Selecting a telescope that can help you capture wonderful astrophotography images is no small task. Even at the entry level there is a wide range of prices and features. As we began our search for astrophotography beginner telescopes, we considered several factors.
We are assuming that the beginning astrophotographer is not a beginning astronomer. Attempting to create photographic images of celestial objects probably means you know where at least some of them are and have an idea about how to capture them. We assume you have taken a few shots of the night sky with a camera and are ready to find out what adding a telescope can do. You just need the equipment to make it happen. We can help. Check out our articles related to beginner astrophotography.
What to Look for in Astrophotography Beginner Telescopes?
A first astrophotography telescope should be a great telescope in general. It should provide excellent views of celestial objects that you want to see and photograph.
Forget about bells and whistles or accessories. Astrophotography telescope designers and marketers assume you have at least one telescope and tripod already. They assume you have seen pretty objects in the sky (with your existing equipment) that you would like to capture in a tangible format.
In astrophotography, the telescope itself is only one component of a set of equipment that will matter. Most telescopes in this category are sold as optical tubes only, allowing you to select the type of mounts and cameras that will best help you reach your specific goals.
An entry-level astrograph should be relatively conservative in price. If you have not experimented with this part of astronomy, it’s not worth spending thousands until you know you will be using the instrument enough to justify it.
When you purchase an astrophotography telescope, you are paying for the quality of the optics more than anything else. Good beginner astrophotography telescopes will offer optical elements that lead to good color correction and a flat field of view. Lenses and mirrors will be made of, and coated with, high quality materials and configured to be conducive to astrophotography.
We also considered whether the overall viewing experience is likely to justify the telescope’s price. We looked for scopes that give you a lot of features for an entry-level price.
An astrophotography telescope should start by making it easy to find great views and eventually lead to the capture of great views. A quality viewing experience includes things like the telescope’s ability to interface easily with other equipment, its usability, any unique features and its ability to help you find your desired targets.
Although not the most important element for all astrophotographers we assume the majority will want to take their scope to areas where there is dark sky. It is possible to take photographs from the back patio but we assume those who are willing to invest in a telescope designed specifically for astrophotography are going to want to enjoy the hobby at various locations. Portability is somewhat relative but we looked for equipment that would not involve a crane in transportation. The astrophotography telescopes we liked best were petite without being flimsy.
Help & Support
With any purchase, customers want a company who will stand behind their product. Astrophotography beginner telescopes represent a significant investment for most and getting them to work properly may take a little support from a company’s customer service personnel, whether it’s online or on the phone.
In short, we looked for the best astrophotography beginner telescopes. We found the 8-inch f/8 Ritchey-Chretien, the 80mm f/6 Air-spaced Triplet ED Apochromatic Refractor and the 190mm f/5.3 Mak-Newt Astrograph to offer the ideal combination of features for their price. Finding the perfect equipment for your budget will lead to years of enjoyment and exploration. Capturing the beauty of the skies will take your love of astronomy to new heights.
It is not easy to design ideal astrophotography beginner telescopes. Even if you get the optics as perfect as they can be within the entry level price range there are many other factors that impact the success of an astrophotograph, including the quality of the mount and camera, method of guiding and the software used to process the image. Even if all of those “stars” align, there are still other elements to contend with, especially at the beginner level. Any astrophotography enthusiast will say, however, that the images you can create will be worth the trouble. As we weighed the assortment of astrographs at the entry level, we tried to narrow the field based on the instrument that is most likely to facilitate great images as you continue your journey with astronomy and begin to experience astrophotography. The 8-inch Ritchey-Chretien from Astro-Tech fits the bill with a great combination of quality optics, portability and ideal design elements.
Buy this product from Astro-Tech only if you like the idea of having at your disposal the same basic optical design as many of the best telescopes used in research. The Hubble Space Telescope, Keck Interferometer, Gran Telescopio Canarias and other tools being used to explore the Universe and beyond use the same basic design – Ritchey-Chretien. Early in the 20th century American George Willis Ritchey and Frenchman Henri Chretien built the first Ritchey-Chretien telescope (RCT), which is a type of Cassegrain that is good at eliminating coma (an aberration that can make stars and comets look blurry).
