The best astrophotography telescope expands the universe from your backyard. Do you want to see detailed views of the Moon and nearby planets? Or do you prefer capturing deep-sky astroimages of the brightest nebula in the northern hemisphere, the Orion Nebula? Know what type of telescope to select based on your main interests. And then start exploring the night skies.
An ED (Extra-low dispersion) refractor for deep-sky imaging makes an excellent beginner astrophotography telescope. Refractors have no collimation requirements. Plus, their focal lengths don’t need the tracking or guiding accuracy required by Cassegrain or Newtonian scopes. That makes it a suitable choice for starting.
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Here are some of the items to keep in mind during your selection of an astrophotography telescope.
If you already have a camera you plan to use, you’re ahead of the game. But if you’re still wondering which astrophotography camera is best, we’ve got you covered.
Another hugely important piece of astrophotography is the mount you use. An equatorial mount on a sturdy tripod reduces motion for clear images. But its main job is tracking the celestial object so you can take longer exposures.
Keep the mount’s weight capacity in mind when selecting an astrophotography telescope. Expect the mount to perform at its best with only half the listed payload amount. Even with counterweights, an unbalanced load will cause you problems.
Setting a budget for your astrophotography hobby is necessary, but knowing everything you’ll need when starting out is tricky. So instead, you may piece together a setup over time, shopping for the best deals as you go. And that’s a perfect way to collect astroimaging equipment.
Even if you have the financial ability to buy everything at once, that doesn’t mean it’s the setup you’ll keep forever. You will likely outgrow equipment or learn about new technology or software that changes your operations.
Astrophotography gets expensive fast, so feel free to look at the used market if you’re comfortable doing so. You’ll get a reduced price and a lesson from the seller.
The best astrophotography telescope lets you capture images of the celestial targets that interest you most. Long focal lengths allow high-magnification pictures of planets or the moon.
Shorter focal lengths with fast optics capture broad fields of view as they gather in light. So you can take that picture of a whole nebula region in one wide shot.
Knowing your desired target is vital for selecting the right telescope. For example, a lower f-ratio means the scope collects more light faster than one with a higher f-ratio.
When selecting a first (or second, or third!) telescope for astrophotography, the focal ratio crucial factor to consider. The Focal Ratio (or f-ratio, f-stop) measures ‘speed’ in an optical system. A lower f-ratio collects light faster than a higher one. That becomes more important when you want to shoot star and nebulae images.
Best Astrophotography Telescope: Planet & Lunar Viewing
Celestron C11 Optical Tube Assembly (OTA)
The massive 11″ aperture has a substantial light-gathering ability. Celestron’s high-quality opticals make the C11 an excellent choice for planetary and lunar astroimaging. Jupiter’s Great Red Spot and swirling gas clouds pop out with this telescope. It has good performance, even in the suburbs with light pollution.
This scope is easy to use, with a 27.5-pound weight that’s (somewhat) manageable for moving around. You can take it to dark-sky areas for serious planetary astrophotography. The C11 has Celestron’s patented optical coatings, so imaging faint galaxies and nebulae are possible, too.
We recommend mounting the C11 permanently. Yes, it’s portable. Yes, you can move the around. Yes, you will have to spend a lot of time setting it up each time you move it. It’s a serious telescope for folks who are very serious about astronomy. The Celestron C11 is not a beginners telescope.
|Celestron C11 Optical Tube Assembly (OTA)|
|Includes||40mm eyepiece (70x) 9×50 optical finderscopeStar diagonal1.25” visual backCGEM-style dovetail bar|
Best Astrophotography Telescope: Nebulae Viewing
The ED 102 is a professional-grade air-spaced triplet apochromatic refractor that lets you explore deep-sky objects with advanced features. It does a decent job with medium-sized galaxies. And it gets you right up close to nebulae, allowing you to image them in detail.
Explore Scientific has quality optics in an affordable scope. It’s perfect if you already own a mirrorless or DSLR camera. The combination will bring you hours of astroimaging fun while producing high-contrast photos.
You’ll get a wide field of view with detailed images from the 660mm focal length. The APO lens makes for excellent color correction. The ED 102 is a superior visual and astrophotography telescope that opens you to a world of planetary and nebulae imaging.
|Explore Scientific ED 102 Triplet APO|
Best Astrophotography Telescopes: Midrange for Most Night Sky Viewing
Mid-range focal ratios let you observe and image planets and nebulae. They give you the best of both worlds in astrophotography telescopes.
Celestron NexStar 8SE Computerized Telescope
This setup is the complete package for a beginner or intermediate astrophotographer. Capture unforgettable images of the moon and planets with good galaxies, nebulae, and star field pictures. During the day, you can even use the NexStar 8SE for wildlife or nature shots.
- A focal ratio of f/10 is moderately slow and best for planet astroimages. Use the native focal length of 2032mm.
