Refractor telescopes are what we think of when telescopes come to mind. “Classic & traditional” would probably be the best words to describe this scope.
But make no mistake, the refractor scopes are far from old or outdated. Sure, they retain their age-old and tried-and-true optical light path, but they also have certain flair of class about the glass.
Refractors appeal to beginners because of their ease of use and celestial and terrestrial seeing capabilities. On the other hand, professional users love refractor scopes because of their fantastic imaging benefits.
These scopes also tend to be compact and lightweight, the perfect portable stargazing alternatives to the bulky reflectors.
Of course, like any other type of scope, there’s also the bad side to owning a refractor telescope.
For me, the chromatic aberration, typically characterized by fuzzy images and colored halos around bright objects, is usually a turnoff with the refractors.
But as I had mentioned earlier, every true star gazing enthusiast knows they have to bear some compromises with every type of scope.
However, there’s more to love with a refractor than hate, which is why these scopes remain an all-time favorite for many enthusiasts.
Here’s a quick guide to just a handful of the best refracting telescopes at different price points that you can afford!
Table of Contents
The Best Refractor Telescopes For The Money
#1 Sky-Watcher EvoStar Telescope - EDITOR'S CHOICE
Our top pick for the best refractor telescopes, the Sky-Watcher EvoStar, is an apochromatic refractor renowned for its stunning image quality.
It employs an extra-low dispersion glass on its 100mm apochromatic objective lens to deliver aberration-free, accurate, and clear images.
It also offers professional-level imaging experience, so it might be a perfect option for both the professional and intermediate astronomers looking to take their hobby to the next level.
But is it the right refractor telescope for you?
Features and Benefits
A grievous mistake we see with many astronomers is their obsession with the optics and ignoring the quality, especially a scope’s build quality.
While optics is by far the most critical element of scope, it means little if a scope has a flimsy build quality.
Fortunately, that’s not a problem with the EvoStar because everything is designed to perfection and works well, right out of the box without any frustrations.
The scope is made from high-quality and durable materials that will survive the occasional dings and drops.
It’s also aesthetically appealing, with the metallic finish feeling great to the touch and complementing your living space.
The only flaw we found with the design is probably the bulkiness. EvoStar’s steel tube is pretty big, and bulk. It’ll take up some space in the living room and require some elbow grease to move or store.
When it comes to optical performance, EvoStar doesn’t disappoint either.
It offers excellent brightness and image quality with several advanced features.
First, the scope employs a 100mm objective lens, big enough to gather a ton of light compared to most refracting telescopes.
For me, the aperture was overkill considering I’m fond of the 80mm scope, and with this option, the planets are look sharp and have nice contrast even with higher magnification.
The stars are, as expected, are pinpoint sharp too and with a deep black background.
Of course, while the details of what you can see will also depend on the type of eyepiece, it’s possible to distinguish Saturn’s rings from the actual planet itself. The details are, however, not as clear as those published in books taken from NASA scopes.
For Jupiter, you can make out the stripes, the spot, and its four moons.
Apochromatic “Matched Doublet”
EvoStar also uses a sophisticated lens matching technology to eliminate chromatic aberration and deliver crisp, clear & true-to-form, and color images.
While the scope easily earns the apochromatic label, the color correction is skewed towards the blue, and as a result, it leaves a pink tinge on bright objects.
It has some fringing on some bright objects, but lesser than a standard achromatic scope.
That said, it’s well made, and so far, I love this scope.
And when combined with its wide aperture, the scope’s optical performance is incredible and will provide beautiful, high-definition images, perfect or astrophotography.
Beyond the optical performance, the quality of the EvoStar is apparent in every other detail.
For instance, the 10:1 dual-speed Crayford-style focuser makes it easy to achieve the perfect focus after you’ve sighted your target.
In terms of quality, the focuser is a far-cry from the cheaper plastic focusers that have a lot of slop in them and are hard to adjust.
NB: EvoStar lacks a mount or trip, but you can purchase it separately.
#2 Celestron Advanced VX 6″ f/8 Refractor Telescope - Best Computerized Telescope
Our second pick, the Celestron Advanced VX, is a no-regret purchase, perfect for beginners and intermediates that need to upgrade to a computerized system.
The scope is also a perfect fit for astronomers looking for an option that combines raw power with a sophisticated mount.
It’s an amazing scope with a fantastic optical performance.
