Explore One Aurora 114
The Explore One Aurora 114 is marketed mainly towards kids, but makes for a surprisingly good scope for adults too—the optical tube is identical to the Orion Starblast 4.5 EQ’s, the full-sized mount/tripod has slow-motion controls, and the included eyepieces are quite good. However, the Aurora’s red-dot finder is very poorly made, and overall, the scope has a relatively cheap feel to its construction.
Celestron Cometron 114AZ
List Price: $239.95
National Geographic NG114mm Reflector w/ Equatorial Mount
Essentially a cheapened version of the Orion StarBlast 4.5 EQ with more spotty availability and customer service, the NG114 is a decent telescope, though the accessories are not the best and the price can often be too high to make sense.
List Price: $209.99
Explore Scientific FirstLight 114 Twilight Nano
List Price: $229.99
Orion Observer 114mm
List Price: $169.99
Bresser Spica 130mm/Bresser Reflector 130/650
The Spica 130mm is a little undermounted and the included accessories are mediocre. However, the telescope’s optics are quite good, and it’s great for planetary or deep-sky viewing. The price is also reasonable for what you get. However, a better-quality 114mm or 130mm reflector is preferable.
List Price: $305
Explore Scientific FirstLight 130mm EQ3 Reflector
The FirstLight 130mm Newtonian is undermounted, the secondary mirror is undersized, stopping it down to around 120mm, and the included accessories are not very good. We’d steer clear—the 130mm equatorial scopes from Orion and GSKYER are much nicer, and a Dobsonian is still better.
List Price: $349.99
Orion Observer 134mm Reflector
List Price: $299.99
~$450 – $750 range
The Astro-Fi 130 is optically identical to the Orion SpaceProbe 130ST, but sports a 2” plastic rack-and-pinion focuser. The Astro-Fi’s fully computerized GoTo mount is controlled by your phone or tablet, and will automatically slew to and track almost any object you choose. However, the scope is a bit of a battery guzzler, and the free SkyPortal app is lacking. For optimal use, you’ll need a rechargeable power supply and a copy of SkySafari Pro, both of which increase the price of this gizmo quite a bit.
The StarSense Explorer DX 130AZ uses the same optical tube as the Astro-Fi 130 and other 130mm f/5 telescopes, but is mounted atop Celestron’s StarSense Explorer mount, which assists in locating targets with your smartphone. However, the Astro-Fi 130 is similar in price and offers full tracking and GoTo, which is vastly preferable to the simple Push-To system of the DX 130AZ.
The StarSeeker IV mount offers excellent features and is steady enough with the 150mm f/5 optical tube supplied atop it. However, the cheap plastic aspheric eyepieces supplied with the telescope offer poor views, and the lack of collimation adjustments doesn’t help either. The ability to aim the scope manually is nice.
Orion StarSeeker IV 114mm GoTo Reflector without Controller
The StarSeeker IV 114mm GoTo uses a nice, wide-field 114mm f/4.4 optical tube that’s rock-solid on the StarSeeker IV mount and provides sharp views. However, the included accessories are quite poor, the price is fairly high, and for around the same price, there are better deals.
Orion StarSeeker IV 130mm GoTo Reflector without Controller
In addition to being needlessly priced at the same amount as the 150mm model, the Orion StarSeer IV 130mm GoTo Reflector shares its larger counterpart’s low-quality eyepieces, though you can at least adjust the collimation of the primary mirror. You could just get the superior 150mm anyway.
Vixen R130SF w/Porta II Reflector
The R130SF shares the same 130mm f/5 optics as many cheaper and better-equipped instruments. While the Porta II mount is excellent, the R130SF’s annoying collimation screws and 1.25”-only plastic focuser are not. The R130SF is also very expensive compared to other options with similar capabilities.
List Price: $740
The AstroView 6 is functionally nearly identical to the Omni XLT 150 EQ, albeit with a slightly different accessory package and a rather unsteady and unappealing mount. The optics and accessories are nice, but it’s prone to jiggling, and you might accidentally topple it over trying to aim it anywhere in the sky.
Explore FirstLight 130mm Newtonian Twilight I Mount
This scope is a bit unusual, with a taller-than-necessary focuser and a very nice (albeit probably overkill) mount. While indeed quite decent, the lack of decent accessories provided with the FirstLight 130mm, combined with its small aperture, means that its overall value for the money is debatable.
$1000+ Reflectors Sorted Price-wise
Explore FirstLight 150mm Newtonian with EXOS2GT GoTo Mount
The FirstLight 150mm Newtonian optical tube is fine, but the clunky EXOS-2GT mount is insufficient to support it for deep-sky imaging and is hard to pair with an autoguiding setup or PC.
Celestron Advanced VX Series 6″ Newtonian
Explore FirstLight 203mm Newtonian with EXOS2GT GoTo Mount
The EXOS-2GT mount is simply insufficient for the task of supporting an 8” reflector, let alone for long-exposure astrophotography, and as such, we’d recommend you steer clear.
Celestron Advanced VX Series 8″ Newtonian GoTo
The Advanced VX 8” could be an acceptable platform for learning astrophotography, but it is quite a complicated rig to set up and assemble, and arguably overkill for visual use. The 8” optical tube is also pushing the limits of the mount’s capabilities, and thus it can be a bit frustrating to get consistently sharp results with long exposures.
Vixen Optics R130SF Reflector with APZ Mount
The R130SF/APZ mount combination is laughably overpriced for what it is, delivering more or less the same capabilities as the already-expensive R130SF/Porta II combination and outclassed by GoTo 130mm and 150mm scopes at a fraction of the price.
Meade 6″ f/4.1 LX85 Astrograph Reflector Telescope
Meade 8″ f/4 LX85 Astrograph Reflector Telescope
If you really want a scope that’s good for both visual and imaging use, there are worse options than the 8” f/4 LX85 Astrograph. It’s a great scope for wide-field views of deep-sky objects. You can do some deep-sky imaging with it, and with a strong Barlow lens, you can also image the Moon and planets pretty well.
Meade 6″ f/10 LX85 ACF Telescope with Mount and Tripod
Meade 8″ f/10 LX85 ACF Telescope with Mount and Tripod
Vixen Optics Advanced Polaris-M Mount with R130SF Reflector
The Advanced Polaris-M is a nice mount, but expensive for what you get – and the R130SF is unsuitable for imaging, overmounted for visual use, and the combination of the two is extremely expensive and unnecessary.