Best Telescopes for Beginners

In a Hurry? Editors choice:
Celestron Nexstar 8SE
Test Winner: Celestron Nexstar 8SE
Amazon Link
Has astronomy been a passion of yours for years? Do you sometimes find your self staring into the night sky, check out all the stars and beauties above? Well, if you do then you most likely have a passion for astronomy and who wouldn’t as when we look up during the night, we see a vast universe waiting to be discovered. Now, you may be wondering how you can take the next step in your space exploration journey, and the piece of gear that may come to your mind is the telescope. There are a range of different telescopes on the market these days and some are more advanced than others but most likely if you are looking to purchase the first telescope you want one that is more targeted towards a beginner astronomer. In fact, there are specific telescopes that are particularly catered to the demographics of novices and beginners. Read on to find which one is right for you.

Standout Picks

Celestron NexStar 8 SE Telescope
This is a prime example of a beginner telescope featuring advanced technology that even astronomy gurus can marvel at. But, at its core, the Nexstar 8SE is a simple machine that anyone can operate.
Amazon Link
$1,599.00
SkyWatcher S11610 Traditional Dobsonian
Probably one of the best aspects of the Skywatcher Dobsonian Telescope, besides its fairly large aperture, is the integration of a tension control handle which is a real improvement over past designs.
Amazon Link
$655.00
Orion 8945 SkyQuest XT8 Classic Dobsonian Telescope
While the SkyQuest XT8 Telescope may not be an ideal choice if you are seeking a telescope to lug around everywhere, due to its immense size, thanks to its aperture and overall construction it is still a model that can be enjoyed by a wide audience.
Amazon Link
Meade Instruments StarNavigator Telescope
This beginner telescope does not quite possess the range of the previous three but despite this, the quality is really as good as it gets. Plus, at 25 pounds (while not that light) it is not quite as bulky and heavy as some of the other telescopes in the world.
Amazon Link
Celestron NexStar 130SLT Computerized Telescope
When it comes to telescopes, Celestron is a mainstay and one of the more well-known manufacturers of the technology. Their NexStar 130 SLT is right up there with some of the rest with its computerized controls and portable design.
Amazon Link
$699.88
Orion 27191 StarBlast 6i IntelliScope Reflector Telescope
Before you read a single word to describe the StarBlast 6i IntelliScope, you need to understand that a tripod is not designed with this. As such, a few limitations can present themselves but alas, it remains sufficient as a table-top design.
Amazon Link
Pentax PF-80ED 80mm ED Waterproof Spotting Scope
Some may feel the aperture size of this telescope does not warrant its price tag. Fair enough, but convenient and advanced technology is integrated including a special ring assembly that creates a fog proof and waterproof core.
Amazon Link
Levenhuk Skyline 50х600 AZ Refractor Telescope for Kids
In several ways, this may be the telescope you have been searching for the whole time. Not only does Levenhuk do everything in their power to ensure the simplest experience possible, but their Skyline is also one of the most portable models out there.
Amazon Link
Celestron SkyProdigy 130 26x345 Telescope
Celestron advertises their SkyProdigy 130 Telescope to be operational seemingly for nearly all ages and to be as simple as possible. While it is certainly not complex by any stretch of the imagination, several users have reported the simplicity claims are a bit exaggerated.
Amazon Link
$1,409.29
Gskyer 80mm AZ Space Astronomical Refractor Telescope
This is not a telescope that is going to crack the record books and win any prestigious awards. Instead, it is a high-quality machine that allows amateurs to get their feet wet in the world of telescopes. However, lackluster instructions and improper translation of them have been common complaints.
Amazon Link
$229.59

Criteria Used for Evaluation

Size

If a telescope was made up of human organs, then the aperture would be the heart. In other words, it is the epicenter of the machine and is 100 percent mandatory for it to function. So, if every single telescope has one what exactly separates good versions from the bad? It really comes down to this simple concept, the larger the aperture size the brighter and crisper the view will be. The reason for this is because with a larger aperture, or sometimes called the objective, more magnification prowess is provided for you. As you can technically control magnification via the eyepieces you use, why is this a big deal? Imagine zooming in on a photo; eventually, the view will become so blurry that it is impossible to distinguish what you are seeing. With a larger objective, the image will remain potent.

