thebigbangoptics

11 Best Telescopes For Astrophotography: DSLR, Smartphone & For Beginners

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We are spoiled for choice nowadays when choosing the best telescope for astrophotography. There are telescopes of almost every shape and size to choose from, ranging from smartphone astrophotography telescopes for beginners to high-end telescopes for deep-space astrophotography with DSLR.

I have divided this article into three sections, each catering to the needs of a different user level.

1. Best Telescope For Deep-Space DSLR Astrophotography 

This section has telescopes that are best suited to a more advanced user looking for an upgrade to a more professional telescope for some serious astrophotography using a DSLR.

2. Best Beginner Astrophotography Telescopes

In this section, I have selected telescopes that beginners can use for short exposure astrophotography. These telescopes are meant for general-purpose astronomy, but they can also do a little bit of astrophotography. You can either use a CCD camera or a smartphone to take beautiful night sky pictures.

3. Best Telescopes For Smartphone Astrophotography

Telescopes in this section are lightweight and highly portable, but more importantly, they come with a smartphone adapter that you can use to attach your iPhone or Android device to the telescope to take pictures of the moon and the planets.

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2. Best Beginner Astrophotography Telescopes

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3. Best Telescopes For Smartphone Astrophotography

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Best Telescope For Astrophotography - Reviews

1. Celestron CPC 800 XLT

(For Advanced Users )

Specifications
  • Type: Schmidt-Cassegrain
  • Aperture: 203.2mm (8″)
  • Focal length: 2032mm
  • Focal Ratio: f/10
  • Mount: Computerized – Alt-Azimuth
  • Eyepiece: 40mm
  • Magnification: 51x
  • Weight: 69 lbs. / 31.3 kg

The Celestron CPC 800 GPS (XLT) is worth every cent and is an excellent investment for serious skywatchers for astrophotography.

The Celestron CPC 800 GPS is an incredibly well-made, robust instrument ideal for those looking to upgrade with an all-rounder that also allows for some serious astrophotography.

It comes with a 1.25″ star diagonal along with a 40mm Plössl eyepiece that yields 51x magnification. 

The motorized dual-tine fork mount has dual-axis servo motors that provide precision movements.

The telescope features its own internal Global Positioning System (GPS) that automatically works out the date, time, longitude, and latitude of your observing location without any input from the user.

The included stainless steel tripod helps reduce vibrations to ensure clear resolution during observation or imaging sessions.

Additionally, it comes with sturdy handles that allow you to comfortably lift and move the telescope from one location to another. 

It also comes with a star diagonal that provides a more comfortable viewing position when observing and imaging deep space objects.

It is made partly of steel, so the CPC 800 GPS (XLT) is very heavy, weighing in at 61 lbs. (27.6 kilograms).

Why We Recommend It

The telescope has an 8-inch aperture. An 8-inch aperture guarantees that you will be able to view and photograph thousands of stars, planets, and other deep space objects while the telescope is still portable enough for easy set-up and use.

The Celestron CPC 800 comes with its own SkyAlign feature by the NexStar Computer Control Technology. 

Simply follow the directions on the screen and wait for a few minutes while the system aligns to the chosen star or celestial body. 

This one of the best 8-inch telescopes for professional astrophotography comes with a solid build so you know it will last for years. 

The drive base and CPC tripod are constructed from sturdy materials which ensure plenty of stability no matter where you decide to set the telescope up.

The Celestron CPC 800 is a state-of-the-art fork-mounted Schmidt-Cassegrain scope. It includes the premium StarBright XLT coatings. 

It’s convenient to be able to choose a variety of objects with the touch of a button. This means that even if you aren’t an expert on star names and constellations, you can still get to viewing right away. 

Pros
  • Easy to set up and use
  • Superb multi-coated optics
  • Silent motors with minimal shaking
  • Amazing optics produce great quality images
  • Perfect for deep space astrophotography 
  • The GoTo system is remarkable
  • Tripod and mount are both extremely steady
Cons
  • Heavy and lacks portability
  • Expensive

2. Meade Instruments 8-Inch LX200-ACF

(Best Coma Free)

Specifications
  • Type: Schmidt Cassegrain
  • Aperture: 203.2mm (10″)
  • Focal length: 2500mm
  • Focal Ratio: f/10
  • Eyepiece: 26mm
  • Weight: 84.0 lbs

The Meade LX200-ACF is a godsend for those astronomers who are looking for excellent Advanced Coma-Free (ACF) optics. 

It’s a 10”, f/10 telescope with an ACF optical system that provides a flatter field, no diffraction spikes, and minimized astigmatism. 

This means that you can fill your FOV for a fantastic view of clear and sharp star details from edge to edge without coma or aberrations.

The LX200 design places the telescope’s tube between two robust forks fixed to a base that houses the telescope’s brain – a sophisticated AutoStar II computer.

The AutoStar II allows access to a database of over 145,000 objects that includes satellite data, DSO catalogs, and even a built-in GPS system.

Using various positional sensors the scope is able to work out when and where it is in the world using an auto-alignment procedure.

The Meade LX200 is outfitted with a built-in 16-channel GPS receiver and a time chip, so the mount can automatically determine the current date and time and its location within minutes of being turned on. 

The information is sent to the AutoStar II controller, which uses an electromagnetic sensor to determine True North and can automatically align the scope with a minimal user interface. 

Why We Recommend It

The Meade LX200 allows you to see more with excruciating detail that you may not have anticipated. 

