Ranking Refractor Telescopes Aperture-wise

We’re of an opinion that anyone buying a telescope should save at least $200 by any means. If your budget is below $300, you’re typically looking at entry-level telescopes that are portable and easy to use but can help to decide on whether you want to upgrade to something bigger. If you’re serious about the hobby, you should bump up your budget to $300+ and it is, in fact, the price range that we recommend to most amateur astronomers. 8″ Dobsonians, which costs around $500, are the most perfect choice for most of you. Astrophotography is even beyond this budget, for which you should look at $1000+ telescopes.
$100
$150
$200
$250
$300
$450
$650
$1000
$1350
$1750

150mm Aperture

Celestron Advanced VX Series 6″ Refractor GoTo
4
The 6” Advanced VX Refractor suffers from some chromatic aberration, is a bit cumbersome, and is certainly not the astrophotography-ready platform that marketing material might suggest. It’s a great choice for those who want a big refractor, though you might want to ponder what it is that’s so appealing about such a rig before purchasing.

120mm Aperture

Rank 1
4.2
The Omni XLT 120 is a bit awkward to move around and complicated to assemble, but it’s well-made and offers pleasing lunar, planetary, and deep-sky views.
Rank 2
4
The AstroView 120ST is a great wide-field deep-sky scope, but its high amount of chromatic aberration makes it unusable for lunar and planetary views, and the mount – while sturdy – isn’t the most durable and has a fair amount of easily breakable parts.
Explore FirstLight 127mm Doublet Refractor with Twilight I
Rank 3
4
The FirstLight 127 Doublet/Twilight I is a great scope paired with a great mount. Unfortunately, said scope is a bit on the large side for its mount. The tripod is a bit too short and a bit too light-duty to properly accommodate the massive 127mm doublet OTA and allow it to reach its full potential.
Sky-Watcher StarTravel 120 AZ3
Rank 4
x
The StarTravel 120 AZ3 is a great wide-field instrument for observing large deep-sky objects like star clusters, but it’s hobbled by the mediocre included mount and disastrously bad erecting prism. Even without these problems, the scope is borderline unusable for high-magnification, detailed views of the Moon and planets. The AstroView 120ST offers a better deal but either one should be avoided if you want a good, general-purpose instrument.
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Computerized

Meade 5″ Refractor LX85 GoTo
x
The 120mm LX85 is rather overpriced for what it is, and for a similar amount of money, you could get a larger and/or higher-quality refractor. But it’s not a terrible instrument if you can score a deal on one, offering a decent mount and views without too many frills.
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100mm Aperture

Explore FirstLight 102mm Doublet Refractor with Twilight I Mount
Rank 1
4.1
The FirstLight 102mm f/10 is a great scope optically, and the version sold with the award-winning Twilight I mount makes for a rock-solid piece of equipment. However, the included accessories are very poorly made, and an equatorial mount like that of the Celestron Omni XLT or Orion AstroView scopes might be more appealing to a refractor user.
Celestron Omni XLT 102 Refractor
Rank 2
3.8
The Omni XLT 102 is well-made and offers great lunar, planetary, and deep-sky views. While the equatorial mount and long optical tube are more cumbersome than the shorter, faster altazimuth-mounted refractors also available, the Omni beats them at high-power views and the equatorial mount is a lot easier to keep pointed at the Moon and planets – especially if you add an aftermarket motor drive.
Rank 3
4.2
The Infinity 102 isn’t perfect, but its easy-to-use mounting, decent accessory set and well-made optical tube make it a good beginner or “grab n’ go” scope and gives you a lot of capability and magnification options right out of the box.
Item discontinued. Last stocks left.
Celestron Omni XLT 102 AZ Refractor
Rank 4
3.8
The Omni XLT AZ 102 offers an improved mount and finder compared to the Infinity 102 as well as fewer plastic components, but isn’t as well-accessorized.
Celestron Inspire 100AZ Refractor
Rank 5
3.9
The Inspire 100 is very similar to the Meade Infinity 102 in design and functionality, as well as sporting some nice conveniences such as a lens cap doubling as a smartphone adapter and some ergonomic improvements to the accessory tray, but has a significantly inferior mount and an often higher price tag than its competitor.
Sky-Watcher StarTravel 102 AZ3
Rank 6
x
The StarTravel 102AZ3’s build quality is great and its short 500mm focal length and 2″ focuser make it great for wide-field deep-sky sweeping, but the scope’s fast f/4.9 optics make it unsuitable for lunar and planetary viewing, and its supplied mount and star diagonal are far from good for the price.
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Meade 102mm StarPro AZ Refractor
Rank 7
3.9
The StarPro 102 is identical optically and includes the same accessories as the Meade Infinity 102, but at an oddly higher price and with a vastly inferior, less stable mount and tripod.
Item discontinued. Last stocks left.
Explore Scientific FirstLight AR102 Twilight Nano
Rank 8
x
The 102mm f/6.5 FirstLight isn’t terrible optically, but its poor included accessories, mediocre mounting and high price make it a poor deal compared to the various other 102mm f/6.5 refractors available at often significantly lower prices
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Celestron AstroMaster 102AZ
Rank 9
x
The AstroMaster 102AZ’s low-quality mounting (basically a glorified photo tripod) makes it difficult to aim or keep steady on a target, and it’s more expensive than better options like the Meade Infinity 102 or Celestron’s own Inspire 100AZ.
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Meade S102
Rank 10
x
The Meade S102 is an even worse version of the Infinity and StarPro 102, with a flimsy fork mount barely capable of supporting a telescope half its size. The S102’s fork mount is actually so bad that the telescope has a tendency to completely topple over if you bump into it.
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Computerized