For a good point of reference, you will get anywhere from 20x to 50x magnification per inch (or around 25mm) of the objective lens size. Given how vast the universe is that surrounds us, you will want a large aperture if you want to see as much as possible.

Durability

When you invest in a machine that is going to cost you hundreds of dollars, generally speaking for most high-quality telescopes, it goes without saying that you want it to last you a long time. In order for this to happen, the construction must be up to par. The positive aspect to telescopes is they are not devices that can be easily broken and typically, they are never in any danger of being damaged. Of course, it never hurts for a telescope to be able to withstand a hit if something happens. However, perhaps more important is the stability of the scope.

The sturdier the telescope is, the more precise and accurate the pointing and tracking of the telescope is. If you are planning on photographing what you find in the starry sky or simply do not want to deal with a constantly shaky machine, this will be vitally important to you.

Ease of Use

Given that this guide is intended specifically for telescopes that are designed for beginners, simplicity is an obvious point of emphasis. But, what is the point as they are all designed like this, you may say? Well, the reality is, certain models may be simple in certain ways and somewhat difficult in others. For example, the set-up process. Clearly, setting up your telescope is the first task you must accomplish but not the only one. Also, the ease of aligning the scope may be important to you. Some beginner telescopes will use a specific technology to automatically align themselves with certain celestial objects within their database.

Speaking of which, computerized controls and software also come into play. If you have no knowledge of the universe, a database that is filled with clusters, galaxies, and other objects will assist you in finding specific ones. Remember, even though the models on this list are catered to a certain demographic of novices, there still may be a learning curve if you have never even touched a telescope.

Portability

Depending on who you are, this may or may not be that significant to you. If your intentions are to use your telescope at a certain location and to never travel with it, portability is not going to be a point of emphasis for you. Then again, half the enjoyment of owning a telescope is showing it off to people. As such, you may intend to travel with the machine.

First off, remember that weight and girth are two different aspects. A device can still be compact even if it weighs a ton and vice versa. Thus, do not just look at the weight and judge it on that. Ensure that some of the components can be broken down and when they are, that it is small enough to not take up too much room (if this means anything to you). But, do not get it twisted, the overall weight is still of value to you. After all, would you rather lug around a 20-pound or 50-pound telescope?

Top 10 Picks

1. Celestron Nexstar 8SE

Where to buy
Amazon Link
$1,599.00
Celestron NexStar 8 SE Telescope
Amazon Link

This is a prime example of a beginner telescope featuring advanced technology that even astronomy gurus can marvel at. But, at its core, the Nexstar 8SE is a simple machine that anyone can operate.

Read more

Aperture Size
Even though there are other versions of this telescope, the NexStar 8SE features an aperture of eight inches (203 mm). This can easily allow you to view the Whirlpool Galaxy and Hercules Globular Cluster.

Construction
Celestron constructed their telescope with high-quality components and this allows the pointing and tracking accuracy to be as sturdy as it gets.

Image Quality
While a simple red-dot finder scope and a 25mm eyepiece come included with this scope, to really take advantage of what the NexStar 8SE can deliver, you should opt for adding better eyepieces.

Simplicity
It is not necessary to be acclimated to the night sky above you, anyone can operate this machine. Because of SkyAlign technology, you can align this is mere minutes and the database of 40,000 celestial objects automatically tracks objects for you.

Portability
Not only does the steel tripod break down into separate components but this scope also features a single fork arm design. Both these combine to guarantee a highly-portable machine.

Overall
If you thought that beginner telescopes were watered-down versions of the superior models, then this probably came as a surprise to you. Do not let the immense price tag fool you, this is user-friendly and a relatively simple machine to master.

