To find the best telescopes for astrophotography, we analyzed 367 images shortlisted for the Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition in the past three years to examine which models were used.
Using this data, we have made recommendations on the best astrophotography telescopes for different people and purposes – photographing planets, photographing deep-sky objects, and the best budget, beginners, and portable options.
See below for quick recommendations or read on to understand more.
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Last update on 2022-05-22 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
Best Telescope for Astrophotography – Data Analysis
We analyzed the equipment used in 367 images shortlisted for the world’s leading astrophotography competition – Astronomy Photographer of the Year – in 2019, 2020, and 2021.
You can read the full analysis here, covering cameras, mounts and other gear, but in this article we will focus on astrophotography telescopes.
From the 367 photos, 189 used telescopes (i.e. some used just camera lenses) and so we can examine these to see the most successful astrophotography telescope brands and models.
Best Astrophotography Telescope Brands
Firstly, our data shows that Celestron is the most successful manufacturer of astrophotography telescopes, with their models being used in 22% of all shortlisted images using telescopes:
Takahashi comes second, Sky-Watcher third, and Planewave fourth.
It should be noted that these different brands generally serve different markets:
- Takahashi make high-level astrophotography telescopes for experienced users
- Planewave make giant specialist models for observatories
- Celestron and Sky-Watcher both offer models for both beginners and more experienced users
Best Astrophotography Telescope Overall
When looking at the top ten specific models, we find that there are four Celestron models and three Planewave models:
The Takahashi FSQ-106ED was the most successfully used astrophotography telescope overall.
This is a quadruplet apochromatic refractor telescope tailored for experienced astrophotographers but is quite hard to find to buy these days, so – if this is what you’re after – then you might want to consider an alternative apochromatic refractor from our recommendations below.
The four Celestron models are all from their range of catadioptric Schmidt-Cassegrain telescopes that can be used for both astronomy (observing) and astrophotography:
All of these models can be bought as standalone telescope tubes (OTAs) or as part of various packages that include mounts and tripods.
The Planewave models are advanced, specialist Corrected Dall-Kirkham (CDK) telescopes designed for use with observatories:
The Sky-Watcher 8″ Quattro Imaging Newtonian was fifth overall. This is a relatively budget reflector telescope.
Now we can break up the data for photographing deep-sky objects like galaxies and nebulae, and photographing the planets and moons in our solar system to see what telescopes are working best for each.
Best Telescope for Deep Space Astrophotography
From our data, there were 112 images shortlisted that used telescopes for deep sky imaging.
Best Telescope for Planetary Imaging
There were 76 planetary images in our data set.
From these we find the Celestron Schmidt-Cassegrain telescopes dominating:
The Sky-Watcher ED120 refractor telescope completes the top five.
Best Celestron Telescopes for Astrophotography
Now looking at the leading brands individually, from the 367 shortlisted images, 43 used Celestron telescopes (35 planetary, 8 deep-sky).
Their Schmidt-Cassegrain models of 8, 9.25, 11 and 14-inch apertures dominate:
Just to note that some of these are the OTAs (telescope tubes) only and then the mounts would be separate – this is the case for the top six.
Some others, like the Nexstar SEs, CPC 800, 114 LCM are packages with telescope and mount in one. Note that the OTA for the NexStar 8SE and CPC 800 is the same as the C8.
Best Sky-Watcher Telescopes for Astrophotography
27 images used Sky-Watcher Telescopes (15 planetary, 12 deep-sky).
As noted above, the Sky-Watcher Quattro 200P Imaging Newtonian has been extremely successful.
Of all the Sky-Watcher telescopes, it is a fairly even mix between reflectors like the Newtonians and Dobsoniand, and the apochromatic refractors, like the Evostar 120ED:
Now we will examine some of these telescope models in more detail.
Best Astrophotography Telescopes
Best Telescope for Planetary Imaging
It is clear from our data above that Celestron’s range of Schmidt-Cassegrains are great astrophotography telescopes.
They can be bought in a range of different apertures – 8, 9.25, 11, and 14-inches – and they can also be bought either as standalone OTAs or as packages combined with mount and tripod.
We have selected this NexStar Evolution 8 bundle as:
- It’s a great package that will work well for both astronomy and astrophotography
- It’s relatively affordable compared to some of the other Celestron SCTs (they get more expensive as the aperture gets larger)
- It can generally be found in stock to buy – this is a big issue at the moment for many of the Celeston telescopes (and any telescopes) due to the current global supply chain challenges
It has an 8-inch aperture, which is large and will provide great views, and it comes with a quality computerized mount so that you have all you need in one.
