The reason why it’s a thing: Astrophotography
For the mystic love of it or for the know-it-all attitude or for maybe the worthless quaint love of it, we love ‘Clicking the stars and galaxies’ or as they call it Astrophotography. Maybe there wasn’t enough love in the world for us to satiate our ‘need to look’ and thus we chose stars as our ultimate fantasy.
What difference can specs make?
But for the most seasoned sky-gazers and the most aspiring amateurs the equipment is one thing that needs to be exactly right. One never wants to settle just for the solar system when they can have the distant galaxies at their exposure. So brightness, adaptor, console, marking system, mount, almost every other screw in a good Astrophotography Telescope needs to be valued.
Astrophotography as an experience with the right equipment
Lens care, film protection, mount balancing and other factors as such, pose a very critical emphasis on how the true experience of capturing those asteroid belts and naked sky comes on film. With thorough analysis and after testing almost a dozen different brands we’ve listed down the best 5 astrophotography telescopes. They have been vetted by Astrophotography groups as well. They’re listed as below…
Astrophotography Telescope Charts: Top 5 compared for you
Please not that we are not prejudiced for any specific consumer brand and the results that we’ve mentioned are completely exclusive of any influence. These are the test results that we were able to draw and verify compared to what is featured on the packs of these respective telescopes.
|Top 5 Options →
|Celestron PowerSeeker 127EQ
(Best Optical Experience)
|Meade Instruments Infinity 102mm
|Orion 9024 AstroView 90mm
|Celestron NexStar 130SLT
|Sky-Watcher ProED 80mm
(Best Image Distortion Stabilization)
|No. of Barlow Lens||3x||2x||2x||NA||2x|
|Optical Design||Newtonian Reflector||Achromatic Refractor||Equatorial Refractor||Newtonian Reflector||Apochromatic Refractor|
|Slow Motion Controls||Yes||Yes||Not applicable (upgraded mount)||Yes||Yes|
|Software Compatibility||Windows & iOS||Windows Only||Windows & iOS||Windows, iOS & Linux||Windows, iOS & Linux|
|Highest vs. Lowest Magnification||300/18||NA||180/13||307/19||120/12|
Best 5 Astrophotography Telescopes in USA
Celestron Power Seeker 127EQ Telescope
Stabilization and tracking of events while sky gazing is the most vivid concern of many Telescope Astronomers and Photographers. In earlier time explorers needed to have a very steady hand but thanks to improvisation in mount mechanisms and Celestron’s R&D has made slow motion tracking possible without any automated intervention.
This is the only option in the market that comes with a 3x Barlow lens triplets at such price and features. With those Barlow lenses one is surely meant to reach the deep end of the skies. 3 of those lens is a sure way of getting better images with less glare and clear distinctive image sections. Positive Image optics for scope finder allows one to accurately map the space. Celestron 127EQ accounts for the technical aspects as good as the customization as well.
You also get to have a accessory tray attached to the tripod for storage of accessories, with its Quick-No-tool setup assembly you can practically make it a portable device and use it anywhere you like. Chose this for the best in class optical experience and for the trust value of Celestron Brand.
Meade Instruments Infinity 102mm AZ Refractor Telescope
When piercing through the night sky, the most important aspect of Astrophotography is detail and Infinity by Meade resolves this issue once and for all. The 3 eyepieces providing low medium and high powered magnification optimized for moon, planets and terrestrial exploration; provide a wide range of view and bright images.
With the absolute great combination of 102 mm aperture and a red dot viewfinder, the beginners are sure to have a great experience filming with this equipment. The red dot viewfinder helps one to locate things that one wants to see in the space and therefore eliminate the extra detailed objects that might confuse.
Besides it’s a good old refractor principle based telescope and thus helps in acquainting one with the basic sky-gazing techniques before using a more advanced Catadioptric one. Choose this as the best aid for your new venture into the field of Astrophotography.
Orion 9024 AstroView 90mm Equatorial Refractor Telescope
If you ever wanted to be better at Astrophotography compared to any of your peers and colleagues and weren’t interested in mediocre exploration of the skies, Orion is your stuff. Doesn’t comes with all the comfort of locating and balancing as other variants do, but the technology of optics with this one is unmatched.