Ritchey-Chretien is considered by many to be the best for taking pictures of celestial objects, but optical design is just one of the ways this telescope sets itself apart. Among the most important distinctions are the materials used to build it. Forget the optical glass used in other instruments. The primary and secondary mirrors in Astro-Tech’s Ritchey-Chretien are made of low thermal expansion quartz. The mirror coating is also exceptional. Instead of the usual aluminum there is 99 percent reflective dielectric mirror coatings. The coatings are designed to be non-tarnishing and offer exceptional reflectivity.
The optical tube has ten contrast-enhancing glare-stop baffles. There are multiple glare-stop micro-baffles in the secondary mirror light shield and five baffles in the primary mirror baffle tube. These features offer the dark backgrounds that are ideal for astrophotography. While some RCT designs incorporate motors to focus the secondary mirror, the 8-inch Ritchey-Chretien from Astro-Tech features a fixed secondary mirror. Focusing takes place externally with a dual-speed focuser that can make tiny adjustments. The designers really thought of everything an astrophotographer would want in an entry-level instrument. Details like the two mounting rails are a great idea. Even at the earliest stages of this hobby, participants will most likely want full control over what mount, tripods, guiding tools and other accessories they use. The slightest changes in those areas can make a big difference to your photograph.
This Astro-Tech product includes rails that give you the option of pairing your scope with the Vixen or Losmandy-style mounts. You can also employ those rails to mount a wide range of accessories like a piggyback camera adapter. You will also have a choice in the type of finderscope you select. The mounting shoe will work with a wide range of instruments so you can install whichever you prefer. You can mount Vixen-style finderscope brackets or red dot finders. The tube itself offers quality materials that will help you create your dream space photos. The tube may seem irrelevant, just a shell to contain the important components, but it is one of the important components in this case. It is made of lightweight carbon fiber-reinforced composite material. This stuff is extra strong and lightweight, and it can reduce focus changes due to temperature.
The scope comes with two threaded extension tubes to install singly or in combination between the AT8RC rear cell and the focuser, providing a solid extension that changes the distance between the focuser and rear cell. This will help you accommodate DSLR and CCD cameras. The designers added creature comforts like a dust cap and storage case. You will not likely be using either any time soon because you will be having too much fun using this telescope to put it away.
Expect to see a wide and coma-free photographic field through the AT8RC and expect to be impressed by its light gathering capabilities compared to other astrophotography beginner telescopes. The included, removable Crayford focuser will help you get exactly the picture you want by facilitating very fine adjustments to the focus. It’s easy to move the focuser itself too. It can be rotated by loosening the collar and tightening it back up when it is in the right place. A heavy equipment train may cause the focuser drawtube to tilt a bit when fully extended, which can impact the focus. You can adjust the position of the focuser with two included extension tubes though.
The AT8RC is not the lightest of our astrophotography beginner telescopes lineup. It offers so much value for the price, though, that we are willing to give it a lot of credit for all the things it has. The scope’s 16 pounds should not be considered prohibitive anyway. That is still well under the weight limit most people would set for what they are willing to pack into the SUV for a weekend astrophotography session. This telescope is about 18 inches long. It was not the shortest we reviewed but still very portable. We think users will find the transport of the AT8RC well worth it when they see the photos they can create with it.
The help and support seems fairly limited. There is a contact e-mail address and a mailing address on Astro-Tech’s website but no phone number to be found. That’s pretty frustrating, especially for someone who is new to astrophotography. There is not likely to be an astrophotography emergency but this telescope represents a pretty big investment. Patrons will want some support from the manufacturer. This telescope is so great we think it is very likely worth a little bit of a slow response on your questions. We’re talking about a true 8-inch aperture on a Ritchey-Chretien design that is relatively affordable. Astro-Tech does offer a 2-year warranty, which is perhaps the best show of confidence any manufacturer can offer for their product. If you find any flaws in materials or workmanship, you can expect Astro-Tech to take care of it.
The 8-inch Ritchey-Chretien from Astro-Tech is the perfect answer for an astronomer that wants to explore the field of astrophotography but assumed all of the sophisticated scopes were permanently out of their price range. At roughly $1,400, it is certainly not free but you are destined to get back every penny in the form of sheer enjoyment. It is a great way to enter astrophotography with a scope that is not so sophisticated as to become cost-prohibitive but not so simple that it will quash your interest either. It’s just right for anyone shopping for astrophotography beginner telescopes.
