PROS / This telescope was easy to assemble.
CONS / The image quality is poor.
VERDICT / The Starfinder has poor build quality, poor imaging, and star tracking with a low success rate.
Bushnell’s NorthStar Starfinder is another motorized reflector telescope with some unique features. Unfortunately, the speaking star tracker, easy assembly and generous library aren’t enough to overcome some of our objections to this 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 you could easily get 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 it 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 was relatively easy, but it wasn’t completely tool-free like most of the other beginner telescopes we tested. Setting up this telescope was nearly impossible: 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 is extremely minimal. There’s little information about the telescope, and the website is difficult to navigate. There aren’t any instructional videos or troubleshooting help, and there’s no unconditional guarantee. 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 a telescope without the motor and digital components for significantly less than this telescope.