The LX200 has excellent GoTo tracking, a huge AutoStar II database, and an optical system that makes it one of the best telescopes for DSLR astrophotography.

It’s an excellent telescope for both visual and astrophotography. The aberration-free system and optical system provide an outstanding resolution that excels in wide-field, planetary, and wide-field astrophotography.

During long exposure astrophotography sessions, the telescope’s controller continuously checks its orientation and tracking and adjusts it as needed, sending the data to the Smart Mount and Smart Drive systems, which learn the tracking errors and adjust for the future.

Through the eyepiece this scope really delivers; the field of view appears vibrant and bright.

With ultra-high transmission coatings, the optics certainly deliver some excellent high-contrast views.

The LX200 is one of the best catadioptric telescopes for astrophotography. You can do both piggybacking and prime focus photography depending on your camera equipment, accessories, and skill level. 

For long-exposure astrophotography, you’ll likely need a wedge, perform a One-Star polar alignment, and definitely, a cable-operated shutter release.

Pros
  • Highly defined, sharp and bright images
  • Excellent advanced coma-free optics
  • Excellent image focused to the edge of the field
  • Very sturdy
  • Easy to use
  • Great for advanced astrophotography
Cons
  • Maybe a bit heavy for some users
  • Steep learning curve

3. Sky-Watcher EvoStar 100 APO Refractor

(Best APO )

Specifications
  • Type: Apochromatic Refractor
  • Aperture: 100 mm(3.9″)
  • Focal length: 900mm
  • Focal Ratio: f/9
  • Mount: Vixen Style
  • Eyepiece: 20mm, 5mm
  • Magnification: 50x, 250x
  • Weight: 8.4 lbs.(3.8 kg)

The Sky-Watcher EvoStar 100 APO Doublet Refractor is a versatile optical tube assembly that is well suited for wide-field astrophotography and observation of prominent nebulae, star clusters, and galaxies.

It comes with 25 mm and 5 mm eyepieces (that produce 30x and 120x magnification), a right-angle 8X50 finder and bracket, tube rings, a Vixen-compatible plate, a two-inch dielectric diagonal, and a fitted foam-lined aluminum case.

This Sky-Watcher EvoStar is perfect for experienced astronomers who want to upgrade to one of the best apochromatic refractors for deep-space astrophotography. 

The Sky-Watcher Evostar 100ED has excellent optics as it uses a crown glass element, an ED glass element, and state-of-the-art optical multicoatings in its apochromatic ED doublet optics. 

The Sky-Watcher 100mm APO does not include a mount, all of your money is going into that high-end lens.

Why We Recommend It

With Sky-Watcher ED APO refractor, you can expect reliably high contrast views and flawless astrophotographs of the planets and the deep space objects.

The OTA weighs only 6.6 lbs., and doesn’t require a big and expensive mount, so it’s easy to afford and easy to take out and set up for observing at a moment’s notice.

Additionally, it comes with a foam-lined aluminum carrying case to safely store and transport the OTA.

This telescope combines excellent multi-coated optics with a moderate focal ratio which results in virtually no chromatic aberration.

If you want to try your hand at professional astrophotography, then the Sky-Watcher ProED 100mm Doublet APO Refractor Telescope is the ideal optical tool for it. 

This powerful, yet affordable telescope delivers the kind of quality we would expect from a far more expensive telescope, for only a fraction of the price.

Considering its surprisingly low price for an apochromatic doublet, adding in the extra features you get at no extra cost, and in view of the great optical & astrophotography performance that comes as standard equipment, the 100mm Sky-Watcher PRO 100ED is a telescope that you won’t regret buying.

Pros
  • Great for advanced viewing and astrophotography
  • Crisp views with no chromatic aberrations
  • Best value for your money
  • Excellent multi-coated optics
  • Good quality accessories
  • Lightweight & highly portable
  • Carrying case included
Cons
  • Focuser slips with heavy eyepieces
  • Doesn’t come with a mount

4. Celestron NexStar Evolution 8 Telescope

(Best With GPS)

Specifications
  • Type: Schmidt-Cassegrain
  • Aperture: 203 mm (8”)
  • Focal length: 2032mm
  • Focal Ratio: f/10
  • Mount: GoTo: Alt-Azimuth
  • Eyepiece: 40mm, 12.5 mm
  • Magnification: 51x, 156x
  • Weight: 40 lbs.(18.2 kg)

The Celestron NexStar Evolution 8 Computerised Cassegrain telescope is a large Schmidt Cassegrain. 

It’s got a whopping 203.2mm (8″ aperture) and 2032mm focal length. 

Basically, it’s a bucket full of light. With these specifications, this telescope is capable of reaching high magnifications suitable for viewing and photographing planets and deep-sky objects.

The Nexstar Evolution 8 EdgeHD Telescope from Celestron features integral Starsense auto-alignment, WiFi, and an internal Lithium-ion battery. 

With the Lithium-ion battery charged up,  it can provide up to 10 hours of continuous observing and you don’t need an external power pack. 

The telescope’s built-in WiFi connects directly to your smartphone or tablet — no handset required.

StarSense auto-align technology provides a hands-free automatic experience, aligning your telescope within two minutes of startup.

The telescope features a NexStar evolution mount with a variety of features, including manual release clutches, precision worm gears, eyepiece tray lighting, a USB charge port, and more.