Looking for a pocket-sized telescope? The 80mm f/6 Air-Spaced Triplet ED Apochromatic Refractor may be the answer. Ok, it’s not quite that small, but at 7.5 pounds, this tiny telescope is portability perfection. Size is just one small way this instrument stands out among astrophotography beginner telescopes. This scope is so versatile. It’s great for viewing comets, deep sky objects, double stars and even terrestrial targets. Above all, this apochromatic refractor offers excellent quality optics at a reasonable price. It’s an ideal second telescope or first telescope for astrophotography.
The triplet apochromat design has been promoting quality viewing experiences since 1892. That’s when H. Dennis Taylor, an optical designer for T. Cooke & Sons, made the first triplet for the Cooke Photo Visual telescope objective. The triplet uses three lenses as a team to bring wavelengths of light at the far ends of the visible spectrum to a common focus. This leads to sharper images by fighting chromatic aberration in all telescopes with the triplet optical design. The 80mm f/6 Air-Spaced Triplet ED Apochromatic Refractor is no exception. The quality of the glass can lead to even less chromatic aberration, which can cause color fringing around bright objects. Explore Scientific uses extra low dispersion glass to minimize chromatic aberration. That is the goal of all apochromatic refractors but we think this one is designed to do an especially good job for this price point, employing specialized glass by Hoya Optical of Japan to make sure of it.
This telescope comes equipped with a dielectric diagonal. This should provide a secure way to hold your eyepiece and to give you a good viewing angle. Highly reflective coatings of dielectric material will help to create the most light output possible. The 1.25 and 2-inch eyepiece holders use compression rings instead of a set-screw to secure your eyepiece or camera and leave the eyepiece barrel unmarked. We pay attention to the details and so does Explore Scientific, offering front and rear dust covers. There is also an included dew shield. For an investment like this, you don’t want to have to get creative in finding ways to protect it from the elements.
Between the mount, tripod, guiding method, camera and software there is quite enough to adjust and perfect as you set up for an astrophotography session. There is much to be said for having a few things that are ready for action right out of the carrying case. That is one of the nice things about owning a refractor. You can say goodbye to collimation (realignment of optics), at least usually. If you ever need to collimate the 80mm f/6 Air-Spaced Triplet ED you just take the dew shield off and adjust the alignment screws. Included instructions will guide you. If you are feeling less than enthused about collimating send it to Explore Scientific and they will do it for you for a service charge. A universal and adjustable mounting plate will allow this telescope to be used with Explore Scientific, Vixen and some Meade mounts as well as many photo tripods.
Explore Scientific includes a finderscope with illuminated reticle as standard equipment, which is a nice touch. Many of the astrophotography beginner telescopes do not. This telescope is designed to be pretty easy to aim but having the finderscope there will make it even easier. Sure, you could order one separately or take one off your other scope or scopes but it would be pretty nice not to have to do that. This finder offers a wide field of view and comes with a six-point adjustable bracket. A polished roof prism produces images that are oriented correctly left-right and up-down. There is a center opening so you don’t block the object you are trying to locate and the optics are fully multi-coated for maximum contrast. You can store the nice little erect-image Viewfinder with illuminated reticle with your 80mm apochromatic. You don't need to fuss with these. Grab them and go.
We just have to mention the petite size again here. It’s part of the viewing experience because it subtracts from the lugging-equipment-around factor. It is likely to increase the number of viewing experiences you have because you can pack it along on vacation and fit in some wonderful astronomy and astrophotography time. As for what you will see, prepare to be amazed. The optics feature enhanced multilayer deposition coatings, which are designed to eliminate light scatter and maintain image contrast. Contrast is enhanced by the work of multiple baffles that mask and deflect unwanted stray light. Explore Scientific included a quality Crayford-style focuser with tension adjustment and lock to help you find and keep in focus the exact image you desire.
The 80mm f/6 Air-Spaced Triplet ED Apochromatic Refractor could not be better in the portability department. Tuck this tiny telescope into its included case and take it with you wherever your travels may lead you. You will see celestial objects from a whole new point on the planet and you can take wonderful pictures of them.
Explore Scientific telescopes are covered under a one-year warranty, which can be extended with product registration to five years. This can also be extended to those who receive a telescope as a gift. An instruction manual was hard to find online. This could be aggravating for the new astrophotographer. Many manufacturers just post their entire manuals on their websites, an invaluable resource for users. A contact phone number was easy to find. Users can also sign up for a newsletter and there is a FAQs page that is fairly useful.
