PROS / This telescope is easy to assemble, so you can get right to viewing the night sky.
CONS / The image quality is poor.
VERDICT / The Starfinder has poor build quality, but the voice-guidance feature offers insightful details about the objects you view.
Bushnell’s NorthStar Starfinder is a motorized reflector telescope with some unique features. For example, this beginner telescope includes a speaking star tracker, offers easy assembly and has a generous object library. Unfortunately, the telescope has poor image quality and is heavier than all the other telescopes we reviewed, so it's not among the very best telescope for beginners.
The Starfinder is priced to compete with the other altazimuth-mount motorized telescopes. Also, it's one of the heaviest telescopes on our lineup. While this might give you the impression that it's a substantial telescope, unfortunately, the build quality just isn’t there. The telescope is the least stable we tested. Once the weather became windy, the image bounced around in the eyepiece, while the other telescopes were barely affected. Further, the lightweight mirror mount guarantees you’ll need to collimate, or align, it often.
Most users will probably find the voice-guided feature to be helpful. It gives you a few details about whatever object you’re looking at. If you don’t care for this feature, you can disable it and use the remote control. The touchpad is back-illuminated with a red light, which helps your eyes remain adjusted to darkness.
The assembly process is relatively easy, but it isn't completely tool-free like most of the other beginner telescopes we tested. Setting up this telescope was very difficult: We attempted several times to get the telescope to align and start tracking stars. Once we found an object to view, the image was very dim and had a gray-ish color.
The Starfinder optical telescope has a focal length of 675 mm, an aperture of 114 mm and a focal ratio of 7. It comes with two eyepieces for two types of magnification: a 4 mm and a 20 mm lens. On paper, it seems on a par with many of the best telescopes for beginners. Unfortunately, the image quality just isn’t there.
Bushnell’s website does not include much information about the telescope, such as instructional videos or troubleshooting help. Additionally, the company does not offer an unconditional guarantee like many of the other telescopes we reviewed. Bushnell only offers a one-year warranty. Customer service is pretty spotty, and it was difficult for us to get answers for technical questions about collimation or setup.
While the NorthStar Starfinder automates a lot of the work for you and talks to you about what you’re viewing, there are too many hiccups along the way. The image quality isn’t there, and further, the build quality isn’t what you’d expect for a telescope in this price range. You’d likely have an easier time printing a star map and using the telescope without the motor and digital components.