Ranking 154 Telescope OTAs for Astrophotography

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Choosing a telescope optical tube for astrophotography can be extremely confusing. For starters, what you need is going to depend heavily on your budget, mount, camera, physical requirements, and what you want to shoot. Also, most astrophotographers have spent a lot of money on their equipment, so they might not want to admit that what they are using might not be the best, or they might have a preference for or against certain types or models of telescope. Very few people also have experience with enough telescopes to even begin evaluating the hundreds of options out there, especially with so many astrophotography telescopes being new to the market or mere copies of each other. Thankfully, our author has owned more than 370 telescopes and likewise has plenty of experience testing optics and using them. We’ve done our best to explain what to look for and objectively evaluate as many optical tube assemblies as we can find up to a cost cap of around $2000-$3000 USD, after which point the number of models, specializations, and requirements simply explode beyond any reasonable ability to contain in a sequenced rankings list.
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Refractor Astrographs

Newtonian Astrographs

Cassegrains

General Imaging OTA advice

Any photographer will tell you that a faster f/stop (also termed a shorter f/ratio) means shorter exposure times. This would theoretically mean that every telescope should be f/2 or better and that slow telescopes should not exist for astrophotography. However, fast focal ratios require more precise focusing and induce issues like field curvature, coma, chromatic aberration, and issues with image circle size, among other limitations, which can only be solved by better optical design, which usually means more weight, complexity, and cost. Pretty much every astrophotography telescope is optically and mechanically a compromise between focal length, speed, weight, optical quality, and cost.

Aperture is pretty much irrelevant in and of itself for deep-sky imaging; speed is more of a factor. But if you are on a tight budget, a smaller and slower scope is more likely to work than a bigger and faster one. Larger instruments will put more strain on your equatorial mount. Slower instruments require longer exposure times than a faster scope of the same focal length, which shows more errors in tracking or guiding. However, this may be made up for by the smaller and slower scope weighing less and being easier for the mount to handle. 

For planetary and lunar imaging, you want as large an aperture as is physically possible, and speed is irrelevant; only image scale matters.

Image scale is a function of how big your target appears. This is dictated by your telescope’s focal length, the physical size of your camera’s sensor, and the physical size of the pixels on the camera sensor.

If cameras had unlimited resolution and equally large chip sizes, the very concepts of focal length, image scale, and sampling would be irrelevant. However, pixel and sensor size are extremely important for astrophotography. 

A larger camera sensor chip will give a wider field of view. Dedicated astrophotography cameras can have a variety of image sizes, and most regular cameras usually have APS-C “cropped” sensors or “full-frame” 35mm sensors, designed to replace the old 35mm rolled film that was the norm for photography in the 1900s. A larger sensor provides a wider field of view. But you need to make sure that your telescope can light up a bigger sensor. The size of the area that is lit up is called the "image circle." If you have an image circle smaller than your sensor, there will be vignetting. Many telescopes will have minor vignetting of some kind with a 35mm sensor, but this is normal. Telescopes not designed for astrophotography may only be able to illuminate smaller sensors.

A larger sensor is always great if your telescope can accommodate it, but the next major question is pixel size. Most cameras have a pixel size of a few microns. You should be aiming for an image scale of about 1 arc second per pixel for ideal sampling. A little less is fine, as is a little more. If you’re shooting smaller targets like galaxies, a large sensor may also be less important to you, provided the image scale is acceptable.

Using a camera/telescope combination with a significantly higher image scale than 1 arc second per pixel - say, 0.75 arc seconds per pixel - will cause less light to fall on each pixel in your camera, reveal more tracking and guiding errors, and often produce blurry stars as atmospheric conditions usually limit resolution to a variable amount around 1-3 arc seconds under typical skies, which will blur to around whatever the large end of that range is over the course of many hours during exposures. On the other hand, having too many arc seconds per pixel blurs fine details in smaller targets, though for wide-field shots, you may not care.

If your telescope is very slow in f/ratio and/or would produce too large of an image scale, many astrophotography telescopes allow you to use a focal reducer (typically 0.6x to 0.9x) to increase speed and shorten focal length, as well as typically flatten the field of view to eliminate field curvature. However, cheap focal reducers distort the image, and using a reducer with a large sensor may cause vignetting.

Deep-sky imaging basically requires you to use a focal ratio of f/8 or faster, with f/6 or faster being ideal and f/4 to f/2 being extremely desirable but often difficult to achieve. Otherwise, exposure times are simply too long.

For planetary astrophotography, your sensor need not be very big, and you want small pixels with the ability to record at a high frame rate to take a video and then stack it in post-processing. Image scale should be less than 0.5 arcsec/pixel, and down to 0.1–0.2 arcsec/pixel is often used. Focal ratio is pretty much irrelevant as the planets are so bright, so you can go to f/20, f/30, or even f/40 before the image gets too dim; f/30 or so is the norm. This can be reached with a Barlow lens or a similarly designed focal extender.

Our article on our top cameras for astrophotography has some suggestions for what camera you may want to use for deep-sky imaging.

What optical tube you purchase is also dictated by your mount. Most astrophotography mounts can carry half their rated payload capacity for deep-sky imaging. You should expect to add at least 5 lbs of camera, accessories, and guiding hardware to a typical optical tube. For planetary astrophotography, you can go right up to the full weight capacity of a mount without a problem.

Mounts have a rough weight capacity distribution that corresponds to price range, something like this for deep-sky imaging, though you can also get a higher-quality mount with a lower capacity for higher prices:

  • <$700 - EQ1-EQ2 - Under 10 lbs, lenses or very small refractors
  • $700-$1000 - EQ3-EQ4 - ~10 lbs, small refractors
  • $1000-$1800 - EQ5 ~15 lbs, 6” and smaller Newt/Cass, 90mm and smaller refractors
  • $1800-$2600 - EQ6 ~25 lbs, 8” and smaller Newt/Cass, 120mm and smaller refractors
  • $2600-$3500 - “EQ7” - ~30-35 lbs, 10” and smaller Newt/Cass, 130mm and smaller refractors
  • $3500-$5000 - EQ8 - > 35 lbs, but needs a permanent observatory

Our telescope mount rankings offer more information on choosing a mount based on your budget and requirements, along with various options curated based on features, value, and price range.

Keep in mind that you also need autoguiding, either with a guide scope or an off-axis guider, with almost any astrophotography setup apart from the smallest wide-field setups.

There are basically three classes of telescope types, all with unique advantages and disadvantages:

  • Refractors arguably offer the sharpest images with the lowest maintenance. However, they have trouble achieving a long focal length at a reasonable f/ratio as they are limited to small apertures. Their small apertures of no greater than 5” or 6” also make them pretty much useless for planetary imaging, especially when it comes to the cost compared to other telescope types.
    • Telephoto lenses are essentially miniature refractors.
  • Newtonian reflectors offer fast f/ratios and large apertures on the cheap, but require collimation and precise focusing, along with coma correctors. They also can be more problematic to balance on an equatorial mount since the focuser is on the side of the tube and produce diffraction spikes on stars which you may not like. Fast Newtonians can be used for planetary imaging, though a powerful Barlow lens is needed along with good collimation, and you may be better off with a GoTo Dobsonian for the task.
    • Some Newtonians have built-in coma correctors and exotic primary mirror figures, usually hyperbolic, for better performance at very fast f/ratios. However, they are undesirable for visual or planetary imaging use.
  • Various Cassegrain telescope configurations offer trade-offs between compactness, speed, and price. They are all ideal for planetary imaging though not all are good for deep-sky imaging or visual observation.