The 80mm f/6 Air-Spaced Triplet ED Apochromatic Refractor is ultra-portable and is ultra-capable of helping you create great astrophotos and memories. Included features like dust covers, a removable dew shield, universal saddle plate, quality focuser, erect-image viewfinder, heavy-duty carrying case and dialectric-coated mirror diagonal will impress you and help you advance your astrophotography skills. They will also cause you to be amazed and impressed by the low price point.
The Premium 190mm f/5.3 Mak-Newt Astrograph stands out in astrophotography beginner telescopes for its ability to mimic the performance of expensive apochromatic refractors at a lower price point.
A great collection of features will help you get stunning views and photos of celestial objects with this telescope. The primary mirror is crafted of low-expansion optical glass with enhanced reflectivity coatings. Paired with the multi-coated meniscus lens, the mirror will offer up sharp images of stars, even the ones toward the edge of the field of view. The included Crayford focuser can handle the weight of your camera of choice with little adjustment. It will also offer gradual and smooth motion at two different speeds. Count on five knife-edge baffles to cut down on internal reflections and give exceptional contrast.
The latest version of this instrument features a larger secondary mirror than its predecessor. It’s now 64mm in diameter, which increases the field of illumination to take advantage of larger CCD chips found in DSLR cameras. The focuser comes complete with 2 and 1.25-inch compression ring adapters. The compression ring can securely hold the 2 and 1.25-inch accessories in place without marring the metal barrel. Designers worked to minimize diffraction. The secondary mirror is held by the corrector glass so there is no need for spider vanes. All optical elements are secured to lessen the risk of image shift.
This telescope is known for delivering a flapjack flat field of view of deep-sky phenomena. Use it with small webcams, DSLRs and CCDs. In every case, its Maksutov-Newtonian optical design will work to reduce coma and field curves, lessening the need to crop astrophotos. Forget about those smeared blobs that used to represent stars toward the edges of your photos. The Premium 190mm f/5.3 Mak-Newt can also offer wonderful viewing experiences, apart from photography considerations. The included focuser extension adapter offers sharp and high-contrast views for all astronomers.
The Premium 190mm f/5.3 Mak-Newt Astrograph is not likely to win a portability prize among our lineup of astrophotography beginner telescopes. There is no included carry case and it weighs twice as much as some of the others but we think you will forget about the weight when you see the images. Most people will only want to carry it to and from their vehicle so it’s really not a big deal, but this may not be the best telescope for airline travel.
Orion’s customer support system is so great. Their people are always available and always helpful. The information provided on their website is extensive and includes easy-to-find and easy-to-understand instruction manuals for all products. This product comes with a one-year warranty and a 30-day money back guarantee. You shouldn’t need it with this great piece of equipment but it is always comforting to know a company stands by their products.
Your interest in astrophotography is destined to soar with the Premium 190mm f/5.3 Mak-Newt Astrograph from Orion. It is a field-flattening phenomenon with great aperture at a beginner-friendly price.
Orion 8-inch Ritchey-Chretien Astrograph
One design that is likely to come immediately to the minds of astrophotographers when you broach the topic of their hobby is the Ritchey-Chretien. Used in some of the most famous research telescopes of our time, this optical design really lends itself to capturing great images of space. Finding a good one that costs around $1,200 is a great boon for beginners. Compared to other astrophotography beginner telescopes, the Orion 8 f/8 Ritchey-Chretien offers a great value.
If we just stopped at the optical design, we would be able to give the Orion 8 Ritchey-Chretien a pretty rave review. As mentioned, Ritchey-Chretiens have been known for their astrophotography abilities and expensive price points, but this one is so economical. It also offers some great features besides its overall design and price. This 8-inch scope has some serious light-gathering ability. That matters for any astronomy endeavor.
The sturdy Crayford-style focuser will help you make fine adjustments and it should be able to withstand the weight of heavy accessories without slippage. Orion includes 1 and 2-inch extension rings to adapt to various cameras. A dovetail mounting bar is included so the scope can interface easily with medium or large-sized Orion equatorial mounts. You will find yourself collimating with this telescope. That might be a minus for those who are a bit less patient. Orion did endeavor to make the collimating as easy as possible. An included Cheshire collimating tool and center-marked secondary mirror should make the process pretty painless. Orion also throws in the free edition of Starry Night software, which is a nice bonus.
As a Ritchey-Chretien, the Orion 8 uses hyperbolic primary and secondary mirrors to achieve flat and virtually coma-free views. The mirrors are made of BK-7 optical glass with enhanced aluminum 94-96 percent reflectivity coatings to limit diffraction. The use of mirrors instead of lenses means there will be no chromatic aberration and 10 light baffles will provide maximum image contrast.