A slight excess in aperture to accommodate the high end magnification and a focal ratio of 10. You can stop the Galilean moons, cloud banding, even the nebula blue and green gas clouds with the third eyepiece. The combination of 90mm aperture and focal ratio of 10 has made this equipment single handily the most deep reaching and most detailed astrophotography equipment out there.
With other regular advantages of equatorial mount and software compatibility, library of images and finderscope this one compares well enough on all remaining standards as well. Besides if you’re looking for automated shooting using a drive combination our testers declare that this is the best suited solutions for adaptability to any combine or drive option.
Chose this if you love the attention to detail.
Celestron NexStar 130SLT Computerized Telescope
Another one by Celestron, with a refactor make this time with almost similar specs but some hidden and evident extra tricks. If you’re one of those custom product users who likes to choose their own lenses, eyepieces like Schott Glass, Nikon etc. then finding an interchangeable component is very tedious with most Astrophotography Telescopes. But Celestron NexStar accommodates 2” eyepieces which makes getting custom options easy.
The fully computerised Azimuth mount makes this one the most balanced options of them all. Then there’s also the star pointer finder-scope which is a little more functional in terms of locating your celestial body.
Nexstar claims to capture 30% more light that any other telescope with an aperture below 130mm and that’s something which reflected in the images of Saturn rings that we took. The banding of clouds and high contrast craters we took with this were simply amazing.
Customizable parts, automated drive for motion control, maximum brightness in images and quick release arm mount for ergonomic adjustment; we could not have asked for more. And still this is not an expensive option compared to what it provides. Pick this one for the ease if usage and ergonomics advantage.
Sky-Watcher ProED 80mm Doublet APO Refractor Telescope
Simple things in life! The Sky-Watcher ProED 80 stands out in the market and blows the competition with its two awesome characteristics. The Zero Detectable Colour Fringing and Corrected Focal Plane for best in class Field Flatness.
Irrespective of the aperture this telescope comes with a 48mm opening which allows the maximum field view to be received by capturing device. The flat field feature is best for minimization of aberration and distortion in images. The clearer the aperture the less halation of the images. All of this ensures that your photography and research presents the real view, not the most detailed version, not the most colourful version but the most realistic version.
There’s one more thing to notice with all these features and that is; ‘the speed of focus’. With the Crawford Speed Focuser and at 7.5 optical ratio and 80mm aperture this one exhibits a dual speed focus. Most users and our testers as well have only one thing to say, chose this one for the good scope, unadulterated images and alignment remedies that it offers at this price.
It’s not just a hobby: Astrophotography is discipline (quite literally as well!)
Now that we’ve found out which ones are the best in league for beginners and intermediate sky gazers/astrophotography savants; we should also be aware about how to maintain them. It’s very easy to lose sight of the Titan (Jupiter’s moon) completely, even with a high magnification lens if one doesn’t treats those scopes well enough. We’re going to inform you about the things you should keep in mind while buying one to start your astrophotography phase or things you should be prepared for while making the decision.
Astrophotography: Precautions for buying an appropriate Telescope
Think about the factor of aperture per dollar
It must have been made clear by now in our description that we have never given enough relevance to magnification alone. Instead we’ve always compared it in ratio with some other factor or supportive metric. Did you get the hint?
Magnification is only important in the context of the aperture or focal ratio the telescope offers thus what you need to emphasise upon is aperture per dollar. You’d always be looking for an optimized solutions based on your budget and that’s good as well. But what you always need to compare is how much are you getting in terms of brightness and clarity for each dollar spent. Photographs of space are all about clarity and bigger the aperture higher the cost. SO when in doubt between two options forget about the magnification and other features focus on dollar per mm (millimetre) of aperture.
Get to know your Telescope better: Speed of capture and all
Depending upon what’s going to be the purpose of your astrophotography clicks, research or art? You can chose to decide between focal ratios of the equipment. Lower focal ratio is not necessarily good for the purpose you might need it for, but it might burn a hole in your pocket large enough to observe the effect.
Focal ratios are representative of the time it takes for light to be captured by telescopic lenses. Lower the Focal ratio lower the time taken. Now if you’re a scholar or researcher, whose work involves frequent readjustments and needs rapid results a lower focal ratio become a necessity. But if you’re a clicker for pleasure and art, your clicks can wait and thus the optimized expenditure for an economic aperture per dollar and focal ratio.
