The Best Refractor Telescopes in 2022

Ask most people to picture a telescope and chances are they’ll think of a refractor. Refractors were the first telescope invented, they were responsible for many of the earliest astronomical discoveries, and when people think of telescopes – be it of Galileo, Lowell, or James Bond – they think of refractors. Refractors use a glass objective lens at the front and have their focuser and eyepiece at the back of a long tube. Refractors can come in a variety of sizes and configurations with different numbers of lens elements and arrangements, glass types, and specific observations for lunar and planetary or deep-sky viewing as well as astrophotography.

Our top 5 picks

Explore Scientific FirstLight AR80 w/Twilight Nano
Best Under $350
Explore Scientific FirstLight AR80 w/Twilight Nano
8.6

FEATURES: f/8 aperture, 640 mm focal length,1.25” 25mm Plossl eyepiece, and 26x magnification

BENEFITS

  • Lightweight and portable
  • Easy to use
  • Good optics
Celestron StarSense Explorer DX 102
Best Between $350-$600
Celestron StarSense Explorer DX 102
8.5

FEATURES: f/6.5 aperture, 102mm focal length, and two 1.25” barreled Kellner eyepieces (25mm with 26x magnification and a 10mm with 65x magnification)  

BENEFITS

  • StarSense Explorer tech simplifies locating deep-sky objects
  • Good optics with enough aperture to show you things
  • Decent enough accessories and mount to get you started
Sky-Watcher StarTravel 102 AZ-GTe Refractor Telescope
Best Between $600-$700
Sky-Watcher StarTravel 102 AZ-GTe Refractor Telescope
8.9

FEATURES: f/4.9 aperture, 102mm focal length and two 1.25” Plossl oculars (5mm with 20x magnification and 10mm with 50x magnification) 

BENEFITS

  • Lightweight and portable package fits in a backpack
  • Wide field of view great for deep-sky objects
  • GoTo mount easily aims itself at targets and tracks as the night goes on
Explore Scientific FirstLight 102mm Doublet Refractor w/ Twilight I Alt/Az Mount
Best Between $700-$1000
Explore Scientific FirstLight 102mm Doublet Refractor w/ Twilight I Alt/Az Mount
9.2

FEATURES: f/9.8 aperture, 1000mm focal length, two 2.5” hexagonal Crayford focusers, and 25mm Plossl Ocular with 40x magnification

BENEFITS

  • High-quality optics have little chromatic aberration
  • Well-made focuser can hold any eyepiece or diagonal
  • Rock-solid and easy to use alt-azimuth mount
Celestron Advanced VX 6
Best Over $1000
Celestron Advanced VX 6" Refractor on Advanced VX Computerized Equatorial Mount
9.6

FEATURES: f/8 aperture, 1200 mm focal length, 2” rack-and-pinion focuser, 9x50 finderscope,  1.25” prism star diagonal, 20mm Plossl eyepiece with 60x magnification

BENEFITS

  • Huge aperture (for a refractor) provides great lunar, planetary, and deep-sky views
  • GoTo Advanced VX mount makes aiming a breeze
  • Looks seriously impressive, if even outright intimidating, to newcomers, family, and other astronomers

Advantages of a refractor telescope

Refractors have a number of advantages over reflectors and catadioptrics, such as:

  • Higher performance – With no mirror coatings to scatter light, no secondary mirror to smear out diffraction rings, and the ability to add baffling to control stray light, refractors are more efficient with their aperture – which is usually small.

    A refractor typically punches above its weight class in terms of image brightness, contrast, and resolution by about an inch or two of aperture compared to catadioptric and reflecting telescopes which use two or more mirrors to create an image.
  • Convenience – Refractors require negligible amounts of care when it comes to preserving the optics, collimating them, and of course cooling down. Big refractors may need some time for their lenses to acclimate to cooler temperatures, but small refractors need little and do not suffer from warm air rising through the tube and causing “tube currents” like a reflector or catadioptric.

