Celestron NexStar Evolution 8 Review: Masterpiece

Celestron NexStar Evolution 8 pushes the astronomy field forward, and it does so in a spectacular fashion.

9.6

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Review

Celestron NexStar Evolution Series are the “Pro” models for telescopes. They are not cheap, and they don’t apologize for it. 

Don’t expect anything “budget”.

Whether the telescope is worth it or not is your decision, but I can confidently say the technology in this thing is impressive. Celestron went for an all-in-one design. You don’t need anything extra if you get Celestron NexStar Evolution 8, apart from a few large eyepieces and a diagonal.

But, NexStar Evolution 8 is not perfect. The app designed for using the telescope remotely is passionate, but buggy. And the 8″ aperture is rather modest compared to the price and technology of NexStar Evolution 8. Speaking of the aperture, let’s talk about the optics in detail.

Optics

Celestron NexStar Evolution 8 is a Schmidt-Cassegrain. The light travels the optical two times instead of one. There are few powerful reasons why this is an ingenious design choice.

Firstly, it fits powerful optics in a small space. The same optical path without the Schmidt-Cassegrain design would be 2000mm long which would be a burden to carry around.

Secondly, the optics are enclosed with lenses and mirrors. They are much harder to damage than exposed optical designs. 

Thirdly, optical defects are almost none existent. Chromatic aberration, diffraction spikes, color inaccuricies are significant problems with refractors and reflectors, not with Schmidt-Cassegrains.(The other, popular optical designs.) 

The optical design has significant advantages.

These are the main reasons why most astronomers have a Schmidt-Cassegrain in their portfolios. I love them, and you probably will too no matter your astronomical experience.

8″ Aperture – f/10 – Schmidt-Cassegrain – 2000mm Focal Length

8″ is narrow for this price tag.

There is only one problem with the optics, and it is the 8″ aperture. It is enough for above-average viewing, but for half the price of NexStar Evolution 8, you can get a Zhumell Z12, which is 2x more powerful. 

You are paying for the technology more than the optics, and that is something to keep in mind.

Planetary Performance

As I’ve mentioned before the light travels the optical tube two times instead of one. As a result the optical path is narrower. This improves planetary performance by gathering more detail at high powers. 

Jupiter shows it beige-brown-red colors with its stripes, and The Great Red Spot is easily observable. It’s Galilean Moon’s appear as bright, colorful disks.

Celestron NexStar Evolution 8 is a planetary performer at its core.

Saturn shows its yellow-green color with its rings. The Cassini Division is clear and its many moons are visible. Titan, the largest one, appears as a colorful disk. It’s unique yellow color stands out from the rest of the objects.

Mars shows its red surface, with black and white stains scattered. The ice on the poles are clear as white stains and the Iron nature of surface shows itself as black stains.

The surface of Venus is impossible to observe due to its thick atmosphere. But, its unique yellow color is clear and its phases are easily observable.

Neptune and Uranus appear as blueish dots. Triton, Neptune’s largest moon, is observable on ideal conditions.

Mercury and Pluto are farther and smaller objects. They are hard to locate and observe. Even if you could, they look like colorful dots most of the time.

Celestron NexStar Evolution 8 – The Moon – The image will look vastly better in real life.

Lunar observations are phenomenal. The color accuracy and sharpness is perfect, and the auto-tracking enhances the experience even more. Countless craters and mountain ranges appear and the fact that you don’t have to slightly move the telescope all the time is cherry on top.

Overall the planetary performance is delightful. The optics are easy to focus and minor details show themselves with near perfect color accuracy. The fact that there are no major optical problems is absolutely appreciated. 

Deep Space Performance

Deep space performance can be reviewed in two ways. With and without a focal reducer.

Without a focal reducer, it is hard to fit large objects inside the view. Therefore smaller and brighter objects are the ideal targets, but galaxies and nebulas are boring to observe.

With a focal reducer, deep space performance improves dramatically. The field view widens and flattens. Galaxies and nebulas fit inside the view. Star clusters still look great and the tiny details around the objects show themselves. 

For decent deep space performance, a focal reducer is necessary.

If you acquire a 2″ star diagonal and 2″ eyepieces, deep space performance reaches its peak level. The optics take advantage of the 8″ aperture completely, and the performance is on par with 8″ reflectors, which says a lot.

