THIS ARTICLE MAY CONTAIN COMPENSATED LINKS - MY DISCLOSURE.

Best Telescope Under 200 [What to Expect]

This buyer’s guide covers what the beginner needs to know on getting a budget-priced best telescope under 200.

Best telescope for under 200 guide

This telescope buying guide is for entry level backyard stargazers with a budget of under 200 dollars, and covers what to look for in a best starter telescope as well as what to expect in a telescope in this price range.

People look for these cheaper telescopes when seeking gifts for kids or when they’re not wanting to outlay too much in the way of cost for a beginner’s telescope.

Brands of telescopes in the beginner range

There are several brands of telescopes in the budget range. Three well-thought-of brands in the US are:

☞ Celestron

☞ Orion

☞ SkyWatcher

Celestron markets popular telescopes in the US. In operation for over 50 years – since 1960 – it is a reputable brand name. Orion is another such brand, which has been around for over 40 years. SkyWatcher is another, but you’re not likely to find this brand in the lower price range for telescopes.

Learn more about these brands at >>> my article on Orion vs Celestron vs Skywatcher telescopes.

Best beginner telescope

What are the best telescopes for beginners? A Dobsonian will fit this bill of the best beginner telescope because it involves a simple set up, and for the price, it offers a larger aperture for greater light gathering compared to that of others.

A Dobsonian has many advantages for beginner amateur astronomers.

In any case, as a novice, you’ll probably want the best affordable telescope to learn the technicalities of night sky watching before moving onto something more sophisticated.

Here are four to consider in this price range…

#1. Orion StarBlast Astro reflector telescopes

Here are two reflector telescopes for beginners from Orion: a compact Dobsonian telescope and a Newtonian telescope in the StarBlast range.

While they are both reflectors with mirrors rather than lenses, a Dobsonian and a Newtonian reflector differ in regard to their telescope mounts. Dobsonian optical tubes sit on a simple mount that rotates — best explained by the diagrams in my article about the different types.

Both have 4.5″ Aperture — a primary mirror size of 114 mm (4½”).

Wider field viewing — Each having a focal length of 450 mm (18″) giving a focal ratio of four (f/4), makes these two Orion beginner telescopes best for wide field viewing of the night sky objects such as bright galaxies, distant cloudy nebulas, and sparkling star clusters. Such types that are better suited to viewing deep space objects, rather than the features of our solar system objects (the planets), are called fast telescopes. They are also great for viewing the Moon.

The telescopes’ maximum magnification that’s useful is given as 228× and the lowest is 16×.

Limiting stellar magnitude — These particular scopes are rated to view a faint object to 12.9 magnitude (see my article explaining the magnitude scale of bright stars to fainter objects).

Orion Dobsonian — table top

A Dobsonian for near $200 (give or take), available from the Orion company…

Orion Astro Reflector
Orion StarBlast 4.5 Astro Reflector Telescope

Good affordable telescope with 4.5 diameter mirror lens provides cle… [More]

Optical quality and type — The optics are parabolic with low thermal expansion borosilicate glass, which indicates resistance to damage from rapid temperature change. The mirror coatings are aluminum and silicon dioxide. Optical quality is limited by diffraction.

Viewing experience — The manufacturer claims that with this Dobsonian you’ll get clear views of lunar craters and plains, and observation of planets, bright nebulas, and galaxies. It’s best for deep sky objects rather than planetary details.

Alt-azimuth mount — Of all the mount types that I’ve explained, this one is a tabletop version of the Dobsonian type of mount, which offers the benefits of smooth altazimuth movement for manual tracking of celestial objects.

It comes with two 1.25″ Kellner eyepieces with focal lengths of 17 mm (⅔ “) and 10 mm (¼”) providing 26× and 75× magnified views with this telescope.

Extras — EZ Finder II reflex sight. It comes with a One-Year Limited Warranty.

Pros

✓ Takes only a few minutes to set up

✓ Red dot helps with finding and lining up objects into sight

✓ Affordable price

✓ Compact and portable (Wanting more options on lightweight portable telescopes? Check out this article here.)

