man watching stars with telescope

What to Know Before Buying a Telescope

Knowledge Base

Nothing compares with the wonder of looking into the sky and seeing a galaxy full of stars and planets. It’s only natural to want to get a closer look. One thing that keeps a lot of would-be stargazers from shopping for a telescope of their own is the misconception that a good telescope has to be expensive. The good news is that this isn’t the case, because it actually doesn’t have to cost a lot to get your hands on a very solid telescope, the trick is just knowing what to look for. Keep reading for our tips for shopping for an inexpensive telescope.

Before You Buy a Cheap Telescope

Finding the best telescopes is not easy. With so many options at hand, it’s easy to get confused. At the same time, simply reading about some of the problems of these telescopes, such as with collimation, can put off many potential new users. However, one of the distinct advantages of modern telescopes is that they can be improved further, and with the right adjustments, they can be used for years to come.

Lens and Collimation

Focal length can be an indicator of the magnification capacity of the lens. From 50mm upwards, these lenses are made to offer considerable magnification, up to a few hundred times. But the magnification capacity of the lens is not the sole characteristic to look at. The aperture or the amount of light it can gather is also important for lenses. The more light it gathers, the better the lens is under challenging conditions. However, too much light can be just as disturbing as too little light. This is why using a filter proves to be a good idea with lenses that capture a lot of light.

Collimation is needed with most lenses. It allows the user to find the right angle in which the lenses are sharp and in objects can be seen in detail. There are a few popular collimation methods, but not all of them as reliable as many would believe.

However, collimation instructions have been included with most cheap telescopes. This means that even adjusting the telescope angle is not complicated, and users can do this at home, with minimum research. Lens quality is also considerably different from one telescope to another.

Focal length can also be significant in astrophotography. Those seeking to take photos of the furthest stars, galaxies, and planets need the extra reach. Those only seeking to take a few more terrestrial photos of animals do not require lenses with such distance.

Tripod Types and Limitations

Tripods are often seen as an accessory for telescopes. They can be replaced at any time. However, most cheap tripods considerably reduce the overall experience with a telescope. For some users, it is not just about the optics but how it is actually used.

Plastic telescopes have real problems sitting straight. Even slightly touching the telescope can send it tumbling to the ground. However, one of the biggest problems in the overall versatility of a telescope is with the height adjustability range of the tripod. Many kids’ tripods can’t be considered as versatile, as they don’t have sufficient height adjustability. At the same time, other tripods have the height, but they lack stability.

Materials generally vary from plastics, aluminum, and steel with tripods. It is not hard to see that steel designs are stable ones. Since wind speed can vary considerably, it is a good idea to purchase a steel tripod for some of the long focal range telescopes, which are the largest.

Underlining their importance, tripods also need to be versatile. They should be the only part of a telescope that is completely folded for storage. A collapsing tripod can easily be placed in the car’s trunk. Other telescopes come with no tripods at all. Those with a flat support base are meant to be placed on tables. This is why there are a few alternatives to consider with each type of height-adjustable tripod and its alternatives.

Smartphone Holders

Smartphone holders are truly versatile. They can be installed on most telescopes, and some already include them in the pack. Some of them can be adapted for scientific purposes. They can work with astronomy binoculars, telescopes, spotting scopes as well as with microscopes. This is the main reason why they can be as good as many expect in terms of capturing unique moments and objects.

Since they can fit almost all smartphones on the market, their value is considerably higher than many would expect. It is often worth purchasing a telescope with a smartphone adapter to capture the different phases of the Moon, for example.

At the moment, only a handful of telescope manufacturers offer smartphone holders as standard. But users often need to share whatever they find and capture, which is why such an accessory needs to be a standard offering in the future.

Computerized Telescopes and Their Advantages

Computerized telescopes might be more expensive than non-computerized releases. However, they have the main advantage of having pre-stored locations for multiple celestial objects, planets, or stars. The debate between the computerized and the analog version of telescopes seems to be never-ending.

One of the methods to establish if a computerized telescope is truly needed is to meditate on the type of use the optics will get. Those who want to take thousands of pictures might not feel motivated to look for the planets themselves. On the other hand, those enjoying the chase can find plenty of versatile solutions with no computerized processors.

As seen with the examples above, some computerized telescopes can work with thousands of objects and saved locations. This is why learning about them or photographing them is considerably easier, based on the short time needed to find these objects.

Portability Considerations

Not all telescopes of the moment are portable. Some have carrying holes in them, while others are simple tools made to last for years only in a carry bag. This is important, and their design’s versatility dictates the freedom of movement they give to the user.

One of the most straightforward solutions to find the best design is to consider backpacks and dedicated carry bags. Once out of busy cities, telescopes enter their natural habitat, free of pollution. It is in this habitat that they offer the clearest images. Furthermore, they are also among the products which do not confine learning to the office.

Filters and Accessories

Various filters are available for telescopes. From UV filters to specialized moon filters, they deal with issues such as glare. Some of the best filters are the ones that offer simple installation and the ability to see better quality images.

Contrast and details can be considerably improved with better filters. Most importantly, they can also deal with shiny objects such as the Moon or various stars, reducing the luminosity to the degree that the human eye can comprehend details.


What Is the Best Telescope for Viewing Planets?

Some of the best telescopes are only made for viewing planets. Terrestrial observation telescopes can also be useful at observing planets.

Which Telescope Is Best for Astrophotography?

Astrophotography has its benefits and requirements. It has both an educational purpose and an artistic purpose. Those seeking the best results in photography will need to purchase smartphone or camera telescope adapters.

Can I Install a Telescope Myself?

Installing a telescope should not take more than half an hour. Some of them can be installed even quicker. A few tools can also be required because some brands don’t offer them in the pack. However, once a telescope is installed, it will be easier to move around as it will only be up to the user to find the right transportation method, which can require some disassembly.

What Is a Barlow Lens?

Named after Peter Barlow, these lenses are added to a telescope to increase focal length. With some telescopes, it can increase focal length three times.

What Does EQ Stand For?

Equatorial EQ and alt-azimuth AZ mounts are popular designs that hold telescopes. Users can consider EQ mounts for their freedom of movement, even when only needing slow-motion movement.

Do I Need a Moon Filter?

Moon filters represent a great addition to any telescope. Such a filter improves contrast, and it offers one of the best solutions to deal with extra glow. 13% filters are popular for the home user at the moment.

Final Considerations

Some of the best cheap telescopes combine various construction principles. Some of them are only based on lenses, and they are reliable, even when made in the premium range for commercial purposes. Other telescopes are made with mirrors, deflecting light using the same principles as those outlined by Newton.

Regardless of the chosen type of telescope, it is advisable to make the most of their lenses and optics and learn more about using them correctly. Learning about the solar system, celestial objects, planets, and stars is also necessary. The more a user knows about astronomy, the more importance the telescope gets.

Those planning to test out the telescope for other purposes can do so freely. Some of the compact telescopes above are also used for terrestrial observation. However, since all of them come with large tripods, observing the sky is worth the investment. There are plenty of options to consider, from the simple height adjustable telescopes to the practical table-mount telescopes.

Before using any telescope for the first time and even before assembly, it’s recommended to read the product’s instructions. Some of them might even outline specific information on updates. Parts such as the eyepieces can be updated to see the best results. Other accessories such as the tripod can also be updated. Some users might also want to add a camera mount to capture impressive moments. All this information should be available through the user’s manual.