This scope is fairly lightweight and handy, although heavy compared to other astrophotography beginners telescopes. It does not come with a case so you’ll have to find the right thing for carting it around. If you are hoping to take your hobby on the road this is a drawback, at least until you find the right way to transport it. If you love the stars enough to invest in a scope specific to astrophotography, we’re guessing you will want to use the instrument in more places than just your backyard.
You are probably not a newcomer to astronomy if you are considering this instrument but you may be relatively new or brand new to astrophotography. Good customer service will be of great value to you and Orion has it. Their online information is extensive and very detailed. Their online and phone customer service is fast and friendly.
If you are looking to get into astrophotography, the Orion 8 f/8 Ritchey-Chretien is a safe bet. It compares well to other astrophotography beginner telescopes based on its optical design, quality optical elements and price point.
Orion 8-inch Newtonian Astrograph
If you need to hit a lower price point but still want to be able to enjoy your first foray into astrophotography consider the Orion 8-inch f/4 Newtonian. This reflector is listed as “advanced” by Orion but don’t be intimidated. That just means it is meant to serve the advanced (but far from a researching professional) astronomer. By the time you have an interest in astrophotography we assume you have spent some time looking through a telescope. In that sense, you are advanced. You want to do more than look. You want to capture the beautiful views. At under $500, this instrument from Orion is an economical choice compared to other astrophotography beginner telescopes.
This product, especially compared to the other astrophotography beginner telescopes we looked at, is for the beginning astrophotographer who wants to get their feet wet and see if this part of the hobby is really for them. Some users may have fun with this scope and may just want to stay with it for astrographs. Others may have fun with this scope and quickly be ready to move on to more expensive and sophisticated equipment. Either buyer will still feel good about this purchase when it is all said and done.
Some may prefer to fine tune every last detail but we think it is pretty nice that a finderscope is included with this telescope. That way you know the telescope and finderscope will work well together and you can always store at least one set of equipment for astrophotography together. The 200mm-aperture parabolic primary mirror is crafted of high quality BK-7 glass.
The included cooling accelerator fan should lead to a shorter time between deciding to take astrophotos and actually taking some. Newtonians can sometimes degrade an image if the optical face of the primary mirror is even a little warmer than the air outside. You’ll want a fan, and with the Orion 8-inch f/4 Newtonian you don’t have to go looking.
There are many features that will impact your viewing experience with the Orion 8-inch f/4 Newtonian. The short f/4 focal length should lead to wide fields of view and small image scales. Also, enhanced aluminum mirror coatings have more than 91 percent reflectivity. That will deliver a lot of light to the focuser. The dual-speed Crayford focuser will help you by offering camera support, limiting drawtube flex and offering a precise focus.
At 16 pounds this Newtonian is not the lightest astrophotography beginners telescope we looked at. Also, there is no carrying case provided. It’s still much lighter than the more expensive and sophisticated scopes though.
Orion realized long ago that great customer support is worth the investment. Their people are always nice and helpful. Their website is packed with good info and staffers are quick to answer the phones.
The Orion 8-inch f/4 Newtonian is not the most sophisticated of the astrophotography beginners telescopes we looked at but it is a good starting point, with decent optics and a great price.
Astro-Tech 6-inch f/9 Ritchey-Chretien Astrograph
The 6-inch Ritchey-Chretien from Astro-Tech lacks some of the features of the 8-inch Ritchey-Chretien from the same company. Recognized for its low price and feature-packed design, Astro-Tech’s 6-inch Ritchey-Chretien compares well to other astrophotography beginner telescopes.
The Ritchey-Chretien design is so great for astrophotography. Even at this relatively low price point, the design itself is going to overcome a major problem in this hobby – namely coma. Astro-Tech pioneered the idea of a low cost Ritchey-Chretien and it shows in the quality of this very compact but very excellent telescope. Its hyperbolic mirrors are made of BK-7 optical glass. This scope’s primary mirror is fixed in order to stop image shifting and focus changes that occur in some designs. The secondary mirror is also fixed. There is no need to focus with a motor like some telescopes require. A Crayford focuser will allow you to make superfine adjustments to get the image you want. You can easily change the position of the focuser with two included extension tubes and there are 2 and 1.25-inch accessory holders that are designed not to damage the tube. A Vixen-style dovetail mounting bar can be used or removed based on your preferences. There is also a Vixen-style finderscope bracket base. It can also be removed or used with Vixen-style finderscope brackets and red dot-type finders.
