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Best Telescopes Under $200: Dobsonians to Maksutovs

In this article, I'll be going over what kinds of things you can expect from a $200 telescope, and I’ve picked out an assortment of our highest-ranked telescopes to compare in features and real-world performance under the night sky.
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When it comes to the telescopes and the accessories that we review or recommend, our editorial board (which is comprised entirely of astronomers) makes unbiased judgments. Read our telescope testing methodology or read about us.

You might think that someone like me, with years of experience in astronomy, would discount telescopes that cost as little as the ones we go over here. But I’ve spent many nights using sub-$200 scopes like the SarBlue Mak60, Orion SkyScanner, and Zhumell Z100 and had plenty of fun using the other telescopes we’ve ranked for your consideration here. Any good telescope with quality optics, comfortable eyepieces, and a sturdy mounting will bring you countless hours of beautiful views.

Things to look for:

  • Aperture of at least 60mm
  • Parabolic primary mirrors in reflectors. True achromatic optics in refractors.
  • The included eyepieces should be at least 1.25” Kellner, Plossl, or other eyepieces with 3–4 lens elements.
  • A 1.25” focuser/eyepiece holder
  • A sturdy mount

Things to avoid:

  • Bird-Jones Newtonian reflectors, which have a focal length significantly longer than the physical length of the tube and do not produce sharp images
  • Spherical mirrors in Newtonian reflector telescopes with a focal ratio under f/8 or larger than 114mm in aperture
  • Any telescope promising very high magnifications, like 300, 400 e.t.c.
  • Most equatorially mounted telescopes
  • Apertures under 60mm with any optical design
  • Telescopes made by generic brands

What kind of telescope can I get for $200?

Some astronomers will tell you, rather pessimistically, that there isn’t a good telescope for under $300, $500, or something like that figure. Alternatively, they will tell you that the relatively small telescopes you can buy with a constrained budget are so lacking in capabilities that you are better off with binoculars. Thankfully, this is not the case. While 10×50 or 7×50 binoculars could be a better choice if your budget is $100 or less, I can assure you that $150–$200 can get you a capable, if diminutive, beginner telescope. The telescopes I recommend below a price point of $200 are sort of a mix of semi-specialized instruments.

Best Value & Performance

On one hand, you have wide-field-of-view tabletop Dobsonians, which offer great deep-sky views but require the investment in an additional high-magnification eyepiece (as well as some sort of support such as a table to place the scope on) to be useful for close-up views of the Moon and planets.





For $200, the largest aperture you are likely to be able to get your hands on is a 4” (100mm) tabletop dobsonian like the SkyScanner or the Zhumell Z100; upping your budget a bit will allow you to get larger aperture instruments. Both scopes offer a truly parabolic primary mirror and are also extremely portable, fitting into even a moderately sized backpack. Between Z100 and Skyscanner, your pick should be the least expensive option. If only both are available at the same price, go for the Zhumell Z100.

  • 100mm aperture provides far more light-gathering power and clarity than smaller telescopes available at this price
  • The wide field of view thanks to 400mm focal length allows for a similar experience to large binoculars when viewing Milky Way, star clusters, etc.
  • The sharp parabolic primary mirror provides up-close and detailed views of Moon, planets
  • It can be used atop nearly any surface or a standard photo tripod

The Orion SkyScanner 100mm and Zhumell Z100 are nearly identical, the only difference being pricing and that the included eyepieces with each are slightly different spec-wise. In all other respects, these telescopes are identical in their mechanical and optical design, being a 100mm f/4 Newtonian reflector with a parabolic primary mirror yielding sharp images. You can’t align (collimate) this mirror yourself, like with most well-made reflectors, but the SkyScanner/Z100’s tiny primary mirror tends to arrive collimated out of the box and stay that way for countless hours of use. This scope’s tabletop Dobsonian mount is dead simple to aim around the sky—just push it around—and the bottom has a ¼ 20 threaded hole so you can attach the whole telescope and mount to a sturdy photo tripod if need be.

With the SkyScanner/Z100’s 100mm (4”) of aperture, you can see a lot of things in the sky even from a fairly light-polluted area. The SkyScanner/Z100 is primarily designed for wide-field views of objects like nebulae and open star clusters at low magnifications, and objects in the latter category like the famed Pleiades or Wild Duck clusters shine through the glow of city lights and reveal hundreds of colorful, glittering pinpoints at the eyepiece. Under a dark sky, nebulae like the Orion Nebula or the Swan delight; a good-quality nebula filter costs as much as this telescope itself but makes for a real treat on these objects and the fainter Veil Nebula supernova remnant.

