Best Refractor Telescope

No matter your budget, there will be a refractor telescope out there that is suited to your needs. They range in price from affordable beginner telescopes to more expensive professional level telescopes.

If you are just starting out, you can look for a beginner telescope and then work your way up to a professional one if you become more interested in the hobby. There are multiple brands available with different models that are targeted at different people, and there is bound to be one that is perfect for you.

There are so many amazing things that you will be able to see with a telescope that you would never be able to see clearly with the naked eye. This is why we have created this list of the best refractor telescopes for a range of budgets and purposes, so you can decide which one would be best for you.

However, before we get into our list, you might be wondering what makes a refractor telescope different from any other one, and we will explain this for you below.

Best Refractor Telescope

What is a Refractor Telescope?

A refractor telescope is a specific type of optical telescope that uses a lens as its objective in order to be able to form an image. This type of telescope design was originally used in spy glasses and astronomical telescopes, but it is also used for long focus camera lenses.

This helps to give you some insight into the capabilities of such a telescope. They have been around since the latter half of the 19th century, though more recently, it has been overtaken by the reflecting telescope as it allows larger apertures.

The magnification of a refractor telescope is calculated by dividing the focal length of the objective lens by that of the eyepiece.

These telescopes will usually have a lens at the front that is followed by a long tube and then an eyepiece where the telescope is able to focus. The technology that is used for these telescopes has also been applied to other optical devices, like binoculars and camera lenses.

OUR TOP PICK

Meade Instruments – StarPro AZ 80mm Aperture, Portable Beginner Refracting Astronomy Telescope with Bonus Adjustable Smartphone Adapter - Compact Alt-azimuth (AZ) Manual Mount

This refractor telescope is a great option for beginners, and it is much less complex than some of the professional-grade telescopes that are available.

It is an 80mm achromatic refractor telescope that even includes a smartphone imaging adaptor. The aperture is 80mm with a focal length of 900mm and a focal ratio of f/11.3.

There are three magnification eyepieces that you can use, which are Low (26mm), Medium (9mm), and High (6.3mm), and there are also two Barlow lenses that double the magnification power of each eyepiece.

There is an Altazimuth mount that has a slow-motion control rod for better precision tracking, so you can easily track objects in both the day and night.

There is also a Vixen-style dovetail and full-size adjustable aluminum tripod with an integrated accessory holder for your convenience. The range of features helps to make this telescope fit for its purpose.

Pros

  • This is a great tool for beginners
  • Barlow lenses can be used for double magnification
  • It has a focal length of 900mm and a focal ratio of f/11.3
  • It includes a smartphone imaging adaptor
  • There are three magnification eyepieces that you can use
  • Fully adjustable aluminum tripod

Cons

  • The screws may need tightening over time after heavy use

EDITORS CHOICE

SOLOMARK Telescope, 80EQ Refractor Professional Telescope -700mm Focal Length Telescopes for Adults Astronomy, with 1.5X Barlow Lens Adapter for Photography and 13 Percent Transmission Moon Filter

This is another telescope that is just perfect for beginners as it is easy to use while still being a powerful telescope.

This telescope aims to give a first-time user a great combination of quality, value, and performance. It uses a manual German equatorial mount that allows you to navigate the sky using this refractor telescope.

This mount also has a slow-motion altitude rod for smooth and accurate pointing. You can adjust the tod to your desired position and easily secure this position by tightening the cross knob.

The mount is very sturdy and durable, and it won’t let you down when you need it. 

The telescope can be used for both adults and children, and it is both compact and lightweight to make it portable.

You can take the telescope with you anywhere that you wish to go to explore the sky.

It features quality all-glass optics that can deliver stunning views of the moon, the rings surrounding Saturn, and even Jupiter’s Galilean Moons. There are so many things that are just waiting to be discovered. 

The purchase also comes with two eyepieces that are 10mm and 20mm, an erect image diagonal, a finderscope, 13% moon filter, a smartphone mount, and a smartphone adapter.

There is even a 1.5X Barlow lens that can triple the power.