The most important influence on the viewing experience with this telescope is the basic optical design. Using the same design as the Hubble Space Telescope you will be able to capture coma-free images of the Universe and beyond. The eight internal knife-edge baffles will act to stop glare and enhance contrast. Optical coatings are aluminum with a quartz layer, offering reflectivity of up to 96 percent.
This is not the lightest in our astrophotography beginner telescopes list but it is still pretty portable. An included carry case would be nice but that is the least of your worries when the optics are so good and the price so low.
Astro-Tech offers a two-year warranty on all their products for any flaws that are due to the manufacturing process. That is always a comforting demonstration of confidence in a company’s products. If you find any flaws in materials or workmanship, you can expect Astro-Tech to take care of it. The help and support is fairly limited. There is a contact e-mail address and a mailing address on Astro-Tech’s website but no phone number that we could find. That’s likely to be pretty frustrating, especially for someone who is new to astrophotography. Patrons should be able to expect some support from the manufacturer.
Astro-Tech’s 6-inch Ritchey-Chretien is most importantly a Ritchey-Chretien. That alone is going to lead you to great astrophotography experiences. It also features some great optics for the price. It does not have the flash of the 8-inch Ritchey-Chretien but if you can live without a carbon fiber-reinforced optical tube, you’ll be just fine.
Stellarvue SV 70ED Refractor
The 70ED Refractor telescope from Stellarvue has many things to recommend it. Okay, it has mainly one thing – price. There is something to be said for an entry level astrophotography telescope that actually has an entry level price. At under $400, the 70ED packs a pretty good punch in terms of optical quality compared to other astrophotography beginner telescopes.
A lot of care goes into the optical elements on this telescope. The lens features the same extra-low dispersion glass that is used in the higher-priced Stellarvue models and the lens undergoes a final figuring by hand in an effort to ensure good performance. The dual-speed Crayford focuser has a micrometer scale to help you make tiny adjustments until you find your perfect view. The price includes a foam-lined storage case and there is a mini Vixen-style dovetail rail that should work with most mounts and tripods. The included dew shield is a nice extra.
The viewing experience is likely to leave you a little flat. If only the field of view were flat too. You will likely need a field flattener because this scope will produce images that leave stars out of focus as you get away from the center of the photograph. You will also want a filter to eliminate color fringes around the edges of some stars as they are photographed. By the time you add the filter and flattener you’re almost to the price of scopes that are really better at all of this stuff right out of the box. The 70ED will give you more control of your image, though. That might be more fun for some budding astrophotographers. You may enjoy finding just the right equipment to make this little telescope find you your image.
This scope is petite and portable. Astrophotography involves many other tools besides the actual telescope by the time you figure in the mount, camera and more, but you won’t find a more portable telescope for the hobby than the Stellarvue 70ED. It even comes with a hard-sided mini travel case. Just grab it and go!
Stellarvue has some pretty stellar backup for their products. Optical and mechanical parts are under warranty. Stellarvue president Vic Maris personally tests each telescope before it can be experienced by the public. Such a personal interest inspires confidence in this product.
Stellarvue’s 70ED Refractor telescope is not a bad bet compared to other telescopes for beginners. You would not need any extra equipment to use this just for astronomy and it is probably the most portable of the scopes we looked at. However, in terms of astrophotography telescopes for beginners we think there are better products out there. There are some truly great optics in this little scope, but by the time you add equipment for fringing and flattening we think most astrophotographers would be better served by starting at a higher price point.
Meade 80mm f/6 Triplet ED Apochromatic Refractor
An apochromatic refractor is generally a wonderful tool for astrophotography. The Meade 80mm APO OTA F/6 is no exception. The triple-element design means color fringing will be beaten into utter submission. We liked other instruments better in this price range. However, compared to other astrophotography beginner telescopes, this instrument should perform well, especially for its price.
This telescope offers a fast focal ratio and a ton of flexibility. It should work well for viewing, coupled with a camera for astrophotography or piggybacked to a larger scope as a guide scope. The lenses are crafted of extremely low dispersion glass to fight chromatic aberration, and they are multicoated to allow for maximum light transmission. A 2-speed Crayford focuser will provide extra-fine control and minimal image shift. There is also a lock on the focuser so you can freeze it in place once you find the ideal image. Meade includes a removable dew shield, which should help keep dew formation at bay during longer sessions.
