Best Telescopes under $300 – Why a Dobsonian is best

For those new to astronomy, it can appear to be a bit of a daunting hobby. Just a telescope mount alone can cost hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars, so many people just avoid giving astronomy a chance altogether. However, if you don’t want to spend a ton of money on a telescope, you can still find a good telescope out there for just a few hundred bucks.

Most commonly I’ll recommend reflector telescopes to new astronomers, especially Dobsonians. If you can afford a bit more, then check out these telescopes under $500. Anyway, I’ll get into the details of why Dobsonians are great for beginners later. For now, let’s take a look at some of the best telescopes you can buy now for less than $300.

Best Telescopes under $300


Celestron AstroMaster 90EQ Refractor Telescope
$289.49
Pros:
  • Instant setup
  • Good optics
Cons:
  • Small tripod
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08/31/2021 11:21 am GMT

Now, I know what you’re thinking – this isn’t a Dobsonian, it’s a refracting telescope. And whilst this is true, there are a few advantages to going for a refractor. One of the main ones for this model is that even amateur astronomers will be able to set it up pretty easily, and you can get it set up to find objects within just a few minutes.

It also comes with an adjustable height tripod. Having an adjustable tripod is a definitely advantage if you’re looking to use this with the kids, as you’ll easily be able to raise or lower it down to their level. That means for families, it may actually be the best choice at this level of price.

Amongst the included accessories are two eyepieces that can help you to get more detail in your sight, and enable you to get clear images of the night sky. Although larger apertures are usually preferred for any telescope, the payoff of this is that with a refracting telescope you’ll have very little maintenance.

Though this telescope doesn’t have a lot of magnifying power, it is perfect for getting started with. It has a slightly longer focal ratio than your average telescope, which means although it’s probably not powerful enough for any up close and personal looks of the stars, you can definitely still get some bright images.

Pros

  • If you’re searching for a beginner telescope that’s easy to set up, this may be it.
  • Image quality is above average.
  • The tripod legs are easy enough to adjust.

Cons

  • Not ideal for deep sky viewing as it has a relatively low aperture.
  • A lot of accessories but no accessory tray to hold them on.

Verdict: If power is what you’re looking for, then keep reading as a Dob will be more suitable for your needs. But if you just want to get started with astronomy as soon as possible, then this budget Astromaster may be the perfect fit.

Good value
Orion 10014 SkyQuest XT4.5 Classic Dobsonian Telescope
$319.99
Pros:
  • High quality optics
  • Lightweight build
Cons:
  • Difficult setup
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08/31/2021 11:22 am GMT

The Orion Skyquest XT4.5 is one of my favorite telescopes and you can get it for a decent price, too. It has a 4.5 inch aperture and a 900mm focal length, giving it a focal ratio of f/7.9. It’s one of the best cheap reflector telescopes you’ll be able to find online.

The SkyQuest is a Dobsonian, and as I mentioned earlier this style of telescope was invented in the 60s by John Dobson. Cheap telescopes were not readily available, so Dobson made this style of telescope for himself. He then started teaching others how to make their own telescopes in the same style, which resulted in him creating his own legendary astronomy club in San Francisco.

A Dobsonian allows a large amount of light to be gathered, much more than a refractor telescope or a Cassegrain of the same aperture. This can give us a better view of dark and dim objects out there in the solar system.

So with a Dobsonian, you’ll have the ability to see more than you could with an equivalent refractor telescope. This telescope also comes with two eyepieces and a variety of other accessories which will come in handy. It’s one of the best telescopes under 300 dollars you can purchase right now.

Pros

  • Gives you the ability to get a clear image.
  • Actually quite lightweight and easy to carry considering the size.
  • Ideal for getting views of the moon.

Cons

  • Can take a while to set up and get started.
  • Not powerful enough to see further into space (Jupiter, Saturn etc).

Verdict: This high quality telescope is one of the best options if you’re trying to stick to a low price range.

Celestron PowerSeeker 127EQ Telescope
$169.53
Pros:
  • Equatorial mount
  • Compact
Cons:
  • Takes time to get used to
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08/31/2021 11:23 am GMT

The Celestron Powerseeker series has been one of Celestron’s bestselling telescopes for years now, and it’s often recommended for those just getting started with astronomy. Whilst refractor telescopes are a good idea if you don’t want to spend time aligning your telescope, for the most power a reflector telescope like this one is definitely a good idea. It has a 5 inch aperture and a 1000mm focal length, giving it a focal ratio of f/8.0.

As I’ve said, a reflector telescope is probably your best option if you’re looking for get a telescope for less than $300. Although it’s cheap, this telescope uses a German equatorial mount, which is what many more advanced astronomers use further down the line.

So, it can give you a chance to get used to using an equatorial mount, as typically if you’ve used a mount before, it will typically have been with a camera. Cameras generally use Alt-Az mounts, not equatorial mounts. Equatorial mounts are designed to rotate on one axis, which may see weird at first, but it actually makes it a lot easier to track celestial objects in the night sky.

