Best Telescope for Astrophotography [2020]

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In this article, we present the best telescope for astrophotography using a combination of data research and manufacturer recommendations.

If you are looking for a quick recommendation, then the Celestron CGX-L 14-inch is your best option. It can be bought as a bundle, so you get everything you need in one.

At-a-glance, our top options are:

Celestron CGX-L 14″Takahashi FSQ-106EDCelestron 8″ EdgeHDVaonis Stellina
Best bundleBest standaloneBest value optionBest for ease of use
Celestron C14TAKAHASHI FSQ-106EDX4 TELESCOPEVaonis STELLINA Observation Station and Hybrid Telescope with Gitzo Systematic Short Tripod
Get it nowGet it nowGet it nowGet it now

Read on for more details of other great options for astrophotography telescopes and how to decide what is right for you.


Table of Contents

1. How to know what is the best telescope for astrophotography?

In order to work out what the best telescopes for photographing space are, we did two things:

  1. We analyzed the data from the 119 images that made the finals of the Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition.
  2. We asked the major telescope manufacturers what they recommend as the best for imaging.

Analysis of telescopes used by the finalists of the Astronomy Photography of the Year competition

We analyzed the equipment used in the 119 images of the finalists of the Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition (see the full data here).

See the results here displaying the number of times a certain telescope was used in different images:

As you can see, the top ten most popular telescopes are:

  1. Celestron CGX-L 14″
  2. Takahashi FSQ 106ED
  3. Celestron 8” EdgeHD
  4. GSO RC10 250mm (no longer manufactured)
  5. Astro-Physics 167mm apochromatic refractor telescope
  6. Celestron 11” EdgeHD
  7. Celestron 9.25″ NexStar Evolution
  8. PlaneWave CDK-17 432mm Dall-Kirkham reflector
  9. Sky-Watcher 355mm Newtonian reflector
  10. TMB92SS 92mm apochromatic refractor (currently manufactured by APM Telescopes)

Some of these telescopes are high-budget specialized items (for example, the PlaneWave model), but five of the ten are from Celestron or Sky-Watcher and are accessible to beginners (albeit, not cheap).

There are broadly three types of telescope in this list (and through this article):

  1. Catadioptric telescopes (like the Celestron models) – these are more compact telescopes that can be bought as bundles and are great for both observing and imaging.
  2. Apochromatic refractors – used mostly for imaging and not observing.
  3. Newtonian/Dobsonian telescopes – tend to be very large and bulky but generally give the best bang for buck in terms of power for price.

For relative beginners, if you can afford it, we recommend a catadioptric telescope bought in a bundle with mount and everything you need included, like the:

If you have the space at home then a dobsonian might be for you, and if you already have a good mount and want a telescope just for photography then an aprochromatic refractor might be for you.

Recommendations from the leading telescope manufacturers

In researching this article, we reached out to the leading telescope manufacturers Celestron, Meade Instruments, Sky-Watcher and Orion to get their recommendations on the best telescopes for astrophotography.

Their recommendations are taken account of in the telescopes featured in this article, but you can see their full responses in the FAQs section below.


2. Recommended astrophotography telescopes

Celestron C14

1. Celestron CGX-L 14-inch

As you can see from the data above, this was the most successful telescope in the Astronomy Photographer of the Year contest, so its credentials for being one of the best telescopes for astrophotography are clear.

It has a very large 14-inch aperture, but, as a catadioptric telescope, is not too bulky or heavy, and can be easily packed and stored.

It can be bought as part of a bundle that includes the (computerized) mount and everything that you’ll need, so it a great beginner option for someone looking to just buy and start taking amazing images of the night sky.

It works just as well as a telescope for observing, so doesn’t require separate pieces of equipment for astronomy and astrophotography.

Specifications:

  • Telescope type: Catadioptric (Schmidt-Cassegrain)
  • Aperture: 14 inches (356 mm)
  • Mount: Equatorial GoTo (motorized)
TAKAHASHI FSQ-106EDX4 TELESCOPE

2. Takahashi FSQ-106ED

This is the most popular apochromatic refractor used by the finalists of the astronomy photographer of the year contest.

