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Sky-Watcher Explorer 130PS AZ5 Review: Recommended Scope

The Sky-Watcher Explorer 130PS AZ5 is a decent beginner or “grab n’ go” telescope, but its cheap focuser and mirror cell are somewhat limiting and there’s not much advantage in purchasing this scope over a 130mm f/5 Dobsonian instead.

The Sky-Watcher Explorer 130PS AZ5 is a decent choice for beginners in the realm of astronomy, offering a convenient grab-and-go instrument for stargazing. However, it may not represent the best value-for-money option for those just stepping into this hobby.

The Sky-Watcher Explorer 130PS AZ5 pairs a 130mm f/5 Newtonian reflecting telescope with an alt-azimuth mount tripod known as the AZ5. Generally, Newtonian telescopes paired with cheap alt-azimuth mounts and tripods are often lousily made and a poor option when compared to their Dobsonian counterparts, but for the most part this isn’t the case with the Explorer 130PS AZ5. 

The 130PS optical tube uses the same optics and most of the same hardware as the Sky-Watcher Heritage 130P, 130PDS, and Celestron’s 130mm f/5 Newtonians such as the Astro Fi 130 and NexStar 130SLT, and is supplied with the same accessories as many Sky-Watcher beginner telescopes, while the AZ5 mount is a commonly-offered Sky-Watcher product. Most of Sky-Watcher, Bresser, and Celestron’s offerings are essentially LEGO-like kitbashes of various tube, mount, and accessory hardware combinations, and the 130PS is a good example – few people seem to even own this exact model but the hardware that it constitutes is extremely common.

The “Deluxe” label attached to this product can sometimes cause confusion. While some vendors or users may refer to the mount as the “AZ5 Deluxe”, a “Deluxe” AZ5 or 130PS variant does not officially exist.

As a beginner’s telescope, or as a “grab n’ go” complement to a larger and bulkier telescope, the 130PS AZ5 is a solid choice. Still, it’s essentially a 130mm f/5 Newtonian borrowed from a tabletop Dob perched on a tripod, but commanding a considerably higher price point. Dobsonians tend to offer a more intuitive and straightforward user experience. They’re usually more affordable, robust, and compact, making them highly appealing for newcomers to astronomy. The primary reason to choose the 130PS over a tabletop Dobsonian would be if you require a tripod for your stargazing activities, but many tabletop Dobs will attach to a sturdy photo tripod and doing this is usually more cost-effective than purchasing a 130PS/AZ5.

How It Stacks Up

Ranks #5 of 30 (£300 Range Telescopes)

Rank 2
Ursa Major 6″ f/8 Planetary Dobsonian
Rank 5
Sky-Watcher Explorer 130PS AZ5
What We Like

  • Sharp 130mm f/5 optics provide good wide-field and lunar/planetary views, as well as being able to resolve globular star clusters
  • AZ5 mount is steady and smooth
  • Reasonably good supplied accessories
  • Fairly lightweight/portable

What We Don't Like

  • No primary mirror collimation adjustments
  • 1.25”-only plastic focuser limits eyepiece options
  • Not any better or cheaper than 130mm f/5 Dobsonians
  • Takes up more space when compacted than typical 130-150mm Dobsonians

Bottom Line

While the Sky-Watcher Explorer 130PS AZ5 is a commendable telescope, it’s worth comparing its attributes and price to other options in the market – namely Dobsonians of comparable specs – especially if you’re a novice astronomer. Despite any shortcomings, it remains a decent instrument, and this review should help in assessing its suitability for your astronomical endeavours.

Further in this review:

The Optical Tube

The Sky-Watcher 130PS telescope optical tube is a Newtonian reflecting telescope with a 130mm (or 5.1 inches) parabolic primary mirror and a focal ratio of f/5, translating to a focal length of 650mm. This is the same spec as many other 130mm f/5 Newtonian reflectors, and indeed all of these 130mm f/5s sold under Sky-Watcher, Celestron, and Zhumell are made in the same Synta plant. Most have very good optics. At f/5, some coma is to be expected towards the outer edges of the field of view at lower magnifications, but with most 1.25” eyepieces you’re unlikely to make much note of it.

Unusually for a Newtonian reflector, the 130PS’ primary mirror is factory-set into a plastic cell and not designed to be user-collimated. Therefore, any significant shift in its alignment could be problematic, especially for newcomers to astronomy who might be challenged by the prospect of a do-it-yourself modification. However, this scope is decent at maintaining its collimation well over time, so the likelihood of needing adjustments is low. To restore some peace of mind, the secondary mirror is fully adjustable via a set of Phillips head screws.