Due to the weight, the NexStar Evolution 8 can be tricky to transport for some, so it is important to take that into account.

Why We Recommend It

The NexStar Evolution is one of the best all-around telescopes for astrophotography as it produces high-quality images even when confronted with light pollution. 

This innovative telescope allows you to control your telescope wirelessly via Celestron’s SkyPortal app to your smartphone or tablet.

You can capture images of deep-sky objects like the Orion Nebula by simply attaching your DSLR camera.  

The EdgeHD optical system is designed to virtually eliminate spherical and chromatic aberrations so views through it are flat and distortion-free across the entire field of view, with accurate color rendition. 

The telescope’s included StarPointer Pro finderscope employs a red dot technology with a surrounding ring that aids with pinpointing your desired object in the field of view with minimum fuss.

It’s compatible with Celestron’s SkySafari app (for a fee) that allows access to its 120,000+ object database. 

Pros
  • Great optics
  • Large aperture
  • Sturdy mount
  • Easy to set up, use, and super accurate
  • Easy alignment process with a clear instruction manual
  • Produces amazing images even on cloudy nights and light pollution
  • No visual defects such as color fringing, warping, or coma
  • Excellent, clear views of deep-sky and solar system targets
Cons
  • Heavy & not very portable
  • Expensive

5. Sky-Watcher Skymax 127mm Maksutov-Cassegrain

(For Expereinced Amateur)

Specifications
  • Type: Maksutov-Cassegrain
  • Aperture: 127mm (5”)
  • Focal length: 1500mm
  • Focal Ratio: f/12
  • Eyepiece: 28mm
  • Magnification: 96.4x
  • Weight: 9.7 lbs.

The SkyWatcher Maksutov-Cassegrain 127mm is one of the best budget telescopes for astrophotography.

The Sky-Watcher 127 mm Maksutov-Cassegrain uses a5” lens system to do the job of gathering light so you can see faint objects millions of light-years away. 

The classic long focal length of f/12 will give you dark background skies so that celestial targets stand out beautifully.

The SkyMax has a Mak-Cass optical design. The Mak-Cass has a primary mirror with a hole in it where the light cone is able to come to a focal point beyond the primary mirror. 

This provides for a compact, short, and lightweight tube that is convenient for travel and good for high-power astrophotography and mid-power planetary observation.

The Skymax 127 comes with a nice selection of accessories, including a 2” 90-degree star diagonal, a 28 mm 2” LET eyepiece, a 6 x 30 straight-through finder for the location and centering of objects, and a Vixen-style dovetail plate, which allows you to mount your telescope on a wide variety of alt-azimuth or equatorial mounts.

The SkyMax is a standalone purchase, so a mount must be purchased separately.

Why We Recommend It

Beginners and even seasoned astronomers looking for a portable, secondary, or inexpensive telescope will find the SkyMax 127mm satisfies their demands. With its quality optics and build, it’s a telescope that is designed for all users of various skill levels.

With its 127mm aperture, this telescope can easily go from observing deer at long range during the day to viewing the Moon and nebulae at night. But the Maksutov-Cassegrain truly excels when viewing or imaging the planets, thanks to its f/12 focal ratio.

The 127mm Skymax weighs in at under 10 lb. If you want lots of light gathering ability, but need to limit the size and weight of your telescope this is an excellent option. 

You’ll be able to easily carry this scope on an airplane or take it along on your next camping trip.

You can even attach your own DSLR and capture views of the Moon and the planets and also indulge in some long exposure astrophotography of a number of deep space objects.

Of course, your choice of the mount will determine how far you can go with astrophotography techniques. 

Pros
  • Excellent optics
  • Great for astrophotography
  • Ultra-portable affordable telescope
  • Easy collimation process
  • Easy to set up
Cons
  • Mount not included
  • No user manual

6. Celestron - NexStar 6SE

(Best for Home)

Specifications
  • Type: Schmidt-Cassegrain
  • Aperture: 150mm (5.9″)
  • Focal length: 1500mm
  • Focal Ratio: f/10
  • Mount: Computerized – Alt-Azimuth
  • Eyepiece: 25mm
  • Magnification: 60x
  • Weight: 30 lbs. (13.6 kg)

The telescope’s 6-inch aperture, portable design, fully functional computer, and extensive database, among other features, make it easy to use, easy to transport, and easy to enjoy regardless of experience level.

This is one of the best telescopes for astrophotography for a beginner who wants to dabble in some short exposure astro-imaging using a CCD-style camera.

Please note that you will require a T-ring or adapter if you choose to image with a CCD, CMOS, or DSLR or a smartphone adapter for photography with your iPhone or Android. 

The NexStar 6SE is a 6-inch Schmidt Cassegrain Telescope, which has an actual aperture of 150 mm and focal length of 1,500 mm, giving it a focal ratio of f/10. 

The OTA comes on a Vixen-style dovetail bar, which fits into the dovetail saddle on the mount.

Click here to read the full in-depth review of the Celestron NexStar 6SE GoTo telescope.

The telescope also comes with a 1.25” prism diagonal, 25 mm Plossl eyepiece (providing 60x when used with the 6SE), and Celestron’s StarPointer, which is a zero-power red-dot-style finder.

Why We Recommend It

The fuss-free Celestron NexStar 6SE is a high-quality telescope that offers clear and crisp views of the planets and deep-sky targets.

The robust build of the NexStar 6SE promises to last years of observing sessions, provided it is treated with care.

