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Encalife SVBONY 501P 70 telescope review

This basic portable refractor telescope is suitable for lunar observations and comes complete with a backpack for easy transportation.

Encalife svbony 501p 70 telescope side view of telescope
(Image: © Jamie Carter)

Space Verdict

If you're after a small and affordable telescope for a child to primarily look at the moon and not much else, the SVBONY 501P 70 just about fulfills that brief.

Pros

  • +

    Useful focal length for the moon

  • +

    Lightweight and portable

  • +

    Affordable

  • +

    Travel-friendly

Cons

  • -

    Frustrating to use

  • -

    Loose locking knobs

  • -

    Only one eyepiece

  • -

    Poor quality tripod

The Encalife SVBONY 501P 70 telescope ($199.97/£169) may appear, at first glance, to be just what you've been looking for. Simple, lightweight and affordable, it's got everything any beginner might want.

Encalife SVBONY 501P 70: Key specs

Optical design: refractor 

Aperture: 2.75-inch/70 mm

Focal length: 15.74-inch/400 mm

Focal ratio: f/5.7

Eyepiece focal length: 0.78-inch/20 mm (20x)

Total kit weight: 6.5 lbs/2.95 kg 

Mount type: Altazimuth

It even ships with a simple photographic tripod, which will be far more familiar to most people than the alt-azimuth and confusing equatorial mounts that telescopes typically use. However, despite its apparent simplicity and comprehensive package, there are some serious downsides to the SV501P that you need to know about before you make a purchase.

Encalife SVBONY 501P 70 telescope: Design

Encalife svbony 501p 70 telescope full view of telescope

The telescope tube itself is 16-inches / 40cm long. (Image credit: Jamie Carter)
  • Very lightweight
  • Short telescope tube
  • Comes with backpack

The SVBONY 501P 70 is an incredibly simple product. A 2.75-inch/70 mm refractor mounted on a small, portable and lightweight tripod, this is a telescope that's made to move. So easy to set up, the package's optics comprises the optical tube and a very basic 5x24 finderscope that attaches to it, as well as a 45º image diagonal that makes it easier to see through its medium power 20mm (20x magnification) eyepiece supplied. It has a focal length of 400mm, which is more than enough to get a good view of the moon. The tripod reaches 41.5-inch / 105cm as standard, but a central column can be extended to take it to 50-inch / 127cm.

Encalife svbony 501p 70 telescope backpack

The backpack is very basic and of only fair quality. (Image credit: Jamie Carter)

All of that fits inside a small backpack that's of very rudimentary quality yet nevertheless has just about keeps everything secure while on the move. When everything is packed in place the backpack weighs 4.6 lbs / 2.1kg.

Encalife SVBONY 501P 70 telescope: Performance

Encalife svbony 501p 70 telescope finderscope

Unfortunately, the 5x24 finderscope isn't much help in finding targets. (Image credit: Jamie Carter)
  • Lacks sharpness
  • Decent views of the lunar surface
  • Struggles with everything else 

During the first part of our test, we were able to point the SVBONY 501P 70 at the full moon as it appeared on the eastern horizon. I got a reasonably sharp view of the orangey lunar surface as it appeared between two buildings, with excellent views of some clouds drifting in front.

Additional kit that comes with telescope

5x24mm finderscope

1.25-inch eyepiece

1.25-inch erect image diagonal

Aluminum alloy tripod

Tripod bag

Backpack

The views were not as sharp as hoped for, but considering its portability and ease-of-use we can see some people using the SVBONY 501P 70 solely to look at the moon now and again. It's a shame there are no more eyepieces to get a closer look, but these could be easily added at a low cost. As a general rule of thumb you'll get about 50x of useful magnification per inch of aperture, so don't go for an eyepiece claiming any more than about 135x.

Encalife svbony 501p 70 telescope star diagonal

An image diagonal makes viewing objects above more comfortable. (Image credit: Jamie Carter)

Something we did like about moon viewing through the SVBONY 501P 70 is its dust cap. It's possible to remove a puck on the gas cap to reveal a 1-3/4 inch/42mm hole that instantly reduces the amount of light coming into the telescope cube. That's useful when viewing a full moon when the glare can otherwise be a bit much.

