If You're In a Hurry and Just Want the Best Telescope for Astrophotography:
Our recommendation is the Orion SkyView Pro 8-inch Equatorial Reflector Telescope
Bottom Line: The Orion SkyView Pro 8-inch Equatorial Reflector is an astrophotographer's dream. The huge 8-inch aperture lets in tons of light, which greatly increases the number of objects that are available for image capture. In addition to its strong optics, it comes equipped with a solid equatorial mount that makes for effective tracking. Its only drawback is its near-700 dollar price tag, which might put it out of the reasonable range for a lot of amateur astronomers.
Extra: The Best Beginner Astrophotography Telescope
If you can't afford the price tag on the Orion SkyView, or if you're a beginner looking to sink a little bit less into the hobby at the outset, you're in luck. The Celestron PowerSeeker 127eq is a great alternative option for those looking to get into astrophotography without upsetting their finances.
For more on the 127eq, check out our full review here. This is one of our overall favorite telescopes, and a little bit of research reveals why.
While the 127eq is often marketed to beginning astronomers, it has a number of features that allow it to go head to head with more distinguished (and expensive) telescopes in astrophotography. It's got a larger-than-average aperture, good optics, and comes with a solid (if not perfect) tripod. It's also exceedingly easy to use and setup, so you'll spend less time setting up, and more time looking.
What's The Best Telescope for Astrophotography
Observing the beauty of the cosmos through a telescope is one of the most fascinating and rewarding things that you can do. That being said, wouldn't you like to observe and save your viewed nebulae and other celestial objects for posterity? This is where astrophotography comes in. Astrophotography allows you to have a tangible reminder of the mind-blowing things you've seen with your telescope.
Astrophotography can even expand the array of things to see. Some objects that are hard to see with just a telescope suddenly become accessible with an astrophotography setup.
But astrophotography isn't simple. There are a lot of factors to consider, most of which arise out of the fact that you are photographing distant objects in low-light conditions.
The upshot of those conditions is that astrophotography takes patience. It requires long periods for your camera to gather all of the pertinent data, but with a good digital single-lens reflex camera (DSLR), you can expect to capture celestial objects that are difficult to see with the naked eye.
Finding the best product for this hobby isn't easy, which is why we created this guide on the best telescope for astrophotography.
Things to Consider and What to Expect in a Good Astrophotography Telescope
Types of Telescopes for Astrophotography
When it comes to finding the right telescope, you have several types that you may encounter, and choosing the right type for this style of photography is important. Here's a listing of the four main types and the implications of their use in astrophotography:
- Dobsonian: These are great for everyday viewing, but they are a little large. They also require a lot of maintenance for the mirror's alignment. The chief advantage of these is that they are relatively cheap.
- Cassegrain: These have larger apertures, but they have a tendency to collect moisture, which can be a major problem when your camera is gathering celestial data over hours. This means that if you want to purchase a Cassegrain telescope for astrophotography, you'll need an anti-dewer. Cassegrains are also more expensive and require a lot of maintenance.
- Reflector: These come in a fairly compact design and are pretty good for astrophotography, but they experience mirror flex like a Dobsonian, and they also will require consistent mirror alignment.
- Refractor: Many astrophotographers consider this the go-to astrophotography camera. They're cheap and there's very little maintenance. There is a need for a field flattener on most, but that's a minor foible.
Pricing on a good telescope can vary greatly, but fortunately, you don't have to spend a ton of cash on a good one for astrophotography. This is particularly true if you're looking for a refractor model; they are fairly cheap.
F ratio accounts for the focal length of your telescope. Optimally, you'll want a lower focal length of F6 or lower; this will provide a wider range of view with a larger amount of the image captured. The lower you get on the F spectrum, the better your astrophotography results will be; you'll catch full nebulae, rather than just a few stars. Some of the best telescopes for astrophotography have F ratios of 4.8 or 4.9, but these tend to cost a bit more.
Mounts are of the utmost importance.
Of course, different mounts have different advantages.
The first type of mount you'll come across are altazimuth mounts. These mounts operate in two planes of motion, up-down and left-right. Altazimuth mounts are nice because they are simple to operate and maintain. Specifically with regard to astrophotography, their weakness comes in the fact that the Earth rotates on an axis. Because of this rotational movement, altazimuth mounts require a lot of adjusting to track objects in the sky. They can also result in a lot of streaking when exposures are taken over time.