Amazon Link
$1,599.00

2. Skywatcher Dobsonian

Where to buy
Amazon Link
$655.00
SkyWatcher S11610 Traditional Dobsonian
Amazon Link

Probably one of the best aspects of the Skywatcher Dobsonian Telescope, besides its fairly large aperture, is the integration of a tension control handle which is a real improvement over past designs.

Read more

Aperture Size
Much like the previous telescope, this features an aperture that is 203mm in size. Even when compared to more complex models, this gathers as much light and delivers an exceptional range.

Construction
Due to the tension control handle that has been designed into this telescope, you can lock the tube in its current position. It seems simple, but this design implementation will easily end up paying dividends.

Image Quality
Via a focal length of 1200mm and an optical finderscope that provides 9x magnification, you will become witness to high-quality, sharp images of the wonders of the night sky.

Simplicity
Some users have claimed that it can take some time to become accustomed to the mount but all in all, the set-up is a breeze. Literally, all you need to do is place the tube in the rocker box and secure it in place.

Portability
As this weighs over 20 kilograms, it is not exactly a light telescope. However, the closed-tube construction does adapt well for travel as it can easily be taken out and set-up.

Overall
Universally, this is a critically acclaimed and well-respected piece of equipment. There is a good reason for that and the aperture, tension control handle and superb image quality are several of the reasons to justify it.

Amazon Link
$655.00

3. Orion Skyquest XT8

Where to buy
Amazon Link
Orion 8945 SkyQuest XT8 Classic Dobsonian Telescope
Amazon Link

While the SkyQuest XT8 Telescope may not be an ideal choice if you are seeking a telescope to lug around everywhere, due to its immense size, thanks to its aperture and overall construction it is still a model that can be enjoyed by a wide audience.

Read more

Aperture Size
This is the third straight telescope to feature an aperture of 203mm, which should start to make you realize how important this design feature really is for telescopes.

Construction
Orion is another manufacturer you have probably heard of before and they are still relevant to this day due to the quality of their machines. Their SkyQuest XT8 not only features a cast-aluminum support cell but also stability to keep it in constant equilibrium.

Image Quality
Besides the fact that the 1200mm focal length offers crisp and clear views of the night sky, the mirror of this telescope boasts a 94 percent reflectivity. In turn, this transmits nearly as much light as possible for better views.

Simplicity
Included with the telescope is a MoonMap 260 which aids in helping you understand the lunar features you can explore. Also, there is a fast collimation cap to assist with optical positioning adjustments.

Portability
Let’s just say this, at 40 pounds in total girth, this is not something that you will enjoy traveling with very often. In fact, it may behoove some to carry the base assemblies and optical tube separately.

Overall
If you are avid about your new telescope being portable, this may not be suitable for you. For anyone else, though, the optics and fantastic construction will more than make up for its small shortcomings.

Amazon Link

4. Meade Starnavigator

Where to buy
Amazon Link
Meade Instruments StarNavigator Telescope
Amazon Link

This beginner telescope does not quite possess the range of the previous three but despite this, the quality is really as good as it gets. Plus, at 25 pounds (while not that light) it is not quite as bulky and heavy as some of the other telescopes in the world.

Read more

Aperture Size
The specific StarNavigator that is documented here is the 102mm refractor-version. However, the same telescopes come in various sizes of apertures from 90mm to 130mm.

Construction
Because of the sealed optical tube, you can expect that this machine will last several years with little to no maintenance required on your part. Of course, it does depend on how you treat it.

Image Quality
Most achromatic refractors will suffer from chromatic aberration but thankfully, as compared to others, this model distorts color much less and it results in stellar image quality.

Simplicity
Truthfully, it is as if a professional astronomer was installed into this system. Not only is there over four hours of audio presentations but also a database consisted of 30,000 objects to search for.

Portability
The single fork mount is fairly lightweight and the motors are not exactly beefy. Alas, though, the 25-pound weight may still prove to be an obstacle for some even though it is certainly not the heaviest.

Overall
For what Meade designed this telescope to be, they certainly accomplished what they set out to do. Sure, it may not have the best aperture and some may not like that it is an achromatic refractor but hey, just look at the glass half full.