The Celestron NexStar 6 SE is a solid and sturdy telescope, perfect for home use and astrophotography.

The Celestron NexStar 6 SE is easy to align with Celestron’s SkyAlign Go-To Alignment system. 

The NexStar 6SE’s hand controller offers a tour of the night sky and easily allows you to locate planets, galaxies, or any of the 40,000 celestial objects in its database.

Once the telescope is aligned, it’s incredibly easy to operate. The hand controller on the NexStar 6SE allows you to move the telescope at your discretion. 

If you are looking for a telescope that can help you transition from beginner to a bit advanced astronomer without much guidance then look no further than the NexStar 6SE as it is one of the best intermediate telescopes for astrophotography that money can buy.

Pros
  • Easy to mount and to use
  • Excellent optics
  • No color fringing or coma
  • High-quality build and low maintenance
  • Motorized and automated GoTo mount
  • Portable
Cons
  • Drains batteries quickly — AC power cord required
  • Comes with only one eyepiece

7. Celestron - AstroMaster 130EQ

(Best Intermediate Pick)

Specifications
  • Type: Reflector
  • Aperture: 130 mm(5.1″)
  • Focal length: 650mm
  • Focal Ratio: f/5
  • Mount: Equatorial
  • Eyepiece: 20mm, 10mm
  • Magnification: 32.5x, 65x
  • Weight: 28.0 lbs.(12.7 kg)

The Celestron AstroMaster 130EQ telescope is powerful enough to give good views that will both satisfy and leave the skywatcher wanting more, making it one of the best beginner’s telescopes for observing and astrophotography.

Don’t expect to take serious long-exposure shots of the planets or deep-sky objects, but the AstroMaster 130EQ can take pleasing snapshots of the Moon and planets. 

The 130EQ is a great telescope for a beginner who wants to indulge in some basic astrophotography as it offers an introduction to the hobby, a stepping stone towards more complicated observing and imaging.

Celestron’s AstroMaster 130EQ 130mm f/5 Reflector Telescope features a 650mm focal length and an oversized parabolic mirror that produce detailed images of the Moon, clear views of the planets, and the ability to resolve brighter distant objects such as nebulae and galaxies.

The 130EQ comes on a lightweight German equatorial mount that works well enough for the 130 mm f/5 OTA, and it should work okay with a lightweight camera piggybacked on top.

Why We Recommend It

The AstroMaster 130EQ is a great option for some smartphone astrophotography as it can carry a smartphone or a CCD camera at the eyepiece through the aid of an adaptor with no problem.

The five-inch aperture of the telescope is a decent size for a beginner’s telescope, giving the user sufficient resolving power at their disposal to get good views of the Moon’s craters, Jupiter’s Great Red Spot, Saturn’s rings, the Orion Nebula or the fuzzy shape of the Andromeda Galaxy.

At just 17 lbs total weight and thanks to its compact design, the Celestron AstroMaster 130 EQ is very portable. 

You can take it literally everywhere with you, unlike heavier and bulkier telescopes for professional use.

The AstroMaster 130EQ comes with everything the observer needs to shoot pleasing images of the Moon, bright planets, and more luminous deep-sky targets. 

Like I said before, It’s not possible to take long-exposure shots, but as an introduction to astrophotography, the AstroMaster 130EQ is certainly worth a look – especially given the very reasonable price tag, clear and crisp views, and excellent overall build.

Pros
  • Large 5.1-inch aperture
  • Great views of the Moon and planets
  • Portable and lightweight
  • Powerful mount and steel tripod
  • Good for astrophotography for beginners
  • Affordable
Cons
  • Poor included low-power eyepiece
  • Beginners may need some practice with the mount

8. Orion 09007 SpaceProbe 130ST

(Best Budget Pick)

Specifications
  • Type: Reflector
  • Aperture: 130 mm(5.1″)
  • Focal length: 650mm
  • Focal Ratio: f/5
  • Mount: Equatorial
  • Eyepiece: 25mm, 10mm
  • Magnification: 26x, 65x
  • Weight: 24.2 lbs.(11 kg)

The Orion 09007 SpaceProbe is another great telescope for a beginner who wants to dabble in some astrophotography at home.

The telescope’s mount is not strong and sturdy enough to handle the weight of a DSLR, but a beginner can use webcam-style cameras and possibly smartphones with an adapter to take pictures of the moon and the planets.

The SpaceProbe 130ST is a 130mm f/5 Newtonian reflector telescope.

This 5.1″ aperture reflector telescope gathers an ample amount of light for great views of the planets and Moon, as well as brighter galaxies, nebulas, and star clusters

The telescope also comes with tools to help you assemble the product, and two eyepieces: 10mm for 65x, and 25mm for 26x magnification, respectively.

The quick setup and ease of use make the SpaceProbe 130ST EQ a very versatile telescope that the whole family can enjoy.

The included aluminum tripod is very sturdy, and also includes an accessory tray that can be very useful when you are outdoors in the dark and need a place to organize your accessories neatly.

Why We Recommend It

The Orion SpaceProbe 130ST Newtonian Reflector is one of the best beginner’s telescopes for astrophotography of moons and planets. It is well-suited for both beginners as well as intermediate stargazers.

Its primary mirror allows great views of the planets and moon, and its wide field of view is great for bright nebulas, galaxies, and star clusters.

The telescope comes with two Sirius Plossl eyepieces. At 25mm and 10mm, they offer magnifications of 26x and 65x respectively.