Our rankings for each type below will go into further detail.

Our Consolidated Top 5 Picks

  • Best For Beginners: Apertura 90 mm Triplet Refractor - The Apertura 90mm Triplet comes complete with all of the accessories you need to start imaging, such as a guide scope, adapters, and a field flattener, and is able to fit on a relatively affordable EQ5-class mount and work with almost any camera.
  • Best Low-Cost: Sharpstar 61EDPH - The Sharpstar 61EDPH is a great telescope for deep-sky imaging, even on the smallest mounts without autoguiding. It’s quite affordable, but makes little in the way of mechanical or optical compromises. You get a lot for your money with this tiny refractor.
  • Best Value: Sky-Watcher Quattro 6" F/4 Imaging Newtonian OTA - The Sky-Watcher Quattro 6” f/4 Imaging Newtonian provides a super-fast optical system at a low cost, complete with a coma corrector and dual-speed focuser. Newtonians do require frequent and accurate collimation with a laser collimator or cheshire for imaging use, and can be a bit difficult to balance well on an equatorial mount, but the Quattro 6” f/4 is an absolute bargain.
  • Most Versatile: Celestron C8 EdgeHD - The Celestron C8 EdgeHD does it all. You can use it at its native focal length as a great visual telescope, pop in a 2-3x Barlow for planetary imaging, image deep-sky objects with its dedicated f/7 reducer or convert it to a super-fast f/2 Schmidt camera for wide-field imaging with the Starizona HyperStar system. However, it requires a beefy mount and lots of accessories to get started with, and may be a lot for beginners to handle.
  • Best Planetary: Celestron C11 XLT - The Celestron C11 XLT can be used for deep-sky imaging with a reducer/corrector or Starizona HyperStar but would require an observatory-class mount to do so. However, it can be used on a fairly affordable mount for stunning lunar and planetary imaging, thanks to its huge aperture and excellent optical quality.

Refractor Astrographs Rankings

Most beginners will probably benefit from choosing a refractor for deep-sky imaging. They don’t require collimation, can be fairly small and lightweight, and generally come at focal lengths that aren’t nearly as demanding of good tracking and guiding accuracy as a big Newtonian or Cassegrain. For beginners, we highly recommend a good ED refractor over other types of telescopes for deep-sky astrophotography.

All of the different refractor brands and units sold worldwide today are made in roughly a half-dozen or so different factories in China, Taiwan, the United States, Europe, and Japan, with manufacturers including Kunming United Optics, Long Perng, Stellarvue, Astro-Physics, APM, and Takahashi being among the known players. The loss of imported Russian glass has further consolidated the market. 

Here are some telescopes known to be optically identical and made by the same factories:

  • Z61 = Apertura 60 = AT60ED and many other 60mm f/6 FPL-53 doublets are all the same 
  • All 66mm f/6 FPL-53 doublet refractors are the same
  • Almost all 72 mm f/6 FPL-53 doublet refractors are the same:  Z73 = Apertura 72 = AT72ED = Megrez 72 = TS Photoline 72 = SkyRover 72ED = Altair 7ED
  • Almost all 80mm f/6 FPL-53 doublet refractors are the same: Z81 = AT80EDL = SkyRaider 80mm ED etc.
  • Sky-Watcher Evostar 80 = Vixen ED80SF
  • AT102EDL = Starfield ED102
  • The EDPH telescopes sold by other brands besides Sharpstar are identical copies, which is usually obvious.
  • GT81, TS, Starfield, and Orion ED80 triplets are all the same telescope optically, with ES ED80 FCD100 offering basically the same performance albeit from a different manufacturer.
  • Founder Optics, Orion, & Long Perng 86/85mm and 106/104mm ED-X2 triplets are all the same telescope.
  • Apertura 90 = William Optics FLT 91 = Orion EON 90 are all the same telescope
  • SVBONY SV503 70ED = ASTRO-TECH AT70ED = Teleskop Service 70ED = Sky-Watcher Evostar 72ED
  • Almost all 80mm f/6 FPL-51 doublet refractors are the same - Orion EON 80ED = ASTRO-TECH AT80ED  = SVBONY SV503 80ED = Long Perng 80mm f/6 
  • SVBONY SV550 80ED = AT80EDT, the ES ED80 FCD1 has similar performance 

Higher-end brands like Stellarvue, Takahashi, APM, and Astro-Physics make their optics in-house.

Understanding Refractor Specs

There are three main designs typically used for refractors: doublet, triplet, and Petzval. All refractors suffer from chromatic aberration, but ones meant for imaging use ED glass to control chromatic aberration and bring it down to tolerable levels in spite of their typically fast focal ratios. Those that do not use ED glass are achromats and are simply unacceptable for astrophotography use due to their high levels of chromatic aberration, which may be tolerable at the eyepiece but ruins deep-sky images. The terms “apochromatic” and "semi-apochromatic" have essentially lost their meaning in part due to the fuzzy definitions adopted by users and manufacturers over the past few decades. They are largely just marketing buzzwords.

Doublet refractors use a front objective lens with two lens elements, just like an achromat, but with ED glass. The other lens element in a good doublet is often made of lanthanum or another high-quality type of glass. Triplets add a third lens element, which may even be an additional piece of ED glass. A good doublet will outperform a mediocre triplet; triplets offer more ability to control aberrations with the optical design, but many triplets are essentially created to be triplets for marketing purposes and may use poor-quality glass or optical designs, which can make them substantially worse than equivalently priced doublets. 

Anything claiming to have a quadruplet, quintuplet, etc. optical design is actually a Petzval. Petzvals are pretty much just doublet or triplet refractors with a built-in reducer/flattener that is typically optimized to give a larger unvignetted image circle and flatter field than is possible with a removable or aftermarket accessory flattener. A quadruplet is a doublet Petzval, while a quintuplet is a triplet, and a sextuplet uses an extra lens element in its reducer-flattener.

Petzvals offer the simplest and best optics for large-format sensors with little worry about focuser sag and spacing, but may have limited focus travel and are often quite heavy. Doublets are lightweight but limited in how fast they can be. Triplets can be advantageous over doublets but may be of inferior quality or overweight compared to a doublet, which can achieve equal or better results. All three can be either very good or very poor telescopes.

Refractors can use a variety of glass types. Any good imaging refractor has at least one ED glass element. Extra-low dispersion, or ED, glass does a better job at focusing all wavelengths of light to the same point, whereas non-ED glass will fail at doing so. The other lens elements are usually made out of lanthanum or other high-quality or rare-earth glass or even additional ED glass elements.

Different ED glass types have different Abbe numbers, which are essentially a rating of how good they are at being low-dispersion on a scale of 0-100. While it is possible to make a very good telescope with cheaper glass types of a lower Abbe number, today it is easy and cheap enough to get the good stuff. Most lower-quality ED glass is used in optically inferior telescopes because it is a result of manufacturers skimping to cut costs, which leads to lower quality control or acceptance of a less-than-great optical design.

Fluorite is the oldest and best type of ED glass, though it is, in fact, not glass at all but a crystal. Fluorite is expensive, can be chemically attacked by pollutants, and is environmentally unfriendly to produce, so it is not very common, though it has an Abbe number of 95 and lacks the scattering properties of glass. The best physically possible refracting telescopes, at least when it comes to overall sharpness at the center of the field of view, are fluorite doublets, such as those sold by Takahashi.

