If you’re anything like the millennials, then it’s not unusual for you to take multiple pictures of your holiday destination spots, your pet, or even your favorite dish.
But, what if there were a product out there that could substantially up your Instagram game?
Whether you’re a hobbyist, stargazer, or simply someone who needs to extend their photo album, the ability to take pictures of the stars and deep space objects should have broad appeal.
But, taking photos of the stars is more complex than many people think.
Also known as astrophotography, this art form is an extremely dedicated hobby that requires some specialized equipment and time investment to do right.
Standard camera kits or phones alone won’t cut it if you’re to get anything other than wide shots of the moon and maybe planets.
Your camera optical and digital zoom functions are far too weak to pick up celestial bodies and deep sky objects.
To do that, you’ll require a telescope.
And not just any telescope; the best telescope for astrophotography.
A telescope for astrophotography gives you the ability to capture clear and detailed shots of the planets, deep space objects, and the moon.
But choosing the the right telescope for astrophotography to purchase can be challenging, even for seasoned stargazers. These instruments are complicated, and many users may very well struggle to use them.
That’s where we come into play.
In our guide below, we shall review the top five telescopes for astrophotography on the market. We shall also provide you with a detailed buying guide to help with your selection.
Table of Contents
The Best Telescopes for Astrophotography For The Money
#1 Orion EON 130mm ED Triplet Apochromatic - EDITOR'S CHOICE
Our top pick, the Orion EON, is a powerful scope that is perfect for visual observation and imaging.
With a triple apochromatic lens, the holy grail of lenses, the Orion has one of the best optical performances of any market scope.
It’s not as accessorized as many astronomers may wish, and might only be a suitable option for serious astronomers who already own tons of quality gear.
But, is it the right telescope for your astrophotography needs?
Features and Benefits
The optical quality is the most significant aspect of any telescope. After all, it’s no fun observing through a scope with poorly made optical components.
Fortunately, with the Orion, the optical quality is not something you need to worry about.
The scope features APO triplet lenses, which are often revered as the best telescopes on the planet.
The Orion’s lenses are specially treated to eliminate the main optical issue affecting refractor telescopes: chromatic aberration, or rather color fringing.
This way, you can achieve incredibly clear and crisp images, just as the sky intended it to look.
No more halos of light around bright objects such as stars, and you get to enjoy clear and sharp images.
Beyond image quality, you also need to consider what you can see with your scope.
With the EON, you can enjoy much of what the night sky has to offer.
The 5.1″ aperture is large, allowing tons of light to enter the scope, and the advanced optics inside will make the best of the light drawn.
It’s possible to make out details of the moon, distant DSOs, planets, and stars.
For those interested in our solar system, the scope lets you take in the incredible topography of the moon, double stars, the cloud belts of Jupiter, and so much more.
But, where it excels most is on deep-sky viewing. From the Messier object to other deep-sky sights such as nebulae and distant galaxies, the Orion EON provides unrivaled clarity and crispness.
If you’re interested in astrophotography, the EON is a Holy Grail scope.
When paired with the right equipment, this telescope captures clear and crisp images of everything from the stars and moon to deep sky objects.
It has a 910mm focal length and f/7.0 focal ratio, which provide a medium-field of view, well-suited for capturing images of deep space objects and Messier objects.
Combined with the APO lenses, it is easy to eliminate false coloration, so you can take breathtaking images of the objects with the scope.
You can also choose to up the magnification with a Barlow eyepiece, which lets you capture even more details of both the near-sky and deep-sky objects.
Accessories and mounting system
There’s not much to discuss regarding accessories because the Orion EON comes with dust covers, a dual-speed rack, pinion focuser, dew shield, and hardshell case.
However, it lacks one of the most important accessories of a telescope, that being a mount.
This is not a problem, though, since you can pair the scope with a mount of your choice.
Depending on purpose, some mounts are better suited for the scope than others.
For those interested in astrophotography, we would recommend a motor-driven system that locks onto an object and keeps it in the field of view using the motor’s tracking.
The scope is relatively heavy, though, at nearly 23 pounds, so your choice of motorized mount should be heavy-duty enough to accommodate the weight of the scope and the astrophotography hardware combined.
#2 Orion ED80T CF Triplet Apochromatic - Best Compact Option
Our second pick, the Orion ED80T, is our favorite option for those just entering the world of astrophotography.
