The night sky is a beautiful thing, and it’s a shame our eyes can’t take in more of it. Of course, there’s also plenty that we’re missing out on a little closer to home. Especially if you’ve found yourself stuck at home practicing social distancing, a telescope can be an amazing way for you to explore the neighborhood and the skies all from your home and help you stave off the cabin fever a little bit.
Of course, you need to find the right telescope, and that’s what we’re here for. We’ve prepared this list of the best telescopes on the market to help you see everything there is to see without making you move an inch.
Carry on reading to see our full list of the best telescopes, followed by a recap breaking down what makes each product on our list stand out. Or jump straight to our number #1 pick here.
- What Should You Look For in a Telescope?
- Here’s How We’ve Determined the Best Available Telescopes
- #1: Celestron PowerSeeker 127EQ Telescope (Best Value – All-Purpose)
- #2: Celestron StarSense Explorer 114mm Newtonian Reflector Telescope (Best Overall Telescope)
- #3: Celestron Inspire 100AZ Refracting Telescope (Best for Photography)
- #4: Orion Observer II 70mm Equatorial Refractor Telescope (Best Low Cost)
- #5: Meade Instruments 205002 ETX80 Observer Achromatic Refractor Telescope (Best Easy-to-Use Telescope)
- What About the Cheapies? Our Best Budget Products
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Verdict: Your Best Telescopes
What Should You Look For in a Telescope?
Most people probably haven’t bought a telescope before, so I’m going to assume you’re not an expert, and that you need a little help knowing what separates the good telescopes from the bad ones. And if you are a little more experienced, well, a quick recap never hurt anyone. In the interest of transparency, we’re going to clearly lay out the criteria we used to during our telescope reviews so that you can follow along and understand how we came to our decision. This will also help you if you decide to conduct further research upon finishing our article.
Criteria #1: Zoom – I don’t think it will confuse anyone to hear that we want our telescopes to have the best zoom possible. After all, the entire point is to be able to see farther, so the better job our telescope does of accomplishing that, the better for your viewing. Of course, an aspect a lot of newer users might overlook is that we may also want to stay relatively close, and certain telescopes are just not designed for that. The absolute best telescope will hit both ends of the spectrum and allow you to start off by looking across the block until you zoom all the way in and hone in on the farthest stars and planets out there.
Criteria #2: Design – The telescopes are not going to be the simple handheld toys you’d see on an old story of sailors at sea. These are powerful tools, and as such, there’s unfortunately a little more to it than just sticking your eye in the socket and looking around. That being said, we’re looking for the most well-designed telescopes out there that are as easy to use as possible. This refers both to the setup process and the actual use. Our ideal telescope will come out of the box ready to go, and won’t require too much expertise to actually use.
Criteria #3: Size – As we mentioned, these are not handheld toys. The products in our telescope reviews are going to be closer to pieces of furniture than something that can fit inside a drawer, but we’ll definitely keep things small if we can. Just because there’s an automatic compromise when it comes to size doesn’t mean we want to stick you with a telescope that takes up your entire room. That being said, when it comes down to it, we’ll prioritize more powerful telescopes over smaller ones, but we’ll make sure to include smaller options for those who want to avoid the extra clutter for one reason or another.
Criteria #4: Price – We’re not here to make you spend a ton of money for no reason. Meeting this criterion is less about being cheap and more about justifying your price. We’d rather buy an expensive product that’s cheaper than it should be than waste money on a cheaper product that isn’t worth the money and that will just break on you or not perform well. There’s definitely a lower limit on how much you can expect to save on your telescope, but we’ll make sure not to make things pointlessly expensive, though we’ll also include the real heavy-hitters for anyone who wants to splurge for the best.
Here’s How We’ve Determined the Best Available Telescopes
We measured the specs of the top products on the market against our listed criteria to see how they held up and if they’re worth buying. We then checked customer reviews, blog posts, and the best telescope reviews out there to see if the products on our list performed as advertised. We also made sure to include a wide spectrum of products that covered different niches and price ranges so that everyone can find a telescope that’s perfect both for their needs and for their wallet.
