Astrophotography is a hobby enjoyed by young and old alike. It involves the use of a camera connected to a telescope, with which to survey the heavens and explore the wonderful reaches of space right from the comfort of your very own home.
While nothing can quite beat the thrill of seeing the stars up close with the naked eye by peering through a lone telescope, astrophotography takes things to the next level by providing clearer pictures of celestial bodies and allowing you to share their beauty with others.
As there are many different types of telescopes available for use in this hobby, choosing the top astrophotography telescope might take some effort on your part, but it’s a totally worthwhile investment of your time.
Below is a list of the 5 best telescopes for you to use in astrophotography. Take a look and see which one you’d like to be your personal companion as you discover and map the wonders of the universe.
1. Celestron 31042 AstroMaster 114 EQ Reflector Telescope
Even the most amateur astronomers know that reflector telescopes provide great value for their cost so it may come as no surprise that the highest-rated scope for astrophotography is a Newtonian reflector – the AstroMaster 114 EQ. This piece of galactic survey equipment has a slightly-less-than average-sized scope with an aperture of 114mm (4.48”), a focal length of 1000mm, and a focal ratio of f/8.7.
Because of the size of the optics, it does a good job of providing a clear view of planets and deep-sky objects. You’ll have no problem observing the Moon, the Orion Nebula, and the Andromeda Galaxy.
Accessories include two 1.25” eyepieces (20mm and 10mm), a permanently mounted StarPointer red dot finderscope, and a free copy of Celestron’s Starry Night astronomy software to help with locating celestial bodies.
It uses a German equatorial mount which makes it easier to track the moving objects as the Earth rotates. The tripod is pretty sturdy and rigid as the legs are made of 1.25” steel tubes and it has an accessory tray to hold your extra eyepieces or other small parts. Its total weight is about 17-lbs.
While most reflector telescopes aren’t that great for terrestrial observation, the AstroMaster 114 EQ excels in this area. Normally, Newtonian reflectors present images as inverted or rotated and the condition isn’t correctable. However, the AstroMaster 114 EQ uses an innovative technology known as erect image optics which corrects this problem and allows you to view both astronomical and terrestrial details. You can even buy a special safety filter which will allow you to view the Sun.
2. Orion 8297 8-Inch f/3.9 Newtonian Astrograph Reflector Telescope
Not all Newtonians have the capability to work perfectly for astrophotography, but the Orion Newtonian Astrograph has no problems whatsoever. The scope uses a large 203mm (8”) parabolic primary mirror, has an 800mm focal length, and a focal ratio of f/3.9. These specs are what make this telescope an ideal choice for wide-field photography of celestial objects.
The telescope also comes equipped with a 70mm minor axis secondary mirror which works to provide full field illumination to CCD and DSLR cameras.
Both the primary and secondary mirrors are covered with an aluminum coating in order to enhance their reflectivity as well as another coat of silicon dioxide for protection from the elements. Manual collimation is made easy using three push-pull knobs located on the primary cell.
Pictures taken using the Orion Newtonian Astrograph will come out with an excellent contrast and near-perfect lighting due to the presence of nine baffle rings which run along the inside of the reflector tube. To make the quality even better, use a dual-speed 2” Crayford focuser in the front of the optical tube.
This telescope is more than enough to provide you with spectacular views of both deep-sky and solar system-based phenomena.
Additional accessories that are included with the package are a cooling accelerator fan, cast aluminum tube rings, a quick collimation cap, and a 9×50 finderscope. The fan uses eight AA batteries which aren’t included.
3. Explore Scientific ED80
The Explore Scientific ED80 has a diameter of 80mm, a focal length of 480mm, and a focal ratio of f/6. It weighs almost 6 pounds and uses FDC1 (Hoya) glass. The recommended field flattener/reducer to be used together with it is the Lightwave 0.8X.
It’s an excellent choice of a telescope for use in astrophotography. With it, you can capture deep-sky images of anything from the Orion Nebula to the Andromeda Galaxy. It’s a really good choice especially for beginners, given its high-return value and affordability.
The Explore Scientific ED80 usually comes with a hard-shell case for use during travel as well as a diagonal and illuminated finder scope. Since its scope is quite small and weighs considerably less than other deep-sky telescopes, it can be set up and used regularly without much hassle.
Two good entry-level mounts that can be used with this telescope are the Celestron AVX and the Sky-Watcher HEQ5.
If you’d like to try a version of the ED80 that is a little lighter and can adapt better to temperature, Explore Scientific has a carbon-fiber version for sale.
4. Orion ED80T CF
The Orion ED80T CF has a diameter of 80mm, a focal length of 480mm, and a focal ratio of f/6. It weighs about 5.5 pounds and uses FPL-53 glass. It’s recommended to use the Orion FF field flattener/reducer with this telescope.
It is another great choice for beginners as you can get really high-quality imaging without having to spend too much.
This telescope is similar to the ES ED80 in many aspects. Both the Orion ED80T and the Explore Scientific 80mm telescopes come with a dew shield and 2” dual-speed Crayford style focusers, and they also both have the same specifications.