The second other common type of mount you'll see are equatorial mounts. Equatorial mounts also operate in two axes of movement, but most important for astrophotography purposes is that one of those axes is aligned parallel to the axis of the Earth's rotation. The result of this is that it's a lot easier to track objects with an equatorial mount, and the streaking you get with the altazimuth mount isn't a problem.
You should shoot for an equatorial mount because these mounts can track the sky so that you can get a good ascension axis for astrophotography. This is an exceedingly useful feature for the long exposures that you need for this type of photography.
Another thing to consider is that a computerized mount or GOTO mount can be areal boon when you're trying to find and track objects for astrophotography purposes. These mounts use reference points or GPS to find the particular thing you're looking for. Once the object has been located, these mounts can use the same technology to follow it across the sky without any effort by the user.
Because getting good pictures of faint celestial objects often involves long exposures, the ability to automatically track objects can be invaluable. Consider picking one up if you can spare the cash.
Because the sensor on a camera is much more sensitive than the human eye, you actually don't need a huge aperture for astrophotography.
Additional Astrophotography Accessories
In addition to your telescope purchase, you may need some additional items in order to produce some great astrophotography.
Here's a list of these additional purchases that may need to be added to astrophotography telescopes:
- DSLR Camera: These digital cameras are amazing for astrophotography; in fact, you'll even sometimes be able to use them for astrophotography without a telescope! That being said, for the best images, you'll need both, and you'll also need to learn the best settings for astrophotography on your camera.
- T-Mount Adapter: This is the device that'll allow you to connect the DSLR camera to your telescope. Some telescopes come with this included, but usually, it's best to get one that's designed for your specific brand of DSLR.
- Anti-Dewers: When you're working with Dobsonian, Cassegrain, or reflector telescopes, your device will be subject to condensation unless you live in a very dry area. This is caused by the cooling of your telescope that happens as the temperature falls over the course of the night. When your telescope cools, it'll reach the dew point. This will cause moisture to condense and coat the lens, which will make astrophotography impossible. An anti-dewer actually warms the body of your telescope so that it never reaches the dew point.
Nick Page produced this really fun and informative video on how to photograph the Milky Way. Check it out:
Telescope Filters for Astrophotography
Even if you pair a really great telescope with a really great camera, you still might need an additional filter to maximize performance when it comes to certain applications, or if you are photographing in an imperfect environment.
One way to really enhance the performance of your telescope is to apply special filters. These filters typically let in only certain types of light, thus allowing
The Best Telescopes for Astrophotography
A Bit of Buying Advice:
Because the sensor on a camera is much more sensitive than the human eye, you actually don't need a huge aperture for astrophotography. In fact, whereas for regular viewing a telescope with an aperture of 80mm would be considered small, you can get some really good photographs with an aperture betweeen 80 and 100mm.
Another thing to keep in mind is that the mount may be even more important than the telescope you choose. In many cases, you can get started in astrophotography with a stable German Equatorial mount.
Ready for the selections? Let's check them out:
Levenhuk SkyMatic 105 GT MAK Telescope Maksutov-Cassegrain
The first astrophotography telescope that we'll be reviewing comes to us from Levenhuk, and is part of their SkyMatic line of products.
The first thing you notice about this one is that it has a different look from a lot of the telescopes out there. It's also got a lot of great features that make finding celestial objects a snap. One of the primary things that makes this a great choice for astrophotography, and for astronomy in general, is its generously sized four-inch aperture and high-quality optics. It doesn't have the largest aperture out there, but remember that having a large aperture isn't necessary to get some really great photos.
When used for astrophotography, this telescope really shines with its Go To functionality. This allows for the scope to automatically locate 42,000 celestial objects and position itself using a computer controlled azimuth-guided mount. This feature also allows for smooth and precise tracking that will give you clearer images that aren't affected by the vibration that can sometimes occur with manual tracking.
Celestron 31042 AstroMaster 114 EQ Reflector Telescope
You can check out our full review of the 114eq here.
Celestron is a well-known producer of astrophotography-friendly scopes, and the 31042 Astromaster is a good example of their commitment to delivering high-quality images without a huge cost.
The Astromancer 114 EQ has an equatorial mount that delivers an easy-to-align functionality. All you have to do is point the equatorial axis at Polaris, and you're good to go. This is an excellent device to execute planetary photography because of its ability to pick up far-off details like craters and peaks. The built-in star pointer also works well for this because it can easily locate objects that are a bit brighter.
