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Which Telescope is right for me? - AstroShop

Knowing which telescope is right for you as a beginner can be quite a difficult question and the answer often convoluted. One of the main problems also are when absolute beginners visit discussion forums with this question. Everyone has well meaning advice and different requirements and expectations but may not always provide you with the best fit for your situation and budget. It's all too confusing!!!

Basic telescope designs are explained here

Quite often newcomers are told that a 8-inch Dobsonian is the best beginner scope and for most adults this may well be the case however fantastic views are certainly attainable in smaller instruments like a well crafted 4.5-inch Newtonian or even a 90mm refractor. Depending on your needs and expectations, larger instruments are not necessarily better and in fact smaller instruments have many benefits including portability and can yield wonderful views of the heavens that will satisfy many people for years.

Your basic considerations are budget, application (where and how it will be used) and technical requirements (aperture, sophistication of the mount, weight and control).


The first and most important thing that really needs to be considered is your maximum budget. Like anything, this will determine the range of telescopes available to you. The essential thing about any telescope is that its purpose is to gather light and magnify the view. The essential designs vary from one telescope to the next however the principle of its function is the same. The mountings on which the optical tube is seated varies too from simple to sophisticated which can largely govern the price.

Budget Options

If you want it all but can't manage it straight away there are options that allow for expanding your system without the need to buy an entirely new telescope package down the track. For example, you might want a 200mm Newtonian which will allow you to do astrophotography down the track like the popular Sky-Watcher 200mm EQ Newtonian   (fitted with basic motor drive option) but you simply can't afford it now but would like to start stargazing immediately. You could in this instance purchase a SW680   and later order the EQ5 mount, motor drive kit, mounting plate and tube rings. The choice is yours and if you're unsure then simply give us a call to discuss.

Fitness for Purpose

Within your pre-determined budget you now need to consider what you want to achieve with the telescope. Will it be used for terrestrial viewing mainly and perched on a table from the balcony for example? In this case you might simply need a basic Spotting Scope . However you may want a bit more aperture and power for viewing distant objects in low light situations around dusk and twilight hours and take an occasional peek at the Moon or a planet. In this case something like a 90mm refractor that produces an erect image in the eyepiece will perhaps be best. Is it going to be used specifically for exploring the night sky? In this case there are many options available to you from simple designs like the Dobsonian with basic up-down left and right movement to more complex mounts like the basic equatorial which requires alignment to the south celestial pole and set-up according to your latitude on Earth. or sophisticated GOTO systems.

Simple to use when viewing the Night Sky

Dobsonian's and other alt-azimuth mounted telescopes are easy to use designs for hunting down planetary and deep sky targets. The simple up-down and left-right targeting makes them also well suited to young kids 8 or over. A good example is the highly affordable SW580 . Equatorially mounted telescopes should not be avoided however. By understanding why the mount moves in arcs is to better understand that we live on a spherical planet and how the stars overhead are mapped to celestial coordinates. This is not only educational beyond the wonderful views seen through the telescope itself but will allow for protracted observing as the Earth constantly spins enabling the user to keep objects easily centred in the eyepiece rather than constantly drifting from view. 


An important consideration depending on age and general disposition is weight. Some telescopes are large and heavy and the larger they are, the heavier the mount also. Do you need to drag it out on to the balcony regularly or will it be situated in a more permanent location? Does it need to fit neatly in the car boot or does it need to be tidily put away in the corner of a room without taking up too much space? Maksutov and Schmidt-Cassegrain scopes are often very popular due to the shorter optical tube design especially model of 8-inchs (200mm) or less. Larger apertures say 10-inches (254mm) and over can require the help of another to fit the optical tube on to the mount or simply moving the whole assembly outside.

Telescope Power - How far can I see?

This is one of the major questions and misconceptions relating to telescopes and binoculars. Essentially, the answer comes down to the objects size and overall brightness. While a faint, distant star in our own galaxy say.. 2,000 light years away from Earth may appear invisible in a small telescope yet detectable in a larger one, it is interesting to note that a massive object far beyond our milky way like the neighbouring Andromeda galaxy (over 2 million light years away) can be seen without a telescope because it is so enormous and highly luminous. There are several other more technical factors relating to object brightness of celestial entities which we'll avoid here for simplicity sake. 