And without further ado, here is our comprehensive list – tailored to your specific needs – of the best available telescopes on the market.
#1: Celestron PowerSeeker 127EQ Telescope (Best Value – All-Purpose)
Our list starts off with the Celestron PowerSeeker 127EQ Telescope, and Celestron is a name you should take a second to get used to because they’re the leading brand in recreational telescopes. It’s no surprise that our best telescope is a Celestron product, and I guarantee you’ll see that name again on our list.
The PowerSeeker 127EQ Telescope manages to deliver a high-quality performance while staying at an affordable price, which makes this the best value on the market and a fantastic option for beginners and pros alike. This Celestron telescope features a 5-inch aperture – the diameter of the primary mirror or lens, which allows a telescope to collect light- to give you a crisp and clear picture. The wider the aperture, the clearer the image on your telescope.
It also offers you a low zoom of 18x that goes all the way up to 300x so you can see everything from the moon to Saturn and back. The Celestron PowerSeeker 127EQ Telescope comes with a 20-millimeter eyepiece and a 4-millimeter eyepiece, which give you magnifications 50x and 250x respectively. It includes a 3x Barlow lens to multiply that by three. Of course, the honest truth is that the Barlow is usually overkill, and it may cause the image to blur a little. Finally, the short 1-meter focal length will give you a beautiful zoomed-in field of view of a specific target, so this is definitely a detail-oriented telescope.
At 22 pounds, the Celestron PowerSeeker 127EQ Telescope is a little heavy, but once you have it in place it shouldn’t cause you too much trouble. And, of course, it’s the price of this high-quality telescope that’s the big selling point.
The Celestron PowerSeeker 127EQ Telescope has been complimented by paid reviewers and customers alike for being easy to use and for having a reliable and sturdy build. It features an equatorial mount that may take some time to get used to, but its slow movement allows you to be exact with your aiming.
Telescope reviews all over the Internet praised this Celestron product for being one of the best value buys out there. So if you hate feeling like you’re being ripped off, then the Celestron PowerSeeker 127EQ Telescope is the best telescope for you. After a few days of stargazing in the night sky with this tool, you’ll feel like you’re the one who ripped them off!
#2: Celestron StarSense Explorer 114mm Newtonian Reflector Telescope (Best Overall Telescope)
I told you to get used to the name Celestron, and the telescope mega-company managed to nab the top two spots on our list. If the number one option was always the right choice for everyone, then all of my lists would be much shorter. If the Celestron PowerSeeker 127EQ Telescope wasn’t right for your exploration of the night sky, then the Celestron StarSense Explorer 114mm Newtonian Reflector Telescope might be a better choice you help you get to know the deep sky objects a little better.
The best part is that the two telescopes are almost exactly the same price, so money is a non-issue. All you have to do is weigh the pros and cons. Here are some of the features that might convince you to pass on our best telescope and opt for the Celestron StarSense Explorer 114mm Newtonian Reflector Telescope.
Reason #1 to Choose This Product: Smartphone Integration
A lot of outer space and the stars feel like science fiction, so why not throw your smartphone into the mix? It was science fiction until just a few years ago. The Celestron StarSense Explorer 114mm Newtonian Reflector Telescope comes with a conveniently located dock for your smartphone.
As soon as you download the StarSense app, you’ll be able to add the newest technology to your exploration of the night sky. This amazing app then lets you take photos with your smartphone so that you can show your friends all of the amazing and beautiful deep sky objects you’ve been able to hone in on with your new telescope. Who knows? After a few glances at your breathtaking pictures, you may even have a new partner or two in your stargazing hobby.
Spread the love with the smartphone integration and the digital photos of the Celestron StarSense Explorer 114mm Newtonian Reflector Telescope.
