Stare at the stars is without a doubt one of the nicest hobbies a person can have. In order to do that however efficiently, you need a proper telescope. Since you’re a beginner – that’s why you’re reading this, isn’t it? – choosing a telescope at this point is quite a difficult thing to do. And with this guide for the best telescope for beginners, we hope to help you in your choice.
If you’re a rookie, it simply doesn’t make sense to throw away a huge sum of money from the very start. You have to learn what makes a telescope efficient at what it’s supposed to do; after a while, when you feel like you’re ready to move to the next level, you can invest in a much more developed piece of equipment.
We will help you out by providing in-depth reviews for 5 of the greatest telescopes in the best price ranges. All of them are more or less affordable and most importantly, all 5 are entry-level, subsequently recommended for those who have just developed their interest in the deep space.
After you’ve finished reading our buying guide, you’ll see why we think the Celestron NEXSTAR 127SLT Computerized Telescope might just be the most recommended purchase for all those who are into amateur astronomy. Now, let’s get down to business!
Our Top Choices
NEXSTAR 127SLT Computerized
|Orion SkyQuest XT10 Classic Dobsonian||Orion StarSeeker IV 150mm GoTo Reflector||Meade LX70 Reflector, 6"||Clestron OMNI XLT 120||Celestron Advanced VX 6" Newtonian||Meade Starnavigator NG 125mm Maksutov||Orion SpaceProbe 130ST Equatorial Reflector|
|Mount||Altazimuth -motorized-||Dobsonian||Altazimuth -motorized-||Equatorial||Refractor||Equatorial -motorized-||Equatorial -motorized-||Equatorial|
|Resolution (less is better)||0.91||0.46||0.77||0.77||0.97||0.77||0.91||0.89|
|Highest Useful Magnification||300||600||354||354||283||354||300||307|
|Weight aprox (lbs)||25||55||22||30||46||77||26||22|
Celestron NEXSTAR 127SLT Computerized Telescope
If you want to find objects on the night sky for a reasonable price, the NEXTAR 127STL compound telescope is definitely the way to go. Even if it’s exponentially cheaper than many other computerized telescopes, it’s no less efficient.
You should keep in mind that this is an entry-level product, so it’s not intended for professionals. It has an aperture of 4.02” (approx. 127 mm) and 60x magnification, which is by no means bad for a telescope of its size and price.
Whereas other telescopes require certain tools to be mounted, this one does not: all you have to do is use the single fork arm to attach and detach your telescope. The NEXSTAR is equipped with the SkyAlign technology.
What does it do? When aimed at 3 objects on the sky that are bright enough, the telescope auto-aligns. Another nice feature is the Star Pointer – this is basically a point-and-look type of target sight that focuses on cosmic objects with more accuracy.
The best thing about the NEXSTAR yet is its focal length: a whopping 1.500 mm. You can see Venus and even the colors of Jupiter’s dust rings with it. Again, this is by no means a small thing for a telescope of this kind.
The computerized database can accommodate up to 10k objects. With some new focal lenses, you can turn this entry-level telescope into a beast. Granted, it takes some getting used to, but you won’t put it down after you’ve gotten the hang of it.
This weighs 25 pounds, so you won’t break your back carrying it around.
Orion SkyQuest XT10 Classic Dobsonian
This Dobsonian telescope has been a fan-favorite for a while thanks to its phenomenal aperture: 254 mm. Combined with a Plossl eyepiece (25 mm), this provides some insane magnifying capabilities, all the more so since it does an amazing job of grasping light.
This is extremely easy to setup, since it’s just point-and-look all the way through, which makes it perfect for children that have gotten into astronomy. One recurrent problem with most telescopes is that they are wildly unbalanced.
You won’t have to worry about that with the Orion SkyQuest because this issue is taken care of by the CorrecTension System – the stability of the optical tube is ensured by a few sets of springs.
If you feel like it’s not good enough at displaying some details you might be interested in, you can always tweak with some additional high-power lenses. In terms of calibration, it has a red dot that allows you to point at a certain stellar object and then just look through the telescope to see it.
This will come in extremely handy for kids that don’t have that much knowledge of calibration. The SkyQuest comes with pretty much all the accessories a child would need to make the most of his scope: a collimation cap, an EZ Finder II sight, a 2” Crayford focuser and 1 25mm Plossl eyepiece.
