When researching and buying a telescope, choosing one from a reputable brand can be a good way of ensuring you get a quality product.
On the other hand, there seemingly good value telescopes available for sale from unknown brands. Should these be avoided or are they bargains?
We dig into this below.
Reputable telescope brands and manufacturers
There are four major brands known for retailing reliable, quality telescopes. These are:
This is not to say that every telescope made by these manufacturers will be great. Or that a telescope made by other brands will be poor, but these are arguably the most popular brands and have been around for some time.
As such they are experienced in producing reliable equipment for different budgets and have reputations to protect. Therefore all offer useful after-purchase customer service through their websites.
See our article on the best telescopes for beginners for good examples of telescopes from these manufacturers.
Other reliable brands
Other notable telescope manufacturers include:
These generally produce telescopes for the slightly more serious and experienced user.
Professional and custom-build telescope manufacturers
There are also a number of specialty and premium brands, many of whom offer customization on large telescopes for the buyer.
We won’t delve into these telescopes here, but companies include:
What it means for buying by brand
One thing that is worthy of note is that many popular telescopes are manufactured by the same few companies in China and Taiwan and then rebranded and sold under different brands.
For example, both Celestron and Sky-Watcher are owned by the Synta Technology Corporation of Taiwan (source), who also manufacture telescopes for Orion (although Orion remains independent and US-owned (source).
Another is the Chinese manufacturer Guan Sheng Optical (GSO), who produces telescopes to be sold under their own brand as well as through companies like Orion, Zhumell and Apertura, amongst others.
This can then lead to situations were very similar telescopes are produced by these manufactured and tweaked and rebranded by the leading brands.
There is nothing wrong with this but if you do your research and decide what telescope you want, you may be able to find it sold under different brands for different prices.
However, there are reasons why it might still be a good option to favor Celestron, Orion, Meade or Sky-Watcher etc, and that is that they are US-based companies that will provide good customer service.
Some other telescope companies are now just brands carried on by the overseas manufacturers for marketing purposes. For example, Gskyer was previously a German manufacturer of telescopes but they went out of business as a company some years ago (source). The brand name lives on as it is being used by another Chinese manufacturer.
This doesn’t mean that there is anything wrong with the telescopes sold under this brand but it might mean that you won’t get much after-service if needed.
To illustrate, there is no official Gskyer website or contact details for the company anymore. This may be an issue should you need support. They may be also unlikely to cover any warranty, although the seller (for example, Amazon) will probably provide one.
Telescope brands to avoid
As a general rule, if you are looking to get a good quality telescope and you don’t know where to start, go for a telescope from one of the brands listed at the start of this article and avoid buying from department stores from brands you’ve not heard of.
A good giveaway is if a telescope boasts about its “magnification” level, as magnification is not a good indicator of the capabilities of the telescope. Generally, the best measure of the capability of a telescope is its aperture. The higher this is, the more light the telescope gathers and the better, clearer images you can see through it. See here for a good explanation of this.
Have your say
What’s your view on the best and worst telescope brands?
Let us know in the comments.