Although this is a large telescope, it’s still relatively portable. So, if you want to take it out of the city then it will easily pack up and fit in the back of a car. This telescope comes with two eyepieces, a Barlow lens and the ability to download software that can help you get started. This is another great telescope for those who are just getting started.

Pros

  • Easy enough to collimate and set it up properly.
  • Good if you’re looking to see some of the closer stars.
  • Difficult to find anything better when you look at the price tag.

Cons

  • The Barlow lens it comes with could be better in terms of quality.
  • Adjustment screws could be easier to turn.

Verdict: A well known starter telescope, the Powerseeker series is the perfect option if you’re looking for your first telescope. Plus, the slow motion controls will give you the chance to

Our Favorite
Orion 10015 StarBlast 4.5 Astro Reflector Telescope (Teal)
$219.99
Pros:
  • Easy setup
  • Ideal for beginners
Cons:
  • Weak eyepiece quality
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08/31/2021 11:22 am GMT

This is another Orion telescope, and you’re probably wondering what the differences are between this and the SkyQuest model which I love. Well, there are a few differences and reasons why you might want to pick this option over the Skyquest.

The SkyQuest XT4.5 is a fantastic telescope when you’re using it at high magnifications. This means if you want to get close up views of planets. then it’s perfect. Where it struggles sometimes is getting a wide angle view of of the night sky. The Starblast is more equivalent to a set of binoculars in terms of it’s viewing capabilities – it just doesn’t have the same power of the XT4.5.

Some good points that you might like about the Starblast is that it comes with a red dot finder – this won’t be for everyone, as although I don’t mind it, some people don’t like to use a red dot finder at all. The Starblast also feels much more even when you’re controlling it, as it doesn’t have the same spring mechanism set up the XT4.5 does.

The Starblast offers another decent quality telescope, but it lacks a little in power in comparison to the telescopes I’ve already mentioned. With it’s 4.5 inch aperture and 400mm focal length, you’ll have a very fast focal ratio of f/4.0.

Pros

  • Manages to gather quite a lot of light.
  • The Orion Starblast is definitely to a high quality.
  • Comes with additional eyepieces for you to use.

Cons

  • Not suited for seeing very distant objects.
  • Would prefer one with an equatorial mount type.

Verdict: One of the best overall telescopes that you’ll find on the market at less than $300.

OYS Telescope 80mm Aperture
$229.99
Pros:
  • Good tripod
  • Very portable
Cons:
  • Low quality
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08/31/2021 11:22 am GMT

Though you wouldn’t be alone in not hearing of this brand before, many telescopes at a low price point are made by alternative brands. The truth is that many of them actually use the same suppliers, meaning that there’s not too much difference in them. This model should be enough to find bright objects in the night sky, though it may struggle with faint stars.

What I like about this refractor is that it has a slightly increased aperture compared to other similar telescopes within this price range, so you can gather light very easily. Though it may not quite fulfil the needs of more advanced users, it’s a great choice for novice astronomers. The stainless steel tripod is solid too, and it uses an Alt-azimuth mount.

It comes with a smartphone adapter that you can use with the telescope too if you’re interested in getting started with astrophotography. It doesn’t any collimation either, which is a common reason why people go for a reflector telescope like this over a Newtonian or Dobsonian, which can take a while to set up.

As one of the cheaper models on this list, it definitely stands out. Plus, with a sturdy tripod and two eyepieces for you to use, it’s pretty good value for money overall. So whilst it may not be able to compete with more expensive telescopes, within this price range it definitely holds its own.

Though, the truth is that it’s going to struggle when you try and see deep sky astronomical objects, so it’s best for those just getting started. The low aperture could do with more light allowed through to the optical tube, though if you’re searching for an entry level telescope, this could be it.

Pros

  • A good choice if you’re looking for a portable telescope.
  • Comes with a high quality tripod to use with it.
  • Very quick setup process means it’s simple enough for kids.

Cons

  • Not as powerful as many reflecting telescopes – a larger aperture size would be better.
  • Can struggle in areas with high light pollution.

Verdict: If you’re dead set on getting a refractor telescope, then I’d advise that you check this one out made by OYS. It’s ideal for those looking for something that’s easy to use, which isn’t commonly found in budget telescopes.

Gskyer 70mm Aperture Telescope
$99.79
Pros:
  • Lightweight
  • Good value
Cons:
  • Low quality
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08/31/2021 11:22 am GMT

If you’re just getting started with astronomy, you don’t need to spend a ton of money. Actually, if you’ve never tried astronomy before then you might not even need to spend $300! It might be a better idea to pick up a super cheap telescope like this Gskyer refractor telescope and see how you get on with it.