The two downsides of this Orion are: people would’ve loved a 12.5 mm eyepiece in the accessories and it’s very heavy (55 lbs.), therefore it’s not that portable. Anyway, it is a fantastic piece of equipment for beginners nonetheless.
Orion StarSeeker IV 150mm GoTo Reflector
This is the first reflector telescope in our list and a good one at that, for that matter. Even though some people think its aperture is somewhat disappointing (only 150 mm), it makes up for that by having other nice features.
For starters, its database has more than 42k objects. It has a focal length of 750 mm and a focal ratio of 5.0, which is just about the medium. The GoTo controller makes it easy for beginners to focus on whatever celestial objects they want to look at.
The StarSeeker IV has an altazimuth mount that is endowed with motors that center the scope on the object you’re looking at automatically. Obviously, the GoTo feature is one of the main reasons why the StarSeeker has sold like warm bread.
This telescope also has a “Tour” mode – whenever you run out of ideas as to what object you should look at next, you can engage this mode and you’ll be shown a wide variety of sights you can enjoy.
As you might expect, it also has an EZ Finder II reflex sight, which will help you with centering the scope while the GoTo goes through the star alignment process. The scope also allows you to use your photo camera or smartphone for a photo session of what you’re looking at.
Its resolution (0.77) isn’t that bad and you might actually get some fantastic shots. All things considered, this is a formidable reflector, albeit a tad expensive for some people.
Meade LX70 Reflector, 6”
This particular Meade model is the first telescope with an equatorial mount we’re reviewing. It has an aperture of 150 mm and a focal length of 750 mm. This, too, is a reflector telescope, just like the StarSeeker.
It is equipped with 2 x 1.25” Sirius Plods eyepieces. Even though it looks like this is a scope that leaves a great deal to be desired, it is decent enough for a beginner. It doesn’t have automatic tracking, but the manual one is totally okay for an entry-level scope.
Another good thing about the Meade LX70 is that it can be transformed into a fairly efficient platform for astrophotographers, but in order for that to happen, you have to get the dual axis motor drives.
Those motor drivers would also help you observe stellar objects in more detail. The primary mirror of the Meade is f/5 and it provides some surprisingly wide-field imaging.
It’s true that the Meade LX70 hasn’t really been in the spotlight, most probably because it is a lot more expensive than most beginners are willing or able to pay. The price, unfortunately, does not really reflect the features realistically.
We daresay that what puts people off more than the price of the scope itself is the fact that improving the LX70 will require some money.
Considering that you can purchase a scope like the StarSeeker for $50, we recommend you to take your time before you order this.
We’re not badmouthing this telescope – we’re merely telling you that you’ve got better options for this price.
Celestron OMNI XLT 120 Telescope
The OMNI XLT 120 is one of the most beautiful telescopes we have seen and its features do it justice. The scope has an equatorial mount and an aperture of 120 mm. Its focal length is quite outstanding, especially when put in contrast with the aperture: 1000 mm.
It has an eyepiece of 25 mm, which will provide some astonishing deep-field images. Although it surely doesn’t look like it, this particular refractor telescope lets you look at clusters, nebulae, and galaxies in minute detail.
One of its biggest perks is the fact that, unlike the other telescopes we’ve reviewed in this guide, this is super-portable. It’s not light (it weighs 46 pounds), but it has been built in such a way that it’s not difficult to carry it around.
Plus, the heaviest part of the product is undoubtedly the mount. The telescope itself doesn’t weigh that much so you shouldn’t have too much trouble with moving it from place to place in 2 pieces.
This is an amazing spotting scope and really does a hell of a good job at allowing you to watch galaxies and other deep-space astral objects – the only downside to this, though, is its price. Some people found it to be a tad overpriced.
Yes, it’s got some premium features and it looks breathtakingly cool, but some feel like those things aren’t worth the price. We do subscribe to what others have said. It is by no means an awful telescope – anything but, really – but it should’ve been a little cheaper.
Now it’s time to go a little deeper with our reviews on these types of telescopes that we’ve presented in this section.
If you need some help to understand the specs for buying a telescope we recommend to read our Telescope buying guide.
Ease Of Set-Up
As mentioned previously, the Celestron NEXSTAR 127SLT is, in our opinion, the most suitable telescope for beginners. If in the previous section we scraped the surface, in this one we will be providing a more in-depth analysis of this telescope, as well as of the remaining ones.
