Picking the best telescope for astrophotography is not easy. These aren’t like lenses, where you would have 3 or more to make sure you cover all your bases.
Telescopes are big, space consuming, expensive items. Even the most advanced astrophotographers have a maximum of two.
Our article here will show you five of the best telescopes for all skill levels and subject orientations.
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How Good a Telescope Do You Need
A good telescope is one that provides consistent results. 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 to aid in your awesome picture capturing, be willing to spend over $1000. You can also find good deals on used models. Make sure you get details information about its conditions.
You may be tempted to run out and get a telephoto lens. From a little research, you’ll find that compared to the lenses, the telescopes are actually affordable and reasonable.
Deep Sky Astrophotography
There are more telescopes available for astrophotography today than ever before. This means you will need to sift through more to find your best aid. You will find benefit in looking for entry-level telescopes with a high performance.
Practicality and usability are two other great keywords you should bear in mind. Finding the best telescope for you and your subjects will help you develop your passion, not ruin it.
Deep-sky imaging is photographing the objects in the night sky.
You can capture stars, the moon and the Milky Way from this simple setup. Getting a shot of the horse nebula or a close up of a planet or moon requires a telescope or telephoto lens.
Apart from a DSLR or other type of camera, and the telescope, there are a few other pieces of equipment you will need:
- A diagonal for visual observation and mount alignment. A diagonal is an angled mirror or prism that allows viewing from a direction perpendicular to the usual eyepiece axis.
- A finder scope with brackets for visual observation and auto-guiding implementation. A finder helps you find the objects in the sky you want to photograph.
- Tube rings and a dovetail bar, or an integrated dovetail for mounting. Tube rings are adjustable rings for the finder. A dovetail bar is for attaching extra equipment
- A carrying case to protect the telescope during travel and storage. This goes without saying
- A field flattener/reducer to create a flat field for imaging. A field flattener lens is to counter the field-angle dependence of the focal length of a system.
An apochromatic refractor uses an objective lens of extra-low dispersion glass. This gives remarkably 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 a great colour 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 very large diameter objectives.
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 might be great for nebulae, but if you want something wider, then you will need to use a flattener. One which has a range of 0.8x will bring your lens back down to (640mm x 0.8) an equivalent of 512mm.
The William Optics 71mm Astrograph is an advanced telescope with a long focal length. It provides pinpoint images of stars at the very edge of a 45mm imaging circle.
It is much lighter than some of the other telescopes, weighing in at 4.19 lbs.
The diameter is 71mm, with a focal length of just over 350mm. The focal ratio is much smaller than the other telescopes, coming in at f/4.9. It has a retractable lens shade and a 2.5″ dual speed focuser.
Its glass is an FPL-53 for colour free apochromatic performance.
Wide Field / Beginner
The Orion Sky-Watcher is an affordable option for beginner astrophotographers. This scopes small size and weight means that it will get plenty of use. Both visually and photographically.
It 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.
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. This 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 a rotation of 360° without loss of critical focus.
The Starwave 80ED-R is the second edition of this model produced by Altair Astro, based in the UK. The ED-R is more compact than the original, and the optics have also improved.
If you know anything about glass, you will notice the glass used here is the Ohara S-FL53.
The diameter weighs in at 80mm, the focal length being 555mm. The focal ratio is f/7 and it weighs around 5.7 lbs. We recommend to use this in combination with a 0.8x flattener for a wider shot.
One of the best things about this company is that they have outstanding customer support. This is a weight off your shoulders when buying an expensive piece of equipment.
The Celestron EdgeHD 11 is an aluminium optical tube. It has a diameter of 279.4mm, and a whopping 2800mm focal length, with the ratio being f/10.
This is definitely for advanced astrophotographers. They need a long focal length for a narrow field of view.
There is a 2″ eyepiece included, along with a 9×50 finderscope, 2″ diagonal and dovetail rail. This is compatible with a CGE mount. It isn’t cheap and will be our most expensive telescope here.
But by looking at the specifications and features, you can understand why.
One of the things we like are the tube vents. These come with integrated 60-micron mesh filters. They allow hot air to be released from behind the primary mirror. This can stop your glass from fogging up and ruining your images.
There we go. Five of the best telescopes for astrophotography. Some are for beginners and entry-level photographer. The others are for the seasoned night sky capturer.
Research exactly what you want to start photographing. That will determine exactly what you need.
Then, consider your budget for the system affordable for you. A lot of these extra features will be wasted if you’re not sure how to use them.
Start small and work your way up. Get out there and have fun.
We have a great article on astrophotography composition to check out too!