In terms of optical performance, the 130PS holds its own against comparable models and on a good night views through it are sharp and easy to focus up to the telescope’s maximum magnification of around 250x.. However, a point of disappointment is its 1.25-inch plastic rack and pinion focuser. Given this telescope’s rather high price point (compared to other instruments with its specs), a cheaper focuser seems out of place. Moreover, at f/5 and a 650mm focal length, a 2-inch eyepiece could offer a much wider field of view, a feature not achievable with the current focuser. It’s worth noting that the secondary mirror is sufficiently large to accommodate a 2-inch eyepiece without any issues too. Still, replacing the focuser on the 130PS would involve extensive DIY modifications, which may not be cost-effective or feasible for most users.

The 130PS features a Vixen-style dovetail bar bolted directly to the side of the tube, rather than to a set of tube rings enclosing the telescope. This setup works fine with the AZ5 mount and many Go-To alt-azimuth mounts, but problems might arise if you wish to use this telescope with an equatorial mount or an alt-azimuth mount with the fork arm on the opposite side. In such situations, the eyepiece could end up in uncomfortable or even completely unreachable positions. The Vixen dovetail also features 1/4-20 threads, which means you can mount this telescope directly onto a photo tripod head.  However, in such a configuration, the eyepiece will be positioned quite high on the tube and few photo heads are even remotely comparable in comfort to the AZ5 for astronomical use.


The Sky-Watcher Explorer 130PS AZ5 telescope comes with two eyepieces, a 25mm and a 10mm, both of which are three-element ‘Super’ designs provided by Sky-Watcher. While the exact optical configuration of these eyepieces remains uncertain—whether it’s a Konig or some kind of reversed Kellner—the undeniable fact is that a three-element optical design has been employed.Both the ‘Super’ eyepieces offer a ~55° apparent field of view. They are mostly constructed from plastic, save for the optical glass components, which are thankfully of good quality and feature multi-coatings to reduce glare, scatter, and light loss.

The 25mm eyepiece, offering 26x magnification, performs adequately for low-magnification viewing. In combination with the 130PS, it may exhibit some edge-of-field astigmatism and potential coma towards the field’s perimeter. Under light-polluted skies, you may notice the background appears rather bright at this power. However, it functions sufficiently well and provides the widest useful field of view attainable with this telescope and its 1.25-inch focuser.

The 10mm eyepiece offers more eye relief than the standard 10mm Plössl or Kellner typically provided with many beginner scopes. Its use is fairly comfortable, although it’s not compatible with eyeglasses. The eyepiece delivers satisfactory sharpness with the 130PS, but with a modest 65x power, it falls short of providing close-up views of the Moon and planets. With this telescope, you’ll undoubtedly need to invest in additional eyepieces.

In addition to the eyepieces, the Sky-Watcher 130PS is equipped with a red dot finder to help you aim it around the night sky. This type of finder is rather typical for small, wide-field, and entry-level telescopes. Given the large field of view you can attain at 26x power, a more precise, magnifying finder would be entirely unnecessary, not to mention expensive. Navigating the night sky with the 130PS and its red dot finder is exceedingly easy; simply switch on the finder and manually manoeuvre the telescope. The finder is attached via a standard Vixen-style dovetail shoe, meaning you have the option to interchange it with a magnifying straight-through or right-angle finder, should you wish to do so.

The AZ5 Mount

The Sky-Watcher AZ5 is a rather capable alt-azimuth mount, granting the telescope free range to manoeuvre both vertically (altitude) and horizontally (azimuth). Such a capability earmarks it as an excellent choice for not only nocturnal stargazing but also daytime terrestrial observations (albeit with a different telescope than the 130PS, and probably with an erecting prism). If you’re familiar with photo tripods, you’ll likely have little trouble figuring out the AZ5. The AZ5 is aimed much like a photo tripod and features clutches on both the altitude and azimuth axis. However, many people do wind up maneuvering it by grabbing the optical tube, much like with a Dobsonian telescope.

Constructed from robust cast aluminium, the AZ5 is engineered to support telescopes with a maximum weight of up to 5 kg. The 130PS weighs only about 3 kg, so you’re hardly pushing the limits of the AZ5’s weight capacity. The AZ5, like any quality manual telescope mount, sports a duo of slow-motion control knobs – one each for managing altitude and azimuth. These handy little accessories afford the operator the ability to execute fine adjustments to the telescope’s position. While not as intuitive as a Dobsonian mount, these fine controls make the AZ5 vastly more comfortable to use than the cheap alt-azimuth mounts/tripods supplied without them, which are virtually impossible to aim at higher magnifications.