The mere 40x provided by the SkyScanner/Z100’s included 10mm eyepiece barely reveals the cloud belts on Jupiter and Saturn’s famed rings; pop in an aftermarket Barlow lens for 80x or an aftermarket eyepiece offering similarly high magnification, and you’ll be able to make out the Galilean moons as tiny dots when they transit Jupiter, split the Cassini Division in Saturn’s rings, and resolve countless close double stars. You might be able to see some surface features on Mars when it is close to our home planet, too.

Best Tripod-Mounted Reflector & Refractor

On the other hand, there are tripod-mounted options that are smaller in aperture than an equivalently priced tabletop or free-standing Dob. The bulk of these telescopes are “hobby killers”—optically poor, unsteady, or hard to aim, and/or equipped with plastic eyepieces that yield a shoddy image.



Infinity 70


Barely distinguishable at first glance from the “hobby killer” scopes at this lower price range are a few quality picks mounted on tripods, namely, the Orion SpaceProbe II 76mm EQ Reflector and Meade Infinity 70AZ Refractor. Both of these telescopes are really only useful for views of the Moon, planets, double stars, and the brightest deep-sky objects. They lack the light-collecting power needed for views of wispy nebulae and galaxies, while the overall field of view you get for viewing open star clusters and the like is quite constrained compared to a 100mm tabletop Dobsonian. Both come with an acceptable set of accessories and are superior to the low-quality tripod-mounted refractors and reflectors in this price range.

  • It has acceptable quality optics, mount, and eyepieces
  • Enough aperture for decent views
  • Fairly lightweight/portable

The Orion SpaceProbe II 76 EQ is a 3” (76mm) Newtonian reflector on a spindly equatorial mount and tripod. While an equatorial mount isn’t ideal for beginners, the EQ-1 mount supplied with the SpaceProbe II is sturdy enough and adequately supports this relatively small telescope. The SpaceProbe II’s optics are designed more for lunar and planetary viewing – and with only 3” of aperture, you won’t be able to see much in the way of deep-sky objects anyway – but it’s still able to show you open star clusters and the Orion Nebula, for instance. The SpaceProbe II is optically far superior to sub $100 tabletop 3” scopes like the Orion Funscope. Its spherical f/9 mirror is negligibly different from a parabola on account of its weak curvature and thus forms sharp images. Two 1.25” Kellner eyepieces (28x/70x respectively) are provided to get you started, and they may be all you need to use with this telescope.

  • Sharp achromatic refractor optics
  • Lightweight and fairly simple to set up
  • Decent included accessories

Meade’s Infinity 70AZ has about as much light-gathering and resolving power as the Orion SpaceProbe II on account of its unobstructed 70mm aperture, and as such, it is a similarly capable instrument. The Infinity 70AZ’s small aperture and long focal ratio lend it more to lunar, planetary, and double star viewing, but it will also show you the Orion Nebula, some open star clusters, and other bright and well-known deep-sky objects like the Andromeda Galaxy. The Infinity 70 is small enough that chromatic aberration is not much of a problem at its relatively long focal ratio of f/10.

Most Portable & Best for Daytime

And then there’s the SarBlue Mak60 Maksutov-Cassegrain, the best catadioptric telescope in the $100 range. The Mak60 straddles the line between “educational toy” and “functioning telescope”.

Mak60 Dob


Mak60 Tripod


Our favorite configuration is that of the tabletop Dobsonian model. It is available on a tripod too, but I generally advise against that. However, like the SpaceProbe and Infinity, this scope lacks the light-gathering power or field of view of the 100mm reflector dobsonians like the Z100/SkyScanner. However, it has nearly perfect optics.

  • An extremely compact and lightweight Maksutov-Cassegrain optical tube that fits in a cup holder
  • Tabletop Dobsonian mount can be used on any stable surface and fits in a small handbag/backpack
  • Sharp optics that are ideal for lunar/planetary, double star viewing as well as for daytime spotting applications like birding

SarBlue’s Mak60 is practically the antithesis of the 100mm tabletop Dobsonians, apart from sharing the design of its mounting. The Mak60’s tiny, obstructed aperture means it has little in the way of light-collecting power for deep-sky observations. However, its razor-sharp optics are ideal for viewing the Moon, planets, and double stars. The Mak60 is extremely compact, able to fit into even a fanny pack or purse if need be, and this also makes it ideal for daytime use as a spotting scope since the Mak60’s Maksutov-Cassegrain optics and Amici prism diagonal produce an upright, correct left-right image.

