Please read the update page for some important updates to this site.
Some brands to avoid: Tasco is sold at Toys R Us, K-Mart, &
Wal-Mart. Waste of money.
Editorial Note: Tasco's really a distributor, not a manufacturer, and some of their older (>30 yrs. old) scopes are decent. The current models are generally poor, though.
Simmons: Another waste of money, worse than Tasco.
Bushnell: I have looked at this companys telescopes 1st hand and I do not belive that they would withstand one full night of usage viewing the sky. They are even WORSE than Simmons! They are so bad they make Tasco junk look good!
You will also find useful articles in the November 1991 issue of Astronomy (specs on a wide range of telescopes, and answers to a lot of the questions about technical jargon surrounding advertisers and equipment. There is also an article in the November 1991 issue of "Popular Astronomy." Both Astronomy and S&T (especially the former) do review articles on telescopes, accessories, etc. on a fairly regular basis. Also, no FAQ list is going to be truly definitive--we all have our own opinions and interests, and one person's "piece-of-junk optics" might be another person's dream telecope. This does not apply to department store telescopes, though. Really.
Orion: Orion has a 60mm Refactor for under $200.
"Stargazer Steve": For just over $200 Stargazer Steve has a 3in Newtonian Reflector. (Editorial Note: An odd name, but one worth looking at if you're interested in a cheap (as in "inexpensive" rather than "shoddy") telescope. He also offers a 4.25" Dobsonian in kit form, for around $300, and a 6" kit is also supposed to be available soon. This may be one of the best options for someone on a severely cramped budget.)
Edmund Scientific Edmund Scientific Co. has a 3" reflector for around $230.
Orion: Orion has both 6" f/8 and 8" f/6 and 10 f/4.5 Dobs along with their 4.5" Skyview Reflector and 90mm refractor telescopes. If you go bare bones, you can even get one of their 12.5" Dobs for just under $900.
Meade: I've not seen them up close, but Meade also
makes some Dobs that fall into this price range too. Meade also has
a line of equatorial reflectors that fall into this price range.
They also have a line of refractors too. You have to find a dealer
that handles Meade as they do not do mail order like other
Editorial Note:Lumicon and Astronomics are two widely-regarded Meade dealers (addresses given in section 7 below).
Celestron: Celestron has 2 Dobs under the 'Star Hopper' name, a 6" f/8 and a 8" f/6 model; they both are in this price range. Celestron has a refractor or two (conventional achromats) in this price range.
TeleVue: TeleVue has two popular, widely-regarded small refractors in this price range.
Tele Vue Pronto: A beautifully made 70mm f6.8 ED doublet Semi-APO refractor. It is a small astronomical telescope that can also be used as a spotting scope. With very sharp optics it can easily show much lunar detail, banding on Jupiter, the rings of Saturn, as well as a number of deep sky objects. Weight: aprox. 6 lbs., length: 18 inches. Front cell can take a standard 82mm photo filter. It comes with protective travel bag. You can get the Pronto with 2" Tele Vue mirror diagonal or 1 1/4" diagonal or 1 1/4" 45 deg correct viewing prism.
Tele Vue Ranger: A beautifully made travel scope for astronomy or wildlife spotting with the same sharp optics as the Pronto. It is a 70mm f6.8 ED doublet Semi-APO refractor like the Pronto but it is lighter and uses a unique, silky smooth, in-line helical focuser. Weight: approx. 3.5 lbs, length about 18 inches. Comes with either a 1 1/4" mirror diagonal or 1 1/4" correct viewing prism.
For more info see Tele Vue's ad in the Astro-Mall at: http://www.rahul.net/resource/
Murnaghan: Another company is Murnaghan instruments, now making the Odyssey line of Dob telescopes. (Editorial Note: Murnaghan acquired the basic design and philosophy from Coulter Optical when that company went bankrupt.) They range from 8 inch f/4.5 to 13.1 inch f/4.5 Dobsonians. Taken from a recent Murnaghan advertisement:
|TUBE (Length X O.D.) AND WEIGHT
Improvements [in brackets] now apply to ALL ODYSSEY (tm) SCOPES!
|PRICE COMPLETE ($ U.S.)|
6 in. f/8
|48 X 8 in. Double-Strength Sonotube, 37 lbs.
