What Telescope Should I Buy? 2013 Edition.

It's probably the time of the year but I've had an uptick of question regarding telescope and optics purchases lately. This will be a pretty quick read for most you, the answer you seek is here.

"But," you say "I want to do astrophotography" and you continue "or I want a telescope with tracking or go to capbilities."

No, you don't.

At least not right away. Go to and tracking scopes sound good in theory but by and large the are an order of magnitude more expensive than their less intimidating Dobsonian brethren in the same aperture. That usually doesn't include whatever power supply they require which keeps you close to the car or some other in home power source and probably away from dark skies. Sure, you can get a cheaper go to scope but it has a piddly fraction of the aperture of the Dob. When you're talking telescopes aperture is king. The 203mm (8") Dob has around 5x the light gathering capabilities of the 90mm Mak. Fainter nebulae and galaxies will look a lot better in the Dobsonian, although both will probably work well on planets and the moon.

There's also the problem of usability. Telescope companies are terrible at UI design and most go to controllers have the usability of an 80s era VCR that's been crammed full of ham sandwich. Could you figure out how to set the clock on one of those? Yes? No? If you're new to astronomy in general double the difficulty factor. I've seen maybe computerized scopes left to gather dust or end up on Craigslist because the were way more difficult to use than the owner bargained for.

If you're already familiar with the night sky and the fundamentals of observing a go to scope can be a very useful tool. However I'm assuming if you're reading this article then you're a beginner looking to make their first purchase. Learning basic astronomy, observing techniques, and your way around the night sky is a lot to take in without having the somewhat of a kludge go to system getting in the way and demanding attention. Once you've learned the basics it's much easier to move up to the more advanced equipment and use it effectively.

Personally I have both a larger Dob and a computerized mount for my small refractor and SCT. Usually I can have the Dob setup in ten to fifteen minutes, including getting it out the door. The computerized mount takes at least double that to setup if not more and I'm pretty experienced with it. That can really eat into your ambition to go out with the scope when it takes that long to setup, I know it does me.

If you want to do astrophotography I highly recommend starting with a Vixen Polarie or iOptron Skytracker with a sturdy tripod and start out with a plain old DSLR and a few lenses. You'll be surprised what you can get with just a DSLR and a mid-range telephoto lens. Learn some post processing techniques too. I recommend looking into Deep Sky Stacker. Once you start moving into telescope territory you'll want to learn about auto guiding too. You can see how this gets very expensive and complicated very quickly. Not something I'd recommend for the beginner.

If for some reason you are still reading this post and are not a beginner and are looking to move into a more advanced scope I suggest taking look at Orion's or Celestron's line. I prefer equatorial to fork mount scopes, especially for SCTs and Maks. Fork mounted scopes can run into problems near the zenith if you add things like cameras or external Crayford style focuers later on. But that's mostly a preference thing I suppose.

Hopefully someone found something in here helpful.