Buying Guide: Finding The Right Beginner’s Telescope

A telescope is an amazing tool that allows you to witness the skies, the stars and everything else that outside of your immediate vision. However, buying a telescope may be an overwhelming and daunting task for beginners. There are a number of factors to consider ensuring you are buying the best telescope for your specific needs. Keep in mind that no one telescope will suit observers for all conditions; you will need to understand the various features and the role of each piece in order to get the telescope best suited for you.

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Top 10 Best Telescopes for Beginners (and Kids!) 2016 - 2017

our editors rated these telescopes on value, features, ease of use, quality, and image clarity
IMAGEPRODUCTOUR RATING
Meade Instruments LightBridge Mini 82 TelescopeMeade Instruments LightBridge Mini 82 Telescope (4.9 / 5)
Meade Instruments Infinity 50mm AZ Refractor TelescopeMeade Instruments Infinity 50mm AZ Refractor Telescope (4.3 / 5)
Orion 09007 SpaceProbe 130ST Equatorial Reflector TelescopeOrion 09007 SpaceProbe 130ST Equatorial Reflector Telescope (4.6 / 5)
GEERTOP 90X Portable Astronomical Refractor TelescopeGEERTOP 90X Portable Astronomical Refractor Telescope (4.3 / 5)
Orion 09798 StarBlast 4.5 Equatorial Reflector TelescopeOrion 09798 StarBlast 4.5 Equatorial Reflector Telescope (4.5 / 5)
Orion 10034 GoScope II 70mm Refractor Travel TelescopeOrion 10034 GoScope II 70mm Refractor Travel Telescope (4.3 / 5)
Celestron 127EQ PowerSeeker TelescopeCelestron 127EQ PowerSeeker Telescope (4.2 / 5)
Orion 9024 AstroView 90mm Equatorial Refractor TelescopeOrion 9024 AstroView 90mm Equatorial Refractor Telescope (4.7 / 5)
Gskyer Instruments Infinity 70mm AZ Refractor 400mm Travel Telescope KitGskyer Instruments Infinity 70mm AZ Refractor 400mm Travel Telescope Kit (4.4 / 5)
Orion 8945 SkyQuest XT8 Classic Dobsonian TelescopeOrion 8945 SkyQuest XT8 Classic Dobsonian Telescope (4.6 / 5)

Beginner Telescope Reviews

If you’re shopping for a good telescope for beginners but not really sure which model to pick from our chart up above, then let us help you out. We’ve taken the selected models above to give you our thoughts on each one. So, if you need more than just cheap telescope ratings and rankings, then keep reading for our mini reviews of these budget-friendly telescopes.

Meade Instruments LightBridge Mini 82 Telescope Review

Meade Instruments LightBridge Mini 82 TelescopeIf you’re on a budget and need the best high quality beginner’s telescope for the money, then look no further. This model right here is our editor’s pick for the best mini telescope under $100. It makes a great choice for kids and beginners who want to see the moon and planets from home.

What we like about this one:

  • very lightweight at just 3.8 lbs
  • compact and portable design – 300mm (f/3.7) focal length
  • Newtonian Reflector with a 82mm (3.2-Inch) aperture
  • 360-Degree swivel mount makes it easy to use for your stargazing
  • you can double the magnification with the included 2x Barlow lens
  • low and high magnification options with the two eyepieces – 26mm (12x) and 9mm (33x)
  • affordable price
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As you can see, there is a lot to like in this little package. That is why our editors selected it as their #1 telescope choice for beginners and kids. You can expect to get a lot of use out of this little telescope for many years to come. Of course, there are a few minor quibbles that we have with it.

What we don’t like about this one:

  • can’t mount it to a tripod or stand
  • doesn’t perform well in cities with a lot of light pollution

All things considered, this model still offers a good value for the money. So, if you want something that will allow you to see the moon, some stars and planets while keeping your costs low, then this little model is definitely the right choice for you to consider buying.

Meade Instruments Infinity 50mm AZ Refractor Telescope Review

Meade Instruments Infinity 50mm AZ Refractor TelescopeIf you want something that looks more like a traditional telescope, but need something that is super cheap in the under $50 range, then this model might work for you. It doesn’t pack a lot of punch, in terms of performance, but it is still a good entry level telescope for viewing the cosmos for the first time.