- A focal reducer speeds up the ratio to f/7 while reducing the focal length to about 1422mm. This range is suitable for galaxies and brighter nebulae.
- Use Celestron’s Fastar or HyperStar technologies to replace the secondary mirror and allow fast CCD imaging. Get a focal ratio from f/1.9 to f/2.3, about 28 times faster than imaging at f/10. Perfect for faint deep-sky objects.
Celestron’s high-quality optics and StarSense celestial database make astrophotography easy.
|Celestron NexStar 8SE|
|Focal Length||2032 mm|
Best Astrophotography Telescopes Under $500
Here are some of the best beginner astrophotography telescopes under $500. They are lighter, so you can use a smaller Equatorial Telescope Mount, EQ3-EQ5.
|Gskyer 130EQ||Celestron AstroMaster 130EQ||Sky-Watcher EvoStar 72 APO||Celestron StarSense Explorer DX 130AZ||Orion 6” f/4 Newtonian Astrograph|
|Optics||Reflector||Newtonian Reflector||APO Doublet Refractor||Newtonian Reflector||Newtonian|
Gskyer 130EQ $300
For under $500, this Gskyer takes great smartphone images of the moon and nearby planets. Change the photo magnification with the included eyepieces.
A wireless remote control pairs with your phone with Bluetooth, so you don’t have to touch the phone to snap an image. That cuts down on movement and focusing issues, giving you more detailed photographs.
You can also live stream images or videos to social media or even share them with friends. Have a remote viewing party and share photos with someone taking shots on the other side of the world!
It’s the beauty of these easy-to-operate astrophotography telescopes that work with smartphones. They make the universe accessible to beginners while expanding our world here on Earth.
Use the Gsker 130EQ during the day for bird and landscape photography. It comes with everything you need for basic astrophotography.
With the right seeing conditions and the planet’s proximity to Earth, you can see some details on Jupiter with this Celestron telescope. Also, see lunar details and Saturn’s rings.
Of course, you’ll gather more of the details you seek by stacking images or processing the video from your attached camera. Use the included counterweights for balancing the scope and camera.
Alternatively, easily center your smartphone over the scope’s eyepiece using the adaptor. Then take images and video with your phone’s camera. You can still do some post-editing on your phone via Photoshop to remove noise or increase shadows and sharpness.
Teens or adults appreciate the AstroMaster 130EQ’s quick and easy setup. The German Equatorial mount has smooth pointing, but you might want a motorized mount for easy tracking.
This setup has all the basics you need to get started with astrophotography. The telescope has two eyepieces, an adjustable tripod, and a red dot finderscope.
Sky-Watcher EvoStar 72 APO Optical Tube
The Sky-Watcher EvoStar offers an affordable optical tube for visual astronomy and astroimaging. It has a matched doublet object with outstanding color correction. So you get a sharp photograph with accurate colors.
As your skill set grows, this telescope will evolve with you, so you won’t need to purchase a better setup anytime soon. Just add your camera or eyepiece to start exploring the Solar System.
Amateur astrophotographer, Christian Lenoir, took the Orion Nebula image below with the EvoStar 72mm and a Canon EOS 5D MkIII camera. He also used an Optolong L-Enhance filter and an Orion field flattener.
This image stems from 31 30-second exposures, DSS software stacked, with Photoshop post-processing. It is an excellent example of images you can capture with the right equipment.
This refractor’s Vixen-style dovetail, two tube rings, and light weight make it easily pair with a mount of your choosing and budget. Staying with the Sky-Watcher product line makes this telescope compatible with the EQM-35, HEQ5, or EQ6-R.
Here is another option with all the equipment you need to begin capturing planetary and lunar views immediately. Celestron makes it super-easy to use your smartphone to locate celestial objects.
Follow the on-screen arrows and the StarSense Explorer app for a guided night sky tour. It generates a list of targets within your timeframe and geographic location. You can use the app in night-vision mode so your eyes stay adapted to the dark.
Brand-new telescope users can quickly start viewing planets, brighter nebulae, and galaxies, which is the beauty of this setup. The manual altazimuth mount has slow-motion dual-axis controls so you can follow the on-screen arrows.
Even easier is that a bulls-eye turns green when locked on target for eyepiece viewing. The app does a great job centering the planet or Messier objects you’re trying to view.
If you want to get going immediately, this StarSense Explorer telescope is perfect. It’ll get you exploring the night skies. And it will take good lunar and nearby planet images.
This Newtonian Astrograph is optimized for wide-field astrophotography with a DSLR or CCD camera. However, since it is designed for deep-sky astroimaging, you must purchase eyepieces separately for visual use. This telescope is best for intermediate astronomers.
The 6-inch aperture gathers plenty of light. The scope has a fast f/4 photographic speed at 610mm focal length. So it takes short exposures with high-resolution images, making it suitable for faint objects. So you get crisp images of the bright Messier objects with a good mount.