The strength of a true apochromatic triplet means practically perfect color correction. One of the strengths of a refractor is almost no need to collimate. Together they make a pretty great team for a telescope used in astrophotography. A true apochromatic refractor is not to be confused with similar scopes that feature two lenses instead of three and cannot bring all the colors into focus. So forget the fringe. That will put the viewing experiences you find with Meade’s 80mm APO OTA F/6 ahead of many more expensive instruments.
Several details on this telescope will make your viewing experience more pleasant. The dew shield is designed to slide into place with smooth motion. The focuser knob is crafted of metal instead of the rubber grips found on many scopes. The focuser in general is known for holding its focus under a heavy load. You will be able to use this telescope with a variety of Meade and non-Meade German equatorial mounts and most photo tripods as well.
The 80mm APO OTA F/6 would be pretty tough to beat in this category. At only 6.2 pounds it is one of the lightest astrophotography beginner telescopes we considered. It includes a standard aluminum hard carry case so this telescope is just made for the airplane overhead compartment.
The 80mm APO OTA F/6 includes a one-year warranty, and coming from a respected manufacturer like Meade that really means something. Meade also stands behind its products with a place on its website for e-mailed questions and other customer service contacts. Mead telephone support is good. Friendly and knowledgeable people answer the phone quickly. The entire product manual is difficult to find online but once you find it you will have the answers to most any question you could think of.
The 80mm APO OTA F/6 is a solid choice among astrophotography beginner telescopes. It’s not our favorite among the scopes in our lineup but it is great in many ways.
Stellarvue SV 80ED Raptor
The 80ED refractor telescope from Stellarvue compared less favorably to other astrophotography beginner telescopes. Make no mistake. This telescope has some great quality optics and includes wonderful features, but for our money there are better telescopes for the aspiring astrophotographer.
This telescope is packed with features. The lens is mounted in an adjustable cell designed to maintain alignment. The fully retracting carbon fiber dew shield will help you during long viewing sessions and the 2-inch, dual-speed focuser with compression ring and 1.25-inch adapter will make sure you can find exactly the image you seek. The details on this telescope are impressive. The locking ring is crafted to be red in color so it is visible when using a red flashlight. You just have to loosen the ring and rotate the focuser to the right orientation, tighten the ring and observe. A clamshell mounting ring will lead to easy balancing and a Vixen-style dovetail foot will make the 80ED compatible with many mounts.
The doublet design has been promoting quality viewing experiences since Chester Moor Hall discovered it in 1733. Hall figured out how to bring more wavelengths to a common focus by using two lenses — a concave flint glass lens and a convex crown glass lens. This design leads to sharper images in all telescopes with the doublet optical design. The 80ED by Stellarvue is no exception. Expect a pretty sharp picture and get ready to love the smooth moves of this well-designed focuser.
The designers were thinking a lot about portability as they created the 80ED. The tiny tool is 50 percent lighter than other Stellarvue 80mm products. Thanks to its featherweight carbon-fiber tube it does not even weigh 5 pounds. The clamshell and Vixen-style rail only add 1.5 pounds. It does not get more portable than that. Stellarvue also includes an airline carry case lined with C7 foam designed to hold the telescope itself, star diagonal, reflex finder and several eyepieces. This company is pretty serious about their cases. The nylon ones, like the one included with the 80ED, are great for travel. They protect your investment but are much less clunky than the metal ones.
Stellarvue has some pretty stellar backup for their products. Optical and mechanical parts are under warranty. Stellarvue president Vic Maris personally tests each telescope before it can be experienced by the public. Such a personal interest inspires confidence in this product.
The 80ED refractor telescope from Stellarvue is a quality piece of equipment. We think there are better astrophotography beginner instruments overall but this one is worth a look if you are very concerned with portability. It could become a business travelers’ best friend and will suit anyone who wants to be able to take their hobby on the road. Throw it in the overhead bin and take a little bit of heaven with you when you travel.
Tele Vue TV-60is Refractor
Flexibility is key to the TV-60is by Tele Vue. This apochromatic refractor is made for on-the-go fun. Compared to other astrophotography beginner telescopes, the TV-60is offers a lot of features that are great for versatility. It is not our favorite telescope, mostly because there are others that will give you more perks for less money, but it’s got some solid features.