Amazon Link

5. Celestron Nexstar 130

Where to buy
Amazon Link
$699.88
Celestron NexStar 130SLT Computerized Telescope
Amazon Link

When it comes to telescopes, Celestron is a mainstay and one of the more well-known manufacturers of the technology. Their NexStar 130 SLT is right up there with some of the rest with its computerized controls and portable design.

Read more

Aperture Size
As you could probably gather from the product name, this NexStar telescope has an aperture of 130mm. While not the largest on this list, this allows you to view the rings of Saturn and also the polar ice caps on Mars.

Construction
Because both the tripod and the mount are fairly lightweight in nature, one could question the durability if this scope took a hit.

Image Quality
The aluminized glass mirror is well-polished and the secondary mirror is held securely in place to reflect the photons directly through your eyepiece.

Simplicity
Thanks to the fully computerized hand control system, you have the capability of looking at the 4,000 objects, 300 clusters, and 600 galaxies that are pre-installed on the system.

Portability
Overall, the durability may be compromised a bit for the portability. A telescope is always going to be a heavy machine; but, in terms of transport, this is more than applicable.

Overall
Could this be the classic case of construction versus portability? Possibly, but it is not as if this is made out of paper. If you are careful with it, then durability really should not be a concern.

Amazon Link
$699.88

6. Orion Starblast

Where to buy
Amazon Link
Orion 27191 StarBlast 6i IntelliScope Reflector Telescope
Amazon Link

Before you read a single word to describe the StarBlast 6i IntelliScope, you need to understand that a tripod is not designed with this. As such, a few limitations can present themselves but alas, it remains sufficient as a table-top design.

Read more

Aperture Size
With a six-inch aperture (which equates to roughly 152mm), it is feasible to expect to view the wonders of the Moon and planets such as Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars.

Construction
Orion certainly did not skimp with the construction phase as it is very robust. This is headlined by Teflon bearings and adjustable altitude tension for smooth maneuvering of the scope.

Image Quality
A 750mm focal length optics system will provide you with rich and clear views of deep-sky objects such as galaxies and nebulas.

Simplicity
While a supposedly easy-to-push object locator is in order here, some users feel that this telescope is not exactly user-friendly. It does not necessarily require years of expertise to operate and set-up but it can be a bit confusing for novices.

Portability
The lack of a tripod is ideal in at least one respect, it improves the portability. Due to the lack of extra components, it is more compact and the overall weight is reduced.

Overall
Really, this is a hit or a miss. There are a plethora of features that ensure it is worth an investment, such as its range and quality, but others that may steer you away, such as its lack of a tripod.

Amazon Link

7. Pentax

Where to buy
Amazon Link
Pentax PF-80ED 80mm ED Waterproof Spotting Scope
Amazon Link

Some may feel the aperture size of this telescope does not warrant its price tag. Fair enough, but convenient and advanced technology is integrated including a special ring assembly that creates a fog proof and waterproof core.

Read more

Aperture Size
With an aperture of 80mm, you can begin to question if this is worth the money. It certainly is not going to suffice for some people but still, it provides an in-depth look at space.

Construction
This is where the PF-80 Pentax Telescope truly shines. It is housed in a magnesium alloy-body and because of the special O ring assembly, it is not only fog proof but also waterproof.

Image Quality
Incorporated into the telescope is extra-low dispersion glass elements and this delivers an optimal optical resolution.

Simplicity
Overall, the set-up is basic and you should not encounter too many issues. To make focusing the scope easier, an extra-wide knob has been integrated into the design.

Portability
Weight and girth can be two different beasts as on the outside, it appears this is a highly-portable machine at under 10 pounds (according to Amazon’s specifications). But, one user did note that due to the size, it could be an issue for backpacking or similar adventures.

Overall
No doubt, this is definitely the most unique telescope on this list. Its waterproof construction is a huge bonus but at the end of the day, some may feel it is too limited with only an 80mm aperture.