And as you’ll find out, it’s also easier to make out many more details with this scope to explore the Great Red Spot, Cassini Division Orion Nebula, and so much more.
The Celestron also provides features comparable to the much more equatorial mount telescopes.
Features and Benefits
German Equatorial Mount
The Advanced VX offers two things that set it apart from other refractors in the market.
First, its computerized German equatorial mount is the most portable and compact of Celestron’s high-end equatorial mount.
Storing or even transporting the scope is a breeze, and you’ll love it comfortably fits into your car’s trunk without much effort.
Besides portability, the mount is also flush with a killer lineup of features, including All-Star Polar Alignment, PWI control software, and much more.
Combined, the computerized option on this scope will eliminate any guesswork, which is particularly handy for the beginners who are yet to acquaint themselves with reading the sky.
The telescope also automatically tracks the objects as they drift across the sky.
Plus, the scope also has a database of up to 40,000 terrestrial objects to keep you entertained for a year.
Advanced VX’s observing performance doesn’t disappoint either, and with a large 150mm achromatic objective lens and focal length of 1200mm, it has awesome light-gathering capabilities.
In particular, the lens offers a massive level of light collection-nearly 125% more than a 100mm refracting lens, which is perfect for high-contrast planetary viewing.
With the Advanced VX, most planets, including Saturn and its rings, and Jupiter and its four moons, are visible.
It’s also possible to make out the moon and all its ridges with ease.
Of course, like any other achromatic lens, it also has the potential of aberration, but this option reduces the blue fringe, so your objects will be truer. But what you’ll love with the Advanced VX lenses is their ability to reduce chromatic aberration.
However, if you experience any form of color aberration, we recommend investing in filters to help with correction.
Plenty of Accessories
As with any other true value purchase, the Advanced VX package comes complete with a host of features to enhance your observing performance.
Some of the accessories include a 20mm eyepiece, finder scope, and a sturdy tripod.
#3 Orion Sirius ED80 EQ-G Telescope - Best for Astrophotography
The Orion ED80 EQ-G telescope belongs to the Sirius range from Orion.
It’s the perfect pick for the astronomers with some experience under their belts who are looking to try their hand at astrophotography.
Orion’s 80mm objective lens offers an outstanding image quality with rich and vibrant colors, even at high magnifications.
While it’s somewhat a classic purchase and seen as old school compared to the modern units, what it lacks in modern bells and whistles is more than it makes up for clarity and precision.
Features and Benefits
If there’s one aspect of this scope that is hard to beat, it’s the optical performance.
The fully coated 80mm apochromatic lens delivers sharp image clarity. At the same time, the extra-low dispersion helps with the light-gathering capabilities to reveal more details for the farthest and faintest objects.
It produces rich and true colors from planets like Jupiter, Saturn, and the Moon,
Mars will show an ice cap, while many geological features are visible, including Syrtis Major.
Saturn clearly shows its Cassini division, and you’ll occasionally see the rings on the planet.
And that’s not all!
The scope’s optical performance doesn’t suffer from optical aberration, so you get to see the objects in their true form and color.
You’ll also not need a Barlow lens of a similar eyepiece because the scope’s focal ratio produces incredibly sharp high-powered images, while the 600mm focal length helps you enjoy detailed views of small objects.
A high-quality mount isn’t necessary for observing the skies from your backyard, but if you’re interested in astrophotography, then a quality mount is essential.
Fortunately, this option sports a computerized mount, which offers computerized hand control with motorized tracking.
The motorized mount eliminates the hassle that comes with aligning your scope for the perfect view. It also makes it easier to track and take a tour of some of the objects in the sky.
And that’s not all!
Sirius ED-80 has a vast database of nearly 43,000 different celestial objects, so there’re more objects to track than you would even need.
If there’s one knock against this mount is that it requires a separate power source to power the GoTo system.
Set-Up & Use
While the Sirius ED-80 is designed for the seasoned stargazer, its set up is incredibly easy and intuitive, as you’d expect from an amateur option.
Setting up the scope is incredibly easy, and it takes little effort to familiarize yourself with the entire telescope.
Inside the box, you’ll find everything you need to enjoy the night sky in detail.
This scope is a true value purchase from the 25mm eyepiece, finderscope, tube rings, and mounting plate, offering value for your money.
#4 Meade Infinity 102mm AZ Refractor Telescope - Budget Option
The Meade Infinity 102mm is a top-end model in the Infinity line, which include several other scopes ranging from 50-90mm.