Many telescopes are extremely difficult to set-up, especially when they end up in the hands of beginner star-gazers. The Celestron NEXSTAR, however, can be set up in a matter of minutes.
Attaching and detaching it is a piece of cake, thanks to the single form arm. The tripod is preassembled; consequently, you don’t need to spend your time trying to figure out where a screw should go.
A child can make this telescope ready to go in a few minutes with no help at all.
Now, the SkyQuest is hands-down one of the most amazing Dobsonian telescopes ever created. Why are we saying that? Because it’s got all that it takes for a scope to be 100% suitable for beginners.
It’s relatively as easy to set-up as the Celestron, but you will have to assemble the mount of the telescope itself. That’s something anybody can do. It comes in 5 pieces with all the required screws. All you have to do at this point is fasten the parts and you’re good to go.
It shouldn’t take you more than 15 minutes even if you’ve never touched a screw before. The NEXSTAR, though, is easier to set-up.
Orion’s StarSeeker is a professional piece of equipment, but extremely easy to use even for those who have never held a telescope in their hands. Let’s take a closer look at it and see what it has to offer.
Due to the fact that it has an altazimuth mount, setting the StarSeeker up is, by no means, a difficult task. The mount is a single fork arm and the tripod will probably get to you already assembled.
If not, you really shouldn’t sweat it, because you don’t need to be an expert in order to screw some bolts. The Orion StarSeeker is easier to set-up than the SkyQuest but doesn’t differ too much from the NEXSTAR.
Meade LX70 Reflector, 6” – This Newtonian reflector is somewhat obscure and that’s the main reason why you don’t hear many people talking about it. Maybe the fact that it’s overpriced (at least from our point of view) certainly plays a part in it remaining in a low position in search results.
Setting the LX70 up can be done by anyone, regardless of age. The mount is simple and straightforward. Children might need a hand with it because it’s extremely heavy. The tripod is easy to put together, too.
We think that all three telescopes analyzed until now are a lot easier to set-up than this, though.
The Celestron OMNI XLT 120 Telescope, just like the previous one, is a treat for those who dabble in astrophotography, and we’ll tell you why that is.
The mount works with screwed nuts and counterweights, and it might take a while until you figure out how to set them up properly. After you’ve gotten the hang of the job, it won’t take you more than 10 minutes to assemble and disassemble it.
Keep in mind that in spite of the fact that it looks lightweight, it’s quite heavy. Of all telescopes, this has the most difficult set-up.
Easiest Set-up Winner: Celestron NEXSTAR 127SLT
Ease Of Use
This is where the magic of the NEXSTAR lays. Thanks to its GoTo feature, auto-3-star alignment, and database, you can go to any cosmic object of your liking automatically.
If you’re a beginner, you can spend hours on end trying to find a certain planet – but only if your telescope isn’t equipped with GoTo.
On top of all the features above, it also has a Star Pointer, which is fundamentally a red dot that will help you navigate on the night-sky with little to no hassle.
The NEXSTAR is easy to use, but so is the SkyQuest. The XT10 is a point-and-view type of telescope. It works on a simple yet extremely effective principle. While balance might be a problem with other scopes, you won’t have to worry about that with the XT10, thanks to its correction system.
It’s safe to say that everything on this telescope was already optimized, so you won’t have to perform any exhaustive tweaking to be able to see the objects you want to see. That’s about it: you assemble the base and you look. It’s that easy.
This is considered to be a “light bucket”, which means it literally eats light in order to provide more minute sightings. Both the NEXSTAR and XT10 are user-friendly and there’s virtually no difference between them in this respect.
The StarSeeker was built with ease of use in mind, just like the previous two telescopes. The database, which features more than 42k celestial objects, makes it extremely easy to enjoy the sky even if you have no particular destination in mind.
Plus, it has a built-in Tour mode that is paired with the GoTo controller and serves basically the same purpose as the database.
The balance will never be an issue since the motors in the mount keep the scope steady by tracking the motion of the objects you’re looking at automatically.
The scope also has an EZ Finder – this will facilitate your “travels” a great deal because you’ll just have to point at an object and then look down the scope. This is on the same level of ease of use as the NEXSTAR and the SkyQuest.
