The Best Telescope for Beginners – Buyer Guide and Review (Australia / NZ) 19

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Astronomy is an exciting hobby! It ignites our curiosity of the fascinating universe around us. Unfortunately buying your first telescope can be an extremely complicated task. You can easily find yourself lost in technical jargon and endless options available. Beginner shoppers often jump into buying an unsuitable telescope, get frustrated trying to use it and eventually even give up on pursuing astronomy altogether. The following guide explains everything you need to know before buying your first telescope. We’ve also short-listed our Top 2 Telescopes for beginners, enthusiasts and amateur astronomers.

Choosing a Telescope

 

Should I Buy a Telescope, Spotting Scope or Binoculars?

Some people want to purchase a telescope for watching the stars as well as watching the neighbour next door. While this is a nice thought, unfortunately, it is not a practical one! Before deciding on what to buy, think about what you are interested in viewing the most:

Telescope – Telescopes are designed for night viewing. They have unique optics and light gathering capabilities that allow us to view objects in complete darkness. They lack the ability to view objects during daytime properly. If you are mainly interested in astronomy, then buy a telescope otherwise buy a spotting scope or binoculars.

Spotting Scope – A spotting scope is a smaller telescope specifically designed for terrestrial viewing (land viewing). It is a powerful instrument yet portable and perfect for watching distant subjects on land or at sea. Spotting scopes are commonly used by birdwatchers, hunters and nature observers. If you are more interested in viewing objects on land or at sea, then you should consider a spotting scope. You can refer to our guide on how to choose a spotting scope.

Binoculars – A good pair of full-sized binoculars (10×50 and above) can be used for both daytime viewing as well as stargazing and amateur astronomy. Binoculars are an excellent option if you are just starting out with astronomy. In many cases, they are better than telescopes. Binoculars are easier to carry out to the field and easier to use or share with others. They provide a wider field of view than telescopes and can also be used for a variety of outdoor activities. If this sounds like you then refer to our guide on how to choose astronomy binoculars.

Telescope, Spotting Scope and Astronomical Binoculars

What is the MOST Important Feature in a Telescope?

The #1 feature of any telescope is: Aperture. Aperture is the diameter of the telescope’s main optical component (consisting of either a lens or mirror). The larger the aperture is the more light comes in the telescope and the brighter your image will be. A telescope’s function is to simply enhance the light of the moon, stars and galaxies thus allowing us to see them in the dark. With a large aperture you will be able to see more stars and see them more clearly. When we look at the stars with our naked eye we can only see the brightest ones. This is because our pupil acts as a very small “lens” and can only gather very little light.

Is the Biggest Aperture the Best Choice for Me?

Not necessarily. While a bigger aperture will result in a brighter and better image, it will also mean that your telescope will be larger, heavier and normally more expensive. Even more important than aperture is where you will be using your telescope the most.

Where Will I be Using My Telescope?

Effective astronomy requires viewing from a dark location. If your backyard, out on the farm, is completely dark with no artificial light around then you can choose a large and bulky telescope. If you need to travel to a darker location (which is the case for many of us) then you should consider the portability of your telescope. Many high-end telescopes can be extremely large and can require a lot of time and experience to setup properly. If only the thought of setting up a huge telescope in the dark makes you shiver then buy a smaller, user-friendlier one to start with. You might find that you will use it much more often.

How Much Magnification Do I Need?

This is a common misconception when shopping for telescopes! In fact, magnification should hardly be a consideration when buying a telescope. As we mentioned before aperture should be your main consideration. If you have a small aperture, then you will see a darker image. More magnification will only make that dark image bigger. This is the same principal as if you were looking at a low-quality computer screen. If you zoom into the screen, you will only see a grainier picture.

High magnification also means you will see a narrow piece of the sky so unless you are watching deep space with a large commercial telescope magnification is NOT an important feature. Also, note that a magnification of a telescope can be increased or decreased by switching eyepieces. Some vendors will try to promote a low-quality telescope by stating that it has a high magnification. Beware of these types of offers! The telescope will usually have either a small aperture or a very poor optical quality.

Astronomy Telescopes

What Are The Most Common Types of Telescopes

There are 3 basic types of telescopes: Refractor, Reflector and Cassegrain. A Refractor telescope uses lenses, a Reflector uses mirrors and a Cassegrain uses both.

A Refractor telescope is what most people think of when imagining how a telescope looks like. It is a long, gleaming tube with a large lens at one end and an eyepiece at the other. This is the most common type of telescope. A Refractor telescope can provide the finest images attainable for a given aperture.

A Reflector telescope uses mirrors instead of lenses. Because mirrors are cheaper to make than lenses, it is a better option when considering price vs. aperture. When well made a reflector can provide sharp, high contrast images at a small fraction of the cost of an equal-aperture refractor. A Reflector will also be much smaller in length than a Refractor of the same aperture.

