The Best Telescopes Under $500 in 2022

Looking for the best telescopes without breaking the bank? This article has got you covered. In this article, we will share our top picks for the best telescopes under $500. Contrary to what some may believe, it does not take an expensive telescope to be able to see the moon, stars, and planets with great clarity and detail.

Sky-Watcher Classic 150P
Best Overall
Sky-Watcher Classic 150P
9

FEATURES: 2” Rack-And Pinion Focuser, 150mm (6”) of aperture, Tension adjustment, and Ergonomic height for comfortable viewing 

BENEFITS

  • 2” Rack-And Pinion Focuser supports larger eyepieces with smooth handling
  • 150mm (6”) of aperture allows for quality views of deep sky objects
  • Tension adjustment lets you lock the telescope in place in situations where there may not be proper balance
  • Stands at a comfortable viewing height without the need for a tripod or table

We found the Sky-Watcher Classic 150P to be the best equilibrium between aperture, price, and quality.

Orion Starblast 4.5 Astro Reflector Telescope (Tabletop)
Orion Starblast 4.5 Astro Reflector Telescope (Tabletop)
7.5

FEATURES: Three-slot eyepiece tray, 450mm of focal length, Orion EZ Finder II red-dot sight, and portable

BENEFITS

  • Extremely portable and easy to carry around, can be set up on top of most surfaces
  • Three-slot eyepiece tray allows for easy storage of eyepieces while in use
  • Included Orion EZ Finder II red-dot sight makes aiming the telescope simple and hassle-free
  • 450mm of focal length makes it very well suited for large nebulae, galaxies, and star clusters

The Orion Starblast 4.5 Astro Reflector Telescope packs a punch while still remaining one of the most inexpensive and portable options on the market.

Sky-Watcher Heritage 150P Tabletop Dobsonian
Sky-Watcher Heritage 150P Tabletop Dobsonian
8

FEATURES: Tabletop-style dobsonian mount, 25mm and 10mm eyepieces, 6” (150mm) f/5 optics, and 

BENEFITS

  • Tabletop-style dobsonian mount, low weight, and collapsible design makes this telescope very portable and manageable
  • Included 25mm and 10mm eyepieces allow for a range of magnifications right out of the box
  • Impressive 6” (150mm) f/5 optics pack the light-gathering capability of a larger dobsonian into a small footprint
  • Red dot finder allows for easy pointing and locating of objects in the sky

The Sky-Watcher Heritage 150P is one of the largest-aperture tabletop dobsonians on the market, striking a solid balance between light-gathering capability and overall compactness.

Celestron Starsense Explorer DX 130AZ
Celestron Starsense Explorer DX 130AZ
7

FEATURES: Smartphone compatibility, Slow motion controls, Full-height tripod, and 650mm focal length 

BENEFITS

  • Smartphone compatibility seamlessly assists beginners at pointing and learning the night sky
  • Slow motion controls for making fine adjustments when pointing the telescope or tracking objects
  • Full-height tripod included for comfortable viewing through the eyepiece
  • Mid-range 650mm focal length makes this telescope capable of seeing both large deep sky objects and solar system objects in full

The Celestron Starsense Explorer DX 130AZ is the most beginner-friendly telescope on this list and is smartphone-capable, which allows for easy pointing of the telescope and learning the night sky.

Orion StarMax 90mm
Orion StarMax 90mm
7.5

FEATURES: Compact and lightweight design, Maksutov-Cassegrain focal length, 90-degree diagonal mirror, and Quick-release dovetail saddle
 
BENEFITS

  • Compact design and mere 6.5lbs assembled weight allows this to be an ultra-portable telescope
  • The long focal length Maksutov-Cassegrain design makes this telescope a splendid instrument for planetary and solar system observation
  • 90-degree mirror diagonal included for comfortable viewing
  • Quick-release dovetail saddle allows the telescope to be easily hot swapped onto another mount

The Orion StarMax 90mm’s long focal length in a small package makes it a great grab-and-go telescope for observing small objects like planets, globular clusters, and planetary nebulae.

