What’s the best telescope for beginners? (2018)

2018-10-06T17:57:43+00:00October 7th, 2017|

Whether it’s buying for yourself or as a gift, it can be quite daunting trying to work out what telescope to buy. In this article I look to give a clear overview of the best telescopes for beginners and explain the differences in terms of performance, ease of use, and value for money.

Below are 10 telescopes that are ALL recommended. They are included here because they are the most popular and high-quality models available that will give you what you need in terms of performance and ease of use. 

1. Best telescopes for beginners – summary table

Make & model (link to Amazon)SummaryRating
1Celestron Cometron FirstScopeBest telescope for kids (equal)4.1
2Meade Lightbridge Mini 82Best telescope for kids (equal)4.1
3Orion FunscopeBest telescope for kids (equal)4.1
4Gskyer 60mm AZ RefractorEqual highest rated overall4.6
5Orion SkyscannerPowerful mid-range telescope4.0
6Orion Spaceprobe 3Suitable for kids & beginners4.0
7Orion GoSCope 80mmHighly rated by users4.4
8Celestron 127EQ PowerSeeker Powerful but requires dedication4.0
9Orion Starblast 4.5Most powerful option4.4
10Gskyer EQ 80900Equal highest rated overall4.6

2. Ten best telescopes for beginners – detailed reviews

1. Celestron Cometron FirstScope

Specifications: 76mm aperture, 300mm focal length, Newtonian reflector telescope.

Performance: Capable of seeing planets and detail on the moon. Note that there are two versions of the Firstscope but make sure to go for the option linked here that includes a finderscope, red dot finder and two 3-element eyepieces which are better than the accessories supplied with the other model. One of the best low-cost options.

Ease of use: This is intended as a first telescope for beginners (hence “Firstscope”) and is suitable for children. Lightweight and portable.

Rating: 4.1

2. Meade Lightbridge Mini 82

Specifications: 82mm aperture, 300mm focal length, Newtonian reflector telescope.

Performance: Similar to the Celestron Firstscope above and Orion Funscope below in terms of performance. Comes with a Barlow lens and a red dot finder which are necessary accessories for telescopes with this short of a focal length. Great low-cost option.

Ease of use: Very easy to pick up and suitable for beginners and children.

Rating: 4.1

3. Orion Funscope

Specifications: 76mm aperture, 300mm focal length, Newtonian reflector telescope.

Performance: This and the two models above are all pretty similar but do have the most limited performance of those on this list. However, they are the easiest to use, as well as being the smallest and lightest. This model includes a red dot finder which you need. You’ll probably want to later acquire a tripod and a 2.5x or 3x Barlow lens to make the most of it. Another great low-cost option.

Ease of use: Easy to use and targeted at children – hence the name Funscope (!).

Rating: 4.1

4. Gskyer 60mm AZ Refractor

Specifications: 60mm aperture, AZ refractor telescope

Performance: This is the equal highest rated telescope here and provides fantastic value at a low-cost.

Ease of use: A step up in challenge from the three options above but still an entry-level piece of equipment that would be suitable for a child.

Rating: 4.6 – equal highest user rating

5. Orion Skyscanner

Specifications: 100mm aperture, tabletop reflector telescope

Performance: Great piece of equipment a step up from the first three in this list (which are also tabletop reflectors). Any buyer should think about getting a 2.5x to 3x barlow lens to get the best out of it.

Ease of use: Simple enough for beginners and easy to set up straight out the box.

Rating: 4.0

6. Orion Spaceprobe 3

Specifications: 76mm aperture, reflector telescope

Performance: Slightly less powerful than the Orion Skyscanner which is offered at a similar price, but definitely capable of delivering. Comes with an ok tripod and is great value for money overall.

Ease of use: Targeted at children and so very easy to get going.

Rating: 4.0

7. Orion GoScope 80mm

Specifications: 80mm aperture, tabletop refractor telescope

Performance: High quality and very stable but you’ll need a 2.5x to 3x barlow lens to make the most of it. You get the better performance you are paying for when compared to the cheaper models on this list.

Ease of use: Easy to assemble and use.

Rating: 4.4

8. Celestron 127EQ PowerSeeker Telescope

Specifications: 127mm aperture, 1000mm focal length, reflector telescope

Performance: Very powerful and good quality. Good value for a more advanced bit of kit.

Ease of use: Definitely one of the more challenging telescopes on this list and requires some learning (although this is not necessarily a bad thing). The manual is not perfect but setup is easy and no tools required.

Rating: 4.0

See a full review of the Celestron 127EQ PowerSeeker Telescope here

9. Orion Starblast 4.5

Specifications: 150mm aperture, compact reflector telescope

Performance: One of the highest rated performers. Will require eventual upgrades of either barlow lens and/or shorter focal length eyepieces. The most powerful reflector on this list and at the pricier end but great value overall.

Ease of use: Suitable for an entry-level astronomer.

Rating: 4.4

10. Gskyer EQ 80900

Specifications: 80mm aperture, refractor telescope

Performance: A more serious piece of equipment and comes with a range of eyepieces. The most powerful refractor on this list and the equal highest overall rating.

Ease of use: Suitable for beginners but would be a challenge for children. Easy to assemble.

Rating: 4.6 – equal highest user rating overall

Skywatcher telescopes (Europe-only)

It’s also worth noting that the Skywatcher brand offers a number of good alternatives to the above telescopes which are only available in Europe. Models to consider:

3. Conclusion: the best telescope for beginners?

The ten telescopes covered here are the best low-cost models available and cover a range from very easy to use and suitable for children, to more powerful options that would suit intermediate astronomers.

If you are after a cheap, low-cost telescope to get started stargazing quickly, or looking for something for a child, then all of the first three options are perfect (the Celestron Cometron FirstScope, Meade Lightbridge Mini 82, or the Orion Funscope).

The Gskyer 60mm AZ Refractor then offers a tiny bit more complexity but is a great entry-level option.

The options above then offer higher levels in performance but are still mostly targeted at beginners, with the exception of the Celestron PowerSeeker, which requires a little more dedication to master (see a full review of this telescope here).

If you have the budget, then stretching to the telescopes at the top of the list will give you greater performance and ability to see more in the skies. You should also consider things like weight, portability and the storage space required, and whether you would be better suited with one of the compact models like the Orion GoScope or Orion Starblast over the larger tripod mounted Celestron Powerseeker or Gskyer EQ 80900.

Lastly, if you are in Europe, then consider the alternatives offered by Skywatcher. They offer similar value to the Orion/Celestron/Meade/Gskyer models featured in this top ten.

If you would like to understand more about the best telescope brands, what the specifications mean and what the accessories do, then check out what to look for when buying a telescope.

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