Astrophotography has been one of my favorite types of photography over the years and I am always excited to help someone new to the art get great shots right from the beginning. And other than getting a great camera and lens, the most important investment you will make is in your telescope. In this article you will find the absolute best telescope you need to get great photographs every time.
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What to Look for in a Great Astrophotography Telescope
There are hundreds of telescope brands on the market today and if you’re looking for one specifically for astrophotography, you certainly have a lot of them to choose from. Nevertheless, the task doesn’t have to be complicated or even time-consuming, especially if you already know what features to concentrate on.
When it comes to the right telescope, a lot will depend on what you hope to accomplish with it. While some of the terms below may sound a little confusing to you, here’s a very basic and simple description of each of them:
- Apochromatic lenses. These focus on green, blue, and red wavelengths at the same time and therefore eliminate the blurring of color around stars and planets that you sometimes get with other types of lenses.
- Doublet or triplet refractor lenses. Refractor telescopes often use either two or three layers of glass for the lenses. While these tend to be heavier and more expensive, they will result in higher-quality images and less blurring around the images you are photographing.
- ED lenses. These lenses are made with extra-low dispersion glass that results in a lower spread of the colored light, which also eliminates that blurring of color around the planets that astrophotography buffs consider so annoying.
- Focal length and focal ratio. The focal length determines how wide your field of view is and the magnification number while the focal ratio is the actual “speed” of the telescope, which is described as f-stops. The lower the number, the faster the telescope is. F/9 or higher is the slowest speed while f/4 or lower is the fastest speed.
- Aperture. This determines how much light is let in and what you can do with it. Keep in mind that you need both a large aperture number and excellent optics to get a clear image when you look up to the sky. A large aperture alone won’t produce the same great effects.
The Three Basic Types of Astrophotography Telescopes
While these things are good to know, you should also know that there are three basic types of telescopes and they are described as follows:
- Refracting telescopes, which are the favorite types among many astronomers, have long tubes with a large lens in the front and an eyepiece in the back. They provide high-contrast images, usually come with high magnification, and are very rugged and well built.
- Reflecting telescopes use a mirror to focus and gather its light. They show you a correct-reading image instead of a mirror image and the Newtonian telescope is a perfect example of these.
- Catadioptric telescopes, also called compound telescopes, combine qualities from both refracting and reflecting telescopes so that you get the best of both worlds.
Of course, getting the right telescope means deciding which features you need for the type of work you’ll be doing because each feature is important when that’s what you’re looking for. If you’d like to know a little more about some of the best astrophotography telescopes on the market, below are a few of them to consider during your research.
Top Astrophotography Telescope Picks
Celestron Advanced VX 8” EdgeHD Computerized Telescope
The EdgeHD computerized telescope by Celestron offers compactness and portability yet does a great job when excellent astrophotography is your goal. Complete with an auto-guider port, CPWI software, all-star polar alignment, and permanently programmable periodic error correction (PPEC), this telescope practically operates without a user. You can even choose from among three different focal ranges depending on what you’re looking at.
Despite its portable size, this telescope packs a lot of punch and offers the durability that you expect from the Celestron brand of electronics. It provides you with the perfect visual image for any payload under 30 pounds. The mount is strong and reliable, providing you with the peace of mind you deserve when you want to look up at the sky and see crystal-clear images for your next photograph.
- Computerized so that it always provides the right settings
- Easy to use even for beginners
- Able to accommodate payloads up to 30 pounds
- Complaints about it being too heavy
- Complaints about it arriving defective
Celestron NextStar 127SLT Computerized Telescope
The NextStar 127SLT computerized telescope is a hand-held telescope that works on AA batteries, which are included, and that is easy to use and produces amazing results. In fact, it is so simple to use that it can even be used by kids with ease. Its 127mm aperture produces just the right amount of light for excellent views and you can have it all set up and ready to use in just minutes. It aligns itself to the night sky and is instantly ready to locate thousands of objects.
Easy to transport and assemble regardless of where you bring it, this telescope’s computer system ensures it is ready to locate and view any object in the sky regardless of the time of day. You even get a free download of astronomy software with your purchase, making the telescope even more valuable to you in the end.
- Computerized features that make it super advanced and efficient
- Reasonable price at around $550
- Great customer service that includes a two-year warranty
- Complaints about having to constantly recalibrate it
- Complaints about error messages that couldn’t be explained
Orion SpaceProbe 130ST EQ Reflector Telescope Kit
The Orion EQ reflector telescope kit includes a telescope with a 5.1” aperture, map and guidebook, user manual, and a Shorty 2x Barlow lens to double the magnification of both of the eyepieces that are also included. This means that you can begin using the telescope as soon as you get it out of the box. At a price of only $330, you can start your astrophotography career without breaking the bank.
The SpaceProbe telescope allows you to clearly see planets, the moon, galaxies, star clusters, and nebulas as well as whatever else you may happen to see along the way. It has a 24” long optical tube and a fast f/5 focal ratio that allow you to get a wide field of view each time that you look up at the sky. In addition, it is such a versatile telescope that your entire family can enjoy using it for many years to come.
- A very versatile telescope that the whole family can enjoy
- Very reasonable price
- Super close viewing of stars, galaxies, etc.
- Complaints about it being difficult to put together
- Complaints about it being of poor quality
Sky Watcher Evo-Guide 50 APO Telescope
Priced at a very reasonable price point, the Sky Watcher 50 APO refractor telescope offers a lot of value for the price you’ll pay. This is an apochromatic lens with a 242mm focal length and a f/4.8 focal ratio, which makes it a very fast type of lens. For exceptional viewing and detail-oriented visuals without going over your budget, you simply can’t beat the quality of this telescope.
The telescope is made partly out of aluminum, which means that you can use it without worrying about it falling apart on you, and it works like a charm as soon as you connect your camera to it. Easy to put together and sturdy without being too heavy, this APO telescope is just what you need whether you’re a beginner or you like to look at the stars and planets on a regular basis.
- Sturdy but not too heavy
- Very reasonably priced and affordable
- Fast focal ratio speed
- Price is a bit high
Celestron AstroMaster 130EQ Newtonian Reflector Telescope for Beginners
This Newtonian reflector telescope made by Celestron is specially designed for beginners and offers advantages such as an adjustable-height tripod (purchased separately), fully coated glass optics, two different eyepieces, a red-dot finder-scope, and bonus astronomy software once you make your purchase. The 130mm lens is great for viewing all types of stars and planets and you even get two slow-motion control knobs so you can always make the perfect adjustments.
The telescope also provides detailed visuals regardless of what you are looking for and its price of only $280 means that it is affordable for everyone. It can be used by the entire family and even comes with a two-year warranty for the peace of mind you deserve.
- A lot of value for the money
- Two eyepieces to make your experience more personalized
- Suitability for both beginners and more experienced users
- Complaints about the adjustments locking up
- Complaints about the “cheap” look of the telescope
All of these telescopes have pros and cons, but the last one — the Celestron AstroMaster telescope — seems to provide the best bang for your buck. Even though it is designed for beginners, the features are valuable ones indeed regardless of how experienced you are and the control knobs mean that adjusting the telescope until it is just right will be a piece of cake every time. It is easy to put together in less than 20 minutes and, most importantly, very easy to use. From basic stargazing to preparing to shoot the perfect nighttime film, this telescope will not disappoint. Since it is made by Celestron, you can count on them to make things right on the rare occasions when something goes wrong.