TelescopicWatch’s simple mission is to assist our readers in making an informed telescope purchase decision prior to beginning their astronomical endeavors. Every day, we help more Americans realize their dream of owning a telescope to observe the moon and planets. This makes us exceedingly proud. With the aid of our professional writers and product guides, we make the impossible possible.
TelescopicWatch’s Award System
About Our Awards
The Editor’s Choice award is given to telescopes that we consider to be the finest of the best in their price range when compared to the competition. As a result, a $300 product may be an editor’s choice as well as a $3000 product. Editor’s Choice telescopes are often not found below the $250 price range because our editors’ team doesn’t consider that to be the best starting price for a decent telescope. Individual reviews would provide a more comprehensive understanding of the rationale behind the selection of the product as the Editor’s Choice. These products can be considered highly superior and best-in-class, with no justifiable reason to disregard them in favor of alternative options unless your specific need demands doing so.
The Recommended Product award is given to telescopes that we consider to be very good to buy, but its just that there is still at least one better product available to you at its price range. But due to your particular circumstances and your needs, this ‘Recommended Product’ telescope might be more suitable to you than the ‘Editor’s Choice’ telescope in that price range. These products are of good quality and give you your money’s worth.
The Partially Recommended award is given to telescopes that we ordinarily advise our readers to think twice about purchasing, but there are still some good qualities to these telescopes, even if they fall short when compared to the competition available. We recommend acquiring these telescopes only if your specific use cases and requirements are completely met by these scopes. These scopes would have some significant flaws, which prevents us from totally endorsing them, and our individual review would explain why.
The Not Recommended label is given to telescopes that we see no reason to buy. It’s trash, and you shouldn’t purchase one. Unfortunately, some of the most popular telescopes for beginners may be listed here, but for very good reasons.
TelescopicWatch’s Telescope Performance Rating System
We’ll make the big reveal regarding our own rating system. Our rating system is heavily impacted by the opinions of our own expert team, led by Zane Landers, as well as the editorial ideals that we adhere to as a team. There may be instances where a telescope rated 3.7 by our team is actually a solid 4.5 for YOUR particular use case, which is OK and expected. We’re not claiming that our rating systems are perfect and work for everyone, but we can tell you that no brand has ever forced us to give them a higher rating.
The rating system functions as our assessment of the telescope for a typical use case, and we provide thorough details in the individual product reviews so that you can apply your own unique circumstances to determine the usefulness of the telescope to YOU. We do, however, use our expertise, experience, and rigorous testing to provide unbiased evaluations and ratings for the telescopes that we review.
In addition to providing an overall out-of-five-star rating, we have ratings for different parts and aspects of a telescope that all weigh into the combined score. Telescopes are often more or less than the sum of all their parts. Here is an explanation of our rating system.
- Optics: The quality of the main optics (mirrors and lenses) of the telescope, and the consistency of quality.
- Focuser: How good is the focuser mechanism?
- Mount: Sturdiness of the mount, and either smoothness (if manual) or accuracy (if computerized).
- Lunar & planetary views: Is the telescope good for viewing the moon and planets?
- Rich Field: How good is the telescope for viewing deep-sky objects at low magnification?
- Accessories: The overall quality of the included accessories and how adequate they are for the telescope they are provided with.
- Ease of Use: How easy is it to use this telescope?
- Portability: How easy is it to travel with this telescope? What kind of vehicle does it need to be transported in, if any?
- Value: Is what you’re getting a good deal for the money? Is it affordable compared to similar alternatives or a rip-off?
Telescopes without mounts will be excluded from mount scoring.
A more thorough explanation of our rubric:
Optical quality is hard for beginners to determine, so we’ve gone and done that for you by testing the products we review.
- 1 star: Completely unusable optics with fuzzy images at low power.
- 2 stars: Low-quality optics, but enough to be somewhat enjoyable on the Moon and on deep-sky objects at low power.
- 3 stars: Not great, but works up to moderately high magnification.
- 4 stars: Typical “good” commercial scope, not perfect but at least diffraction-limited and hard to immediately notice anything wrong with.
- 5 stars: Absolute perfection, uncommon in a telescope, and very rare among most commercial offerings.
- 1 star: Probably made entirely of plastic, it wobbles noticeably to the eye when focusing, enough to severely affect collimation. Struggles to hold heavy eyepieces or maintain focus.
