Picking the best telescope for astrophotography is not easy. These aren’t like lenses, where you would need three or more to cover all your bases.
Telescopes are big and expensive items that consume a lot of space. That’s why it’s crucial that you know which options you have.
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Can You Really Take Photos Through a Telescope?
The answer is yes!
But remember that you can’t buy a telescope with a camera already built-in for astrophotography.
You’ll need special tools to let you attach your DSLR or mirrorless camera to your telescope.
You may be tempted to run out and get a telephoto lens for astrophotography. But from a little research, you’ll find that compared to the lenses, telescopes are affordable and reasonable.
A good telescope provides consistent results. After all, creating amazing images is why you got into astrophotography in the first place, right?
The telescope should also be a pleasure to operate. If it isn’t, then it will just sit in the corner of your living room as a conversation starter.
Astrophotography requires a great deal of patience and trial and error. There is a steep learning curve, so you need all the help you can get.
To get a telescope good enough for astrophotography, you should be willing to spend over $1000. But it’s understandable if you don’t want to shell out that amount of money when you’re starting.
So how do you find the best telescope for astrophotography on a budget?
You can always start with quality models that cost a few hundred dollars. Of course, they won’t be as good as the high-end options. But at least you get the chance to learn the craft without breaking the bank.
You can also find good deals on used models. Make sure you get detailed information about their condition. You don’t want to be using options with defective components and dirty lenses.
Now you must be wondering: What is the best camera for a telescope? It’s quite surprising to hear, but any camera will do as long as you have the proper adapter. You can even use your phone if you want.
But if the quality is essential to you, then it would be best to use a DSLR or a mirrorless camera.
A full-frame DSLR or mirrorless camera will give you the best quality. But even an entry-level crop-sensor camera works well. A lot of astrophotography enthusiasts prefer them since the crop factor of the sensor allows them to get just a bit closer to their subject.
Apart from a camera and the telescope, there are a few other pieces of equipment you will need:
- Diagonal is an angled mirror or prism that allows perpendicular viewing.
- Finder scope with brackets helps you find the objects in the sky you want to photograph.
- Tube rings and a dovetail bar are adjustable rings for the finder. A dovetail bar is for attaching extra equipment.
- Carrying case to protect the telescope during travel and storage.
- Field flattener/reducer counters the field-angle dependence of a system’s focal length.
Many of the telescopes that we feature in this article already have most of the accessories we mentioned. However, you may still need to buy a field flattener as they don’t usually come with the kit.
How Do You Attach a Camera to a Telescope?
There are a few different methods to attach your camera to a telescope. But for the sake of demonstration, we will be using the prime focus method.
First, you’ll need a T-Ring for your camera. It’s an adapter with a large hole in the middle. It attaches to your lens mount just like a regular lens.
T-Rings come in different mounts depending on the camera you have. If you have a Canon, you’ll need to buy an adapter specifically designed for the brand. Otherwise, it won’t fit.
The next piece you’ll need is a prime focus adapter. It’s a tube that allows you to attach your camera into the telescope.
Just like T-Rings, prime focus adapters come in different sizes. But this time, the option you need to get will depend on the telescope you have.
Most telescopes either have a 1.25 or 2-inch eyepieces. You need to make sure that the adapter you get will fit the telescope. Thankfully some companies manufacture camera attachments for astrophotography. But you can also buy third-party options.
Now that you have both the T-ring and the prime focus adapter, it’s time to set up your astrophotography equipment!
First, screw on your prime focus adapter to your T-Ring.
Now attach the adapter and T-Ring combination to your camera. Most T-Rings have a small dot similar to the ones you see on lenses. All you have to do is align it with the other dot on your camera and twist it. You’ll know you did it correctly once you hear a click.
The next step is to remove the eyepiece from your telescope. You don’t need to use a screwdriver since your telescope most likely has thumb screws that you can unthread with your fingers.
Once you remove the eyepiece, you can slip the prime focus adapter into the tube. Make sure everything fits snuggle together. If you see any space, you’ll need to get a bigger attachment.
After you slip the prime focus adapter into the telescope, tighten the screws, and that’s it!
What Is The Best Telescope for Deep Sky and Astrophotography?
There are more telescopes available for deep sky astrophotography today than ever before. That means you will need to sift through more options to find your best telescope for photography.
Practicality and usability are two keywords you should bear in mind when it comes to astrophotography. Finding the best telescope for your needs will help you develop your passion, not ruin it.
So what are the best telescopes for a beginner?
There are plenty of options out there that are candidates for the best telescopes for beginners. They come in different shapes and sizes. There are also two main types of telescopes to consider – refractors and reflectors. Let’s discuss each type and see which one is suitable for you.
An apochromatic refractor uses an objective lens of extra-low dispersion glass, as a reduces crisp images without chromatic aberration. Many consider an “apo” to be the ultimate telescope for photography and planetary observing.
