Top Telescope Kits Reviewed – Buying guide & Comparison for 2018
If you’re short on time and you just want to find the best telescope kit, this short paragraph should help you get exactly the model you need. We have gathered lots of information about the best products on the market by looking into reviews and ratings in the best telescope kit reviews and comparing them with what actual owner feedback says about the specific products. Thankfully, after all the exhaustive product research and comparison, we’ve been able to find what we believe is the best product for the money in this category, the Celestron NexStar Evolution 8 with Deluxe Accessory Kit. This product offers value for money because it comes with all the components you need to get started on an awesome astronomy adventure, including the Schmidt-Cassegrain Telescope with integrated WiFi and the deluxe accessory kit that includes the optical tube assembly elements such as a 1.25 star diagonal, 40mm Plossl eyepiece, 13mm Plossl eyepiece, and Starpointer Red Dot Finderscope. The telescope kit also includes an AC Adapter with US/ UK/ EU an AU plugs, a fork mount, tripod, and accessory tray. Should the Celestron NexStar Evolution 8 with Deluxe Accessory Kit run out of stock, we encourage you to get the second best option that’s just as good, the Orion 10034 GoScope II Travel Moon Kit.
If you’re an amateur astronomer who wants to enjoy genuine value for money in your observation equipment, there’s no better investment to make than the best starter telescope kit you can get for the money. The market is overflowing with plenty of options on this type of product. However, the novice astronomer doesn’t have to be overwhelmed because there are aspects that distinguish the best telescope kits from the rest.
Suitable telescope for the user’s needs
The best telescope kits in 2018 should include good entry-level scopes such as 70mm to 100mm refractors, 100mm to 200mm reflectors, and 90mm to 150mm catadioptric or compound telescopes. Young astronomers should be given the opportunity to use bigger lenses or mirrors with large apertures for sharper and brighter images. Mirror-type reflector telescopes on a Dobsonian-style mount are the best for this purpose, being durable and easy to set up.
Classic reflector types on an equatorial mount should have good optics including decent mirrors and premium Barlow lenses so they can yield great images at higher power. Refractors offer excellent image quality, with rugged optics that need almost no collimating or aligning. You don’t want a telescope that’s shaky and too difficult to aim. Locating targets around in the sky will have to be done on manual telescopes by moving them around. Remember that a solid mount is just as essential as good optics. Computerized models boast Go To technology that enables them to be automatically aimed at any target in the sky at the push of a button. Thanks to these models’ automatic alignment, you can just set them up and they take only minutes under the night sky to find or ‘orient’ themselves. You may want to try out telescopes with a high-quality Newtonian reflector that employs a wired remote keypad plus a well-machined focuser.
Some Dobsonian telescopes are big light buckets featuring premium quality primary mirrors that prove to be fantastic at pulling in even the tired and old photons of distant nebulae and galaxies. These instruments may not be designed for taking long-exposure astrophotographs but assembling them can be so much fun. Set up involves screwing together the altitude-azimuth mount, fitting up the tilting optical tube and assembling all the other bits and pieces, giving you a telescope that can be used for decades.
When checking out the telescope in the kit, you will want to look into the instrument’s aperture, or the diameter of the light-collecting mirror or lens, the optical element called the objective. Expressed in millimeters or in inches (less common), the aperture should be at least 70mm or 2.8 inches, and the greater this value is, the better. Fainter objects and finer detail can be viewed using a larger aperture compared to a smaller one. If you live far from the extremely well-lit urban landscape, you may still see plenty using a good small telescope, which can let you see dozens of galaxies beyond our own Milky Way using an 80mm (3.1-inch) scope in a dark location. However, you will be able to observe those same galaxies from a suburban location using a 6- or 8-inch model. In addition, the view will be more astounding using a larger aperture instrument.
The focal length of the objective determines the magnification or power of the telescope. For instance, a model with a 25mm eyepiece and a focal length of 500mm has a magnification of 500/25 or 20x. Most telescopes are shipped with one or two eyepieces, allowing you to change the magnification by using different eyepieces with varying focal lengths.
Steer clear of incredibly high powers that inferior-quality products are marketed with. Something that reads 500x magnification is not something you can rely on in terms of performance. The maximum useful magnification of a scope would be two times the aperture in millimeters or 50 times the aperture in inches. So if you are to get genuine 500x magnification, that would mean a 10-inch scope, and even with that kind of tool, you would have to do the observing in perfect conditions.
Premium quality mount
A sturdy support is needed by even the top quality telescopes. Most scopes are packaged in a kit with a mount or tripod. However, smaller scope tubes often feature a simple mounting block that enables attachment to a regular tripod for photography using a single screw. Bear in mind that what may work for cameras may not be designed for astronomy use. Specialized telescope mounts are equipped with more substantial plates or rings instead of single-screw attachment blocks.
