Many people hear the word telescope and immediately think of something expensive. There are very expensive telescopes out there, but the majority are very affordable. There are plenty of telescopes on the market for people who are on a budget and hope to help you find the best budget telescope in your price range.
When it comes to telescopes in the 21st century, a good price does not mean bad quality. There are plenty of great telescopes out there that can fit pretty much any situation that comes at an affordable price. As technology gets better and cheaper, astronomy becomes a more viable hobby for all.
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What Can I Reasonably Expect From a “Budget” Telescope?
When the word budget gets thrown around, a lot of people start thinking of junk that is not worth their money. There are telescopes out there that fall into that category, but they are usually found on an endcap in a drugstore for twenty quid. The telescopes on this list are made by reputable manufacturers who have a solid pedigree in the telescope and astronomy business.
Do yourself a favor, though, and ignore those flashy endcap telescope units that pop up during the summertime at stores all over the place. Those are nowhere near as good as a real telescope made by actual engineers.
A good low-cost telescope should be able to cover all the basics of solid backyard astronomy. They won’t be able to peer into super deep space, and they probably won’t facilitate any discoveries by amateurs, but they can be a lot of fun.
These telescopes are going to run over a hundred dollars but will not run up into the multiple hundreds of thousands of dollars like some telescopes.
Are the Views Worth It Then?
The purpose of a telescope is to peer into space and get glimpses of things usually unseen. Can a budget telescope give me those views? The answer to that is a resounding yes.
These telescopes won’t be spotting pulsars spinning in the void or distant supernova, but they are more than adequate for all the classics and near-Earth objects. These telescopes are powerful enough to cover the bases for novices through journeymen astronomers.
For example, these telescopes can easily be used to look at planets such as Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, and Venus. They can also peer at star clusters, constellations nebula, and nearby galaxies. Andromeda, Betelgeuse, and Sirius will all be viewable plus other wonders out there to discover. That’s the fun of astronomy is finding new things out in the void to peer at, and these telescopes will give any user that ability.
A few of the telescopes in this category include high tech and modern features that allow for a much deeper and varied stargazing experience. If the price makes you worry about the quality of the images that these telescopes are possible of producing, don’t be. Dollar for dollar, these telescopes can pump out some stunning views.
Here are the best telescopes for an astronomer on a budget.
Lower End Budget
Celestron AstroMaster 70AZ Refractor Telescope
The Celestron AstroMaster 70AZ Refractor Telescope is the cheapest telescope on this list, but it does not perform that way. With magnification levels of 45x and 90x and the highest theoretical magnification of 165x, this refractor telescope comes with a good amount of power for the price.
This telescope is designed with portability in mind. It is tough and comes with a durable metal tripod to easily set up anywhere. For the new or adventurous astronomer, this is a perfect set up to take your hobby with you. The refractor design and the quality Celestron provides means it won’t stress the user out when traveling with it.
With a 70mm objective lens and a 900mm focal length, this refractor tube has enough juice to see all the sights worth seeing in the solar system and beyond. It can also be used on land for terrestrial viewing.
This telescope does a little bit of everything. It can see the moon and the planets and be set up on a cliffside for scenic land views.
You can use accessories and different eyepieces for a more custom experience. It is light and small and can be taken around easily.
How about the mount?
This is bolstered by the collapsible tripod and altazimuth mount. The Celestron AstroMaster 70AZ Refractor Telescope requires no tools or assembly. The mount just snaps to the tripod, and then it is ready to go.
The altazimuth is a smooth, easy to operate, mounting system that allows for fun manual pointing at all of the sky’s best sights. There is no orientation, micro-adjustments, or programming needed to get this mount to work. It is a point, shoot, and view. Very simple and comfortable to use.
The biggest drawback to this telescope is while it does have some good magnification numbers, the light-gathering ability is not great. This means that close, bright objects will be seen with good image quality, but farther dimmer objects, while visible, might not come out as great.
The Celestron AstroMaster 70AZ Refractor Telescope has a lackluster focal ratio of f/13. Anything under ten is considered a good focal ratio. This will limit the scope and quality of certain images of faraway objects.