Because the entire assembly of the SpaceProbe is only 24.2 lbs, it’s incredibly portable and convenient for travel. 

A 6×30 achromatic finder is also included with the telescope and it does a decent job of revealing more stars in the sky than your naked eye.

Pros
  • Powerful optics
  • Decent deep space performance
  • Affordable
Cons
  • Subpar and shaky mount
  • Will require regular maintenance

9. Gskyer AZ90600

(Best Under $300)

Specifications
  • Type: Refractor
  • Aperture: 90mm(3.5”)
  • Focal length: 600mm
  • Focal Ratio: f/6.7
  • Mount: Altazimuth Mount
  • Eyepiece: 25mm,10mm,5mm
  • Magnification: 24x, 60x, 120x
  • Weight: 18 lbs. / 8.2 kg

The Gskyer AZ90600 is one of the best telescopes for smartphone astrophotography as it comes with a phone adapter/mount. If you live in the city and you aren’t able to see much of the sky due to light pollution, you’ll want a telescope like this that’s easy to carry with you.

The 90mm aperture is perfect for viewing most of the things you’d want to view, and all of the glass optics are coated to automatically adjust the brightness of the stars to a level safe and comfortable for observation.

The Gskyer AZ90600 comes with an adjustable tripod. This adjustable aluminum tripod offers the viewer many different viewing positions. 

The optical tube of this telescope features an aluminum alloy, making it highly durable. The telescope is easy to use thanks to the tube ring that enhances mounting. 

An altazimuth mount and a stainless steel tripod make it comfortable to use while enhancing focus.

The telescope comes with three eyepieces – 25mm, 10mm, and 5mm that offers 24x, 60x, and 120x magnifications respectively. 

Why We Recommend It

Though this is a beginner telescope, you can use it to observe the moon, stars, meteors, and planets. 

The telescope offers great clarity, allowing you to see the surface of the moon, the rings of Saturn, and the moons of Jupiter. 

To enhance the quality and clarity of the images, the unit sports coated anti-reflection blue-film components. This ensures there is no internal reflection, which might distort the images produced. 

It also comes with a smartphone adapter, which allows you to use the phone as a screen, or as a camera to take great pictures. 

Plus, this model is extremely easy to assemble and doesn’t require any calibration. If you’re a telescope beginner, you won’t have to worry about any tricky steps or complicated tests. 

This is a great starter telescope for a beginner who intends to take their telescope with them on their journeys and also indulge in some basic iPhone/Android astrophotography.

Hiking, camping, and even moonlit fishing trips will be more fun when you have this telescope along with you.

Pros
  • Lightweight & portable
  • Includes a smartphone adapter
  • Can be used as a terrestrial telescope
  • Multi-coated anti-reflection optics
  • 3 eyepieces
Cons
  • Mount could be better
  • Relatively high price

10. Celestron - 80mm Travel Scope

(Best Portable)

Specifications
  • Type: Refractor
  • Aperture: 80mm (3.15″)
  • Focal length: 400mm
  • Focal Ratio: f/5
  • Mount: Alt-Azimuth
  • Eyepiece: 20mm, 10mm
  • Magnification: 20x, 40x
  • Weight: 6 lbs.(2.5 kg)

The Celestron Travel Scope 80mm f/5 AZ Refractor Telescope is designed for portability and ease-of-use for both astronomical and terrestrial use. 

Its refractor-style optical tube has a respectable aperture that gathers the amount of light required to ensure views of the moon and planets remain bright and clear. 

It’s one of the best telescopes for iPhone astrophotography as it comes with a universal smartphone adapter.

With Celestron Travel Telescope you can capture photos and videos through the eyepieces using your iPhone for easy editing, enjoyment, and sharing.

Weighing at just 6 lbs (2.7kg) the entire set is very portable and you can take it with you anywhere and expect great optics and views. 

The backpack fits perfectly and gets full marks. The altazimuth mount ensures an easy and smooth movement which is important not only when tracking objects but also when you keep following them.

It comes with two eyepieces – 20mm and10mm that deliver magnifications of 20x and 40x respectively.

Why We Recommend It

The main selling point of this telescope is convenience. 

It’s lightweight and portable which makes this an ideal model for outdoor enthusiasts who want to take it with them to a beach, a hiking trip up a mountain, or on a vacation for observing the night sky or terrestrial objects, or for some basic smartphone astrophotography.

The Moon looks pretty good through this telescope. It is a nice device for viewing the Lunar Surface in the spur of the moment or while camping outside. 

You can also see the Moon’s of Jupiter and Rings of Saturn. You can get views of exceptionally bright deep space objects but the 80mm aperture is too small to resolve the fainter DSOs.

The package also comes with a copy of the Basic edition of Starry Nights astronomy software and the SkyPortal app, both of which are useful for planning what bright objects to look at and where to find them.

Pros
  • Portable
  • Decent well-coated optics
  • Comes with a backpack
  • Affordable
  • Comes with a smartphone adapter for moon astrophotography
Cons
  • Limited by its small aperture
  • Mostly for moon and planets
  • Shaky tripod

11. Celestron Inspire 100AZ Refractor

(Best for iPhone)

Specifications
  • Type: Refractor
  • Aperture: 100mm(3.9″)
  • Focal length: 660mm
  • Focal Ratio: f/6.6
  • Mount: Manual; Alt-Azimuth
  • Eyepiece: 20mm, 10mm
  • Magnification: 33x, 66x
  • Weight: 20 lbs.

