Celestron Nexstar 4SE vs 5SE [Telescope Review & Comparison]

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Welcome to this Celestron NexStar 4SE vs 5SE review and comparison. We’ll be taking a closer look at these two computerized telescopes; running through the key similarities and the major differences. By the end, you’ll be in a good position as to which one is going to be best for you.

Both telescopes are featured in the Celestron NexStar range. A collection of computerized models aimed at bringing higher quality optics with ease of use. The signature orange tube brings them all together. The 4SE and 5SE are both the more affordable models, yet still pair premium optics with an intuitive and robust design. First and foremost, it is important to note that both the 4SE and 5SE are popular telescopes with great reviews among the many astronomers who have decided to invest in them.

If you’re looking for a quick snapshot and high level summary of this review and conclusions drawn, here it is:

Both the NexStar 4SE and 5SE telescopes are Cassegrains in design, featuring StarBright XLT Optical Coatings to ensure maximum clarity and vision of the sky. You can expect to see intimate details including Saturn’s rings, the cloud bands on Jupiter, and geographic features on the surface of the Moon. Furthermore deep sky objects and hundreds of pinpoint stars like Hercules Globular Cluster and the spiral arms of the Whirlpool Galaxy will be visible with either scope.

However, the 5SE is optically superior to the 4SE. It has a greater Light Gathering Ability (it can collect 55% more light) and it also has the ability to acquire higher Magnification. The 5SE will give you additional visibility (lower Focal Ratio) and will enable you to observe more distant DSOs (Deep Sky Objects). While it comes in at a higher price point, the 5SE is considered a better telescope that is worth the extra investment (if you can afford it).

As these are both Celestron telescopes from the same NexStar range, there are some key similarities and differences. Here they are:

Let us now observe the specifications in a comparison table side by side. Then we can take a closer look into those similarities and differences referenced above.

Difference #1: Optical Telescope Design

First and foremost, the optical telescope design is actually a little bit different between the two telescopes. The 4SE is a Maksutov-Cassegrain (MAKs) whereas the 5SE is a Schmidt-Cassegrain (SCT). But what does this mean and what is the difference?

They are both Cassegrains; which is essentially how the telescopes work. They use mirrors to help produce an image through the eyepiece.

With a Cassegrain, there is a primary mirror that is positioned at the end of the optical tube. There is also a convex secondary mirror at the front. The primary mirror actually has a hole through it,  whereas the convex secondary mirror is flat in relation to the primary. Light travels from the primary mirror to the secondary mirror, and then through the hole into the eyepiece.

How does this relate back to the 4SE and 5SE?

The biggest difference between a Schmidt and a Maksutov Cassegrain is the corrector lens. The shape is different (Schmidt has a complex shaped lens whereas a Maksutov has a spherical lens) meaning that the aperture’s (light gathering ability) differs.

Moreover, a Maksutov is known to suffer more from aberration (different colors come into focus and different focal lengths). While this sounds all bad, it actually makes it better for viewing planets and galaxies, but not so much for deep sky objects.

MAKs are actually more expensive to make than SCTs with the primary benefit of not requiring collimation (alignment of the optical elements). However, as mentioned above they are more rugged and suffer from aberation.

Essentially this is how the telescopes work and operate to produce you with images. Whats better for you is going to be down to preference and what you want to see.

4SE = Better Suited for Planetary Viewing

5SE = Better Suited for Deep Sky Objects (DSO’s)

Difference #2: Aperture (Light Gathering Ability)

Following on from the above, another main difference between the two models is the aperture. In other words, how much light each telescope can retrieve. The 5SE is more powerful, enabling you to acquire 55% more light than the 4SE. Equally, it has a 319x light gathering power compared to the 212x of the 4SE.

When it comes to astronomy and telescopes, the bigger the aperture and light collecting power the better. This is what mostly distinguishes the cheaper telescopes from the more expensive ones and why smaller aperture telescopes are on average cheaper than larger aperture telescopes.

With more aperture, you will be able to look deeper into the night sky; uncovering dimmer stars and the more distant deep sky objects. 

Difference #3: Magnification

Interestingly, the magnification on the 4SE is higher than on the 5SE (53x vs 50x). However, this is just with the eyepiece provided.  It is the maximum useful magnification that you need to consider. This is how far the magnification can go, if you was to invest in further eyepeices.

For the 4SE the maximum is 241x compared to the 295x of the 5SE.

When it comes to telescope magnification, more is not necessarily better (unless of course it is supported by higher Aperture. Otherwise, objects will appear more blurred and fainter.

With the NexStar series; the magnification has been closely aligned with the aperture. Any model in the series will not comprise one over the other which is great news.

If you are looking for higher magnification out the box (for use on planets), the 4SE is better. Yet, if you are looking for more of a long term investment whereby you can improve the magnification power with new eyepieces, the 5SE is the one to go for.

Difference #4: Focal Ratio

The Focal Ratio is another key metric to take a look at when comparing telescopes. The focal ratio is calculated by dividing the focal length by the objective diameter.

A long focal ratio indicates that you will obtain a higher magnification with a narrower field of view (amount of the sky you can see at any one time). Longer focal ratios are better for observing the moon, planets and double stars. If you want to observe these kind of objects, a focal ratio of f/10 or more is preferable.

However, if you want to see distant sky objects (star clusters, galaxies etc) a lower focal ratio is more appropriate. Here you’ll have less magnification, but will see more of the sky at any one time.

So with the 4SE vs the 5Se they have focal ratios of f/13 and f/10 respectively. You’ll see more of the sky at any one time with the 5SE compared to the 4SE.

So, this again supports the idea that the 4SE is better suited for planetary observation (you’ll see less of the night sky at once). Whereas, the 5SE is superior for deeper sky viewing.