Telescope mounts can be broken down into either alt-azimuth or equatorial types. You can move the scope left and right or up and down with an alt-azimuth mount, which is both intuitive to use and effortless to set up. With a turn of a single axis, an equatorial mount tracks celestial targets moving across the sky. The latter type can also be easily motorized but to ensure that it will work correctly, the mount has to be aligned with the North Star or Polaris. A variation of the alt-azimuth mount is the Dobsonian, a simple wooden platform.
Equatorial mounts are larger and heavier than alt-azimuth ones. Some scopes feature small motors to help them track moving objects in the sky using a keypad button. This type is available in advanced versions called Go To scopes, which have a small computer integrated into the hand control. The scope will start orienting itself to track any celestial object after you’ve entered the current date, time and your location. Some models even allow you to embark on a guided tour of the greatest celestial spectacles, supplemented with digital snippets of information about each object. The setup process for Go To scopes may not be for everyone, though, since you will need to to know how to locate the brightest planets or stars in the sky.
The perfect set of eyepieces and other accessories
Some telescope kits come with budget eyepieces, but the really good ones ship with a decent quality set of eyepieces to ensure good performance. The eyepiece is important because no matter if the scope has the most premium quality objective mirror or lens, the spectacular detail captured at its focus will not be transmitted adequately unless the optical component is supplemented with an eyepiece of the same quality. The eyepiece should not serve as a weak link in the scope’s optical system. Most of today’s eyepieces feature chromed barrels with diameters of 1.25 inches that can be easily pushed into the focuser of the instrument. Two-inch barrels let you enjoy wide views. There are also older scopes that take in 0.965-inch barrels.
The eyepiece also comes with an apparent field of view quantified in degrees, which gives information in angular terms of the sky’s width that you perceive when you look through the component. A larger apparent FOV shows you a wider expanse of sky compared to a smaller one. While apparent FOVs of 45° is in simple eyepieces, those with widefield designs boast 60° or greater. That being said, the true field of view is a more vital element and this is calculated by using the eyepiece magnification as a divisor for the apparent FOV. Thus, an eyepiece with a focal length of 20mm with apparent FOV of 50°, combined with a scope with 2000mm focal length, will deliver a magnification of 100x, with the true field set at 50 ÷ 100 or 0.5°, which is around the same apparent diameter as the full moon.
Eyepieces can have classic names including Erfle, Plessl, Orthoscopic and Kellner, or modern variants including Lanthanum and Nagler. Eyepieces designated as modified achromat (MA) or Kellner generally turn out better performing with long focal ratio scopes including Schmidt-Cassegrains and standard refractors, but will not do so well with short focal ratio instruments. The Barlow lens, slid into a scope’s focuser prior to the insertion of the eyepiece, instantly doubles or even triples the magnification. There’s a likelihood of light loss but your eyepiece gets higher value with dual-power performance. You’ll want achromatic or multicoated Barlow lenses.
Our 2018 list: Find the right telescope kit for your needs
There is a huge number of telescope kits on the market. The consumer or novice astronomer will have to consult buying guides like the one above to help them make an intelligent shopping decision. We have also showcased the best products below for even more shopping assistance.
Packaged as a deluxe accessory kit, this telescope kit comes with everything you need to get started on a spectacular journey through astronomy. The optical tube assembly includes the essential elements including a 40mm Plossl eyepiece and 13mm Plossl eyepiece so you can switch between those elements according to the magnification.
The accessory kit also includes the StarPointer Red Dot Finderscope and 1 ¼-inch Star Diagonal for effortless finding of celestial objects. The fork mount and tripod provide sturdy support that is more than what you can expect from a standard camera mount. The accessory tray holds your extra eyepieces and other small items you may need to keep handy during observation sessions. The AC adapter also comes with USA/EU, UK and AU plugs for universal use.
The telescope can be wirelessly controlled using your Android or iOS smartphone or tablet by utilizing the free Celestron mobile app with SkyAlign technology and planetarium interface. The portable and compact 8-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain optical tube comes with StarBright XLT optical coatings and Fastar compatibility for superb viewing results. The computerized GoTo mount is outfitted with performance-driven motors and worm gears for better tracking accuracy and minimal gear backlash. Get up to 10 hours of non-stop observing thanks to the rechargeable lithium-ion battery.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($1699)
Easily the most travel-friendly telescope kit on the market, the Orion 10034 GoScope II Travel Moon Kit needs little storage room for problem-free portability. Enjoy impressive night sky observations and daytime terrestrial views on the go with this innovative grab-and-go package equipped with a versatile 70mm-aperture refractor scope.