    Refractors seldom have issues with their lens coatings degrading over time, and will never become nearly useless the way a reflector can with a degraded primary mirror.
  • Simplified astro-imaging – Refractors don’t have the razor-sharp collimation requirements of a Newtonian reflector, nor do they have mirror flop or image shift. The weight of a camera is on the back of their tube instead of the side.

    They also tend to have fast focal ratios when made for astrophotography and work well with focal reducers. However, you still need a field flattener and/or reducer for best results, as well as a beefy focuser that won’t slip or flex under heavy loads. 
  • Wide fields of view – Small refractors tend to more commonly come with fast focal ratios and 2” focusers, which make them great for low-power sweeping. Their slightly higher contrast can also help on certain large nebulae and other deep-sky objects.
  • More friendly to inexpensive eyepieces – Refractors don’t suffer from coma, edge-of-field astigmatism, or collimation errors like a Newtonian, meaning cheaper eyepieces tend to work better with them. However, at low power field curvature can be a nuisance (even more so when imaging) and cheap eyepieces may worsen chromatic aberration in achromatic instruments.

Disadvantages of a refractor telescope

This is not to say, however, that refractors don’t have their disadvantages, among them:

  • You can’t get a big one – Commercial refractors top out at 6” in aperture, and most of these are enormous instruments that rival a 12” catadioptric or 16” Dobsonian in bulk and cost. 7”, 8”, or even 9” refractors pop up occasionally but often cost as much as a sports car or even a home, and usually need a permanent observatory to support them. Meanwhile, a 10” Dobsonian can be easily carried in one piece and costs less than a 6” refractor and mount.
  • Chromatic aberration – Apart from their small apertures, chromatic aberration is the bane of refractors. The cynical would say that the definition of an astronomer is someone willing to spend a fortune to make a little ring of purple go away – and they’d be right. Inexpensive refractors are almost always achromats which require long focal ratios and consequently long tubes and narrow fields of view to minimize chromatic aberration – the ugly purplish halo around bright targets caused by the inability of the objective lens to focus all colors to the same point.

    Apochromatic refractors are heavier and more costly, with many often still suffering from some chromatic aberration – particularly those made for imaging. The best refractors, free of chromatic aberration or optical defects and made for both imaging and visual astronomy, have eye-popping prices – often several thousand dollars for something just 3” or 4” in aperture.

    The views and photos produced by these instruments are spectacular – but remember, a small telescope is very limited on targets outside the Solar System for visual use.
  • Dew – The big, heavy objective lens at the front of the tube of a refractor is a magnet for moisture in the air, which will ruin your view and can attack the glass and coatings of the lens over time on account of its slight acidity.

    Thus, most refractors have a short “lens hood” or dew shield at the front by default. This is adequate for casual use, but for imaging over the course of an entire night, setting up overnight at a star party, or living in a damp climate, you’ll want to add a long extension to the dew shield and consider electric dew heater straps which will keep the objective lens above the dew point. 
Best Under $350
8.6/10Our Score

FEATURES: f/8 aperture, 640 mm focal length,1.25” 25mm Plossl eyepiece, and 26x magnification

BENEFITS

  • Lightweight and portable
  • Easy to use
  • Good optics

The AR80 Twilight Nano is a small instrument, but it’ll still show you a lot. Its focal ratio of f/8 and focal length of 640 mm means it gets a fairly wide field of view despite being limited to 1.25” only eyepieces – the included 25mm Plossl eyepiece provides about 2.1 degrees, or 4 full Moons across, and a magnification of 26x.

You can also get fairly good planetary views with only moderately annoying amounts of chromatic aberration, though this will require additional eyepieces – the AR80 includes only the single, 1.25” 25mm Plossl ocular. At 26x, you can barely resolve Saturn’s rings or the cloud belts on Jupiter, though it’s plenty good for low-power sweeping.

The included eyepiece, star diagonal, and red dot reflex sight are mediocre in quality, but given the low price of this telescope you aren’t going to get the latest and greatest in accessories anyway – though we’d particularly recommend replacing the diagonal if you can, as it is optically the weakest link of the entire telescope.

The AR80/Twilight Nano also includes a smartphone adapter which attaches itself to the eyepiece and clamps to your phone using some suction cups – you’ll be able to take Moon shots with it and not much else, and the suction cups are a little anxiety-inducing to use, but it works well for this purpose.