While the Infinity line has affordable options, the 102mm offers the greatest for money because of the larger aperture with better light-gathering capabilities.
While it’s a fantastic option, it’s not necessarily the perfect option for everyone. I find it the ideal option for beginners and amateurs, thanks to the affordable and high-quality components.
Features and Benefits
Meade Infinity 102mm’s 4” aperture with a 600mm focal length and a focal ratio of f/5.9 makes it a classic beginner option.
It has a wider field of view and lower magnification compared to the longer scopes.
The optics combination also makes the perfect astronomic tool for viewing brighter objects such as Mars, Jupiter, the Moon, and the stars.
But at this price, expect some optical issues, such as chromatic aberrations affecting the clarity of the celestial objects.
When looking at the exceptionally bright objects, there’s a potential of seeing some color leakage around the edges.
The only silver lining with the scope lenses is they’ve better clarity, and this makes the Meade Infinity 102mm a great, versatile lens for beginners.
While not the most performance-oriented, it delivers good detail on the Moon, stars, the planets, and the star clusters’ enjoyable precision.
Meade Infinity 102mm features a basic and full adjustable Alt-Az mount.
The build quality is impressive for such a cheap mount, and though it can’t accommodate much weight, it’s reasonably sturdy.
However, like most inexpensive models, tracking with this mount can be a real pain. It suffers from vibration when tracking the objects.
Fortunately, the vibrations settle once you stop moving the scope or making adjustments.
Ease of Use and SetUp
Setting up the Meade Infinity 102mm and getting it ready for a tour in the sky is a breeze.
Assembly is as simple as attaching the OTA to the mount with the thumbscrew, selecting an eyepiece, and locating something in the sky.
Both the scope and mount are also lightweight, so it can also double as the ideal device for traveling.
And since the scope is a refractor type, you don’t need to worry about collimating or making optimal viewing adjustments. It’s a great pick for beginners who are nervous about collimating a scope.
Meade manages to tack on a few extras onto the Meade Infinity 102mm scope package, including a red dot reflex sight, an Erect Prism diagonal, a moon filter, and rounding up the accessories copy of AutoStar Software.
#5 Orion 9005 AstroView - Best Refractors Telescope for Planets
Our final pick, the Orion 9005 AstroView, has everything you need to have a clear and detailed view of the planets.
This particular beauty comes with a magnificent EQ refractor with a large 120mm ultra-clear aperture, the perfect option for light gathering and big bright views.
But how does it perform, and is it the right telescope for your needs?
Features and Benefits
Despite a short focal length of just 600mm, limited length offers exceptional rich-field performance.
When combined with other optic additions such as the 25mm Plossl and AstroView 120ST, the scope offers a sprawling 2.1 degrees of the sky while viewing.
For a better sense of the scope, the sky encompasses a host of celestial bodies, including the Pleiades Cluster, North America Nebula, and Perseus.
The scope’s optics’ potential also allows you to see numerous other celestial bodies even when the true max magnification isn’t necessarily usable.
It’s possible to make our Jupiter and its red spot and cloud bands, as well as Saturn’s rings.
You’ll also be able to make out a good amount of detail on Mars when it’s nearest to the Earth.
Other celestial bodies can be observed, but not with very much detail, including Uranus, Mercury, and Neptune.
While viewing the clusters and planets, the six by 3o finder scope lets you aim the refractor anywhere in the sky and simply align until your scope is centered to the object of interest.
On the other hand, the AstroView EQ mounting system with three legs and a slow-motion control allows you to achieve polar alignment quickly and accurately.
The mounting system is also easy and effortless to use and will require minimal effort, so beginners won’t have any problem using the scope.
As with all the items on our list, this option comes with various accessories to enhance your stargazing experience.
Some of the accessories include two 1.25 inch eyepieces, which offer sharp views, a finderscope, mirror star diagonal, and a Special Edition download of Starry Night astronomy software.
Best Refractor Telescopes Buying Guide
In the section below, we shall breakdown some of the essential features to consider when selecting the best refractor telescope for your stargazing needs.
But before I share the features with you, let’s look at the different types of refractors’ scope.
Types of Refractor Scopes
There’re numerous types of refractor scope in the market, but today, we shall only look at the three popular types.
1) Single Lens Refractor
At the cheaper end of the refractor spectrum, you’re likely to have a scope with a single objective lens.
While these scopes are inexpensive, their greatest law is the CA.
