Ranking 97 telescopes Below $300

If your budget is below $300, you’re typically looking at entry-level telescopes that are portable and easy to use, and can help you decide if you want to transition into something bigger. We’re of an opinion that anyone buying a telescope should save at least $200 by any means. If you’re serious about the hobby, you should even bump up your budget to $300+ and have a look at our ranking list for telescopes in the price range of $300 to $1200.

Caution

Almost everything decent is out of stock due to the pandemic. So if you want a scope, you'll have to place a backorder and wait several weeks to months, sadly. We'd also highly recommend telescope e-retailers because you'll get better technical and post-sales support, product range, deals from online telescope retailers, and also, better assurance that you'll get what you ordered. In the US, High Point Scientific, OPTCorp, Orion's Telescope.com are all reputable retailers with decades of history and offer great shipping, refund, and financing options. Your experience with them would be as easy as your usual Amazon orders.

Jump to telescopes in the price range of :-
Jump to telescopes in the price range of :-

Below ~$75

Telescopes below $100 have to make large concessions in quality and usefulness to the point that they’re little more than fun toys for casual glimpses at the Moon, planets and other bright targets. However, if it’s all you can afford, the scopes below still beat having nothing. 

Rank 1
While not particularly useful overall, the Funscope 76 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.
Rank 2
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.
Celestron Cometron Firstscope Tabletop Dobsonian
Rank 3
The Cometron FirstScope is similar to the Funscope in terms of overall usefulness and sports largely the same optics and accessories, but uses an optical as opposed to a battery-powered red dot finder. This may make the scope a little more inconvenient to use, but reduces the cost by a small amount.
National Park Foundation FirstScope Tabletop Dobsonian
Rank 4
The National Park Foundation FirstScope is the same basic telescope kit as the Cometron and Funscope 76mm tabletop telescopes, but lacks any finder at all - instead simply being aimed by sighting down the tube.
Rank 5
The basic bare-bones FirstScope will work okay, but lacks a finder or acceptable quality eyepieces. The views through this instrument at even low powers are mushy and the eyepieces feel like looking through a drinking straw.
Celestron FirstScope Moon Signature Tabletop Dobsonian
Rank 6
Identical to the Celestron Firstscope, but with a different optical tube decoration.

Rank 7Orion SpaceProbe II 76 Reflector3.7
Rank 8Zhumell 76 AZ Reflector3.7
Rank 9Celestron ExploraScope 70AZ Refractor3.7
Rank 10Celestron PowerSeeker 60 EQ
3.7
Rank 11Meade Infinity 60 Refractor3.6
Rank 12Meade Adventure Scope 603.6
Rank 13Celestron ExploraScope 60 AZ3.6
Rank 14Zhumell Z603.6
Rank 15Celestron AstroMaster LT 60AZ3.6
Rank 16Orion Observer II 70mm AZ3.5
Rank 17Zhumell 60 AZ3.5
Rank 18Orion Observer II 60mm AZ3.5
Rank 19Zhumell Z50
3.2
Rank 20Meade Infinity 50 Refractor2.9
Rank 21Celestron PowerSeeker 60 AZ
2.8
Rank 22Celestron PowerSeeker 70 AZ
2.7
Rank 23Celestron Travel Scope 702.5
Rank 24Orion GoScope III 702
Rank 25Celestron PowerSeeker 50 AZ2
Rank 26Celestron Travel Scope 502

~$100 range

Telescopes in the $100 range are acceptable but tend to come with either a mediocre mounting, mediocre accessories, or some other major limitation hindering performance. 

Rank 1
The Zhumell Z100, unlike its smaller sub-$100 brethren, offers a truly parabolic primary mirror allowing for sharp images of the Moon, planets, and other targets at anything but the lowest powers. It’s also extremely portable, fitting in even a moderately sized backpack.
Rank 2
The SkyScanner has all of the same advantages and disadvantages of the Z100 and exactly the same optics, but includes a 20mm Kellner eyepiece (20x) instead of the Z100’s 17mm Kellner (24x) for low power.
Meade Polaris 80 Refractor
Rank 4
The Meade Polaris 80 is far from our favorite, with a rather light-duty mount and cheapened build, but overall performs acceptably well provided you are careful not to bump it. It comes with a large range of accessories, although none are exactly high-quality.
Orion SpaceProbe II 76 EQ Reflector
Rank 5
The SpaceProbe II has significantly less light-gathering ability than even a 70mm refractor, but offers potentially the sharpest images of any of the scopes in its price range. However, the mount is a little confusing for beginners and the included accessories are decidedly mediocre.
Rank 6
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 PowerSeeker 80AZS Refractor
Rank 7
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.