Due to fluorite’s lack of availability, synthetic ED glasses have been invented to attempt to replicate it. The best of these are Japanese Ohara FPL-55 and FPL-53, which are both around an Abbe number of 94, making them on par with fluorite (though lacking its wonderful low-scatter physical properties). FPL-55 is uncommon and has little difference from FPL-53 apart from being slightly easier to work with, so to avoid confusion, many manufacturers just label it as FPL-53. Hoya FCD-100 and Russian LZOS OK-4 are basically the same as FPL-55 and FPL-53, while FPL-52 is slightly worse but no longer manufactured.

FPL-51, also produced by Ohara, is used in many cheaper ED telescopes and has an Abbe number of 81.5. An FPL-51 triplet will essentially have the same color correction as an FPL-53 doublet; FPL-51 doublets may seem fantastic for visual use compared to an achromat but have visible chromatic aberration in images. FPL-51’s best use is in additional lens elements alongside fluorite, FPL-53, or equivalent glass, which can substantially improve images if they are used in conjunction. Hoya FCD-1 glass is essentially identical to FPL-51.

FK-61 glass is produced by CDGM in China and has an Abbe number of 81.6. It should theoretically be practically the same as FPL-51. However, it is pretty much universally worse than FPL-51 when used in most mass-manufactured telescopes, either as a coincidence with cost-cutting efforts and low quality control or perhaps because the glass itself is just less well-made. Regardless, we don’t highly recommend FK-61 refractors for astrophotography use.

If a manufacturer does not specify the ED glass type used or even outright refuses to do so, it is probably because they use FPL-51 or FK61 glass and do not want to admit it. This is with the exception of Sharpstar, who are seemingly using an FPL-53 equivalent for all of their telescopes but are somehow not proud of it - perhaps because it is some new proprietary glass.

A field flattener is required with any non-Petzval refractor to prevent stars from looking like you’re flying towards them at warp speed, an aberration known as field curvature that affects refractors and some Cassegrains. These can also double as a focal reducer to increase your photographic speed and shorten focal length. However, it may result in vignetting with larger camera sensors. You also need to make sure your reducer/flattener and camera have the correct spacing to achieve sharp images.

Under ~$500-$600

At a budget of under $600 USD, all of the best picks are 61mm refractors, suitable for use on EQ3-EQ5 class mounts and ideal for beginners.
Most Capable
Sharpstar 61EDPH 61 mm Astrograph

Glass Type: FPL53 Triplet

Rank 1
4.8/5
Identical to the now-discontinued Radian Raptor 61, the Sharpstar 61 EDPH is a fast f/5.5 triplet using an FPL-53 lens element. The 61EDPH II has a 44mm image circle, which is more than ample for full-frame sensors even if you use a 0.8x reducer to bring the scope down to f/4.5. You get tube rings, a carry handle which can be clamped to by large guide scope brackets, a finder/guide scope bracket, and a Vixen-style dovetail bar included a well. The only downside is weight: the 61EDPH is 1.5 pounds heavier than a 60-62mm ED doublet refractor thanks to the extra lens element.
William Optics ZenithStar 61

Glass Type: FPL53 Doublets

Rank 2
4.7/5
The William Optics ZenithStar 61, Astro-Tech AT60ED, and Apertura 60mm Doublet (along with many other 60-62mm f/6 rebrands) are high-quality 60mm FPL-53 doublet apochromats. The ZenithStar 61 is easily the most well-equipped of the 4, with a full-length Vixen/Arca Swiss-style dovetail bar, a combination guide scope bracket/dovetail/carry handle at the top, a provided screw-on Bahtinov mask for focusing, and the tube can be rotated easily with the adjustment of a thumb screw.
Apertura 60mm FPL-53 Doublet APO Refractor

Glass Type: FPL53 Doublets

Rank 3
4.5/5
Identical to the William Optics ZenithStar 61 optically, the Apertura 60mm is basically the same telescope but lacks the ZenithStar 61’s full-length dovetail bar and built-in carry handle/guide scope saddle, and replacing these will end up costing you as much as any money saved by buying the Apertura.
ASTRO-TECH AT60ED 60MM F/6 FPL-53ED

Glass Type: FPL53 Doublets

Rank 4
4.5/5
Identical to the Apertura 60mm FPL-53 doublet, the AT60ED is sometimes available for a lower price than the Apertura 60mm but still may cost more to upgrade than just getting a ZenithStar 61.
Orion / Long Perng / StellaMira / SkyRaider 66mm ED f/6 Refractor

Glass Type: FPL51 Doublets

Rank 5
4.4/5
The classic FPL-51 ED 66mm f/6 has been sold by many brands over the years, and hasn’t changed much since its debut, with an FPL-51 ED lens element offering inferior performance to newer and often cheaper FPL-53 doublets. However, it is still optically and mechanically sound, if lacking in value for the money.

The SVBONY SV503 70-102mm doublet apochromats, along with their Astro-Tech, Orion, Sky-Watcher (62/72/82), and TS Optics twins, use cheap FK61 glass, which offers inferior color correction to FPL-51 or FPL-53, with chromatic aberration that’s quite high for imaging purposes though acceptable for visual use.

  • Rank 6: Sky-Watcher Evolux 62ED Doublet APO (FK61 glass) - 4.3 stars
  • Rank 7: SVBONY SV503 80ED (FK61 glass) - 4.3 stars
  • Rank 8: ASTRO-TECH AT80ED (FK61 glass) - 4.3 stars
  • Rank 9: Orion EON 80mm ED Doublet Apochromatic (FK61 glass) - 4.3 stars
  • Rank 10: Sky-Watcher Evostar 72ED Doublet APO (FK61 glass) - 4.3 stars
  • Rank 11: SVBONY SV503 70ED (FK61 glass) - 4.2 stars
  • Rank 12: ASTRO-TECH AT70ED (FK61 glass) - 4.2 stars
  • Rank 13: TS Optics ED 70mm f/6 (FK61 glass) - 4.2 stars
  • Rank 14: Orion StarBlast 62mm ED (Petzval) - 3.9 stars
  • Rank 15: SVBONY SV48P 90mm (Achromat) - 3.7 stars
  • Rank 16: Tele-Vue TV60 (Petzval) - 3.5 stars
  • Rank 17: Explore Scientific AR102 (Achromat) - 3.1 stars
  • Rank 18: iOptron 80mm (Achromat) - 2 stars
  • Rank 19: Orion CT80 (Achromat) - 2 stars

$500-$1000

At this price range, your options consist of various 70-80mm ED doublet, triplet, and Petzval designs. Any of these telescopes can ride an EQ5-class mount easily and are great for beginner and wide-field imaging.
Most Capable
Sharpstar 76EDPH

Glass Type: FPL53 Triplets

Rank 1
4.9/5
The Sharpstar 76EDPH delivers FPL-53 ED triplet optics, a fast f/5.5 focal ratio, and 76mm of aperture at a surprisingly low price, with a high-quality tube cradle, dovetail bars, handle, and additional finder/guide scope bracket included by default. It is more than sufficient to illuminate a full-frame sensor at f/5.5 or with a 0.8x reducer-flattener at f/4.5.
Best Value
William Optics Gran Turismo 71 APO

Glass Type: FPL53 Triplets

Rank 2
4.8/5
The William Optics GT71 features the same high-quality features as the ZenithStar refractors but with an FPL-53 triplet objective lens instead of a mere doublet. The image circle at f/5.9 is large enough for full-frame sensors and will sufficiently illuminate a full-frame camera with a 0.8x reducer, such as its dedicated unit.
Askar FRA300 60 mm f/5 Quintuplet

