Best Portable Telescope

While a traditional telescope is great for looking at the night sky in your backyard, the beauty of a portable telescope is that you can take it absolutely everywhere. It can turn your camping trip from dull and dreary to a time of wonder and delight.

All that, and they’re much more affordable than traditional telescopes too! An affordable gateway into what would otherwise be a very expensive hobby.

There are some really great portable telescopes out on the market today, and we’ve been checking them out. After much deliberation, we were able to handpick our top 5 favorites, and we’ll be showing you them very shortly.

We’ve tried to pick a range of products at different price points, and we recommend checking the prices as you go through the product reviews.

best portable telescope

But we get that choosing a good portable telescope can be tricky, so we’ve also prepared a buying guide for you, which runs through everything you might want to think about before you buy.

And to be even more helpful, we’re then going to top that off with a section where we answer some of your most frequently asked questions on the subject.

And without further ado…

In a hurry?

If you haven’t got the time or inclination to read out the whole buying guide, and you already get the specs of a portable telescope, and you’re just looking for a top-quality telescope at a good price, then we have to suggest our number 1 pick: The Meade Instruments Infinity Portable Refracting Astronomy Telescope.

OUR TOP PICK

This beauty is an achromatic refractor. This means it uses a special lens to correct for chromatic aberration, which is when colors are incorrectly bent by the lens.

It has an aperture diameter of 70mm, together with a focal length of 700mm, which effectively gives a focal ratio of f/10, which is very good (don’t worry, we explain this in our buying guide).

It comes as an entire kit, composed also of an adjustable Altazimuth mount and multiple eyepieces, including an accessory tray. Everything you need to get started really.

Among the eyepieces, you get both a low (26mm) and a high magnification (9mm) variety, which means you get all the variety you’d want in your viewing, expanding or narrowing your viewing field at whim. 

AND you also get a 2x Barlow lens, which effectively doubles the magnification power of each eyepiece. 

And that’s not all. You also get a 90-degree erect-prism, to make viewing more comfortable, and a red dot viewfinder, which makes it easier to locate objects.

For those who don’t already know, an Altazimuth mount is one with a slow-motion control rod, which can be moved both vertically and horizontally, and really helps with precision tracking. Perfect for watching a meteor shower.

But that’s not all, you also get an instructional DVD included AND some astronomy software.

This review is for the 70mm Aperture version, but it’s also available in 50mm, 60mm, 80mm, 90mm, and 102mm.

Pros

  • Excellent value for money
  • Adjustable Altazimuth mount 
  • Several eyepieces inc. Barlow Lenses
  • 90-degree erect-prism
  • Has a red dot viewfinder

Cons

  • Uses a rack and pinion focuser rather than a Crayford focuser
  • Several different versions on the Amazon page, please be careful to select the one you want

EDITORS CHOICE

If it wasn’t for the high price tag, we’d have made this our number one pick.

It comes from Celestron, a world-renowned brand, around since 1960, and still on top of their game.

What makes this particular portable telescope so good, is that it has a German Equatorial mount. Unlike the more common Altazimuth mounts, an equatorial mount compensates for the Earth’s rotation.

It has one axis parallel to the Earth's axis of rotation, which allows the telescope to stay fixed on a celestial object by driving one axis at a constant speed.

The PowerSeeker 70EQ has an aperture diameter of 70mm, together with a focal length of 700mm, which effectively gives a focal ratio of f/10, which is very good (don’t worry, more on this in our buying guide).

It comes with 2 eyepieces, 20mm and 4mm, to expand or narrow your viewing field. And you get a whopping 3x Barlow lens, to give you triple the magnification power to your viewing.

Then there’s the erect image diagonal, plus a Finderscope, which you can mount on top of the telescope, along the line of sight to help locate celestial objects more easily. This is thanks to its wide field of view and crosshairs.

And that’s not all - you also get a free download of the Starry Night educational software, and the Celestron SkyPortal Planetarium app, available on both iStore and Google Play. And it’s a good one too, highly rated by consumers.

One of the things we like about Celestron is their after-sales service - not only do you get a 2-year warranty, but you also get lifetime technical support.