[Rock-Solid Dob mount, big Teflon bearings,Improved Micro-Focuser]
8 in. f/4.5
|37 X 10 in. Ultra-Compact-Deep Space, 39 lbs. 27 mm Coated
[Easy-Adjust Rear Cell, Provisions for Cool-down Fan option]
8 in. f/7
|57 X 10 in. Lunar/Planetary Scope, 59 lbs.
27 mm Coated eyepiece.
[Improved stability, Mount points for optional Finder Scope and Balance Kit installation.]
10.1 in. f/4.5
|45 X 13 in. Extremely portable, only 65 lbs.
Large Aperture, Wide-Field, 1-person setup.
[Improved low-obstruction spider, secondary.]
13.1 in. f/4.5
|59 X 16 in. a BIG scope for LESS! 97 lbs.
Better Optics, Large Aperture and Improved Mount System for Maximum Big-scope Stability.
Coulter Optical (tm), a part of Murnaghan Instruments Corp. 1781 Primrose Ln., W. Palm Beach, FL 33414 U.S.A. Ph. 1-561-795-2201, Fax 1-561-795-9889, E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
You'll find some of the bigger Dobs and SCT's around this price.
Editorial Note: Higher-end (lower aperture per unit price, but often better optics and overall design) Dobsonians start showing up in this price range as well.
Editorial Note: SCTs are among the most rapidly changing telescopes, in terms of features and accessories. The information below is up to three years old and should be taken with some caution. However, though the details have changed over time, the basic price range has not.
Meade: The Meade 2120B The cheapest 10" Schmidt-Cassegrain I could find, except for the 2120A, which appears to be the same scope, but without the coatings. The 2120A sells for $1500 from the discounters, so the B is almost certainly a better buy. The 2120B appears to be an f/10 scope with a fork mount.
Meade: The Meade 10" LX200. Tons of wiz-bang features (see above), for not a lot more than the Premier 2120s. The finder scope looks like the feeble one that came with my 2120/40, but you can certainly live with that for a while.
Listed below are telescopes by three companies, Astro-Physics, Takahashi, and Obsession. Several of the optical tube assemblies are under $3000 but with a new mount most of the complete telescope assemblies cost more than $3000.
These are not the only telescopes costing more than $3000, but they are the ones I am more familiar with.
"Apo" (Apochromatic) refractors, have special objective lenses that produce images essentially free of false color, with very high contrast. There are a number of manufacturers, some given below.
Optical Tube Assemblies by Astro-Physics:
|Aperture / f ratio||tube length
(dew cap retracted)
|105mm f6 EDT APO||19 inches||9 lbs|
|130mm f6 EDF APO||28.5 inches||15 lbs|
|130mm f8 EDT APO||36 inches||16 lbs|
|155mm f7 EDF APO||41 inches||23 lbs|
|155mm f7 EDF APO *||41 inches||23 lbs|
|180mm f9 EDT APO||60 inches||35 lbs|
* astrograph with 4 inch focuser and 4 inch flat field lens (the other Astro-Physics OTAs have 2.7 inch focusers)
Astro-Physics mounts: All Astro-Physics mounts can be used with JMI NGC-MAX computers.
|Model||Capacity||Weight of equatorial head|
|400 German Equatorial Mount||Refractors up to 5.1", reflectors to 6", Cassegrains to 8"||20 lbs (9.1 kg).|
|600 German Equatorial Mount||Refractors up to 6.1" f9, reflectors to 8", Cassegrains to 10"||27 lbs (12.3 kg).|
|800 German Equatorial Mount||Refractors up to 7.1", reflectors to 10", Cassegrains to 12"||45 lbs (20.5 kg).|
|900 German Equatorial Mount||Capacity not listed||38 lbs (17.3 kg).|
|1200 German Equatorial Mount||Approx. 90 lbs.||72 lbs (30.9 kg).|
Takahashi makes some of the finest APO refractors in the world.Takahashi uses fluorite rather than ED glass to achieve excellent color correction. The three listed below are fluorite doublet APOs.