Cons

x You are limited to use on a table or similar structure – (you could later consider investing in a sturdy tripod)

x Could do with a padded carry bag

x To track planets you need to continually adjust position (vs automated adjustment with a computerized mount)

x Not a telescope for astrophotography (computerized telescopes are best in this case). But you can do simple moon shots.

Where to buy:

Buy Now from Orion Telescopes

☞ Also at Amazon — See latest price

Orion reflector telescope with equatorial mount

Orion StarBlast II 4.5 Equatorial Reflector Telescope
Orion StarBlast

available at Amazon

Optical quality and type — The optics are parabolic with soda-lime plate glass. It has diffraction limited optical quality. Soda-lime plate glass is said to be fine for smaller telescopes that are ventilated. It makes the telescope more affordable but best to avoid snap changes in temperature, which can affect this type of glass. The mirror coatings are aluminum and silicon dioxide.

Viewing experience — Best for viewing larger-form distant objects rather than planetary details. It comes with Sirius Plössl eyepieces with focal lengths of 25 mm (1″) and 10 mm (0.4″) giving 18× and 45× views.

Equatorial mount — This telescope has an equatorial mount, which moves on four planes. The benefit of this type of mount is that you can rotate one axis at a consistent rate to follow a planet rather than adjust two.

Extras — EZ Finder II reflex sight; adjustable height tripod; collimation cap, and MoonMap 260.

Pros

  • Price
  • Sight for easy finding of objects
  • Comes with a collimation cap

Cons

  • Tripod not the sturdiest

Where to buy:

Buy Now from Orion Telescopes

☞ Also at Amazon — See latest price

Other Orion telescope options – 300 dollars or thereabouts

Compare the above two to other beginner telescopes by this brand.

The Orion SkyQuest (4.5″ full Dobsonian) and the Astroview (90 mm refractor) are suggestions in the 300 dollar range or thereabouts at Orion Telescope shop and Amazon. If you click the links, you’ll get the latest at Amazon. It’s worth checking the prices, because they tend to change and at times they are well discounted (e.g. Black Friday Sales).

#2. Celestron telescopes

Here are two telescopes around this price range from Celestron: a Newtonian reflector telescope in the PowerSeeker series and a refractor telescope in the AstroMaster series.

Celestron Newtonian with German equatorial mount

Celestron - PowerSeeker 114EQ Telescope - Manual German Equatorial Telescope for Beginners - Compact and Portable - BONUS Astronomy Software Package - 114mm Aperture
Celestron PowerSeeker

available at Amazon

This reflector telescope has a 4.5″ (114 mm) aperture. With a focal length of 900 mm (35″), it has a focal ratio of 8. You can see the calculation for focal ratio from my tools page.

Medium field viewing — A focal ratio of eight (f/8) makes this Celestron beginner telescope best for viewing night sky objects such as the Moon, the rings of Saturn, and Jupiter’s Galilean moons.

Viewing experience — It comes with eyepieces with focal lengths of 20 mm (0.8″) and 4 mm (0.16″) giving 45× and 225× views. Just know that the maximum limit of magnification for the telescope is 269×. So, coupling the included 3× Barlow lens with the 4 mm will give a result outside the maximum limit.

You can calculate telescope magnifications including the 3× Barlow lens on my tools page.

Limiting stellar magnitude — This scope is rated to view a faint object to 12.8 magnitude.

Equatorial mount — The PowerSeeker has an equatorial mount. It allows rotation using a single axis at a constant rate to follow a planet.

Extras — Starry Night astronomy software; 3× Barlow lens; 2 year warranty; and tech support from US based experts.

Pros

✓ Easy to set up

✓ Affordable price

✓ Compact and portable

Cons

✓ Tripod lightweight build can tend to be shaky

Where to buy:

☞ At Amazon — See latest price

Celestron AstroMaster refractor telescope

This refractor telescope has a 2.75″ (70 mm) aperture. Tripod is full height. With a focal length of 900 mm (35″), it has a focal ratio of 13. You can see the calculation for focal ratio from my tools page.