The Celestron Inspire 100AZ is a beginner’s scope with an ingenious adaptor for astrophotography.

The Celestron Inspire 100AZ offers a complete observing package with a good-sized aperture, a focal length of 660mm, and plenty of features at a reasonable cost. 

This telescope would appeal to younger astronomers, in particular, as it’s not only affordable and attractive but it also comes with an in-built smartphone adapter for iPhone astrophotography.

Its manual alt-azimuth mount helps to reduce overall weight without sacrificing stability, and a control cable makes finding and tracking objects easier while reducing vibrations. 

It comes with two 20mm & 10mm eyepieces that produce 33x and 66x magnifications, and a 90° erect-image prism corrects the view to allow this astronomical scope to be used as a terrestrial spotting scope.

Completing the package is a useful red light LED torch, accessory tray/leg spreader, and a dual-purpose dust cap.

This telescope also features fully coated glass optics which decreases potential anomalies in the viewing and increases image quality.

Why We Recommend It

While this telescope isn’t made for astrophotography, you can use a smartphone to take photographs of both sky bodies and land-based objects. 

The lens cap actually doubles as the smartphone adapter and allows you to attach your phone with bungees and anchor points to provide a secure setup.

It has enough light-gathering ability and focal ratio to see distant objects such as nebula, galaxies, and star clusters. 

It far outperforms smaller refractors which are geared more towards seeing the moon and the nearby planets.

Being a refractor, it can also get great views of the moon, Jupiter, Mars, Saturn, and other objects within the solar system.

The telescope can be assembled in minutes without tools. Everything unfolds and hooks together without having to deal with small screws or specific tools.

At just 6.1kg the whole assembly is light and easy to carry around even when it’s fully assembled, making it ideal for impromptu observing sessions.

Pros
  • Excellent optics
  • Portable 
  • Easy to set up and use
  • Great aesthetics
  • Decent accessories
  • Steel tripod
  • In-built smartphone adapter for astrophotography
Cons
  • Plastic mount
  • A bit pricey

Important Accessories Needed For Astrophotography

There are certain accessories that may not come with the telescope you are looking to purchase. Often, this is the reason for fluctuations in price between models with similar specifications. As a rule of thumb, you will need:

  • Diagonal is an angled mirror or prism that allows perpendicular viewing.
  • Finderscope with brackets helps you find the objects in the sky you want to photograph.
  • Tube rings and a dovetail bar are adjustable rings for the finder. A dovetail bar is for attaching extra equipment.
  • Carrying case to protect the telescope during travel and storage.
  • Field flattener or reducer counters the field-angle dependence of a system’s focal length.
  • A camera – either a DSLR or a dedicated CCD camera or a smartphone for astronomy
  • Software for stacking the images 
  • Software for post-processing

Many of the telescopes that we feature in this article already have most of the smaller accessories we mentioned. However, you may still need to buy a few others as they don’t usually come with the kit.

The Advantages of a Wide-Field Telescope

When it comes to astrophotography, having a wide field of view is very important. Moreover, with a telescope of a long focal length, small errors are less noticeable than if you were using a telescope with a long focal length.

For many of the refractors listed on this page, a field flattener/reducer (or focal corrector) is recommended to get the most out of the optics. Depending on the size of your camera sensor, you may need a field flattener to achieve a flat field across the entire image.

If you’re using a focal reducer, you can expect to get an even wider image with your DSLR camera or dedicated astronomy camera.

Astrophotography Telescope Guide

There are three main items necessary for good astrophotography: 1) A good, solid motor-driven tracking mount (preferably German Equatorial, but not necessary), 2) a telescope, and 3) a camera. There are also a handful of astrophotography accessories that will make imaging easier but are not necessary.

Things To Consider When Choosing A Good Telescope For Astrophotography

Types of Telescopes For Astrophotography

The best type of telescope for astrophotography will vary greatly depending on the type of imaging you want to do. If you want to image the planets and have fine resolution on the moon, you will want a telescope with a large aperture and long focal length. If you prefer wide­field images and deep-sky imaging, a fast (lower f/ratio) telescope would be more preferable.

1. Apochromatic Refractors

An apochromatic refractor uses an objective lens of extra-low dispersion glass, as it reduces crisp images without chromatic aberration. Many consider an “apo” to be the ultimate telescope for photography and planetary observing.

These telescopes are also compact, lightweight, and portable. They have excellent color correction, adjust to temperatures fast, and are easy to focus.

We recommend this type of telescope if you are an entry-level astrophotographer.

2. Reflector Telescopes

The “primary” or main light gathering component of the telescope is a concave parabolic mirror. A secondary flat mirror may also be used to change or divert the light path so that the image can be viewed at a more convenient location.

Most reflectors are an open tube design with the primary mirror at the bottom end of the tube. Light comes in the open top end of the tube, hits the primary, and is reflected to a secondary flat mirror at the top of the tube suspended by a thin vane “spider”, and is directed out of the side of the tube for viewing or photography.

3. Schmidt-Cassegrain Telescopes

Finally, we have a Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope. This option is like a hybrid between a refractor and a reflector telescope. It consists of a spherical mirror and a glass lens. Corrector plates work to fix bending and refraction issues.