Do I Need to Setup, Adjust and Maintain My Telescope?

Some telescopes require more maintenance than others. When buying a telescope, you should consider your experience level as well as how easy it is to setup, use and maintain it. Some people jump into buying an expensive telescope only to find out that they are unable to use it properly or can’t be bothered maintaining it. Remember, a good telescope is one that you will enjoy taking out and using regularly.

Both Refractor and Dobsonian telescopes, for example, are the easiest ones to use and do not need much adjusting. Always make sure that you read carefully through your telescope’s product description. Telescopes that are more suitable for beginners will typically state it on their product description.

 

Our Top 2 Telescopes for Beginners and Amateur Astronomers (2018)

Here at Procular, we are always passionate about testing, studying and reviewing all of our telescopes and optics. Below is a list of our top pick telescopes for beginners, hobbyist or amateur astronomers:

 

Meade Infinity 70mm Refractor Telescope with Tripod

Current Price: $349

An all-time favourite telescope for amateur astronomy. The Meade Infinity 70mm Telescope is a relatively simple Refractor telescope but proves to produce an excellent view of the moon and stars every time. This telescope by Meade is one of our best sellers because of its ease of use, good optical quality and affordable price.

The Meade Infinity 70mm Refractor Telescope comes with its own tripod as well as all the necessary add-ons to get you started right away (Easy operating instructions, red dot view finder, additional eye-pieces etc.). Overall this model is great value for money and a perfect choice if you are looking to buy your first telescope or a gift to someone. Suitable for all ages!

Currently available for $349 inc. free delivery

 

Avalon 80mm Venture HD Spotting Scope

Current Price: $695

Avalon 80mm Venture HD Spotting Scope

A magnificent choice for those lucky enough to have the perfect viewing point at home. Why settle for only star gazing when you can enjoy enhanced ocean or landscape views as well? The Avalon 80mm Spotting Scope kills two birds with one stone. Its generous 80 mm aperture will allow you to clearly see the moon, planets within our solar system or even the rings of Saturn. But unlike other astronomy telescopes, it is also designed for viewing landscapes, ocean, beach or wildlife.

This spotting scope features up to 60x magnification, high-quality optics and provides a sharp, crystal-clear image during both daytime and night. Fully waterproof and fog-proof, it will serve you well in full sun, overcast and rainy conditions alike. If you want to look at the moon and stars + have ocean views and need a powerful scope to enjoy them then this is the one.

Also included with the Avalon 80mm Venture HD Spotting Scope is a table-top tripod and a carry case.

Currently available for $695 inc. free delivery

 

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19 Comments

  1. Hi Nina,

    As a good entry level telescope for your 5 years old son we can recommend the Bresser 60/700 telescope below: https://procular.com.au/bresser-junior-60700mm-bluegrey-refractor-telescope/ It is very easy to use and with the included tripod he should be able to see the moon and near planets on a clear night. It is also easy to transport and setup quickly if you need to travel to a darker area for viewing.

  2. Thanks for your suggestion Adam. Much appeciated.

    Margaret Crump
  3. Hi
    I’m hoping to buy a good quality telescope and it would be awesome if, on the right night, I could see saturn’s rings.
    I might have to take it to a better spot than my home as the many trees in my area limit my view, so it would have to be portable. I would not want to spend a fortune on it but I don’t want to spend hundreds on a telescope that I cannot at least get a good view of the planets. I like the sound of the dobsonian telescopes but am concerned that they need batteries? Did I read that correctly? They need batteries in the base I believe but not sure what they power.
    In any case, I would love to hear your suggestions.
    Thanks in advance.

    Margaret Crump
    1. Hi Margaret,

      Thank you for your comment. Luckily you don’t need a huge or expensive telescope to view the planets or Saturn’s rings. But as you mentioned viewing conditions do come into play here. Your best bet would be a telescope that is portable and easy to use. This will allow you to travel to the best location on a clear night and spot Saturn’s rings. The Dobsonian telescopes do not require batteries. Our most recommended model in your case would be the Meade 70mm Refractor telescope. It is perfect for taking along and setting up quickly. It also includes a lightweight tripod. Details below: https://procular.com.au/meade-infinity-70mm-refractor-telescope-tripod/

      Adam Murray, Procular
  4. We live on acreage and would like binoculars to see down the valley. Could you please let me know what type would be the best, I would like it on a tripod so we can leave it on our patio. Thankyou.

    1. Hi Kim,

      You will be best off with high-powered binoculars. These will cover the distance, allow you to see subjects and the valley in more details and can also be mounted on a tripod. Here’s a list of our most recommended models:

      https://procular.com.au/choosing-high-powered-binoculars/#binoculars

      Adam Murray, Procular
  5. Is there any product that can make me view 30 and 50 KM in distance?

    I need to pair to long range antennas and the manual says to use a binocular/scope to see the other side of the installation so you can point antennas correctly.