Reason #2 to Choose This Product: Light as a Feather
If there’s any complaint to be had of the Celestron PowerSeeker 127EQ Telescope, it’s its bulky size and weight. Twenty pounds is a lot, and once you get the PowerSeeker into place, you’re not going to want to move it any time soon. This can get pretty annoying, if you don’t have a convenient spot for it that’s not in the way when you’re not looking up at the sky.
On the other hand, the Celestron StarSense Explorer 114mm Newtonian Reflector Telescope weighs just 6 pounds. That makes it perfect for anyone living in a house or apartment with a smaller living area, as you’ll have no problem quickly pulling this telescope in and out of the closet. If you need something that won’t take up too much space when company is over, then the Celestron StarSense Explorer 114mm Newtonian Reflector Telescope is the perfect telescope for you.
In addition to its lightweight frame and the amazing smartphone photos, our second Celestron telescope features the same 1-meter focal length as the Celestron PowerSeeker 127EQ Telescope, but it has a slightly smaller aperture. The size difference is less than an inch, so you probably won’t even notice the slightly-worse picture unless you’re a real connoisseur. But for some customers, that’s the deal-breaker.
The Celestron StarSense Explorer 114mm Newtonian Reflector Telescope also has a slightly worse peak zoom than our number one pick, but it also has a 16x option that’s closer than the lowest option of the PowerSeeker telescope, which starts at 18x. If you want to get the best picture you can and zoom in as far as possible, then you should definitely stick with the Celestron PowerSeeker telescope. But if you don’t mind staying a little closer to home, and if you breathtaking pictures to show your friends, plus a smaller and more convenient telescope, then you’ll have to go with the Celestron StarSense Explorer 114mm Telescope.
#3: Celestron Inspire 100AZ Refracting Telescope (Best for Photography)
Celestron again. I promise, there are other telescope brands out there that will appear on our list, but Celestron really is just that much of a giant in the field. Our third telescope is the Celestron Inspire 100AZ Refracting Telescope. If the smartphone integration and digital image capabilities of our previous telescope caught your eye, then you might be more interested in kicking things up a notch with the Inspire 100AZ Refracting Telescope.
In terms of specs, our third telescope is fine, but definitely a little behind our first two picks. The Celestron Inspire 100AZ Refracting Telescope has a 3.94-inch aperture that’s on the smaller side of things, and a focal length of 660 millimeters. This focal length, which is much shorter than the other telescopes on our list so far, makes this telescope great for detailed, zoomed-in views with fantastic image quality. Of course, this also gives you the opportunity to make some amazing pictures, as the Celestron Inspire 100AZ Refracting Telescope features the same smartphone integration as the StarSense Explorer telescope.
This telescope also comes with a pair of eyepieces that measure 10 millimeters and 20 millimeters respectively. Of course, where the Celestron Inspire 100AZ Refracting Telescope really shines is in all of the extra accessories it comes with, pre-packaged. When you buy this telescope, you’re also getting a red LED flashlight, accessory tray, StarPointer Pro finderscope, and a smartphone adapter. These will, of course, contribute to you’re being able to take the most breathtaking photos of the cosmos you’ve ever taken.
The Celestron Inspire 100AZ Refracting Telescope has been praised for being easy to use, and it comes in at a reasonable weight of 20 pounds. The catch with this telescope is that it’s far pricier than either of the two previous telescopes we’ve reviewed. Unless you’re really set on the excellent photos you can get with this telescope, you’re probably better off saving your money and going with a cheaper option. But if you’re an avid photographer who wants a new other-worldly subject, or if you’re a passionate astronomer who wants to add photography into your repertoire, then the Celestron Inspire 100AZ Refracting Telescope is the best way for you to get a great field of view and photograph the night sky in a brand new way.
