If you own a Newtonian reflector telescope then you know how important it is to have the mirrors in alignment. The easiest way to accomplish this is with a laser collimator. While most of them will do a reasonable job, finding the right one in your price range can be confusing.
You could just order the cheapest one you can find and that might work well. The problem is that many inexpensive, and even some pretty expensive models are not collimated well themselves! If the laser collimator you purchase isn’t collimated, how well will the collimation job be on your telescope when you get done?
The units in this article are ones that have proven to very high accuracy for their price points. What I mean by this is that while I have only heard of one Hotech unit ever being out of alignment and they replaced it without question, I have seen a couple of the Orion models and quite a few of the Astromania units with issues.
Both the Orion and Astromania laser collimators have fewer issues that other brands in their price range, and that is one of the primary reasons they are included in this list. Another reason is that both of those units have adjustment screws so that you can adjust them yourself should you want to.
On with the laser collimator review!
Top of the line laser collimator
One of the best laser collimator units you can buy is the HoTech Laser Collimator 2″ & 1.25″ SCA for Newtonian Telescope which runs about $160. This unit uses a crosshair pattern with the laser instead of just a dot to make absolutely sure you know where the center is.
The Hotech unit uses a unique centering method using compression of rubber rings. This makes sure the laser collimator is exactly centered in the drawtube. Both the laser collimator itself and the 2″ to 1.25″ adapter use this same technology.
When used properly this laser collimator will give you the best views or images you can get from your telescope. I highly recommend this one for medium to high end telescopes such as ones used for astrophotography.
Most popular midrange unit
When I am out in the field at star parties no laser collimator is more popular than this one. The Orion 5691 LaserMate Deluxe II Telescope Collimator costs around $75 and is an excellent unit.
The Orion laser collimator model is extremely well made and thought out. It has an extremely wide flange (3mm) that makes sure it seats firmly in your 1.25″ focuser or adapter. When used with a high quality compression focuser and/or adapter such as the Astromania 2″ to 1.25″ Telescope Adapter it can rival the accuracy of the HoTech in many cases.
Also don’t forget Orion’s excellent lifetime support on products bought new.
Budget laser units
If you are on a budget and just can not afford the $75 on a really good laser collimator, Astromania has you covered.
The Astromania Alignment 1.25″ Next Generation Collimator will make sure your mirrors are in prefect alignment any time, every time. This Astromania laser collimator is one of the most popular value collimators around. I see a lot of these in the accessory cases of people who have much more expensive units as they use this as a backup unit. It is also a great laser collimator to have around as a loaner.
Although it works exceedingly well, you need to make sure it is seated and centered well before using it. This step is required because it lacks the wide shoulder of the Orion model or the centering technology of the HoTech. This does not make this unit bad, it just means you need to be a little more careful when using it.
While Astromania does not advertise lifetime support, the few times I have had to use it they were great.
No matter which one you decide to buy it will help improve your views and make the job of alignment of your mirrors much easier and faster. I know I can align my Dob in just a couple of minutes with mine. That time savings and accuracy is absolutely worth the expense of the laser collimator.
I hope this has been helpful in picking out the laser collimator that is the best for you and your budget.