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Best Telescope under $500 for Beginners

Updated on February 16, 2013

What to Consider when Buying a Telescope for under $500

On this page we will take a look at the best telescopes for under $500. These are all entry level telescopes to suite the beginner or they can make great second scopes for those who need something portable and quick to setup. We will take a look at the various types of telescope and what they are best used for as well as recommend some of the more trusted brands. In addition to this I have also provided links to sites where you can buy these scopes both safely and at great prices.

Image: The Celestron Nexstar 114SLTr Available at Amazon

Best telescope under $500 for beginners
Best telescope under $500 for beginners

Telescopes for Newbies

Understanding Telescope Designs For Beginners

Answering the question, 'What is the best telescope under $500?, is not as simple as it first might seem. There are different types of scopes for different purposes and it's important to understand these differences before applying them to your buying decision. Lets take a quick look at the two main types of scope you will encounter in this price range.

Refracting Telescopes - These are the traditional type of telescope and are the kind most people think of when picturing a telescope in their minds. They are very simple in design with a lens at one end of the telescope tube and the eyepiece at the other and are typically long and thin in appearance. Despite this apparently simple design refractor's often deliver the highest quality image but at the highest cost. Above 3" in diameter they will quickly exceed our $500 price point and unless you are very specific in your viewing objectives they are probably best avoided. There are a plethora of cheap quality refracting telescopes for beginners available to unsuspecting consumers and I hope by reading this you can avoid falling into the trap of buying one.

Newtonian or Reflecting Telescopes - These are the best telescopes for beginners and can be regularly found for under $500. These telescopes use a mirror instead of a lens as the objective. The light enters the front of the tube and then hits a large parabolic mirror at the bottom. The light then travels back up the tube and is focused towards the center. In the top center of the tube a smaller secondary mirror is held in place with a "spider". The light hits this mirror, travels at right angles and passes through the eyepiece. It sounds a little complicated but actually is fairly simple in practice.

There are a couple of mount options if you are looking at a reflecting style telescope. There are those on a german equatorial mount and those on a Dobsonian mount. The Dobsonian mount is certainly the lest complicated of the two and the most affordable. They are certainly the best telescope under $500 for beginners. You can see an example of a Dobsonian style scope pictured here. There is also the fork or alt azimuth mount. An example is pictured at the top of the page. This style, whilst more expensive than a Dobsonian is also very popular with beginners. This is because they typically come complete with an auto tracking system that can both find interesting objects in the sky and keep them in the field of view over an observing session.

Refracting Telescopes For Beginners for under $500 - Some Great Beginners Telescopes For Under $500

Below are some examples of refracting telescopes for beginners, all of which are under $500. Whilst I generally wouldn't recommend a refractor for a beginner these days my first scope was a 2" refracting telescope on an alt azimuth mount. My second scope was a 3" refractor on a German equatorial mount and I thoroughly enjoyed using both. I got several years of great viewing out of these two scopes, especially the 3". I also had access to my fathers 4" Unitron Refractor which although far out of scope for this article was and still is an amazing piece of optical design. The quality of the image seen through the eyepiece of this high end 4" scope is beyond comparison even with the 12" scope I use today.

Orion 9024 AstroView 90mm Equatorial Refractor Telescope
Orion 9024 AstroView 90mm Equatorial Refractor Telescope

A very nice 3.5" refracting telescope for beginners.

 
Orion 9005 AstroView 120ST Equatorial Refractor Telescope
Orion 9005 AstroView 120ST Equatorial Refractor Telescope

This scope is currently pushing slightly over the $500 limit but is a pretty serious instrument for the price.

 
Celestron 21061 AstroMaster 70AZ Refractor Telescope
Celestron 21061 AstroMaster 70AZ Refractor Telescope

This is a very affordable telescope for beginners but is not going to set any records in the quality department.

 

GoTo Telescopes For Under $500 - Great GoTo Scopes For Beginners

These scopes are a little bit of a compromise in the optical size area but they do make up for it with their high tech mounts. It really does amaze me that one can get something so advanced for under $500. It shows just how far the technology has come in the 20 years I have been observing the stars. The advantage of these GoTo Telescopes is that they will find an object simply by entering it's name or number into the included keypad. The scope will then slew by itself to the object and hold it in the center of the field of view all night if desired.