#4: Orion Observer II 70mm Equatorial Refractor Telescope (Best Low Cost)
I told you there were other telescope brands out there. Orion manages to break Celestron’s streak and be the 2nd company to appear in our article. While not all telescopes are as expensive as the Celestron Inspire 100AZ Refracting Telescope, our other options haven’t exactly been cheap. And that’s why we’re excited to present to you the Orion Observer II 70mm Equatorial Refractor Telescope. This Orion telescope is one of the cheapest options out there, which makes it the perfect choice for beginners who don’t want to commit too much, or anyone who just can’t or won’t spend a fortune on their telescope.
I’m not going to sugar-coat it, you get what you pay for with this Orion refractor telescope. It comes equipped with a 2.76-inch aperture and a focal length of 27.56 inches. This means you’ll get great zoomed-in shots, but your big-picture landscapes (er, spacescapes?) will be a little lacking. In general, the smaller aperture means that you won’t have the same crystal-clear quality that you’d get from our other telescopes.
The lowest zoom you get with the Orion Observer II 70mm Equatorial Refractor Telescope is 10x, while this telescope maxes out at 140x. That may sound low compared to what you’ve read on our list so far, but reviewers still claim to have gotten a great view of Uranus and Neptune, so you can still reach out to the edges of the solar system with this telescope.
The Orion Observer II 70mm Equatorial Refractor Telescope comes with two lenses which are 10 millimeters and 25 millimeters. The most appealing feature of this telescope (other than its price) is probably its low weight of just 10 pounds. The convenience might be a convincing selling point in its own right, in which case the unbeatable price is just a bonus.
If you want a small telescope that won’t put a dent in your wallet, then the Orion Observer II 70mm Equatorial Refractor Telescope is calling your name.
#5: Meade Instruments 205002 ETX80 Observer Achromatic Refractor Telescope (Best Easy-to-Use Telescope)
Especially if you’re a beginner or trying to get a friend interested in your stargazing hobby, having a telescope that’s easy to use goes a long way, and it’s even worth sacrificing quality in some other aspects. The folks at Meade understand the value of a smooth transition, and that’s why they made the Meade Instruments 205002 ETX80 Observer Achromatic Refractor Telescope.
There’s one very specific reason this telescope is so easy to use: It gives you a little help from modern science. As the only electronic telescope on our list, the Meade Instruments 205002 ETX80 Observer Achromatic Refractor Telescope offers features that are just you just can’t get from the competitors. The shining feature of this telescope is the computerized dual-arm GOTO mount with Periodic Error Correction. This electronic arm will help you keep a steady hand and make sure you’re always on target, and that there’s zero drift. This telescope also comes included with a red dot viewfinder, an adjustable-height tripod, and AutoStar Suite software Multi-coated optics.
In terms of specs, this telescope fits somewhere in between the Orion Observer II 70mm Equatorial Refractor Telescope and the rest of the field. It has an aperture of just over 3 inches and a focal length of 400 millimeters. The biggest drawback of the Meade Instruments 205002 ETX80 Observer Achromatic Refractor Telescope is that its highest useful zoom is just 80x, which obviously pales in comparison to our other telescopes, but the short focal length will give you a solid field of view on close-ups.
A nice cherry on top with this telescope is that it weighs just 4 pounds, and it comes with a designated carrying bag that makes it almost completely portable. Of course, even though the Meade Instruments 205002 ETX80 Observer Achromatic Refractor Telescope is ideal for beginners because of its easy-to-use design, it’s fairly expensive. That’s why it’s so far down on our list. It takes a very specific customer to know that it’s worth it to spend the money on this telescope if you’re just starting out. But if you know what you want, and what you want is a smooth landing to get you started, then the Meade Instruments 205002 ETX80 Observer Achromatic Refractor Telescope is perfect for you. It may also be a good purchase for a more experienced user who wants to get a friend, child, or significant other involved.
