Article updated 24th January 2017
If you’re looking to purchase a telescope for yourself or your family, it’s important to note that telescopes are made of high quality materials to make them work properly and last long. There are generally three types of telescopes. Refracting telescopes are the most basic; they use a lens to focus and view an image. Reflecting telescopes meanwhile utilize mirrors to reflect light into the inside of the telescope. Catadioptric telescopes combine the features of both refracting and reflecting telescopes.
All of these telescopes cost a pretty penny. Telescope prices hardly ever go below $500 and can cost as much as $1,000 so it’s vital to go for the best value when selecting your telescope. If you’re not willing to spend a lot right away on your first telescope, though, you can shop around for more affordable models and there are some good quality telescopes that cost less than $300.
Short on time? There are two standout telescopes in the $200 to $300 price range, we’ve featured them for you below:
Orion 10014 SkyQuest XT4.5 Classic Dobsonian Telescope
Celestron 21079 Cometron 114AZ Telescope
|Telescope Brand/Model||Key Features||User Feedback||Price to Expect||Our Rating|
|Celestron 21061 AstroMaster 70AZ Refractor Telescope||Quick and easy no-tool setup with fixed StarPointer ideal for terrestrial and astronomical use, pan handle Alt-Az control with clutch & 2.6" optical lens Diameter||Very good||Affordable||4.2 / 5|
|Celestron 127EQ PowerSeeker Telescope||German Equatorial Mount with 127mm Aperture & 1000mm Focal Length, 3x Barlow Lens, comes with aluminum tripod & accessory tray||Very good||Affordable||4.0 / 5|
|Celestron Cometron 114||No-tool setup, lightweight and portable, a great grab-and-go telescope, large aperture for more light and detail, parabolic mirror, fast focal ratio for observing comets, star clusters, galaxies, and more||Very good||Affordable||4.0 / 5|
|Orion 09798 StarBlast 4.5 EQ Reflector Telescope||General purpose wide-field reflector telescope with enough aperture & great for the beginners, fast f/4 optics & a short focal length, tracks night-sky objects extremely easy using slow-motion controls||Very good||Affordable||4.2 / 5|
|Orion 10014 SkyQuest XT4.5 Classic Dobsonian Telescope < View at Amazon.com||Compact & lightweight for traveling or home use, 4.5" aperture with 900mm focal length for clearer view, sturdy and portable Dobsonian base and handy navigation knob.||Very good||Affordable||4.75 / 5 < Our Top Pick for 2017|
|Orion 9851 SpaceProbe EQ130 Reflector Telescope||Complete 5.1" aperture reflector telescope with full-size adjustable tripod and equatorial (EQ) mount, 900mm focal length and f/6.9 focal ratio, 130mm optics for more amazing viewing||Very good||High||4.3 / 5|
|Meade Instruments 209006 Infinity 102AZ Refractor Telescope||102mm aperture with 600mm focal length and focal ratio of f/5.9, Rack-and-Pinion Focuser & Red dot viewfinder, Altazimuth mount with panhandle and slow motion controls||Very good||High||4.2 / 5|
|Astronomers Without Borders OneSky 130||5” scope, easy usage and good optics, high powered and easy set up||Very good||Affordable||4.0 / 5|
Two brands dominate the list of affordable telescopes and one of these is Celestron. Their bestsellers include the Celestron 21061 AstroMaster 70AZ Refractor Telescope with its altazimuth mount which is a step up from simple devices for viewing and infinitely better than using standard binoculars. It gives a superb clearer view of faraway objects on land, and the moon and nearby planets in the sky. This 70mm refracting telescope is also easy to assemble and lightweight. This telescope is not as strong or focused as other models but it gives satisfyingly accurate images, just right for beginners.
One of the more powerful reflector telescopes in its price range is the Celestron 127EQ PowerSeeker. It’s a durable aluminum telescope with aluminum and quartz lenses and mirrors that you need to adjust for a clearer focus. This telescope is ideal for young budding astronomers who want to start seeing a clear image of the skies. Parents will appreciate that the telescope is also quite easy and quick to assemble and stand on its equatorial mount. Accessories include eyepieces (50x magnification and 250x magnification) and a Barlow lens to increase the magnification by three times, plus a useful software program to introduce beginners to heavenly bodies and how to use the telescope to search for them.