Rank 8Celestron AstroMaster 76 EQ Reflector
3.8
Rank 9Meade Polaris 70 Reflector3.7
Rank 10Celestron Inspire 70AZ Refractor
3.7
Rank 11Celestron PowerSeeker 70 EQ Refractor
3.7
Rank 12Orion Observer II 70mm EQ Refractor
3.7
Rank 13Meade StarPro AZ 70 Refractor
3.7
Rank 14Celestron AstroMaster 70EQ Refractor
3.7
Rank 15Celestron PowerSeeker 114 EQ Reflector
3.6
Rank 16Explore Scientific FirstLight 90mm Doublet Refractor AZ Mount
3.6
Rank 17Celestron Powerseeker 114AZ3.6
Rank 18Meade Adventure Scope 80 Refractor
3.6
Rank 19Celestron Travel Scope 80 Refractor
3.6
Rank 20Celestron Explorascope 80AZ Refractor
3.6
Rank 21Celestron AstroMaster 70AZ Refractor
3.6
Rank 22Explore FirstLight 70mm Refractor AZ Mount
3.6
Rank 23Orion Observer 80ST EQ Refractor
3.3
Rank 24Celestron AstroMaster LT 76AZ Reflector
3.2
Rank 25Celestron ExploraScope 114AZ Reflector
2.9
Rank 26Celestron AstroMaster LT 70AZ Refractor
2.9
Rank 27Zhumell Z70 Refractor
2.3

~$150 range

A budget of $150 will get you a workable telescope with few constraints that permanently hold it back, albeit with a few concessions on accessories. 

Zhumell Z114 Tabletop Dobsonian
Rank 1
The Zhumell Z114 offers many of the same advantages of the Z100, but with a collimatable and slightly larger primary mirror offering sharper images and 30% more light gathering capability. It features the same red dot finder and 17mm/10mm Kellner eyepieces that are included with the Z100.
Rank 2
The Infinity 90’s unobstructed aperture means that it ends up offering similarly bright and sharp views to the Z114, albeit with the disadvantage of chromatic aberration on bright targets such as the Moon and planets. It also features the same included accessory bundle (3 eyepieces and a Barlow) as most of the Meade Infinity and Polaris scopes.
Rank 3
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.
Rank 4
Offering the most light-gathering capability in its price range, you might be wondering why the Polaris 130EQ isn’t at the top of our list. This is because Polaris 130EQ seems to suffer from less-than-ideal quality control and a significant proportion of 130EQs seem to ship with poorly figured primary mirrors, offering mushy images at even moderate magnifications. It’s a gamble you might want to pass on.
Meade Polaris 114 EQ Reflector
Rank 5
The Polaris 114EQ’s long focal ratio of f/8 makes it much easier to collimate and get sharp images compared to Zhumell Z114/Orion Starblast 4.5, but also reduces the scope’s maximum field of view, making finding targets slightly more difficult. Additionally, the scope’s meter-long tube is more likely to suffer from vibrations caused by wind or bumping it than a shorter instrument.
Explore One Aurora 114 Reflector
Rank 6
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 Zhumell Z114’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.
Orion VersaGo E-Series 90 Refractor
Rank 7
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.
Meade 80mm StarPro AZ Refractor
Rank 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 Cometron 114AZ Reflector
Rank 9
The Cometron 114AZ is simply a Z114/StarBlast optical tube perched atop a glorified photo tripod. While stable and of course quite capable of delivering sharp images, the lack of fine adjustment capability and the jerky motions of the mount make for a rather frustrating user experience out of the box.

Rank 10Celestron Inspire 80AZ Refractor
3.7
Rank 11AstroMaster 80AZS Reflector
3.7
Rank 12Celestron AstroMaster 90AZ Refractor
3.7
Rank 13StarSense Explorer LT 80AZ
3.6
Rank 14Orion GoScope 80 Refractor
3.3
Rank 15Meade S102 Refractor
3.2
Rank 16Levenhuk Skyline 120S Reflector
3
Rank 17StarSense Explorer LT 114AZ
2.8
Rank 18Meade Polaris 127 Reflector
1.5
Rank 19Celestron PowerSeeker 127EQ Reflector
1

~$200 range

With a budget of $200 or more, you’ve got a lot more options for a good telescope, with fewer compromises to the quality of the instrument itself or its accessories. 