You can watch a quick overview of the Evolution telescopes here:
- Great Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope OTA that our results show is proven for astrophotography
- Perfect all-in-one bundle for someone looking for a great telescope to use for both astronomy and astrophotography
- Relatively expensive
- Fairly heavy and bulky
- You need to buy an additional equatorial wedge to get the very best out of this model for deep space astrophotography
The same 8-inch Schmidt Cassegrain telescope tube can be bought as a standalone OTA, or as part of the NexStar 8SE package. But the Evolution bundle comes with the best mount and has built-in wifi and battery – see Celestron Nexstar Evolution 8 vs Nexstar 8SE if you want to compare further.
There is also an HD version, which has some features to make it better for astrophotography but is very hard to find in stock right now, plus there is a Celestron 8-inch RASA, which is an astrograph – i.e. it only works for imaging and not for observing.
If you want one of the bigger aperture models, check out our article on the most powerful telescopes you can buy to see what’s available.
Overall, this is a great all-in-one bundle that is relatively easy to use and great for astrophotography.
- Type: Catadioptric (Schmidt-Cassegrain)
- Aperture: 8 inches (203 mm)
- Focal Length: 80 inches (2032 mm)
- Focal Ratio: f/10
- Weight: 40.5 lbs (18 kg)
- Mount: Alt-Azimuth (Computerized)
Best Telescope for Deep Space Astrophotography
You’ll see from our results above that the best telescope overall is an apochromatic refractor, like this model from Sky-Watcher.
These are telescopes with a lens system that features two (doublet), three (triplet), or four (quadruplet) pieces of glass. This works to reduce chromatic aberration, which is a form of distortion that can appear when imaging.
This model is a doublet refractor with 4.7-inch aperture (it can also be bought with smaller apertures in the 72ED, 80ED, and 100ED models). It gives crystal clear optics and works best with a guided mount.
If you’d like to watch an in-depth overview of this telescope series then Sky-Watcher has a one-hour recorded webcast on it’s YouTube channel covering this:
- Great for deep space and planetary astrophotography
- Relatively light and easy to manage
- Will work for astrophotography only, and so you’d need another telescope if you also wanted to be observing
- Not a package, so you will have to have a separate mount (see the best mounts for astrophotography)
Overall, this is perfect if you already have a good astrophotography mount and want a dedicated imaging telescope for deep space.
- Type: Apochromatic Refractor (Doublet)
- Aperture: 4.7 inches (120 mm)
- Focal Length: 35.4 inches (900 mm)
- Focal Ratio: F/7.5
- Weight: 11.3 lb (5.1 kg)
- Mount: Not included
Best Budget Telescope for Astrophotography
Our astrophotography competition data above shows that this telescope is the fifth most successful overall, and the fourth-best for deep-sky imaging. It’s also notable that it is holding its own alongside some really advanced specialist telescopes that cost a whole lot more.
You can watch an in-depth overview of Sky-Watcher’s imaging newtonians here:
- Proven performer for deep space astrophotography
- Great value in terms of aperture to price
- Fairly large and bulky and not so portable
- Not a package, so you will have to have a separate mount
Overall, reflectors like this are slightly harder to handle than refractors due to the weight and size but this provides great value and our findings show that it can produce astronomy images at the highest level.
It also works for both observing and imaging, which is an advantage over the apochromatic refractor models (like the EvoStar above). You’ll need a separate mount to use it – see the best mounts for astrophotography for recommendations.
- Type: Newtonian Reflector
- Aperture: 8 inches (203 mm)
- Focal Length: 31.4 inches (800 mm)
- Focal Ratio: F/3.9
- Weight: 21 lb (9.5 kg)
- Mount: Not included
Best Portable Telescope for Astrophotography
This new telescope from TPO is an ultra-compact astrophotography telescope. It weighs less than 1 lb and so is perfect for travel or just for the convenience of using an ultra-lightweight bit of gear, instead of lugging around something much larger.
This is a great option for those with a DSLR camera and who want to have a go at deep-sky astrophotography. It’s also cheap enough (and small enough) to buy and take on vacation to give it a go, unlike most of the other models on this page which are either too large, too fragile, or just too expensive.
It’s between this and the Sky-Watcher Quattro above for the best cheap telescope for astrophotography. Or alternatively, the William Optics ZenithStar 61II is a great option that is both portable and cheap.
- Very small and light
- Lower aperture than many of the other models
- Type: Apochromatic Refractor (Triplet)
- Aperture: 1.6 inches (40 mm)
- Focal Length: 7 inches (180 mm)
- Focal Ratio: F/4.5
- Weight: 0.9 lb (0.4 kg)
- Mount: Not included
Best Telescope with Camera Built-in
If you were to put price aside, then this would definitely be the best astrophotography telescope for beginners.