Glass Type: Petzval

Rank 3
4.8/5
A high-quality quintuplet Petzval, the ASKAR FRA300’s fast f/5 focal ratio and huge image circle make it ideal for wide-field imaging with large format sensors, though it’s heavier and more expensive than 60mm f/6 scopes which will not really be much different when used with smaller sensors and a reducer-flattener.
Askar 65PHQ 65mm

Glass Type: Petzval

Rank 4
4.8/5
Another high-quality quintuplet from Askar, the 65PHQ is not as fast as the FRA300 but is an extremely capable instrument with similar mechanical and optical perks.
William Optics ZenithStar 81

Glass Type:  FPL53 Doublets

Rank 5
4.8/5
Like the other ZenithStar refractors, the William Optics ZenithStar 81 is a high-quality ED doublet refractor with an FPL-53 lens element and features such as a carry handle/guidescope rail/dovetail combo and screw-on Bahtinov focusing mask. You may prefer a smaller triplet or quintuplet at this price, however.
  • Rank 6: William Optics ZenithStar 73 (FPL53 Doublets) - 4.7 stars
  • Rank 7: ASTRO-TECH AT80EDL (FPL53 Doublets) - 4.7 stars
  • Rank 8: Apertura 72mm FPL-53 Doublet (FPL53 Doublets)- 4.6 stars
  • Rank 9: ASTRO-TECH AT72EDII (FPL53 Doublets)- 4.6 stars
  • Rank 10: Long Perng/SkyRaider ED 80mm (FPL53 Doublets)- 4.5 stars
  • Rank 11: SVBONY SV550 (FPL51 Triplets)- 4.3 stars
  • Rank 12: ASTRO-TECH AT80EDT F/6 ED TRIPLET REFRACTOR OTA (FPL51 Triplets)- 4.3 stars
  • Rank 13: Explore Scientific ED80 Air-Spaced Essential Series APO f/6 Triplet (FPL51 Triplets)- 4.2 stars
  • Rank 14: Sky-Watcher Evolux 82ED Doublet APO (FK61 Doublets)- 4.1 stars
  • Rank 15: SVBONY SV503 102ED (FK61 Doublets)- 4.1 stars
  • Rank 16: ASTRO-TECH AT102ED (FK61 Doublets)- 4.1 stars
  • Rank 17: ASTRO-TECH AT60EDP 60MM F/5 DUAL ED PETZVAL OTA (Petzval)- 4 stars
  • Rank 18: Explore Scientific AR127 (Achromats)- 3 stars
  • Rank 19: Explore Scientific AR152 (Achromats)- 3 stars
  • Rank 20: Celestron 120mm Omni XLT Refractor OTA (Achromats)- 3 stars
  • Rank 21: Celestron 102mm Omni XLT Refractor OTA (Achromats)- 3 stars

$1000-$2000

A budget of $1000-$2000 allows you to invest in some serious kit all while still fitting in the confines of an EQ5-class equatorial mount and its weight limitations. We recommend sticking below 100mm aperture for beginners.
Best Value
Apertura 90 mm Triplet Refractor

Glass Type: FPL53 Triplets

Rank 1
4.9/5
The Apertura 90mm Triplet offers a ton of value and is supplied with everything you need to get started, with a heavy-duty Losmandy-style plate, guide scope, 1x field flattener, and camera adapters provided at only a slight markup compared to its identical twins offered by Orion and William Optics. 
Orion EON 90mm ED

Glass Type: FPL53 Triplets

Rank 2
4.9/5
Identical to the Apertura 90mm Triplet, but without any provided accessories and a Vixen instead of a Losmandy style dovetail bar, the Orion EON 90mm may be a better choice than the Apertura 90mm Triplet if you are upgrading from a smaller scope or prefer a more a-la-carte approach to your equipment. You do get a hard carry case, which is not included with the Apertura version, however.
Wildest Field
Sharpstar 94EDPH

Glass Type: FPL53 Triplets

Rank 3
4.9/5
The Sharpstar 94EDPH offers the same excellent performance as the other SharpStar EDPH refractors and can be brought down to f/4.4 with its dedicated reducer-flattener, though it is not perfect with full-frame cameras at the edges of the field with this combination.
Founder Optics FOT86 ED

Glass Type: FPL53 Triplets

Rank 4
4.9/5
The Founder Optics FOT86 ED and its various copycats offered by Orion, Long Perng, and others feature a second FPL-51 ED glass element accompanying its FPL-53 lens element for even better chromatic aberration control. You also get a hard case, heavy-duty tube rings, and a flattener with the Founder Optics version of the scope.
William Optics GT81

Glass Type: FPL53 Triplets

Rank 5
4.8/5
The William Optics GT81 is one of many identical 80mm f/6 FPL-53 ED triplet refractors, though the GT81 easily offers the best value - albeit not nearly as much as the Founder Optics FOT86. You get the standard William Optics kit of a multipurpose carry handle/mounting bar, attachable Bahtinov mask, and a camera rotator included with the telescope by default, which are lacking in most of the other 80mm f/6 triplets sold at slightly lower prices.
  • Rank 6: Takahashi FS-60 (Fluorite Doublets) - 4.8 stars
  • Rank 7: Takahashi FOA-60 (Fluorite Doublets) - 4.8 stars
  • Rank 8: Teleskop Service Photoline 80mm Triplet Refractor (FPL53 Triplets) - 4.7 stars
  • Rank 9: Starfield Optics ED80mm f/6 APO Triplet Telescope (FPL53 Triplets) - 4.7 stars
  • Rank 10: Askar FRA400 72mm f/5.6 Quintuplet (FPL51 Triplets) - 4.7 stars
  • Rank 11: Askar 80PHQ 80mm f/7.5 Quadruplet (FPL51 Triplets) - 4.7 stars
  • Rank 12: William Optics RedCat 71 (FPL51 Triplets) - 4.7 stars
  • Rank 13: ASTRO-TECH AT92 F/5.5 TRIPLET APO REFRACTOR OTA (FPL53 Triplets) - 4.7 stars
  • Rank 14: William Optics FLT 91 (FPL53 Triplets) - 4.7 stars
  • Rank 15: Orion EON 85mm ED X-2 F/6.6 (FPL53 Triplets) - 4.7 stars
  • Rank 16: Long Perng ED 85mm (FPL53 Triplets) - 4.7 stars
  • Rank 17: ASTRO-TECH AT102EDL (FPL53 Doublets) - 4.6 stars
  • Rank 18: Starfield Optics ED102mm f/7 APO (FPL53 Doublets) - 4.6 stars
  • Rank 19: Sky-Watcher Evostar 80ED (FPL53 Doublets) - 4.6 stars
  • Rank 20: ASTRO-TECH AT125EDL (FPL53 Doublets) - 4.6 stars
  • Rank 21: Explore Scientific ED80 FCD100 APO f/6 Triplet (FPL53 Triplets) - 4.6 stars
  • Rank 22: Orion ED80T CF (FPL53 Triplets) - 4.5 stars
  • Rank 23: Orion EON 70mm ED Quadruplet (FPL51 Triplets) - 4.5 stars
  • Rank 24: Sky-Watcher Evostar 100ED (FPL53 Doublets) - 4.4 stars
  • Rank 25: Vixen ED80SF (FPL53 Doublets) - 4.3 stars
  • Rank 26: Vixen SD81S (FPL53 Doublets)- 4.3 stars
  • Rank 27: ASTRO-TECH AT130 EDT (FPL51 Triplets) - 4.3 stars
  • Rank 28: ASTRO-TECH AT115EDT (FPL51 Triplets) - 4.3 stars
  • Rank 29: Orion EON 115mm Triplet (FPL51 Triplets) - 4.3 stars
  • Rank 30: Orion EON 110mm f/6 (FPL51 Doublets) - 4.3 stars
  • Rank 31: iOptron Versa 108mm ED (FK61 Doublets) - 4.3 stars
  • Rank 32: Tele Vue 76 mm APO (Petzval) - 4.3 stars
  • Rank 33: Borg 55FL (Fluorite Doublets) - 4.3 stars
  • Rank 34: Explore Scientific 102mm f/7 Essential Series APO Triplet Refractor (FPL51 Triplets) - 4.2 stars
  • Rank 35: Radian 75MM Petzval Refractor Telescope (Petzval) - 3.9 stars
  • Rank 36: Vixen FL55SS (FPL53 Doublets) - 3.9 stars
  • Rank 37: Vixen A105M II (FPL53 Doublets) - 3.5 stars

