Best Astrophotography Telescope for Beginners 2018

Best Astrophotography Telescope for Beginners 2018

The best astrophotography telescope for beginners can be a tricky problem to solve. Lots of people what to find the best telescope for astrophotography 2018 but it is not as simple as you might think. The answer is really in two parts, the telescope and the mount.

More concerns than just the best astrophotography telescope

People tend to put too much emphasis on the camera and while a good camera will indeed give you better images, if you do not start with a reasonable telescope and a good mount, the best camera in the world will give you garbage pictures.

Mounts will be covered in another article but I have to mention them here because they are critical to selecting a telescope. The mount has to be able to hold your telescope, camera, and all accessories with incredible stability. If you choose a telescope that is too large for your mount, your images will be terrible. On the other hand, if you choose a mount too big, you waste money and effort carrying a heavy mount out for no reason.

You can always error on the side of caution and get a mount too big which will make sure your images are sharp and you have room to grow, but keep it reasonable. More than one budding astrophotography has given up or dramatically reduced their imaging time because they didn’t want to lug all that heavy equipment out in the field.

The best astrophotography telescopes

To start your journey in astrophotography it is hard to argue with starting with something small and stable. The best astrophotography telescope is not necessarily the biggest. You do not need huge telescopes to start with and in fact some of the most amazing astro images out there come from remarkably small telescopes.

Orion 9895 ED80 one of the best astrophotography telescope
Orion 9895 ED80 80mm f/7.5 Apochromatic Refractor Telescope $479

To start with, this little Orion 9895 ED80 80mm f/7.5 Apochromatic Refractor Telescope is almost the single best astrophotography telescope for beginners. While it is a doublet (has two lenses) instead of the triplets (three lenses) most astrophotographers want, it is very well corrected.

The Orion ED80 is light and compact, coming in at only a little over 5lbs meaning even smaller mounts can use it effectively.

One disadvantage of refractors like this one is that they may suffer from a curved field. This is where the stars are not rendered as round near the edge of the image but more oblong or egg shaped. If this occurs and you object to it, Orion makes the Orion 8893 field flattener that solves this issue.

This is the quintessential beginner astrophotography telescope.

Great: Not so great:
Small and light at 5lbs Single speed crafyford
Well corrected for an ED doublet No tube rings or mount rail included
Very reasonably priced May require Orion 8893 field flattener
Orion 6 Inch f/4 Newtonian Astrograph Best astrophotography telescope
Orion 6 Inch f/4 Newtonian Astrograph Reflector Telescope $400

If you want a little more aperture without breaking the bank you can look at the Orion 6 Inch f/4 Newtonian Astrograph Reflector Telescope. Compared to the ED80 we just talked about you go from around 3″ of aperture to 6″ for a substantial gain in light gathering. This means substantially shorter exposures. This absolutely qualifies it for one of the best astrophotography telescope choices.

Astrographs are Newtonian telescopes designed specifically for astrophotography. Many Newtonians will not work correctly because of problems such as insufficient back focus. All of these problems have been addressed with an astrograph.

The 6″ Astrograph also comes with tube rings, a mounting rail, a finder (which you can promptly throw away in favor of a guidescope), and a nice 2″ dual speed Crayford focuser.

The down side is that not only is this a heavier telescope, but it also is much physically bigger and therefor catches more wind making it less stable. Of course if you can keep it 100% out of the wind, that doesn’t’ matter as much.

This is probably the best telescope for astrophotography under $500 you can buy.

Great: Not so great:
Gathers much more light than ED80 Heavier (13lbs) and higher wind load than small refractors
Includes tube rings and mounting rail May require coma corrector
Dual speed crayford focuser
Excellent aperture for the money
Orion 9534 ED80T CF Triplet Apochromatic Refractor Telescope
Orion 9534 ED80T CF Triplet Apochromatic Refractor Telescope $950

If you want to start with something really nice, the Orion 9534 ED80T CF Triplet Apochromatic Refractor Telescope is hard to beat. Even people who don’t really like Orion products consider this one of the best astrophotography telescopes for beginners because it provides amazing optics in a robust lightweight package.

The improved optics over the less expensive Orion 9895 ED80 provide sharper stars and better contrast which results in overall better images. The ED80T also has a dual speed Crayford focuser making it far easier to get that tack sharp focus. Additionally, all these improvements add surprisingly little weight as the telescope tube is lightweight carbon fiber.

This is probably the best astrophotography telescope under 1000 you can buy and the best 80mm refractor for astrophotography without getting insane.

Great: Not so great:
Excellent APO Triplet optics Not as affordable as other options
Dual speed Crayford focuser May require Orion 8893 field flattener
Includes mount shoe
Very light weight for it’s features at 10.5lbs
Includes a hard carry case
Orion 8297 8-Inch f/3.9 Newtonian Astrograph Reflector Telescope
Orion 8297 8-Inch f/3.9 Newtonian Astrograph Reflector Telescope $480

If you have a large mount at least as big as an Orion Atlas or Celestron CGEM then this Orion 8297 8-Inch f/3.9 Newtonian Astrograph Reflector Telescope might be the telescope for you. Boasting 8″ of aperture it collects a lot of light in a hurry meaning shorter exposures and the ability to capture dimmer objects.

The trade off of course is that this is a big wind bucket that can be moved by the slightest of breezes, which requires a very stable mount to hold it on course. If you have a large mount, this will capture astonishing images with impressively short exposures making it among the best astrophotography telescopes for beginners.

Great: Not so great:
Gathers much more light than refractors Huge wind bucket requires very stable and heavy mount
Includes tube rings and mounting rail May require coma corrector
Dual speed crayford focuser
Excellent aperture for the money
Largest aperture Newtonian you can realistically use

Best Astrophotography Telescope for Beginners not on a strict budget

Meade Series 6000 115mm f/7 ED Triplet APO Refractor Telescope
Meade Series 6000 115mm f/7 ED Triplet APO Refractor Telescope $1900

Time for a curve ball. At this point you would think that we only talk about Orion equipment around here, and Orion does make a very nice selection of equipment making it hard to ignore. But they don’t take our top spot, that honor goes to the  Meade Series 6000 115mm f/7 ED Triplet APO Refractor Telescope.

Everyone I have ever talked to who uses one of these raves about the quality of this telescope. From the amazing optical quality to the almost indestructible build quality, it is a serious telescope.

The scope also achieves all of this while only weighing a little over 12lbs.

Great: Not so great:
Excellent triplet APO with ED glass Substantial enough to require a medium/heavy mount
More aperture for shorter exposures than 80mm May require Meade 661001 field flattener
Amazing dual speed Crayford focuser
Includes heavy tube rings
Comes with aluminum hard case

I hope this article has helped you to pick out the best astrophotography telescope for your needs.

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