Sub-$100 Honorable Mention

The Funscope is really designed to fit at a sub-$100 price point, and this shows, primarily in the form of its shoddy spherical mirror, which fails to focus light precisely enough to yield sharp images past a magnification of 40x or so and is entirely useless above 60x.



While not particularly useful overall, the Orion Funscope 76mm Tabletop Dobsonian offers a super-cheap introduction to the world of astronomy and telescopes in a diminutive package. It’s not a serious observing tool by any means, but the FunScope comes with quality accessories and handles similarly to a much larger instrument.

  • Simple design and same basic features as larger instruments make them ideal for kids or tight budgets
  • Acceptable performance at low magnifications. Its wide field of view is ideal for star clusters and nebulae under a darker sky
  • Lightweight, portable, and extremely easy to use

The Orion Funscope 76 is essentially the same telescope as the Celestron FirstScope but includes Kellner eyepieces and a red dot finder, allowing it to be somewhat usable. The Funscope’s two Kellner eyepieces provide 15x and 50x, respectively, which is reasonable. A plastic 2x Barlow lens is also provided; the optical quality of it is atrocious, and you can’t exactly use 100x magnification with this telescope anyway. 

The FunScope can still show you Jupiter’s cloud bands, the phases of Venus, the rings of Saturn, and craters on the Moon – but it’s a far cry from the type of optical quality typically found in telescopes we recommend. The FunScope is best used for low-power viewing of star clusters and nebulae – or as an introduction to astronomy for children; its light weight, low price, and compact design make it particularly good for the latter as a gift.

A lot of people will argue that the rather niche nature of some of these lower-priced telescopes tends to make them a poor choice compared to a pair of astronomy binoculars. I don’t share this idea that they’re not worth bothering with. While there are fundamental limitations to what you can see with all of these instruments, as well as what they were designed to be capable of showing you, they complement each other—or a bigger and more powerful telescope you might obtain in the future—quite well.

What if I increase my budget somewhat?

Spending a bit more ($250 or so) gets you a 4.5” (114mm) or 5” (130mm) model. Increasing to a budget of $300 allows you to consider the larger 4.5”, 5” and even 6” tabletop Dobsonians, though you should spare some cash for a good planetary eyepiece for one of these too. $300–$400 is enough to consider a 6” Dobsonian, either tabletop or free-standing.

Alternatively, there are a few quality 80mm refractors and the SarBlue Mak70, which is, like its smaller counterpart, the Mak60, a one-trick pony for lunar, planetary, and double star work but also extremely portable and optically superb.

For more information, be sure to check out our Best Telescopes Under $300 article and our telescope rankings.

Side-By-Side Performance Tests on Viewing Targets

The optics of the cheapest pick, the Orion FunScope, are, of course, fundamentally flawed, while those of the SarBlue Mak60 are unusually good. The other three telescopes we’ve gone over are fairly typical of what you can expect from mass-produced optics.

Let’s compare what you might be able to see of some typical objects in the sky with each of them, assuming equally favorable atmospheric and light pollution conditions.

Viewing Deep-Sky Objects

Star Clusters

The wide field of view of the Orion SkyScanner/Zhumell Z100, combined with its 4″ aperture, made it by far the best performer of the five when it comes to any sort of deep-sky viewing, and open star clusters are no exception. Under a dark sky, I was able to even see dark lanes or wispy nebulosity in clusters like NGC 7789 and the Pleiades, respectively.

The Funscope 76 delivered a similarly broad view, but with less vivid or bright stars owing to its lesser light-collecting ability.

The SpaceProbe II 76EQ and Meade Infinity 70 have about the same light-gathering area and a similar maximum field of view, both of which are quite a bit less than that of the SkyScanner/Z100. I could see open clusters with these telescopes, but larger ones didn’t fit in the field of view entirely with these telescopes’ stock low-power eyepieces, while an aftermarket eyepiece offering a wider field of view costs a substantial portion as much as these telescopes themselves.

The little Mak60 was a bit of a disappointment on all deep-sky objects, including open star clusters. The hundreds of members of the Double Cluster appeared razor-sharp, but even this rather bright cluster was dim and somewhat fuzzy at the eyepiece.

None of the telescopes in this price range are big enough to resolve individual stars in globular clusters. With the exception of the monster Omega Centauri cluster (only visible below latitudes of 35 degrees North or so), all of these objects appear as fuzzy dots through even a 4” telescope like the SkyScanner/Z100; a 5” or larger aperture is required to resolve members of even the brightest clusters like M13.