$2000+

Refractors costing $2000 or more offer large apertures and a wide variety of high-quality optical designs. However, they can be a bit much for beginners, many have different specializations, and they often require heavy-duty and expensive mounts to be used.
  • Rank 1: Askar FRA600 108mm f/5.6 (Petzval) - 4.9 stars
  • Rank 2: Askar FRA500 90mm f/5.6 (Petzval) - 4.9 stars
  • Rank 3: Askar 107PHQ (Petzval) - 4.9 stars
  • Rank 4: Sharpstar Z4 100mm f/5.5 6-Element APO (Petzval) - 4.9 stars
  • Rank 5: Sky-Watcher Esprit 100mm ED Triplet APO Refractor (FPL53 Triplets) - 4.9 stars
  • Rank 6: Sky-Watcher Esprit 80mm ED Triplet APO Refractor (FPL53 Triplets) - 4.9 stars
  • Rank 7: Founder Optics FOT106 (FPL53 Triplets) - 4.9 stars
  • Rank 8: Orion EON 104mm ED-X2 f/6.25 Triplet Apo Refractor Telescope (FPL53 Triplets) - 4.9 stars
  • Rank 9: Takahashi FC-76 (Fluorite Doublets) - 4.9 stars
  • Rank 10: Takahashi FC-100 (Fluorite Doublets) - 4.9 stars
  • Rank 11: Stellarvue SVX102T Triplet (FPL53 Triplets) - 4.9 stars
  • Rank 12: Stellarvue SVX090T Triplet (FPL53 Triplets) - 4.9 stars
  • Rank 13: Stellarvue SVX80T Triplet (FPL53 Triplets) - 4.9 stars
  • Rank 14: William Optics FLT120 (FPL53 Triplets) - 4.9 stars
  • Rank 15: Stellarvue SVX102D Doublet (FPL53 Doublets) - 4.9 stars
  • Rank 16: William Optics ZenithStar 126 (FPL53 Doublets) - 4.9 stars
  • Rank 17: Explore Scientific FCD100 Series 127mm (FPL53 Triplets) - 4.8 stars
  • Rank 18: Explore Scientific FCD100 Series 102mm (FPL53 Triplets) - 4.8 stars
  • Rank 19: Sky-Watcher EvoStar 120ED (FPL53 Doublets) - 4.7 stars
  • Rank 20: Vixen SD103S (FPL53 Doublets) - 4.5 stars
  • Rank 21: Explore Scientific Essentials 127mm f/7.5 (FPL51 Triplets) - 4.3 stars
  • Rank 22: Sky-Watcher EvoStar 150ED (FPL53 Doublets) - 4.3 stars
  • Rank 23: Vixen SD115S (FPL53 Doublets) - 4.2 stars
  • Rank 24: Tele Vue TV-85 (Petzval) - 4.2 stars
  • Rank 25: Orion EON 130mm ED Triplet Apochromatic Refractor Telescope (FPL51 Triplets) - 4 stars

Newtonian Astrographs

Newtonian astrographs offer long focal lengths and fast f-stops on the cheap, but require some sort of coma corrector to be used with all but the smallest sensors unless they come with one built-in or are provided by the manufacturer. They also require frequent and precise collimation, and you will want to line up your focuser/camera with the declination axis of your mount for best results, which can be awkward and result in clearance issues with your mount or guide scope. Newtonians are probably our least favorite optical type for beginner astrophotographers for this reason, despite their benefits for both astrophotography and visual use. However, if you are patient, they can provide spectacular results for a fraction of the cost of a refractor or Cassegrain.

6" Newtonian

A 6” imaging Newtonian is an ideal scope for users of EQ5 or EQ6-class mounts with payload capacity of 25-40 lbs, though smaller mounts will have a more difficult time if you are using cameras with smaller pixels or longer exposure times.
Widest Field
Sharpstar 150mm f/2.8 HNT Hyperbolic Newtonian Astrograph
Rank 1
4.9/5
Like its 130mm counterpart, the Sharpstar 150mm f/2.8 HNT is a super-fast Newtonian with a hyperbolic primary mirror and Wynne corrector, achieving a huge illuminated field larger than a full-frame sensor with a monster rack-and-pinion focuser. However, in addition to being extremely expensive, collimation is of course critical with this scope, and focusing is also a bit more of a pain.
Best Value/Best for Beginners
Skywatcher Quattro 6" F/4 Imaging Newtonian OTA
Rank 2
4.9/5
The 6” f/4 Quattro has a high-quality dual-speed focuser and includes a coma corrector by default(!) along with a nice low-power eyepiece and finderscope if you ever decide to use it for visual observation. It’s a great beginner astrophotography instrument and very reasonably priced, although more demanding than a small refractor.

Apertura/GSO/TPO/AstroTech 6" f/4 Imaging Newtonian OTA, Orion 6" f/4 Newtonian Astrograph Reflector, Meade 6" LX85 Astrograph Reflector OTA

Rank 3
4.4/5
Similarly to the situation with refractors, the overwhelming majority of 6” and larger imaging Newtonians are made by the same manufacturer, GSO, and repackaged by a variety of brands. The 6” f/4 version features acceptable optics and mechanics, though the mirror cell is not exactly intuitive to adjust for collimation, and you may need a longer dovetail bar to achieve balance depending on your camera/accessories. You will need to purchase a coma corrector separately.
Apertura/GSO 6" f/5 Newtonian OTA
Rank 4
4.3/5
The 6” f/5 GSO Newtonian still requires a coma corrector for all but the smallest camera sensors. Collimation and focusing are slightly less critical, but you only get a single-speed focuser and thus will need to either upgrade, motorize or replace the stock unit.
GSO/TPO 6" f/6 Newtonian OTA
Rank 5
4.2/5
The 6” f/6 GSO Newtonian offered by GSO is less widely available than the f/4 or f/5 versions and makes for a decent astrophotography telescope, though a coma corrector is needed for larger sensors and you’ll have a hard time finding one equipped with a dual-speed focuser by default.
Explore FirstLight 150mm f/5 Newtonian OTA
Rank 6
3.8/5
The FirstLight 150mm f/5 Newtonian has a 1.25” rack-and-pinion focuser made mostly out of plastic, as with the 130mm f/5 version—hardly ideal for an imaging telescope, let alone one priced marginally less than the GSO imaging Newtonians.