The AZ5 features the same metal tripod and pier extension as the Star Adventurer and AZ-GTi mounts. The pier extension allows you to use the scope at a comfortable height without extending the legs as far, which is helpful for maintaining stability. The AZ5 is not perfectly steady with the 130PS at high magnifications but it is no worse than a typical tabletop setup in terms of vibration dampening time.

The AZ5 mount is supplied with a Vixen-style dovetail saddle, a component that allows for swift and secure attachment of any telescope with a compatible dovetail bar, including the 130PS of course. You can also remove the AZ5 head to mount it on a sturdier third-party tripod with a compatible ⅜” stud, along with the pier extension provided.

Should I buy a Used Sky-Watcher Explorer 130PS AZ5?

Purchasing a used Sky-Watcher Explorer 130PS AZ5 would necessitate an extraordinarily low price tag to warrant its acquisition, primarily due to a couple of its features. Key amongst these are its plastic focuser and mirror cell, both of which are susceptible to damage. The mirror cell in particular poses significant problems. If it is mis-collimated, the scope cannot simply be returned to the manufacturer for adjustments. Trying to rectify the problem oneself could lead to an expensive and time-consuming endeavour.

Of course, with any pre-owned Newtonian reflector, it is essential to verify that the coatings on the mirror are still in good condition. Considering the telescope’s aperture, it wouldn’t be cost-effective to send the mirrors for recoating compared to the cost of obtaining a replacement set. You’d also want to ascertain that the AZ5 mount is in functional condition and isn’t missing any parts.

While there is a possibility of finding a used one in good condition, the main determinant as to whether it’s worth purchasing is the price. If a new Dobsonian, such as the Heritage 130P, is roughly the same price, we would likely recommend opting for a new Dobsonian instead of a pre-owned 130PS.

Alternative Recommendations

The absence of collimation adjustments for the primary mirror, coupled with the higher price tag of the 130PS compared to most other 130mm f/5 Newtonians, may lead you to consider a Dobsonian telescope as an alternative to the 130PS AZ5 Deluxe. However, if you’re set on getting a telescope on a tripod, we’ve highlighted a few options below for your convenience. These options include other 130mm f/5 Newtonians, which typically deliver the same optical performance as the 130PS, often with the added advantage of an adjustable primary mirror and generally a better mount or price.

Under 250 Range

  • The Sky-Watcher Heritage 130P shares the optics and basic design of the Sky-Watcher 130PS AZ5 but features a collapsible tube for improved portability and a less fragile, though still quite basic, helical focuser. It also comes with the same pair of Super eyepieces and a red dot finder as the 130PS does.
  • The Zhumell Z114 comes with a decent pair of starter eyepieces, a red dot finder, and sharp 114mm f/4 optics, offering a compact alternative to the larger 130mm f/5 scopes without too much of a sacrifice in performance.
  • The Sky-Watcher Heritage 100P is a tiny but surprisingly capable and affordable 100mm (4”) tabletop Dobsonian with a quality parabolic primary mirror and decent accessories. Uniquely, its threaded base means it can also be used on any suitably sturdy photo tripod if needed. Although it’s limited by its small size, it’s still a sharp instrument and easily the cheapest acceptable telescope you can find.