The “Twilight Nano” part of the name refers to the mount of the telescope. The Twilight Nano is a fairly simple alt-azimuth mount which aims much like a camera tripod – up and down or left-right using a small pan handle – but lacks fine adjustment capabilities.

The AR80 optical tube attaches to it with a ringed tube clamshell and a Vixen-style dovetail rail, meaning you could theoretically swap the telescope and mount out, but the Twilight Nano is not capable of carrying significantly heavier loads and a new mount would be more expensive than the entire telescope and mount package anyways.

Best Between $350-$600
8.5/10Our Score

FEATURES: f/6.5 aperture, 660mm focal length, and two 1.25” barreled Kellner eyepieces (25mm with 26x magnification and a 10mm with 65x magnification)  

BENEFITS

  • StarSense Explorer tech simplifies locating deep-sky objects
  • Good optics with enough aperture to show you things
  • Decent enough accessories and mount to get you started

The StarSense Explorer DX 102 AZ features the same mount and optics as the old Celestron Omni XLT 102 AZ which is sadly no longer available. The StarSense Explorer technology uses an alignment bracket and your smartphone’s built-in camera and gyroscopes to help you locate deep-sky objects easily and without any additional power supplies, encoders, gearing or hand controllers.

The StarSense Explorer tech’s main limitations actually lie in your phone – the better the gyroscopes and camera, the more accurate it will be. Still, expect the app to be able to place the target somewhere in the field of view at low to medium power at best – it’s far from perfectly accurate.

The StarSense Explorer DX 102 is a 102mm f/6.5 – large enough to show you a fair amount of things and with just long enough of a focal ratio to stave off the worst of chromatic aberration, though it will show a fair amount of it on bright objects like the Moon and planets. The scope’s alt-azimuth mount is fairly easy to use and has slow-motion cable adjustments and gears on both the altitude (up-down) and azimuth (left-right) axis. 

The Explorer DX 102 includes two 1.25” barreled Kellner eyepieces, a 25mm providing 26x and a 10mm providing 65x – enough to get you started, but you’ll probably want more eyepieces later on. The included prism star diagonal is acceptable in quality and the included red dot is barely even needed most of the time if you use the StarSense Explorer app. 

Best Between $600-$700
8.9/10Our Score

FEATURES: f/4.9 aperture, 500mm focal length and two 1.25” Plossl oculars (5mm with 20x magnification and 10mm with 50x magnification) 

BENEFITS

  • Lightweight and portable package fits in a backpack
  • Wide field of view great for deep-sky objects
  • GoTo mount easily aims itself at targets and tracks as the night goes on

The StarTravel 102 AZ-GTe features the extremely lightweight and portable AZ-GTe mount which can be used as a GoTo mount controlled with your smartphone when powered on, automatically slewing to and tracking any target you choose. When powered off, you can loosen the clutches to aim the scope manually – which is great when traveling without a reliable power source.

When dismantled, the entire StarTravel 102 and AZ-GTe mount also can fit in a backpack or suitcase, making it great if you travel frequently, don’t own a car, or simply want an ultra-lightweight and portable telescope.

The main drawback to this instrument is the massive amount of chromatic aberration a 102mm f/5 refractor has. The StarTravel 102 Refractor has very poor performance on the Moon and planets and basically cannot handle over about 80-100x magnification. (the included 25mm and 10mm Plossl oculars, both 1.25”, provide 20x and 50x respectively).

The scope does have a 2” focuser, so for the widest field possible you could conceivably attach a 2” diagonal and 2” wide-angle eyepieces – though the GTe may not be happy with this and you may need to actually purchase a counterweight for the mount.

As with all of the StarTravel telescopes marketed by Sky-Watcher, the optical tube and mount use interchangeable Vixen-style dovetail plates. Sky-Watcher markets the AZ-GTe with larger and smaller refractor and Maksutov-Cassegrain optical tubes which are all also worth consideration.