*** We rate this best under $200 ***
Our third pick from Celestron, the Celestron Cometron 114 is a reflector telescope that’s both lightweight and portable, great for car trips to open fields for the best night viewing. The 20mm and 10mm eyepieces provide better focus and clearer details. This telescope is also steady once it’s on its altazimuth mount and this is important as for some telescopes any small movement will blur the image details requiring you to adjust the telescope again. Because of its stable mount, this telescope can also be maneuvered horizontally and vertically to allow tracking of objects in the sky. Overall, this telescope is highly recommended for ease of use and quick assembly.
The other maker of more affordable telescopes which do not sacrifice on quality is Orion and their Orion 09798 StarBlast 4.5 EQ Reflector Telescope is a prime example. This reflector telescope with an equatorial mount also comes with 6mm and 15mm eyepieces for crystal clear images. Their highly praised software program is another great bonus. Users have remarked on the sturdiness of the mount as well, which is essential for better quality details and to allow tracking of moving objects like comets. However, assembly may take some time and manual adjustment is needed for an excellent view, so this telescope may be better suited for users who already have an idea of how to use and how to put together telescopes.
The Orion 10014 SkyQuest XT4.5 Classic Dobsonian Telescope is a reflector telescope with a 114 mm aperture which captures outstanding images in surprisingly sharp detail. The telescope’s altazimuth mount makes adjusting it easy. It’s a wonderful option for children especially since the eyepiece is positioned at a low height. It’s also light, compact and easy to transport so you can carry it with you to the best viewing locations. This telescope comes with 25mm and 10mm eyepieces for superior magnification and Orion’s bestselling software program for introducing beginners to the sky and celestial bodies. There are plenty of positive reviews for this telescope due to its portability, ease of use and high quality views.
The Orion 9851 SpaceProbe EQ130 Reflector Telescope is a wonderful choice for beginners on a budget. This reflector telescope includes 25mm and 10mm eyepieces and an equatorial mount which may take a while to adjust and get used to. Similar to the previous models we mentioned, this telescope also comes with Orion’s popular software program. The 5.1 inch aperture captures adequate lighting for a perfect view of the nearer stars, planets and moon. You can even use this telescope in some areas with moderate light pollution and you’ll still get a great view of the sky. The entire telescope is light enough to be carried easily but may not be sturdy enough to be transported.
Another brand that has a more affordable telescope is Meade Instruments and their Meade Instruments 209006 Infinity 102AZ Refractor Telescope has terrific features despite the lower price. It gives impressively clear views of the night sky and nearby heavenly bodies with details sharply outlined. This refractor telescope has an altazimuth mount for stability and easy adjustment. The telescope itself is convenient to put up, and can be easily used by beginners. Eyepieces included are 6.3mm, 9mm and 26mm. There have been some issues with the mount and tripod though as it’s not as steady or supportive as those of other telescopes.
Not a very well-known telescope but brilliant in its own right is the Astronomers Without Borders OneSky 130. What’s unique about this reflector telescope is that it was constructed with a collapsible truss tube, and being a small and lightweight telescope, you can easily carry it around. It has a relatively larger 5 inch aperture for better views plus 25mm and 10mm eyepieces for magnification. The altazimuth mount is also fairly stable. The best thing about this telescope though is that part of its profit helps fund the Astronomers Without Borders outreach program.
Which telescope you ultimately decide on depends on several factors. One, are you buying it for yourself as a beginner or is it for your children? The Orion 10014 SkyQuest XT4.5 Classic Dobsonian Telescope, for example, may be inconvenient for adults because of the eyepiece’s low height. Two, what would you like to view? Will you be contented with nearby heavenly bodies or do you want a more powerful telescope? Lastly, consider your location. Is the telescope easy to transport if your area has too much light pollution or can it work well despite the light problem? Keep all these in mind to make buying your first telescope a success.
Our aim at TelescopeReviews.Space is to help you find the perfect telescope for your needs, at the right price. We hope to have helped you today!