It’s a smart telescope that has everything you need all in one – no need for a separate camera, mount, tripod or any other accessories.
It is operated via an app on your smartphone or tablet, locating deep-sky objects for you in space and sending pictures straight to your phone for easy sharing on social media.
The only downside of this convenience is that it is pretty expensive – check the prices using the button below.
- Incredible ease-of-use, no need to learn the ins-and-outs of astrophotography and fitting bits of gear together
- Slick modern feel
- The pictures it produces are great, but not the same as what you’d get if you spent a similar amount on a good astrophotography telescope and mount and were getting the most from them
- Many purists will find the process of imaging from these less rewarding than the labor-intensive process of putting your setup together and finding and imaging an object
You can read our detailed overview of the Stellina vs eVscope for more details on these smart telescopes that have only recently entered the market and are really disrupting things.
- Type: Smart/Hybrid Telescope
- Aperture: 3.25 inches (80 mm)
- Focal Length: 400 mm (15.8 inch)
- Focal Ratio: F/5
- Weight: 24.7 lb (11.2 kg)
- Mount: Computerized
FAQs: Astrophotography Telescopes
Which type of telescope is best for astrophotography?
There are broadly three types of telescope that work well for astrophotography:
- Catadioptric telescopes – like the Celestron Schmidt-Cassegrain models that are great for both observing and imaging. Depending on the size you get these can be reasonably compact but can get aifrly large and heavy.
- Apochromatic refractors – these can be very small and portable (but get bigger at higher apertures). They are used exclusively for imaging and not observing.
- Newtonian/Dobsonian telescopes – these tend to be very large and bulky but generally give the best bang for buck in terms of power for price.
What is best for you will depend on your budget and preferences regarding size and ease of use.
Aside from the telescope type, you also need to consider whether to buy as a bundle with a telescope, mount, and tripod all in one, or to just buy the telescope tube (OTA) and get a mount separately.
Can you do astrophotography with any telescope?
You can definitely do some form of astrophotography with any telescope.
For smaller telescopes on alt-azimuth mounts, you might be limited to using your smartphone (attached with an adapter) as it won’t take the weight of a larger camera.
What size telescope do I need for astrophotography?
The key thing is aperture. This is the diameter of the telescope’s lens and the bigger this is the better, as the greater the light-gathering abilities.
There is no real minimum, but the higher apertures generally mean higher cost and larger/heavier telescopes.
What’s the best telescope focal length for astrophotography?
Focal length is less important than the aperture in terms of the telescope’s capacity to capture light for viewing or images.
Higher focal lengths are better for photographing the moon and planets, as you are zooming in closer to objects that are relatively near to the earth. Lower focal lengths are better for deep space imaging, as you are capturing a wider expanse of space as these objects are much larger and further away.
One thing to pay attention to is the focal ratio. This is the f-number (f/2, f/10, etc) which is calculated by focal length divided by aperture. The lower this is, the better, as it indicates that the telescope is faster and better for imaging.
What’s the best telescope for astrophotography beginners?
There are a few options for beginners’ astrophotography telescopes:
- If you want the absolute easiest option and have the money then go for a smart telescope – see our article on Stellina vs Evscope.
- If you want a more traditional telescope, and if you can afford it, we would recommend a catadioptric telescope bought in a bundle with mount and everything you need included, like the Celestron NexStar Evolution 8. A more budget option would be something like the Celestron NexStar 6SE.
- If you want something cheap and portable to just give it a go with your DSLR camera, then the TPO Ultrawide 180 would be a good option
What are the best telescopes for astrophotography with DSLR cameras?
Any of the telescopes recommended above can be used with a DSLR camera (or mirrorless camera).
You just need the correct adapters to attach it (see below) and a mount that can take the weight of the telescope and camera together.
How to connect a camera to a telescope?
The best way to use a DSLR to take photos through a telescope is to attach the camera directly to the eyepiece of your telescope.
This can be done with the addition of two small pieces of extra equipment:
- A T-Ring – this fits into your camera where the lens would normally go
- A T-Adapter – this connects to your telescope eyepiece
Unfortunately, these items are not universal and you need to make sure you get the right T-Ring for the camera you have, and the right T-Adapter for the telescope you have:
- To attach your camera to a Celestron telescope you will need the Celestron T-Adapter and a T-Ring – see here for Canon cameras and here for Nikon cameras.
- To attach your camera to an Orion telescope you will need the Orion T-Adapter and a T-Ring – see here for Canon cameras and here for Nikon cameras.