Please note, this review is for the 70EQ telescope, and not the 60EQ telescope which is available on the same Amazon page.

Pros

  • Comes with an Equatorial mount
  • Comes with free top-rated software
  • Comes with 20mm and 4mm eyepieces
  • Triple magnification with the Barlow lens
  • Excellent after-sales service

Cons

  • Premium product at a premium price

BEST VALUE

There’s a lot to love about this telescope!

First off, there’s the huge aperture size of 102mm diameter. Huge for a portable telescope anyway. It lets plenty of light in, to really add to the magnification power and the image clarity.

And it’s other stand out feature, which we love, is the inclusion of a smartphone adapter. With this in place, you can take photos and/or videos of the night sky through the telescope that you can keep forever and/or share on social media.

It comes with an altazimuth mount tripod, so you can move the telescope both vertically and horizontally.

There’s a handy red dot viewfinder to help you focus on your chosen celestial image.

And you get two additional eyepieces, one for an expanded viewing field, thanks to its 26mm size, and one for a more focused image, measuring 9mm diameter.

We also love the inclusion of the Barlow lens, which can double the magnification of your images.

There’s also a 90-degree erect-image prism, to help make your viewing more comfortable.

What aids its portability is the fact that it’s collapsible and lightweight - a breeze to carry around.

Pros

  • Very large aperture
  • Smartphone adapter
  • Altazimuth mount tripod
  • Handy red dot viewfinder
  • Great set of accessories

Cons

  • Premium product at a premium price

RUNNER UP

When we saw the price tag for this portable telescope, we knew it was worth a look - everyone loves a bargain!

It has a nice aperture size, coming in at 70mm, and compact dimensions, to provide a focal length of 500mm. This means you get a focal ratio of f/7.1, which means you get a nice, bright picture.

The clarity of the picture is also aided by the fully multi-coated glass lenses providing 99% total light transmission.

You get two eyepieces, one 25mm and one 10mm to vary your viewing field., and you can combine either of these with the included Barlow lens, which triples the magnification power.

Instructions for installing the eyepieces are available right on the Amazon page.

There’s also a handy finderscope you can mount above the telescope, with crosshairs, to help you locate what parts of the sky you want to focus on.

You of course also get a tripod, a Zenith mirror, an accessory tray, and a carry case. But there’s also the nice addition of a phone adapter, so you can take pictures of what you see through the telescope.

Stillnend also provides an excellent after-sales service. You can ask any relevant question of them and they will come back to you within 24 hours.

Pros

  • Large aperture size
  • Bright & clear images
  • Handy finderscope
  • 3X Barlow lens
  • Phone adapter

Cons

  • At least one customer reported that no user manual was provided

RUNNER UP

When we saw just how well this telescope was selling, we just had to see what all the fuss was about - and we weren’t disappointed!

True, much of its popularity is owed to the super affordable price tag. But it’s got a lot more going for it than just that - it comes from Celestron, a world-renowned brand, around since 1960, and still on top of their game.

It has a large aperture size for a portable telescope, coming in at 70mm, while the focal length is 400mm, giving a nice low focal ratio of f/5.71, to give a nice, clear picture.

The lens is fully coated to provide excellent brightness and clarity in your images.

You also get two high-quality eyepieces, 20mm and 10mm, so you can increase the magnification or field of view as you wish.

It comes with a tripod with an adjustable Altazimuth mount which lets you move the telescope around vertically and horizontally.

And that’s not all - you also get a free download of the Starry Night educational software, and the Celestron SkyPortal Planetarium app, available on both iStore and Google Play. And it’s a good one too, highly rated by consumers.

One of the things we like about Celestron is their after-sales service - not only do you get a 2-year warranty, but you also get lifetime technical support.

Pros

  • Super affordable price tag
  • World-renowned brand
  • Large and clear images
  • Adjustable Altazimuth mount
  • Free top-quality software

Cons

  • No Barlow lenses included to boost the magnification

Best Portable Telescope Buying Guide

As promised, here’s your portable telescope Buying Guide!

