TelescopicWatch is dedicated to beginner astronomers who are curious about the sky and the equipment needed to explore it. We make use of the extreme expertise and experience of our renowned contributors to help you make informed decisions about exploring the infinite skies.
TelescopicWatch’s reviews are not commissioned by manufacturers or astronomy retailers and are written by someone with substantial experience using the product(s) reviewed. We do not pick our ratings or comments based on external sources or what sells best. You are getting the cold, hard truth when you read our content. Learn more about our rating guidelines.
Our Expert Panel:
Asking Our Editor-In-Chief, Zane Landers
Why Should Readers Trust TelescopicWatch?
A lot of review sites are either not written by someone with knowledge about the products, are skewed towards making sales, or are simply bought off. In total, I’ve been sent only 3 telescopes to review: the Dwarflab Dwarf II, a very small SVBONY refractor, and one of the Celestron StarSense Explorer DX telescopes. The rest is entirely based on my experiences purchasing and owning a telescope for myself or helping someone I know with a unit.
Another thing to consider is that a lot of astronomers like to stay in a specific niche. There are many astrophotographers who could not tell you the first thing about the advantages or disadvantages of an 8” Dob. Likewise, a lot of older people with decades of experience observing are often not as technologically inclined, and this also leads to them not sharing many of their tips and tricks online. A lot of the best help and advice I’ve ever received in the hobby has been from some random person in the dark at a star party. I would prefer that this information not be confined to such circumstances.
Having owned hundreds of telescopes, built dozens, dabbled in deep-sky and planetary astrophotography, and done some work with spectroscopy and asteroid occultations, there aren’t that many disciplines of amateur astronomy in which I haven’t at least tried getting involved.
Does TelescopicWatch Take Customer Reviews into Account?
The good news about many telescopes being so mass-produced is that there’s a lot of user feedback already online. This is mainly something I consider with electronic/computerized stuff, where issues with reliability or device compatibility might not be something I run into, even if they are common. However, beginner telescopes often have embellished reviews that genuinely may or may not be written by real people at all. And in any case, many people will rate 5 stars by accident or just because they are happy to have seen something at all, such as craters on the moon, even if the telescope is not very good or frustrating to aim. This means that it is impossible to trust reviews on Amazon or most retail sites.
Why Does TelescopicWatch Recommend Astronomy-dedicated Retailers?
Not only do astronomy retailers offer good prices, but they also have vastly better customer service than Amazon since they are run by real people who understand astronomy and telescopes. This matters less with small accessories or parts, but it’s super important when you spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on a nice telescope. High Point and Agena Astro are some of the leading US astronomy retailers.
The trouble with larger telescopes that are sold on Amazon is that they usually ship in more than one box. Sometimes, Amazon will ship only one box of a 2- or 3-box order and then refuse a refund or return when the others don’t ever show up; this is problematic with many telescopes, particularly Dobsonians, where users often receive only the box containing the tube or the box containing the base. You will never have this kind of problem with any of the astronomy-dedicated retailers we recommend.
How Do We Test Telescopes?
Typically, I will only review equipment that I have personally used for at least one or two nights of observing or imaging in some form. I also test the optics of most telescopes I can get my hands on, either with Foucault/Ronchi, dual-pass autocollimation, or the star test, and I’m building an interferometer in the future to get quantitative data on optical quality.
How Do You Keep Up With Industry Updates?
I’m a pretty frequent browser of astronomy sites like Cloudy Nights and Reddit’s /r/telescopes, and I shop for gear myself on the websites we recommend to readers; I’m usually pretty well-informed on what is going on on the equipment side of things.