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Celestron Ultima 80


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Celestron Ultima 80

by Gianluca Rossi

I had the opportunity to observe the sky with this spotting scope during my holidays last Summer.  My Father in law happened to own the Celestron Ultima 80 for nature watching and shooting sport and had left the scope at his holiday house near the seaside where I spent my holidays with my family. The sky there is pretty good so you can see 5.0-5.5 magnitude stars with the unaided eye at the zenith.

The spotting scope is primarily made for nature and bird watching and at first sight looks quite good. The scope is lightweight and you can leave it mounted on a small tripod, so that you just have to put it outdoor to observe the stars in a matter of mere seconds.

Image 1

The Celestron Ultima 80 mounted on a small tripod. In mere seconds you can put the scope outdoor and be ready to observe. The scope has 45° viewing angle

Upon inspection however I have found some drawbacks. First the internal lens of the eyepiece happened to be dirty with glue, so I had to dismantle the eyepiece to clean it. Luckily the incriminated optical surface was exposed so I managed to clean the lens quite easily. 

Image 2a, 2b and 2c

Dismantling and cleaning the eyepiece of the spotting scope is quite easy as it can be unscrewed from the 45° viewing angle prism

Then all coatings and internal darkening of the Celestron Ultima 80 are probably nothing better than those you can find in other Chinese spotting scopes. The objective has a greenish coating, the eyepiece seems to lack it completely at least over the inner lens and the internal darkening lacks quality. Some internal reflections can be seen for instance while observing bright objects such as the moon.

Image 3 and image 4

The lens of the Ultima 80 has a greenish tint that is typical of other Chinese spotting scopes. It is a good idea to clean the objective sometimes, especially if you use the scope near the sea

The scope is equipped with a zoom eyepiece that delivers from 20x to 60x. Observing the sky reveals other drawbacks too. There is a certain degree of miscollimation and some aberrations such as astigmatism. Those may be partially due to miscollimation however, but you cannot solve the problem has the lens cell does not have collimating screws. Another possible source of aberration and miscollimation can be the internal prism, but there is no possibility to adjust its position either. The prism does not allow a comfortable position to observe objects near the zenith as it has 45° viewing angle and 60x is definitely too little power to split clearly close double stars and to observe details of the surface of the planets.

Image 5 and 5a

The Celestron Ultima 80 has 45° viewing angle. This feature is not of any benefit to observe stars near the zenith. The zoom eyepiece delivers from 20x to 60x by simply rotating it.

A bit of lateral color is also present, but the degree of such aberration is not severe and it can become practically negligible providing you place your eyes in line with the center of the eyepiece. This can be easily experimented during daytime observing, for instance by watching TV antennas.

Image 6 and 6a

Terrestrial landscape shot by placing a digital camera behind the eyepiece at 20x and 60x. Increasing magnification results in increasing a little bit the false color. However this feature, that is just barely visible and does not harm the observing, becomes practically negligible when placing eyes in line with the center of the eyepiece.

Having said that I dare say that I had a good time with this spotting scope under the stars. Using powers between 40x and 60x delivers the best views of many nebular objects owing to the more darkening of the night sky. M57 can be identified as a classic small ring of smoke when the nebula is high in the sky. The outer regions of globular clusters such as M13 and M22 can be resolved in stars using 60x with averted vision, M28 can also be seen even if it is small. The Andromeda galaxy M31 and its small companion M32 can be seen very well too. M32 appears as a small fuzzy patch while with averted vision you can have an intuition of the dark limb of M31 providing you allow your eyes to reach full dark adaptation and you spend a solid ten minutes observing this galaxy continuously.

Of course 60x is little power to resolve close double stars and to observe the planets taking full advantage of the aperture of the scope. Gamma Andromedae (separation 9.6”) can be resolved, Albireo (31”), and Mizar (14.5”) are also easily splitted and you can see star Sidus Ludovicianum between Mizar and Alcor too. Tougher targets such as Alpha Herculis (4.5”) and Epsilon Lyrae can also be splitted. As regard the latter I could actually see the largest double (2.9”) with little effort but I had to strain my eyes a little bit to detect the closest double (2.3”). Saturn reveals its ring but appears small and Mars appears definitely too small at 60x to show the disk as it was only 7” at the time of my observing. Many beautiful views of open clusters such as the double cluster in Perseus or the Pleiades are also delivered by this scope.

Conclusions

Although I do not recommend the Celestron Ultima 80 for astronomical observing as it displays aberrations of considerable magnitude and has poor fit and finish for my liking, if you know people who own it, it would be a pity not to borrow it for a ride under the stars.

Despite its drawbacks it has some advatages too. It is lightweight and very handy, you can leave it mounted on a small tripod and be ready for observing in a matter a mere seconds.

With this spotting scope I was able to observe many interesting objects of the summer sky, such as the ring nebula, the 4 stars of Epsilon Lyrae and the stars that populate the outer region of M13, that I had been unable to observe at the beginning of my career with my first telescope, a 60 mm refractor. Besides you can certainly see more stuff with the Celestron Ultima 80 than with a pair of binoculars in the same price range that do not benefit of zoom eyepieces.


  • RafterJP and BFaucett like this


7 Comments

I have not been exposed to spotting scopes at all, so your review is very interesting to me.  Thanks for sharing your experiences.  Looks like that could be a good scope for general purpose daytime viewing.

 

Bill Steen

Thanks for the review.  A terrestrial spotting scope, perhaps of a somewhat better quality, may be a viable choice for the casual observer.  Not ideal, but certainly useable. 

Yes, I agree.  Sometimes even less than ideal scopes can be effectively used by the casual astronomical observer.  Perhaps a good quality spotting scope, perhaps with Ed lens and with more comfortable viewing angle, can deliver beautiful views of the night sky in addition to daytime observing.

Photo
Waxing Gibbous
Dec 22 2014 12:45 AM

 I've had one of these for about two years and couldn't be happier.
I got it for trundling around in the bush so dust and moisture were a big factor.

 I haven't experienced any of the optical or build quality problems you seem to

have regrettably experienced.  Could be just a QA problem on your model but sorry to here about the duff bits anyway.

Sounds like you had some fun anyway, that's the main thing.

It's nice to know a few facts about this scope.

There was a 100mm ED Celestron Regal in local clasifieds, that dropped to 350 euros, but I didn't buy it. It should be better as an ED. I like terrestrial but I thought that a dual purpose telescope, like my WO 66ED (with 90 degrees and 45 degrees diagonal) is a better buy and more versatile. But for birding and outdoor activities these spotting scopes are more rugged and appropiate.

Nice review.

Thanks for this review.  I considered buying this scope for convenience.  I tried a couple of other spotting scopes, but had problems.  First, the zoom eyepieces have a narrower field of view than a stand alone eyepiece.  Second, most of them don't stay focused when you zoom.  Third, mine didn't have a 45 degree angle.  A straight through spotting scope is difficult to use for astronomy without an angled eyepiece.  45 degrees is an improvement, but it would be better with a 90 degree diagonal that can use interchangeble eyepieces. 



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