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How to Choose a Telescope

Types of Telescopes:
which ones are right for you?

Lens Image

When you're investing in a telescope, a little study before purchase can pay important rewards in long-term satisfaction with the telescope's full range of capabilities. Consider these three important factors:
  • Usage
  • Interest level
  • Budget

  • What will the telescope be used for? Astronomical observing? Terrestrial observing? Both?
    If the telescope is a first-time purchase, most people want to observe the entire range of astronomical and terrestrial subjects. Refracting telescopes and mirror-lens telescopes are generally more versatile in a wide array of land and astronomical applications. If your applications in land viewing and astronomy are about of equal importance, either of these types will work well.

    As a telescope exclusively for terrestrial viewing, the ETX Spotting Scope is one of the premier instruments ever designed..

    Alternatively, if your interests run more strongly to astronomy as a field of study, then reflecting telescopes or mirror-lens telescopes are ideal. Reflecting telescopes usually represent the largest telescope aperture available per dollar of cost. Mirror-lens telescopes are the most versatile of all optical designs: it is this versatility, combined with uncompromised image resolution and portability, that have made mirror-lens models the most popular telescopes in the world among serious observers.

    How serious are my intended applications? (includes zoom or compact zoom lenses)
    Many amateur astronomers begin with a 60mm refractor. 60mm-diameter telescopes are perfectly suited for beginners. But if your interests are maintained, you may want a larger telescope. Larger telescopes enable the study of much greater detail in all observed celestial objects.

    The intermediate-level observer, or the non-casual telescope user who wishes to purchase one telescope for a lifetime, should consider a 8" telescope. It is an uncommon observer who will require a telescope of larger than 8" aperture for any astronomical or terrestrial studies.

    If your interests tend strongly toward astronomy, consider purchasing a telescope equipped with an equatorial mount. The equatorial mount greatly facilitates tracking all celestial objects simply by turning a single control knob or cable. In the case of equatorial models purchased with a motor drive, the telescope tracks these objects automatically by means of an internal battery-powered drive system.

    How much can I afford?
    Buyers can find a wide price range for telescopes — from a couple hundred dollars to several thousand! Most lower-end models are fine beginning telescopes, but you can usually find more power and more features for a relatively modest additional expenditure.

    If your budget permits, consider the advantages of larger telescope diameters — try to buy a telescope you won't quickly outgrow.

    Shop our selection of telescopes