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Best Telescope for Astrophotography 2020 – Reviews & Top Picks

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We take pictures of our food these days, but what if there was a product out there that could substantially up your Instagram game? Whether you are a researcher or just someone that wants to improve their photo album, the ability to take pictures of the stars should have broad appeal.

However, buying the right telescope for astrophotography can be very difficult. These are complicated instruments and the layperson may very well struggle to interpret all of the relevant information.

That’s where we come into play. In studying the market, we were able to reduce your buying options down to five great telescopes. The products found below are truly the cream of the crop, so read on for some telescope for astrophotography reviews!

A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites

ModelPriceMagnificationOur Rating
Orion Reflector
Orion 9007 SpaceProbe Reflector Telescope
(Best Overall)

Check Price
26x, 65x, 260x4.75/5
Celestron Inspire Refracting
Celestron Inspire 22402 Refracting Telescope
(Best Value)

Check Price
11x-189x4.65/5
Meade Instruments
Meade Instruments 205004 ETX90 Telescope
(Premium Choice)

Check Price
13x-180x4.60/5
Celestron Powerseeker
Celestron 21049 PowerSeeker 127EQ Telescope

Check Price
50x-250x4.40/5
Sky-Watcher Refractor
Sky-Watcher Evoguide S11170 Refractor Telescope

Check Price
9x-98x4.15/5

The 5 Best Telescopes for Astrophotography

1. Orion SpaceProbe Reflector Telescope – Best Overall

Orion 9007 SpaceProbe Reflector Telescope

The Orion 9007 features 5 inches of aperture. This means that it will be able to work with a fairly moderate amount of light to give you views of brighter galaxies and solar systems. It’s not going to be great for looking at deeper space objects, but for the average hobbyist, 5 inches of aperture are more than plenty to work with.

The unit features a relatively compact 24-inch design and comes with a well-built tripod that should make the process of manually tracking celestial materials a little bit easier. For an eyepiece, the package comes with a 30X lens, and of course, there is always the option to upgrade as needed.

Attachments for hooking up phones or cameras are also available.

Finally, it is also just easy to handle. The telescope features a 25-pound build that should be at least relatively easy to get around with.

Unfortunately, we did observe a bit of a durability problem. The body of the instrument gets dented very easily. Best case scenario, the damage will only be cosmetic, but remember that telescopes are very delicate instruments.

Pros
  • Compact build
  • Relatively lightweight
  • 5 inches of aperture
  • Good tripod included
Cons
  • Some durability concerns

2. Celestron Inspire Refracting Telescope – Best Value

Celestron Inspire 22402 Refracting Telescope

The Celestron distinguishes itself as the best telescope for astrophotography for the money. If you want a reliable telescope for a good price, this will be a top option to consider.

While this unit does not have any of the fancier features that we will observe from some of the other selections on our list, it is simple and easy for the beginner to sink their teeth into. It can be set up in minutes with no tools required and features an onboard LED light attachment for easier use in the dark.

It’s also great for photography thanks to the smartphone lens adapter that comes with the unit. Finally, it features a remarkably light 14-pound bodyweight that will be great for moving the telescope around from place to place.

These things said, there are some unfortunate factors in the con column. Most notably, the specs don’t lend themselves well to anything other than the most ideal of conditions. You will be able to view brighter systems without issue, but in any other circumstance, you will be out of luck.

Pros
  • Affordable
  • Lightweight build
  • LED light attachment
  • Smartphone adapter
Cons
  • Specs a little lacking in quality

3. Meade Instruments Telescope – Premium Choice

Meade Instruments 205004 ETX90 Telescope

If you have a healthy chunk of change to put towards this purchase, you might want to consider directing it at the Meade Instruments unit. The high-quality 90-mm lens features an ultra-high transmission coating that further improves the image rendering quality.

This telescope is digitally powered and features an onboard database that includes over 30,000 celestial objects. The battery life allows you to use these digitally powered features for four-hour increments giving you plenty of use time.

Last but not least, it comes with a sturdy, motorized tripod that will make it considerably easier to track celestial objects.

