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.
Looking specifically for a child’s telescope? Check out this article here.
Wanting more options on lightweight portable telescopes? Check out this article here.
You may want to invest in a little more if you want a telescope for decent views of the planets.
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 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.
Learn more about these brands at >>> my article on Orion vs Celestron vs Skywatcher telescopes.
Best Beginner Telescope
What is the best telescope to buy for beginners? More than likely, you’ll want the best affordable telescope to learn the technicalities of night sky watching before moving onto to something more sophisticated. I may add others as I research them, but here is one to consider from Orion telescopes…
#1. Orion 10015 StarBlast 4.5 Astro Reflector Telescope
A Dobsonian for under $200, available from the Orion company…
Dobsonian – the best telescope for beginners
Many amateurs will say how Dobsonians are the easiest to set up and use, and this makes them great for beginners and kids alike.
This compact Dobsonian telescope has a mirror size, 114 mm (4½”) and parabolic optics. The manufacturer boasts that it provides clear views of lunar craters and plains on the Moon, and observation of planets, bright nebulas, and galaxies.
This has a tabletop base providing smooth altazimuth motion for manual tracking of night sky objects.
Wide Field Viewing
This is a fast telescope with a focal ratio of 4 meaning it is best for wide field viewing of the night sky to see bright galaxies, distant cloudy nebulas, and sparkling star clusters.
This particular scope is rated for faint stars to a 12.9 magnitude (learn what that means here). It comes with eyepieces with focal lengths of 17 mm (0.66″) and 10 mm (0.25″) giving eyepiece magnifications of 26× and 75×. The telescopes highest/lowest useful magnification is given as 228×/16×.
Extras include an EZ Finder II reflex sight. It comes with a One-Year Limited Warranty.
- A telescope that focuses well and gives good views for the price paid
- Takes only a few minutes to set up
- Red dot helps with finding and lining up objects into sight
- You are limited to use on a table or similar structure – (you could later consider investing in a sturdy tripod)
- Could do with a padded carry bag
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 aperture size, mirrors or lenses, 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
Reflectors and refractors are two types in the budget range. With regard to reflectors vs refractors, first know that reflectors use mirrors to gather light and refractors use lenses.
The Dobsonian is a reflector type and oft considered the best telescope for beginners because they are a simple set up and have an aperture size that offers more value for money than other types of telescopes with the same sized aperture.
I explain more in my article about the Dobsonian’s advantages as to why they’re a good telescope for beginners.
The aperture size refers to the diameter of the primary light-gathering lens or mirror. The sharpness and brightness of the view improve with the size of the aperture. Though, the larger the aperture size, the more you will pay for the telescope.
The EQ (equatorial mount or GEM) is a single axis mount that allows the telescope to follow a particular object with the Earth’s rotation. 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 found on a Dobsonian, allows for manual tracking of objects with the Earth’s rotation on a two-axis basis (altitude and azimuth). I cover this in more depth in Which Ones Best? Mounts Explained.
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 and Dobsonians fit this bill.
Some of the cheaper telescopes have spindly collapsible tripods. While this design might be prefered for portability, realise that such a set up will hurt your views as they will quiver and quake.
Other Features and Options
Extras can include a Barlow lens that increases the eyepiece magnification, a finder scope, and software. Specifications listed will include the focal length, the highest and lowest useful magnification, and the limiting stellar magnitude.
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.
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 likely to enjoy as you’ll get the most value from using it – it’ll be the best investment.
This reduces the available options when looking to spend under 200 dollars. But if you’re budget limit is 200, then this guide is about helping you choose that best beginner telescope under 200 dollars.
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.
Overdoing your expectations
So, you should consider your intended purpose, 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 Dobsonians, 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.
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.
If you are wanting a telescope with automatic positioning (Go-Tos), you’ll find 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.
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.
If you have a budget limitation, consider doing what amateur astronomer and author Terence Dickinson suggests, look at getting a good set of binoculars for astronomy instead.
- Dickinson, T. 2019. NightWatch: A Practical Guide to Viewing the Universe. Firefly Books.