Celestron - AstroMaster 70AZ Telescope - Refractor Telescope - Fully Coated Glass Optics - Adjustable Height Tripod – Bonus Astronomy Software Package
Celestron AstroMaster

available at Amazon

Narrow field viewing — A focal ratio of eight (f/13) makes this Celestron beginner telescope best for viewing single night sky objects such as the Moon, Jupiter, Saturn, Mars, the moons of Jupiter, and Andromeda.

Mount — is an alt-azimuth with a pan handle, which is simple to use.

Viewing experience — It comes with eyepieces with focal lengths of 20 mm (0.8″) and 10 mm (0.4″) giving 45× and 90× views. The maximum magnification limit of the telescope is 165x.

Limiting stellar magnitude — This scope is rated to view a faint object to 11.7 magnitude.

Comes with a star diagonal and a red dot finder scope, which makes finding your target object easier.

Pros

✓ Quick set up

✓ Doubles as a terrestrial telescope by day

✓ Compact and portable

Cons

✓ Compact for portability but with the 3′ optical tube length, it is not the best for air travel.

✓ Mount can be sticky when trying to adjust to track objects such as planets as their view moves across the sky

✓ Lightweight tripod

Where to buy:

☞ At Amazon — See latest price

What to expect of telescopes in this budget range

Some main features to consider when buying a home telescope for under $200 are the sturdiness of the tripod, the light gathering limits of the aperture size, and the type of mount. You’ll find more on this in my article that looks at the different telescope features.

Telescope Types – mirrors vs lenses

These are the types of telescopes:

  • Reflector telescopes
  • Refractor telescopes

The main difference is a reflector uses a primary and secondary mirror to gather light and the refractor uses lenses.

You’ll find refractors more so than reflectors in telescopes under 100 dollars — the most inexpensive telescope range.

Aperture Size

The aperture size refers to the diameter of the primary mirror or lens. The sharpness and brightness of the view improve with the size of the aperture, which is about light-gathering. You’ll pay more as the diameter increases, i.e., a telescope with a larger aperture size will generally cost more in each type of telescope. (Refractors differ to reflectors.)

Mounts

The EQ (equatorial mount or GEM) allows the telescope to follow a particular object with the Earth’s rotation along a single axis. It has one axis tilted to your latitude and the other parallel to the celestial equator (a projection of Earth’s equator onto the celestial sphere).

The Altazimuth (or alt-az), which is used with a Dobsonian, allows for manual tracking of objects with the Earth’s rotation on a two-axis basis (altitude and azimuth).

Choosing a telescope with a simple mount will save you $$$ as well as frustration. If you’re a beginner you don’t have to coordinate too many controls with a simple set up as found with Dobsonian telescopes.

Tripods

Some of the cheaper telescopes have spindly collapsible tripods. While such a design might be prefered for portability, realise that it can hurt your views as these cheaper types tend to quiver and quake.

Glass of optics

  • Soda-lime
  • Borosilicate
  • BK-7
  • BaK4

Soda-lime is the most common type of glass. It’s main constituent is silicon dioxide. It’s used in telescopes because it is relatively cheap and chemically stable.

Borosilicate, vs soda-lime, is more resistant to thermal shock. Borosilicate glass contains silicon dioxide but also boron trioxide.

BK-7 refers to a type of borosilicate glass.

BaK4 is a superior quality glass. It is a light barium crown glass that is relatively expensive, which is why you won’t find it in the telescopes under 200 or thereabouts. You’ll find it used in the more expensive range of telescopes — the high end type.

Optical quality

Diffraction limited: This means the limitation of the image you see is determined by the physical properties of the light, rather than by optical imperfections in the telescope.

City lights and other light pollution will limit your viewing experience.