What About the Cheapies? Our Best Budget Products
We want to make sure everybody can find the perfect telescope for them, and that means everyone. I know better than anyone that sometimes things just start and end at the price tag. If the Orion Observer II 70mm Equatorial Refractor Telescope wasn’t quite what you’re looking for, don’t worry and feel that you’re stuck out of the loop. We’ve added this special section of budget options, so you can find the perfect telescope for you no matter what your bank account looks like.
#1 Budget Product: Gskyer Astronomical Refracting Telescope
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Our first budget telescope comes from Gskyer in the shape of the Gskyer Astronomical Refracting Telescope. This super-affordable telescope comes with a 2.75-inch aperture and a 400-millimeter focal length. You know the drill by now. That means slightly sub-par picture quality and a lens that’s more geared towards zoomed-in shots but not as good at capturing the big picture.
For your money, this telescope also gives you two replaceable eyepieces and one 3x Barlow lens. Finally, the Gskyer Astronomical Refracting Telescope includes one smartphone adapter and one wireless camera remote to help you take some fantastic pictures. The Gskyer Astronomical Refracting Telescope is an amazing choice for any beginner or anyone on a budget. Plus, this telescope weighs just 7 pounds.
#2 Budget Product: Soft Foot AZ Mount Telescope
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If you still haven’t found the budget telescope that’s right for you, then the Soft Foot AZ Mount Telescope is calling your name. This telescope is the cheapest product on our list yet, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find anything cheaper.
The Soft Foot AZ Mount Telescope has same 400-millimeter focal length and 2.7-inch aperture diameter as the Gskyer Astronomical Refracting Telescope, so you know exactly what you’re getting in terms of quality. And since it weighs just 5.25 pounds and measures 24.8 x 9.57 x 4.96 inches, you’ll have no problem packing this telescope up and bringing it along for a weekend in the mountains where you’ll have the best view of the stars you can possibly find.
The Soft Foot AZ Mount Telescope comes with two 1.25-inch replaceable eyepieces of 25mm and 10mm for 16x and 40x zoom, which can be magnified by 3x with the Barlow lens. You get what you pay for, and while the Soft Foot AZ Mount Telescope isn’t exactly the Hubble telescope, it’ll get the job done, and it’s an amazing low-cost entry point for anyone who needs a cheap telescope.
Frequently Asked Questions
We know that you’re probably just first delving into the rich worlds of telescopes, and we want to go to great lengths to make sure you feel nice and acclimated as quickly as possible. That’s why we’re going to answer all of the go-to questions that first-time customers tend to ask. In just a few minutes, you’ll be ready to dive into the stars with all of your questions answered.
Which is the Best Telescope Brand to Buy?
Unfortunately, I can’t give one straight answer to this, as different brands will have different areas where they excel, and for every brand out there, there’s a different telescope enthusiast that will swear it’s the best brand out there. However, I can point you in the right direction and help you find the brand that suits your needs. If you want the best easy-access telescopes out there, then you need to go with a Celestron product. Their telescopes are easy to use and have all of the amazing features that will help you on your deep-space journey. However, these telescopes are a little more expensive than those of the competing beginner-aimed manufacturers. On the other hand, if you want the cheapest option you can find, then there’s no brand for you other than Orion. Of course, the tradeoff is that you’ll be missing out on some fancier features, but you’ll still get a solid telescope at an amazing price.
Is it Hard to Use a Telescope?
Just like most things, stargazing is a skill, and as one expert very aptly put it ” Buying a bigger telescope to see more is like buying a bigger kettle to be a better cook, or buying a bigger computer to be a better programmer.” It will take a lot of patience and persistence to find what you’re looking for, and the best but perhaps not so satisfying advice is “practice, practice, practice.” That being said, the best pieces of advice we can give you in terms of more concrete habits are to avoid bright light for a few hours before stargazing – it can take hours for your eyes to adjust to the darkness – and to not try and look into your telescope directly. The reason for this is that the center part of your retina, which best picks up on small details, sees very poorly in low light. That means you’ll have to engage the other parts of your eyes for the best results. Adopting these habits and applying some elbow grease will have you feeling like Copernicus in no time.