This is a specialist astrophotography telescope that will need to be used with a mount.

Specifications:

  • Telescope type: Apochromatic Refractor
  • Aperture: 4.2 inches (106 mm)
  • Mount: not included

3. Celestron EdgeHD 8-inch

This Celestron Schmidt-Cassegrain is the perfect telescopes for those wanting to get into astrophotography (or astronomy in general).

It has a computerized equatorial mount, which is perfect for space photography.

This is the 8-inch version, that is powerful enough to view and capture images of planets and deep sky objects (galaxies, etc).

If you want different options to suit your budget, you can also explore the same model with slightly lower 6-inch aperture, or upgraded 11-inch aperture – remember, the larger the aperture, the more light is gathered. The Celestron NexStar 9.25-inch is another option popular for astrophotography.

To attach your camera to this telescope, you will need the Celestron T-Adapter and a T-Ring – see here for Canon cameras and here for Nikon cameras.

Key specifications:

  • Telescope type: Catadioptric (Schmidt-Cassegrain)
  • Aperture: 8 inches (203 mm)
  • Mount: Equatorial GoTo (motorized)
Orion Sirius ED80 EQ-G Computerized GoTo Refractor Telescope

4. Orion Sirius ED80 EQ-G Computerized GoTo Refractor Telescope

Alternatively, this is an apochromatic refractor telescope and mount package offered by Orion.

It has a GoTo equatorial mount with a database of 42,000 objects in space to explore.

This is a telescope tailored for astrophotography with the key benefit of being small and portable.

To attach your camera to this telescope, you will need the Orion T-Adapter and a T-Ring – see here for Canon cameras and here for Nikon cameras.

You might need to buy a field flattener to improve your imaging of deep sky objects.

Key specifications:

  • Telescope type: Apochromatic refractor
  • Aperture: 3.1 inches (80 mm)
  • Mount: Equatorial GoTO (motorized)
Meade Instruments 0810-60-03 8-Inch LX200-ACF (f/10) Advanced Coma-Free Telescope

5. Meade Instruments LX200-ACF 8-Inch

This is a high performance telescope for those with a higher budget.

It would suit those who are ambitious with their astronomy and astrophotography and is one of the best telescopes available for amateur users.

It can locate over 145,000 objects in space in its database.

The 8-inch aperture will enable great imaging but there are also more powerful options available in 10-inch, 12-inch, and 14-inch apertures.

It uses an Alt-Azimuth mount, rather than an Equatorial one, but the addition of the Meade X-Wedge enables optimum astrophotography.

To attach your camera to this telescope, you will need the Meade T-Adapter and a Meade T-Ring – see here for Canon cameras and here for Nikon cameras.

Key specifications:

  • Telescope type: Catadioptric (Advanced Coma-Free)
  • Aperture: 8 inch (203 mm)
  • Mount: Alt-Azimuth GoTo (motorized)
Sky-Watcher ProED 80mm Doublet APO Refractor Telescope

6. Sky-Watcher ProED 80mm Doublet APO Refractor Telescope

This is a great value doublet apochromatic refractor telescope from leading manufacturer Sky-Watcher.

This model has 80 mm aperture, and there are also more powerful alternatives – with 100 mm and 120 mm apertures, which will increase the light-gathering potential.

Key specifications:

  • Telescope type: Apochromatic refractor
  • Aperture: 3.1 inches (80 mm)
Meade Series 6000 115mm f/7 ED Triplet APO Refractor Telescope

7. Meade Series 6000 115mm f/7 ED Triplet APO Refractor Telescope

This is a triplet refractor from leading manufacturer Meade Instruments.

This telescope is designed solely for astrophotography and is regarded by Meade as “the best telescope model we have for photography”.

It’s lighter than the Orion above at around 12 lbs, and so won’t be as demanding on your chosen mount.

Key specifications:

  • Telescope type: Apochromatic refractor
  • Aperture: 4.5 inches (115 mm)
Orion 09565 EON 130mm ED Triplet Apochromatic Refractor Telescope (White)

8. Orion 09565 EON 130mm ED Triplet Apochromatic Refractor Telescope

This triplet refractor offers improved viewing and imaging possibilities than the doublets above, but the extra quality is reflected in the price.