Pros

  • This telescope is also a great option for beginners
  • It aims to give the user a combination of quality, value, and performance
  • It has a slow-motion altitude rod for smooth and accurate pointing
  • The mount is highly durable and sturdy to stay in place
  • It is compact and lightweight for straightforward portability
  • It features all-glass optics that can show you amazing sights

Cons

  • None that we could find

BEST VALUE

Celestron Inspire 70AZ Refractor Smartphone Adapter Built-in Refracting Telescope, Blue (22401)

This telescope is known for its straight forward set-up, and it even comes with a folding accessory tray.

All you have to do is open the tripod legs, lock them into place, and you are good to go on your stargazing adventure.

It has a newer and improved design, and the telescope lens cap comes with a fully built-in smartphone adapter, which makes it much easier for you to take photos of your finds.

The mount has an asymmetrical design that offers lightweight capabilities and extra stability. 

The erect image optics enable a fully correct image for easy viewing, no matter if it is day or night.

There is also a red LED flashlight in the center of the mount head that can be used to slightly illuminate the accessory tray, or you can remove it to use as a spotlight if you need to.

Finally, there is a focus micrometer that allows for a quick return to a specific focus point for certain targets.

Pros

  • This telescope is easy and straightforward to set up
  • It comes with a fully built-in smartphone adapter for taking photos
  • The mount has an asymmetrical design 
  • The telescope is lightweight and easily portable
  • The erect image optics enable a fully correct image for easy viewing
  • There is a focus micrometer for a quick return to the previous focus points

Cons

  • The instructions can be difficult to access

RUNNER UP

Telescope for Kids Beginners Adults, 70mm Astronomy Refractor Telescope with Adjustable Tripod - Perfect Telescope Gift for Kids

This telescope comes with a 360mm focal length and a 70mm aperture, and it is fully coated in an optical glass with a high transmission coating that creates crisper images with more pronounced brightness and clarity.

Your purchase includes two 1.23-inch eyepieces, and you can use them to enjoy magnification from 51X to 128X. There is also a 5X24 finder scope that works to find objects faster. 

It doesn’t require any tools to set up, and it is made easier to find your objects. Due to the simplicity of handling, this telescope can also be suitable for children too.

This 70mm telescope excels in daytime and nighttime, no matter the purpose. It also comes with an adjustable tripod that allows for any viewing position. 

Pros

  • It comes with a 360mm focal length and a 70mm aperture
  • It uses optical glass with a high transmission coating for crisper imaging
  • Has two eyepieces with great magnification
  • No tools are required for setting up this telescope
  • It is suitable for both adults and children
  • It comes with an adjustable tripod for a wider range of viewing positions

Cons

  • The materials are not as strong and durable as some other more expensive telescopes

RUNNER UP

Celestron – StarSense Explorer DX 102AZ Smartphone App-Enabled Telescope – Works with StarSense App to Help You Find Stars, Planets & More – 102mm Refractor – iPhone/Android Compatible

You can use your smartphone to your advantage with this telescope, and you can use the app by the company to go on a guided tour of the night sky.

You don’t necessarily need any prior telescope experience to use this telescope, as everything will be explained along the way.

All that you have to do is use the app to follow the arrows in order to be able to locate stars, planets, and so much more. 

This telescope also uses patent-pending StarSense sky recognition, which is a one-of-a-kind scope that uses your smartphone to analyze star patterns overhead to calculate its position in real-time.

The app also allows you to generate a list of the best objects that are available to view on a specific night that you are viewing it.

This is based on your local time and location, and you can use this feature to view planets, galaxies, and star clusters. 

The telescope itself is easy to use and to set-up, and the manual altazimuth mount has smooth, dual-axis slow-motion controls that make it much easier to follow the on-screen arrows to be able to find your desired target.

When the bullseye turns green, the target is ready to be viewed in the telescope’s eyepiece.

This telescope also has a high-quality four-inch refractor with high transmission XLT optical coatings and a larger aperture to give you enough light to view incredible sights.