Overall, for “delightful” deep space performance there is a good amount to be spent, but the upgrades are absolutely worth it. 

Is Astrophotography possible with Celestron NexStar Evolution 8?

Normally, long-exposure astrophotography is not possible with the NexStar Mount. It is an altazimuth, which moves in an up-down motion. You need “equatorial” motion for serious astrophotography. Altazimuth limits you to short, 1-2 min exposures.

Orion Nebula – Celestron NexStar Evolution 8

Be ready to spend a good amount for deep space astrophotography.

But, there are two solutions for this. One is cheap, smart and boring; and the other is expensive and awesome.

The “cheap”boring and smart solution is the Celestron Equatorial Wedge. It tilts the optical tube in precise manner and allows for equatorial motion. Any sensible person would get the wedge and start using NexStar Evolution 8 for serious astrophotography.

The expensivecool solution is the HyperStar. It is one of the most innovative products in the astronomy realm. It replaces the secondary mirror with a camera. Therefore when you are photographing, you are using the main, f/2 mirror. It needs 30x less exposure time for equally bright images. It is a phenomenal thing to use, and expensive as hell.

NexStar Evolution Mount 

The NexStar Evolution Mount is an improved version of the usual NexStar SE mounts, but that is an understatement. It is a technological achievement by every measure. The Evolution mount not only solves all the problems with the standard NexStar Mount, but it also improves upon them. 

The motors inside are stronger and sturdier. They have less backlash and will stand 8-9 years of use, maybe more. They are much more reliable and more precise. 

The Evolution Mount is better than any other popular, automized mount by a huge margin.

The clutches are stronger. There are no problems in terms of stability with the optical tube. But that is not the best part; they are manually usable. You get the “complete freedom” of using the optical tube; computerized or by hand. 

There is a built-in WiFi inside the mount. It creates the ability to connect to the telescope in the field.

There is a built-in Lithium-Ion battery that lasts close to 10 hours. 

The Tripod

The tripod is a 1.25″-steel model. It is not ideal in terms of stability. Considering that this telescope will be used with the app most of the time, this is acceptable. But in any other situation, the tripod would be a deal-breaker. I recommend Celestron’s vibration suppression pads for the tripod, or better yet, a stronger tripod.

SkyPortal App

Digital System 

This is the most problematic part of the whole package. Celestron is not a computer company, and it shows with the SkyPortal App.

The app is a passionate, admirable attempt. It is a simulation of what the telescope actually “sees” in the night sky, and is in real-time. You just tap on a star, and the optical tube starts to follow that object. Simple, smart, useful. When everything works perfectly, it is a dreamy experience. 

The app is buggy, but an admirable attempt.

But, the app is buggy. On occasion, the button gets stuck, and the optical tube continues moving even if you don’t want it to. At times, the app crashes in the middle of an observing session. 

You might rely on Celestron for fixing these issues, but you never know. They might not be able to solve these things for years. Or they might solve it with a new series. Either way, the SkyPortal App is problematic.

Accessories

The included accessories are average choices. All of the accessories need upgrades.

Celestron sends a 13mm and a 40mm, 1.25″, Plössl eyepieces with the telescope. These are usable eyepieces, but they fall short considering how capable the optics are.

There is a red dot finder included. It is completely plastic and barely usable. Celestron sends these because NexStar Evolution telescopes are rarely used manually. The cheap finder choice is understandable.

The 1.25” star diagonal is disappointing. It is completely fine in terms of quality, but it is almost certain that anyone who gets this telescope will get a 2″ star diagonal for 2″ eyepieces. So why not send a 2″ diagonal in the first place? 

Drawbacks

There are two significant problems with the NexStar Evolution 8.

The SkyPortal App is buggy. Celestron may solve these problems in time, but it is not certain. The first rule when it comes to buying tech: never buy a product depending on future software updates.

The other problem is relative. The price tag is sky-high, and there are additional expenses required to reach the maximum potential of NexStar Evolution 8. Depending on your financial situation, this may be a reasonable purchase or not. But as I’ve mentioned before, you are paying for the technology more than you are paying for the optics.

Conclusion

I have nothing but respect towards the NexStar Evolution Series. Yes, they are ridiculously expensive, and the technology is problematic at times. But some products need to push things forward and make us question what is possible and what is not. 

Celestron NexStar Evolution 8 pushes the astronomy field forward, and it does so in a spectacular fashion. 

9.6

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