Best Between $700-$1000
9.2/10Our Score

FEATURES: f/9.8 aperture, 1000mm focal length, two 2.5” hexagonal Crayford focusers, and 25mm Plossl Ocular with 40x magnification

BENEFITS

  • High-quality optics have little chromatic aberration
  • Well-made focuser can hold any eyepiece or diagonal
  • Rock-solid and easy to use alt-azimuth mount

The FirstLight 102 optical tube is incredibly well-made, with high-quality baffling on the interior, a rubber-lined dew shield, world-class optics, and a high-quality 2.5” hexagonal Crayford focuser designed for the heaviest of eyepieces or cameras.

Being an f/10 achromat, the FirstLight 102 has some chromatic aberration, but compared to shorter scopes like the StarSense Explorer DX 102 it’s negligible. Only the Moon, Jupiter, Venus and the brightest stars really show any chromatic aberration at all, and it’s not enough to affect the otherwise razor-sharp views. Deep-sky views are high in contrast, stars appear as perfect pinpoints, and with a long focal ratio and well-made focuser, reaching focus is easy even at high magnification.

The Twilight I mount, which Explore Scientific sells separately and combined with a wide variety of other telescopes, uses zero plastic components and easily accommodates the FirstLight 102 optical tube. The motions are very smooth, the arm can be adjusted in angle or moved to the other side of the telescope depending on whether you’re left or right handed, and the slow-motion cables can also be adjusted in angle and position. Aiming and tracking even at high magnifications is a breeze. 

Besides the high cost, the biggest drawback to the FirstLight 102 is thea accessories. The included 2” mirror star diagonal is high quality, but as with the FirstLight 80 the 25mm Plossl (40x) is pretty low in quality and you’ll probably want to replace it along with purchasing some other eyepieces.

The included red dot finder is also not the best, and can be difficult to keep aligned with the telescope – it also has a tinted window which makes it terrible for astronomical use. There is also of course an included smartphone adapter which uses suction cups to grip your phone and should work with most 1.25’ eyepieces that have a narrow barrel at the top.

Best Over $1000
9.6/10Our Score

FEATURES: f/8 aperture, 1200 mm focal length, 2” rack-and-pinion focuser, 9x50 finderscope,  1.25” prism star diagonal, 20mm Plossl eyepiece with 60x magnification

BENEFITS

  • Huge aperture (for a refractor) provides great lunar, planetary, and deep-sky views
  • GoTo Advanced VX mount makes aiming a breeze
  • Looks seriously impressive, if even outright intimidating, to newcomers, family, and other astronomers

Remember how we said big refractors were monstrosities earlier? The Advanced VX 6” Refractor is proof of that. The AVX 6” is a massive, 6” f/8 achromat atop Celestron’s Advanced VX GoTo computerized German equatorial mount. This scope has similar views to an 8” Dobsonian or 8” Schmidt-Cassegrain, albeit in a bulkier package.

There is some chromatic aberration even at f/8, as large refractors have more chromatic aberration than their smaller counterparts even at the same focal ratios. The scope’s optics are pretty good, and the focuser is a beefy 2” rack-and-pinion unit. 

Setting up the AVX 6” refractor is a commitment. You have to assemble the mount with the tripod legs fully extended, put the scope on top, balance the scope in its rings, install and balance the counterweights, level the mount, polar align it, and then align the GoTo system.

Once done, however, you’re rewarded with a powerful – if gigantic – telescope that will happily swing to and track any target you choose. The Advanced VX 6” includes a 9×50 finderscope which is arguably overkill for the task of simply aligning the GoTo system of the Advanced VX mount, a 1.25” prism star diagonal, and a single 20mm Plossl eyepiece providing 60x.

At the minimum, you’re going to want more eyepieces, a polar scope for accurate polar alignment, a power supply, and probably a pier extension for the mount so you don’t have to extend the legs all the way. A WiFi adapter, 2” accessories, etc. also wouldn’t be a bad idea. You’re looking at spending quite a bit more than the sticker price of this scope to get the most out of it.