Like Newtonian telescopes, Schmidt-Cassegrain telescopes aren’t great for beginners. They can be used for taking images of planetary bodies, you have to worry about chromatic aberration and image shift.

Mount For Astrophotography

This is arguably the most important part of your entire setup. Astrophotography is near-impossible without a good mount. Always err on the side of over­-mounting your telescope, rather than under-­mounting.

You can always grow into your mount but trying to take long exposures of faint objects on a mount that doesn’t adequately hold your telescope is an exercise in futility.

A German­ Equatorial mount is preferred, as it will eliminate field rotation as it tracks your object through the night sky.

a) Motorized Mount

As on earth, so too in space, things move. Celestial objects can be very difficult to track with the human eye and hand. This is where a motorized mount comes in.

A motorized mount tracks the motion of the sky over time. A telescope with a motorized mount that tracks the sky means you’ll also be able to try your hand at long-exposure astrophotography.

On the other hand, if you use a telescope that doesn’t have a motorized mount, objects will appear to drift out of the field of view of the telescope, and you’ll constantly have to manually re-center the target object. This means you’ll be limited to shooting short-exposure photos of the Sun, Moon, and planets.

That is why I highly recommend the Celestron Advanced VX Computerized Mount for an astrophotography beginner.

b) Equatorial mount

These are like regular pan and tilt tripods, but with the pan, axis tilted to match the tilt of the earth. This means that you can follow stars and planets across the sky by moving your telescope on a single axis, motorized or otherwise.

Aperture (Not so important for astrophotography)

A larger aperture collects more light, and this is super important for visual astronomy.  However, for astrophotography, the size of the aperture is not the most important factor in overall imaging quality. You can take amazing astrophotography images with a 6-inch telescope or even smaller.

The downside to the aperture is that as the size of the aperture goes up, so does the cost and complexity of making the optical system, as well as the weight and size. Bigger apertures also usually mean more focal length, and this makes mounting them, carrying them around, and using them more difficult, especially for astrophotography.

Field Flatteners and Focal Reducers

Focal reducers reduce the focal length of the telescope they are attached to. This means you can increase the field of view size and reduce the exposure times needed for your shots.

Field flattening is a function of most focal reducers. The natural curve of a lens leads to image distortion at the edge of the field of view, even when the center of your view is perfectly sharp.

Field flattening makes the stars right on the edge of your image sharper than they would otherwise be, bringing huge improvements to the quality of your images.

Camera for Astrophotography

The camera is easily the most important piece of equipment behind the telescope itself. Without a good quality camera, the images you take won’t be the best of quality. 

If you’re into serious astrophotography and are looking to get the best quality images of the night sky, a DSLR should also do the trick. However, if you’re after the most professional-looking shots, a CCD camera is what would be recommended.

If you are a beginner who wants to try astrophotography as a hobby, then a simple smartphone or point-and-shoot camera should be more than enough to provide decent-looking images of the moon and the planets.

Although a high-quality camera can high-quality images, it’s in the post-processing phase that will make or break the beauty of an image taken. This means that if you’re great at color correction and other elements of post-production, even a smartphone camera will be able to produce amazing-looking photos.

Smartphone Adapter 

Serious astrophotography generally requires high-end equipment and cameras that cost hundreds (or more) dollars and they can be very difficult to use and maintain.

However, we now live in a world where most people have very good cameras sitting in their pockets at all times. 

So, if you want to use your iPhone/Android to take beautiful pictures of the sky objects then make sure that you buy a telescope with a smartphone adapter or buy a good telescope then buy the adapter separately.

A smartphone adapter will make it easy for anyone to take high-quality space photographs.

Software for Astrophotography

Software plays a key role in the quality of images your setup produces. Generally speaking, when taking images of space, your camera will be utilizing an exposure range of around 15 – 120 seconds and stacking these exposed images on top of each other.

In order to accomplish this task of stacking images, you will need specific software, and a software universally recommended for astrophotography beginners is DeepSkyStacker

The DeepSkyStacker is free software that allows you to do stacking, basic image processing, and calibrating frames to allow for some good results.

Check out this article from skyatnightmagazine.com that talks about how you can effectively use the DeepSkyStacker to produce amazing pictures of the celestial bodies.

How To Attach A Camera To A Telescope

There are a few different methods to attach your camera to a telescope. But for the sake of demonstration, we will be using the prime focus method.

Step 1: First, you’ll need a T-Ring for your camera. It’s an adapter with a large hole in the middle. It attaches to your lens mount just like a regular lens.

Step 2: The next piece you’ll need is a prime focus adapter. It’s a tube that allows you to attach your camera into the telescope.

Just like T-Rings, prime focus adapters come in different sizes. But this time, the option you need to get will depend on the telescope you have.

Most telescopes either have 1.25 or 2-inch eyepieces. You need to make sure that the

the adapter you get will fit the telescope.

Now that you have both the T-ring and the prime focus adapter, it’s time to set up your astrophotography equipment!

Step 3: First, screw on your prime focus adapter to your T-Ring.

Step 4: Now attach the adapter and T-Ring combination to your camera. Most T-Rings have a small dot similar to the ones you see on lenses. All you have to do is align it with the other dot on your camera and twist it.

Step 5: The next step is to remove the eyepiece from your telescope. You don’t need to use a screwdriver since your telescope most likely has thumb screws that you can unthread with your fingers.

Once you remove the eyepiece, you can slip the prime focus adapter into the tube. Make sure everything fits snuggle together. If you see any space, you’ll need to get a bigger attachment.