Takahashi makes a number of different types of telescopes and accessories. They are imported in the U.S.A by Texas Nautical Repair Company/Land Sea and Air (713) 529-3551. Call your local Takahashi dealer for current prices and specs.
Optical Tube Assemblies by Takahashi: call dealer for current prices.
|Aperture||Tube length||O.T.A. wieght|
|78mm f8.1 FS-78 APO||28 inches||6.5 lbs|
|102mm f8 FS-102 APO||36 inches||11.5 lbs|
|128mm f8 FS-128 APO||?||about 22 lbs|
Listed below are only two of several mounts available.
This information was supplied by Rich Neuschafer:
You should call Obsession for current prices and specs (414) 648-2328.
|Aperture||f ratio||primary mirror maker|
Well, there are three basic places:
The advantages of this method is that you have someplace to return the telescope to if you have problems with it. Some places even offer your money back if you change your mind within some grace period.
The disadvantage is that you generally pay more for the telescope itself, and you pay sales tax.
The advantages and disadvantages of mail order are obvious: you cannot take the merchandise back easily if something goes wrong, but it's cheaper and you probably pay no sales tax.
The disadvantage is that you are buying something "as is"--which you may want to think twice about doing if you are buying an expensive telescope. Also, both Meade and Celestron offer (limited) lifetime warranties on their optics, which are not transferable.
All that having been said, here is a list of places you can buy telescopes, with comments as applicable. Note that all will sell direct or will ship.
Telescope and Binocular
P.O. Box 1158
Santa Cruz, CA 95061
(also San Francisco and Cupertino)
Telescope and Binocular Center (nee Orion Telescopes) carries a wide selection of binoculars, telescopes,and accessories (Celestron, Tele Vue, and their house brand; they do not carry Meade). They have a 30 day "no questions, satisfaction guaranteed" refund policy, which they do seem serious about. A fair number of people (myself included) have bought at Orion and all are very satisfied with the way they were treated. This place is fairly expensive, and they have the unfortunate policy of charging a "stocking fee" if you buy from the store, which always seems to be the same as the postage and handling fee for mail ordering from their catalogue (which they will send you for free if you call them). If you need technical assistance when you call, ask for Steve or Eric. They have a very good service and support record.
2111 Research Dr. #5
While I have not had any dealings with this company, the messages I've seen on sci.astro.am have all had good things to say about them.
2401 Tee Circle Suites 105/106
Norman, OK 73069
Higher prices than Adorama and Focus (see below), but lower than Orion and Lumicon. Enthusiastically recommended by a couple of people on the net. As with all mail order, make sure the shipping price is included.
Enthusiastically recommended by a few people on the net.Owned by Glenn Jacobs who goes to most of the astronomy get-togethers in the NY-NJ-PA-CT area so you actually meet him if you live in the area. Often willing to cut a package deal if you are buying big ticket items. No problems returning things with which you are dissatisfied.
11 Tanglewood Lane
Enthusiastically recommended by a person on the net. Not the least expensive, but top-notch service. Roger unpacks, inspects and collimates every scope he sells, and is very good about refunding your money if you are dissatisfied.
A few people have reported using University Optics, and all report receiving good service. I have heard no complaints.
270 Easy St.
A couple of people have mentioned that shipment can be pretty delayed,but the quality of their equipment appears to be high, and improving.Salespeople vary from knowledgeble to bubbleheaded.
42 West 18th Street
New York, NY 10011
orders: (800) 223-2500
info: (212) 741-0052
Along with Focus Camera (see below), the lowest prices you will find.Expect no dealer support, and make sure you find out how much they will charge for shipping before placing your order. And pray that the optics arrive intact. I really would recommend that you not buy telescopes from these guys. Eyepieces and other accessories, however, are probably worth the risk if the price difference is significant.