While the 6” f/8 refractor optical tube is not really designed with astrophotography in mind due to its long physical length, long focal length, and chromatic aberration, you can stick other, more astrophotography-friendly optical tube assemblies such as a fast Newtonian astrograph or apochromatic refractor atop the Advanced VX thanks to its dual Vixen/Losmandy style dovetail saddle.

Comparison Table

Explore Scientific FirstLight AR80 w/Twilight Nano
Celestron StarSense Explorer DX 102
Sky-Watcher StarTravel 102 AZ-GTe Refractor Telescope
Explore Scientific FirstLight 102mm Doublet Refractor w/ Twilight I Alt/Az Mount
Celestron Advanced VX 6
Product Title
Product Title
Explore Scientific FirstLight AR80 w/Twilight Nano
Celestron StarSense Explorer DX 102
Sky-Watcher StarTravel 102 AZ-GTe Refractor Telescope
Explore Scientific FirstLight 102mm Doublet Refractor w/ Twilight I Alt/Az Mount
Celestron Advanced VX 6" Refractor on Advanced VX Computerized Equatorial Mount
Scope Design
Scope Design
Doublet Refractor
Doublet Refractor
Doublet Refractor
Doublet Refractor
Doublet Achromatic Refractor
Focal Ratio
Focal Ratio
f/8
f/6.5
f/4.9
f/9.8
f/8
Focal Length
Focal Length
640mm
660mm
500mm
1000mm
1200mm
Focuser
Focuser
1.57" Rack-and-pinion
1.25" Rack-and-pinion
2.5” Crayford
2.5” Crayford
2” Rack-and-pinion
Resolving Power (Rayleigh)
Resolving Power (Rayleigh)
-
-
-
-
-
Length of Optical Tube
Length of Optical Tube
-
32 in
21.7 in
-
15.9 in
Weight Fully Assembled
Weight Fully Assembled
-
14.2 lb
15 lbs
-
47 lbs
Limiting Stellar Magnitude
Limiting Stellar Magnitude
-
12.5
-
-
13.4
Mount Type
Mount Type
Alt-Azimuth
Alt-Azimuth
Alt-Azimuth
Alt-Azimuth
Equatorial

Buyer’s Guide

Now that we have had a chance to take a closer look at the best refractor telescopes on the market, you may be wondering how you can make the right decision, and ensure that you invest in the best model for your needs, interests, and levels of experience.

To help you make a confident, informed decision, we have put together the ultimate buyer’s guide, with everything you need to know – you will be searching the skies in no time!

What Is A Refractor Telescope?

One of the first things to establish is exactly what we mean by a refractor telescope, and how it differs from other types of telescopes. In the simplest terms, the name “refractor telescope” refers to a type of telescope that works through the principle of refraction of lights – this is different from a reflector telescope, which works by reflecting light.

Instead, refracting telescopes work by using the lens to form an image. 

The concept arose in Europe in the 1600s, when Galileo Galilei became fascinated with the notion of optical telescopes. He decided to create his own version with a concave lens, and this increased the popularity of the model.

Over the years, four types of refractor telescope were developed, and all of these are still popular today, largely as a result of their small sizes and low production costs.

The four main types of refracting telescopes are:

  • Galilean telescopes, which feature a concave lens
  • Keplerian telescopes, which use convex lenses
  • Achromatic refractors – these are more complex and have two lenses, constructed of two separate pieces, designed to reduce spherical and chromatic aberration
  • Apochromatic refractors – these are designed to reduce aberration using three-piece lenses

A common issue for many would-be astronomers is whether to invest in a refractor telescope, or whether a reflector model is best. Ultimately, the answer to this question depends on your preferences, your levels of experience, and your plans and aspirations.

Reflector telescopes tend to be cheaper than refractors, though it is worth noting that there are a range of models available within both categories, and typically offer advantages for those interested in larger-scale, deep-sky study and observation, for example, clusters, nebulae, and galaxies.

Refractor telescopes, on the other hand, are more expensive, and so a good option for those who are more experienced, or are ready to invest in a higher-end model.

They are also suitable for viewing objects that are brighter, bigger, and closer, such as moons and planets within the solar system.

On the whole, refractor telescopes tend to be suitable for beginners as they are fairly easy to use, and are less prone to breakages thanks to a sealed-tube design.