Even though most telescopes at this price point are aimed at beginners, it does not mean that the optics or build is of poor quality, but rather, it means that they are typically portable and with a straightforward setup & breakdown process. In this article, we factor in cost, optical quality, build quality, convenience features, and overall ease of use. Through our research, we’ve condensed all of our top picks into five telescopes. We have determined that the best telescope under $500 is the Sky-Watcher Classic 150P.

Best Overall
9/10Our Score

FEATURES: 2” Rack-And Pinion Focuser, 150mm (6”) of aperture, Tension adjustment, and Ergonomic height for comfortable viewing 

BENEFITS

  • 2” Rack-And Pinion Focuser supports larger eyepieces with smooth handling
  • 150mm (6”) of aperture allows for quality views of deep sky objects
  • Tension adjustment lets you lock the telescope in place in situations where there may not be proper balance
  • Stands at a comfortable viewing height without the need for a tripod or table

We found the Sky-Watcher Classic 150P to be the best equilibrium between aperture, price, and quality.

The Sky-Watcher Classic 150P is the largest aperture that you can get at this price point, allowing highly enjoyable, detailed views of planets, the moon, and brighter deep sky objects. Solar System features like the ice caps on Mars, Venus’s phases, and Jupiter’s cloud belts are just some examples of what can be seen with this instrument.

This one is the only full sized telescope in this article that does not require a table or tripod to elevate the eyepiece to a comfortable viewing height. Even being full sized, the Sky-Watcher Classic 150P is still highly portable and can easily be transported in small vehicles and carried with relative ease.

To use this telescope to its fullest potential, we recommend investing in a nicer set of eyepieces if possible. The included 25mm and 10mm plossl eyepieces are adequate, but withhold the clarity and field of view that the 150P is capable of (see our article on the best telescope eyepieces).

Additionally, it is recommended that the included 6×30 magnified finderscope either be used in parallel with or swapped for a zero-power finderscope like a Rigel Quikfinder or a Telrad. The “straight-through” design of the finderscope is unergonomic to look through and can be confusing to use for beginners or those who are not used to using magnified finders.

7.5/10Our Score

FEATURES: Three-slot eyepiece tray, 450mm of focal length, Orion EZ Finder II red-dot sight, and portable

BENEFITS

  • Extremely portable and easy to carry around, can be set up on top of most surfaces
  • Three-slot eyepiece tray allows for easy storage of eyepieces while in use
  • Included Orion EZ Finder II red-dot sight makes aiming the telescope simple and hassle-free
  • 450mm of focal length makes it very well suited for large nebulae, galaxies, and star clusters

The Orion Starblast 4.5 Astro Reflector Telescope packs a punch while still remaining one of the most inexpensive and portable options on the market.

The Orion Starblast 4.5 Astro Reflector is one of the most portable and budget-friendly options out there. Weighing in at only 13 pounds (5.9kg), this scope can easily be picked up and moved around, transported in any sized vehicle, and can even fit in a large backpack. All it requires is a table or other surface for the mount to rest on top of and it is ready to go.

Despite its small footprint, the Starblast still features a solid 4.5” of aperture, which is plenty enough to see larger planetary details and bright deep-sky objects. You can get the most out of this by purchasing a set of better eyepieces, since the included Kellner eyepieces are rather cheap quality and do not fully complement the capabilities of the scope (see our article on the best telescope eyepieces).

Overall, this telescope is wonderful for anyone who is just getting into astronomy or seeking a budget grab-and-go telescope. However, it is to be noted that this telescope, along with all of the other newtonian-style telescopes in this article, require collimation for the optics to perform properly, but this is an easy endeavor with a telescope of this size (see our collimation guide here).

8/10Our Score

FEATURES: Tabletop-style dobsonian mount, 25mm and 10mm eyepieces, 6” (150mm) f/5 optics, and Red dot finder

BENEFITS

  • Tabletop-style dobsonian mount, low weight, and collapsible design makes this telescope very portable and manageable
  • Included 25mm and 10mm eyepieces allow for a range of magnifications right out of the box
  • Impressive 6” (150mm) f/5 optics pack the light-gathering capability of a larger dobsonian into a small footprint
  • Red dot finder allows for easy pointing and locating of objects in the sky

The Sky-Watcher Heritage 150P is one of the largest-aperture tabletop dobsonians on the market, striking a solid balance between light-gathering capability and overall compactness.

