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 choosing a telescope in this price range.
Cheaper telescopes are often bought as gifts and are generally compact and lightweight enough to suit travelers.
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, e.g. of the planets.
Telescopes In The Beginner Range
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. Learn more about these brands at >>> my article on Orion vs Celestron telescopes.
Telescope features Explained
The main features to consider when buying a home telescope include the type of telescope, the aperture size, the focal ratio, and the mount. Below is an overview of the basics but you can find more on telescope features in this article on what to look for when buying a telescope.
1. Telescope Type
Reflectors and refractors are two types in the budget range. I explain the differences in more detail in Reflectors vs Refractors, but basically, reflectors use mirrors to gather light and refractors use lenses.
The Dobsonian is a reflector type and one that’s commonly recommended for beginners because they are a simple set up and have an aperture size that offers more value for money. See my review of the advantages and disadvantages here.
2. Aperture Size
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.
3. Focal ratio (f)
The focal ratio is an indicator of a slow (f/6 to f/10) versus fast (f/3 to f/5) telescope. Put simply, one is better for wide field viewing, e.g. deep space objects such as galaxies (fast), and the other is best for narrow field viwing, e.g. detailed views of the moon and planets (slow), for example.
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) allows for manual tracking of objects with the Earth’s rotation on a two-axis basis (altitude and azimuth). What this means is that it allows altitude (up and down) and azimuth (left to right) movement to find the celestial object — it’s a bit like finding an address on a street map using an alphanumerical index. I explain more in Which Ones Best? Mounts Explained.
Choosing a telescope with a simple mount will save you $$$ and possibly frustration as you don’t have to coordinate too many controls.
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.
6. Other Features and Options
Other features and options include a Barlow lens that increases the eyepiece magnification, a finder scope, the focal length, the highest and lowest useful magnification, and the limiting stellar magnitude.
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.
What Matters When Choosing a Telescope
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.
1. Your Budget
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. 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 may mean spending more than 200 dollars. But if you’re budget limit is 200, then the following is about helping you choose that beginner telescopes under 200 dollars.
2. Your Main Objective
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.
4. Automatic or manual positioning
The telescope listed here is a manual positioning one. If you are wanting telescopes that can be programmed for automatic positioning (Go-Tos), you’ll find these in this article that looks at telescopes for viewing planets. You’ll pay more for these.
You’ll need to know the positions of celestial objects at specific times at your location when using a manual type. As a beginner, this is a good way to broaden your knowledge of astronomy and there are ample sky maps online and apps that can help you out.
Best Beginner Telescope — Review
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
Good affordable beginner reflector telescope with 4.5 diameter mirror lens provides cle… [More]
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. 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
Again…what’s a good telescope to buy? Answer: One that you will use. Whether you are looking for the best inexpensive telescope for beginners or a telescope for kids, I hope the above has helped in your search.
Like traditional Australian Aboriginal groups, ancient peoples all over the world studied the skies. It is one of the oldest sciences and was used for guidance on seasonal hunting, gathering, cultivating and in living intuitively.
I hope you’ve gleaned some value from this beginners’ guide to telescopes.
- Featured image by O12 from Pixabay