Skywatcher’s GreatStart 70AR-AZ2 features unusually good optics for an entry level telescope. The best objects for small telescopes are bright objects like the Moon and planets. When I look at the Moon for example, I‘m treated to sharp, high contrast views of the Moon‘s mountains, craters and lava flows. The little orange disk of Mars, the rings of Saturn, and even the cloud bands of Jupiter all show up quite nicely with the 12mm eyepiece, about 58x magnification. Planet details show up even better when I add the 2X Barlow for a total magnification of 116x. Daytime views with the Sky-Watcher 70AR are also quite good. The 90 degree diagonal mirror produces images that are right side up but reversed left to right. When I use the 25mm eyepiece for a magnification of 26x I see daylight images that are crisp and colorful and sharp to the edge of the 2 degree field of view.
The Skywatcher 70AR-AZ2 also features an Alt-Azimuth mount with adjustable aluminum tripod. The tripod is easy to assemble, and includes a slow motion screw to adjust the altitude. An Alt-Azimuth mount is light and easy to use; there are no counter-weights to balance or polar axis to align, just point the telescope and look. As soon as you get the Moon or a planet centered in the eyepiece, however, it starts drifting toward the edge; this is caused by rotation of the Earth. Celestial objects will stay in the low power field of view for three or four minutes, but with a high power eyepiece they may disappear in a minute or less.
The Skywatcher GreatStart 70AR-AZ2 is a great choice for someone who wants a telescope that can be used during the daytime as well as at night. The sharp optics produce a right side up image, the mount is light and easy to use, and the included planetarium software helps you find planets in the night sky. Bottom line, this telescope is an all around great value, and much better than the so-called “500 power” “professional” telescopes seen in toy stores. --Jeff Phillips
Pros: Very good Achromatic optics Plossl eyepieces and 2X barlow included Light, portable and easy to use Rugged low maintenance design Cons: Does not track stars and planets