We would recommend that you choose a slower refractor with CA corrective measures to minimize it- /7 or lower.
2) Achromatic Doublets
The achromatic doublets feature double objective lens assembly and are better than single-lens options.
Like the single-lens refractor, they lack coating for eliminating chromatic aberration.
And because of their configuration, the frequency of observing sessions with reasonable seeing conditions tends to be higher.
3) Apochromatic Triplet
Apochromatic triplets can have three or even more elements, with at least one of those being ED glass.
These scopes have excellent control over CA and better correction of chromatic and spherical aberration.
They’re typically used for Astro-imaging because of the quality imaging benefits they provide.
Of course, considering they’ve plenty of elements, the heavier the optical assembly, which affects the tube’s overall weight.
What to Consider When Purchasing a Refractor Telescope
Now that you know the different types of refractor telescopes let’s look at the features to consider when selecting the right refractor telescope.
The aperture of a refractor is the opening through which light enters.
It’s perhaps the most crucial element of scope for observation purposes.
The larger the aperture, the more light a refractor captures, allowing you to see more distant objects.
However, as the aperture size goes up, so does cost and size.
The focal length refers to the distance between the lens/mirror of scope and the point at which light comes into focus.
Longer focal length translates to better image formation and greater magnification.
While magnification is good for local objects, too much of it can distort the atmospheric details.
Also, refractors with long focal lengths tend to have smaller fields of view and require longer exposure to get the same image quality.
Number of Lenses
As you get into sophisticated scopes, you’ll start to come across options with multiple lenses. In these scopes, the main objective lens is made from more than one piece of glass.
By increasing the glass layers, you can decrease the chromatic aberration, but this often comes at a steeper price tag.
We don’t recommend getting anything more than a standard telescope for beginners looking for their first telescopes.
When it comes to lenses, it’s not just about the number, but also the quality.
The best lenses are designed from extra-low dispersion glass (ED), which reduces the light’s spread as it passes through it. The result is a scope with reduced chromatic aberration and truer colors.
There’re two options for a focuser on telescopes.
There is a rack and pinion style, which is the most basic option. It moves your scope using a simple rack and pinion, thus giving you a set of increments and a single speed.
The other option is the Crawford style focuser, which is a little more involved. It utilizes a spring-loaded shaft against four-bearing, resulting in a smoother and precise focus.
The type of mount for your telescope has a huge impact on your photography as your telescope.
The Alt-Az mount is a popular option that doesn’t have a fixed field. The stars on your background will appear to rotate as you take a picture, and for long exposure pictures, you’ll end up with star trails.
On the other hand, EQ mounts are aligned with the polar star, resulting in a fixed field, so there’re no distracting star trails in the background.
Finally, the computerized mount allows you to track stars automatically and is quite handy, especially if you’re interested in photographing the deep sky objects.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q: What are the Best Refractors Telescopes for Beginners?
A: A small size refractor telescope would be a perfect starter scope for beginners as it offers a good balance of features, optical performance, and cost.
For beginners interested in viewing planets, a refractor with a slow focal ratio (F/10 or higher) is recommended.
Q: Do refracting Telescopes have mirrors?
A: Refracting telescopes don’t have mirrors and instead utilize glass lenses.
The absence of mirrors means no collimation, mirror shift, or secondary mirror obstruction.
Q: How to collimate a refractor telescope?
A: If your refractor can be user-collimated, use a collimation cap to check for the internal optics’ alignment. If they’re not, adjust the collimating screws slightly until the lenses are centered.
Q: What can you see with a 70mm refractor telescope?
A: A 70mm refractor is a beginner scope and generally the lowest aperture size for amateur telescopes.
That said, these scopes are fantastic for observing the moon and the planets. It’s impossible to observe the deep-sky objects, but you can see the moon’s craters and some planetary details like the rings on Saturn with a Barlow lens.
Wrap Up: Our Choice
If we were to recommend any product from the above list, it would be the EvoStar 100.
It’s not any better than other items on our list, but it has a few benefits and details, making it a standout from the rest.
First, it has a solid build, so it will offer a reliable stargazing experience even in the not so good conditions.
More importantly, the optics are on point with the revolutionary Apochromatic “Matched Doublet” lenses eliminating any form of chromatic aberrations and delivering crisp and clear images.
The 100mm aperture, which is a bit larger than the standard 80mm for most refractors, has awesome light-gathering abilities and will allow you to see even the farthest and faintest objects with detail and clarity.