But for nearby objects, bright objects, and things in the solar system, this telescope will perform more than adequately. This telescope has excellent reviews from users of all stripes and comes almost universally recommended for those astronomers on a budget.Check Latest Price
Meade Instruments 209005 Infinity AZ Refractor Telescope
The Meade Instruments 209005 Infinity AZ Refractor Telescope is cut from a similar cloth as it’s Celestron rival. This is also a refractor telescope with an altazimuth tripod mount and multiple eyepieces and accessories. The Meade Instruments variant is a little more expensive but also offers a little more.
The Meade Instruments 209005 Infinity AZ Refractor Telescope features a 90mm objective lens. This boost in lens size gives this telescope a big boost in light gathering capability and magnification. This is boosted by the trio of great eyepieces that ships with this kit.
It comes with a low, medium, and high magnification eyepiece for different kinds of night sky viewing. With the high-powered eyepiece and the larger objective lens, this telescope will give better quality images of dimmer and more distant objects. This additional power and quality are reflected in its focal ratio, which comes in at a great f/6.7, which is a great number for a telescope in this price range.
This telescope also features a tripod-mounted altazimuth mount. The Meade version comes with a slow-motion control option, which allows you to track objects easily as they move across the sky. This also reduces jerky movements that might take the telescope out of focus or off the object.Check Latest Price
Orion StarBlast II 4.5 Equatorial Reflector Telescope
The Orion StarBlast II 4.5 Equatorial Reflector Telescope is a well-rounded, solid reflector telescope great for families and beginners alike. With a 4.5″ primary aperture and a short focal length, this telescope can produce some great sights. This is due to its reflector design compared to the refractor.
When comparing light-gathering capabilities at this level, reflector telescopes usually come out a little ahead. The Orion StarBlast II 4.5 Equatorial Reflector Telescope has the highest theoretical magnification level of 228x for less than two hundred dollars.
The shorter focal length and large light-gathering mirrors give this model a focal ratio of f/4, which is fantastic. If image clarity and focus are the most important features you have in mind, then this telescope delivers those in spades.
What will I see with the Orion StarBlast II 4.5?
It will be able to deliver on crisp detailed images of the moon, Jupiter, and Saturn, as well as the ability to pick out dimmer deep space objects that other telescopes can’t. This power comes available in a small package coming in at just over twenty pounds with a focal length of 450mm.
The Orion StarBlast II 4.5 Equatorial Reflector Telescope comes with a tripod with an equatorial mounting system. The equatorial mount comes with slow-motion controls and can be calibrated to track objects across the sky easily. Once it is properly aligned with the equator and focused on a particular object, tracking it over a long viewing session is a breeze with this system.
The drawbacks to the Orion StarBlast II 4.5 Equatorial Reflector Telescope compared to the refractor telescopes on this list are its lack of versatility and its fragility. Refractor telescopes by their nature are far hardier than reflector telescopes. The mirrors in a reflector can be misaligned, scratched, or even broken.
This makes reflectors harder to pack up and move around than refractors. While they are still portable, transporting them is a little more stressful than their counterparts.
That said, this is the most complete, standard reflector on this list, and it comes in at that budget-friendly price. It includes all of the standard accessories: two eyepieces, tripod, finder scope, and a moon map. None of these are a particularly great value or very interesting – they are all very standard.
It comes with great reviews at a great price, and for a standard reflector to stand next to the standard refractors, it does a good job. Orion SkyQuest XT6 Classic Dobsonian TelescopeCheck Latest Price
Higher End Budget
Orion SkyQuest XT6 Classic Dobsonian Telescope
The next two telescopes on this list are a little more expensive than the previous three, including the Orion SkyQuest XT6 Classic Dobsonian Telescope, but they come with some unique design elements that can be worth the money depending on the budget.
This telescope has a very large 6″ diameter primary aperture, which gives it the highest light gathering capability of any scope on this list. If raw power on a budget is what you seek, then this is the telescope for you. The extra 1.5” over the 4.5” models add a whopping 80% to its light gathering ability.