Types of Portable Telescope

There are several different types of portable telescopes that you can get: reflector telescopes, refractor telescopes, and Dobsonian telescopes.

All of the portable telescopes in our top 5 picks are refractor telescopes. Refractor telescopes work by using a series of lenses to capture light and magnify the image. 

There are several advantages of using refractor telescopes over the other types, but we won’t go into it all here - I don’t want to put you off reading with too much tech-speak.

Now, let’s look into the main specs...

Aperture Size

The aperture size refers to the diameter of the objective lens, which is the lens furthest from the eyepiece and nearest to your image. The bigger the aperture size, the more light is let in, resulting in a brighter (and therefore usually clearer) image.

The typical aperture size of a portable telescope is 70mm, but this is by no means your only option.

Focal Length

The focal length is the distance between the objective lens and the focal plane in the tube where the image is formed. The longer this length is, the stronger the magnification.

Focal Ratio (AKA F-Ratio)

The focal ratio is basically a measure of the brightness and clarity of the image. You can calculate this ratio by dividing the focal length by the aperture size. The lower the ratio, the clearer the image.

Eyepieces

The inclusion of different eyepiece accessories can really add a lot of variety to your viewing. You can use one with a wide field of view to catch more of the sky, or when you want to focus on a particular area, you can step up the magnification with a different eyepiece.

Barlow Lenses

A Barlow Lens is a great addition to your portable telescope accessories. They can be used to double, and in some cases triple the total magnification power of your images.

Tripod

Unless you’re looking specifically for a handheld telescope (in which case, you should check out this article) then you’re going to want a tripod to mount your portable telescope.

Tripods typically come with your telescope and you won’t have to buy one separately. One that allows you to move the telescope around both vertically and horizontally, like the standard altazimuth mounts would make a good choice, as they’re easier to use and to move from one image to the next.

But an even better tripod mount, provided you have the budget for it, would be an equatorial mount since these can compensate for the Earth’s rotation. If this is of interest to you, then we can recommend our number 2 pick, the Celestron - PowerSeeker 70EQ Telescope.

Portability

As well as being easy to assemble and use, you want the telescope and all its accessories to be portable. This means you will want a carry case for all of the individual items, and a durable one at that.

And while having a large aperture size and a large focal length make for more powerful magnification, on the flip side, a bigger telescope is a less portable telescope. So you have to weigh up the magnification power against how lightweight it is and how easy it is to carry and transport.

If portability is of particular importance to you, you can check the telescope weight on the Amazon pages. They typically weigh between 3 and 5 pounds.

So, with that in mind, we’re going to level with you and say that it’s virtually impossible for a portable telescope to be as powerful as a traditional, larger telescope. But that said a portable telescope is a great gateway telescope for beginners looking to learn more about astronomy.

Brand

A telescope is a very technical piece of equipment, especially when combined with all its various accessories. So we recommend that you look to the top brands first and foremost so you can be sure you’re getting a top-quality buy.

Our favorite brand is Celestron, but we also have a soft spot for Meade Instruments too. The beauty of brands like Celestron is that they offer products at different budgets, with more affordable options for those who can’t afford their bigger ticket telescopes. This brings us to the next section.

Cost

If there’s anything that varies in price, it’s portable telescopes. Even within our top 5 picks, we showed you earlier there’s almost a $400 difference between the cheapest and the most expensive.

The trick to ensuring that you get good value for money from your purchase, especially if you don’t have an astronomical budget (pun intended!) is to buy your telescope from a top-quality brand.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which brand telescope is the best?

Our favorite telescope brand is Celestron. They’ve been producing great telescopes since the 1960s, and the quality of their products is top notch. They all come with not a 1-year, but a very impressive 2-year warranty. You know you’re going to get a top-quality product.

Meade Instruments is a very close second favorite for us, and we even made a Meade Instruments telescope our number one pick.

What is the best starter telescope?

We would argue that one of the best starter telescopes for beginners is our number 5 pick, the Celestron Portable Refractor Telescope.

It’s specifically aimed at beginners, is available at a very affordable price, and comes with bonus astronomy software primed to teach you all about the beautiful night sky.

Gordon Watts

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