The Orion Nebula (M42), the Lagoon (M8), and the Swan (M17) make up the trifecta of bright, easily-apparent nebulae familiar to most stargazers; all three are obvious to the naked eye if the Milky Way is visible overhead. Even the tiny SarBlue Mak60 revealed the brighter centers of these nebulae and the dazzling newborn blue giant stars within, but I was able to see finer detail, more extended structure, and, of course, had an easier time with a larger aperture scope like the Orion SkyScanner/Zhumell Z100. SkyScanner/Z100’s wider field of view allowed me to further back off and view larger structures such as dark dust lanes and sprinkles of stars extending well beyond the nebulae themselves.

Under a dark sky, the SkyScanner/Z100 revealed the fainter Eagle, Rosette, and (with a filter) the Veil Nebula supernova remnant as well; the other telescopes in this article were too small in aperture and too zoomed-in to give a good view of these objects.

Smaller planetary nebulae were, as with globular star clusters, a bit of a letdown with 4” and smaller instruments such as these five telescopes. I could see the Dumbbell (M27) – reminiscent of a fuzzy, gray apple core – and I was able to tell that the Ring (M57) and other smaller planetary nebulae were there with some careful searching. But pumping up magnification enough to reveal these objects’ individual characteristics dimmed the image too much, often making them appear entirely invisible. As with globular clusters, at least a 5” or preferably 8-10” aperture is best for viewing these objects in detail (as well as bringing out their vivid array of colors).


The Andromeda Galaxy and other bright, familiar galaxies were visible through all of these telescopes as oval smudges. Under a fairly dark sky, I could see dust lanes notching across M82 with even the SarBlue Mak60. A larger aperture, such as that provided by the other telescopes, makes the task easier. I could see a dark dust lane in the disk of Andromeda or M64 under a dark sky with the SkyScanner/Z100, and theoretically, such a feat can be done with the Mak60 too, albeit with far more effort. But to put it bluntly, these island universes are simply too faint and distant to be within the grasp of such small telescopes; an 8-10” or larger instrument is ideal if you want to observe more than a handful of the brightest galaxies and resolve intricate detail/structure within them, such as dust lanes or spiral arms.

Double Stars

Double stars are the bread and butter of small, optically superb telescopes like the SarBlue Mak60, which suffers from neither the diffraction spikes of a Newtonian reflector nor the chromatic aberration of a refractor on even the brightest stars. And of course, even within a city, you can still see the bulk of these pairs with little difficulty or compromise to the views from light pollution if you know where to find them.

The more lunar/planetary-oriented SpaceProbe II 76mm and Infinity 70 didn’t have quite as sharp an image as the Mak60. But the Mak60 compensated with its larger aperture, which gives it greater resolving power.

The SkyScanner 100/Z100 resolved slightly closer-together stellar pairs than the aforementioned trifecta, but you’ll need an aftermarket high-power eyepiece or Barlow lens to get up to magnifications more suitable for splitting the more difficult ones. Lastly, the shoddy spherical primary mirror of the FunScope makes for poor resolving power and fuzzy stars; wider doubles like Albireo are, of course, still a dazzling sight, but increasing the magnification much beyond 40x is just going to be a disappointment.

Viewing Moon

The shoddy optics of the Orion FunScope mean it didn’t reveal as sharp or close-up lunar features as the other telescopes we’re comparing, but it still gave a delightful view at lower magnifications. Otherwise, the views through the remaining four are broadly similar; the SkyScanner/Z100 boasts a slight resolution improvement over the other telescopes, but you are likely to enjoy the views of our nearest neighbor just as much as through the smaller instruments too.

Viewing Inner Planets

Venus reveals its phases through any telescope. Smaller and generally more distant Mercury’s phases can be spotted with any telescope of good optical quality (which of course excludes the Orion FunScope). While Mercury is quite small, it actually isn’t much easier to resolve its phase through a larger telescope owing to the fact that viewing conditions near the horizon, as well as when Mercury is highest in the sky, tend to be sub-par. You might have to spend a few minutes staring at Mercury’s orange-yellow disk to be sure you’ve seen a crescent or gibbous phase and not just a blob. I have seen Mercury’s phases only a handful of times with any reasonable clarity, with any telescope, in my 9 years of frequent observing.