Celestron NexStar 90SLT Mak Computerized Telescope (Black)
Celestron NexStar 90SLT Mak Computerized Telescope (Black)

NexStar offers very good value for money in the computerized telescope market. One thing you will notice about this and the other 'Fork' mounted Go To scopes is the very small aperture. So whilst they are great value I don't think they are going to be as great as the Dobsonian Go To's However, they are compact and portable which could be a big plus for some people.

 
Celestron NexStar 127SLT Mak Computerized Telescope (Black)
Celestron NexStar 127SLT Mak Computerized Telescope (Black)

This one is the pick of the NexStar scopes for under $500

 

Best Dobsonian Telescopes Under $500 For Beginners - Cheap Dobsonian Telescopes

These are really in the best scopes for beginners in my opinion. They give you the best bang for your buck in terms of light gathering ability. This essentially means they give you the most detailed view of objects in the night sky. They are the best for finding and viewing very distant and faint objects such as Galaxies, Clusters, nebulae, and comets. The drawback is that they generally don't come with any kind of tracking or computerized object locating mechanisms (although they can; scroll down for computerized Dobsonians for beginners!)

Orion 8945 SkyQuest XT8 Classic Dobsonian Telescope
Orion 8945 SkyQuest XT8 Classic Dobsonian Telescope

Orion make some great beginner Dobsonian telescopes in our price range.

 
Celestron 21024 FirstScope Telescope
Celestron 21024 FirstScope Telescope

This is very low cost and is called the Celestron FirstScope. I would look for something a little bigger unless you are really wanting a low cost option.

 
Orion 8944 SkyQuest XT6 Classic Dobsonian Telescope
Orion 8944 SkyQuest XT6 Classic Dobsonian Telescope

6" is a great size for a first scope if you just want to give the hobby a go before spending too much.

 
Zhumell Z10 Deluxe Dobsonian Reflector Telescope
Zhumell Z10 Deluxe Dobsonian Reflector Telescope

I have no experience with Zhumell but a 10" telescope for under $500 is some pretty serious bang for your buck. A scope of this size will provide many years of viewing pleasure and is really way beyond just entry level size.

 

Go To Dobsonian Telescopes Under $500 - The Ultimate Telescope For Beginners

These Dobsonian Goto telescopes are in my opinion the ultimate scope for a beginner. Not only do you get the large aperture associated with this type of telescope but you also get the object finding and tracking capability. Orion have really lead the way in Go To Dobsonians and I am excited to see what the future holds for them.

Orion 27191 StarBlast 6i IntelliScope Reflector Telescope
Orion 27191 StarBlast 6i IntelliScope Reflector Telescope

This is seriously very good value for money. Just as a 6" scope it is great value but with the Go To capability it really opens up the universe to any new observer. Whilst not strictly a Dob it does sort of fit the category.

 
Orion 10018 SkyQuest XT8i IntelliScope Dobsonian Telescope
Orion 10018 SkyQuest XT8i IntelliScope Dobsonian Telescope

Ok, so I know this is pushing our price budget a little bit but in all honesty it's worth saving the extra money for this scope. It's probably my pick of telescopes on this entire page. The best telescope for beginners under $500 by far.

 

German Equatorial Mounted Newtonian Telescopes For Beginners - Best German Equatorial Newtonians For Under $500

Here are some GE mounted newtonian reflectors in our price range. My prefrence would be to go with the Dobsonians above because these can be complicated to use and at this price range the mounts are often less than adequate for the weight of the scopes mounted on them.

Celestron PowerSeeker 127EQ Telescope
Celestron PowerSeeker 127EQ Telescope

A very low cost entry level telescope.

 
Meade LXD75 SN-6AT (f/5) Schmidt-Newtonian Telescope
Meade LXD75 SN-6AT (f/5) Schmidt-Newtonian Telescope

Again, this one is pushing past the boundries of our budget but seeing as it is so close I thought it was worth a mention. The LX75 is a very good quality scope for this sort of money and would even make a suitable imaging platform if you invest in the optional Go To system down the track.

 

How To Buy My First Telescope

Here is a helpful video explaining what to look for when buying a telescope.

More Telescopes At Amazon - Search For The Scope You Are After

Why not try searching for more telescopes on Amazon using this search bar.

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