This question “how much does a good telescope cost ?” is one of the first things a newcomer to stargazing or astronomy will typically ask.
Answering this can be a little tricky and it all depends on what you would consider a “good telescope” and what you will be trying to see with it.
Telescopes made by the Big Three (Meade vs Celestron vs Orion) varies a lot up and down their ranges, so it was necessary to separate out certain models and lines.
Meade, in particular, has a particularly long and rich history, and many of its models are separately identified. In addition, telescope options do change over time, so I have included my opinions on popular older telescopes as well. The term “older” generally refers to a previous version of a telescope still being produced (like the Coulters) while the term “old” refers to a telescope or manufacturer no longer active at the current time.
Keep in mind : This should not be your only source for making your choice of which telescope to buy.
Read this post only to get a rough idea of the telescope(s) that may be of interest to you, then consult all the various reviews that you can find online. This is a rough guide only. Use it as a start for your own research, rather than any kind of final word on this topic. I do usually tell folks that they should mentally factor in a margin of error of plus or minus one category when viewing this.
Prices given are approximate and by no means are exact prices. Inflation is never ending 🙂
Evaluate your own preferences, goals and needs while reading this list. The rankings are relative and not transferable from one type to another. In the event that you mostly view distant galaxies, you might very well be more pleased with a big Newtonian. If you like to look at planets, the moon, and double stars, however, you can probably make due with lower cost products.
For newcomers to astronomy (stargazing), the typical advice still holds true. A 6″ Dobsonian is a great first telescope. Stay out of the department stores when looking to buy a telescope. It would be better to buy some high powered binoculars and a few good astronomy books if you can’t afford to spend at least 300 bucks.
– Meade DS/EC Series (2-)
– Bushnell Voyager Dobsonians
– Old Coulters with blue tubes
– Old 1980s vintage Celestrons with the word “Comet” in them
– Celestron C150HD, G8N and NexStar 114 hybrid Newtonians (2+)
– Edmund Astroscan
– Orion StarBlast (2+)
– Most Celestrons
– Meade Starfinders (watch out for #77 2″ plastic focuser)
– Most older Meades, 6″ and larger (#628, #645, #826, #6600, #8800, etc) (3+)
– Meade 4500 (Shy away from “similar” versions with .965″ eyepieces)
– Most old Edmunds (red-tubed models are usually better than white-tubed ones)
– Old Criterion Dynascopes (6″, 8″, check to see that RA drive works)
– Orion XT and Sky View Deluxe/Sky View Pro models
– Older Orion Dobs (DSE, etc)
– Discovery PDHQ series (3+)
– Coulter/Odyssey/Murnaghan scopes with red tubes (3-)
– Old Junos (3+)
– Stargazer Steve (kit)
– Orion (UK) (3+) (not available in USA)
– Dobsonians from Apertura, Skywatcher, Hardin, Zhumell, and various other “clones”
Now, you have a better idea of how to answer the question “how much does a good telescope cost ?” At least, that is my hope !
Very frequently, the first brand that enters a newbie`s mind is that of Meade telescopes and the factor for this fact is that Meade has long been trusted for selling quality telescopes at reasonable prices, and is especially suited for the beginning home astronomer.
Prior to selecting a Meade telescope, you should consider the intended application and for the beginner or amateur telescope user, one may opt for a Meade telescope to see the many astronomical objects with the help of either refracting or mirror lens telescopes.
The reflecting Meade telescopes are more suited for those newbie stargazers who are interested in astronomy as these have larger apertures and provide good value for money. In the end, the Meade telescope is quite simple to set up, even for a beginner, and is a durable, well made instrument that can be enjoyed for many years.
Meade telescopes are high quality instruments which are made by Meade, a company founded in 1972 and is a world leader when it comes to the design as well as manufacture of telescopes and accessories for amateur astronomers.
The products that this company sells are innovative as well as incorporate the absolute best in technology to give to the user an advanced product that is arguably one of the best that can be found anywhere in the world. With a Meade telescope, one can expect to get quality viewing at a budget price.