What we like about this one:

  • ultra low price
  • easy to point and use thanks to the Altazimuth mount
  • low (20mm), medium (12mm), high (4mm) magnification eyepieces
  • you can double the magnification with the included 2x Barlow lens
  • Aperture: 50mm(2″). Focal Length: 600mm. Focal Ratio: f/12. Rack-and-Pinion Focuser
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Sure, it’s basic, but it performs as expected. And for the money, it does so pretty well. Sure, this isn’t the best option for a lot of people since you can spend a little more on a better scope, but for the ultra low price it is a decent purchase. Honestly, we have nothing to complain about here for the price.

Orion 09007 SpaceProbe 130ST Equatorial Reflector Telescope Review

Orion 09007 SpaceProbe 130ST Equatorial Reflector TelescopeIf you want something that has a bit more to offer, but you can spend a little more, then consider this option from Orion. The price falls around the under $300 range, and it really offers a better performance for the money.

What we like about this one:

  • can see the planets and Moon, as well as brighter galaxies, nebulas, and star clusters
  • weighs just 27 lbs
  • portable thanks to the short 24-inch long optical tube design
  • 5.1 inch aperture
  • sturdy EQ-2 equatorial telescope mount and adjustable tripod allows manual slow-motion tracking of sky objects
  • Includes two 1.25 inch Sirius Plossl eyepieces (25mm and 10mm), 6×30 finder scope, 1.25inch rack and pinion focuser, tripod accessory tray, collimation cap, Starry Night astronomy software, and more!
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As you can see, this Orion model really gives you a lot for the money. It is a very durable and high quality telescope that is ideal for brighter deep sky viewing at night. But, there are a few other things that you might wanna consider.

What we don’t like about this one:

  • assembly takes longer than we’d like
  • moving it around a equatorial mount takes some getting used to
  • it doesn’t come with a 2x Barlow lens for greater magnification, so you have to purchase it separately.

All things considered, we think the lack of the 2x Barlow lens is the biggest complaint that we have, especially since cheaper models come with the lens. That being said, the image quality is pretty amazing, so this is still a great telescope for the price.

GEERTOP 90X Portable Astronomical Refractor Telescope Review

If you are looking for a nice entry into the world of telescopes, this might be the perfect option for you. With an extremely affordable price, it is great for those young budding astronomers who want to look towards the sky at night.

GEERTOP 90X Portable Astronomical Refractor Telescope, 360X50mm, For Kids Sky Star Gazing & Birds WatchingWhat we like about this one:

  • The price is extremely inexpensive. It is difficult to find another telescope that beats the price tag.
  • Comes with several levels of magnification, all the way up to 90x
  • The telescope can be moved vertically and horizontally, giving it a wide range of motion.
  • Compact in design and perfect for a table top.
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The telescope comes with some nice features for the price and it does provide some variants so a child or other user is able to adjust the magnification. This provides a more expensive feel to it and helps entry level users break into the world of telescopes.

What we don’t like about this one:

  • Needs to be placed on a table, so if there isn’t a table by a window the tripod is not tall enough to reach.
  • Due to the lack of extensions with the tripod, it can be uncomfortable to look through, especially for those who are taller.
  • The plastic design makes it feel light and cheap. It also makes moving the telescope a bit too easy, so gentle nudges may move the telescope out of position.
  • Eye pieces must be manually swapped in and out instead of being internally switched.

In general, the telescope is designed for children or beginner adults who are looking to experiment with both sky gazing and even bird watching. With the limited magnifying it may be better for monitoring birds than anything else. However, for the reduced price tag, it isn’t a bad deal, although it would be nice if the tripod wasn’t exclusively designed for a tabletop.

Orion 09798 StarBlast 4.5 Equatorial Reflector Telescope Review

Whether you are an amateur star gazer or an experienced astronomer, the compact design of this powerful unit makes stargazing a breeze for the entire family! Offering a 15 mm and 6 mm eyepiece, this model provides an expansive view of the night skies. Making it easy to sweep the night skies for views is an Orion EZ Finder II reflex sight. The special red-dot viewing makes it simple for even the least experienced star gazer to find what they are looking for.