Pros

  • You can use your smartphone to your advantage
  • There is a smartphone app that you can use in conjunction with your telescope
  • The telescope uses StarSense sky recognition technology
  • The app generates a list of the best sights available to be seen
  • There is a dual-axis slow-motion control that makes it easier to follow arrows
  • There are high transmission XLT optical coatings for better clarity

Cons

  • The telescope is quite bulky, so it may be harder to take with you on the go

Best Refractor Telescope Buying Guide

How to Choose the Best Refractor Telescope

The first thing that you will need to consider when buying the best refractor telescope is the budget that you have available to you. There are so many different telescopes that range entirely in price, and there is likely to be a great choice available that suits your budget in particular.

Typically, the more expensive that the telescope is, the higher quality it will be, and it will also have more features that make spending more worthwhile.

However, we can appreciate that not everybody has hundreds of dollars available to spend on a brand new telescope. In this case, there are also lots of options available, specifically for beginner telescopes, that you can choose between.

Though, you should be careful when choosing a low-cost option, and make sure that it is still going to be great quality. Spending less doesn’t always have to mean that you will miss out on important qualities like performance.

There are some options available for budget telescopes that are made from great quality materials and that can still show you the wonders that the night sky has to offer.

Make sure to read the listing and even check the customer reviews so you can ensure that you aren’t spending your money on a poor quality telescope. 

If you are looking for a more professional telescope, then you will find that the price is much higher, and they are often more complex pieces of equipment. It might be worth saving up a little while longer to get the best out of your money.

Always compare different options too, so you can get the most out of your purchase. 

Even if the price isn’t an issue for you, make sure to check what materials it is made out of to ensure that it is going to be both durable and long-lasting. A telescope that is made from cheap plastic is going to be no match for those with aluminum tripods and other strong materials.

The latter option will be much more durable, and is likely to last for a very long time, especially if you are taking it out and about with you when you need to. 

While refractor telescopes are typically lightweight in comparison to other types of telescopes, some will be more intended to be portable. Some telescopes can be quite bulky, especially those that are more professional models. This can make it a bit trickier to take it out on location with you.

The product listing will tell you how much the telescope weighs, so you can see for yourself before buying if it is going to be too difficult to pack on your adventure.

Another thing to note is that larger telescopes will usually provide you with better views, so you will need to decide for yourself whether portability is going to be a necessary factor in your decision making.

You should also decide what the purpose of the telescope is going to be. Some may be more tailored towards simply looking at the stars, and others will be more focussed for specific purposes.

For example, if you want to take part in astrological photography, you are going to need to choose a telescope that is capable of doing so. Not every telescope will show you planets and other visuals that are super far away, so you should look at the range in which the telescope can reach. 

You can also look for certain refractor telescopes that come with interchangeable lenses with different levels of magnification. This will allow you to reach further than you could with a single lens that may limit your ability to see things that are further away.

An increased magnification will also increase your range of viewing so that you can see even more than before. 

There are new features that are being added all of the time to newer telescopes, and with newer technology comes newer features. Some of these refractor telescopes now come with apps that can aid you in your sky searching and can even give you the directions in which you should be looking.

These can be really helpful for beginners, so you can start to learn the ropes, and find out where to look. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Difference Between a Refractor Telescope and a Reflector Telescope?

The biggest difference between a refractor telescope and a reflector telescope is that a refractor will use optical lenses and a reflector type will use mirrors. They both will also require different types and levels of maintenance.

The refractor telescope will require less maintenance than a reflector telescope, and they also typically have smaller apertures, and are more expensive than reflector telescopes. 

Refracting telescopes are usually the most commonly used type for beginners and amateurs in astrology. They use lenses to magnify an object in the distance, and modern versions use the Keplerian refractor design.

The Keplerian refracting telescope actually uses a lens called a convex lens at the front and inside the eyepiece at the back of the telescope. The light is then refracted into the primary lens, which magnifies the image that is being produced. 

Reflector telescopes use a Newtonian design that uses mirrors in order to produce an image. The only lens that is used in this type of telescope is in the eyepiece.

It uses a spherical or parabolic primary mirror at the end of the telescope, and the light comes in and reflects from the primary mirror to a flatter secondary mirror. This is how the image is produced.

Gordon Watts
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