They typically perform well in adverse conditions, such as cold, cloudy nights – this makes them ideal for camping or other trips where you may not be able to guarantee favorable weather conditions.

One of the main issues with refracting telescopes is that they can often suffer from spherical or chromatic aberration – the exception here are apochromatic telescopes. The lower the f ratios, the greater the risk of this aberration.

Before we take a closer look at the details of spherical and chromatic aberrations, it is worth mentioning one final type of telescope – catadioptric telescopes offer a hybrid solution, combining reflector and refractor telescopes.

What Are Spherical And Chromatic Aberrations?

It is worth taking a moment to further explain the difference between spherical and chromatic aberration, and the significance of these concepts.

In the simplest terms, aberrations refer to imperfections in the optics of the lens of the camera and will cause the deterioration of an image that is captured. Different types of lenses will be affected by aberrations to a range of degrees.

Spherical Aberration

Spherical aberration occurs on spherical surfaces and lenses and occurs when light rays that pass through the lens fail to come together in a single focal point. Instead, light rays that strike the edges of the lens are refracted differently and come out at different places to the rays that pass close to the center.

These peripheral rays on the edge come out too bent, or not bent enough – these are referred to as positive spherical aberration or negative spherical aberration. Rays on the edge of a sphere bend more than those passing through the center, and so refract more.

As rays of light hit the spherical lens at different spots hit different places across the optical axis, but never converge together in a single focal point. This means that the image tends to be distorted, rather than sharp and clear.

Spherical aberration is usually caused by lens design – shorter focal length lenses more frequently suffer this problem than longer ones. Poor quality glass can also increase the risk of spherical aberration, as does the placement of the lens inside the casing of the telescope.

Chromatic Aberration

Chromatic aberration is similar to spherical aberration in that it involves rays of light, but in this case, the issue occurs when the rays of light passing through the lens focus at different points according to their wavelength, rather than the shape of the lens.

Chromatic aberration comes in two types: axial and lateral. Axial chromatic aberration occurs when there is a variation in the wavelength of each wave of light, resulting in blurred colors behind and to the front of the color’s focal point, while lateral aberration, refers to variations in the magnification of colors.

At the periphery of the image, lateral aberration will be more visible. Chromatic aberration can be reduced using an achromatic refractor, or an apochromatic (APO) refractor.

Achromatic Refractor

An achromatic refractor is a useful way to help reduce chromatic aberration. Remember, refractors use their lenses in order to gather light – this is their primary means of gathering light. The convex glass lenses of these telescopes mean that color can be distorted as the different wavelengths of light focus at different points throughout the lens.

The resulting color in the final image is then distorted. Achromatic refractor lenses use “elements” – multiple pieces of glass, each with their own unique characteristics, and differences in the way that the light is dispersed into the light of the lens – and combine two or more “elements”, carefully matched, to ensure partial correction of the distortion.

Color fringe may still occur with an achromatic refractor, and this is likely to have to be corrected digitally.

Apochromatic (APO) Refractor

APO refractors are like an advanced version of achromatic lenses and use specialized materials in the glass, designed to minimize the dispersion of light. This, in turn, boosts the chance that all wavelengths of light will converge to focus at once. APO refractors allow you to enjoy the optimum optical performance and are amazing for astrophotographers when paired with a faster focal ratio. They do, however, come with hefty price tags.

Refractor Telescope

Why Does This Matter For A Refracting Telescope?

Spherical and chromatic aberrations can be issues with refracting telescopes, as they can impact the quality of the image that is received.

What Should You Consider When Purchasing A Refractor Telescope?

There are a few elements to consider when investing in a refractor telescope. These include:

Aperture

The aperture of the telescope will impact the amount of light that will be presented in the final image and will be measured in millimeters or inches. For the best results, you should opt for a telescope with a minimum aperture diameter of 70 millimeters or 2.8 inches.

A higher aperture helps to emphasize finer details, and so can be useful in astrophotography.

Stand

At least a basic stand is important for any telescope, and ideally, you should opt for a strong, sturdy stand that can handle winds and adverse weather.