Other Features and Options

Extras can include a Barlow lens that increases the eyepiece magnification, a finder scope, and software. A star diagonal can improve your viewing comfort in the right-side-up way the image is presented. A moon filter helps dim the brightness of the moon to better distinguish its features.

What to avoid if choosing a telescope under 200

What is a good telescope? What telescope should I buy? Knowing where to start, where to buy a telescope, and which telescope to buy is confusing for the beginner or anyone interested in buying a telescope on a limited budget. Here’s what to avoid.

Trash buys

This is important when searching for a telescope to buy.

You’re looking for the best telescope for the money you are willing to spend. But, it’s best to get something you’re more likely to enjoy. That way you’ll get the most value out of using it.

There’s not a wide range of available options to give you great views when looking to spend under 200 dollars. But as a choice for beginners, if you’re budget limit is 200, then this guide is about helping you find that best beginner telescope.

Pinning your choice on the extras

You might find the extras, like the Barlow lens, that come with a telescope for under $200 are cheaply made and won’t perform as well as could be expected with better quality. So, I suggest that you don’t make their inclusion the deciding factor. You can always get extra eyepieces or a Barlow lens when you can afforded them at a later time.

Overdoing your expectations

So, you should consider your intended purpose and your expectations. Why do you want a telescope?

  • Do you want to observe finer details of the moon or planets?
  • Are you wanting to view large faint objects like galaxies?
  • Do you want a telescope that is lightweight and portable?
  • Are you interested in astrophotography?

In the case of a limited budget, you might need to lower your expectations. Consider whether you want to outlay more to meet your expectations or start with something within your budget and gain confidence before making that larger outlay?

Not all telescope types are suited to astrophotography. The Dobsonian telescopes, for example, are not ideal for this unless you just want simple shots of the Moon as they can’t track objects across the night sky to allow good astrophotography.

My research and experience suggests that the ideal astrophotography set up is way above this entry level price range in telescopes.

Flimsy tripods

In this budget range of under 200, watch for tripods that are flimsy. A good stable tripod will make a difference when trying to view objects in the sky and avoid you experiencing a lot of frustration.

Automatic positioning

If you are wanting a telescope with automatic positioning (Go-Tos), you’ll find I cover these in my article that looks at telescopes for viewing planets. You’ll pay more for these types of telescopes.

With a budget that’s under 200, your option is a telescope with manual positioning.

A manual way of positioning is fine. It just means you’ll need know the positions of celestial objects at specific times at your location and set your telescope up to target accordingly.

As a beginner, this is a good way to broaden your knowledge of astronomy and there are ample sky maps online, amateur astronomy books, and apps that can help you out.

Final thoughts on best telescopes under 200

I hope you’ve gleaned some understanding of what’s on offer when seeking a best telescope for beginners under $200.

Again…what’s the best telescope to buy? Answer: One that you’ll use. No joke. Whether you’re looking for the best budget telescope for beginners, top rated telescopes for advanced users, or a telescope for kids, this principle applies.

One that’s enjoyed and gets used the most is the best telescope to buy.

Experienced amateur astronomers, including Terence Dickinson, consider Dobsonian telescopes to be the best telescopes for beginners because they are easy to set up and use. These factors also make them an ideal telescope type for kids.

If you are on a tight budget, apart from a cheap telescope, you could instead consider getting a good set of binoculars for astronomy instead.

Info sources

  1. Dickinson, T. 2019. NightWatch: A Practical Guide to Viewing the Universe. Firefly Books.
  2. Celestron User Manual

Still not sure? Here's a tool by Orion Telescopes to help you select the best telescope or binocular to meet your personal needs. Orion's Product Wizard

2 thoughts on “Best Telescope Under 200 [What to Expect]”

  1. I enjoy you because of every one of your work on this site. My mom delights in carrying out research and it’s simple to grasp why. My partner and i learn all about the dynamic way you give practical tips and hints by means of this web site and as well as attract response from the others on the topic and our own daughter is starting to learn so much. Enjoy the remaining portion of the new year. You’re performing a wonderful job.

Comments are closed.