There are high performance 70mm refractor telescopes which would make any beginning astronomer proud to own one is it for use in terrestrial observations or for astronomy. With one of these telescopes, one can view the rings of Saturn and the satellites of Jupiter with sharpness, as well as clarity of images.
The Meade RCX400 Advanced Ritchey-Chrétien Telescopes are the absolute tops in optical design in telescopes that helps generate large, coma-free area of vision from edge-to-edge, and facilitates astrophotography to obtain the absolute best in imaging technology and capture sharp pics over a wider area.
Through such a Meade telescope, stargazers will be able to pinpoint stars as well as extended objects, however far away they might possibly be. If truth be told, nearly every professional reflector telescope, the Hubble Space Telescope being included, is actually a Ritchey-Chrétien.
Such is the quality, price and performance advantages of the Meade telescopes that nearly all experts as well as users give them the thumbs-up and are the first choice when talking about their preference in telescopes. Among its numerous excellent attributes, the Meade telescope will additionally provide its users with AutoStar automatic location, automatic leveling and much more. It will help to make stargazing a fun experience.
Personally, when I compare Meade telescopes to the ones made by Celestron, I do have to say that I prefer Celestron.
My Meade telescopes are alright, but I’m not really in awe of their quality.
Orion makes some scopes that are a little less expensive, but generally competetive with Celestron and Meade (I’d say their optics are a little less crisp, but still good).
Also, keep this in mind : Meade and Celestron are not really considered to be high-end telescopes. Except for a few specially made telescopes such as Meade LX850, LX650, Celestron CGE Pro, C11, and C14 most of their instruments are made for the general public and not for serious astronomers.
Meade, Celestron and Orion all offer a variety of telescopes in all price ranges. You will very likely read lots of heated debates and differing opinions from enthusiasts for all three brands.
The things to look for when purchasing your first telescope are your answers to these questions listed here :
1) What are you going to use the telescope for ?
2) What is your mount, or are you looking to buy a mount as well ?
3) How much money are you actually willing to spend ?
4) Is doing some astrophotography your plan or just some casual visual observing ?
5) Are you planning on setting up your scope every time you go out or are you going to have a permanent setup for it ?
6) Are you firm in your desire to buy an Orion, Celestron or Meade, or do you want to think about buying higher cost products ?
In addition to these questions, as a newbie to astronomy or stargazing, you should opt for a refractor telescope rather than a reflector since they are more simple to set up and use.
If your main interest will be to view the planets, then a good choice for you is the Astromaster 130EQ. It will give you detail, but not enough magnification. For more magnification, you’ll need to separately purchase eyepieces, typically 8mm to 4mm.
If gazing at deep space objects such as galaxies, nebulae and star-clusters, you should opt for powerful scopes with apertures of the larger sizes.
In the case that you want to do some solar observing, any scope would probably fit the bill, but make sure you have a proper solar filter. Never, ever, ever look directly at the sun through any scope because you WILL damage your eyes and probably permanently. Serious talk boys and girls !
To see planets, the issue will be how well the telescope makes utilization of light as well as on how many extra options you want.
Prior to diving too rapidly into the hobby of astronomy / stargazing, I would truly recommend that you spend a few days or even weeks asking all the essential questions from a group of hobbyists in an astronomy club near where you reside.
Generally a 3 in. telescope will be substantially lower-priced than the same quality 5 in. reflector and will provide you a good preview of what some other bigger instruments can perform. In addition it won’t damage your budget too much in the event that you later come to the conclusion that you don’t like spending your time in your new hobby and want to spend more time cuddling with your significant other 🙂
5 in. is a commonly chosen star gazing instrument but they do cost more.
A typical pair of well made binoculars will permit you to view Jupiter and 4 of its moons, Saturn and its rings as well as the different phases of Venus and Mercury. Our own moon is relatively impressive when it’s not full. View all of those heavenly bodies first, and then if your goal is to still spend more cash on higher cost products, then by all means, knock yourself out !
Additionally, with binoculars you will be able to view the planets Mars and Uranus, however, the details will not be very crisp.