The only thing we took issue with was the aperture specs. You get 3.5 inches, which certainly isn’t horrible, but it also isn’t the best you can get from a product in this price range. You will still be able to get good use out of this product, but it’s not quite as good for low-light scenarios as other units on the list.

Buyers will also want to bear in mind that there are no photography components included with the telescope. Depending on the equipment you already have on hand, you may need to buy additional accessories before you can start taking pictures.

Pros
  • Digital controls
  • Motorized tripod
  • 30,000-object database
Cons
  • Low aperture level for the price
  • No camera equipment included

4. Celestron PowerSeeker Telescope

Celestron 21049 PowerSeeker 127EQ Telescope

The Celestron has been specifically designed with the beginner in mind. It comes with astronomy software that serves as a sort of 101 course with all the basic information you could want. It also includes a well-made tripod that can be easily adjusted for tracking and focusing.

The unit comes with 5 inches of aperture, which makes it decent for low light viewing. It also can be magnified at a rate of 18X. Finally, with the right attachment, it can easily be hooked up to a cell phone for taking pictures.

Just understand that this is made with the family in mind. If you are an academic, amateur or otherwise, you will want something with a higher viewing quality and a better aperture rating.

Pros
  • Software included
  • Decent tripod included
  • Hooks up to cell phone
Cons
  • Viewing quality is limited
  • Fairly low aperture rating

5. Sky-Watcher Evoguide Refractor Telescope

Sky-Watcher Evoguide S11170 Refractor Telescope

We close the list out with the Sky-Watcher. This is one of the more basic units on our list. However, there are several big benefits that stem from the simplicity. For one thing, it weighs just 2 pounds, which will make it easy to transport. Granted, this does not include a tripod, which you will need to supply for yourself, but still, the low weight level is plenty desirable.

It is also pre-threaded to be attached to DSLR cameras. This makes it very easy to enjoy a high-quality photography experience the moment you unbox the telescope.

Unfortunately, it is also quite pricey. For the same money, you spend here you could probably find a much more automated telescope. It’s not that the product is in any way lacking. The problem is simply that there may be better uses of your money available on this list.

Pros
  • Pre-threaded for DSLR
  • Very lightweight
  • Great for photography
Cons
  • Pricey
  • Lacking in value relative to other options on this list

Buyer’s Guide

Telescopes are really complicated. If you feel overwhelmed by the information we’ve covered to this point, it makes sense. Read on for a list of buying considerations that should make your decision easier.

First of all, what makes a telescope good for photography?

That’s a good question. The truth is that almost any telescope can be used for photography. We are basically just dealing with super fancy, well-calibrated lenses her. As long as you can thread that lens onto your camera you will be in good shape.

However, in some cases, the attachment process is easier said than done. While some of the units come pre-threaded for phones or DSLR cameras, others require pricey attachments. That is something to consider as you factor for budget.

Magnification Means Very Little

What? That’s crazy talk. No, it’s true. Magnification is inconsequential for the fact that it can really be expanded limitlessly with the right eyepiece.

The magnification level does not say much at all about the actual quality of the telescope. Aperture is a much more important consideration because it is what enhances the actual viewing quality.

Celestial Database

As you might imagine, telescopes are pretty sophisticated these days. Many units feature onboard databases that are specially designed to make it easier to find celestial objects. For example, some telescopes can include the coordinates of tens of thousands of celestial bodies already pre-loaded.

Whether you are an expert or an amateur, these presets make using the telescope infinitely easier.

Accessories

Most of the telescopes on our list come with at least some accessories. Most of the time this will mean a tripod, and possibly a carrying case. Others will also come with specialty threading attachments to help you hook up a variety of different cameras.

Naturally, you don’t necessarily need any of these accessories but they will make it easier to use the telescope the moment you get it out of the box.

Auto-Tracking

As on earth, so too in space, things move. Celestial objects can be very difficult to track with the human eye and hand. And, unfortunately, when you lose track of an object, it can be very difficult to find it again. After all, this is space we are talking about. It’s sizable.