This telescope offers many features that lead to versatility. With a six-point mounting system you will be able to accommodate large pointing angles. The threaded field flattener takes the TV-60is from a quality-viewing instrument to a great astrophotography instrument. Take TV-60is out during the daytime and it will be awesome for terrestrial viewing as well. Generally, we like the Ritchey-Chretiens best for astrophotography but there are plenty of apochromatic refractor fans out there. Refractors like the TV-60is are most likely to cool down quickly (letting you take photos sooner) and they are least likely to need collimation, which is definitely a bonus for a new astrophotographer. This telescope also comes with Tele Vue’s Focusmate, an accessory mounted to the right side of the optical tube that makes extra-fine adjustments possible. Two optional items that most would consider invaluable are a digital micrometer, which measures to .0001 inch, and a 2-inch mirror diagonal for a visual field of 7.3 degrees.
The TV-60is has a reputation for fine focus and flexibility. Use the slow motion focuser to isolate the exact targeted image. With this telescope, expect to see a large sky area with the 4-degree-per-inch field of view at the focal plane. This telescope’s reputation also includes limited vignetting, which can cause an image’s corners to appear dark. This refractor has a pretty far reach. Sky & Telescope described it as a “cluster-buster” and a “real deep-sky beauty.”
This telescope comes with a nice padded carrying case and is ready for action. It weighs only 7 pounds and includes a dust cap. It will be a cinch to take this telescope on the road because it measures less than a foot long.
Tele Vue’s website leaves quite a bit to be desired. It seems a bit outdated overall and makes finding the answer to a question harder than it should be. Any immediate response from a customer service person is pretty hard to find. Even the customer service phone number is hard to find. Tele Vue may be assuming that their dealers will handle those types of concerns. They may, but having a chat option or a more obvious phone contact at the manufacturer’s level would sure be nice. It inspires confidence, establishing the company’s pride in their product.
Based on its price, optical quality and other features, the TV-60is by Tele Vue is pretty grand compared to other astrophotography beginner telescopes. This instrument will help you create wonderful photographs. We think beginners would have just as much fun and take great photos with less expensive instruments.
Takahashi FSQ-85ED BabyQ
Imagine an astrophotography telescope that has been designed for the express purpose of creating beautiful digital images. It features the finest optical elements in the astrophotography world and can produce flat field and color-free images. The FSQ-85ED from Takahashi is the Cadillac of astrophotography beginner telescopes. However, not everyone can afford to drive a Cadillac. Compared to other astrophotography beginner telescopes, the FSQ-85ED, or “Baby Q,” is spectacular. It is also spectacularly expensive.
This telescope stands out in every way. It has the double ED, 4-lens optical system of its sibling, the FSQ-106ED but in a smaller, more portable package. Baby Q’s image circle will allow medium format CCD or DSLR cameras to produce high quality images of deep sky objects. The focuser can stay steady even when using pretty big cameras. Its smooth motion and oversized knobs will make it easy to achieve a sharp focus every time, even at very high powers.
There’s no finderscope included but there is a spot for an optional finder bracket and finderscope. At this price point, including a finderscope would have been nice. A more experienced user would not likely care but as we looked at other telescopes we liked the ones that throw in some extras. They did include a dew shield, a retractable and self-storing dew shield. This will matter for impeding the formation of dew and improving visual contrast.
The Baby Q represents the best of the best. Takahashi does everything well, with correction for field curvature, spherical aberration, coma and more. You will get a great view of space and be able to capture that view for amazing astrographs. We’re just not convinced it is worth paying double the price of many other beginner astrophotography telescopes to achieve it. That’s not really what astrophotography beginner telescopes are all about, unless money is not a consideration. Perhaps you don’t have to convince a spouse or put a child through college. In that case buy the Baby Q and make some beautiful photos.
The Baby Q lives up to its name with its pint-sized package. At less than 9 pounds, a small mount will support it. This telescope will be right at home in an overhead bin, or even under a seat, on an airplane. It’s only 12.68 inches long when fully collapsed. The only potential drawback is having to guard it with your life because it is so valuable.
Takahashi backs the Baby Q with any and all information you could possibly want on its website. There is a factory tour, FAQ page, downloadable manuals, complete specs and more. The contact number is also a good resource.
There is not much out there to rival the FSQ-85ED among astrophotography telescopes. You will be amazed and impressed by what you create, and you will be temporarily broke. We’re not convinced it is worth the price for most people. You can have just as much fun with other products in our lineup.