Chose well between an optimized combination of focal length and the return time for development and processing of your images.
Portability is a good factor
The higher the focal length, aperture dimension and accessories for image correction, the more tedious it is to assemble and maintain the telescope; more if you include a motor based automated adjustment unit. For all its worth being a die-hard Astrophotography fan, all images and the whole sky cannot be captured from your window opening, you need to move the equipment around. It’s not like you’ll be travelling with it (who knows?) but moving it to adjust angles and direction is something that you can’t miss.
An astrophotography telescope is as portable as its mount, tripod and assembly is. Get one that involves no-tool assembly, and has interchangeable slots for adding and removing components. Integrated accessories are always bad option as they increase overall assembly weight and they’re also tedious to optimize according to personal requirement. Get something where maximum parts and accessories can be externally engaged.
Accessories: Bite as much you can chew
For all the comfort and specialization in the world, an astrographic telescope could include numerous accessories but know before you pick all of them. They’re never as easy to use or understand for that matter as mentioned on the box or in informative blogs.
Consult a seasoned professional, more often you end up buying a minus violet filter with f/8 refractors when you won’t even need one, just because it comes as a recommendation on the box or there are many sources stating so. Field Flatteners are for serious professional users, you’d only need one if you need to do calculations about crater dimensions or colorimetric analysis of gas clouds from your pictures.
But don’t compromise on necessities. Some variants of photography telescopes need Barlow lenses, which increase focal length and decrease focal ratio for clarity of images. If you don’t get one, you probably might end up confusing a moon with some planet (if you get the joke!)
Maintenance Guide: Care for your SkyCam (Astrophotography Telescope)
Avoid any and all DIYs
Any content that comes with the tag DIY in context of Telescopes in general are all folly. A dew heater DIY, DIY backyard observatory, DIY collimator; it’s all only going to deteriorate the qualities of your equipment. Get authorised products and accessories, better don’t get anything if you’re otherwise going to make them on your own. Avoid anything that you can get from a general store. Only chose the authenticated products that come from factory stores on order. The best scopes and best lenses are exclusively made and come after months of waiting, sometimes denied as well.
Do not clean unless you’re sure
Dust will get to your lens, it’s the destiny. Don’t clean it unless you have to. An unclean lens is far better than a scratched one. In turn, do never clean the mirror at all. Lenses can be cleaned by removing the adjustable parts of the telescope but mirror needs dismantling the product, then cleaning and then putting it back together and finally collimating (re-calibrating to beginners) it for completing the process. Do not try it unless you’re absolutely sure that you won’t miss a screw or force a joint.
Pure methanol, propellants and sprays, or any other version of cleaning fluid should be avoided. Sue what your equipment manufacturer sells or suggests. It’s very easy for a lens to allow dissolved dust to pass through and leave a stain on the glass (lens or mirror) forever.
Fragile than your Vases: Telescope Care
Refractor assemblies specially are susceptible to injury on a gentle knock as well. They’re extremely light weight and are intricately built to transfer energy thereby making them perhaps the most fragile thing in your living room.
Find the least visited place of your house that has open exposure and then place it there. Better so, do not permanently place your astrophotography telescope anywhere.
Despite what the youtube videos might have you believe, never; we say never try to stack your images on your own using some crowd-sourced software. Trailing, vignetting, alignment, adjust on the basis of signal to noise ratio; a lot of effort goes into working towards a processed photo and you do not want to mess it up. Let the telescope software do its work or better buy a version.
Geek or Not-Geek, Space exploration is for everyone
Space Photography is not a new concept, it has its origins from mid 1800s when it was realised that photography could be aligned with space exploration for record keeping. It was a long time till people realised that this was something that needed to be turned into a more sophisticated niche beyond scientific labs only.
Any limitations that you may be under after reading any online publication, video or infomercial regarding the pains and precautions that an astrophotography telescope comes with is worth the wonders that lie unexplored and untouched in the vastness of space. The sheer pleasure of being able to know the concepts which yet have only been limited to books is worth all the hype. Choose the equipment well and your efforts won’t go unrewarded. We’ll be providing you more information about astrophotography and telescopes, keep coming back.