- 2 stars: Wobbly, usually partly plastic, but can at least hold focus and doesn’t affect collimation too severely.
- 3 stars: Acceptable focuser, but with some sort of flaw that can make it problematic—perhaps it doesn’t hold heavy eyepieces well, has unusual adapters, or is difficult to focus precisely.
- 4 stars: Focuser is all-metal, does not affect collimation at all, and is fairly easy to focus. It holds heavy eyepieces well.
- 5 stars: Smooth motion with a dual-speed adjustment of some kind and usually a focus lock, all metal, fits 1.25” and 2” eyepieces with no issues, and holds focus even with heavy eyepieces/accessories.
Note: Catadioptric telescopes have built-in focusers that shift the mirror back and forth, and as such, they don’t really have an external “focuser” in the sense that we can give them a rating.
- 1 star: Unusable mount; aiming at anything is frustrating; balancing the telescope is physically impossible due to poor design.
- 2 stars: Mount is unable to completely balance and/or is very shaky, but can at least hold the telescope well enough to see something, albeit with a lot of frustration.
- 3 stars: The mount is usable but poorly constructed and/or undersized.
- 4 stars: Mount is well-constructed and works quite well, but shakes due to a design flaw, or simply not being big enough for the telescope, or is frustrating to aim precisely. If GoTo, it’s functional but not very accurate.
- 5 stars: Mount is well-constructed, properly supports the telescope, and balances/moves smoothly. There are no vibrations when focusing the telescope. If GoTo, the mount slews and tracks accurately.
- 1 star: Low-quality accessories, e.g. eyepieces that are very low quality and/or provide too much power to actually use the scope, plastic finders, etc.
- 2 stars: Cheap accessories that at least function but are low in quality or don’t meet minimum requirements (e.g., only one of the included eyepieces is usable).
- 3 stars: Cheap accessories that work, but aren’t the best (erecting prism diagonals, partly plastic eyepieces, poor quality red dot finders).
- 4 stars: Usable but basic accessories that might not be a great fit for the scope—e.g., 6×30 finderscopes and Kellner eyepieces, or a scope that comes with a single low-power eyepiece and nothing else.
- 5 stars: Everything that is needed for good views is included with the telescope. No additional shopping is required immediately.
Ease of Use
- 1 star: Not even one of our reviewers can get the telescope to work correctly.
- 2 stars: Extremely difficult to figure out how to use and probably has design issues.
- 3 stars: Steep learning curve, probably good scope, but a bad idea for a beginner.
- 4 stars: Easy enough to learn how to use after a night or two.
- 5 stars: Extremely simple and barely needs any instructions on how to use it properly.
- 1 star: Extremely heavy/unwieldy, individual components can injure someone trying to move without assistance and may not fit in a vehicle at all.
- 2 stars: Fits in a large vehicle, so it’s probably a bad idea to set it up yourself.
- 3 stars: Can fit in a car, and individual components are easy enough to move around.
- 4 stars: Can easily fit in most vehicles. The entire telescope can be picked up and carried in one piece.
- 5 stars: Fits in a backpack or luggage, can be picked up and carried with one hand without much trouble.
- 1 star: There is absolutely no reason to buy this telescope, as cheaper alternatives are available that are superior in every way, and/or the scope is just terrible.
- 2 stars: There are better telescopes available in the same price range or equal-quality ones at a lower price, but this scope might still be decent or have a certain niche.
- 3 stars: Other options in the same price range are basically the same or slightly better, with small differences overall.
- 4 stars: This scope does more than many similar-priced items or is cheaper than most other comparable instruments.
- 5 stars: The best choice in its price range. There is no reason to go with anything else.
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When you make a purchase from Amazon or any of our other affiliates after clicking on the respective affiliate link, we receive a small commission. Even though we receive a commission, clicking on our link has no effect on your end. Amazon and other e-commerce sites do not charge additional fees for paying commissions to us. Even if you purchase the same product without our referral link, there will be no price difference. It is therefore a win-win situation. If you rescind or request a refund for the ordered product, we will not receive the associated commission.
We have no particular connection with any specific telescope manufacturer. Our recommendations vary based solely on the quality of the telescopes. We neither solicit nor accept compensation for reviews of products or businesses.
To separate our financial interests from editorial content, we have taken the following steps:
- Editorial writers are not part of our financial team, and they have no incentive to promote a company or product unless it is genuinely of high quality.