8" Newtonian

An 8” imaging Newtonian needs at least an EQ6-class mount for consistent, decent deep-sky shots. They also make for great planetary imaging scopes with a 5x Barlow lens and planetary cam (which can double as your guide camera). However, 8” and larger Newtonians are poor choices for beginners to deep-sky astrophotography due to their size, weight, focal length, and resulting requirements; planetary imagers would be better off with a Cassegrain.
Sharpstar 200mm f/3.2 PNT Parabolic Newtonian Astrograph
Rank 1
4.9/5
The Sharpstar 200mm f/3.2 PNT features an integrated reducer-corrector and super-fast f/3.2 focal ratio. Its 3” rack-and-pinion focuser, 44mm image circle, and massive 55mm back focus mean it can support pretty much any camera.
Skywatcher Quattro 8" F/4 Imaging Newtonian OTA
Rank 2
4.7/5
The Quattro 8” f/4 Imaging Newtonian doesn’t include a coma corrector by default but is still an excellent telescope for imaging thanks to its smooth focuser and high-quality optics, and is substantially better than most competing imaging Newtonians in mechanical quality.
Sky Watcher Starlux 190mm Maksutov-Newtonian Telescope
Rank 3
4.4/5
The Starlux 190mm is a Maksutov-Newtonian, with a corrector plate in place of its spider and a spherical primary mirror. It has less coma than an f/5.3 Newtonian would, though it is not quite as well-corrected as a regular Newtonian with a good coma corrector. It also can vignette with full-frame sensors due to its undersized secondary mirror and thus is not ideal if you are using a larger format sensor.

Apertura/GSO/TPO/AstroTech 8" f/4 Imaging Newtonian OTA, Meade 8" LX85 Astrograph Reflector OTA, Orion 8” f/4 Astrograph, Starfield 8” f/4

Rank 4
4.4/5
The various incarnations of GSO 8” f/4 imaging Newtonians have the same benefits and drawbacks as the 6” model, with acceptable optics and mechanics. Some versions are sold with an upgraded “linear bearing” focuser with increased load capacity for heavy cameras, though less-than-smooth fine focus adjustment due to sloppy machining.
GSO 8” f/5 Imaging Newtonian OTA
Rank 5
4.3/5
The GSO 8” f/5 Imaging Newtonian is identical to the f/4 version mechanically but with an f/5 focal ratio, featuring less coma and slightly less stringent focus/collimation tolerances at the expense of more weight and higher mounting/guiding requirements. A version with the upgraded linear bearing focuser is also available.
Explore FirstLight 203mm f/4.9 Newtonian OTA
Rank 6
4.2/5
The FirstLight 203mm f/4.9 Newtonian OTA is acceptable quality but only has a single-speed 2” Crayford focuser despite its price being on par with more well-equipped 8” f/4-f/5 models.
Vixen R200SS
Rank 7
3.8/5
The Vixen R200SS is a laughably overpriced instrument with literally zero improvements over GSO’s 8” f/4 imaging Newtonian but a cost equivalent to that of a premium apochromatic refractor. The focuser is a single-speed rack-and-pinion of fairly low quality.

Not Recommended

10" Newtonian

A 10” imaging Newtonian will push the limits of even an EQ6-class mount like an EQ6R or Losmandy G11 and thus need an even bulkier, arguably observatory-class mount. The sheer size of these scopes, coupled with the required mounts and counterweights, means they are not exactly portable or convenient to set up.
Apertura/GSO/TPO/AstroTech 10" f/4 Truss Tube Imaging Newtonian Telescope OTA
Rank 1
4.6/5
The truss tube GSO imaging Newtonian is a little less sensitive to gusts of wind and holds collimation better than its solid-tubed counterparts, an important consideration at this size.
Best Value
 Sky-Watcher Quattro 10” f/4
Rank 2
4.6/5
The 10” Quattro has a well-made dual-speed Crayford focuser with minimal slop/backlash and tends to hold collimation better than a comparable GSO unit.
Apertura/GSO/TPO/Starfield 10" f/4 Imaging Newtonian OTA/Orion 10” f/4 Astrograph
Rank 3
4.4/5
As with the smaller GSO imaging Newtonians, the 10” f/4 unit is a decent choice, though more premium-tier options exist too.
GSO/TPO 10” f/5 Imaging Newtonian OTA
Rank 4
4.3/5
An f/5 imaging Newtonian is photographically “slower” and more prone to issues from wind than a shorter and faster scope, though collimation and focus are less sensitive. However, we would still recommend the f/4 GSO unit over the f/5 unit though neither is a bad choice.


Cassegrain Astrographs Rankings

Cassegrain-type telescopes have long focal ratios and compact tubes. Schmidt-Cassegrains were not invented with deep-sky imaging in mind but have ended up becoming a staple of the deep-sky imaging world. The Ritchey-Chretien design has been used for research instruments like the Hubble Space Telescope and has recently made its way into the amateur’s reach, offering a sharper and flatter field for deep-sky imaging but with tougher collimation requirements and inferior planetary performance. Many Schmidt-Cassegrains can be converted to f/2 Schmidt camera astrographs using a suitable Starizona HyperStar lens/adapter.

Understanding Cassegrain Specs

Schmidt-Cassegrain telescopes, or SCTs, are the most common of the Cassegrains seen and the cheapest for a given aperture. Most can be reduced to f/6.3 with a thread-on reducer, and some can also be converted to f/2 Schmidt cameras with a Starizona HyperStar system. The Celestron RASA telescopes are basically permanent HyperStar conversions. An f/2 Schmidt camera allows for short exposure times but can be hard to focus and incompatible with many cameras, particularly monochrome or DSLR cameras, and image scale is limited.

Regular SCTs have a less-than-sharp outer field of view by default, which must be fixed with a reducer-flattener, which also brings them to a more reasonable speed for deep-sky imaging. Aplanatic SCT designs have better performance for deep-sky imaging, though there is little difference in planetary performance. The Celestron EdgeHD and Meade ACF designs are both aplanatic SCTs, though the EdgeHD is slightly superior optically and mechanically with a greater selection of available accessories; the ACF telescopes cannot be used with HyperStar, though standard SCTs from both Meade and Celestron work with the HyperStar system.

Ritchey-Chretien telescopes offer a sharper and flatter field than SCTs on par with aplanatic designs by default, often can achieve a larger image circle, and usually have superior focusing systems and other mechanical aspects that make them better for deep-sky imaging to some. However, collimating them can be challenging, they’re more expensive, they require a field flattener like refractors for deep-sky imaging, you get diffraction spikes like in a Newtonian, and they are sub-par for visual or planetary imaging use due to their large central obstructions.

Classical Cassegrain telescopes are not really intended for deep-sky imaging (though some can be used for it anyway). Vixen’s VC and VMC telescopes are a variant of the Classical Cassegrain using small corrector lenses similar to those found in aplanatic SCTs. Like Ritchey-Chretiens, however, you do get diffraction spikes in your images, they’re usually slow in f-ratio, and fewer accessories are available to support them for deep-sky imaging use.

Maksutov-Cassegrain telescopes should be avoided for deep-sky imaging, as basically none of them offer fast focal ratios, large image circles, or the ability to be used with a reducer. However, they require minimal collimation and can achieve wonderful planetary images.