It’s not a premium APO scope, but rather an entry-level range for the astronomers taking the leap from using a smartphone for their deep space photography.
The Orion CF is presented as a tough but good-looking carbon fiberscope. It does provide outstanding imaging performance for deep-sky targets.
Features and Benefits
The Orion CF is a bargain for its specifications, but the greatest draw is the compact and lightweight design.
It’s ultra-light and weighing in at only 5.5 pounds, it’s the perfect pick for hobbyists or casual astronomers who don’t want to go through the hassle of lifting bulky equipment.
It’s easy to haul, and you’re likely to use it more often than not because of its portability.
Yet, it doesn’t compromise its optical performance because it takes crisp and clear pictures of the deep sky.
As with our top pick, the Orion CF features a triple element objective lens. It works to correct chromatic aberrations that would otherwise destroy the quality of your deep space photos.
The wide-field APO optics use extra-low dispersion, or rather ED glass, to deliver exceptional resolution and remarkable color corrections.
Your images will be free of color bleeding or fringing on the bright objects with the optics in place.
You’re treated to perfectly sharp images, with no color distortion, exactly as the sky intends you to see them.
The Orion CF, with an aperture of just over 78mm, is not designed for planetary viewing.
The aperture is underwhelming, especially when compared with the large EON’s 130mm aperture.
But this is not a problem for astrophotography, and unless you’re planning to spend your time observing faint DSO’S, the scope is more than capable for most needs.
The Orion CF might not excel in planetary performance, but it has everything to deliver a piece of impeccable astrophotography equipment.
The fast f/6 focal ratio and 78mm aperture are capable of most photography needs.
While the performance may stretch a bit for more distant views, it’s more than adequate for viewing local celestial bodies and achieves wide shots of distant objects.
It also has a useful magnification of 12x to 160x, so it’s easy to get highly magnified and detailed celestial body shots.
As with the Orion EON, this scope lacks a high number of accessories.
But, one accessory we love is the retractable dew shield that helps prevent glare.
When the shield is extended, it compacts from 18 inches to 14 inches long for easier storage.
Another wonderful accessory is the two-inch dual-speed Crayford focuser, which allows astronomers to make both coarse and fine adjustments.
#3 Sky-Watcher ProED 100mm Doublet - Entry Doublet Option
The Sky-watcher ProED is the first doublet scope on our list.
It’s not very inferior to the triplet APOs we’ve reviewed above and it eliminates most of the chromatic aberration problems that many doublets are known to experience.
But, is it the right telescope for your astrophotography needs?
Features and Benefits
Doublet apochromatic lens
The Sky-Watcher ProED is a doublet APO refractor specifically designed to minimize chromatic aberration.
This scope utilizes extra-low dispersion (ED) glass to achieve the APO status that gives astronomers shots of clear and distortion-free images.
Of course, the doublet’s image quality can’t get anywhere close to what the APO triplets offer. Still, the ProED’s APO refractor offers the best images at this price point.
Whether you’re looking at the moon, planets, stars, or your favorite DSO, this scope minimizes color fringing. It allows you to see the celestial bodies in their true form.
The ProED’s key selling point is its optical performance.
While the four-inch aperture isn’t the biggest for collecting light, what it gathers is shown in exquisite detail.
It doesn’t present the sky’s widest views but will deliver excellent deep space views with stunning clarity and brightness.
It’s easy to see razor-sharp details of both lunar and planetary details.
It captures the brightest nebula, such as Orion or the Swan, but the aperture is too small for most Nebula.
Galaxies are a bit dim; you can only pick the brightest one, and you’ll probably need a dark sky.
Another reason astronomers choose to buy the Sky-Watcher is for the excellent quality of its astro-imaging.
With a focal ratio of f/9.0 from a focal length of 900mm, this scope has the flexibility to deliver crisp and clear images of the planets, moon, and other DSO.
Our only concern is the long focal length, making it challenging for your mount to track long exposures.
While users were able to capture images of Andromeda, I wouldn’t recommend this scope if you’re going to do deep-sky astrophotography. I’d suggest a /7 refractor instead.
But if you plan to take pictures of the moon and planets, this is a great scope for astrophotography.
