Best 12 Inch Telescope

No 2 telescope models are exactly alike, and there are many individual factors that might drive an astronomer to learn towards one telescope rather than another.

For example, many prospective telescope owners prioritize a high focal length so that they can see celestial objects clearly at a good level of magnification.

Another highly sought after telescope feature is a good aperture. Aperture in telescopic terms essentially refers to the extent to which a telescope allows light into the optical tube.

Aperture is usually measured in millimeters and the measurement is taken across the diameter of what is called the objective lens (the main lens at the end of the telescope).

In some cases, however, the aperture is measured in inches. The larger the aperture, the more light will be able to enter the telescope, and the brighter the resulting image will be. 

A telescope with an aperture of 12 inches (around 304.8 mm) will produce very bright, saturated images of objects and events in space because it allows in so much more light than your standard-sized telescope model, for which apertures tend to start at 70 mm (2.76 inches).

If you want to be able to gaze at the stars or take photographs of space in breathtaking clarity, we highly recommend investing in a 12-inch telescope.

However, because 12-inch telescopes fall outside of the standard norm when it comes to aperture, they’re a little more difficult to find than their smaller counterparts.

Luckily, we’ve already sought out the very best 12-inch telescopes on the market, so all you have to do is pick your favorite!

Speaking of favorites, here’s our top choice:

Zhumell Z12 Deluxe Dobsonian Reflector Telescope

  • Designed for wide-field observation
  • Parabolic mirror for clear images
  • Precise, dual-speed focus
  • Features right-angle finderscope
  • Includes laser collimator
  • 2 eyepieces and moon filter included
  • Built-in cooling fan 

OUR TOP PICK

Zhumell’s Z12 Deluxe Dobsonian Reflector Telescope is definitely one of the best 12-inch telescope models for bright and vibrant images of space.

The 12-inch aperture, which lets a substantial amount of light in, is enhanced by the 12-inch parabolic mirror that reflects the light allowed in through the lens and produces bright, clear images free from visual issues like chromatic aberration.

This telescope has a focal length of 1500 mm, which translates to a focal ratio of f/4.95. This makes the Zhumell Z12 perfect for wide-field space observation and imaging.

However, if you want to use this telescope to view events and objects on a larger scale, you can use the 9 mm eyepiece provided to magnify the image further.

The Zhumell Z12 uses a manual altazimuth mount which can be detached from the telescope itself to make transport a little easier.

Also included is a right-angle finderscope for easier viewing, a dual-speed Crayford focuser to help you bring your image into perfect focus, a laser collimator for mirror alignment, and a moon filter designed specifically to regulate the glare of the moon for a clearer, crisper image.

A cooling fan has also been built in to help maintain thermal equilibrium.

Overall, the only thing we really felt was missing from the Zhumell Z12 telescope was some form of carry case or bag to facilitate portability.

Given that this telescope weighs 75 lbs, it may be difficult for one person to move around. Therefore, a carry case would have been a welcome addition to this model.

Pros

  • Ideal for wide-field observation
  • Uses parabolic mirror for clear imaging
  • Dual-speed precision focusing
  • Right-angle finderscope
  • Built-in cooling fan
  • Laser collimator included
  • Includes 2 eyepieces and moon filter

Cons

  • No carry case included

EDITORS CHOICE

The Flextube 300 Dobsonian telescope from Sky-Watcher is a highly innovative, professional-grade 12-inch telescope.

Thanks to the all-metal, aluminum and steel construction, this telescope is strong and wear-resistant, so you can be confident in the knowledge that this piece of equipment will last you for many years to come.

Despite its heavy-duty construction, however, the Flextube 300 is surprisingly lightweight, which is great for portability.

In addition to the 12-inch aperture, the Sky-Watcher Flextube features multi-coated borosilicate mirrors that enhance the brightness and overall quality of the image.

Although this is a Dobsonian telescope, meaning that it is manually positionable using an altazimuth mount, you won’t struggle to maneuver the Flextube 300.

This is because of the steel needle bearings that allow for smooth movement and the proprietary tension control handles that will accurately position the telescope regardless of balance.

One of the features we especially like about the Flextube 300 is the fact that its build is collapsible. The collapsible construction and lightweight build combine to make this an incredibly portable 12-inch telescope.

The purchase of the Flextube 300 also includes a Crayford focuser and adaptor, 25 mm and 10 mm eyepieces, and a right-angle finderscope.

Once again, this telescope is sold without a carry bag, which is a shame as this would have enhanced the product’s portability even further.

However, this doesn’t take away from the fact that the Flextube 300 is a high-quality 12-inch telescope that will be perfect for anyone looking for bright, clear imaging from their astronomical equipment.

