It's getting harder to find a decent telescope - Here's why.
There is no longer a need to go to an Astronomy Specialist, or even a Telescope Shop to buy a scope! You can pick up an amazing deal right now from your local bookshop or toy store, right?
Well, not really. Telescopes are amazing products, and good ones remain incredibly engaging, and has the potential to remain with you for life.
Sadly, due to ‘supply and demand’, “Caveat Emptor” remains an unfortunate but sensible maxim. People want telescopes, and people naturally like a bargain! In order to compete, most telescope manufacturers have ‘budget lines’ that make unfortunate compromises and take advantage of ‘clever marketing’ that guarantee a buck.
So which of these would we recommend? NOT ONE. Here’s why.
Telescope 1 – The box does explain it is only suitable for magnifications of up to about 40x. We recommend any decent telescope for Astronomy should be able to do 50x, 100x and 150x or more in decent conditions. The manual that comes with this scope states that it “…is ideal for …very casual astronomical observation.” Don’t expect it to do more.
Telescope 2 – A 50mm telescope just won’t let in much light which greatly limits what it can practically do. The closer you get to something, the more light it needs to maintain the image and hold the definition. The stand (we can’t really call it a mount) would be quite wobbly, and it would be extremely difficult to track an object. A 50mm short scope just won’t handle much in the way of light. Binoculars with 30mm are even worse. Please don’t do this to your children or loved ones.
Telescope 3 – While it lets in a terrific amount of light at 100mm, the pan handle mount, with no slow motion controls, is not something we can recommend. The supplies eyepieces will only supply magnifications of 33x and 66x. Magnifications of higher than this would make the shortcomings of the pan handle painfully apparent. At $599, you can do better. You can get a Saxon 1026AZ with the Backyard Astronomers Guide and a Headlight for not much more, and even have proper slow motion controllers with it.
Telescope 4 – Ah, the “yoke” telescope. Difficult to adjust, and it tends to give with time, causing a very unpleasant ‘slop’ effect. Slow motion is achieved by adjusting a bolt or similar on the side which sort of ‘pulls’ the scope up, or ‘lowers’ it down. The finder is very close to the scope itself, which will make looking into it a challenge. The aperture of the finder is also quite small, we recommend a 6×30 minimally. Finding a proper target will likely be a very frustrating experience and stopping even a ‘budding astronomer’ in their tracks. Avoid.
Telescope 5 – Actually, putting a smart phone on a scope is a great idea, but you can do that with any telescope with a finder shoe by attaching the Kson Adaptor Kit, which isn’t very expensive. Which then leaves us with the question of the ‘yoke’ mount again, and the concerns about the stability of the tripod.
Telescope 6 – Well, it has slow motion controls and the mount is actually solid – pluses for that. It is the best out of the six in our opinion, but we don’t recommend using reflectors for terrestrial targets – ever – it would be a nightmare. What about for Astronomy? Not for a beginner to use ANY equatorial mount, you need to know where the Southern Celestial Pole is, know how to align it to that, adjust the latitude of the mount correctly also. That’s just beyond the experience level of a newer user – and isn’t something warned about on the box. The optics on this scope are excellent, but the eyepieces provided are half the optical system – and don’t do the scope justice (at 33x and 66x?), so you would need to add decent eyepieces. By the time you add that in, more options open up.
If you would like sensible recommendations for what to start with, go with one of our basic packages (Package A, B, C in particular). They come in a very disappointing and sad looking brown cardboard box. There are no pretty pictures. There are no amazing claims made. But they are superb scopes that are properly matched with a mount, and are ones you will want to keep – just like a faithful dog – at your side forever.