Bottom Line: If you're seeking to take pictures of the moon and the planets, this product by Celestron does an excellent job.
Orion 9738 SkyView Pro 8-Inch Equatorial Reflector Telescope
Another telescope that has an equatorial mount system for excellently stabilized astrophotography shots, the Orion 9738 Skyview is an excellent device for any astrophotographer. In addition to its focal stability, this particular product also has a snappy F ratio of f/4.9, which means that you'll have a relatively easy time capturing full nebulae in their entirety. Orion designed this telescope to gather 73 percent more light through its eight-inch parabolic primary mirror, which means that you'll be able to also capture stellar objects like the moon and the planets with relative ease.
Bottom Line: This Orion telescope is an excellent product for someone trying to get into astrophotography; it has excellent stability, comes with everything you need, and is well-built for years of use.
Orion 9788 203mm f/4.9 Reflector Tube
If you already own an equatorial mount for another astrophotography telescope, then this tube from Orion is a great option. It has an excellent focal length of f/4.9, it comes with two eyepieces, and it includes a Crayford-style focuser that helps prevent wobble or backlash as you use the scope. All-in-all, this is an excellent product for someone looking to photograph celestial objects because of its excellent stability and control. For astrophotography, all you'll have to do is purchase an adapter and attach your DSLR.
It's relatively lightweight; the tube only weighs about 16.5 pounds.
It has a great aperture and an excellent focal length for capturing larger celestial objects.
It includes Orion's Starry Night software, which is telescope control software that will help you find celestial objects to capture.
Bottom Line: This is a great scope for anyone looking for versatility. It's well made, attaches easily to an equatorial mount, and it provides excellent deep-sky imagery.
Orion 9005 AstroView 120ST Equatorial Refractor Telescope
The AstroView name says it all. This telescope by Orion is designed to provide some excellent shots of far off nebulae, super clusters, and entire galaxies.
It has a focal length of f/5, which is superb for capturing larger objects. It also has an adjustable aluminum tripod that provides a sturdy astrophotography experience. When you're gathering data for a shot, this telescope has an equatorial mount that allows you to track the object that you want to photograph with a high level of precision.
Despite its robust features, this is a fairly lightweight telescope; it only weighs 15.76 pounds.
This works equally well when used for both planetary and celestial astrophotography.
Its focal length refractor requires very little maintenance and also can provide some truly detailed images.
Bottom Line: This is an excellent refractor telescope that'll provide great images and won't cost a ton of cash.
Celestron 127EQ PowerSeeker Telescope
Check out our full review of the 127eq here.
The Celestron 127EQ is a great telescope for new astrophotographers because it has several add-on options and is very easy to setup without tools. It even comes with three eyepieces that include a 20mm, 4mm, and a Barlow lens as well. This is a Newtonian reflector-based telescope that has German equatorial mounting and comes with an adjustable aluminum tripod for stability. This telescope is designed for enhanced brightness and clarity, which makes it excellent for planetary astrophotography.
Astrophotography telescopes sometimes only come with one eyepiece, the Celestron 127eq comes with three.
It comes with "The Sky" Level 1 software that helps you find celestial objects using a PC or laptop.
This provides some truly bright images.
Bottom Line: The Celestron 127eq is a great beginner telescope for astrophotography that has just about everything you need to get into astrophotography.
Orion 8297 8-Inch f/3.9 Newtonian Astrograph Reflector Telescope
The final product in our list of astrophotography telescopes is another Orion product. One of the best features of this particular scope is its very low focal length; the aperture is imaging-optimized and has an F speed of f/3.9. This means that your images will have a wider field of view so that you can convey the awesomeness of the celestial object with relative ease. In addition to this, the telescope also has excellent image contrast, which makes it a great product for capturing celestial objects that have a lot of detail.
This telescope has a 70mm mirror-axis for enhanced reflectivity, which is how it provides such striking imagery.
Its f/3.9 focal length is very astrophotography-friendly.
This telescope captures light very well so that nebulae, planets, and galaxies will appear very vibrant in your pictures.
Bottom Line: This product is excellent for astrophotography; it has a great focal length and has several features that are designed to produce startling images.
Finding the best telescope for astrophotography can be tough but rewarding. While it's not the cheapest hobby, we hope that our list of products gets you started and helps you find the product that will work best for your photography. They all will produce vivid images and will also be relatively easy to use for a beginner, so go out and give them a try.