Pros

  • Lightweight and portable
  • Durable metal construction
  • Multi-coated borosilicate mirrors
  • Easy to adjust and maneuver
  • 10 mm and 25 mm eyepieces included
  • Features Crayford focuser and right-angle finderscope

Cons

  • No carry bag 

BEST VALUE

Another Dobsonian telescope from Sky-Watcher, the Flextube 300 SynScan is essentially an upgraded version of the Flextube 300 with a couple of extra features that are guaranteed to enhance your skywatching experience.

Like the Flextube 300, the Flextube 300 SynScan features an all-metal, collapsible construction, and multi-coated borosilicate mirrors. It also comes with the same Crayford focuser, adaptor, and 25 mm and 10 mm eyepieces.

Where the Flextube 300 SynScan differs from the Flextube 300 is in its wifi-controlled mount functionality.

The built-in wifi signal means that you can issue controls to your telescope for alignment, using the SynScan controller. This controller allows access to a database with over 42,000 objects.

The collapsible, computerized Flextube 300 SynScan is the perfect 12-inch telescope for astronomers seeking an automated, high-aperture telescope without the high price tag that comes with Newtonian, equatorial-mount telescopes.

Pros

  • All-metal durable construction
  • Collapsible build
  • Multi-coated borosilicate mirrors
  • Features Crayford focuser and adaptor
  • 25 mm and 10 mm eyepieces
  • Built-in wifi signal
  • Access to 42,000+ object database

Cons

  • Some reported issues with the automated functions

RUNNER UP

Meade Instruments is one of the world’s leading telescope manufacturers, and this brand’s superiority is reflected in the construction and functionality of the Meade LX200 ACF telescope.

The aperture is, of course, 12 inches and coma-free, which means that images outside of the center of the telescope’s field of vision won’t appear distorted, as is the case with some other models.

This telescope’s high focal length of 3048 mm gives the Mead LX200 a focal ratio of f/10, which is great for viewing close-up, magnified images of objects in space.

The LX200 includes AutoStar II software which provides a database of over 145,000 objects and a precision pointing function and automated error correction.

A 16-channel GPS system is also incorporated for perfect alignment and tracking.

This telescope is mounted to a dual-fork mount, which is not only highly durable but also adjustable. However, the mount also has mechanical locks, so it will stay firmly in one place when powered down.

Overall, this is a very intuitive and user-friendly telescope that only lacks in convenience in the sense that the 8-C Cell batteries needed to operate it are not supplied.

Pros

  • Coma-free visibility
  • Ideal for close-up viewing
  • Includes AutoStar II software
  • 16-channel GPS
  • Adjustable dual-fork mount 

Cons

  • 8-C Cell batteries must be purchased separately

RUNNER UP

If you liked the sound of the Mead LX200 ACF, you’ll also love the Meade Lightbridge Plus!

Meade’s Lghtbridge Plus Telescope is much more affordable than the LX200 and is a simple, non-computerized 12-inch telescope option for anyone looking for a high-quality telescope without an extravagant price tag.

This telescope has a 1524 mm focal length that gives it a focal ratio of f/5. This is the ideal focal length for astronomers who want to view wide-field celestial images in high resolution and brightness.

Meade’s Lightbridge Plus telescope has a Dobsonian base, which means it will need to be adjusted manually, but the practicality of this model is made better by the no-tool assembly process and portable open-truss build.

The roller bearings and variable tension brake also mean that adjusting this telescope will be basically effortless, and we love that this model includes an eyepiece holder to make all your accessories accessible.

The Lightbridge Plus also comes with a 26 mm eyepiece for high-quality wide-field viewing and an aluminum red dot viewfinder so you can always focus your telescope accurately despite the wide field of vision. This ability is enhanced by the included rack and pinion focuser.

Pros

  • Enables wide-field viewing
  • Portable open-truss build
  • Easily adjustable
  • Includes red dot viewfinder
  • Rack and pinion focuser included
  • Features eyepiece holder
  • Affordable for the quality 

Cons

  • No collimator included

Best 12 Inch Telescope Buying Guide

Construction 

Generally speaking, when it comes to telescopes, with a higher aperture comes a higher price tag. For many potential buyers who are passionate about astronomy and observing the night sky, this is a worthwhile investment for the image clarity that a higher aperture brings to the table.

However, if you’re going to be spending a significant amount of money on a 12-inch telescope, you’ll want to make sure that you’re buying a durable model that will see you through many years of astronomical observation and study.

A durable telescope construction should ideally be all-metal and preferably consist of aluminum, steel, or a combination of both. This should also apply to small components, including needle bearings.

