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Telescopes for beginners: what to choose

The best telescopes for beginners are not the cheapest ones but the ones that really will let you easily observe and photograph the Universe. For this reason we always advise to avoid buying a too cheap telescope that won't allow you to enjoy observing and photographing the Universe. Discover the best telescopes for beginners in this guide. When we talk to people who ask us about the best telescopes for beginners, we get a lot of questions. Here you have the main ones here. Note: obviously this is an introductory guide and it can not be, due to the nature of our ACADEMY blog, a complete guide.


Q: Which telescope is better: reflector or refractor?

R: First of all, a reflector is a telescope that works with a mirror optical system, a refractor is a telescope that works with lenses. These two big families (which in turn include different types of optical schemes like achromatic or apochromatic refractors, Newton reflectors, Schmidt-Cassegrain, Ritchey-Chretien, Maksutov-Cassegrain, etc.) have different characteristics that we can summarize here:

1) Reflectors use an optical scheme with a secondary mirror placed in front of the primary mirror and, creating an obstruction, this reduces the contrast of the image (the decrease in contrast can be more or less high, depending on the optical scheme and on the secondary mirror dimension). However, reflectors have a lower production cost than a medium quality refractor (ie at the same price you can buy a reflector with a larger diameter and therefore a greater light collection capability) and therefore, generally, they are more suitable for observations of deep-sky objects (such as galaxies, nebulae or star clusters). Example of reflector telescopes to start with is the SkyWatcher Newton Explorer 150/750 EQ3 telescope for people looking for a low-cost but powerful enough instrument to begin observing even deep-sky objects and equipped with a good equatorial mount that, in a second time, can also be motorized or computerized, allowing its use also in astrophotography.

2) Refractors have no obstruction, therefore, with the same diameter of a reflector, they allow a greater contrast. For this reason they are very suitable in all applications where it is necessary to push magnification and having high contrast: they are therefore very suitable for observing planets, Moon and double stars. Refractors also have the advantage of being able to be used as powerful spotting scopes by adding an erecting prism (usually optional). Reflectors rarely offer this option as they are not suitable for this use (except for the Maksutov-Cassegrain type telescopes like the SkyWatcher Maksutov Skymax 127 EQ3 telescope which, thanks to low obstruction and high contrast, is a reflector very good on Moon, planets and double stars and for the terrestrial observations just like a refractor). Among refractor telescopes we can recommend the SkyWatcher refractor Evostar 102 EQ3 telescope that, by adding the optional erecting prism, it can be used also as spotting scope.


Telescopes for beginners: reflector telescope (left) and refractor telescope (right) Telescopes for beginners: reflector telescope (left) and refractor telescope (right)


Q: What mount is better to start with?

R: In general telescope mounts are divided into altazimutal that have telescope movement on 2 axes, high-low and right-left (as with a common photo tripod) and equatorial that have a telescope movement around one axis (polar axis) of the mount which is set in an inclined position and which must be pointing towards the Sky Pole (in northern hemisphere, a point in the sky very close to the Polar Star).

Equatorial mounts (like the ones of SkyWatcher Newton Explorer 150/750 EQ3 and SkyWatcher Maksutov Skymax 127 EQ3 telescopes) are more complicated to use because they require polar alignment. But the equatorial mounts, moving the telescope around an axis corresponding to the rotation of the sky, offer higher tracking accuracy and therefore are those usually used for astrophotography. Altazimutal mounts (like the one of Celestron Astro Fi 5SC computerized telescope) are very simple to use (in practice they are used as a photographic tripod) but they are not suitable for galaxies, nebulas and star clusters astrophotography (these telescopes can only be used for very short expositions of bright objects - for example to take pictures of the Moon and planets).


Telescopes for beginners: telescope with equatorial mount (left) and altazimutal (right) Telescopes for beginners: telescope with equatorial mount (left) and altazimutal (right)


Q: May I start with a computerized telescope?

R: In recent years, several brands introduced telescopes for beginners that already include a computer, such as the Celestron Astro Fi 5SC computerized telescope. Computerized telescopes offer several additional features: for example, they automatically point to any object included in the telescope database (which you can select through the appropriate handpad or, as in the case of Astro-Fi telescopes, from the planetary app installed on your smartphone or tablet which allows you to control the telescope via WiFi) and automatically track the object (so you can conveniently change the eyepiece or connect the camera while the object will be framed in the field of view). Long-standing amateur astronomers don't really like this about computers integrated into telescopes for beginners because a good knowledge of the night sky is always important (a non-computerized telescope requires a study of the sky and the position of objects to aim) but no one doubts that the automatic goto of objects makes the use of the telescope much easier and faster.