Stargazing in Style: The Best Telescope Under 200 Dollars
If there's one thing we've learned on a limited budget, it's that astronomy doesn't have to be an expensive pastime. Admittedly, having the opportunity to gaze at the cloud belts of Jupiter through a pair of Fujinon 25x150 MT-SX Binoculars can't be beat, but our love for gazing beyond this world isn't dependent on having access to optics worth thousands of dollars.
Needless luxury is all well and good, but if you're not trying to impress anybody, all you need is a solid piece of equipment that lets you explore clusters, can get me to the rings of Saturn or lets me peer at the drive-in screen across the highway from my roof.
When choosing a telescope, price isn't as important as making sure you have one that is best suited to your particular purpose. I would certainly encourage anyone to spend as much as they can afford, but I wouldn't want anyone spending more than they should.
What to Look For When You're Shopping For The Best Telescope Under 200 Dollars:
While the focus of this article is on telescopes of a certain price, you can also check out our Telescope guide for more information on some other, more technical aspects to consider when choosing the right telescope for you.
If you're looking at scopes in this price range, you should be thinking more about what works for the specific applications you want to use if for, rather than focusing on size, magnification or number of features.
Larger telescopes may be impressive, but that doesn't necessarily make them better than a smaller model with great features and superior optical quality.
I've worked with a lot of telescopes and managed to catch distant galaxies using some really affordable telescopes.
The other thing to consider is magnification. I think a lot of us get mesmerized by huge magnification capacities on a telescope. A lot of people believe that the higher the magnification capacity of a telescope, the better it's going to be, but this isn't always the case.
In fact, in the sub-$200 price range, super high magnification can actually work against you. Because telescopes in this price range often don't have very large apertures, the images you might see at really high magnifications aren't very good. At really high magnification on a small aperture, you're also working with a ridiculously small field of view, which makes finding the particular object you're looking for a nightmare.
Instead, it's better to be realistic about the capacity of your telescope. As you'll hear us say a lot around the site, the key to getting the best performance possible out of a scope is to use it to view those things for which it's best suited. In other words, if you're using a small, inexpensive scope at really high magnification to view dim, super-distant deep-sky objects, you're not going to have a great deal of success.
These scopes will give you the best results with terrestrial viewing or viewing the moon and planets, and in many cases they're capable of competently viewing brighter deep-sky objects. True, it doesn't sound as fun as looking out to the edge of the universe, but in reality there is so much that you can see, even in our own celestial neighborhood.
Another thing to keep in mind is accessories. A lot of buyers at this less-expensive level get mesmerized by the little doodads and knickknacks that telescope companies often include to make lower-end telescopes more attractive.
Accessories are great, but hold firm and keep your eye fixed firmly on the quality of the lenses and mirrors in the telescope. You'll thank yourself later.
Anyone that wants to see the stars on a budget can do well with a telescope that costs less than two hundred dollars . This is a good price for new astronomers. They get to explore the stars and planets, and will see if the hobby's right for them. So, if you're thinking about buying a telescope and believe it has to run a pretty penny, think again. In fact, here are 10 of the best telescopes under 200.
Orion GoScope 70mm Refractor Travel Telescope
Orion is a major player in the world of astronomy.
The GoScope is a super scope with outstanding refraction. It was designed for portability, making it ideal for traveling families who want to gather around and glimpse the moon, Saturn, Jupiter and other celestial bodies. Beginners will get a good feel of the telescope's capabilities with the GoScope's 20 mm and 9 mm 1.25" eyepieces and its 5 x 24 finder scope.
- Comes with the Orion MoonMap 260 for learning about the lunar features you can see with the telescope
- Fully functioning tripod included so you can get started right away
- Multiple eyepieces for use in a variety of situations and for different viewing needs
What People Are Saying:
"My son bought this with money he has been saving for several months. Last night was the first time using it. It was very easy to setup. We only focused at looking at the moon and a few other objects in the sky." Peter D, reviewer at CanadianTelescopes.com.
Celestron 127EQ PowerSeeker
For more information on this great scope, check out our review of the Celestron PowerSeeker 127eq. Of the five telescopes I have taking up too much space, the Celestron PowerSeeker is my go-to.
It has great magnification provided by the 3x Barlow lens. The PowerSeeker also has a 127 mm aperture and 1,000 mm focal facility. You get erect image optics, excellent for finding stars and exploring terrestrial objects. Users have attested to capturing Jupiter, Saturn and extraordinary nebulae with this scope.