4419-21 13th Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11219
orders: (800) 221-0828
info: (718) 436-1518
Refer to Adorama. Same comments apply.
Pauli's Wholesale Optical
A lot of bad reports, order at your own risk!
There are some exclusively electronic resources as well. For example, there is the AstroMall. From the AstroMall advertisement in the original FAQ:
One stop astronomy shopping and product information
See in-depth product information for such companies and products as:
Tele Vue Optics, Edwin Hirsch, Spectra Astro-Systems, Lumicon, Software Bisque, Astro-Cards, Astronomical Adventures, Bethany Sciences, Equatorial Platforms, Jim Kendrick Studio, Science Software, Celestial Products, Gnome Technologies, Custom Ophthalmics, Analytical Scientific, Galactic Images, Murnaghan Instruments, Crazy Ed Optical, Celestial Scripts, Deepsky 2000 and more...
email@example.com and request
AstroMall.txt for current information request form
It appears that most people want to get about 75% of list when advertising in the astronomy mags (Starry Messenger, S&T, etc). This is probably not enough of a discount to make it worthwhile. If you can find something at 50% of list, you might want to think about it. A used telescope is just as good as a new one if it's been properly stored, transported and used.
There is also the AstroMart Ad service.
Astromart is a free resource to the Internet community with 1,700 subscribers. It is strictly Astro Classified ads. All ads are distributed via electronic mail as well as on the web with look-up keys and a search engine. It is the best way to buy and sell used astronomy stuff around with 7,000 to 8,000 hits a week on the web pages.
To subscribe send a message to: Majordomo@lists.best.com.
In the first line of the message type: subscribe astromart
For the digest version type: subscribe astromart-digest
We just took a rather unusual approach to getting a beginning telescope: we took John Dobson's telescope building class and built an 8"and a 12.5" reflector on Dobsonian mounts (of course). We went this way for a few reasons: to get large aperture for seeing deep sky objects and higher magnification with good resolution when compared to small refractors in this price range, to keep the price down, and to soak up John's wit and wisdom. The down side is that these telescopes are not suited for astro-photography (at least not without building a different mount) but that didn't bother us. Also they are large. The 8" tube we broke into two pieces for easy portability, but the 12.5" one will probably go on the roof rack. These are about f/7 telescopes so the tube lengths are 56" and 7' respectively. Of course, when you build yours you can make whatever size you want. On the other hand you can pack your clothes in them; try that with an SCT. The cost was about $250 for the 8" telescope, $450 for the 12.5"er plus about 24 to 30 hours of work and 16 - 24 hours of class. It's a challenging project but the first time you focus on something with a mirror you ground is an incredible thrill. Another benefit is that we now know a lot about telescope design and if we ever have problems with them we know how to fix them.
If you don't have access to John's (or other peoples) classes then you can try building one by reading his book and by watching the video. Our class was the first to see parts of the video and had great success at finishing the telescopes fast and without needing to correct the mirrors very much. Coincidence? Class consensus was no.
The book (excerpted from the order form): "How and Why to Make a User-Friendly Sidewalk Telescope" by John Dobson with Norm Sperling.To appreciate why Dobson makes each factor just so, learn how he thinks about it. His philosophy of star-gazing perfuses his telescopes and his book. The book includes the only detailed biography;wonderful vignettes from the Sidewalk Astronomers'many expeditions;their own special way of describing celestial objects; and, of course,complete details for making a Dobsonian. 169 pages; 154 clear,friendly line drawings; 9 photos. Hardbound in plywood, Dobson's favorite material. Exclusive source. Send $39.95 + $5.00 shipping to Everything in the Universe, 185 John Street, Oakland, CA 94611.
The video (also excerpted from the order form): For the first time on video, John Dobson shows how you can build your own low-cost Dobsonian Telescope. The 90-minute video is a complete step-by-step guide, covering telescopes from 8 inches to 16 inches in diameter.$39.95 +$3.50 shipping. Converted to HTML: February 25, 1996
Last Modification: December 16, 2000