Unlike the 3 telescopes we’ve just taken a look at, the Meade LX70 features manual tracking – this can prove to be problematic for beginners, but you’ll get used to it fairly quickly if you’re determined enough. We have to mention that this has been designed more for astrophotography than for casual observation.
Don’t get us wrong – it still has the capability to provide some astonishing wide-field images, but its focal length and 150 mm aperture are hugely bland for the price you’ll have to pay for the scope. This is quite difficult to use, therefore it falls on the 4th place in this regard.
The Celestron XLT 120 is a point-and-view type of telescope, like the SkyQuest. Even though it might look like the process of watching is simple, it is much more complex than you think, but we’ll get to that shortly.
There really is no need of beating around the bush: this is perfect for beginners and can be used by anybody. A background in using telescopes isn’t required. All you have to do is mount it and enjoy the sky.
Ease of Use Winner: Celestron NEXSTAR 127SLT, followed closely by the SkyQuest and StarSeeker.
What Can I See?
The NEXSTAR allows you to see distant stars, galaxies, nebulae, asterisms, planets (even Jupiter’s bands, Mars’ polar caps, and Saturn’s rings) and the moon, of course. It’s not too shabby for a beginner’s finder scope.
The SkyQuest, on the other hand, is no less efficient. With an aperture of 254 mm (the biggest aperture of all the telescopes in our guide), it’s safe to say you can look at anything you want through it, honestly.
The greatest thing about this is that it’s a professional, expert piece of equipment, but it’s designed in such a way that anybody can use it. Nebulae, galaxies, deep-cosmos stars, you name it, you can see them all with this beast.
The StarSeeker is a bit disappointing and obviously less effective than both the NEXSTAR and SkyQuest. It allows you to look at stars, planets and the Moon. By equipping it with certain accessories, it grants more access to the cosmos.
The bad part, though, is that in order for this to happen, you have to purchase those accessories individually.
The good thing is that the images it provides are very wide-field and in-detail, so you won’t grow tired of it all that quickly.
The Meade LX70 lets you look at the Moon, planets, and objects that can be found in deep-sky, i.e. those that are beyond our solar system. If it lacks in other chapters, it makes up for that through its magnification power.
The images are very detailed and clear, thanks to the finder scope and the focuser. To put it shortly, the LX70 is decent enough to give you access to the deep space. It’s safe to say it’s as good as the NEXSTAR and the SkyQuest when it comes to the variety of objects it allows you to observe.
In the same fashion, The Celestron XLT 120 allows you to see pretty much anything you want, from star clusters and galaxies to nebulae, planets, the Moon and deep-space objects.
You can purchase some additional eyepieces to improve its magnification power and see more distant objects.
The Winner: Celestron NEXSTAR 127SLT
The 127SLT is a catadioptric telescope with an aperture of 127 mm and a focal length of 1.500 mm. The eyepiece provides a 60x magnification and the resolution (0,91) is decent enough for astrophotography.
Star Pointer and SkyAlign are two features that facilitate use and improve the overall specifications of this telescope. It’s certainly endowed with everything a beginner needs. While the 127SLT wins at focal length, the SkyQuest wins at the aperture.
The aperture of 254 mm makes a good team with the focal length of 1.200 mm. This telescope doesn’t kid around and this is why it’s the most powerful entry-level scope you can get for a decent price.
Its resolution (0,46) pales in comparison with that of the 127SLT and especially when put in contrast with its other specs. Moreover, it doesn’t have a GoTo feature, which would have been very pleasing. Anyway, this is without a doubt a phenomenal scope.
If you praise magnification power more than anything else, it’s less likely you’ll find a more potent scope for this price.
The StarSeeker doesn’t stand a chance against the NEXSTAR and the SkyQuest: its optical diameter is 150 mm and the focal length is 750 mm. These specs are a tad underwhelming, considering that the StarSeeker is pricier than other similar scopes. The focal ratio is f/5.0, which makes the telescope suitable for astrophotography.
Again, to get the best results, you’ll have to purchase the accessories, which will pump up the overall price you’re paying for this. The highest magnification of the StarSeeker is 177x and the lowest is 17x.
The Meade LX70, when compared with the others, is surprisingly good. The highest magnification of the LX70 is 300x – not bad at all. The focal ratio f/5.0 will be useful for those who are into astrophotography because it makes the scope capable of long exposure, lunar and planetary astro-imaging.