Focal Length and Ratio 

A 12-inch aperture is an impressive telescopic feature on its own, but aperture should always be considered alongside the other main optical features of telescopes: focal length and focal ratio.

This is because, without a decent focal length, the image clarity enabled by the high aperture will be wasted since the image won’t be magnified enough for you to be able to appreciate it.

The combination of aperture and focal length is calculated through the focal ratio equation which divides the focal length of the telescope by the aperture.

So, if you have a 12-inch telescope (300 mm) with a focal length of 1500 mm, you will need to divide 1500 by 300 to work out the focal ratio, which comes to 5, or f/5. 

This focal ratio indicates that the telescope in question will allow for relatively bright images that aren’t too magnified (at least, without the addition of extra eyepieces and lenses) so this telescope would be ideal for wide-field observation.

Other 12-inch telescopes can have much higher focal lengths in the 3000s. A 12-inch telescope with this kind of focal length will have a focal ratio closer to f/10, which is better for observing objects in close-up detail.

So, whatever your preference in terms of wide-field or close-up viewing, there’s a 12-inch telescope on our list for you!

Mount and Base

As you may already have noticed, the majority of the 12-inch telescopes featured in this article are marketed as Dobsonian telescopes.

For anyone not familiar with this type of telescope, the Dobsonian telescope was invented in 1965 by astronomer John Dobson.

A Dobsonian telescope is essentially a Newtonian telescope (a 2-mirror telescopic build) except that a Dobsonian telescope is mounted on an altazimuth mount instead of an equatorial mount.

The main difference between these two mount types is that an equatorial mount has the capability of tracking objects in the sky through its parallel axis alignment, while an altazimuth mount does not, and has to be manually positioned.

A Dobsonian 12-inch telescope, therefore, will need to be physically moved or rotated to focus on or track celestial objects.

Because 12-inch telescopes, as a rule, are heavier and more cumbersome to handle than other telescopes, it’s important that your 12-inch telescope’s altazimuth mount and base also have some other features or functions to make the operation process more ergonomic and practical.

Roller or needle bearings can help to make maneuvering your telescope’s position feel smoother and more weightless. Tension control handles are also likely to help with this.

If you don’t feel that a Dobsonian mount is right for you, other base and mount options available for 12-inch telescopes. For example, you could opt for a dual fork mount, which is good for adjustability and may also be computerized depending on the model.

Portability 

In the previous section, we touched on the fact that 12-inch telescopes tend to be heavier and more difficult to handle than telescopes with smaller apertures because of the necessary extra width of the optical tube. Portability, therefore, can be an issue.

Thankfully, most manufacturers of 12-inch telescopes are aware of this potential problem and have incorporated other features and accessories to help with this.

A collapsible build will make your telescope easier to carry around, as will an open-truss build. We’ve already recommended an all-metal steel or aluminum construction for durability, and these materials may also benefit you in terms of portability because they have a high tensile strength to weight ratio.

Accessories 

Something that many people don’t know about telescopes is that they can actually overheat. This may be a more common occurrence when using a telescope in particularly hot weather or if your telescope is made of certain materials that easily absorb heat.

If you know that this applies, or will apply to you, we recommend choosing a 12-inch telescope with a built-in cooling fan to keep your telescope’s temperature regulated.

If you plan on using your 12-inch telescope to look at the moon, a large aperture may actually get in the way due to the moon’s glare. Therefore, some 12-inch telescopes come with moon filters that minimize the moon’s glare to produce a clearer and crisper image.

For 12-inch telescopes that are built for wide-field viewing, a red dot viewfinder can also be a helpful accessory. Some kind of focuser (ideally Crayford-style) will also benefit you in this area.

When it comes to adjusting or aligning your telescope, a collimator and finderscope will really help you. A collimator will allow you to perfectly line up a reflector telescope’s mirrors, while a right-angle finderscope will allow you to watch the object you want your telescope to focus on in a way that is ergonomic and intuitive. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the advantages and drawbacks of a 12-inch telescope?

There’s a lot to take in when it comes to features and functions of 12-inch telescopes, and these features (with the exception, of course, of the aperture itself) are subject to change and variation across different manufacturers.

Therefore, we felt it might be helpful to answer some of the most pressing questions about 12-inch telescopes in one section by evaluating some of the advantages and disadvantages of telescopes with this aperture.

In terms of advantages, the most obvious one is that a 12-inch aperture on a telescope will enable a brighter, clearer, and sharper view of its focus. This is the main reason why astronomers gravitate towards these large-aperture telescope models.

12-inch telescopes do come with some disadvantages, however, and these are mainly in the areas of portability and pricing. A 12-inch telescope is likely to be more expensive than a telescope with a lower aperture, and these telescopes are also usually heavier.

Gordon Watts

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