Key specifications:

  • Telescope type: Apochromatic refractor
  • Aperture: 5.1 inches (130 mm)
Vaonis STELLINA Observation Station and Hybrid Telescope with Gitzo Systematic Short Tripod

9. Vaonis Stellina

This is something completely different, but worth including for any beginners that are just looking for the easiest shortcut to astrophotography.

The Stellina is telescope with in-built camera that does everything – locate and photography deep sky images at the press of a button.

You can read our detailed overview of the Stellina vs eVscope for more details on these astrophotography telescopes.

Key specifications:

  • Telescope type: Smart/hydbrid telescope
  • Aperture: 3.25 inches (80 mm)

3. What do you need in a telescope for astrophotography?

We should start by saying that for astrophotography, you need three main things:

  1. A camera
  2. A mount
  3. A telescope

The focus of this article is on the telescope, but it would be incomplete to not cover these other things – in particular, the mount.

Most beginners probably won’t appreciate the importance of the mount but in many ways it’s as important as the telescope you get.

Let’s now cover each item briefly in turn.

The Camera

Firstly, the camera.

The main choice is really between a regular DSLR/mirrorless camera, or a specialist astrophotography camera.

Most people, especially beginners, will do best to just make use of a regular DSLR or similar camera. You don’t need a specialist astrophotography camera to start with.

We cover the best cameras for astrophotography here, so check that out if you want a detailed overview.

For the purposes of this article, we’ll assume that you are planning to use a DSLR as your camera of choice.

Orion Sirius Pro AZ/EQ-G Computerized GoTo Telescope Mount

The Mount

Secondly, the mount.

A mount is a piece of equipment that fits between your tripod and telescope. It works by slowly moving where your telescope is pointing to compensate for the rotation of the Earth.

This allows you to focus on an object and track it in the sky for longer and allow you to focus on it and take longer exposures.

This means you can gather more light and take better pictures of the galaxies, planets, or whatever you want to shoot.

There are two main types of mount:

  1. Equatorial mounts, and
  2. Alt-Azimuth mounts.

The headline you need to take away is that equatorial mounts are more precise than Alt-Az mounts and therefore better suited to astrophotography.

The mount you use should also be motorized so that you don’t have to adjust it by hand. This is important as manually moving it causes vibrations and degrades your images. For astrophotography, your camera needs to be perfectly still for longer periods.

The third consideration in a mount is that you will probably also want GoTo functionality. This means that your mount has the ability to automatically find and track objects in space from a database.

This makes it much easier and quicker. Note though that some prefer to learn manually – the choice is yours. Manual mounts will generally be cheaper than GoTo equivalents too.

Therefore, the best mount for astrophotography will be:

  1. Equatorial
  2. Motorized
  3. GoTo

See the best mounts for astrophotography.

Sky-Watcher ProED 80mm Doublet APO Refractor Telescope

The Telescope

Thirdly, the telescope.

We recommend two different types of telescope depending on your circumstances:

  1. Telescope packages for beginners that include a GoTo mount
  2. Standalone telescopes for intermediate (or ambitious) users who want to buy a mount separately

The easiest option for beginners is to buy a complete package with a telescope and mount.

You only need then to attach your camera to get going with your astrophotography (note, this may require additional adapters which can be bought).

The alternative to buying an all-in-one package is to buy everything separately.

The advantage is that you can usually get more advanced and specialist astro-imaging equipment (in the telescope and the mount).

The downside is that it requires more work to make sure you get what you need.

If you already have a good mount (or plan to buy one separately) then we recommend going for what’s known as an apochromatic refractor telescope for astrophotography.

These are telescopes with a lens system that features two (doublet) or three (triplet) pieces of glass. This works to reduce chromatic aberration, which is a form of distortion which can appear on the images.

If you want a detailed explanation of the different telescope types, see our overview here, but the TLDR is that there are three main types of telescope:

  1. Refractors
  2. Reflectors
  3. Catadioptrics

They each have their own characteristics but catadioptrics and refractors are generally smaller and easier to use.