Cassegrains for Deep-Sky Imaging Rankings

Under $1000

A 6” Cassegrain can be used on an EQ5-class mount, though you’re really pushing the limits of what one can handle, and a bigger mount would be a wise investment.
Best Value
Celestron C6 XLT

Type: SCT

Rank 1
4.6/5
The Celestron C6 XLT is limited in field size to smaller sensors thanks to its small baffle tube. However, it can be used with a Starizona HyperStar at f/2 and works great at f/6.3 with a Celestron reducer-corrector. It’s also a great telescope for visual astronomy and ideal for a “grab n’ go” or airline-portable setup.
Meade 6” ACF

Type: Aplanatic SCT

Rank 2
4.4/5
The Meade 6” ACF lacks the HyperStar compatibility of the C6 XLT, and the ACF optics are of little consequence since you need a reducer-flattener anyways. It illuminates slightly wider sensors than the C6 without vignetting, but is quite a bit heavier.
Apertura/GSO/TPO/AstroTech 6″ f/9 Ritchey-Chretien

iOptron Photron 6”

Type: Ritchey-Chretien

Rank 3
4.3/5
The GSO 6” Ritchey-Chretien and its various rebrands has a beefy 2” dual-speed Crayford focuser at the back end. However, it requires using a ridiculous amount of spacer rings to reach focus with most cameras along with a field flattener. At f/9 by default, even with a 0.75x reducer it’s a bit slower in f-stop than a 6” SCT and lacks the compactness or versatility of the C6 XLT, along with inferior planetary capabilities and an annoying collimation procedure.
GSO/AstroTech 6″ Classical Cassegrain

Type: Classical Cassegrain

Rank 4
3.8/5
The GSO 6” Classical Cassegrain recycles the mechanical aspects of the 6” Ritchey-Chretien but is easier to collimate, albeit stuck at a slower f/12 speed which is brought down to f/9 with a reducer, or equivalent to the 6” RC with no reducer. It will also vignette with larger sensors. Apart from slightly better planetary performance, it has basically no advantages over the 6” Ritchey-Chretien and is vastly inferior for deep-sky imaging.
Explore Scientific FirstLight 152mm Mak-Cassegrain

Type: Maksutov

Rank 5
3.5/5
The 2” single-speed Crayford focuser on the FirstLight 152mm Mak combined with its fairly fast (for a Maksutov) f/12 focal ratio technically makes deep-sky imaging possible, but using a reducer with it is probably a bad idea, and f/12 is basically useless for deep-sky imaging.
  • Rank 6: iOptron 150mm Maksutov Cassegrain (Maksutov) – 3.4 stars
  • Rank 7: Celestron C5 XLT (SCT) – 3.4 stars
  • Rank 8: Skywatcher Skymax 150 (Maksutov) – 3.3 stars
  • Rank 9: Skywatcher Skymax 127 (Maksutov) – 3 stars
  • Rank 10: Sky-Watcher Skymax 102 (Maksutov) – 3 stars
  • Rank 11: Sky-Watcher Skymax 90 (Maksutov) – 3 stars
  • Rank 12: Celestron C90 (Maksutov) – 3 stars
  • Rank 13: Explore FirstLight 127mm Mak-Cassegrain (Maksutov) – 2.9 stars

$1000-$2000 Cassegrain for DSO Imaging

An 8” Cassegrain requires an EQ6-class or larger mount for serious deep-sky use and can be hard to manage for a beginner, but they are extremely versatile setups for planetary imaging, deep-sky observation, and visual use while still remaining fairly portable.
Best Value
Celestron EdgeHD 8

Type: Aplanatic SCT

Rank 1
4.8/5
The 8” EdgeHD has a flatter field for deep-sky imaging and won’t vignette like the regular C8 XLT with larger sensors. It also features mirror locks to maintain focus, vents to speed up cooldown time, and can be used with either a dedicated f/7 reducer or f/2 HyperStar.
Apertura/GSO/TPO/Orion/ AstroTech 8” f/8 Carbon Fiber Ritchey-Chretien

Type: Ritchey-Chretien

Rank 2
4.6/5
The 8” GSO Ritchey-Chretien is sold both in a steel tube as well as with a carbon fiber tube to reduce any possibility of focus shift over the course of a night. It also features a slightly faster f/8 focal ratio, which competes closely with an EdgeHD 8 at f/7, and you can use a 0.75x reducer to bring the 8” RC down to f/6 with minimal vignetting. Collimation is more difficult than with an SCT, however, and you may need to modify or replace the stock focuser to handle very heavy loads.
  • Apertura/GSO/TPO/Orion/AstroTech 8” f/8 Ritchey-Chretien 4.5 stars
  • iOptron Photron 8” (Ritchey-Chretien) – 4.5 stars
Meade 8” ACF

Type: Aplanatic SCT

Rank 3
4.3/5
While better than a standard Schmidt-Cassegrain, the Meade 8” ACF isn’t nearly as well-designed as the Celestron 8” EdgeHD nor as versatile, though there are certainly worse options available.
Celestron C9.25 XLT

Type: SCT

Rank 4
4.2/5
The C9.25 XLT doesn’t suffer from the vignetting problems of Celestron’s standard SCTs, but it’s a little big for even an EQ6-class mount, and the EdgeHD version would be better for deep-sky imaging.
Celestron C8 XLT

Type:SCT

Rank 5
4.2/5
Like the C6 XLT, the C8 XLT can have vignetting with larger sensors and an f/6.3 reducer, and you should really consider the EdgeHD version instead as it provides a flatter field and has other perks for imaging such as a mirror locking system.
GSO/AstroTech 8″ Classical Cassegrain

Type: Classical Cassegrain

Rank 6
3.8/5
While technically usable for deep-sky imaging with a reducer, the GSO 8” Classical Cassegrain has no advantages over the 8” RC, as is the case with their 6” counterparts, and may vignette with larger sensors too.

Partially Recommended

  • Celestron 700 Maksutov
  • Sky-Watcher Skymax 180

Type: Maksutov

Rank 7
3.2/5

Not Recommended

$2000 Cassegrain for DSO Imaging

Celestron RASA 800

Type: Schmidt Camera

Rank 1
4.8/5
Although technically not a Cassegrain, the RASA 800 is derived from the EdgeHD Schmidt-Cassegrain and there are few telescopes like it – the telescope is essentially a permanent HyperStar conversion of an EdgeHD 8. The RASA 800 only works with one-shot color cameras due to its spacing requirements but delivers an excellent sharp, flat, and wide field with suitable sensors at a mere 400mm focal length and ultra-fast f/2 focal ratio. The focusing system is also improved over the EdgeHD with no need for mirror locks.
Celestron C9.25 EdgeHD

Type: Aplanatic SCT

Rank 2
4.7/5
The C9.25 EdgeHD boasts the same advantages over its XLT counterpart as the 8” version, with improved flatness, cooling vents, and mirror locks, with the ability to be converted to f/7 with a dedicated reducer or f/2 with a HyperStar attachment.
Meade 10” f/8 ACF

Type: Aplanatic SCT

Rank 3
4.6/5
The Meade 10” f/8 ACF has an ultra-stable focus system and flat, well-corrected field able to illuminate a full-frame sensor. However, it is stuck at f/8 with no ability to use any kind of reducer, and other accessories are limited.
Apertura/GSO/TPO/Orion/ AstroTech 10″ f/8 Ritchey-Chretien Optical Tube
iOptron Photron 10”

Type: Ritchey-Chretien

Rank 4
4.5/5
The 10” GSO Ritchey-Chretien is a great imaging telescope provided you can adequately mount and collimate it, with similar advantages and drawbacks to the smaller 6” and 8” models.
Meade 10” f/10 ACF

Type: Aplanatic SCT

Rank 5
4.1/5
The 10” f/10 ACF is well-designed, though lacking in accessory or reducer-flattener options compared to Celestron’s offerings.
  • Rank 6 : Celestron C11 XLT (SCT) – 3.9 stars
  • Rank 7 : Vixen VC200L (Classical Cassegrain) – 3.9 stars
  • Rank 8 : Vixen VMC200L (Classical Cassegrain) – 3.8 stars
  • Rank 9 : Takahashi Mewlon 180C (Classical Cassegrain) – 3.6 stars