Pros:  this telescope has a lot to offer both the beginner and advanced sky studying student.  This performance packed telescope offers the following features:

  • Orion 09798 StarBlast 4.5 Equatorial Reflector Telescope, Metallic GreenLightweight and portable (weighs less than 30 lbs.)
  • A sturdy EQ-2 equatorial telescope mount with adjustable tripod.  This allows the user to slowly track a variety of objects in the sky.
  • 5.1 inch aperture
  • A variety of accessories including: two 1.25 inch Sirius Plossl eyepieces (25mm and 10mm), 6×30 finder scope, 1.25inch rack and pinion focuser, tripod accessory tray, collimation cap, Starry Night astronomy software, and more!
  • 66 degree field of view
  • Fast f/4 optics making finding objects easy!
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With a 30-75 x magnification, the Orion 09798 StarBlast 4.5 Equatorial Reflector Telescope lets the viewer see everything form the Moon to the Messier. Even the smallest objects can be studied with this powerful telescope. Discover the unknown world of the skies with this easy-to-use, yet powerful tool.

Cons:

  • Assembly time consuming
  • Does not include a 2 x Barlow lens like some other cheaper models do
  • This model is a bit pricey than some other less efficient ones. Still, you get a lot for the cost, making it a great deal.
  • Does not include astrophotography elements
  • More experienced stargazers will likely need to purchase additional accessories/lens to get the most out of this telescope
  • Instructions are  a bit vague

Enjoy hours of fun and excitement as you learn more about the stars and delve into the world of the unknown.

Orion 10034 GoScope II 70mm Refractor Travel Telescope Review

The best way to take in the universe is to escape all of the light pollution around town. Problem with this is most telescopes are designed to stay put, as the oversized designs make it difficult to pack up without opening up the potential for damage. This telescope is designed specifically for going where you are, which may be the perfect design for you.

Orion 10034 GoScope II 70mm Refractor Travel Telescope Moon KitWhat we like about it:

  • Easy to dismount and pack into a provided backpack
  • 400mm focal length using the F 5.7 aperture. This makes it perfect for not only monitoring birds during the day but the moon at night.
  • Comes with two eyepieces of 25mm and 10mm. This offers up to 40 power views using the telescope
  • Aluminum tripod is rugged yet lightweight, which makes it easy to travel with.

This is a nice, small telescope that night only can go with you, but it is great for daily bird watching. If you love taking in wildlife during the day, this offers an excellent opportunity for easy movement.

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What we don’t like about it:

  • Does not provide a powerful zoom, so outside of the moon, monitoring star systems is difficult.
  • While the tripod is lightweight, when fully extended it is easy to knock over due to the light weight of the feet and all the weight positioned at the head of the tripod.
  • The telescope does come with a lunar map, the only real features you are able to see up close are that of the moon.

This is more of a nice travel bird and wildlife telescope than a solar system telescope. It just doesn’t have the lens capability of zooming into desirable objects. Of course, that should be expected for a smaller telescope that is easy to pack and move.

Celestron 127EQ PowerSeeker Telescope Review

Celestron 127EQ PowerSeeker TelescopeIf you are looking for an easy to use telescope that also comes with a powerful focal length, it is going to be tough to beat what this option has. If you want to use the telescope for watching the moon and other solar bodies up close, this is a nice entry level option for you.

What we like about it:

  • 1000mm focal length is an excellent zoom in option. Most other entry level telescopes come with half the focal length. This puts you up close to all the night sky beauty.
  • Comes packed with an aluminum tripod. The tripod is heavier duty than your average entry level tripod, which helps hold up the wider body of the telescope.
  • The 3x Barlow lens allows for you to see a beautiful view of the night sky. With the 127mm aperture you will need to make sure you have limited light pollution though. Otherwise, you may see a distorted image.

This telescope is all about the focal length. The 1000mm focal length is even more powerful than many telephoto lenses on the market, yet it comes at a fraction of the price.

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What we don’t like about it:

  • There are no zoom options. This is the focal length and you can’t change it.
  • The telescope does not come with a tracking arm. This means you won’t be able to track fast moving objects in the night sky.
  • While the tripod is heavier duty, there is nothing connecting the individual legs, which makes it easy to accidentally kick one leg out and knock the entire thing over. Be careful when moving around the tripod.

