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The Celestron C5+

Posted by Malcolm Bird   01/17/2016 12:00AM

I recently caved to nostalgia and purchased a used Celestron C5+. (the plus denoting an RA drive powered by a 9V battery)

Now, I must admit that I am a GOTO acolyte. I’m getting on in years and having something that reduces the bending and craning is a bonus.

So why buy a C5+??

I have always admired the Celestron single fork C5 design, with its white on black scientific motif. And the C5 OTA’s as a rule have always been solid performers with sharp images, little or no image shift with sublime focusers. The single arm mount is rigid for the C5 and can accept many OTA's with a Vixen dovetail mounting ‘foot’

Add to that the table top wedge that can also be mounted atop a tripod, throw in an RA drive operating off a 9V battery with a controller that can also operate the declination slo-mo (optional) and you have an all round performer.

After re-acquainting myself with the C5 over a few nights, I can offer the following observations and comments.

1. This is essentially a manual mount. You have to find things using the optical finder, star hopping or sweeping. The controller is only for fine guiding adjustments. Having said that, the mount is easy to use, the locks snug down without imparting any movement, and can be finessed to provide a bit of drag. Vibration damp down is about 2s and focusing can be accomplished without too much teeth gnashing.

The table-top wedge is very sturdy and can be adjusted to your latitude. It can be used as described on a table or mounted atop a tripod. You will want to use it on a tripod for any serious viewing. Because the C5/wedge combo is so light, you don’t need a heavy duty tripod.

The mount itself uses the industry standard Vixen dovetail mount system, so you can mount any Vixen rail equipped scope on the C5 mount. The only limitations are weight (the C5 ota is only about 5lbs) and the length. (there is a limit to the OTA length dictated by the dec. axis centerline to base distance.)

2. The OTA was, as expected, excellent. For a 5” SCT optic, you can’t do much better than the Celestron C5. Its only drawback is aperture - no beating the laws of physics, but within those laws, the C5 OTA performs flawlessly. Focusing was smooth and precise with no image shift. Star images were nice and tight. The Starbright coatings delivered nice bright images. This is an F10 system, so sweeping vista’s are not it’s forte, although an optional focal reducer can be had to reduce this to 6.3.

3. Mounting a TV85 on the mount yielded the following observations. The TV85 weighs a lot more than the C5 OTA and the mount shows it.
a. Unless you are using the mount in equatorial mode, the TV85 or any similar sized OTA cannot reach the zenith as the balance requirements of the OTA have too much sticking out back to clear the C5 base.
b. The extra weight of the TV85 taxes the limit of the C5 mount. This is not just a function of the extra weight, but also the longer moment arms that the longer OTA imposes on the mount.

4. Portability. The C5 mount and OTA only weigh ~ 8 pounds so even with a tripod, it’s an easy system to take anywhere.

The Celestron C5 OTA’s are still being produced – typically in Nexstar GOTO format, and they have been excellent performers throughout their life. As a spotting scope they are light, bright and sharp. As an Astro setup, they bring a lot of aperture to the table for the portability.

In conclusion, I would recommend any version of this scope to the aspiring amateur astronomer. In particular, I would recommend the single arm C5 or C5+ because it can do triple service as a full fledged astro scope with its wedge, a nice terrestrial scope used in AZ mode, or the OTA can be separated from the mount and used atop a standard photo tripod.

However, it did re-affirm the fact that I am now a firm supporter of GOTO technology.