Mars is often labeled as “always disappointing” by astronomers, particularly newbies. But it in fact reveals a wealth of detail to the discerning eye, even with one of these modest telescopes. Even under poor conditions, the Mak60, SpaceProbe II, Infinity 70, and SkyScanner/Z100 can reveal a polar ice cap on the Red Planet and any evidence of ongoing planet-enshrouding dust storms. When Mars is near its closest to Earth—a period of a few months out of every two years, termed “opposition”—you can see some dark surface markings with these four telescopes, too. These shaded areas don’t correspond to any particular geological formation on Mars’ surface, nor are they the famed “canals,” but rather simply dark patches of dirt and dust that blow around and slightly change in size and shape with the Martian seasons.

Viewing Gas Giants

Jupiter was the first object in the night sky that Galileo set his sights on, and it’s also likely to be yours. The four biggest and brightest moons of Jupiter—the Galilean moons—are easily spotted at low magnification and even through the Mak60’s 5×24 finder scope. Even the FunScope reveals Jupiter’s two main equatorial cloud bands, while the other telescopes bring out finer detail around the polar regions, blue festoons in the belts, and perhaps even the Great Red Spot, which as of the time of writing (2024) is not much bigger in apparent size than the Galilean moons themselves; it can be a challenge to spot the Great Red Spot even with a much larger aperture than any of these instruments possess at times.

The Mak60, Infinity 70, and SpaceProbe II 76mm resolve the disks of Ganymede and Callisto—each about the size of Mercury—when they transit across Jupiter’s face. However, I had an easier time spotting the jet-black shadows that precede or follow the moons. The SkyScanner 100mm’s greater resolving power gives it an edge over the smaller trio and also resolves the disks of Io and Europa, which are closer in size to our Moon and don’t contrast as well against the backdrop of Jupiter’s beige clouds owing to their similar colors.

Saturn’s rings are a delight with any telescope. Saturn’s axis is tilted similarly to Earth’s, and the rings vary in apparent angle as a result from our perspective. The rings are headed for their minimum tilt in 2025 and can even briefly disappear from view when they are exactly edge-on. As such, they are a bit less bright than usual, and you might have a hard time resolving the Cassini Division—a gap in the rings nominally visible with even a 60mm telescope like the Mak60. Even with the SkyScanner/Z100’s much greater resolving power—or that of a larger instrument—you might have trouble for the next few years, particularly during turbulent atmospheric conditions.

The good news is that the rings and gaps in them aren’t the only things to see on Saturn. Titan, a bizarre world the size of Mercury where it rains and snows methane, is easy to spot with any telescope, while closer-in Rhea, Tethys, and Dione are little trouble except with the FunScope, which may or may not reveal them at all. The SkyScanner 100’s larger aperture brings out faint Enceladus; smaller Mimas is too dim and enshrouded in Saturn’s glare to be a likely catch. Besides the moons, Saturn exhibits cloud banding like Jupiter as well, though they are more or less perfect linear bands of beige and brown. Near the planet’s poles, you can make out a grayish-blue spot hosting Saturn’s famed hexagonal storm.

The moon Iapetus, orbiting Saturn at a greater distance than Titan, is easily within the grasp of all of the telescopes mentioned here if light pollution isn’t too severe. However, the moon’s two-toned surface – and drastic brightness variations – mean that for parts of its orbit, Iapetus can suddenly drop out of visibility altogether with smaller apertures, a phenomenon Giovanni Domenico Cassini experienced when he discovered Iapetus with his small telescope in 1671. You might just be able to track Iapetus for a full orbit with the light-collecting power of the SkyScanner/Z100. But with the smaller instruments, you have a great opportunity to recreate Cassini’s discoveries.

Viewing Ice Giants

Uranus is visible to the naked eye under a dark sky, and, through a small telescope, it appears as a greenish disk. I have had a hard time resolving it clearly with only 2-4” of aperture to work with, however. The four brightest Uranian moons require at least 8–10″ of aperture to see.

Neptune can be seen through even the Mak60 as well as the other telescopes on this list, but only the SkyScanner/Z100 had any shot at resolving this tiny blue orb and distinguishing it from a star. Neptune’s brightest moon, Triton, is theoretically within reach of a 100mm telescope, but in practice, a 5” or 6” is required to spot it.

Viewing Dwarf Planets

At an apparent magnitude below 14 and continuing to dim for the remainder of this century, Pluto was out of reach of any of the telescopes on this list even at its brightest in 1989, and nowadays it requires a 10″ or preferably 12″ telescope to see under even a dark sky. Ceres and Vesta, however, can be spotted with any telescope—or even the naked eye on occasion. All five of the telescopes here will reveal these relatively bright objects with little difficulty, even from a city. Don’t get too excited, however; both appear as gold-ish pinpoints even with a very large telescope under perfect conditions.

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