Finding the Telescope That’s Right for You: 12 Scope Reviews
There are a variety of scopes and mounts to choose from. What follows is a series of telescopes and links so you can review prices and features. Three telescopes are presented in each style or type ranging from economical beginner scopes to more expensive and advanced scopes.
The price range is indicated with dollar signs with “$” being the least expensive and “$$$” the most expensive. Keep in mind that the pricing is a relative measure. The average cost of a Newtonian reflector is significantly less than a Catadioptric/Cassegrain.
There’s also a brief review of each to give you some idea of the scope’s benefits and capabilities. We strongly recommend that you follow the links to the scopes and read the specifications and the customer reviews to fully understand the pros and cons of each before you buy.
70mm (2.8″) diameter refractor, 700mm focal length (f/10), German equatorial mount. A good beginner scope and fairly easy to use. The German equatorial mount requires alignment of the polar axis with the North star, but the instructions are very clear. Owner reviews are positive. A good scope at a very good price. Good optics for viewing the moon and the planets.
A solid scope for the serious amateur with 90mm (3.5″) aperture and 910mm focal length(f10) and an EQ-2 adjustable tripod and equatorial mount. Very highly rated by owners and easily portable. Can be adapted to an optional motor drive.
Good for viewing the moon, planets and some deep space objects such as nebulae. With the addition of the motor drive it can also be adapted to astrophotography.
The first WiFi operated telescope for amateur astronomy lets you control your telescope with the free COSMOS Celestron Navigator app for iPhone, iPad, and Android devices. 90mm Refractor. Motorized fork mount.
A bit geeky, but once aligned it easily finds celestial objects. Focal Length: 1000 mm (39.37 in). Good for both planetary viewing and deep space. Also very good for astrophotography with proper adapters.
A good, basic Newtonian reflector for a very low price considering the quality of the tripod and its mount. Good reviews from owners. Manual tracking.
Easily portable although a bit awkward due its size and the German Equatorial Mount.
127mm Aperture, 1000mm Focal Length. Focal Ratio: 7.87
A good scope for the serious beginner or advanced amateur. Very highly rated by owners.
It comes with an “Expanse eyepiece” to provide a 66° wide field of view.
Fast f4 optics and a short focal length on an EQ-1 equatorial mount.
A good scope for the advanced amateur. Very positive reviews from owners. Aperture: 130 mm (5.12 in), focal length: 650 mm (25.59 in) , focal ratio: 5. Star Pointer MOUNT: Motorized Alt-azimuth.
Database allows telescope to automatically locate over 4,000 celestial objects. Good for astrophotography. Good for planets and deep space.
A good first time Dobsonian and great for kids due its relatively short height. The eye piece is 3 feet from the ground. 4.5″ aperture and 900mm focal length.
Like all Dobs it has great light gathering capability and a wide field of view. Good reviews from owners.
Perhaps the most portable of most Dobsonian scopes.
150mm aperture and 1200mm focal length (f/8.0).
About 5 feet tall and weighs 20 pounds but due to it’s height it’s not easy to transport.
Excellent customer reviews and like all Dobs has excellent light gathering ability and field of view.
An open truss Dob for the serious amateur. 16-inch aperture and a focal length of 1829-millimeters. Focal ratio is f/4.5.
Very highly rated.
Easy to dismantle and easy to transport.
Excellent for deep space observing.
Objective lens diameter: 127 mm. Focal length: 1500 mm. Focal ratio: f/11.8.
Highest practical power, x: 250. German equatorial EQ3. Ideal for planetary observation and easily portable. Highly rated by owners.
A good beginner Catadioptric scope, but like all scopes in this category it’s relatively expensive even at the low end of the price range.
Quickly find and GoTo over 30,000 objects. Aperture: 127mm(5.0-Inch). Focal Length: 1900mm. Focal Ratio: f/15.
Variable mount allows either equatorial or alt-az configurations.Good for astrophotography. Easy to transport.
Scope is discontinued but a good value for a Catadioptric.
A professional level scope for the serious amateur. 11-inch diffraction limited Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope. Fully computerized dual fork arm alt-azimuth mount. NexStar computer control technology; GPS alignment, 280 mm aperture, 2800 mm focal length.
Internal GPS receiver automatically downloads the date, time and location from satellites SkyAlign system offers simple alignment. Light gathering capacity 1593x greater than the human eye, with magnification range from 40-660x Limiting stellar magnitude of 14.7 with 12% secondary mirror obstruction.
Very heavy (122 pounds) and difficult to transport. Excellent for astrophotography.
Which Scope is Right for You?
Before you buy a scope, take a moment to think about what you want to do.
If your primary interest is the moon and planets you can view them easily with any scope recommended in this article. If you also want to observe deep space objects you might want to consider any of the Dobsonians due to their ability to capture the dim light of galaxies and nebulae, or one of the higher end refractors, reflectors or catadioptric scopes. You might also want to consider a motor drive if your scope has a narrow field of view or you are using high magnification so the object doesn’t drift from view as a result of the rotation of the Earth.
Accessories are also worth thinking about.Is the scope and mount compatible with a motor drive if you want to upgrade someday? What eyepieces are available or other lenses like a Barlow lens? Can it be used for astrophotography?
If astrophotography is your passion, you’ll need a motor drive that you can program and you’ll want to make sure that the proper camera-adapters are available. You’ll also need to think about which camera you want to use and whether or not it’s compatible with the adapters for the scope. The websites for manufacturers will often have this information, or you can do a general search on the Internet.
Another factor to consider is portability. If you intend to travel to various locations you’ll want a scope that travels easily. Many Dobsonians are very large and bulky but some open-truss Dobsonians can be broken down and transported. Keep in mind that you have to reassemble most scopes on site. The general factors that affect portability are size and weight. Try to anticipate what you can fit into your car and are willing to carry if you plan to do more than backyard viewing.
Finally, there’s ease-of-use. If you have children you’ll want to have a scope that’s easy for them to look through and has simple adjustments if they ever want to use the scope on their own.
Once you’ve thought about how you want to use your scope it’s really just a question of browsing the scopes, doing some homework and finding the best price. Just remember to look closely at the customer reviews so you know that you’ll be happy with your purchase.