Amazon Link

8. Levenhuk Skyline

Where to buy
Amazon Link
Levenhuk Skyline 50х600 AZ Refractor Telescope for Kids
Amazon Link

In several ways, this may be the telescope you have been searching for the whole time. Not only does Levenhuk do everything in their power to ensure the simplest experience possible, but their Skyline is also one of the most portable models out there.

Read more

Aperture Size
Okay, so the objective lens (aperture) is only 60mm. If you have been paying attention to this guide, you know that this is pretty low. Just know, it is a bit limited in this respect.

Construction
The tripod that comes with this scope is made from aluminum but overall, it may befit you to avoid rough handling with this machine as it is not designed for it.

Image Quality
While the aperture goes hand-in-hand with the focal length of 700mm, there is a special coating on the lenses that improve the light transmission. In turn, while it does not have the best focal length, the view is still fantastic.

Simplicity
Everything from the set-up to the use and control is all kept user-friendly. It is clear that Levenhuk aimed to appeal to beginners.

Portability
Its compact nature is worthy enough of praise when addressing the portability. However, 8.05 pounds of weight is an entirely different element worthy of accreditation. All in all, this has excellent portability.

Overall
Consider this the cliché beginner’s telescope. It is lightweight, extremely portable and utterly simple to use. Unfortunately, it accomplishes all this by neglecting the range a bit.

Amazon Link

9. Celestron Skyprodigy 130

Where to buy
Amazon Link
$1,409.29
Celestron SkyProdigy 130 26x345 Telescope
Amazon Link

Celestron advertises their SkyProdigy 130 Telescope to be operational seemingly for nearly all ages and to be as simple as possible. While it is certainly not complex by any stretch of the imagination, several users have reported the simplicity claims are a bit exaggerated.

Read more

Aperture Size
Due to its 130mm aperture, if you are used to much larger telescopes, you will notice the field view being narrower. However, overall, it is a more than the respectable objective lens.

Construction
The tripod is crafted from stainless steel and is very sturdy overall. As for the telescope, there have not been too many complaints in regard to the durability.

Image Quality
The SkyProdigy 130 features a focal length of 650mm providing you with a wide-angle, in terms of what you can actually see when gazing through the telescope.

Simplicity
It seems all fine and dandy as there is an automatic alignment process, a sky tour option for a customized list of objects in the sky, and an easy set-up. Problem is, more than one user has brought up the alignment process is not that easy and that the advertising is misleading.

Portability
This telescope positively delivers when it comes to its lightweight nature and portability. When you want to show this off to your friends, it is pretty easy to transport it.

Overall
False advertisement is certainly not something to be trifled with. Several users have brought up that despite its claims, the simplicity is not quite there. Still, the quality is there.

Amazon Link
$1,409.29

10. GSkyer AZ Space

Where to buy
Amazon Link
$229.59
Gskyer 80mm AZ Space Astronomical Refractor Telescope
Amazon Link

This is not a telescope that is going to crack the record books and win any prestigious awards. Instead, it is a high-quality machine that allows amateurs to get their feet wet in the world of telescopes. However, lackluster instructions and improper translation of them have been common complaints.

Read more

Aperture Size
An aperture of 80mm is not an incompetent size but know this, as you have probably already garnered, those obsessed with everything in the universe will want more.

Construction
Overall, for the price, this is the kind of construction you would expect. It features an integral forming aluminum alloy tube and a stainless steel tripod.

Image Quality
Notwithstanding a focal length of 400mm that really limits your magnification, a CF4 optical glass is integrated that eliminates chromatic aberration of blue, red, and green. Plus, the lenses are coated for improved images.

Simplicity
While the method for fine adjusting the telescope needs to be improved, the real quarrel here is the horrid instructions. Many have griped that they are nearly 100 percent insufficient.

Portability
The short focal length of 400m may not be doing any favors for magnification but it certainly lends a hand in the portability.

Overall
If some good, albeit decent, instructions were included, this could have possibly climbed even higher on this list. What that tells you is the performance and construction, among other factors, are pretty darn good.

Amazon Link
$229.59

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