The tripod really is for looking at stationary objects in the night sky. It isn’t for nature watching and you won’t be able to view moving comets or shooting stars. Keep this in mind when considering the telescope.

Orion 9024 AstroView 90mm Equatorial Refractor Telescope Review

One of the main problems with entry level telescopes is all the plastic. Cheap feeling telescopes are lightweight and easy to move and even damage. This telescope comes with a sturdy design in a powerful mount, so you don’t need to worry about the downfalls of inferior quality products.

Orion 9024 AstroView 90mm Equatorial Refractor TelescopeWhat we like about it:

  • The telescope comes with a powerful 910mm focal length. This way you can move in closer to the moon, planets and other night sky objects than most other entry level telescopes.
  • The provided tripod is strong and heavy duty, which means it is less likely to tip over.
  • Comes with two eyepieces, including a 1.25 inch eyepiece finder scope and a 1.25 inch rack and pinion focuser, which offers a 90 degree mirror. This is excellent for all nighttime viewing.
  • The telescope also works for daytime viewing, which is perfect if you enjoy bird watching from your back window.

The quality construction of the telescope is perfect when you want something a bit more rugged and heavy duty than the traditional entry level telescope. It is more expensive, but the quality is well worth it.

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What we don’t like about it:

  • In order to view during the day, you need to obtain the correct-image diagonal, which is sold separately.
  • The focal length is not adjustable. While this isn’t much of an issue while looking at the moon, if you use the telescope for bird watching it can be difficult to move in and follow a moving subject.
  • Would be nice to have a carrying case, but that is not included.

This telescope is for home use as it does not come with equipment for using it on the go. If you intend on using the telescope for bird watching, you may want to go with something else.

Gskyer Instruments Infinity 70mm AZ Refractor 400mm Travel Telescope Kit Review

When starting off with a entry level telescope, this option may be perfect as it comes with a host of features. This way, it provides you with an excellent way to view the heavens without investing too much money in a new set.

Gskyer Instruments Infinity 70mm AZ Refractor 400mm Travel Telescope KitWhat we like about it:

  • Can be used both for viewing bodies in the solar system and in everyday nature and bird watching.
  • Offers a focal length of up to 400mm.
  • Provided multilayer glass with green coating helps enhance the brightness of the moon, stars and other objects in the night sky. The green lens can be removed for other lenses.
  • Comes with easy to move tripod mount. A single control handle works in a similar manor to moving a camera on a tripod. When in the correct position it can then be locked into position.

The telescope is nice for traveling as pieces can come apart and fit into the body of the telescope. This makes it grate for both entry level users and if you want to take it with you for bird watching.

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What we don’t like about it:

  • There are not many focal length options. This means you are not able to zoom in and out, based on what your individual needs are.
  • Tripod base is extremely light, which means it can be easily tipped if you accidentally bump the bottom of the tripod.
  • Setup is extremely difficult. The instructions are not comprehensive, so if this is the first telescope you’ve ever purchased before it can be especially difficult to figure out how to put it all together.

The lack of zoom features is a bit of a downer and it would be nice if there was a heavier duty tripod, but it is hard to complain when the price is on the lower side.

Orion 8945 SkyQuest XT8 Classic Dobsonian Telescope Review

If you are looking to take your telescope game to the next level without taking up much space, this is an excellent option for you. The price tag is higher than entry level telescopes, so this is not for novices who may lose interest. If you are interested in stepping up to a more powerful telescope, you may have found the right design.

Orion 8945 SkyQuest XT8 Classic Dobsonian TelescopeWhat we like about it:

  • Uses classic Dobsonian reflector design
  • Utilizes eight inch diameter reflector to give beautifully up close visuals of the moon and other heavenly bodies.
  • Comes with provided Starry Night software, so identifying what you are looking at in the sky is easier than ever before.
  • Easy to use point and view design to keep it steady while in use.

The telescope comes with quality computer software and is a great way to look into the night sky while upgrading from the inexpensive, entry level models. The eight inch diameter reflector is perfect for watching the moon in extreme clarity.