This telescope isn’t as accessorized as we would have wished, but it’s not a surprise considering the price point.
However, it does come with a two-inch dielectric diagonal, right-angle viewfinder, two eyepieces, and a carrying case.
#4 Celestron Edge 1100XLT - Best for Seasoned Astronomers
The Celestron Edge is an expert level titan that boasts extreme power and versatility.
It’s not the cheapest option, though, and we wouldn’t recommend it for beginners.
However, for the serious astronomer who needs a scope that packs a punch, you can’t go wrong with this option.
Features and Benefits
With a whopping 11-inch aperture, there will be no shortage of images to photograph or observe.
The Celestron Edge has the largest aperture on our list, translating to better light gathering capabilities.
With the Edge, there are few celestial bodies that you can’t make out.
With maximum light flooding into the scope, it’s easy to make out details such as the moon’s craters, the four moons of Jupiter, the Halo ring on Saturn, and other celestial details.
The Edge is the perfect pick for astronomers who aren’t just interested in the objects themselves but also in the objects’ details.
The Edge’s native focal ratio is relatively slow, with a narrow field of f/10, making it unsuitable for astrophotography.
But, the scope has a trick up its sleeve to reduce the focal ratio.
First, the scope can accommodate EdgeHD focal reducers, reducing the ratio to a moderate f/7.0.
Alternatively, astronomers can use Celestron’s Fastar technology, allowing them to remove the secondary mirror, which creates a scope with an ultra-fast ratio of f/2.
Combine either of the methods with a focal length of 2,800 mm, and the scope gives you clear and detailed images for even the faintest areas of the deep sky.
It also lets you capture images with great detail and clarity.
The Celestron Edge isn’t the most accessorized telescope. Still, it does come with features that make it a very attractive scope for astrophotography.
For instance, the mirror clutches help to keep the mirror in place without any tension. It’s the perfect accessory for keeping locked celestial objects centered in long exposures.
The scope’s tube is also vented to allow warm air to escape while preventing dust from getting into the scope.
#5 SkyWatcher EvoStar 72ED - Budget Option
SkyWatcher’s EvoStar 72ED is a small but mighty astrophotography scope.
While it’s easy to get fooled by the size, this scope has plenty of potential, and with the right mounting system, it can work wonders.
It may not have masses of accessories, but if the weight, cost, and performance are the primary decision for selecting your best telescope for astrophotography, this is a winning option.
Features and Benefits
Portable and lightweight
It’s ridiculous how lightweight and compact this OTA is.
Weighing a measly 4.3 pounds and with a tube length of 16.6 inches, it’s one of the compact and lightweight options in the market,
Beyond the obvious benefits of transporting this scope, the greatest plus of the lightweight and compact body is that it can fit onto any mount.
The EvoStar 72 is an achromatic doublet, coming with two lenses.
It’s a great feature, which helps in correcting chromatic aberrations on the images captured.
While it’s not as efficient as triple achromatic lenses, we love how it eliminates color fringing, spherical aberration, and coma aberration.
Astronomers are treated to clear, vivid, and sharp details of objects, true to their form and color.
The EvoStar 72 has one of the smallest apertures on our list.
Of course, this affects the optical performance as it limits the amount of light that gets through to the telescope.
It might be challenging to observe the faintest DSO or less-illuminated objects with the scope.
However, it does excel for general views, as it can get clear and sharp views of the moon, planets, and even some deep space objects.
The EvoStar 72 might have a limited aperture, but this doesn’t affect its astrophotography performance.
Sure, larger scopes are desirable for visual viewing, but a smaller aperture on a refractor serves well when it comes to imaging.
The EvoStar 72 is suitable for wide-field, lower power photography. It lets you capture more in your field of view without magnifying the optical view as much.
Plus, with a focal ratio of f/5.8, it’s a fast scope, so you can always expect a good resolution.
The only limiting element with this scope is the short focal length. While it may prove restrictive for smaller targets, it’s not a huge deal breaker as it just means the photos will be smaller.
Best Telescopes for Astrophotography Buying Guide
In the guide below, we shall share everything you need to know about selecting the best telescope for astrophotography.
But it would be prudent to first look at the different types of astrophotography, as they inspire us on the type of telescope to get for ourselves.
Types of astrophotography
Astrophotography is a bit of a catch-all term.