- To attach your camera to a Meade Instruments telescope you will need the Meade T-Adapter and a Meade T-Ring – see here for Canon cameras and here for Nikon cameras.
How to connect a smartphone to a telescope?
Adapters are available to connect smartphones to telescopes to enable you to take photographs with your phone.
The leading telescope manufacturers have their own smartphone adapters:
If you are interested in this then you might like to read our guide to smartphone astrophotography.
What’s the best telescope for photographing the planets?
The planets of our solar system are much farther away than our moon, but much closer than far-off galaxies.
For photographing the planets, you need a telescope with a large aperture as well as a long focal length.
The longer focal length is more important for planetary photography because you want to get as close as possible to the object you are shooting (a planet) and it is (relatively) small – at least in terms of space. Think of it as using a long telephoto lens to photograph a bird.
This is different from deep-sky photography where you are shooting something that is ridiculously huge like a galaxy.
What’s the best telescope for deep sky astrophotography?
For deep sky imaging then, you are shooting something much larger and much farther away. The best telescope is therefore one with large aperture, short focal length, and fast focal ratio.
This is because you are taking images for longer periods and need to gather as much light as possible. The larger the aperture, the greater the light gathering.
Also, larger telescopes with longer focal lengths put greater demands on your mount. This can lead to small tracking errors which are magnified with long focal lengths.
Therefore apochromatic refractors can be perfect for deep sky imaging, as can be catadioptric telescopes with large apertures.
What’s the best telescope for photographing the moon?
The moon is the closest and easiest space object to photography. However, the right equipment can make a huge difference and you can aspire to take stunning images.
For photographing the moon, if the conditions are right (i.e. no clouds, dark moon, no light pollution), you don’t need as much aperture in your telescope as you would for photographing other objects that are much farther away (i.e. the planets and galaxies).
So if this is your focus, then you can get a lower-spec telescope (say 4-inch aperture) and get great results.
What’s the best telescope for photographing the sun?
Photographing the sun is a separate practice altogether and requires strong filters. It goes without saying, never look directly at the sun through your telescope or camera as you can do serious damage to your eyes.
Some telescope manufacturers offer specialist solar photography telescopes with the filters in built.
What is the best telescope with a camera?
Hybrid telescopes with built-in cameras are relatively new developments but make brilliant options for beginners looking to get into astrophotography in as simple a manner as possible.
The most popular of these are the Stellina and the eVscope – check out our article on telescopes that can take pictures (Stellina vs eVscope).
What is the best GOTO telescope for astrophotography?
We would recommend one of the Celestron packages that combine a Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope with a GOTO mount.
There are quite a few different bundles with different aperture OTAs and different mounts with examples being:
What is the best astrograph telescope?
An astrograph is a category of telescope that works just for imaging and not observing. The best examples of this are:
- Sky-Watcher EvoStar 120ED – an apochromatic refractor
- Planewave CDK 17″ – a Corrected-Dall-Kirkham for observatories
- Celestron RASA 11 – a Rowe-Ackermann Schmidt Astrograph
Can a Dobsonian telescope be used for astrophotography?
Yes, Dobsonians can be used for astrophotography by attaching DSLR/mirrorless cameras or dedicated CCD/CMOS astronomy cameras with the right adapters.
Are Newtonian telescope good for astrophotography?
Yes, the Sky-Watcher 8″ Quattro Imaging Newtonian is one of the most successful astrophotography telescopes in our competition research above.
Do you need an equatorial mount for astrophotography?
Not necessarily but equatorial mounts are better for long exposure deep space astrophotography as they can smoothly track the object in the sky in any direction.
The other type of mount is an alt-azimuth which tracks only in up-down, left-right directions and so is not ideal, although these mounts are much easier to use for astronomy observing.
See the best telescope mounts for astrophotography for recommendations.
In Conclusion: What’s the best telescope for astrophotography?
- Get a Schmidt-Cassegrain like the Celestron NexStar Evolution 8 if you want the best telescope for photographing planets, plus something you can use for viewing as well and that comes as an all-in-one package with telescope, mount, tripod and everything you need.
- Get the Sky-Watcher EvoStar 120ED if you want a apochromatic refactor for deep sky imaging and have (or plan to buy) a separate mount.
- Get the Sky-Watcher Quattro 200P for a good budget option if you can handle the size and weight and have a separate mount
- Get the TPO UltraWide 180 if you want a something ultra-light and portable (and cheap)
- Get the Vaonis Stellina if you want the easiest astrophotography solution in one (and can afford it)
We hope you found this article and research useful to help you find the best telescope for astrophotography.