- German Equatorial Mount
- Includes aluminum tripod and accessory tray
- Quick and easy no-tool setup
- Slow motion controls for smooth tracking
What People Are Saying:
"This is a great little beginner scope. Most entry level scopes at this price range are junk but this one holds its own. 5 inch Aperture for under 150 bucks is very reasonable." Moises, Amazon review
Orion FunScope 76mm TableTop Reflector Telescope Moon Kit
Check out our FunScope review. Before you invest a lot of money, make sure your kid's really got astronomy in their bones. The FunScope was engineered specifically for the junior astronomer and supportive families.
With its 76 mm optics capturing 60% more light than comparable telescopes, you're going to pick up nebulas, star clusters, the moon and the solar system's brightest planets. Take the FunScope on field trips and camping adventures.
- Lightweight construction for greater portability and usability
- 76mm diameter polished mirror allows increased capacity
- Two eyepieces, 20mm for 15x view, and 10mm for 30x magnfication
What People Are Saying:
"This is an awesome telescope, it is just perfect for beginners. If you want to buy a telescope for anyone or just yourself I would HIGHLY recommend this one. It includes a sort of stand on the bottom so if you want to use a tripod you can just clip it on." L.M., Amazon review
Barska 300 Power Starwatcher Telescope
This is an exceptional starter scope. It comes with software that contains a database of over 10,000 nebulae, constellations, double stars, star clusters and other bodies that you can explore. The Starwatcher has a finderscope, a 3x Barlow lens, interchangeable eyepieces, a 45° erect image diagonal and a tabletop tripod. You also get a carrying case.
Solomark 76700 Reflector Telescope
This Solomark telescope is from a brand you haven't heard a lot about, but it's starting to make a name for itself when it comes to low-price telescopes.
The Solomark is a great beginner's telescope that offers good multi-purpose viewing. It's 76mm aperture is a good size for this price, and even though you won't be able to see the dimmest of deeps-sky objects, you will be able to seen terrestrial objects, planets, and brighter objects.
Solomark packages the 76700 with a number of addtional eyepieces. Two of them, 1.25" Kellner eyepieces in 20mm and 9mm sizes, will expand your viewing repertoire. The other eyepiece is a 10mm telescope eyepiece smartphone adapter.
- Easy setup and transport.
- 700mm focal length and 76mm refractor
- 5x24 finderscope to facilitate aiming.
- Two 1.25-inch eyepieces
Celestron FirstScope Telescope
Lightweight and portable, the FirstScope is aptly named as its certainly a nice place for the new astronomer to start.
It has a cool 76 mm aperture reflector optical tube. It's movable for ease of navigation. The telescope comes with two eyepieces. One of the things we really love about this model is when it's not in use, it looks great on a desk or bookshelf.
Celestron AstroMaster 114 EQ Reflector Telescope
With a large 114 mm coated glass mirror, the AstroMaster is a great way to view terrestrial bodies and celestial objects. It has a quality lens that promises accuracy whether bird or star watching.
The AstroMaster is known to produce quality results in both bright conditions and low visibility. This model is excellent for casual and recreational use, and avid adventures. I've come across a professional guide or two that relies on it faithfully.
iOptron 6004 iExplore 50AZ Refractor Telescope
This one is as close to two hundred dollars as you can get, but it's easily one of the top telescopes in this range.
Orion SkyScanner 100 mm Table Top
Portable, affordable and entry level, the SkyScanner's a relatively compact telescope. But that makes it perfect for travel and easy storage, something a lot of people don't think about when buying one of these babies.
For its size, the SkyScanner produces stunning views of the nighttime sky. With a 100 mm aperture, a 400 mm focal length and three eyepieces, expect a nice range of magnifications.
Thanks to its simplified engineering, the SkyScanner can be up and running in less than 10 minutes. If there were a downside here, it's that a table top telescope can be confining. At some point, you're going to want a tripod so that you can really open up its potential.
Make sure you always get the telescope you need, not just the best telescope under 200. From apertures to portability to what you want to view, you have to make smart choices. I've personally encountered many a person who thought all telescopes do the same thing. Many an excited astronomy-hopeful ended up disappointed in the hobby, not realizing they simply started with the wrong tool.
With this list, everyone has a great jumping off point for learning about and exploring the universe.