Most beginner stands will be similar to a tripod, and these can offer a limited range of motion – it is a good idea to upgrade these to a sturdier and more flexible stand.

An altitude-azimuth mount is often the most popular for astronomers; these offer a sideways range of motion, as well as being able to move up and down – this will allow you to move more freely and focus on the areas that capture your attention.

As with the telescopes themselves, mounts come in a range of shapes and sizes.

Of particular note are GoTo mounts; unlike a standard tripod or mount, GoTo mounts are motorized. They come with a smart computerized keypad and allow the user to enter their date and location.

The GoTo mount will then automatically head to relevant star systems, allowing you to go straight to the areas that are most interesting.

While these make stargazing a little easier, they can also reduce some of the fun of exploration and discovery that can make those early days of astronomy so captivating. 

Magnification

Magnification goes hand in hand with aperture – you will need to have a good aperture in order to benefit from powerful magnification. Aperture makes the finer details easier to see, and the magnification will bring them closer to you.

As a rule, you will be able to detect a magnification that is 50x as large as the number of inches of the aperture – for an aperture of 3 inches, you will be able to enjoy a maximum magnification of 150x.

This is important to consider before you splash out on a high level of magnification that may not offer any real benefit to you.

Portability

As we have seen, portability varies from model to model and is an important consideration – particularly if you are planning star gazing adventures far from home.

A more portable telescope will be easier to move, and this is likely to improve the amount that you use it; if it is a headache to move from place to place, you will be more tempted to leave it in one place, and avoid the hassle.

Smaller telescopes also have the added advantage of being more affordable; a number of beginner models are usually a little smaller and more lightweight, and remember that even the smaller models can offer a great experience; size is not necessarily and automatically an indicator of power.

Glass

As we have seen in our discussion of spherical and chromatic aberration, the glass in your telescope should be a major consideration.

Most commercial telescopes that you will encounter typically come with optical glass – the same material that is found in the majority of camera lenses. Depending on the price of the product, this is usually reliable, though quality can vary.

Telescopes at the top end of the scale, however, are more likely to use extra-low dispersion glass, which improves the quality of images and the end result. These do come with a higher price tag, however.

Budget

Your budget will be one of the largest and most significant factors in terms of the telescope that you buy.

While professional, large telescopes can reach price tags of up to thousands of dollars, more budget models tend to be far more affordable and accessible, as we have seen in the examples that we have reviewed.

In the world of telescopes, the old theory that the more you spend, the higher the quality does ring true, but this does not mean that there are not plenty of options for those seeking a lower price tag – many high quality, recreational telescopes come in at very reasonable prices, allowing even beginners to access the wonders of astronomy.

Age

Astronomy is a subject that can be enjoyed by fans of any age, but it is important to ensure that you are getting the right model if buying for a child.

There are a number of refractor telescopes that are specifically designed for children and young people, and this allows them to acquire the skills, practice, and knowledge that they need in an accessible and age-appropriate manner.

Your Goals

You will also need to consider your ultimate goals, aspirations, and motivations behind purchasing a refractor telescope – what is it that you hope to achieve? The more advanced and academic your aims, the more you will need to expect to spend.

Those who are new to astronomy, or pursuing the subject as a hobby, will be able to spend a little less.

It is important to have a clear list of your goals and motivations before you head off to purchase your telescope, as this will help you to make a decision that ticks your boxes, without the risk that you will go over budget.

Remember, at the beginning, you don’t need a telescope that can do absolutely everything; this is something that you can build up to as you grow more experienced, and have a more accessible budget. 

What Will I Be Able To See With A Refracting Telescope?

The distance and detail that you will be able to see with a refracting telescope will depend largely on the aperture size – this determines the amount of light that is collected by the objective.

The larger the aperture, or space for the telescope to collect light, the more details you will be able to see. Aperture also determines magnification; as we have mentioned, there is no sense in having a high magnification if you do not have a wide aperture.

In some cases, a higher magnification can blue the image.

Weather conditions and levels of light pollution will also impact the amount that you will be able to see, and so you should try to move to a place with dark, clear skies – the portability of your telescope will play a key role here.