Explore Scientific FirstLight 102 w/EXOS-2GT
Rank 9
x
The FirstLight 102GT is very well-made and features a fully computerized equatorial mount, a quality 2″ focuser and diagonal, and 4 inches of aperture. But for the price, you could get a much more capable and less cumbersome scope with better views.
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Rank 16
4
The StarSense Explorer DX 102AZ’s PushTo mount requires no batteries or cables and is extremely easy to use, while the optical tube is well-made and delivers sharp views of the Moon, planets, and brighter deep-sky objects. However, the limited aperture of the DX102 makes it questionable whether the StarSense Explorer technology is worth the significant price hike.
Sky-Watcher StarTravel 102 AZ-GTe Refractor
Rank 9
x
The StarTravel 102 AZ-GTe isn’t an ideal lunar and planetary instrument, but it’s lightweight, portable, and features the advanced AZ-GTi mount which can be moved manually and controlled with your smartphone or tablet.
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Rank 9
x
The NexStar 102SLT’s flawed mechanical design with its too-short dew shield and unstable mount makes it a barely usable instrument that offers little in the way of convenience or ease of use for beginner or experienced users.
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Meade Starnavigator NG 102 Refractor
Rank 9
x
The StarNavigator 102 suffers from many of the same issues as the NexStar 102SLT, namely a shaky mount, but at an even higher price and with poor quality accessories and an even worse user interface with its outdated and clunky AutoStar hand controller.
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90mm Aperture

Rank 6
3.9
The AstroView 90’s long f/11 focal ratio makes for a great planetary scope with remarkably little chromatic aberration, and the included Sirius Plossl eyepieces provide crisp and sharp views. The scope’s EQ-2 mounting is also rock solid.
Rank 2
4.2
The Infinity 90 offers decent views of Solar System and deep-sky objects, is easy to aim, and comes with a bunch of eyepieces and a 2x Barlow lens, giving you a lot of magnification options without having to shop for additional accessories. Of the three Infinity AZ scopes, the 90mm arguably offers the best lunar and planetary views thanks to its longer focal ratio.
Item discontinued. Last stocks left.
Meade Polaris 90 Refractor
Rank 7
3.9
The Polaris 90 is well-made, and like the Infinity 90 comes with a wide variety of accessories, but the equatorial mount isn’t quite as stable as an altazimuth mount and takes a little more work to set up and learn how to use, which can be frustrating for beginners.
Item discontinued. Last stocks left.
Celestron AstroMaster 90EQ
x
The AstroMaster 90EQ is much like the Polaris 90 with a similar optical tube and equatorial mount, but has slightly inferior accessories.
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Explore Scientific FirstLight 90mm Doublet Refractor Telescope with AZ Mount
x
The FirstLight 90 is relatively simple in its mounting and accessories, but it’s super lightweight, easy to use and delivers a wide field of view for deep-sky viewing. However, those interested in a scope optimized for lunar and planetary views might want to choose a longer focal ratio refractor with less chromatic aberration.
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Orion VersaGo E-Series 90 Refractor
Rank 7
3.8
The VersaGo E-Series 90 is an acceptable choice for beginners, but we’re not impressed by its inclusion of a 45-degree erecting prism instead of a true star diagonal. However, the optical tube is the same as the Meade Infinity 90, and the included Plossl eyepieces are quite well-made – with a real star diagonal, the VersaGo 90 is quite the performer.
$199.99 at Orion
Celestron AstroMaster 90AZ Refractor
x
The AstroMaster 90AZ has decent optics, but its low-quality tripod (little more than a pan-tilt photo tripod with no slow-motion controls) and mediocre accessories make it a poor scope for the price and a frustrating experience for beginners to try to use.
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Orion StarBlast 90
x
The StarBlast 90 is an atrociously bad telescope with a poor mounting, extensive use of plastic in its construction and low-quality accessories. We’d recommend steering clear of this one.
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Computerized