These telescopes are also compact, lightweight, and portable. They have excellent color correction, adjust to temperatures fast, and are easy to focus.
We recommend this type of telescope if you are an entry-level astrophotographer.
A reflecting telescope (also called a reflector) is a telescope that uses a single or a combination of curved mirrors. These reflect light and form an image.
Reflecting telescopes produce other types of optical aberrations. But it is a design that allows for large diameter objectives. In other words, it’s perfect for doing “close-ups” of planets as opposed to deep-sky astrophotography.
Having a wide-field view of the sky is much more forgiving when it comes to deep-sky astrophotography. Small errors are less noticeable than if you were using a telescope with a long focal length.
The tighter your field of view is, the more precise your focus must be. Many people use a combination of a long telephoto lens with a crop sensor camera.
A 400mm lens on an APS-C camera will give you an equivalent of (400mm x 1.6) a 640 mm lens.
This set-up might be great for nebulae, but if you want something more extensive, then you will need to use a flattener. Preferably one which has a range of 0.8x to bring your lens back down to (640mm x 0.8) an equivalent of 512mm.
Now that you know all the different types of telescopes let’s see what your best options are for astrophotography!
We included a few budget-friendly telescopes for beginners along with options for the advanced enthusiasts.
There’s no doubt that astrophotography can be quite expensive. But what if you’re on a super-low budget but still want to try taking photos of the moon or the stars? Then the Gskyer 70mm telescope is the best option for you.
The Gskyer is one of the cheapest options you can find online. But are they any good for astrophotography? The answer yes if you’re a beginner.
In our opinion, the Gskyer is the most reasonably priced telescope that produces decent images. It has a 400mm focal length, which is enough for you to take photos of the moon.
This telescope also includes a phone mount and remote control. So if you want to try astrophotography with your mobile device, this is the way to go!
Since the Gskyer is quite affordable, you may see some chromatic aberration every once in a while. That just means you may find fringes of colours around the moon or other celestial objects. It’s the reason why it’s at the bottom of our list. But the good news is you can quickly fix it in post if you want.
Need a beefier telescope than the Gskyer? Then consider getting the Orion 10015 Starblast. It costs a hundred dollars more plus some change. But it has better features than the Gskyer and already comes preassembled. As soon as you get it out of the box, you can use it right away.
The StartBlast has a 450mm focal length, which is 50mm more than the Gskyer. It also has an aperture of f/4, which lets in a lot of light. That easily translates to you capturing photographs faster than other options. Furthermore, it comes with an optional moon filter. If you buy it, you wouldn’t need to get another filter for your camera anymore.
The Orion Starblast doesn’t come with a tripod. Instead, it comes with a tabletop base. If you’re a beginner, you may find it convenient since you can set it up on your table quickly. But for obvious reasons, you’ll find it challenging to use if you’re taking photos in remote areas.
It’s always nice to save some money on equipment. But when you have a cheap telescope that produces distracting chromatic aberration, is it worth it?
If you want a simple telescope for without spending a lot of money, then consider the Evoguide. It’s under 300 dollars, which is a fantastic price for a high-quality piece of equipment. It doesn’t look as impressive from the outside as compared to its competitors. But when it comes to performance, it belongs in the top-tier, in our opinion.
The Evoguide is a triplet APO refractor. As we learned in the earlier section, that means it has the necessary optics to correct any chromatic aberration that may occur. Its simple design also makes it easy for a beginner. It just looks like any regular telescope, and you can use it right away after you attach your camera to it.
The Orion Sky-Watcher is an affordable option for beginner astrophotographers. This scope’s small size and weight mean that it will get plenty of use—both visually and photographically.
The Sky-Watcher has a diameter of 80mm and a focal length of 480mm. The focal ratio is f/6 and weighs 5.5 lbs. It is a popular choice due to its high-quality imaging performance.
There is a built-in dew shield, protecting your telescope for those overnight shots.
Consider the Orion ED80T CF as your first telescope, and you can’t go wrong.
What if you’re an experienced in astrophotography but don’t have enough money for an expensive telescope? Then the Celestron AstroMaster is for you. For less than 300 dollars, it has most, if not all, the features that only more expensive options offer.
With an aperture of 130mm, it’s perfect for photographing planets and deep sky objects. It also features a tracking equatorial mount, which is ideal for long exposure photography. If you’re curious, tracking simply means it’s motorised and follows objects in the sky with pinpoint accuracy.
The only downside of the Celestron AstroMaster is that it’s not really for beginners. It’s challenging to set up and use even without a camera. In other words, you need to be familiar with telescopes to use it to its full potential. But that doesn’t mean you can’t buy it even if you don’t have the experience. After all, it’s not a bad idea to invest in a good piece of astrophotography equipment early on.
Orion is a quality brand of telescopes. It has tons of products that are quite expensive. But it also has budget-friendly options that are perfect for astrophotography beginners. The one that we like the best is the Orion 09007 SpaceProbe 130ST.