Step 6: After you slip the prime focus adapter into the telescope, tighten the screws, and that’s it.

How to Connect a Smartphone to a Telescope?

Cell phone adapters are available to connect smartphones to telescopes to enable you to take photographs with your phone.

The leading telescope manufacturers such as Orion, Celestron, and Meade, all have their own smartphone adapters.

You may also select a telescope from the “Best Telescopes For Smartphone Astrophotography” section of this article. All telescopes in that section come with a smartphone adapter.

If you are interested in taking pictures of celestial objects then you might like to read our guide to iPhone astrophotography.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Which type of telescope is best for astrophotography?

The apochromatic refractors and the catadioptric telescopes with large apertures are the best type of telescopes for astrophotography.

The Sky-Watcher EvoStar 100 APO Doublet Refractor and Celestron CPC 800 XLT are two such telescopes that can be a perfect choice for anyone looking to indulge in serious deep-space astrophotography.

Can you use any telescope for astrophotography?  

Technically, you can use any telescope for astrophotography, but don’t expect to get good quality long exposure shots using a telescope that’s meant only for visual observations.

For serious astrophotography, you need a strong sturdy motorized mount that can hold the weight of a DSLR.

But, you can always dabble in short exposure astrophotography using lightweight CCD cameras or even your smartphone.

Astrophotography requires a great deal of patience and trial and error. There is a steep learning curve, so you need all the help you can get.

To get a telescope good enough for astrophotography, you should be willing to spend over $1000. 

Is Celestron NexStar 6SE good for astrophotography?

Celestron NexStar 6SE is a good beginner astrophotography telescope. You can use the Celestron NexStar 6SE for taking short exposure shots of the celestial bodies. The mount of the telescope is not strong enough to withstand the weight of a DSLR, so long exposure astrophotography is not possible with the NexStar 6SE.

However, you can use CCD cameras or smartphones to take beautiful images of the night sky.

Which is the best travel telescope for astrophotography?

The Sky-Watcher EvoStar 100 APO Doublet Refractor is the best travel telescope for astrophotography. It produces the finest obtainable images of the celestial bodies, weighs just 6.6 lbs. and comes with a foam-lined aluminum carrying and storage case for both the optical tube and accessories.

Which is the best telescope for astrophotography under $500?

Typically, a good enough telescope for serious astrophotography costs over $1000.

However, the Celestron – AstroMaster 130EQ is one of the best telescopes for astrophotography under $500 that can be used to take short exposure shots of the night sky objects using a CCD camera or a smartphone.

What’s the best telescope for photographing the moon?

The moon is the closest and easiest space object to photograph. You can use any telescope with a minimum 4-inch aperture to get decent shots of the moon.

Any telescope in our article is good enough to give you decent images of the moon.

What’s the best telescope for photographing planets?

The planets of our solar system are much farther away than our moon, but much closer than far-off galaxies. For photographing the planets, you need a telescope with a large aperture as well as a long focal length.

The Celestron NexStar Evolution 8 is one of the best telescopes for planetary astrophotography.

What is the best-computerized telescope for astrophotography?

The Celestron CPC 800 XLT is one of the best-computerized telescopes for astrophotography. It is a robust, highly revolutionary GoTo telescope that features its own internal Global Positioning System (GPS) and it is ideal for those looking to upgrade to a telescope that allows some serious astrophotography.

Can a Dobsonian telescope be used for astrophotography?

Yes, Dobsonians can be used for astrophotography by attaching DSLR/mirrorless cameras or dedicated astronomy cameras with the right adapters.

Do you need an equatorial mount for astrophotography?

You don’t necessarily need equatorial mounts for astrophotography, but they are quite convenient for long exposure deep space astrophotography as they can smoothly track the object in the sky in any direction.

Which is the best telescope for smartphone astrophotography?

The Celestron Inspire 100AZ Refractor is the best telescope for smartphone astrophotography. This telescope has excellent optics and it comes with an easy-to-use built-in smartphone adapter that can help you capture great images of the moon and the planets using your smartphone.

Which is the best telescope for astrophotography under $200?

The Celestron – 80mm Travel Scope is the best telescope for astrophotography under $200. It is lightweight, has decent optics, and comes with a smartphone adapter that can be used to attach your smartphone to the telescope to take good short-exposure photographs of the celestial bodies.

Which is the best telescope for astrophotography beginners?

The Celestron – NexStar 6SE is a good telescope for beginners who want to dabble in some astrophotography. You can use a CCD camera or a smartphone with the NexStar 6SE to take good short exposure shots of the night sky. Attaching a DSLR to the NexStar 6SE won’t be feasible as it doesn’t come with a mount that can withstand the weight of a DSLR.

Conclusion

If you were looking for the best telescope for deep space astrophotography or a beginner’s telescope for astrophotography or even a telescope for smartphone astrophotography, we hope you found the one that best suits your needs. 

Astrophotography is quite an expensive hobby. But we hope that it doesn’t stop you from exploring this fantastic genre. You’ll learn a lot from it, not just from a scientific perspective, but also from a creative point of view.

Written by:
Chandrashekhara Rao
Chandrashekhara Rao

I grew up in a rural community with a dark sky, and that is where I learned to appreciate planets and stars at an early age. I have been fascinated with all things astronomical since I was a kid and started with a cheap-and-cheerful 60mm refractor on a wobbly tripod.

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