So what about the magnification question? Yes, those highly misleading super dupa cheap binocular or telescope ads you find in the TV week guide or at auction sites must be avoided! Aside from the fact that these instruments are mostly junk, magnifying power is only as good as the clarity of the image seen at the eyepiece. The super powered telescope ads are misleading (not completely dishonest) because in fact, a small telescope can indeed magnify the view just as much as a large telescope can but it comes down to how much light it can gather and how sharply defined the view is. Beyond a certain point of magnification the image becomes dim and useless in practical terms so depending on the application, aperture is the key to resolution (amount of image detail) and limiting boundaries of magnifying power.

Thus a small telescope will yield a dimmer, less clear view compared to a larger instrument because it has less light (photons) to work with. For example, if we were to look at a ship near the horizon with a small instrument, we might make out its overall shape and colour of the shipping containers along its deck. With a larger telescope using the same magnification, you may see the port windows with far better definition (resolution & contrast) and you might be able to make out the company names or logos on the shipping containers more legibly. This is known as a telescopes resolving power.

If our ship is say 4 kilometres away, our view in the telescope or binocular simply magnifies the available light being reflected off it giving us a sense of seeing it from a closer vantage point. In other words 10X power would give us a perception of being only 400 metres away from the ship. If the ship was twice as far away then we'll have more difficulty seeing as much detail because the amount of light reaching our optics decreases as our objects apparent size decreases over distance. In a celestial object scenario, finer details like tiny craterlets inside say a big crater on the Moon are more easily detected which may otherwise prove far more difficult or impossible to see using a smaller instrument.

Our Performance Guarantee rating guide

You will find the HOT symbol along side several products when you browse our product range. Since everyone's needs (fitness for purpose) and expectations are often different, it is hard to define as a meaningful percentage in "star ratings" across such a broad range of items. So we use our HOT logo a browsers guide to those products we have personally tested and experienced ourselves or based on popular feedback from our customers. It is your assurance that the product is of a high standard of performance and functionality for a given task.

Our guide

Here and there you will find our recommended options button at the bottom of product details pages. This will direct you quickly to certain associated accessory items that will nicely compliment your purchase. Items such as good reference books, power supply, eyepieces or eyepiece kits for example are linked to various products having been tested with that product for usefulness or high compatibility performance. By clicking this link you might save yourself on additional freight charges later buy simply getting what you need right now. 

Is the Brand Important ?

Like anything, there are good brand names and junk brands. Many are rebadged products so it's often hard to tell which is what. But where any manufacture continues to improve its processes and designs while endeavouring to keeping prices realistic then manufacturer / brand is important. There are only a handful of good manufactures in the world and we supply and support products from two of them.

Vixen for high quality optics

Vixen in Japan have been manufacturing optics for over 50 years and are the innovators of many popular designs found in the market today. They have produced some of the finest reflectors and refractors in the world. The Aluminium Vacuum Evaporation System produces unrivalled extreme-precision mirror surfaces far better than the error-prone grinding process to form a mirror surface. Their revolutionary system works by controlled layering of aluminium film. The primary mirror of the legendary R200SS and the 6th order aspheric primary mirror of the VC200L for example are produced with this technique. From their award winning binoculars, eyepieces and telescopes, Vixen represents our superior line of products.

In terms of sleek design, stability of build and perfection optics, we chose to represent Vixen in Australia as direct importers to offer a top-end product to discerning amateur astronomers and astrophotograpers.

Sky-Watcher affordable and well made optics

In the best of the best for affordability you can't go past Sky-Watcher telescopes. Like most everthing these days they are a china based manufacturer and make some of the finest achromat, ED apochromat refractors, Maksutovs and Newtonian reflectors in the world. Sky-Watcher Australia provide complete local technical support and warranty. They are also now the manufacturer of Celestron telescopes.

Patrick Moore sya's it all !

While the Sky-Watcher product incredible well-priced for everyone, there are cheaper alternatives out of China and Taiwan offering similar apertures and features but these scopes are often poorly finished and will not provide the longevity throughout long years of use. Sometimes it's simply worth paying a few dollars more for locally supported product and superior quality. Needless to say, we highly recommend Sky-Watcher!

For the young budding astronomer

Great for young teenager or novice

Quality for those who may want to take photo's of the night sky too

A scope for the whole family

Compact for the apartment balcony and on the road

Great views from the balcony

I want the telescope to take me there


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