The custom backpack and compact design enable portable stargazing without sacrificing quality. The achromatic lens system delivers vivid details of distant celestial objects. All the included accessories plus the entire refractor telescope fit nicely into the rugged special backpack carrying case. Lightweight at just 3.5 pounds, the kit is always a delight to take along on family trips. Use it to do nature study, daytime birdwatching and panoramic long-distance observations, in addition to enjoying visual spectacles in the sky once the sun sets in the horizon, for some casual moon watching and stargazing.
The lightweight aluminum tripod provides enough sturdy support to the 400mm focal length scope assembly while stargazing. The 5×24 finder scope enables hassle-free aiming while the two 1.25-inch 10mm and 25mm eyepieces provide 40-power and 16-power magnifications. The included Orion Moon Map 260 is a genuine bonus as it outlines the lunar features you’re bound to see.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($87.84)
Delivering superb celestial and terrestrial viewing to novice and young astronomers and peripatetic individuals, the Gskyer® Instruments Infinity Travel telescope kit offers an exceptional combination of smooth quality optics and an altazimuth mount for genuine value for money. The 70mm refractor scope lets you discover not just the great cosmos but the fantastic outdoors.
This perfect amateur astronomer instrument delivers sharp and vivid images both for land and sky objects. The telescope has a focal length of 400mm and focal ratio of f/5.7. Enjoy a variety of fantastic spectacles using the rack-and-pinion focuser and low (25mm) and high (10mm) magnification eyepieces that provide 16x and 40x power, respectively, to suit any viewing situation.
The 3x Barlow lens doubles the magnifying power of each eyepiece so you can ultimately see more details. The optics comes with multilayer glass green coating for improved image brightness while protecting your eyes. The telescope set up is easy to carry out, with detailed instructions outlining the whole process.
The altazimuth mount has slow motion control for intuitive tracking while the adjustable aluminum alloy tripod delivers sufficient support for the scope configuration for more precise tracking of celestial and terrestrial objects day or night. The 5×24 finder scope enables easy locating of objects.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($84.99)
Easily the best telescope bundle for children, the Orion Observer AZ Refractor & Starter kit lets you enjoy countless nights with the family under the night sky for some incredible astronomy adventures.
Let your kids enjoy breathtaking views of Saturn’s rings, Jupiter’s moons, moon craters, brilliant nebulae and amazing star groups. The 60mm Observer telescope comes with two fully coated 1 ¼-inch Kellner eyepieces, an Orion EZ Finder II aiming device, 1 ¼-inch focuser plus a solid aluminum tripod with accessory tray for support. The free digital download insert for the Starry Night SE astronomy software is an added bonus you will definitely appreciate.
The Observer 60 is an authentic refracting telescope with real glass optics. It is not a toy with plastic lenses, so it can deliver vivid views of the Moon and more on any cloudless night. This instrument will surely pique your child’s interest in astronomy.
Perfect for beginner backyard astronomers, the kit includes an astronomy book that offers a fantastic introduction to the wonders of the night sky. The Orion Moon Map 260 offers a remarkable means of familiarizing your kids with the impressive features and craters on the moon. The star chart wheel, known as the Orion Star Target planisphere, lets you see what is up in the sky at night any day of the year.
Click to see the price on Amazon!
Let your kids discover the wide array of wonders in the night sky with the Levenhuk LabZZ MT2. This amazing telescope and microscope kit is designed to enable your children to explore what science and astronomy have to offer. The refracting telescope and biological microscope allow celestial and organism observation right at home.
Both of the observation instruments are equipped with premium quality optics and reliable design to enable convenient use. The included guide offers user-friendly and easy-to-read information that your kids can optimize. Designed for kids 6 years and older, the kit will help your child know about the wonderful world of astronomy and biology in an up-close-and-personal way.
The refractor telescope is fitted with lenses that gather and focus light. It has a 50mm objective lens that allows both celestial and terrestrial observation. The scope comes with two eyepieces. Use the H12.5mm eyepiece, which has 50x power, to observe large celestial objects such as the planets and the moon. The 18mm erecting eyepiece enables you to achieve direct images of objects you focus on, not just mirrored or inverted views, making it ideal for observing objects on land.
Use the erecting eyepiece as a pocket microscope with 14x magnification for on-the-go observing. The altazimuth mount of the telescope enables movement of the tube up and down and side to side. The microscope comes with three eyepieces that deliver 75x, 300x and 900x powers.
Click to see the price on Amazon!