What telescope should I buy if I am a beginner? What is the best telescope for a beginner?
As a general guide, we recommend the following.
- Choose a refractor. A refractor is a telescope design where you look through the bottom of it (rather than the side). It has lenses, not mirrors. The larger the aperture (opening at the front!) the more light it allows in, which means the objects you look at will be brighter, and the telescope will allow you to get closer to what you want, while not being too dim to see. An 80mm to 100mm achromat is a good size, inexpensive and is flexible, you can look at all sorts of things with it (including nebula’s and asterisms), not just the moon and a planet or two.
- Choose a correct mount, which, 90% of the time when your new is a ‘AZ’ (up down, left right) type. The Kson Light Tracker is an amazing mount. Fits together in seconds, portable and not complicated.
What are the biggest mistakes people make when buying a telescope?
Not asking for help when buying one. A capable Astronomy specialist will be able to ask you discerning questions that will be able to make the best decision you can with what you have.
Buying a department store ‘EQ’ telescope. Department stores are interesting in selling, not Astronomy. Products are built to the lowest price point possible. They often feature a mount that is completely unsuitable and that can’t be used with a lot of knowledge. Here’s a recent example.
This type of telescope is meant to be used to watch stars – not landscapes. You can’t move that left and right, up and down. Moving that telescope up to watch a bird in a tree would be a complete nightmare. Well, at least he can watch the stars with it, right? Wrong. To use an EQ type mount, you need to know where the southern celestial pole is. Do you? You would need to align the finder with the main scope. Do you know how to do that? Then you need to adjust the EQ mount to the latitude. Do you have that information? The scope needs to have slow motion controls installed to track the stars. Do you know how to adjust the scopes weight so that they track smoothly and evenly? You get the idea. All of this could have been averted by talking to a retailer who cares enough about you and the hobby to give you some honest advice.
Buying a department store ‘Yoke’ telescope. A yoke telescope sits on a ‘yoke’, we don’t sell them with good reason. Enough said.
Buying ‘stuff’ when they should be buying training, or at least instructions and knowledge. A keen individual with some cash might buy all this gear in a moment of passion, but then won’t buy a $60 book that explains how to use all the gear he bought correctly. It’s a bit like buying a car, and a complete complete toolbox and expecting to be able to service your car without any mechanical training. It won’t go well. Buy a proper book along with your telescope. The only one we currently recommend is the backyard astronomers guide. That’s it. It’s a hardcover book of hundreds of pages illustrated properly by experts with no nonsense in it that always works.
Buying fluff when they should be buying stuff.
You don’t need half the accessories you think you do. Invest in a decent eyepiece such as a Baader Mk IV Zoom (or there are some cheaper options, check our eyepiece blog), a headlamp, a decent book, and get the right scope for you. You’ll have a great time!
Can you give some ideas for various budgets?
Less than $300
The 120mm Kson Dobsonian Deep Sky Telescope is surprisingly good with the added advantage of even allowing you to observe some great nebula’s and features.
Other than that, try the used market perhaps, but we just can’t recommend new scopes at that price point. May we suggest saving just a little more, and making it a present for next year, and buy some nice binoculars and the backyard astronomers guide this year? You may be tempted to buy a cheap scope that promises a lot for less, but please, please be careful. It is extremely unlikely that you will find anything decent for less – manufacturers make serious compromises at that point that will come back and bite you later.
We recommend Package A. It is a very good quality package, designed to last, with good optics and accessories. The items have been put together by the dealer – us – so that it contains exactly what you need and nothing more or less. No fluff, just great stuff.
For a bit more, the Saxon 804 package is amazing. Decent AZ mount, nice aperture, great accessories.
The Saxon 909AZ3 package is also solid – lots of aperture (90mm), great for the moon and good accessories. The mount is a good one, it’s AZ with a quick disconnect so you can easily store it.
Up to $600
Get a 6″ Dobsonian. It’s big, a bit awkward to move outside but what you see through it will blow you away. Swing it left, swing it right, move it up, move it down. It’s sooo easy. As it’s got mirrors, you will need to learn to collimate, but it’s not that hard to learn. And if you decide it’s not for you, someone else will always be willing to buy it. Be prepared to pay a bit more for freight – it’s heavy – AND big.
The Kson package B is also a superb option and is a real joy to use. So light, solid, great optics, and comes with an extraordinary mount. It’s a very flexible, mid-range package that will just keep getting used.
Up to $850
The Kson package C is a winner, comes with a case, super accessories and adds an amazing function to the mount – which is the ability to set it up in seconds. The mount comes with an excellent case This will see you give your mount a lot of use.
The 8″ Dobsonian also comes into play here, at the price of being a bit harder to transport – but it is the perfect size to probably still get into the backseat of an average car! Nothing beats the bang for buck views with this unit.
Up to $1300
The most fun achro you can own is, in our opinion the A102G, which is a serious 102mm refractor with features that far exceed it’s price point, and is available in the f/6, f/7 and f/9 focal lengths. Pick whichever one you prefer in our Package D and mount it on a Kson AZ4 or EQ4! If your looking for an extra, get it bundled with a Baader Zoom IV and a Kson 2″ 32mm for scanning the sky. Fun Fun FUN!
Give us a call, we’ll put together something sensible for you