I say raw power because this design has a few drawbacks. It is large and bulky and not suitable to be easily constructed or deconstructed and moved. It also has a very long focal length, 1200mm, which means that the image quality will not be as good as some of the models with shorter focal lengths.
This telescope comes in at a focal ratio of f/8.0, which is very good considering the size. It is not as sharp as some others, but the trade-off is the power that makes this telescope capable of seeing much deeper into space than others on this list.
About the Orion SkyQuest XT6 Mount
The Dobsonian mount, necessary for a telescope of this size and weight, gives it high stability. This mounting system is heavy and flat and allows the telescope to sit firmly on the ground without any issues while still allowing easy adjustments by the user to spot sights in the sky.
Compared to some other more petite scopes on this list, this telescope comes in at a heftier size. It stands nearly five-foot-tall with the base and has a diameter of nearly two feet at its widest point. This is not the small out of the way telescope that some can be. If space is an issue in your home, then this is not the telescope for you.
The Orion SkyQuest XT6 Classic Dobsonian Telescope is also a little light on accessories as well. It comes with a map of the moon, a red laser pointer, and a Barlow magnifier. It is standard, but nothing spectacular, and telescopes at a lower price come with the same or better accessories.
This telescope is truly about power. If power is what you want in a larger but sleek package, then the Orion SkyQuest XT6 Classic Dobsonian Telescope will be a great purchase.Check Latest Price
Celestron NexStar 4SE Computerized Telescope
This is the most expensive telescope on this list and begins to stretch the limits of a “budget” telescope. It still comes in far cheaper than some more advanced models found on the internet but is about twice as much as the lower end budget telescopes on this list. That being said, the Celestron NexStar 4SE Computerized Telescope is truly an amazing piece of equipment.
This telescope is a Maksutov-Cassegrain design that combines some of the best features of both reflector and refractor telescopes, which is neat. It boasts a 102mm aperture and a focal length of 1325mm, giving it a focal ratio of f/13. That’s not the best on this list, but it will be bolstered by its most impressive feature.
About the database…
This telescope comes with a preprogrammed database of over 40,000 celestial objects included out of the box. That is paired with a completely computerized motorized mount that can locate, track, and home in on any of those objects in the database. That makes the potential for this telescope unlimited for beginners, intermediates, and advanced users alike.
It takes all the guesswork and frustration out of the focusing and tracking progress. By locating all of the objects automatically, all the user has to do is wait for it to finish calculating and then catch a glimpse of the universe.
This is done via Celestron’s impressive SkyAlign technology, which allows the telescope to calibrate itself using three bright objects in the sky. This is super simple because you can use the moon, Sirius, and Rigil or a multitude of other bright stars and planets to align the scope in minutes and then start programming objects to look at.
While it is the most expensive telescope, that is for good reason because the technology in this unit is so unique and powerful, it is hard to wrap your head around it. If you looked at ten different objects a night, every night, this database could do that for over ten years before it exhausted itself.
Some more hands-on users might feel stunted by the automatic mount and prefer to adjust the telescope themselves manually. This scope can still be manually adjusted for those people, but the system can take some of that exploration magic out of stargazing.
Others who are sticklers about focal ratio and raw power might also find this telescope lacking compared to some others, but overall, this telescope is universally praised online and has amazing customer ratings and reviews.Check Latest Price
If your budget is on the lower end and you are just looking for a telescope to entertain the family and get your toes wet in the astronomy field, there is a telescope for you out there that will not stress out your bank account. If your budget is a little higher and you are looking for some unique and amazing features to beef up your evening stargazing sessions, some telescopes might cost more but also offer more. The great thing about the twenty-first century and advancements in technology is that amazing pieces of equipment like telescopes are becoming cheaper and more widely available than ever before.
Now telescopes can be found and bought for almost any price, and these telescopes offer everything anyone could want out of a good scope without breaking the budget. This makes it more accessible than ever, and there is no better time to get into backyard astronomy than today.