You actually get a lot for your money with this package. It comes with two eyepieces, a barlow lens (3x), a small finder scope and a tripod mount. It also includes a smartphone adapter and a wireless remote which allow you to take photos very easily. The only thing it could do with is a larger aperture.

For beginners, you can’t ask for much more. In terms of the specifications, the telescope has an aperture of 70mm and a focal length of 400mm, giving us a focal ratio of f/5.7. If you combine with the the 10mm eyepiece, you’re going to get a good amount of magnification. Plus, it uses high transmission coatings to help create bright images and bring out extra features in deep space objects.

From a negative perspective, this telescope isn’t the highest quality. For those that was to take their astronomy seriously, you’re probably better off purchasing something a little more expensive. But, there are some people who buy a telescope, use it once and leave it to collect dust in the corner – if you’re one of these people, then a cheap telescope like this is probably a better idea.

It offers strong optical performance, with the only downside being a lack of power. So, this would be a great idea if you want to start exploring the night sky for a low price. Never mind telescopes under 300 dollars, you can get this for much less than that and it isn’t a bad place to start.

Pros

  • Very cheap, making it a suitable choice for kids and beginners.
  • Set it up in a flash and take it with you anywhere you go.
  • Comes with a useful carry bag that can come in handy.

Cons

  • Low powered so won’t be useful for much more than some excellent views of the moon.
  • Would prefer some easier to use motion controls.

Verdict: For those just embarking on their astronomy journey, this might be the perfect choice. Alt-azimuth mounts can be okay for those just beginning their astronomy journey, and this could be a good option for amateur astronomers.

Telescope Buying Guide – Questions Answered

Can I see Venus with a telescope?

You can see the planet Venus with a telescope, but it’s actually a lot more difficult to see properly than people think. Many astronomers choose to view Venus in the daylight, as trying to see it before sunrise or after sunset can be hard as it’s surrounded by haze. Plus, Venus is actually clouded by a thick fog, so seeing the planet itself is notoriously difficult. You may be able to see Venus with the best telescope under $300 if you have some good accessories, and you’re lucky with the weather too.

What eyepiece should I get with my telescope?

Pretty much any telescope can work really well with a 1.25″ eyepiece, as this won’t increase the magnification too much. You can get a larger eyepiece than this if you want to see things in greater detail, but it isn’t always necessary depending on which telescope you have. A 2 inch eyepiece can also be very valuable, and they tend to be better if you’re trying to get a wide field of view.

What does the F number mean in regards to telescopes?

The F number on a telescope refers to the focal ratio. This is the ratio between the aperture of the telescope and its focal length. Where people get confused is the use of inches in relationship to the focal length – to get the ratio, we need to divide the focal length by the aperture, both measure in millimetres. So if you have a focal length of 1200mm, and an aperture of 100mm, you’d end up with a focal ratio of 12 (represented as f/12).

What type of telescope is a Newtonian?

A Newtonian telescope is a type of reflecting telescope. It takes it’s name from, you guessed it – Isaac Newton. Newton invented the telescope by using a concave primary mirror to reflect onto a flat mirror positioned diagonally to get the best result. Though if you want high quality optics you’ll have to up your budget significantly, reflectors offer excellent value.

Why do you prefer a reflector telescope?

As mentioned earlier, for beginners and those looking for a cheap telescope, I much prefer a reflector as opposed to a refractor telescope. You’re going to be able to see more with the reflector telescope due to the amount of light it gathers. Dobsonian telescopes are my favourite type of reflector, especially when it comes to finding one on a tight budget.

Why do you recommend a Dobsonian?

Why a Dobsonian? Well, John Dobson (the creator of the Dobsonian) was an amateur astronomer himself. He created the Dobsonian himself as an alternative to the professional telescopes that were prevalent in the sixties, as it wasn’t easy for amateurs to partake in the hobby. Generally, Dobsonians are considered to be a good telescope for beginners. They may not always have a large aperture, but this probably isn’t necessary if you’re just getting into astronomy. They can make things easy for you, so a telescope with high power probably isn’t worth it at the start (you can pick one up when you get a little bit more experienced!).

Are Dobsonian telescopes good for viewing planets?

If you’re just looking for something to view planets with, then a Dobsonian is going to be a good choice. Why? Well, there are a few reasons for this. The main reason is that Dobsonians were designed to be cheap and powerful, so they can see further into the sky – perfect for viewing planets. They also typically come with pretty good equatorial or Alt-az mounts as well. So, a Dobsonian is going to be a good choice for this.

Conclusion

All in all, these are just some of the best telescopes you can find for less than $300. Of course, there are other types of telescopes like Cassegrains, but typically they’ll cost a little more than $300. If you’re looking to get in depth views of celestial objects and the solar system, I’d advise you to go for a reflector over a refractor telescope.

For most people who are just getting started, one of the telescopes I’ve listed should be more than enough to get you going. If you have any questions, please feel free to leave a comment below.