If you’re thinking about buying a telescope, then you’re going to want to know exactly how much you should spend on a telescope. Much of this will depend on your budget, and it goes without saying that you shouldn’t spend more than you can afford. So how much does a good telescope actually cost? Let’s have a look.
How much does a good telescope cost?
If I’m being completely honest, a good telescope typically can’t be bought for any less than several hundred dollars, and I’d estimate that between $300 and 500 is a good starting point where you’ll see a difference in performance. However, you can pick up telescopes both for a cheaper price than this, and a whole lot more expensive too.
It’s a difficult question to answer, because everyone’s perspective of what is good is going to be different. It also heavily depends on the type of telescope you’re going to get, as they all have different costs. Whilst a reflector may have a 5 or 6 inch aperture whilst only spending a few hundred dollars, a refractor will be significantly more expensive. Cassegrains tend to be a similar price to reflectors.
If you want quality optics and the most powerful telescope possible, then I think you should opt for a reflector over refractor telescopes. Here’s why.
What’s the best choice if I’m trying to save money?
When I’m recommending telescope for those who are trying to save money, I’ll always suggest that they look for a Dobsonian telescope first. In fact, there are a few Dobsonian’s on my list of the best telescopes under $300, which is a testament to how much value they provide for their price.
The reason? Well, Dobsonians are typically made up of the cheapest materials possible to build a telescope with. Whilst this might sound like a bad thing, it means that this enables you to get telescope with a larger aperture. And what does a larger aperture mean? Yes, you’re right – more light, and therefore more power.
The Dobsonian has long been the choice of amateur astronomers who are trying to save money when buying a telescope. In fact, the Dobsonian telescope was even invented John Dobson as an alternative to professional astronomy equipment that the working class man couldn’t afford. Dobson had his own astronomy group in San Francisco, and he loved showing people how to build a telescope like his.
By inventing the Dobsonian, he left a legacy behind of the ability to make cheap telescope that pretty much anyone can use.
What should I look for in a good telescope?
When you’re looking to buy a good telescope, there are a few things that you’ll want to take into account. Remember; everyones idea of good is subjective to the person, so I’m just going to give you some of the things that I think you should be looking for as a beginner.
Type of Telescope
If you’re trying to save cash and still get a good telescope, then you need to think about the type of telescope you’re going to get. You won’t be able to afford an SCT, and a powerful refractor will be too expensive too. So, this is why I usually recommend Dobsonian reflectors or Newtonian reflectors for those trying to save cash.
If you have a little more to spend, then you can start to look at refractors and catadioptric telescopes. They may not have a long focal length at cheaper prices, but they can still get some detailed views of the moon and stars with the right accessories.
For a good telescope, you’ll want at least 4 inches of aperture to be able to see things in detail. However, ideally you’ll get a telescope with between 6 and 8 inches of aperture, as this can allow more light through and enable you to get a better, brighter view. If you want the ability to see bright objects, you’re going to need 6-10 inches of aperture.
The focal length is just the distance between the lens.mirror and the eyepiece of your telescope. We get the focal ratio by dividing your telescopes focal length by it’s aperture. For example, if your telescope has a focal length of 1000mm, and an aperture of 125mm, then you’ll have a focal ratio of f/8.0.
This is important to consider, as telescopes with a short focal ratio will be better for wide angle views, whereas telescopes with a long focal ratio are better for more zoomed in and closer views of object far away. So, think about this before you make a decision.
You probably won’t have much of a choice here if you’re trying to save cash, as many cheaper telescopes come with alt-az mounts. However, if you can afford it, then I’d advise that you go for a telescope with an equatorial mount. This is what more professional astronomers use, and it’s an essential for astrophotography.
The overall verdict is that you don’t need to spend a whole lot of money when you’re buying a telescope. If you can, opt for a telescope within the $300-1000 dollar range, as this is where you’re going to be able to get a really good telescope.
However if you don’t have this kind of money, then don’t let this dissuade you from astronomy. Pick up a cheaper telescope to learn the ropes with, and save up for a better one in the future when you’re money advanced!