Includes: 2 heavy-duty hinged tube rings, 8×50 finder scope, and a Dovetail mounting bar.
Needs: EQ6-class Mount, Coma Corrector, Collimater, T-Ring, Power Supply, and Eyepieces for Visual Observations
Best Astrophotography Telescopes $500-$1,500
Photograph the cosmos up close with one of these median price-range telescopes.
|Celestron NexStar 130SLT||Orion ED80T||Sky-Watcher ProED 100||Celestron NexStar 127SLT||Sky-Watcher Quattro 250P|
|Optics||Newtonian Reflector||Apochromatic Refractor||Apochromatic Refractor||Maksutov-Cassegrain||Newtonian Reflector|
The Newtonian reflector Celestron 130SLT has an open tube for faster cooling (than a closed tube) and more resistance to dew formation. It also has a secondary mirror. The 130SLT is best for beginner to intermediate astrophotographers wanting good lunar and planetary images.
Like many Celestrons, a bonus is the Starry Night astronomy software that helps you learn and plan your night sky observations. Then, use the Sky Tour to discover celestial objects within your viewing and imaging range.
With any of the telescope “packages,” you may consider swapping out tripods for sturdier versions with a good equatorial mount. But this tripod will get you started if you want to snap photos.
Orion offers versatile triplet apochromatic refractor optics in this telescope with ED glass (extra-low dispersion.) It provides clear resolutions without aberrations.
This telescope lets you take great astroimages with wide fields of view, so your camera can capture entire clusters and nebulae. It also excels in visual observations for the nights you don’t plan to capture images.
It has a robust dual-speed Crayford focuser, a dovetail finder scope base, and a handy 2″ to 1.25″ step-down adapter. Use your existing eyepieces without incurring more expenses.
Sky-Watcher’s APO 100 refractor telescope is a matched doublet objective with a synthetic fluorite element. The “ProED” glass is beneficial for high contrast and color correction. In addition, the metallic high transmission coatings virtually eliminate false coloration. All of which are great for astrophotography.
The telescope is best for planetary and lunar imaging with its focal length of 900mm and f/9 focal ratio. It’s an excellent all-around beginner scope for visual observation and astroimaging.
It is adaptable, so you might use it more often, which is the best review for any telescope. You can grow into this astrophotography telescope.
With the same objective size as the 130SLT, you’ll get similar detail levels when viewing and imaging deep-sky objects with this 127SLT.
A significant difference with this 127SLT is the closed tube, which doesn’t cool as quickly as open tubes. So you may need a dew shield attached to your telescope barrel. Check the sizing before ordering. (There are more expensive models, but this is the dew shield we use and we’re quite happy with it.)
However, the Maksutov-Cassegrain optics need little to no alignment before use, while the Newtonian needs alignment with each use. Since alignment is part of telescope ownership, it’s not a big deal.
The most significant difference between the two scopes is their focal ratios, so you can actually get a wider field of view with Newtonian optics. However, you’ll get a sharper field with pin-point stars with the Maksutov.
So, both scopes are excellent astrophotography telescopes, but they serve slightly different purposes. The Newtonian gives you a wide field to capture large star clusters, while the Mak gives you a somewhat narrow field of view with sharper detail closeup.
Sky-Watcher Quattro 250P Imaging Newtonian
This Sky-Watcher 250P Imaging Newtonian is an excellent light-catcher at a reasonable price. So you’ll pull in enough light to capture nebulae and galaxy images.
The Sky-Watcher 250P has fast f/4 optics to gain greater detail in short exposure times. In addition, the oversized secondary mirror on Quattro Newtonians illuminates full-frame DSLRs and APS-C without vignetting. That means less brightness reduction or periphery saturation in your image.
The knife-edge baffles keep your neighbor’s porch light from entering the optical tube and ruining your images.
Best Astrophotography Telescopes Over $1,500
For serious astrophotographers looking to up their game, these telescopes are the best of the best. Come prepared with your (credit card) mount, camera, and many accessories for the best results.
|Sky-Watcher Quattro 300P||Unistellar eVscope eQuinox||Celestron Edge HD 11″||Vaonis Stellina Observation Station||ORION EON 130MM ED|
|Optics||Newtonian Reflector||Newtonian Reflector||Schmidt-Cassegrain||Refractor||ED Triplet Apochromatic Refractor|
Newtonians capture a lot of light for the money compared to refractors. So you’ll catch more light on your distant galaxy target in a shorter time. This optical tube is affordable for its big aperture.
Capturing all that light makes excellent nebulae and galaxy astroimages. You’ll also get lunar views filled with so much detail you won’t be able to believe your eyes.
The optical tube’s knife-edge baffles keep stray light out, so you get better views and images, even in the suburbs. The optional coma corrector is recommended for the best astrophotography telescope results.