A week later under moonless skies, we used the SVBONY 501P 70 to explore a few planets and the deep sky. We were able to see Jupiter and its four moons, though the view lacked sharpness. It also lacks the light-gathering abilities to make anything more than a basic stab at the deep sky, with the Andromeda Galaxy looking less clear through the SVBONY 501P 70 than through a pair of entry-level 10x50 binoculars. This telescope is for moon viewing only.

Encalife SVBONY 501P 70 telescope: Functionality

Encalife svbony 501p 70 telescope eyepiece

 Only one 20 mm eyepiece is included with the Encalife SVBONY 501P 70 telescope. (Image credit: Jamie Carter)
  • Lots of droop and overreach
  • Panhandle lacks precision
  • Lacks fine controls

The SVBONY 501P 70 may appear to be a simple and easy to use telescope, but it falls down on the latter because it's consistently difficult to fix it on a target. Telescopes need fine controls. You need to be able to point your telescope at an object in the night sky and then, with one eye on the eyepiece, fine-tune its position so you get the object in the center of your field of view. Then, when the object moves out of the field of view — which it always will because Earth is rotating — you need to be able to manually tweak the telescope's position to get it back into the center of the field of view.

Encalife svbony 501p 70 telescope tripod

This 2.75-inch/70 mm refractor comes with a very light tripod. (Image credit: Jamie Carter)

Using the SVBONY 501P 70 it's tough to do this. That's because it is mounted on a flimsy tripod with clumsy controls. Photographic tripods with panhandles are typically used for video. To move the telescope it's necessary to loosen the azimuth locking knob on the top of the tripod and then use a finderscope to locate your target. This, of course, is an entirely manual process that beginners will struggle with purely because their knowledge of the night sky will be relatively poor (though the moon and possibly the planets will be easier). With the azimuth not unlocked it's possible to use the panhandle to rotate the telescope through 360°.

Encalife svbony 501p 70 telescope tripod handle

 A panhandle is used to rotate the telescope on the photographic tripod provided. (Image credit: Jamie Carter)

With the handle itself loose and you can move the telescope up and down, then tighten its altitude locking knob when you have the object in the eyepiece. That all sounds really easy, but it's almost impossible to do because of the poor quality of the components. There's just so much drag to the system that we had to focus at least two moon-widths above the moon to get it to settle in the right position to have the moon in the eyepiece. It takes a lot of trial and error, which is far from ideal if you're a beginner because even if you do manage to locate a target (the basic finderscope doesn't help much), getting it in the crosshairs of the SVBONY 501P 70 is too difficult.

Should you buy the Encalife SVBONY 501P 70 telescope?

It's good to see a telescope this affordable, however limited it is and what it can do. If you really only want to look at the moon, and perhaps Jupiter, the SVBONY 501P 70 it's a reasonably good purchase. However, I can't see why anyone would want to take this telescope anywhere with them. The moon and planets can easily be observed from anywhere on Earth, with light pollution making zero difference. It's therefore hard to fathom why the SVBONY 501P 70 even needs a backpack.

If the Encalife SVBONY 501P 70 telescope isn't for you

For a similarly low price and better optics a tabletop telescope like the Celestron FirstScope 76 Tabletop or the step-up Sky-Watcher Heritage-90P Virtuoso (opens in new tab) are good alternatives. If portability is not essential and you want as much clarity from deep sky objects as possible while retaining affordability then go for a Dobosion like the Sky-Watcher Skyliner 200P or Celestron StarSense Explorer

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Jamie Carter
Contributing Writer

Jamie is an experienced science, technology and travel journalist and stargazer who writes about exploring the night sky, solar and lunar eclipses, moon-gazing, astro-travel, astronomy and space exploration. He is the editor of WhenIsTheNextEclipse.com (opens in new tab) and author of A Stargazing Program For Beginners (opens in new tab), and is a senior contributor at Forbes. His special skill is turning tech-babble into plain English.