Introductory telescope options for 2011

Under $500.00 — $500.00 to $1000.00 — $1000.00 and up

As with any other product, the old adage about getting what you pay for generally holds true with telescopes. It is possible to get quality merchandise for less than 500 dollars, but within that range you will find more scopes so poorly constructed as to be basically unusable. This site doesn't represet any telescope manufacturer of distributer. The telescopes listed below are distributed or made by Orion, Celestron, Meade and Skywatcher. There aremany other reputable companies, of course, but with the scopes listed below, an inexperienced buyer won't need to worry about shoddy merchandise.

Under $500.00

Orion Starblast 4.5
 
Orion Starblast 4.5 — $199.95

Don't let the price and physical size fool you. This is not a toy. Nor is it a shoddy attempt at passing itself off as a "real" telescope. For $199.95 the Starblast provides surprising quality. It is a reflecting telescope with a primary mirror of 4.5 inches with a focal ratio of F/4.

The optics are okay and the focal ratio will provide wide angle views of space. Reflectors like this often arrive out of collimation, but this package includes a simple collimation cap. It will be important to ready the collimation instruction carefully, since alignment is so important in a reflector.

This should be a great little travel scope. Its weight when fully assembled is 13 pounds. The two eyepieces included are not exactly high end. Replacing them seems almost necessary. Overall, you really get decent quality in this inexpensive scope. Great for kids, or even as a grab-and-go scope for adults.

 

Orion 6-inch Intelliscope  
Orion StarBlast 6i — $399.95

For anyone who lives in a light polluted suburb, or for people who don't have a lot of time to locate objects by using starcharts and telrad or visual finder scopes, go to or push to scopes like this are a Godsend.

The easy-to-use Object Locator's database holds information and coordinates for over 14,000 celestial objects-- galaxies, nebulae, star clusters, planets etc. This is another easily poratble scope that weighs only 24 pounds. Two Plossl eyepieces are included-- a 10mm and 25mm, giving magnification levels of 30x and 75x.

Orion 80mm ED  
Orion ED90mm Refractor

When Chinese telescope manufacturers first began producing affordable apochromatic refractors, this was the first to hit the U.S. market. The price, at less than 500 U.S., was so suspisciously low that many people were wary, until the initial reviews were published. They were unanimously favorable. This little refractor shows virtually no false color and is suitable for long exposure deep space photography.

Meade 90mm ETX  
Meade ETX 90 — $499.95

Since they first appeared, Meade's ETX series telescopes have received nothing but positive reviews. For the price it would be hard to imagine a better all around scope for beginners and old hands alike. At 21 pounds this makes a perfect vacation scope.

These 90mm, f/13.8 scopes have excellent Maksutov-Cassegrain optics with a BK7 meniscus corrector. The alt-azimuth mount uses a cordless, dual axis drive running Meade's Autostar system with a database containing information and celestial coordinates for over 30,000 objects. There is even a built-in wedge to convert the alt-az mount into a base with sidereal-rate tracking in equatorial mode.

Orion Skyquest XT6  
Orion Skyquest 6 — $279.95

If you have done much telescope research you have undoubtedly heard, more than once, that "dobsonian" scopes provide the most bang for the buck, as they say. Once again, it is true. However...

Although there's no doubt that this type of telescope will provide more aperture with decent optics than you could get for a comparable amount of money spent on any other telescope configuration. Aside from size, quality and price, there are a number of other debatable points, but I think only one is of much significance— the lack of an electronically driven mount. This doesn't necessarily have to be a deal breaker though. These dob mounts don't have to remain manually operated. There are a few motorized lazy-suzan type mounts (platforms) on the market that range in price from a few hundred dollars to a couple of thousand. If you are rreasonably handy, there are also kits available for considerably less.

Many people are completely satisfied with an undriven dob. When viewing planets at higher levels of magnification, you need to nudge the scope along every twenty or thirty seconds to keep the target within the field of view, but it's not difficult. If planetary or lunar photography is somthing you want to learn, a motor driven mount will be necessary. Otherwise, it just makes life a little easier.