In reality, you can pursue several different types of astrophotography, with each requiring different techniques, gear, and planning.
Deep space astrophotography refers to images taken of objects beyond our solar system.
It includes distant galaxies and nebulae and happens to be the most challenging form of astrophotography.
Solar astrophotography includes images of the planets, moon, and sun of our solar system.
Solar images are mostly taken by telescopes, though a super-lens telescope on a DSLR camera can also give good results.
This astrophotography can be pursued with a DSLR camera and lens with a wide field of view, namely a wide-angle lens.
Some of the more accessible forms of images taken through this method are star trails or the starry sky above a landscape.
Time-lapse astrophotography is an extension of wide-field astrophotography.
The difference, though, is that with time-lapse you capture many exposures over time, and then combine the frames to make a time-lapse video.
Astrophotography capturing the Milky Way is often taken in the desert or in other environments with minimum light pollution and can be elusive for city dwellers.
Important features to look for in an astrophotography telescope
Now that you’re aware of the different forms of astrophotography, the next thing to consider are the features you should look out for.
To ensure your telescope will work well for your photography needs, below are some of the features to keep in mind.
Focal length and focal ratio
Focal length is important for the best telescope for astrophotography as it determines how wide a field of view you can see and the magnification, or rather the closeness, of objects.
Focal length refers to the distance the light has to travel from the primary lens, or mirror, to the point of focus.
Scopes with shorter focal lengths have a wider field of view but present less detail under magnification, which can be fantastic for viewing distant galaxies.
On the other hand, longer focal lengths offer a narrower field of view with better viewing at high magnification and are great for viewing the moon.
Another important factor for telescopes for astrophotography is the focal ratio or “speed” of a telescope. This is the focal length divided by the aperture.
The speed of a scope is crucial as it determines what you can capture on your telescope.
So, how do you determine which focal ratio is good?
- f/9 or greater is considered slow and ideal for capturing planetary or lunar astrophotography
- f/5 to /8 is a mid-range speed
- f/4 or lower is fast and ideal for deep sky imaging
As with the aperture on your camera, your scope’s aperture size plays a role in your images’ clarity.
A large aperture lets in more light and opens up the field of view.
Unfortunately, astronomers often over-think the aperture and ignore the quality of the optics.
While bigger apertures have more light-gathering capabilities, it’s no good if your scope has poor optics. It will only result in big blurry fuzz.
And this brings us to the optics of the best astrophotography telescopes.
There are numerous optics for telescopes, but we shall only focus on the three major types here.
Most telescopes suffer from chromatic aberration.
This is the blurring of the colors around the stars, which usually appear as a red, blue, purple, or green fringe around the edges.
However, with apochromatic lenses, you can kiss chromatic aberration goodbye. The lens focuses on the three-wavelengths of green, blue, and red at the same level.
This virtually eliminates all forms of color distortion, even more so than an achromatic lens which mainly focuses on the red and blue wavelengths on the same plane.
ED or rather extra-low dispersion glass in the optics can also reduce fringing or chromatic aberration.
They also enhance the resolution, producing even sharper images than traditional glass lenses.
Double or triple lenses
The perfect triplet lens, which is made of three pieces of glass, takes effort and time to construct and it’s better than a doublet,
Triplets are expensive, but offer lower chromatic aberration and better image quality.
Unfortunately, they’re heavier than other lenses and take longer to cool and align, so they may not be the ideal pick for beginners.
While this guide is primarily interested in the best telescope for astrophotography, the mounting system is as important as the scope itself.
You see, long exposure shots will need a steady mount to avoid digital noise, distortion, and blur in the shot.
Altazimuth mounts are generally ineffective for astrophotography. The long exposure needed for scopes for photography means the Earth’s rotation makes the stars appear out of view, leaving just a trail of light.
A good equatorial mount lets you track the celestial bodies with ease as they move across the skies.
On the other hand, motorized mounts are essential, as they allow a scope to lock onto an object and keep it in the field of view using the motor’s tracking.
Wrap Up: Our Choice
While all our reviewed items are fantastic, we would be most surprised if someone were to walk away dissatisfied after purchasing an Orion EON 130mm.
Due to its ease of use, portability, and a wonderful range of functions, the scope combines the perfect bang-for-buck ratio for any astrophotographer, regardless of their skill level.