As a general rule, most beginner refractor telescopes equipped with a lens of between 70-80mm will allow you to see most basic objects in the sky, including planets and objects in the solar system, the galaxies, the moon, the nebulae, and the star clusters.

The more powerful the refractor, the more detail you will be able to enjoy. These higher-priced telescopes will also allow more light to be allowed in, and this offers a chance to boost the magnification.

What Are The Advantages of Refractor Telescopes?

You may be wondering how you can best benefit from a refractor telescope, and why this should be your first choice over a cheaper, more affordable reflector telescope. There are a number of benefits to refractor telescopes and these include:

Less Maintenance

As a general rule, refractor telescopes tend to be simpler and easier to use and maintain than reflector telescopes, which have more of a chance to go wrong.

This also applies to the compound or hybrid models which, by their very nature, have more parts to malfunction, and which require greater alignment of the optical elements – this can be an effort that takes precious time away from your time spent viewing the sky.

Convenience and simplicity are two of the main advantages when it comes to refractor telescopes, and this can make them particularly appealing to beginners – you can simply unpack your new telescope, set it up, and start stargazing with relatively minimal stress.

You are also likely to have to spend less time on maintenance and repairs than you would with a more complex, elaborate model.

Improved Optical Performance

Refracting telescopes are the best option for securing the crispest, sharpest and best-quality images and views, and this means that they are popular for those who are keen to enjoy the most detailed views of the wonders of the solar system.

Viewers can also enjoy a clearer, unobstructed view of the night sky without the need to calculate complex sums regarding aperture and contrast performance.

This improved image quality also makes refractor telescopes the preferred choice for those keen on astrophotography; photographers will be able to achieve stunning, highly detailed images, even with lower-priced telescopes.

Are There Any Disadvantages Of Refractor Telescopes?

In order to help you make a clear, confident decision, it is important to be aware of the potential downsides of refractor telescopes. These include:

Best Refractor Telescopes

Higher Cost

As a general rule, refractor telescopes tend to be pricier than their reflector or hybrid counterparts, and this is as a result of the top-quality achromatic and apochromatic lenses that are included in these types of telescopes.

These lenses cost a lot more to manufacture compared to mirrors that are used to create reflector and catadioptric telescopes. This can make it tricky to explore deep-space, as faint objects located here require a larger aperture in order to allow a greater amount of light to be collected. These larger apertures come with a heftier price tag – far out of reach of many hobbyist astronomers.

While these investments are without a doubt worth it in the long run, the initial cost can be prohibitive in some cases, particularly if you are new to astronomy.

Larger Size

This is unlikely to be a real issue at the lower end of the budget, as the models tend to stay relatively small and manageable.

More expensive refractor telescopes, however, come with more powerful refractors which, in turn, have longer focal lengths, and larger lenses. At the very top of the scale lie very long telescopes, and these can be bulky, tricky to manage, and much less portable.

Chromatic Aberration

As we have discussed, chromatic aberration is a common issue with refractor telescopes, and this is an issue that increases as you reach the higher-powered models.

Chromatic aberration can either be reduced or eliminated altogether by using an achromatic objective lens or, ideally, an apochromatic (APO) objective refractor. Once again, these come with hefty price tags attached.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is A Refractor Telescope?

A refractor telescope is a type of telescope that works through refracting light, allowing the image to be seen. This differs from a reflecting telescope, which works by reflecting light off of the desired object.

Are Refractor Telescopes Expensive?

Refractor telescopes do tend to be a little more expensive than reflecting telescopes, and this is a result of the more expensive parts required to build the model.

What Will I Be Able To See With A Refractor Telescope?

Depending on the model, a refractor telescope will allow you to see most of the objects in the solar system, including galaxies, nebulae, and moons. The more powerful the refractor, the more you will be able to see.

What Is Aperture?

Aperture refers to the amount of light that enters the lens and will impact the level of detail that is present in the final image. This is one of the most important considerations when choosing your telescope.

Do I Need A High Magnification?

The effectiveness of your magnification will depend on the aperture of your telescope; without a wide aperture, a high magnification is almost useless.

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