Are you in the market for your first telescope but not sure where to start?
Or, are you just curious to know why telescopes cost what they do? Is it even possible to buy a telescope that doesn’t cost the earth?
If you’re new to the world of telescopes, it can seem like a pretty overwhelming place to navigate, but buckle in, and we’ll guide you through it!
So, are telescopes really expensive? Yes and No.
If you want to be an amateur astronomer and dip your toes into the field, you could buy a decent quality telescope for between $150 and $400.
If you’re looking for an inexpensive starter telescope to get your children interested in astronomy, you can get one for less than $100.
And, if you’re really pushing the boat out, telescopes can easily reach into the thousands of dollars price range, with new ones appearing on the market regularly.
Before you can buy a telescope, you’ll need to know a few things about them so that you can pick out the right one for your needs.
There are several different types of telescopes, but they’re not the same and are used for looking at different things.
So read the following sections to get a good idea of which one you should buy.
How Much Should I Expect To Pay For A Telescope?
Well, this totally depends on what you want your viewing experience to be like.
Telescopes are finely tuned and sensitive machines, so you really do get what you pay for.
But a good analogy for them is something like a watch.
Yes, all watches will be capable of telling the time to a pretty accurate degree.
But some are more fine-tuned and precise compared to others, and this usually comes with the additional price you’d expect to pay for a quality timepiece.
If the optics in your telescope are cheaply made, you’ll probably not get the clearest or most satisfying experience.
But, don’t discount the cheaper options, there’s still plenty of fun you can have, especially if you are interested in just an introduction to astronomy or a great way to show your kids the stars without breaking the bank.
As a general rule, for a budget model that is still pretty okay quality, you can expect to pay around $75- $100. This is a great model for kids.
They tend to be not as long-lasting, however, so you may want to up the ante and pay a little more for a good quality scope.
For a good quality, user friendly experience, you can expect to pay between $150- $400, with the upper reaches of that price bracket delivering higher quality parts and having a bigger range of magnification.
General Buying Rules
With a lot of interest in the field, and many hobbyists keen for a cheap piece of equipment, there are some truly dodgy telescopes available to fill this bracket, some of them at deceptively high prices.
You can be tricked into thinking you are paying for a good telescope.
So there are a few general rules to follow if you’re looking to purchase a good telescope and not get ripped off:
Go With The Name Brands
These are the guys that have been in the biz for years.
Even their budget models will have a pretty good quality, and you’ll be able to clearly read the specs and know what kind of equipment you’re buying.
Some of the highest respected brands for amateur enthusiasts include:
There are definitely other good brands out there too, which leads us on to the next point…
Read The Reviews
Everybody knows how to do a good sales pitch these days, so try not to think too much about what the fluff in the item description is telling you and skip down to the customer review section.
You should be able to get a better understanding of its usability, any issues, and whether it’s a good price.
What Makes A Good Telescope?
The cost of your telescope is influenced by various factors, let’s break them down quickly:
Aperture refers to the size of the main lens or mirror of a telescope.
This is the component that gathers the light emitted by a celestial object.
Aperture can greatly affect the definition of the projected image seen through the eyepiece, which is why aperture size has a direct relationship with cost.
Focal length is the gap that separates the lens and the point where the image is formed.
A shorter focal length gives more of a wide-angle result, but the observed object will appear quite little.
Deep sky objects are best photographed using a shorter focal length telescope.
Conversely, a longer focal lens provides a narrower field of vision, but the object in question appears bigger and brighter.
Different types of telescopes use different optics that determine how light gets from the telescope’s aperture, all the way to your eyepiece.
Some use mirrors (usually more affordable), others use high quality lenses (usually a little pricier).
Entry-level telescopes tend to be cheaper because they’re made of weaker materials for their tubes and tripods.
To fully appreciate the night sky, you may want to invest in a sturdy telescope with a well-balanced mount.
If you use an unstable telescope, you’ll have a really hard time finding and focusing up on anything worth viewing.
You can really go to town upgrading your lenses and playing around with aperture, so if you think you’d want to upgrade lenses and other accessories in the future, it may be worth getting a base telescope that lets you upgrade pieces as and when you want.
A good set of eyepieces or an excellent focuser can be quite expensive.
The quality of the equipment that comes with your telescope can play a major role when it comes to its overall price.
What Should I Go For?
Overall, a reflector telescope is probably the best style of telescope for bang for your buck.
These are mirrored telescopes and are usually pretty easy to use right off the bat.
We’d recommend the Orion 4.5 StarBlast Astro Telescope Kit as it’s super easy to use and comes pre assembled, so you can get to use it straight out of the box — no messing around!
They’re pretty hardy too and come in at a very decent price for the workmanship.
Used by many amateur astronomy clubs, this is a great one to get you on your way and see the celestial sky in all its glory.
If you are looking for a good quality, basic scope that is sturdy enough that you’re not put off the idea of using it ever again, this is a safe bet!
Another great one to go for is the Celestron PowerSeeker, it requires a bit more getting used to as it has an equatorial mount, but once you’ve stabilized it, it’s a really great starter model!
This is also a Newtonian reflector model and the best bit about this entry-level telescope is that it has a side mount which means you can look at it for prolonged periods of time without hurting your back, something that definitely puts a lot of amateur astronomers off using their telescope.
If you’re willing to push your budget a little further, try going for a Dobsonian telescope. Take the Orion SkyQuest XT8, for example.
These are great options if you want a really easy, portable experience that you won’t outgrow quickly.
They’ll last you a really long time, are made with sturdiness in mind, and you won’t have to worry about mounts, or damaging your precious telescope by knocking it over when kids get excitable.
It also packs a serious punch with some top quality lenses that you won’t need to change or replace for a good long while whilst getting some insane visuals for astrophotography
Obviously, this all comes at a higher cost, but if you’re thinking about a lifetime hobby, it might be worth it.
Yeah, telescopes are generally expensive pieces of equipment.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t get a decent one for a reasonable price!
There are loads of great options out there, but there are also plenty of not-so-great ones available too, and it can be hard to tell the difference, especially if this is your first foray into buying a telescope.
That said, stick to respected brands, and you’ll be sure that your first telescope isn’t a hobby killer before you really get started!
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