At 6 inches of aperture, the Sky-Watcher Heritage 150P is one of the largest tabletop telescopes that money can buy. At this size, most would begin to wonder if portability is an issue, but luckily the top of this telescope collapses down into a smaller size for easy storage and transportation. This, however, means that the telescope must be collimated more often than others on this list because of the truss-style design.

The included eyepieces with the package are rather mediocre in build quality but are better optically and more comfortable to look through than the other telescope packages featured in this article. The other included accessories are also great and do not need to be changed out, but we recommend that you make or buy a light shroud for the optical tube, since the partial open-truss design allows for unwanted stray light and glare to enter the telescope

With all of this being said, the Sky-Watcher Heritage 150P makes a great telescope for anyone on a budget who is looking for a quality instrument that is simple to set up and use for beginning the hobby, or for anyone who just wants a collapsible grab-and-go telescope with a respectable amount of aperture.

7/10Our Score

FEATURES: Smartphone compatibility, Slow motion controls, Full-height tripod, and 650mm focal length 

BENEFITS

  • Smartphone compatibility seamlessly assists beginners at pointing and learning the night sky
  • Slow motion controls for making fine adjustments when pointing the telescope or tracking objects
  • Full-height tripod included for comfortable viewing through the eyepiece
  • Mid-range 650mm focal length makes this telescope capable of seeing both large deep sky objects and solar system objects in full

The Celestron Starsense Explorer DX 130AZ is the most beginner-friendly telescope on this list and is smartphone-capable, which allows for easy pointing of the telescope and learning the night sky.

The Celestron Starsense Explorer DX 130AZ is one of Celestron’s newly designed telescopes marketed primarily towards beginners. Even though it is marketed as such, the optics and build quality is fairly decent as compared to other “beginner” telescopes like the Celestron Powerseeker or Celestron Astromaster.

While the mount and tripod is mostly made of cheap plastic, it is adequate for holding the lightweight optical tube on a windless night. Unfortunately, the mount is lightweight enough to where breezes or an unstable platform can easily introduce vibrations into the system. The included 25mm and 10mm eyepieces are also not the best quality, so we recommend replacing them with a nicer set of 1.25” eyepieces.

As one of the most expensive telescopes on this list, the main thing you will be paying for is the Starsense Explorer App and its capabilities. It provides you a semi-automated telescope experience, also known as a “push-to” system, where the app tells you where and how much to move the telescope rather than utilizing motors to do it for you. This allows for easy learning of the night sky without all of the frustration of star hopping.

While most may doubt the abilities of a smartphone app to assist in accurately locating objects, it is surprisingly precise and makes for an overall great user experience. If ease of use and beginner-friendly are the attributes you are looking for, then the Celestron Starsense Explorer DX 130AZ caters exactly to that.

7.5/10Our Score

FEATURES: Compact and lightweight design, Maksutov-Cassegrain focal length, 90-degree diagonal mirror, and Quick-release dovetail saddle
 
BENEFITS

  • Compact design and mere 6.5lbs assembled weight allows this to be an ultra-portable telescope
  • The long focal length Maksutov-Cassegrain design makes this telescope a splendid instrument for planetary and solar system observation
  • 90-degree mirror diagonal included for comfortable viewing
  • Quick-release dovetail saddle allows the telescope to be easily hot swapped onto another mount

The Orion StarMax 90mm’s long focal length in a small package makes it a great grab-and-go telescope for observing small objects like planets, globular clusters, and planetary nebulae.

The Orion StarMax 90mm may be the smallest and most compact telescope on this list, but its capabilities are well underestimated. Despite the small aperture, its 1250mm focal length makes it a prime telescope for observing planetary detail. Even with the included eyepieces (25mm and 10mm) they each yield 50x and 125x magnification respectively. This is plenty of power for seeing the cloud bands and great red spot on Jupiter, the Cassini division in the rings of Saturn, and even the polar ice caps on Mars at opposition.

The quality of the telescope and accessories are great, but out of the box it can be a bit frustrating to use. This is because the included dobsonian tabletop mount lacks fine adjustment knobs, and can therefore be a pain to aim and center objects at such a high focal length. Luckily, however, the telescope can easily be taken off the mount and put on a heavy duty photographic tripod or other telescope mount that accepts a vixen dovetail bar.