 

 

$500.00 to $1000.00

Orion Skyquest 8i  
Orion SkyQuest XT8i — $529.95

This is another solid tube dobsonian reflector from Orion. Like the other scopes in this line, the XT8i offers good optics at a great price. The alt-azimuth base has easy movement and it comes with the "Push-to" computerized object locator system. It also includes a vuisual finder, in this case a 50mm refractor. Two eyepieces are included in the package, a

 

Orion SkyView Pro 8" Reflector on EQ Mount  
Skyview Pro 8 — $649.95

In this reviewer's opinion, the Orion Skyview Pro 8 sold on an equatorial mount is even better a deal than their dobsonian cousins. The optics are the nearly the same. The big differnce is that the eq mounted version comes with an electronic drive that tracks along two axis. This makes life much easier for planetary and lunar observers. On nights when seeing conditions permit viewing at higher levels of magnification, it becomes difficult, or at least irritating, having to continually nudge along a dob mounted scope in order to keep the targeted object within the field of view. A driven mount enables greater concentration and with it the ability to see more detail.

The other advantage with the driven mount is the ability to use a webcam or dedicated planetary CCD imager— the ability to photograph. This mount would not be sufficient for the longer exposure processes necessary for photographing deep space objects like galaxies or nebulae, but for planetary and lunar imaging it is an excellent option, as is the telescope itself. An 8-inch reflector will produce great planetary images.

The Go To version of this scope sells for $1,124.95.

 

Orion 100mm ED  
Orion 100mmED —

This is a larger version of the Orion ED refractor described above. Less than ten years ago it would have been unthinable to be able to purchase a new, 4-inch apochromatic refractor for any less than three thousand dollars. A good but and suitable for wide angle deep space astrophotography.

Meade ETX 125mm  
Meade ETX 125mm — $699.00

Everything written about this telescope's little brother (Meade ETX 90, the fourth review on this page) holds true for this scope, as well. The major difference is size. Two inches may not sound like much, but when it comes to telescope aperture, it is significant. At 125mm (5 inches, this telescope has twice the light gathering capacity

In the world of deep space observation, particularly the studty of distant galaxies, 5 inches is, admittedly, not considered a large telescope. But even though it wouldn't be recommended for DSO observation, seeing a galaxy is very much possible with such an insturment, especially when viewing from a dark-sky location. And, fortunately, the ETX as easy a scope to travel with as anyone could hope for. Including the weight of the tripod and mount the ETX 125 weighs 26 pounds. Its components, the heaviest of which weighs 15 pounds, are quickly disassembled into managabley sized pieces that will easily fit in the front seat of a compact car. Additionally, field operation of any ETX telescope is made simpler by its cordless power source. The mount and Go To systems can run for at least 40 hours on 8 AA bateries.

Both of the ETX models are great scopes. Owners who have gone on to larger insturments frequently keep their ETX scopes, often for future travel purposes, or maybe just because parting with such quality isn't easy. In any case, if the 200 dollar price difference is a deal breaker at present, the difference in light transmission is so great that putting off the purchase for another month or so may be worth considering.

 

Celestron CG5 Equatorial go-to Mount  
Celestron CG5 Equatorial go-to Mount — $699.00

Obviously this is not a telescope, but it is something for anyone new or fairly new to this hobby to consider.

Celestron 8" Schmidt-Cassegrain OTA  
Celestron 8" Schmidt-Cassegrain OTA — $999.95
Orion 12" Intelliscope  
Orion SkyQuest XT12i w/Object Locator —$1029.95

 

 

Over $1000.00

 
Oriaon SkyQuest XX12 Intelliscope  
Orion Skyquest XT12i Intelliscope Truss Dobsonian — $1,299.95
Celestron SCT 6  
Celestron C6S-GT (XLT) Advanced Series 6” go-to SCT - $1,099.00
Celesstron Advanced Series 9.25 on CG5 goto Mount  
Celestron Advanced Series 9.25 Goto — $1,999.95
Celestron NexStar 8  
Celestron NexStar 8 — $1,199.00
Celestron CPC 8  
Celestron CPC 8 — $1,999.95
Orion SkyQuest XX14g  
Orion SkyQuest XX14g Go To Truss Dobsonian — $2,399.95