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What we don’t like about it:

  • The base of the telescope is extremely wide, so it will take up a good amount of space inside of a room.
  • It can take a while to put together. As it doesn’t use a tripod design but instead a heavily mounted base, it does take several adjustments before it is ready for use.
  • The mirror in the telescope is less than desirable, especially if you have used higher powered telescopes before. If you have never used a quality mirror before, this likely will not stand out, but the slight distortion the mirror causes will make it difficult to look past if you have used higher quality devices previously.

The telescope is a nice option when moving up from an entry level model. However, some of the downfalls, including the mirror and amount of space, can leave much to be desired.

Types of Telescopes

Refractor Telescopes

Refractor telescopes are typically inexpensive, portable and virtually maintenance free. This type of telescope has a curved surface that allows the light to pass from the air to the glass and back to the air. They are useful if you are planning to observe the skies from lightly polluted areas. One of the disadvantages of refractor telescopes is due to its closed-tube assembly; it may take a longer amount of time to cool down to an ambient temperature.

Reflector Telescopes

A reflector telescope is also known as a Newtonian telescope. This type of telescope is good for both deep sky viewing and planetary viewing. A reflector telescope works slightly different than a refractor telescope in that the light is gathered at the bottom of the telescope by a curved, concave mirror, known as the primary, which is parabolic in shape. This type of telescope typically has a large aperture, which allows it to show an image in high resolution. A reflector scope is not typically suited for terrestrial viewing because it produces an upside down image.

Catadioptric Telescopes

A catadioptric telescope uses both mirrors and lenses to collect and focus on the incoming light. This type of telescope is also known as a compound telescope and is often thought to be the most versatile telescope, because it provides an all-around type of viewing. Catadioptric telescopes use a large aperture in an extremely compact tube. They are best suited for astrophotography and they have a wide range of available accessories, which allow you to view amazing images of the planets, moon and faint deep-sky objects. They can also be completely computer controlled.

Features To Consider

Aperture

The aperture of a telescope is a reference to the diameter of either the objective mirror of a reflector or the objective lens of a refractor. The light collecting capacity of a telescope is one of the most important features. Basically, an aperture telescope collects light from distant objects and focuses it in order to produce an image. The aperture of scope (diameter of lens or mirror) is responsible for gathering light and the greater the ability of gathering light it has, the better the image you are viewing will be. In other words, the larger the aperture, the more light gathered and the more you will see.

Eyepieces/Magnification

When buying a telescope, it is essential that it have at least one, if not two or three eyepieces.  The eyepieces are rated by millimeters, the smaller the number the higher the magnification. The most common eyepiece for a beginner is 25mm. it is important to keep in mind that a telescopes power or magnification is not an indicator of a good telescope, so a higher power eyepiece does not necessarily mean you will have better viewing. Both lower and higher power eyepieces have their specific place in observing. For example, an eyepiece with high magnification typically provides a lot of detail, but keeping the object in view is difficult and they require the telescope to gather more light in order to provide a clear image. On the other hand, a lower power eyepiece makes it easier to find an object as well as keep it in view. Lower magnification requires less light making it easier to view objects that are dimmer.  Basically, as the magnification goes up, the quality of the telescope image goes down.

Mounts

One of the most important accessories you will need for a telescope is a mount. The mount is necessary to hold the telescope steady. There are basically three different types of mounts; altazimuth, equatorial or dobsonian.

  • An altazimuth mount is the most basic style. It provides up-down and left-right motions and is typically used for casual stargazing.
  • The Dobsonian mount is designed for easy maneuvering of reflectors that are larger than six-inches. It is a boxy type of mount that sits close to the ground.
  • An equatorial mount is typically the most expensive style and is designed for astronomical viewing.

Before buying a telescope, it is important to do your homework. Study the reviews and if possible talk to someone who is experienced in using a telescope. One of the most things to remember is that the largest telescope is not always going to be the best telescope. A large telescope does not mean that you will have a better view of objects and they are typically more expensive and less portable. In many situations, astronomers choose smaller telescopes because of the ease in transportation. If you are buying a telescope as a new astronomer or for a child, it is usually best to start with one that is suitable to not only their size, but their interests.

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