    Rodrigo Morejon
    1. Hi Rodrigo,

      As you are viewing and aligning antennas during daytime you will be best off with a spotting scope and not an astronomy telescope. They are very different tools. We have a good guide on choosing spotting scope here:

      https://procular.com.au/choose-spotting-scope/

      in your specific case, viewing fro 30/50 Km we recommend the Avalon 80mm Venture HD spotting scope. It is our most powerful scope and offers an excellent image quality and adjustable magnification from 20x to 60x. You will be able to use it to see the antennas from these distances. Details of the Avalon 80mm spotting scope below:

      https://procular.com.au/avalon-80mm-venture-hd-spotting-scope/

      Adam Murray, Procular
  6. Hi Adam,

    My dad wants a scope that will look at both stars and land/sea? Its mainly for the stars but his place has a great view so he will want to be able to look at the beach as well? Im getting this for his bday but I’m having trouble finding one that does both and don’t want to have to buy a telescope and a spotting scope? Any ideas?

    1. Hi Amy,

      A good quality spotting scope, with an angled eye-piece and mounted on a tripod does a great job at both! Territorial viewing, beach and ocean viewing and of course stargazing. We can recommend the Avalon 80mm Venture HD Spotting Scope. It is very intuitive to use and very suitable for all these uses. It has a large enough lens to take in enough light at night (for astronomy) and also a very nice, sharp image for daytime viewing. Details of this spotting scope below: https://procular.com.au/avalon-80mm-venture-hd-spotting-scope/

      It works best mounted on a full-size heavy duty tripod such as the Avalon Universal PRO tripod below: https://procular.com.au/avalon-universal-pro-tripod/

      Adam Murray, Procular
  7. hi
    I”m after a sea watching telescope for my husband. he does not want to see the stars or planets, and no he doesn’t want binoculars. we live by the water and he wants one to watch the ships sail past. Can you recommend any for me please. Im new to all this and its a bit over whelming.
    Brook

    Brook Derrick
    1. Hi Brook,

      If your husband is interested in seeing ships and sail boats rather than stars then the best telescope for him would be a spotting scope. A spotting scope is a smaller sized telescope designed exactly for that. We have a good guide on choosing spotting scopes here: https://procular.com.au/choose-spotting-scope/ as you can see our currently most recommended model for viewing ocean/ships etc. is the Avalon 80mm Venture HD spotting scope below: https://procular.com.au/avalon-80mm-venture-hd-spotting-scope/

      We hope this helps.

      Adam Murray, Procular
  8. Thanks Adam!
    Cheers
    Chris

    Chris Williams
  9. My elderly friend has moved into a highrise apartment and I would like to buy him a telescope to be able watch the sailing boats on the broad water and ocean. I need to know the best type to purchase. Your knowledge would be most appreciated. Yours faithfully, Robert

    1. Hi Robert,

      The best telescope for ocean views from a high-rise apartment would be a spotting scope. This is a small telescope designed for daytime viewing. In opposed to an astronomy telescope which is designed for night-time star gazing. In specific we would suggest the Avalon 80mm spotting scope as it is very powerful, trivial to use and has an excellent image quality for its price. It comes with an included (basic) table-top tripod but works best on a full size tripod. Details below: https://procular.com.au/avalon-80mm-venture-hd-spotting-scope/

      Otherwise here is a list of our most recommended spotting scopes:

      https://procular.com.au/choose-spotting-scope/#scopes

      Adam Murray, Procular
  10. I live in sydney suburbia and have a nice high up balcony, which telescope would be the best for night viewing? Thanks heaps 🙂

    1. Hi Tanya,

      Viewing in suburban areas is obviously less preferable because of the artificial light around (light pollution). But when choosing a telescope the same rules applies to if you were viewing from a dark location. Basically the bigger aperture the better and you need to choose one that is easy for you to setup and unmount if needed move or to store somewhere else for example. And one that suits your budget of course. Because of the more difficult viewing in the city area you live we would recommend the telescopes with larger apertures – as you view is already not as bright as lets say looking from farm land. A good entry level table-top telescope that will work would be the Meade Infinity 70mm which is perfect for travel too. Details below:

      https://procular.com.au/meade-infinity-70mm-refractor-telescope-tripod/

      Adam Murray, Procular
  11. Is view through a telescope possible if eye glasses are necessary? is there any eye relief?

    1. Hi Gary,

      Most people who require eye-glasses can easily use Telescopes. The telescope itself already magnifies and enhances the view so there is no need to use the glasses. You might need to quickly adjust the telescope to your specific eye-sight but once set you will not need to re-adjust. Regarding eye-relief, with binoculars there are quite a few models with long eye-relief that can be used with glasses on. Unfortunately telescopes have much stronger magnifications and therefore much shorter eye-relieves. So using them with the glasses on is rarely possible.

      Adam Murray, Procular

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