Cassegrains for Planetary Imaging Rankings

Under $1000

A 4-6” telescope is too small for serious planetary imaging but will suffice even on a fairly small mount and can be a good way to dip your toes in without spending a lot of money.
iOptron 150mm Maksutov Cassegrain

Type: Maksutov

Rank 1
4.8/5
The iOptron 150mm Maksutov has great optics and a unique fine focus system built into its moving-mirror focuser by default for added flexibility.
Explore Scientific FirstLight 152mm Mak-Cassegrain

Type: Maksutov

Rank 2
4.7/5
The Explore Scientific FirstLight 152mm Maksutov-Cassegrain has a single-speed 2” Crayford focuser to avoid image shift, and excellent optics as with any Maksutov-Cassegrain.
GSO/AstroTech 6″ Classical Cassegrain

Type: Classical Cassegrain

Rank 3
4.6/5
The GSO 6” Classical Cassegrain’s dual-speed Crayford focuser makes it an excellent choice for planetary imaging, and its high-quality optics and interior baffles aid in providing minimal glare and maximum contrast. The lack of a front corrector plate also makes for dramatically faster cooldown time than a Maksutov or Schmidt-Cassegrain.
Celestron C6 XLT

Type: SCT

Rank 4
4.6/5
In addition to its deep-sky imaging capabilities, the venerable Celestron C6 XLT makes for an excellent planetary imaging telescope, though it is not quite as sharp or easy to focus as a Maksutov-Cassegrain, partly thanks to its slightly larger central obstruction, which inhibits contrast.
Skywatcher Skymax 150

Type: Maksutov

Rank 5
4.6/5
The Sky-Watcher Skymax 150 is another great 6” Maksutov-Cassegrain for both viewing and imaging, though it lacks the fancy focusers of some of the other 6” Maksutov-Cassegrains on the market nor does it have as much versatility as the Celestron C6 XLT.
  • Rank 6 : Meade 6” ACF (Aplanatic SCT) – 3.9 stars
  • Rank 7 : Explore FirstLight 127mm Mak-Cassegrain (Maksutov) – 3.9 stars
  • Rank 8 : Skywatcher Skymax 127 (Maksutov) – 3.9 stars
  • Rank 9: Apertura/GSO/TPO/AstroTech 6″ f/9 Ritchey-Chretien – 3.8 stars
    • a) iOptron Photron 6” (Ritchey-Chretien) – 3.8 stars
  • Rank 10 : Celestron C5 XLT (SCT) – 3.7 stars
  • Rank 11 : Sky-Watcher Skymax 102 (Maksutov – 3.7 stars
  • Rank 12 : Sky-Watcher Skymax 90 (Maksutov) – 3.6 stars
  • Rank 13: Celestron C90 (Maksutov) – 3.6 stars

$1000-$2000 Cassegrains for Planetary Imaging

Scopes in this price range will require an EQ5-class mount for planetary imaging.
Celestron C9.25 XLT

Type: SCT

Rank 1
4.8/5
The Celestron C9.25 XLT’s unique optical design compared to most SCTs has weaker curvatures in both mirrors, making for slightly better manufacturing tolerances along with easier focusing and collimation. It is hardly any less portable than an 8” SCT or 7” Maksutov but it has superior resolution and is a vastly better telescope for visual observation too.
GSO/AstroTech 8” Classical Cassegrain

Type: Classical Cassegrain

Rank 2
4.8/5
The sharp optics, fast cooldown time, interior baffling, and of course the dual-speed Crayford focuser of the GSO 8” Classical Cassegrain are all huge perks for planetary imaging, and it is arguably superior to an equally sized SCT or Maksutov-Cassegrain for the task, if perhaps a lot less useful for deep-sky imaging and slightly less ideal for visual observation.
  • Celestron 700 Maksutov
  • Sky-Watcher Skymax 180

Type: Maksutov

Rank 3
4.8/5
The Celestron/Sky-Watcher 7” Maksutovs (identical in every way except for different provided accessories) offer sharp optics with all of the simplicity of a Maksutov-Cassegrain system. However, at this size cooldown is a real concern and you might be better served by a slightly larger telescope of a different optical design; when well collimated it will probably render the sharpness and lack of collimation adjustment required of the 7” Maksutov moot.
Celestron EdgeHD 8

Type: Aplanatic SCT

Rank 4
4.7/5
The EdgeHD optics of the Celestron EdgeHD 8 matter little for planetary imaging but do of course open up more possibilities for deep-sky work. However, the mirror locks built into the EdgeHD 8 help with maintaining focus for planetary imaging which can be critical for achieving consistently sharp data over the course of a night.
Celestron C8 XLT

Type: SCT

Rank 5
4.6/5
The regular Celestron C8 XLT is many a planetary imager’s ideal telescope, and is plenty versatile for a variety of viewing and imaging capabilities. However, the EdgeHD version has numerous improved features while the C9.25 is more capable in resolving power.
  • Rank 6 : Meade 8” ACF (Aplanatic SCT) – 3.9 stars
  • Rank 7 : Apertura/GSO/TPO/Orion/AstroTech 8” f/8 Carbon Fiber Ritchey-Chretien- 3.9 stars
    • Apertura/GSO/TPO/Orion/AstroTech 8” f/8 Ritchey-Chretien – 3.9 stars
    • iOptron Photron 8” (Ritchey-Chretien) – 3.9 stars

$2000+ Cassegrains for Planetary Imaging

A 10” or larger Cassegrain needs a beefy mount for any application, and can be rather cumbersome to transport or set up frequently. However, the added resolution is certainly worth it.
Celestron C11 XLT

Type: SCT

Rank 1
4.8/5
The monster Celestron C11 XLT boasts plenty of resolving power for planetary imaging and makes for an excellent telescope for visual observation as well.
Celestron C9.25 EdgeHD

Type: Aplanatic SCT

Rank 2
4.7/5
Like the Celestron C8 EdgeHD, the C9.25 EdgeHD’s mirror locks and cooling vents are the main improvements it boasts for planetary imaging, and it’s also a good scope for deep-sky imaging with an f/7 reducer or f/2 HyperStar conversion.
Meade 10” f/10 ACF

Type: Aplanatic SCT

Rank 3
4.7/5
The 10” Meade ACF offers slightly more theoretical resolution than a C9.25 and is slightly easier to set up and transport than the C11, along with having a smoother focusing system. However, it is not quite as versatile nor sharp as the C9.25 EdgeHD.
Takahashi Mewlon 180C

Type: Classical Cassegrain

Rank 4
4.6/5
The Takahashi Mewlon 180C has the exquisitely sharp optics of all Takahashi telescopes, along with the benefits of fast cooldown time thanks to its lack of a corrector plate. The finder scope bracket doubles as a carry handle, and its focusing system is extremely precise. However, you’re not getting nearly as much resolving power as a larger SCT can provide, and the scope is essentially useless for deep-sky imaging.
Apertura/GSO/TPO/Orion/ AstroTech/iOptron 10” f/8 Ritchey-Chretien

Type: Ritchey-Chretien

Rank 5
4.4/5
The GSO 10” Ritchey-Chretien’s dual-speed 2” Crayford focuser is helpful for planetary imaging, though the scope is not quite as sharp optically as an equivalent SCT or Classical Cassegrain and also doesn’t deliver as much aperture for your money.
  • Rank 6 : Vixen VC200L (Classical Cassegrain) – 3.9 stars
  • Rank 7 : Vixen VMC200L (Classical Cassegrain)- 3.9 stars
  • Rank 8 : Meade 10” f/8 ACF (Aplanatic SCT)- 3.7 stars