mars is visible as black and white stains, and phases of Venus are observable. You can get the unique colors of the planets, but that is about it. The 5″ aperture starts to reach its limit with these planets.

NeptuneUranusMercury, and Pluto are difficult to observe with any telescope. With NexStar 5SE, it is almost impossible. You can see a colorful dot, but nothing more. With these planets, the GoTo feature helps a lot. Locating these objects are challenging.

Overall planetary performance is what NexStar 5SE is built for, and it achieves its objective. Pleasing Solar System observations are within reach.

Deep Space Performance

Deep space performance is expectedly average. The 5″ aperture is not enough for gathering a lot of detail from galaxies and nebulas, and the field view is too narrow.

focal reducer solves the problem by expanding the view, but it slightly lowers brightness. But still, it is a must for deep space observations. Celestron f/6.3 focal reducer is great for that, but you can buy it later.

NexStar 5SE desperately needs a focal reducer.

Star clusters, on the other hand, are delightful to observe. They are brighter than other deep space objects and cover a smaller part of the night sky.

Hercules Star Cluster – NexStar 5SE – Taken with an equatorial mount.

Is Astrophotography possible with Celestron NexStar 5SE?

The short answer is no. Serious astrophotography is not possible with Celestron NexStar 5SE, as long as you don’t get a new equatorial mount that costs close to a thousand dollars. 

Long exposure photography is impossible.

The long answer is, only with Solar System objects and bright star clusters. Long-exposure astrophotography aims to gather more light and information from the space objects so you can stack the images later. 

If the object you are imaging is spectacularly bright, like the MoonJupiterSaturn, or the Pleiades, short exposures are enough.

Celestron NexStar 5SE can achieve 30-40 second exposure before the image gets blurry. This is due to the altazimuth nature of the mount. It moves in an up-down motion. You need an equatorial motion for “real” astrophotography.

Built-in Wedge

Celestron includes a built-in wedge to provide equatorial motion. But, the wedge is so imprecise it is impossible to use it. If you acquire a more precise model than long exposure astrophotography is possible. But those wedges are incredibly expensive, and you would be better off getting a specialized equatorial mount and attach NexStar 5SE to it.



Sturdy Build

Reliable Accuracy

SkyPortal App

StarSense Upgradable

Some parts of the NexStar Mount are built surprisingly well, and some parts feel so old using them feels like time traveling to the 90s. Using the battery, for example, is one of those. 

Before delving in, I have to mention that you can’t use NexStar 5SE manually. This might be a deal-breaker for some people, and some don’t mind it.

The Battery Problem

Celestron doesn’t send a built-in battery with the NexStar 5SE. Instead, they send a slot for 8 AA batteries. This would be OK if they didn’t run out in a single night. 

In the end, you have to use an external power source with NexStar 5SE. Not only is this a burden to carry around, if the cable is heavy, it also messes up the alignment.

The battery problem is annoying and lowers the quality of the observations. 

Is NexStar Mount Reliable?

The build quality of the mount is superb. This is a savior for the battery problem.

The connections between the optical tube and the mount are strong. The motorized nature of the mount clearly helps by providing a stronger grip.

Getting a longer dovetail bar would help with stability. But it is not necessary; the optical tube is short enough for decent stability.

How long will the motors last?

If used properly, the motors last for at least 6-7 years, maybe longer. This is not an easy thing to achieve. 

But, the motors aren’t perfect, and on occasions, they will break down. That is why I strongly recommend that you make sure there is Celestron Customer Service within reach if you are getting the NexStar 5SE. You never know.


The tripod is also sturdy. Celestron sends a 2″-steel model. It is more than enough for the optical tube and motorized mount. It is a rare thing to see an included tripod that doesn’t require an upgrade. 

The Software

Using the Hand Controller of Celestron NexStar 5SE feels like a time travel to the 90s. But it works properly, so I can’t complain. As long as the alignment is perfect, the optical tube will find and follow the object. 

You can also get the Celestron WiFi Adapter and use the SkyPortal App. The app works pretty well, but the adapter loses connection occasionally. 


StarSense is one of the most innovative astronomy equipment any company has put out in a long time. It is a camera that auto aligns your telescope, and it works excellently. But, it also costs as much as a real DSLR Camera. 



25mm Plössl Eyepiece

1.25″ Diagonal

Built-In 1.25″ Focuser

Red Dot Finder

Celestron kept it simple with the default packaging. Only a 25mm Plössl eyepiece and a 1.25″ diagonal comes with the telescope. Both are decent accessories and should serve you well for a few years. But of course, there are better choices in the market. But those usually exceed the 100$ price tag.

The built-in focuser works well but is not as precise as all-metal Crayford focusers. There is a slight image shift, but it is not a deal-breaker.


Needs a Focal Reducer

No Battery

Imprecise Focuser

As I’ve mentioned before, a Celestron f/6.3 focal reducer is a necessity for decent deep space observations. This increases the price tag.

Using Celestron NexStar 5SE without an external power source is almost impossible. The AA battery slot finishes up in a single night and is expensive to supply for long periods of time.

The focuser’s precision is not ideal, and the focuser is not replaceable.


If you overlook the battery problem, Celestron NexStar 5SE is a complete package. It provides decent planetary and deep space performance and has reliable GoTo features. Increasing your budget for the NexStar 6SE would be a smart decision, but NexStar 5SE is slightly cheaper and easier to transport. 

In the end, the choice is yours. If something were to disappoint you, it would either be the battery or the 5″ aperture. Other than these, Celestron NexStar 5SE is worth praise.

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The Good


The Bad

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