When properly mounted, this telescope can easily live up to its fullest potential as a quality planetary observation scope and doesn’t really need any upgrades. With that being said, if you are looking for a telescope with a lot of power under $500, then this should be one of your first selections.

Comparison Table

Sky-Watcher Classic 150P
Orion Starblast 4.5 Astro Reflector Telescope (Tabletop)
Sky-Watcher Heritage 150P Tabletop Dobsonian
Celestron Starsense Explorer DX 130AZ
Celestron 70mm Portable Refractor Telescope
Product Title
Product Title
Sky-Watcher Classic 150P
Orion Starblast 4.5 Astro Reflector Telescope (Tabletop)
Sky-Watcher Heritage 150P Tabletop Dobsonian
Celestron Starsense Explorer DX 130AZ
Celestron 70mm Portable Refractor Telescope
Scope Design
Scope Design
Newtonian Reflector
Newtonian Reflector
Newtonian Reflector
Newtonian Reflector
Reflector
Focal Ratio
Focal Ratio
f/7.9
f/4.0
f/5
f/5
f/5.7
Focal Length
Focal Length
1200mm
450mm
750mm
650mm
400mm
Focuser
Focuser
2” Rack-and-pinion
1.25" Rack-and-pinion
1.25" Helical
2" Rack-and-pinion
2" Rack-and-pinion
Resolving Power (Rayleigh)
Resolving Power (Rayleigh)
0.93
1.02
0.93
0.89
1.98
Length of Optical Tube
Length of Optical Tube
44.5 in
18 in
48 in
25 in
25 in
Weight Fully Assembled
Weight Fully Assembled
40 lbs
13 lbs
23.5 lbs
18 lbs
3.3 lbs
Limiting Stellar Magnitude
Limiting Stellar Magnitude
14.7
12.9
13.36
13.1
11.7
Mount Type
Mount Type
Dobsonian
Dobsonian
Dobsonian
Alt-Azimuth
Alt-Azimuth

Types of Telescope 

First, it is necessary to understand the different types of telescopes. Each variety comes with its own pros and cons. Below, we’ve listed each type of telescope with a brief description. Take a look!

Reflector 

Reflector telescopes use a mirror. This mirror is placed at the back of your telescope, and it reflects your images (hence the name). These tend to be less expensive than the other types of telescopes, however, they do require more maintenance. 

Refractor 

These telescopes work via a lens that is situated at the front of the telescope. Refractor telescopes are easier to maintain than reflector telescopes, however, the cost of the telescope can be quite pricey depending on the size of the lens.

The larger the lends, the better the quality, and thus, the pricier the telescope. 

Compound 

As you might have guessed, compound telescopes are essentially a hybrid of the two previous types.

They use mirrors and lenses to gather light. If you’re looking for a telescope that you can take on your travels with you, keep an eye out for a compound telescope, as this variety tends to be quite lightweight and small when compared to the others.

Features 

Now, it is necessary to understand the different features of a telescope. Understanding these terms will help you feel more confident in your purchase. 

Aperture

This is the diameter of the lens or mirror. If you’re looking for a telescope that will enable you to see objects that are particularly faint or far away, you’ll want to keep an eye out for those with a large aperture. 

Focal Length

This equates to the distance between the lens/mirror and the point where the object is brought into focus. Essentially, this length communicates how much magnifying power your telescope has. 

Finder

A finder is an object that attaches to the outside of your telescope. They help you pinpoint exactly what you’re looking for. More up-to-date models (such as some of those listed above) will have red-dot technology. This means that the telescope is able to project a red dot into the sky, so you can see where your telescope is pointed. 

Mount

The mount of your telescope is responsible for holding it in place whilst you try to focus. If you have a weak mount, this can make focusing on something really quite difficult.

As such, be sure to look at the customer reviews to ensure the mount is stable enough. There are different types of mounts that you can choose from. We’ve listed the most common below. 