What makes the SpaceProbe 130ST special is that it’s made of quality materials, and it’s less than 500 dollars. That’s quite significant, especially that astrophotography demands high-class optics, which Orion offers.
The SpaceProbe has a 5.1-inch aperture that lets you view and photograph distant planets and even nebulas. Its 24-inch tube makes it portable and ideal for long trips. The whole set also only weighs 27 pounds, which isn’t substantial for telescope equipment at all. That means you can take it to remote areas without struggling too much.
Another great feature of the SpaceProbe worth mentioning is its equatorial mount. It allows you to track stars manually with precision.
Are you a beginner with some money but don’t want to break the bank? Then you might want to take a look at the Celestron NexStar 127SLT. It’s quite an advanced telescope that you can buy for less than a thousand dollars!
So what makes the NexStar 127SLT different? The SLT stands for Star Locating Telescope. That means it has a built-in computer, so you don’t have to guess where any of the planets or constellations are in the sky. All you have to do is enter which celestial object you want to track, and this device will find it for you. Now that’s quite an advantage, especially if you’re not familiar with astrophotography yet.
The NexStar 127SLT comes in two telescope types: The refractor and Maksutov. It also has an aperture of 127mm, which is ideal for deep sky astrophotography. It will enable you to take photos of constellations and even observe Saturn’s rings!
The Photoline 80mm is perhaps one of the best sub-1,000 dollar telescopes out there. But what truly makes it unique from other options is that it’s purpose-built for astrophotography (hence the title Photoline).
Photoline is perfect for both veterans and beginners in astrophotography because it’s so easy to use. It’s also quite compact at 37.5 centimeters, and it only weighs 6 pounds. So if you want to travel around to take photos of celestial objects, this will be your perfect partner.
Of course, we can’t forget the quality of the photos the Photoline 80mm produces. It’s a triplet APO, which means it doesn’t produce nasty chromatic aberrations. Its sharpness also compares well with its more expensive counterparts. So if you want both superior performance and affordability, this is the best option for you.
P.S. We know the Photoline 80mm is still quite expensive. But if you consider all the value it brings to the table, this telescope is a great deal!
The Celestron NexStar 8Se is definitely for advanced astrophotographers since they need a long focal length for a narrow field of view.
This telescope is one of the most expensive telescopes on our list. But it’s also one of the best. It has excellent optics and computerized “GoTo” tracking.
The Nexstar 8 SE comes with a simple red-dot finder scope and a basic 25mm eyepiece. To take full advantage of the Nexstar 8 SE’s excellent optics, you should add a few good eyepieces.
It’s light, portable and very easy to use.
The Celestron NexStar 8Se has Fully-automated go-to mount. It is featuring a database of more than 40,000 celestial objects. The goes to mount built into the telescope automatically locates and tracks objects for you.
Perhaps the only issue with this telescope is that it has a focal ratio of f/10. That means it doesn’t let in plenty of light for your camera. In other words, you may have to spend extra time to expose your images. In contrast, other options have a focal ratio of f/4, which is much better for astrophotography.
The Takahashi FSQ-85ED is a refractor telescope and is a perfect take-anywhere telescope. It has a 44 mm diameter imaging circle, capable of accepting medium format CCD or DSLR cameras.
The diameter is 85mm and has a focal length of 450mm. The focal ratio is f/5.3, and it weighs in at 8 lbs.
Its amazing features include a premium doublet extra-low dispersion design. As a result, it keeps the colour tones from the earth’s’ atmosphere low.
This wide filed telescope is for intermediate users. Some of the features are a lot more involved than the beginner telescopes.
One thing we like is the built-in camera rotator. It allows the camera rotation of 360° without loss of critical focus.
Which Astrophotography Telescope Is Perfect for You?
It’s easy to say the best telescope is the one that’s expensive and has the best quality. But in reality, not all of us can afford a 4,000 dollar piece of equipment.
Astrophotography doesn’t have to be a rich man’s hobby. Think of this list as a guide to help you decide which one fits your budget and your current needs. You’d be surprised that some of the more affordable options in this article can compete with the more expensive ones. You may have to struggle with other issues on some of them, such as lack of tracking. But as long as the lens produces beautiful results, then that’s all you need.
You can also always start with the cheapest options on the list. Learn the basics first before you invest in anything else. Then take your time to save money for a better telescope. By the time you become familiar with astrophotography, you’ll know how to use even the most complicated equipment.
So remember to do some research on what you want to start photographing. That will determine precisely what you need.
Then, consider your budget for the system affordable for you. You’ll waste a lot of these extra features if you’re not sure how to use them.
Astrophotography is quite an expensive hobby. But we hope that it doesn’t stop you from exploring this fantastic genre. You’ll learn a lot from it, not just from a scientific perspective, but also from a creative point of view.
Pick a telescope on the list and photograph what you discover!
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