Zhumell Z130 Tabletop Dobsonian
Rank 1
The Z130 is the best of the Zhumell tabletop Dobs, featuring even more aperture and a slower focal ratio of f/5 which makes it less demanding of collimation and eyepiece quality. Z130 comes with tube rings and a nicer focuser when compared to Heritage 130P. The only downside is that at over 20 pounds, you’ll be hard pressed to find a suitable surface for the scope to rest on.
Sky-Watcher Heritage 130p Tabletop Dobsonian
Rank 2
The Heritage includes the same accessories and sports the same optics as the Z130, but features a collapsible tube that allows it to fit into a smaller space and reduces the weight by a bit when compared to Z130 which makes it a better choice for kids. This does create the disadvantage of stray light being able to easily enter the tube, which can be (mostly) remedied by creating a foam shroud. For an adult, the weight difference is insignificant.
Rank 3
The Orion StarBlast is essentially identical to the Zhumell Z114 optically, but on a different mounting. The StarBlast II version is perched atop a rather spindly EQ-1 equatorial mount. While there is a bit of a learning curve to using the EQ-1, you’re rewarded with a full-sized tripod, equatorial movements and the ability to upgrade to motorized tracking later on.
Rank 4
While often recommended as a beginner telescope and indeed not a bad choice, the Orion StarBlast Astro is essentially identical to the cheaper Zhumell Z114, and offers no significant differences. At its price point, you’d be better served by the equatorially-mounted StarBlast II or one of the 130mm tabletop dobsonian reflectors.
Rank 5
The Infinity 102 is admittedly not our favorite choice in its price range due to the chromatic aberration and less-than-ideal mounting, but offers relatively sharp views and super-low maintenance, plus the potential for terrestrial viewing that reflectors lack.
Rank 6
The StarMax 90’s Maksutov-Cassegrain design makes for an ultra-portable planetary scope with great performance and a convenience factor that can’t be matched, but offers lackluster views of deep-sky objects and the simple mounting may frustrate some users.
Meade Polaris 90 Refractor
Rank 7
The Polaris 90 is a capable telescope, but lacks the aperture of our other recommendations in its price range, and the ergonomics of a long equatorial refractor on a mediocre equatorial mount are less-than-satisfactory.
Celestron Inspire 100AZ Refractor
Rank 8
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.

Rank 9Explore Scientific FirstLight 114 EQ3 Reflector3.8
Rank 10Celestron AstroMaster 90EQ Refractor
3.8
Rank 11Explore Scientific FirstLight 114 Twilight Nano Reflector3.7
Rank 12Celestron AstroMaster 130 EQ MD Reflector
3.6
Rank 13Celestron AstroMaster 130 EQ Reflector
3.6
Rank 14Orion StarBlast 90 Refractor
3.6
Rank 15Celestron Ambassador 50 Table Top Refractor
3
Rank 16Celestron AstroMaster 114 EQ Reflector2.7

~$250 range

Rank 1
The Orion XT4.5 may have less aperture than some of its cheaper rivals, but has an ultra-smooth true Dobsonian mount with real bearings, high-quality included Sirius Plossl eyepieces, and its long focal ratio makes it significantly easier to collimate. The scope’s long tube also means that it doesn’t necessarily need a full-height table or stool to be at a comfortable height for use - a milk crate or box will probably do.
Sky-Watcher Virtuoso 90 Catadioptric
Rank 2
The Virtuoso 90 is very similar in mechanics and performance to the Orion StarMax 90, but its motorized mount allows for hands-free automatic tracking, and makes for a fun platform to use for daytime panorama shots with a camera. The scope also includes a solar filter, making it a great platform for both day and night use.
Orion StarBlast 114mm Reflector
Rank 3
The StarBlast 114mm AutoTracker uses the same mount as the Virtuoso, but sports a 114mm reflector optical tube instead. Although superficially similar to the StarBlast 4.5 and Z114, the AutoTracker 114 is slightly longer in focal length (500mm vs. 450mm) and includes a collimation cap for easier collimation.
Orion SpaceProbe 130 EQ Reflector
Rank 4
The SpaceProbe 130EQ provides a decent amount of aperture on a sturdy EQ-2 mounting, but with a spherical f/6.7 primary mirror it provides less-than-sharp images at higher magnifications and the included Kellner eyepieces are rather substandard considering the scope’s price tag.
Meade 102mm StarPro AZ Refractor
Rank 5
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.
Rank 6
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. However, the AstroView 90’s small aperture means it simply cannot compete in light grasp nor resolution with larger 114mm and 130mm reflectors, and it is outclassed in convenience by the 90mm Maksutov-Cassegrains at and below its price range.
Levenhuk Skyline Plus 130S Reflector
Rank 7
The SkyLine Plus 130S is little more than a rebranded SpaceProbe 130EQ with a significantly lower quality plastic 5x24 finderscope as opposed to the 130EQ’s 6x30, and a 2x Barlow tossed in. It’s not fabulous, but will do the job.
  • Rank 8 – Explore Scientific FirstLight AR102 Twilight Nano Refractor – 3.7
  • Rank 9 – Celestron AstroMaster 102AZ Refractor – 3.7
  • Rank 10Celestron 80 LCM GoTo Refractor3.2