How can you buy the best telescopes? More specifically, what is the best telescope for you? That’s a difficult question to answer because everyone’s situation is different. The best telescopes vary from person to person because we don’t all have the same needs or objectives.
Two Questions you Should ask Yourself
- How much do you want to pay? Your budget will certainly bring some focus into the options available to you. The best telescope for someone with a $500 budget is different than for someone else who wants to pay $5000. Price range of telescopes alone vary immensely. You can get a telescope for $60 or you can pay as much as $40,000.
- What will you use the telescope for? Certain telescopes are not great for astrophotography, some are better suited to view planets. Others are bulky, heavy, and difficult to transport. Really think about what you want to do with your telescope.
Below, you’ll find key areas which may be of interest to you, with some recommendations and options for various budgets. Let’s find what is YOUR best telescopes options!
Beware of “trash telescopes”. We’re referring to most telescopes found in large department stores. They are typically given and received as gifts for someone’s first telescope. Telescopes for sale in department stores are often a complete waste of money because of poor construction, cheap plastics and materials.
Magnification is Over Rated
The best telescopes do not need to give you 800X magnification!
You can usually spot a trash telescope just by the way it’s advertised. When the advertisements focuses on pretty pictures and on magnification capacity, that’s a huge red flag.
Telescope magnification is actually not that important. At least, it’s not the most important factor. Additionally, magnification range/capability is NOT determined by the telescope alone, but with the actual eyepieces used with your telescope.
These ads are misleading and this is done on purpose. Uneducated telescope users assume that more magnification is better. That’s not the case. Aren’t you glad you’re reading this page right now?
The reality is this: most backyard astronomers use magnification ranges from 30X to 250X for 95% of their viewing. Most of the time they stick in 30X to 60X range.
You can learn more about telescope magnification on our telescope power page.
Size Does Matter
Again, we cannot stress this point enough – magnification is NOT a significant factor to consider when you purchase an orion telescope. What is most important is “aperture”, the size of the telescope opening. The bigger the aperture is, the more light gathering power your telescope will have. This in turn translates to crisper and sharper images and a better overall viewing experience.
In terms of identifying the best telescopes for you, its really important to pay attention to the aperture size. The bigger the better. Of course, bigger also means more expensive so the budget usually limits how big you’ll actually go. If budget doesn’t slow you down, then consider usage. If you plan on frequently transporting the telescope, don’t go too big. Heavy and bulky = annoying!
Best Telescopes for First Time Buyers
If this is your first telescope, we encourage you to limit your budget. The reality is that astronomy is not for everyone. It requires patience, it requires flexibility in your schedule, and you may just not like it. Instead of spending $2000 on gear you won’t use in three months, why not look for a good beginner telescope in the $300-$600 range?
A 6″ or 8″ Dobsonian mounted Newtonian Reflector telescope is among the best telescopes for beginners. It grant you years of enjoyment in exploring the night sky. It allows you to learn the basics of astronomy with the capability of observing a wide range of celestial objects. These include the moon, the planets, stars, double stars, galaxies, nebulas and other fascinating targets. Additionally, if you find that you do enjoy astronomy, you can upgrade your equipment by purchasing additional eyepieces, a barlow lens and other telescope accessories.
At this point, if the terms “Dobsonian” “Newtonian” or “Reflector” are confusing you, then you need to learn more of the basics. We recommend you familiarize yourself with the most popular telescope designs. They are:
- Refractor Telescopes
- Reflector Telescopes
- Schmidt-Cassegrain Telescope
- Maksutov-Cassegrain Telescopes
Recommended Dobsonian Telescopes
The Orion SkyQuest XT8 Classic Dobsonian reflector telescope is an ideal choice for beginners looking to learn about astronomy. It is truly the best telescope you can get in the low end price range. Why? Because this 8″ Newtonian telescope is very versatile. You’ll get a great look at the moon and planets as well as stars, double stars, star cluster, nebulas and galaxies. This type telescope is extremely popular and provides the best value for your money. It’s is particularly good for observing deep space objects (DSO’s) and these dobsonians are the best telescopes in terms of performance in light polluted areas. It will provide you with years of stargazing enjoyment.
If your budget allows it, we do encourage you to consider the Orion SkyQuest XT8i Computerized IntelliScope Telescope. The XT8i telescope will save you a lot of time as it comes with a database preloaded with 14,000 objects to view in the sky. Just enter the code and follow the directional arrows displayed on the hand controller by moving the telescope until the object is right in the eyepiece field of view. This is not a full “GoTo” scope in the sense that it is not motorized and will not position itself automatically. However, it will tell you exactly how you can manually position it to spot the object you keyed in. You’ll pay about $200 extra, but it is well worth the money. The motorized GoTo version, the Orion XT8g Telescope, is also available, but now you’re in a different price range.
Other Telescope Accessories
|1.25″ 2x Orion Shorty Barlow Lens||7-21mm Orion Explorer II Zoom Eyepiece
The Nightwatch book is a must for anyone new to astronomy. The Zoom eyepiece is the inexpensive way to get a wide range of magnification. When used on the XT8 telescope, this single eyepiece provides magnification ranges of 57X to 171X. Adding the 2X barlow doubles the magnification and will give you a range from 57X to 342X. These are of course inexpensive telescope accessories, but this is how you get the best bang for your buck, especially when you start out.
Want to learn more? See our other telescope articles.