Difference #5: Weight

Another consideration when buying a telescope is where and when you’ll use it. Will you set it up in a stationary position or take it with you on the go more often?

Weight of course dictates the ease of transportation.

The Celestron 4SE is lighter when fully assembled (21lbs/ 9.5kg) compared to the 5SE (27.6 lbs/ 12.5kg) meaning that it will be easier to transport around. While 3 lbs is not a massive difference, it could be something you would want to consider.

Either way, NexStars are light telescopes especially if you was to compare them to some others. Both can be taken with you on the move.

Additionally, the 4SE and 5SE both come with exactly the same Mounts and Tripod. So for the 5SE the Mount/Tripod will need to support this additional 3 lbs weight. Of course it is designed to do so, and this shouldn’t pose a problem. However, it does mean the 4SE would feel slightly sturdier in a head to head comparison.

Difference #6: Price

The other major difference is the price. The 5SE is more expensive than the 4SE for the reasons we outline above; it is technically more optically superior which is what you are essentially paying the difference for.

There’s not really much between them in price, around $100. I’ve found the best place to buy either is on Amazon; as they often have a significant discount and Celestron do not sell them directly through their website anyway (asking you to find a retailer which works out to be more expensive)

View the NexStar 4SE on Amazon     |     View the NexStar 5SE on Amazon

Similarity #1: Ease of Use (Setting Up & Dismantling)

The Celestron NexStar telescopes were designed to be user friendly. They are very quick and easy to set up, and also easy to take down and dismantle when not in use. This makes them ideal for new astronomers and for those with less of a technical understanding. It also makes them more suitable for use on the go and for transportation.

One of the standout benefits of a NexStar is that they can be dismantled into small components. You can always store them easily in the boot of your car or in a cupboard or safe storage place in your home.

The steel tripod that comes included with both models, is actually completely assembled. So when you unbox your NexStar you can use it right away. There are also quick release attachments in which you can connect to the fork mount with the optical tube assembly.

No tools are required in the set up process, and both can be constructed and taken down in around 5-10 minutes.

Similarity #2: Computerized GoTo Mount (40,000+ Database Objects) & SkyAlign

Another signature feature of the NexStar series is the notable Computerized Altitude-Azimuth Single Fork Arm Mount.

This enables quick and effortless observation; the telescopes automatically can point and follow thousands of objects in the sky.

In fact, Celestron have developed an entire technology around this. Its called SkyAlign. The 4SE and 5SE comes with a hand control that you use to select the objects that you want to observe. From there the telescope handles the rest.

And there are over 40,000 objects that are programmed into the database, so you’ll never be short on new things to observe. Plus, this technology is being updated and improved all the time, with new objects as and when they are discovered.

If you have struggled in the past to navigate the sky, are a beginner, or want to make the process much easier, SkyAlign is very helpful. It prevents the need

If you are new to astronomy or are not quite sure how to navigate the night sky and identify objects, this functionality is incredibly useful. You don’t need to have a knowledge of star positions, instead you just need to enter your current date, time and location into the hand control.

As such, both the 4 and 5SE are ideal for younger astronomers.

Similarity #3: Additional Equipment Included (Eyepiece, Finderscope, Star Diagonal)

Each Celestron NexStar is in fact, an entire package. You’re not just buying a telescope you are buying all the components you need together. Of course this begins with the tripod and the Single Form Arm Mount (which can be purchased separately and are quite expensive on their own too).

Beyond these, you get an Accessory Tray to store all of your components, along with a a Star Pointer Finderscope and a Star Diagonal.

The Star Pointer enables you to ‘point and observe’ through an intuitive red dot. It also helps you to easily stay in position in the night sky.

The Star Diagonal provides comfort, and is really nice to have particularly when you want to observe over your head.

The 4SE and 5Se also come with their own eyepieces. The 4Se includes a 25mm eyepiece that provides 53x magnification (as discussed above), whereas the 5SE includes a 25mm eyepiece that provides 50x magnification.

Similarity #4: Two Year Warranty

Another similarity and huge benefit of purchasing a Celestron product, is that they come with a 2 year warranty. This is also included if you were to buy from Amazon.

So, if you was to purchase a 4 or 5SE, you’re covered if there was to be anything wrong with any of the components. Repairing and replacing are both possible options.

Considering that telescopes are not cheap and also they are very technical equipment, this 2 year warranty ensures you are protected and gives a lot of confidence ahead of any purchase.

Design Comparison 

If you want to take a look at how each telescope looks ion video format, the two Celestron videos below give a great insight into the look of each scope:

NexStar 4SE

NexStar 5SE

The NexStar 4SE and 5SE are great telescopes for their respective prices. Both come with a wealth of positive reviews, and are being used by many astronomers across the world.

Personally, I would always recommend that you buy the best telescope that you can possibly afford.

If you have the extra money, the 5SE would get the nod for me. With a greater aperture, it gathers more light (55% more) and while it does not have as much magnification out of the box, it has the potential to do so by getting a couple of extra eyepieces. Plus, with a lowe Focal Ratio you can see more of the night sky at any one time and venture into see more Deep Sky Objects.

With astronomy – more light = power. The 5SE gives just that.

That being said, if you do not have the spare capital, the 4SE is still a fantastic premium telescope. You still benefit from a lot of the components, features and functionality of the 5SE too. In fact, for the cost of the 4SE, you’d do very well to find an equally matched or even superior telescope.

As this guide, comparison and review has hopefully shown, you’ll be getting a terrific telescope regardless of the option you go for.

View the NexStar 4SE on Amazon     |     View the NexStar 5SE on Amazon

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