This optical tube is heavy, so you’ll want to pair it with a heavy-duty mount, like the Sky-Watcher EQ8-R.
Unistellar eVscope eQuinox Smart Telescope
Unistellar makes a sleek-looking smart telescope with self-aligning software. It has superb build quality and takes crisp, bright 4.8-megapixel photos.
At first glance, you might think this is only a camera, but Unistellar aims to create the best telescope for areas with high light pollution.
There’s no eyepiece, so you can’t use the scope for traditional visual observations. Instead, you view night skies through your attached smartphone or tablet. Old-school astronomers might miss bending over a telescope and peering into the eyepiece.
The eVscope eQuinox has one stand-out feature, Enhanced Vision (EV) mode. When using it, the eQuinox captures images every four seconds. It stacks and refreshes the composite image on your tablet.
So even though initial galaxy images are disappointing, the EV creates sharp, clean galaxy photos. It works just as well for nebulae and open or globular clusters. The results far outweigh what you can see peering through the eyepiece of a similar-size reflector telescope.
EdgeHD 11″ has a huge aperture and impressive optical performance with its aplanatic, flat-field Schmidt-Cassegrain optics. So you’ll get near-perfect astroimages all the way to the end of the Solar System.
Rear cell tube vents release hot air from the primary mirror. The the vents allow hot air to exit the telescopes without dust entering the telescopes. Micro-mesh filters provide air filtration.
Of course, it comes with a hefty price tag, so this scope is for advanced astronomy geeks who want top-of-the-line quality.
This setup needs some tweaking to make it perfect for astrophotography. An EdgeHD focal reducer and Celestron’s Fastar technology speed you up for a super-fast focal ratio. Remove the secondary mirror for f/2-fast CCD imaging. What’s a little more cost when you’re this deep into your hobby anyway?
This futuristic-looking observation station and hybrid telescope may not look like anything you’ve seen before. But, even though it is costly, Vaonis’ AP 80/400 STELLINA has some attractive features.
Astrophotography is very easy with this hybrid telescope. You don’t need to buy accessory eyepieces, finderscopes, or filters.
You only need to press a button, and STELLINA does the rest. Of course, some might say using this system is a shortcut and not for them. But this is a dream come true for others who want to observe real-time image stacking without all the post-processing work.
This smart telescope connects to your smartphone or tablet (up to 10 devices simultaneously). Its app gives you (limited) celestial object connections based on your location. Choose your destination, and STELLINA auto-aligns and focuses.
Stepper motors track the target, and once the telescope fixates on it, it automatically begins live-stacking images. So your phone image gets crisp and clear as you watch.
STELLLINA has a Sony CMOS censor for 6-megapixel resolution images. So you can easily share them on social media or print your favorites. Universe, meet the future of astrophotography!
ORION EON 130MM ED Triplet Apochromatic
This top-of-the-line astrophotography triplet ED apochromatic refractor telescope is exquisite. It has premium three-element optical performance with an air-spaced lens assembly.
The EON 130mm has a moderately fast f/7 focal ratio, making it suitable for both planetary and deep-sky viewing and astrophotography. You’ll get superior light transmission with an anti-reflection coating. The Crayford focuser offers precise fine-focus control.
This telescope is perfect for serious astrophotographers who want to add a showpiece to their quality equipment.
Best Astrophotography Telescope FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
Here are some answers to questions about the best astrophotography telescopes.
Besides a telescope, what do you need for astrophotography?
Some important items for astrophotography include
- Equatorial Mount
- Auto-guiding System
- Camera (CCD, DLSR, smartphone or tablet)
- Electrical cords
- Battery pack for telescope if you don’t have a power outlet
- AC coupler to plug your telescope into a power source
- Sky chart phone apps for planning
- T-ring adaptor for a snug fit between the 35mm camera and the end of a telescope
- Intervalometer if your camera doesn’t have one
- A computer for image processing
What Is an Intervalometer, and Why Do You Need It for Astrophotography?
An intervalometer meters the intervals between your images. It also lets you define the exposure length and quantity of images taken. Some DSLR cameras already have an intervalometer built in.
You need an intervalometer for astrophotography to take many pictures with consistent exposures. Later, you’ll stack the images to increase the signal-to-noise ratio. Without this tool, you’ll have to hold down the DLSR shutter manually, leading to shaky images.
What Is an Auto-Guiding Star Tracker System?
If you’ve taken a long exposure on a standard photo tripod, you likely noticed the stars get long tails after a few seconds. Since the Earth rotates about 15 degrees every hour, your images take on curvature. A star tracker system lets you take longer exposures by “following” your celestial object. You’ll get higher-quality images with less noise, so stars stay sharp rather than elongated. Some equatorial mounts have built-in auto-guiding.