Alt-Azimuth Mounts 

These mounts move along two axes with vertical and horizontal motions. This type of mount tends to be the easiest to use, and as such, is good for beginners. To use an Alt-Azimuth mount, simply point it to where you want to look and tighten it. 

Equatorial Mounts 

These are specifically designed for tracking astronomical objects as the earth rotates. Equatorial mounts are more difficult to use than the type above because it takes some time to learn how to properly align.  However, when these mounts are properly aligned, you are able to track objects using slow-motion control. 

Computerized Mounts

Both of the varieties of mounts above can be computerized. This essentially means that a computer system automatically controls the direction and tracking of the telescope. These mounts can automate the task of finding specific celestial objects. 

Dobsonian Telescopes 

The Dobsonian telescope design is widely recommended for mature astronomers. It balances affordability with easy-of-use and power. They do this by using a special type of the Alt-Azimuth mount and pairing it with a large Newtonian reflector telescope. 

Eyepieces

It is also worth mentioning eyepieces. An eyepiece is the part of the telescope that you look through. There are many different types and sizes of eyepieces.

If you’re just getting started, we recommend purchasing a telescope with a few different eyepiece possibilities. These, combined with a Barlow lens, will give you a good opportunity to be creative and explore all of your possibilities. 

Tripod 

Tripods for telescopes also need to be particularly sturdy. You will want to ensure that the tripod you opt for can be adjusted to suit your height. Also, if you plan on traveling with your telescope, you will need to ensure that the tripod can be folded down and comes with a case. 

Saying that, not all telescopes require a tripod. Some telescopes can be used on flat surfaces and tabletops, in addition to tripods. These are a great option for people who have a well-situated desk and don’t want the fuss of assembling a tricky tripod every time they want to explore the night sky. 

Best Telescope

Frequently Asked Questions

Which Is Better: A Refractor Or A Reflector Telescope? 

This depends on what you require from a telescope. Refractor telescopes are beginner-friendly. They also produce right-side-up images, have low-image distortion, and don’t require collimation. However, high-quality refractor telescopes tend to be quite expensive, and they often have issues concerning color fringing. 

Can I See Pluto With A Telescope? 

Technically, yes! However, you will need a telescope with a large aperture! Pluto sits at the very edge of our solar system and doesn’t shine very brightly at all. In fact, Pluto looks like a faint star through a telescope. 

What Size Telescope Do I Need To See The Rings Of Saturn? 

You should be able to see the rings of Saturn in even the smallest telescopes (25x). If you purchase a good quality, 3-inch telescope with 50x, you should be able to see the rings of Saturn in good detail. 

Can I See Galaxies With A Telescope? 

Galaxies are some of the most distant celestial objects that we can observe. As such, it can be tricky to see galaxies from a telescope. However, with a 4-inch telescope, you might be able to see the core of a bright galaxy.

Is Hubble A Reflecting Telescope? 

The Hubble telescope is a Cassegrain reflector telescope. This means that the light produced by celestial objects travels down a tube, is collected by a curved mirror, and is then reflected toward a smaller, curved mirror. 

Why Are Large Telescopes So Expensive? 

Large telescopes require extremely precise measurements. For giant telescopes, a tiny defect could throw off the entire image. As such, the manufacturing process needs to have an intense level of precision to ensure that there is no room for error.

This costs a lot more. Shipping and installation are also incredibly expensive for such precious and large pieces of equipment.

Are Expensive Telescopes Worth It? 

If you’re a budding astronomer, you will really benefit from a telescope that is around $250 – $500. The telescopes that you find for around $150 or less tend to have quite a low optical quality and aren’t really worth it. 

If you are looking for a decent telescope to explore your interest further, we recommend opting for a telescope that is around the $300 mark. These tend to have decent enough optics and beginner-friendly features to help you develop your skills.

Is Astronomy A Hard Subject To Study? 

Yes. However, don’t let this put you off.  Astronomy is a branch of physics, which is one of the more challenging sciences. It includes a lot of mathematical skills and patience. However, we promise you, it is also an incredibly rewarding and fun field of study. 

Astronomy is the study of celestial objects, such as stars and galaxies. It tries to understand how they were formed, their structure, their composition, and their motion. Because of this, we believe that Astronomy is one of the most fascinating fields of study ever. 

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