Which telescope should you buy for Astrophotography?
I can't tell you how much fun it has been putting together this list of my top 10 best refractors for astrophotography! I figured since I was doing all this intense research into which telescope I will be buying next, I would share it with you all. I have researched refractors made by Orion, Meade, Sky-Watcher, Tele Vue, Takahashi, Vixen, Astro-Tech, Explore Scientific, Stellarvue and William Optics. Please remember that this is my personal list, and I am by no means an expert! I tried to keep a high standard when browsing for telescopes. All of the telescopes on this list are apochromatic refractors. I hope this top 10 list is useful for anyone looking to buy a refractor telescope for imaging under $2000 US. Keep in mind that with my limited budget, I am interested in getting a the best balance of aperture, performance and quality I can afford. A high-end instrument like the 76mm Takahashi might be the number one choice on your list, but it doesn't make sense for my situation. So without further adieu, here is MY top 10 list of refractors for astrophotography:
10. Tele Vue TV76
Thanks to Marc Fitkin, there is an extremely useful and insightful review of this telescope on his blog. He notes the ability to use this scope as a prime lens for daytime photography as well as astrophotography. Tele Vue telescopes have a reputation for being top-quality instruments that will last a lifetime. Because I will be using this scope for astrophotography exclusively, a model that excels in visual use has less of an impact on me. The reason this high-quality scope lands at 10 on my list is because it is at the extreme end of my budget, yet has an objective of only 76mm. Maybe one day I will be in a position to purchase premium-priced optics, but not yet.
Price: $2,000 US (OPT Telescopes)
Notable Accesories Included: Ring Mount, 20mm Eyepiece, 2" Diagonal, 1.25" Adapter, Custom Soft Case
9. Sky-Watcher 80mm Esprit ED
This is another model that comes with an aluminum case, diagonal, and a finder scope - a huge bonus for me. The heavy-duty Sky-Watcher exclusive "Helinear Track" focuser is a nice touch. This scope actually includes a thread-on field flattener and adaptor for Canon cameras! A major selling point for someone like me. I do, however, wonder how much of an upgrade this would be to my current ES ED80. The built-in dovetail is a turn-off for some, but I think it is a great feature. It is nice to see companys like Sky-Watcher cater to astrophotographers, a trend I am sure that will continue!
Price: $1,649 US (OPT Telescopes)
Notable Accesories Included: Thread-on Field Flattener, 2.7" to 2" Adapter, 2" to 1.25" adapter, 2" Diagonal, Canon Camera Adapter, Tube Rings with "V" Dovetail, Carry Case
8. Takahashi FC-76DC
I can't believe there is actually a Takahashi under $2000! This fluorite doublet is tied with the Tele Vue for smallest objective on this list. This instrument has the highest quality glass of all the telescopes on this list, and is very lightweight (4 lbs). This telescope operates at a f/7.5 focal ratio, and includes a fixed dew-shield. The downsides for someone in this budget are the small objective and 1.25" focuser (though it can be adapted to 2" with an additional accessory). The views through this "Tak" have been described as absolutely stunning.
Price: $1,949 US (OPT Telescopes)
Notable Accesories Included: None
7. Vixen ED103S Refractor
The official product description from Vixen states "ED103S lenses are almost free of chromatic aberration in all colors and are critically sharp edge to edge. The astro-photographer will be especially pleased with the high contrast images through this telescope." The dual speed focuser, 4.1" objective, and overall weight of just 8 lbs is what has me interested in this white beauty. Not to mention that it's short tube length of 31.5" makes it extra portable. A handy in-depth look at this instrument written by Pernel Johnson can be found here.
Price: $1,799 US (OPT Telescopes)
Notable Accesories Included: Tube Rings, Carry Handle
6. Meade 115mm ED APO
The older version of this scope was almost identical to the Orion EON 115mm. The newer Series 6000 model uses an upgraded FK61 extra-low dispersion glass. I found a handy, honest review on cloudynights.com (Scroll down to Spacetravelerx's post - he owns the 80mm AND 130mm versions!) Some notable features are the 3" Crayford focuser, sliding dew shield, and overall build quality.
Price: $1,999 US (OPT Telescopes)
Notable Accesories Included: 3" Diagonal, Cradle Rings, Mounting Dovetail, 8 x 50 Viewfinder, Hard Case
5. Stellarvue SV80ST-25FT
Forum users on astronomyforum.net reported that this Stellarvue Apo has an easy-to-use, well-built focuser. It allows the entire imaging train to screw together, giving you accuracy and stability when imaging. A flattener is a must-have to accompany this scope to eliminate coma, a trait many of these refractors have indeed. User reviews are very high for this precision instrument with the focuser being the biggest draw.
Price: $1,599 CAN (Canadian Telescopes)
Notable Accesories Included: Tube Rings, Hard Case
4. Astro-Tech AT106
Sky and Telescope reviewed this scope back in 2009, saying: "the Astro-Tech AT106 provides all the benefits of a first-class 4-inch apo but without the premium price. I highly recommend it." I have found a number of positive reviews about this modestly sized refractor. There is a great in-depth look including sample astrophotos at the scope on Stargazerslounge.com. This telescope uses high quality Ohara glass, and comes with a dual speed 2.7" Crayford focuser. At just under the $2000 range, (including an aluminum case) This telescope is definitely a top contender for my hard-earned cash.
Price: $1,995 US (OPT Telescopes)
Notable Accesories Included: Hard Case
3. Orion EON 115mm ED
This APO has been around for a LONG time. (I found a review from 2006!) The discussion for this one seems to be focussed on the glass, and comparing it with other Chinese made scopes under different names. I suspect this scope has similar performance qualities to my Explore Scientific branded refractor. The extra aperture for the price is what puts this scope on my list. The 3", rotatable , dual-speed focuser is an attractive feature for astrophotographers.
Price: $1,799 US (Orion Telescopes)
Notable Accesories Included: Tube Rings, Dovetail Bar, Carry Case, Starry Night Software
2. William Optics GT102
There are many fans of WIlliam Optics, and for good reason, they make quality instruments for a fair price. The focal ratio, 102mm diameter objective, and reputation of this scope make this one of my top choices for "next scope". The optional DDG digital readout on the focuser is a neat feature, and would help me achieve accurate focus with my camera. I own the WO 72mm Megrez Doublet, and have had many great experiences with it for both astrophotography, and daytime nature photography.
Price: $1,668 US (OPT Telescopes)
Notable Accesories Included: 2" to 1.25" Adapter, Mounting Rings, Dovetail
1. Explore Scientific CF 102mm
With over 4" of aperture, and weighing just 7 lbs - Explore Scientific calls this the "perfect balance between portability and light gathering power" The HOYA ED glass is virtually free of chromatic aberration, and produces bright, high-contrast images. The carbon fibre tube is highly temperature stable, eliminating the need for focus changes with temperature fluctuations. I am not going to lie, I am a little biased towards this telescope because of my unbelievably positive experience with the ED80. Just check out this photo of the Eagle Nebula taken with this scopes bigger brother (The 152mm - with identical optics)
Price: $1,729 US (OPT Telescopes)
Notable Accesories Included: 2" DIagonal, Deluxe Case, Finder Scope Base, Vixen Dovetail
Well there you have it, my top 10 best apochromatic refractor telescopes for astrophotography. As you can see, I plan on sticking with Explore Scientific. At the end of the day, it comes down to value for me. If you have any hands-on experience with any of these telescopes and would like to comment, please do so below - I would love to hear them!
Labels: Astrophotography Telescope, Best Astrophotography, Camera, Celestron Telescopes, Meade Telescopes, Milky Way, Night Sky, photography