Auto tracking features make things much easier. Some telescopes can automate the tracking process making it really easy to maintain a line on celestial objects.

Naturally, automation features are outstanding but the hardware also comes into play. You want to make sure that your telescope will be able to move seamlessly on well-designed hardware. For example, a high-quality motor, and properly maintained brass fixtures can go a long way towards facilitating a smooth tracking experience.

Cell Phone Attachment

Since we are talking about astrophotography, it is also prudent to mention what role your phone can play in this process. Historically speaking, celestial photography has required high-end equipment that only true specialists would have at their disposal. These cameras cost hundreds of dollars (or more) and they can be very difficult to use and maintain.

However, we now live in a world where most people have very good cameras sitting in their pockets at all times. A cell phone attachment will make it easy for anyone to take high-quality space photographs.

Price

Really high-end telescopes cost upwards of $1,000. The best products can cost that many times over. However, you can also find decent moderately priced units that are still compatible with astrophotography.

There are several affordable units on our list that serve to democratize the process of astrophotography, and stargazing in general.

telescope stargazing

Image: Lucas Pezeta from Pexels

Aperture

Aperture is among the most important considerations for any piece of optical equipment. It refers to the diameter of the lens or mirror that renders the image. More importantly, though, it indicates how much light your telescope will be able to utilize.

Weight

The weight of a telescope will have a big impact on your overall user experience. Unless you live in the country, chances are pretty good that you will need to travel to get the most out of your new instrument.

Consequently, you will want something that is both optimized for transport and light enough to move around easily.

As far as optimization is concerned there are several factors that contribute to the overall transportability of a telescope. For example, a carrying case can make the unit easier to move while also ensuring the instrument gets where it is going safely.

Ergonomics is also important. Some telescopes will feature comfort grips that make them easier to hold onto.

Factoring for an ideal weight is regrettably a little bit more complicated. Optimally, you could find something in the 10-pound range. Indeed, with simpler telescopes, this is fairly achievable. However, the more complex the unit gets, the bigger the hardware becomes. The bigger the hardware becomes, the heavier the telescopes get.

Some quote-unquote portable telescopes top the scales at nearly 100 pounds. Unfortunately, in some situations, you won’t have a choice; but where there is flexibility, favor the lighter unit.

Lens Coating

Lenses can benefit heavily from specialty coatings. Basically, these are just chemicals that are baked onto the lens that make it better at separating darkness from light. In other words, they make the void of space seem darker and richer, while also making the brightness of the stars more vibrant.

This is great for viewing in general but it also lends itself very well to photography. Traditionally speaking, specially coated lenses are only available on higher-end units. However, telescopes have also been financially democratized recently making it much easier to get good units at a better price.

Consequently, you should be able to find options out there that are both affordable and well suited for delivering high-quality images.

Astronomy 101

Astronomy is really pretty complicated. People dedicate their entire lives to the study of it, and even then, are left with much that they don’t know. Consequently, the average beginner probably won’t have a ton of luck randomly poking their scope out in random directions.

You will be much better served with some pointers. To that end, some telescopes actually make a point of helping you out. Many telescopes that are made for the beginner will come with instructional software included. They might tell you what to look for from a variety of star systems, and also show you around your new instrument.

Of course, in lieu of this, you can always hop around online to learn the things you need to know. However, it can also be very handy to get something that cooperates specifically with your telescope.


Conclusion

All five of the products spotlighted in our telescopes for astrophotography reviews are really great at what they do. But which one is really great for you? Selecting between five high end, complicated products can be very difficult to do.

It may help to keep a couple of recommendations in mind. Buyers that want something really solid are going to favor the Orion 9007 SpaceProbe Reflector Telescope. It’s highly effective and efficient at what it does.

However, bargain hunters can also find good options by considering products like our runner up the Celestron Inspire 22402 Refracting Telescope. Of course, now that you’ve read our buyers guide, you’re pretty much an expert so be confident in your decision.


Featured Image: Shift and Sheriff from Pixabay