Celestron Astro Fi 90 Refractor GoTo
Rank 12
3.7
The Astro-Fi 90 has good optics, is super easy to use and can be controlled wirelessly via your smartphone or tablet. However, the amount of objects that a 90mm telescope can show you that really require GoTo to locate is low, and if you must have a GoTo scope we’d recommend something at least 4″ in aperture.
Meade Starnavigator NG 90 Refractor
x
The StarNavigator 90, like all the StarNavigators, is supplied with an out-of-date, cheaply-made and not-so-sturdy computerized altazimuth mount. For the price, this scope leaves much to be desired and we’d recommend one of the offerings from Celestron, Explore Scientific, Sky-Watcher, or Orion instead.
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80mm Aperture

Orion Grab-n-Go 80mm Triplet Refractor
Rank 4
x
x
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Skywatcher Evoview ProED 80 w/AllView
Rank 4
x
x
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Explore FirstLight 80mm EQ3 Refractor
Rank 9
3.9
The FirstLight 80mm f/11 is a great scope optically, but suffers from the mediocre accessories of the other FirstLight scopes and a relatively small aperture of only 80mm, making it a poor choice for deep-sky viewing.
Rank 3
4.1
The Infinity 80 is essentially an improved PowerSeeker 80AZS with a more versatile mount and vastly superior included accessories. While being a poor performer on high-magnification targets and offering less light gathering capability than its larger sister scopes, the Infinity 80’s super-wide field of view makes it easy to find and frame the largest targets.
Item discontinued. Last stocks left.
Rank 5
3.8
The PowerSeeker 80EQ is similar to the Meade Polaris 80EQ, but with far inferior eyepieces and a totally useless finderscope. However, it does have adjustable tube rings which allows one to balance and rotate the tube more freely.
Celestron Inspire 80AZ
Rank 4
x
x
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Celestron PowerSeeker 80AZS Refractor
Rank 6
3.8
The PowerSeeker 80AZS is almost useless for planetary and lunar observing thanks to its high amounts of chromatic aberration and abysmal included 4mm eyepiece and Barlow, but makes for a great wide-field instrument for viewing large deep-sky objects.
Meade 80mm StarPro AZ Refractor
Rank 8
3.8
The StarPro 80 is an acceptable, albeit lackluster choice for the beginner. With only 80mm of aperture and a focal ratio of f/11, the StarPro is limited to the Moon, planets, and the brightest deep-sky objects. The scope’s mount is also on the lightweight side.
Celestron AstroMaster 80AZS
Rank 4
x
x
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Celestron Explorascope 80AZ
Rank 4
x
x
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Meade Adventure Scope 80
Rank 4
x
x
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Celestron Travel Scope 80
Rank 4
x
x
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Orion Observer 80ST EQ
Rank 4
x
x
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Celestron StarSense Explorer LT 80AZ
Rank 4
x
x
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Orion GoScope 80
Rank 4
x
x
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Celestron Ambassador 80
Rank 4
x
x
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Computerized

Orion StarSeeker IV 80mm GoTo Refractor
Rank 4
x
x
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Sky-Watcher StarTravel 80 AZ-GTe
Rank 4
x
x
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Rank 14
3.7
The ETX-80 is extremely portable, lightweight, and offers full GoTo and a super-wide field of view, but with a cheapened build and diminutive aperture it offers the worst value of anything in its price range.
Item discontinued. Last stocks left
Celestron 80 LCM
Rank 4
x
x
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80mm Aperture

Best with Tripod
Rank 2
4
The Meade Infinity 70 is one of the few inexpensive refractors we recommend. While lacking in aperture and suffering from chromatic aberration, the scope does come on a full-sized tripod - and offers considerably sharper images than the tabletop 76mm telescopes available in its price range.
Meade StarPro AZ 70
Rank 4
x
x
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Orion Observer II 70mm EQ
Rank 4
x
x
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Celestron Inspire 70AZ Refractor
Rank 4
x
x
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Meade Polaris 70 Reflector
Rank 4
x
x
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Celestron PowerSeeker 70 EQ Refractor
Rank 4
x
x
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Celestron PowerSeeker 70 AZ
Rank 4
x
x
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Celestron AstroMaster 70EQ
Rank 4
x
x
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Celestron ExploraScope 70AZ
Rank 4
x
x
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Orion Observer II 70mm AZ
Rank 4
x
x
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Celestron AstroMaster 70AZ
Rank 4
x
x
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Explore FirstLight 70mm Refractor with AZ Mount
Rank 4
x
x
Celestron AstroMaster LT 70AZ
Rank 4
x
x
Zhumell Z70
Rank 4
x
x
Celestron Travel Scope 70 DX
Rank 4
x
x
Celestron Travel Scope 70
Rank 4
x
x
Orion GoScope III 70
Rank 4
x
x