The only real difference is the type of glass that they use for the lens. Ultimately, the deciding factor between the two will be what accessories it comes with as well as how good the customer service is from Orion and Explore Scientific.
Similar to the ES ED80, this telescope also comes with a travel case to use when taking your star-gazing adventures on the road.
5. Celestron NexStar 130 SLT Computerized Telescope
This telescope is a good choice for amateurs and beginners, striking the perfect balance between performance and usability. Its cost is also quite reasonable given the features that it has. It has an aperture of 130mm, a focal length of 650mm, and utilizes a 307x magnification in order to give a picture-perfect view of the stars.
The NexStar 130 SLT utilizes computerized technology with built-in alignment controls to allow for easier and more accurate viewing of celestial events. It also has a digital database which contains more than 4,000 objects and 600 galaxies to make sure you’ll always have something new to see. These advanced digital features are what make the NexStar 130 SLT so beginner-friendly.
One thing that’s a bit different about this telescope is that it’s not ready to use right out of the box. You’ll need to spend some time setting it up before you can start taking Instagram-worthy pictures. The hand controls and finderscope will need to be aligned and adjusted.
How to Use a Digital Camera with a Telescope?
If you’re just getting into astrophotography, you’ll be happy to know that there are more options available than ever before. Digital cameras such as DSLRs and even your cell phone camera can be used to capture high-quality pictures of the galaxy and all its supreme majesty.
You might not have thought that a telescope that takes pictures was even possible, but as you begin to learn more about astrophotography, you’ll be surprised to see how far the boundaries stretch.
A telescope can be used with your digital or 35mm optical camera. In order to get the camera and telescope to connect together, you can find attachment kits for sale that contain everything you need.
Such kits usually have T-mount adapters, eyepieces, and other accessories that are used during telescope photography. You’ll usually also find a variety of camera-specific adapters included in the kit as well.
It’s a smart move for you to invest in one of these telescope kits as it will save you a lot of hassle and make installation easier. Without a kit, you’ll need to find out what type of specific T-ring and T-thread your camera uses and buy them separately.
Telescope kits can be purchased at camera or scope optics retail shops. In order to make sure your camera is compatible with the telescope, check the camera’s model number.
DSLRs are considered to be the most popular types of cameras that are commonly used in astrophotography. These digital cameras operate by way of an automatic mirror system and pentamirror which direct light through the viewfinder from the lens.
Here’s how you can connect the two devices together. Remove the eyepiece from the camera and attach the T-ring by screwing it onto the threads. The T-adapter threads onto the T-ring as well.
Once done, you should be able to use the telescope with the camera together. They’re generally easy to hook-up, but if you have any problems, the user manual that comes with the kit will provide you with more detailed instructions.
A Buyer’s Guide to Telescopes
If you’re getting a telescope for the first time, things can tend to get a little confusing, especially when you aren’t yet familiar with all of their accessories, terms, and inner workings. Although you’re probably excited to begin surveying the stars as soon as possible, take a few minutes to read through this short buyer’s guide to help you make the right decision when choosing your first telescope.
- Pick Your Telescope Type
A telescope has three common variants known as refractor, reflector, and compound. For your starter telescope, it’s recommended to choose one of the three.
Refractor telescopes are inexpensive and easily operable, but they don’t have the long-range needed to get a clear picture of distant planets and celestial objects. Reflector telescopes, on the other hand, are ideal when viewing far away objects but have difficulty with displaying bodies nearer to the Earth. The compound telescope has the capability to view both near and far objects but will cost a lot.
- Learn the Lingo
You’ll be able to better appreciate the art of astrophotography if you can understand some of the technical terms. Understandably, you won’t know much right off the bat and a lot of your knowledge will be gained from experience.
However, you can speed up the process by doing some self-learning whenever you have free time. Terms like iso, aperture, focal length, and exposure will begin to have more meaning to you as you discover more about the world of astrophotography.
- Classical or Computerized
Do you fancy the old-school type of telescope or prefer something a little more modern? An important decision for you to make is whether you want a computerized type of telescope or a standard type. It all depends on your preference.
Telescopes with built-in databases are great for keeping track of celestial objects and are very useful for starter hobbyists. On the other hand, some people take great pride in being able to track objects in space without any aid. Reflect on this question prior to choosing your first telescope.
- Be Aware of Insurance Policies
Telescopes are fragile pieces of equipment and can become damaged during transit if you’re having it shipped. It’s always recommended to have expensive items insured, but even more so when it comes to telescopes as some are high-end and cost more than $1,000.
When pondering over what type of telescope to buy and where to get it, think about the product’s warranty and what benefits the retailer offers.
- Stay Within Your Budget
Before reading reviews of various types of telescopes online and going crazy with anticipation, stop first and think about how much you can actually spend. Many telescopes are upgradeable and modifications can be added, so don’t worry if you lack the cash to get a really good lens or accessory from the get-go.
Set a budget, look for a telescope that fits and you’re happy with, and save up for later. Don’t worry, the stars will always be right there waiting for you.