250-425 Range

  • The Sky-Watcher Virtuoso GTi 150P provides fully motorised tracking and GoTo capabilities, high-quality 6” optics, and the same collapsible tube as the Heritage 130P. The samea accessories as the 130P and 130PS are also provided. The Virtuoso GTi’s GoTo system can be controlled by your smartphone or tablet, while the scope’s FreedomFind encoders and slip clutches permit manual aiming as well. You can even attach the 150P to a ⅜” photo tripod stud if you lack a surface to set it on. The manual Heritage 150P is identical in design minus GoTo/tracking and also a great choice, featuring the same collapsible tube, accessories, and quality 6” f/5 optics as the Virtuoso GTi 150P. 
  • The Ursa Major 8″ f/6 Dobsonian’s 8” aperture grants it a noticeable edge over smaller 6” or 5” reflectors like the 130PS AZ5. It features a pair of Plossl eyepieces and a basic 2” single-speed Crayford focuser, along with a 9×50 finder scope. Despite not being the most well-equipped or optimized mechanically, it delivers outstanding performance for its modest price with the same views as any other quality 8” instrument.
  • Ursa Major 6” f/8 Planetary Dobsonian is easier to collimate and focus at high magnifications than a fast f/5 scope like the 130PS, while also eliminating the need for well-corrected low-power eyepieces or a table to set it on. However, it’s not as compact as a tabletop f/5 Dobsonian of its aperture, and the 6” f/8 Planetary Dobsonian doesn’t weigh much less than an 8” or 10” telescope with more capability.
  • The Bresser Messier 6″ Tabletop Dobsonian is only slightly bigger or heavier than a typical 130mm tabletop scope, but boasts a superior 2” all-metal rack-and-pinion focuser along with 20% more resolving power and 40% more light-collecting surface area. However, the accessories included with the Messier 6” Tabletop (and its 5” counterpart) are noticeably cheap and inferior to those provided with the Sky-Watcher, Ursa Major and Celestron reflectors.
  • The Celestron Astro Fi 130mm uses the same optics as the Explorer 130PS, but with collimation adjustments for the primary mirror and a 2” focuser enabling a wider maximum field of view and largely slip-free with heavy eyepieces. What’s more, the Astro Fi 130mm features fully motorised automatic GoTo and tracking – though you can’t aim the telescope manually – and this is all remotely operated via your smartphone/tablet.

Over 425 Range

  • The StellaLyra 8″ f/6 Dobsonian offers well over 2.5x the light-gathering area and substantially more resolving power than the Sky-Watcher 130PS AZ5, along with numerous added features and accessories. These include a top-quality 2” dual-speed Crayford focuser, an integrated fan for rapid cooling, a right-angle finder scope for easy location of celestial objects, and two good quality eyepieces. Being a classic Dobsonian, it stands on the ground and is straightforward to aim due to its smooth and user-friendly Dobsonian base.
  • The Bresser Messier 8″ Dobsonian features an exceptionally well-designed Dobsonian mount and a unique 2.5” hexagonal focuser, in addition to high-quality 8” optics. However, the provided accessories are fairly poor (typical of Bresser) and upgrading the focuser to a dual-speed unit will cost you extra.
  • The Sky-Watcher Skymax 127 AZ-GTi merges the superior Skymax 127 Maksutov-Cassegrain optical tube with the versatile AZ-GTi mount and tripod. This setup offers motorised tracking GoTo functionality that can be operated through your smartphone, or simply moved manually thanks to its FreedomFind encoders. The Skymax 127 Virtuoso GTi comes with the same features but is mounted on the Virtuoso GTi tabletop Dobsonian mount, with the flexibility to connect it to a third-party tripod if preferred. In terms of performance, the Skymax 127 optical tube surpasses the Sky-Watcher 130PS AZ5 when observing the Moon, planets, and double stars. When it comes to viewing deep-sky objects, its performance is only slightly inferior, due to its smaller aperture compared to larger Dobsonians.

Aftermarket Accessory Recommendations

The eyepieces included with the Sky-Watcher 130PS AZ5 will suffice, but it would be advisable to consider alternatives for a superior viewing experience. A quality 25mm eyepiece, offering 26x magnification, such as the Celestron X-Cel LX or Omegon FlatField, would be an excellent replacement for the stock 25mm 3-element eyepiece, delivering a somewhat wider and sharper low-power view with reduced glare and likely more eye relief as well.

We would also suggest a 9mm redline/goldline (yielding 72x magnification) as a replacement for the stock 10mm Super eyepiece. The 9mm redline/goldline provides a much wider field of view (70° vs 55°) than the 10mm Super 3-element, as well as better contrast and more eye relief.

For even higher magnification – an absolute must even if you’re content with the 130PS’ stock eyepieces – consider a short focal length eyepiece such as a 6mm goldline/redline (offering 108x magnification) and a 2x Barlow lens (achieving 144x/217x magnification when used with the 9mm and 6mm redline/goldline eyepieces respectively). Due to our planet’s atmospheric turbulence blurring the view, you might not often find yourself utilising over 200x with this telescope. However, the 130PS AZ5’s optics can theoretically handle up to 250x magnification. We also recommend picking up a Cheshire collimation tool to ensure accurate collimation of the 130PS AZ5 to enable the sharpest possible views – even if you can’t adjust the primary, having your secondary mirror dead-on collimated is crucial at this telescope’s fast focal ratio of f/5.

For medium power observation of various celestial bodies such as deep-sky objects with the 130PS AZ5, we recommend choosing either a 17mm Plossl (providing 44x magnification) or a 15mm “redline”/“goldline” eyepiece (offering 50x magnification). Both provide roughly the same true field of about 1.5°, or 3 times the angular diameter of the full Moon, with this telescope.