The key specification to look out for is the aperture. The bigger this is, the better.

Larger apertures gather more light and therefore can take better astro images (see here for a detailed overview of different telescope specifications).


4. Astrophotography telescope FAQs

What is the best Meade Instruments telescope for astrophotography?

We asked Meade what they regard as their best astrophotography telescopes and here’s what they recommend:

“The best telescope model we have for photography would be our 6000 series triplet APOs. These are designed solely for astrophotography.

Our LX200 series are another good model line for DSLR cameras as well as the LS 8” model.

Another good series would be the LX85 on a German Equatorial mount.”

– Meade Instruments in email to Skies & Scopes, June 2019

What is the best Orion telescope for astrophotography?

We asked Orion what they regard as their best astrophotography telescopes and here’s what they recommend:

“This Orion 8″ f/3.9 Newtonian Astrograph Reflector Telescope would be a good option.

For a complete package we would recommend the Orion StarBlast 114mm AutoTracker Reflector Telescope.”

– Orion Telescopes in email to Skies & Scopes, June 2019

What is the best Sky-Watcher telescope for astrophotography?

We asked leading telescope manufacturer Sky-Watch what they recommend as their best astrophotography telescopes:

“Depending on the users budget there are several choices.

The Esprit range of triplet refractors are the best.

Others to consider are the Evostar-ED DS PRO Doublet Refractors, the Explorer-190MN Maksutov-Newtonian, the Quattro, and Explorer-PDS series Newtonians.”

– Sky-Watcher in email to Skies & Scopes, June 2019

What is the best Celestron telescope for astrophotography?

Celestron didn’t reply to us (c’mon Celestron!), but our recommendations are any of these:

  1. CGX-L 14-inch
  2. EdgeHD 8-inch
  3. NexStar 9.25-inch

You could also consider for lower budgets the NexStar SE range of telescopes.

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 power 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. The Celestron Nexstar 4SE could be a good option for a package.

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 larger aperture (say, 8-inches) 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.

For context, our galaxy, the Milky Way, contains somewhere between 200 and 400 billion stars and least as many planets.

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 and a short focal length.

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 small (3 to 4 inch) apochromatic refractors (for example, the Sky-Watcher ProED 80mm) can be perfect for deep sky imaging, as can be catadioptric telescopes with large apertures (such as the Meade LX200-ACF).

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. See the Meade Instruments Cornado PST Personal Solar Telescope for example.

What’s the best beginner/entry-level astrophotography telescope?

For beginners, we recommend you get one of the astrophotography telescope bundles recommended above:

You could also get a telescope with a manual (not GoTo) mount.

This will make it harder, but may push you to learn and will generally be cheaper.

What’s the best intermediate or advanced astrophotography telescope?

For those who are already experienced in using telescopes and/or in astrophotography, we recommend to get a good quality mount and telescope separately.

The standalone telescopes we have recommended above, such as the Sky-Watcher Doublet Refractor are good options.

What’s the best portable or home astrophotography telescope?

If you want a compact telescope that is easy to store and transport, then your best options are either:

If you get a very light apochromatic refractor, you could also consider using it with a DSLR star tracker but you will need to check the payload capacity and combined weight of your camera and telescope.

This would then result in a very lightweight and compact astrophotography setup.  Although it will not have the GoTo functionality to be able to locate objects in space for you.

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.

Are there telescopes with cameras built in?

Yes, these are a relatively new development 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).

5. Conclusion – Over to you

Overall, there are two ways to get the best telescope for astrophotography for you.

Firstly, you can buy an all-in-one bundle that gives you a telescope and mount together. This is perfect for beginners who want to get into astrophotography with the minimum of fuss.

Secondly, you could buy the telescope and mount separately. This can enable you to get better quality equipment but requires a bit more work and research.

Hopefully this guide has helped you out and the recommended telescopes are right for you.

If you want to read more about this then please see our comprehensive guide to buying telescopes and our beginners’ guide to astrophotography.

Please let us know if you have any thoughts on what we’ve covered here in the comments below, or if you have different views on what the best telescopes for astrophotography are.

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