The two eyepieces are Plossl, 1.25” each. The primary mirror is F/5. These specs should be more than satisfactory for beginners.
You certainly don’t need a Schmidt Cassegrain telescope or a Celestron advanced until you’ve discovered how a telescope works. If you’re purchasing a telescope solely for astrophotography, you should consider the LX70 or even better, the:
Celestron XLT 120 – We claimed this is a treat for astrophotographers and here’s why: it has a focal ratio of f/8.3 and a resolution of 0.97, the highest of all the telescopes we’ve presented in here (followed closely by that of the Celestron NEXSTAR).
These are some formidable specs. The focal length is 1.000 mm (more than satisfactory) and the aperture is of 120 mm. It provides a maximum magnification power of 283x – again, not too shabby.
Specs Winner: Celestron NEXSTAR 127SLT (perfectly balanced technical specs)
We think that the Celestron NexStar 127SLT is in the low-price range, as it sells for approximately $450. Taking the specs and ease of use into consideration, the price is totally justified.
There are weaker telescopes on the market that cost as much as this one, or even more.
The SkyQuest XT10 is a bit pricey, but you can take our word on this: it’s worth absolutely every dime. It sells for approx. $600 – while we don’t see it as being overpriced, some people might beg to differ.
Again, if you’re aiming for a powerful telescope, this is totally worth the investment – if you’re shopping on a budget, though, you should opt for the NexStar.
The StarSeeker, sadly, is in the high price range, because it sells for $650. It’s a good telescope, but we’re inclined to think it’s not really worth it. Its features don’t warrant that price.
The SkyQuest, for example, sells for $600 and it’s a lot more powerful than this one. The choice, however, is yours. The Meade LX70 is without a shred of a doubt in the high price range (between $600 and $650). It’s a great piece of equipment for astrophotographers, but we haven’t found anything on it that warrants this price.
You can get a much better telescope for this money. If you need a telescope for casual nighttime observation, we recommend you to consider some other one.
The Celestron OMNI XLT 120 is very much affordable, as it is around $550. We are inclined to believe that it is worth the investment, especially if you’re into astrophotography.
With such a resolution and focal ratio, you can rest assured you’ll be able to snap the clearest and most beautiful photos of the objects you’re looking at.
Best Price Winner: Celestron NEXSTAR 127SLT
We’ve taken our time with 5 of the best telescopes for beginners one can find on the market. It should be clear that we’ve chosen the Celestron NEXSTAR 127SLT Computerized Telescope as the winner.
The reasons for doing that are many, but the main one is that it returns extremely good quality for the money. It has an amazing aperture and the largest focal length of all 5 telescopes.
Moreover, its focal ratio (f/11.8) tops the focal ratio of the other 4 products we’ve reviewed. With a magnification power of 300x, it is easily among the top-tier products of its kind.
You get all these amazing specs for just a little in excess of $400, which is honestly unbelievable. If you’re hunting for a flawless telescope in this price range, this is the best telescope for beginners you can find these days.
Of course, you are free to choose any other product that’s more to your liking. You can look over the 5 telescopes in this guide again and try to make a decision in lines with your personal needs.
As a parting note, we want to tell you that you cannot find a better telescope than the NEXSTAR 127SLT for this money.
We encourage you to read our Telescope buying guide.
One of the biggest issues with ordering products from the Internet is the price. A website can sell a telescope for $400, for instance, but another one might add another $50 to that.
Shipping costs can rob you blind, as well, if you don’t take your time and make sure you get the best deal possible. Amazon, to give you one example, provides free shipping on products that cost a certain sum.
Another thing you should not overlook is the magnification power: for marketing purposes, a lot of manufacturers lie about the true capability of a telescope. How, then, can you know for sure a telescope does indeed magnify up to 300x?
The best way to do this is to read the testimonials and the reviews. If the manufacturer is lying about anything concerning the product you’re about to buy, you can be convinced it will be brought up by previous customers.
Even if somebody tells you “Oh, you have to buy this!”, you should trust your gut. After all, you’ll own the telescope, not the “adviser”. Your personal needs should be the deciding factor.
If you’re an aspiring astrophotographer, don’t purchase a telescope with low resolution just because it has a large focal length – it won’t help at all. If you need a telescope for casual observation of the objects in the sky, get one that has the highest specs.
This way, you won’t need to replace it after a while.