Additionally, a narrowband Ultra High Contrast (UHC)/OIII nebula filter can significantly augment your views of nebulae, such as the Orion Nebula, when using the 130PS AZ5 or any other telescope. This filter also highlights planetary nebulae by reducing the brightness of surrounding stars, assisting in their identification at low power. Moreover, it provides sufficient contrast enhancement to make previously invisible targets like the Crab Nebula and Veil Nebula supernova remnants visible using this telescope under dark skies.

What can you see?

The Sky-Watcher 130PS AZ5 possesses a large enough aperture to facilitate remarkable deep-sky views. Even when located in an area suffering from significant light pollution, open star clusters such as the Double Cluster, M11, M35, and the famous Pleiades (M45) will enchant you with their multitude of bright and colourful stars. Countless other open clusters present hundreds of stars within their makeup, and an incredible quantity of individual clusters, numbering into the hundreds, can be observed with a 5-inch telescope under dark skies at any point throughout the year.

Globular star clusters, encompassing M3, M13, M15, and M22, can also be resolved at high magnification (though preferably greater than the 65x of the stock 10mm ocular) under suburban or darker skies with the 130PS AZ5, revealing their individual stellar constituents. However, fainter globular clusters will still present as faint smudges, if they are discernible at all.

For extensive galaxy exploration with any telescope, dark skies distant from at least the most severe light pollution sources are essential; under light-polluted conditions, your ability to spot galaxies will be limited to the brightest ones, such as Andromeda (M31), and these will only be perceivable as vague, detail-lacking “faint fuzzy” blobs, regardless of the telescope in use. A filter, regrettably, provides no aid for non-nebula targets such as galaxies and star clusters. Under dark skies, however, the 130PS AZ5 will permit you to discern dust lanes in some of the brightest and most spectacular galaxies like M31, M82, and M104. Furthermore, galaxy groups such as the Leo Triplet and the expansive Virgo Cluster can be seen, with the latter revealing dozens of galaxies within under dark skies, although the majority lack any discernible detail due to their elliptical structures. 

Many nebulae present strikingly when observed through the 130PS AZ5, particularly under dark skies and/or with a UHC nebula filter. The Orion Nebula (M42) mesmerises with its dark lanes, bright clouds of gas, and the Trapezium cluster at its heart. The elusive Veil supernova remnant is achievable with a UHC filter. Large planetary nebulae such as the Dumbbell (M27) are noticeable even at low power, and a UHC or Oxygen-III filter reveals further detail, while smaller ones like the Blue Snowball or Cat’s Eye are best observed with high magnification and unfiltered, as they are less affected by light pollution compared to larger targets and may even reveal traces of their blue and green hues.

The Sky-Watcher 130PS AZ5 performs commendably when observing the Moon and planets, thanks to its high-quality 130mm parabolic primary mirror (the exception being if it is somehow miscollimated of course). You’ll be able to distinguish thousands of lunar craters, mountains, and ridges, witness the phases of Mercury and Venus, and observe the polar ice caps on Mars. During periods when Mars is closer to Earth, it may also be possible to identify a few dark markings and any ongoing dust storms on the Red Planet.

As with any telescope, the 130PS AZ5 will unveil the moons of Jupiter, but the 130mm aperture also allows you to resolve them as tiny disks, along with their shadows when they transit in front of the planet. The shadows may be easier to spot on nights of poorer seeing than the moons themselves, but rest assured that both are there and within the capabilities of this telescope.

Jupiter itself as seen through the 130PS displays vibrant, ever-evolving cloud belts, festoons, and storms in a variety of shades, ranging from white to pink, blue, and brown. On a clear night, the Great Red Spot can also be resolved using the 130PS. Saturn’s rings and the Cassini division within the rings can be seen, as well as a handful of its moons, while Uranus and Neptune present themselves as indistinct bluish dots devoid of detail. Uranus’ moons will necessitate a larger telescope to see, while Neptune’s moon Triton is at the absolute limit of what a 5″ telescope like the 130PS can reveal to you under the best conditions – as such, a larger aperture scope is advised for attempting to spot the icy satellite. Due to its faintness, Pluto is far outside the bounds of what can be seen with a 5” telescope, requiring at least double the 130PS’ aperture to discern it as a star-like point, and even then only under dark skies.

An amateur astronomer and telescope maker from Connecticut who has been featured on TIME Magazine, National Geographic, Sky & Telescope, La Vanguardia, and The Guardian.

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