What is Collimation?
I won’t talk your ears off (er, write your eyes off?) this time around. Collimation is basically calibration. That is, how in sync the different parts of your telescope are with each other. The better the collimation, the clearer the image. Refractor telescopes usually don’t need to be collimated, while reflectors and catadioptric telescopes do need to be collimated, but this process is as easy as turning a few screws.
Verdict: Your Best Telescopes
We’re reaching the end of our list, and you’re hopefully starting to get a good idea of which of our products is best for you. But if you haven’t made up your mind yet, not to worry. We don’t want to rush, and we know how important it is to make sure you’re getting the telescope that’s perfect for you. That’s why we’re going to recap all of our telescopes and focus on their standout features. This way, you’ll be able to see the highlights and really know what each product has to offer for you.
If you want the best value for your money, pick the Celestron PowerSeeker 127EQ Telescope.
Our number one telescope from Celestron is basically the industry standard. With its 1-meter focal length and 5-inch aperture, the Celestron PowerSeeker 127EQ Telescope gives you the best high-quality images you can possibly find at this price range. The lowest useful zoom is 18x, and the highest useful zoom goes all the way up to 300x, which is before you even use the 3x Barlow lens. There’s almost nothing else to say about this amazing telescope. It offers you amazing high-quality performance without charging a high-quality price. It’s the best telescope out there in terms of value, and that’s why the Celestron PowerSeeker 127EQ Telescope was an easy choice as our number one pick.
If you need the best pictures, pick the Celestron Inspire 100AZ Refractor Smartphone Adapter Built-in Refracting Telescope.
Looking at space and the wonderful celestial objects in the night sky is great, but taking dazzling pictures of that deep sky is even better, and that’s what makes the Celestron Inspire 100AZ Refractor Smartphone Adapter Built-in Refracting Telescope one of the best telescopes out there. This Celestron telescope gives you a short focal length for the best close-ups and solid aperture diameter for all-around high-quality images and combines that with amazing smartphone integration. You’ll have amazing digital captures of the beautiful solar system thanks to the high-quality design of the Celestron Inspire 100AZ Refractor Smartphone Adapter Built-in Refracting Telescope.
If you want to keep the spending cheap, pick the Orion Observer II 70mm Equatorial Refractor Telescope.
Don’t spend your hard-earned money for no reason. Sure, you could break the bank on an insanely powerful telescope, but if that’s not what you need, then you can save your money on the Orion Observer II 70mm Equatorial Refractor Telescope. Orion is something of an expert when it comes to cheap telescopes, and this inexpensive telescope is just about the best product out there if you need to keep things cheap. With a 2.76-inch aperture and a focal length of 27.56 inches Orion Observer II 70mm Equatorial Refractor Telescope will more than get the job done. And as a nice little reward for your efforts to save, it weighs just 10 pounds, so it won’t inconvenience you nearly as much as some larger and more expensive telescopes. Sometimes it pays not to pay.
After finishing all of our telescope reviews, we hope you’ve found the telescope of your dreams. If none of the highlighted telescopes were quite what you’re looking for, then our other telescopes might be more your speed. You may be interested in the high-quality, light Celestron StarSense Explorer 114mm Newtonian Reflector Telescope, which is great for astrophotography. There’s also the beginner-friendly electronic Meade Instruments 205002 ETX80 Observer Achromatic Refractor Telescope. And of course, you always have our extra budget options to help you save a dollar or two.
As a parting word of advice, it’s a good idea to have it figured out in your head which telescope feature is most important to you before you get started thinking about your decision. This will help you quickly weed out the telescopes – even the more popular telescopes – that don’t have what you’re looking for.
That’s all for now. We hope this list has helped, and we hope you enjoy the amazing night sky!