Which Telescope Should you Buy First?

So you want to buy a telescope. Where do you start?

There are lots of different types of telescopes (Refractor, Reflector, Newtonion, Dobsonian, Astrograph etc) and they all have their pros and cons, however here we present 4 different types of telescope setups (from cheap to expensive) that cover the majority of the most popular “rigs” or setups out there. Each category has a range of different price options so we’ll include some examples that we stock and recommend.

Simple Telescope on a Tripod

For children or casual use, with almost nothing to learn. Just point and look. It doesn’t get much easier really. These might not be the right scope for you if you’d like to get into astrophotography or hard science, but it’s a good cost effective introduction. Great for looking at the moon (and the sun, with a solar filter) or even just seeing what the neighbors are up to.


Dobsonions, or “Dobs” are really big and impressive looking and some of them even have computerised GOTO but they are some of the best for looking / visual astronomy.Not so much for photography, though it is possible. Because they are physically big they may take more effort to move around but the focal length is long so you get great views of planets and distant galaxies. If you are serious about photography though, consider category 3 and 4 however dobsonians do look very impressive at Star Parties and never fail to draw a crowd!

Alt-Azimuth / Fork Mounted Telescopes

If budget allows it – THIS is the category of telescope setup we’d recommend for most beginners. Alt-azimuth / Fork Mounted scopes are computerised so can track objects in the sky and find them for you. They introduce you to the general concepts of telescope alignment and are perfect for planetary and lunar photography BUT not if you want to get into galaxy and nebula photography. Popular examples include:

Equatorial Mounted Telescopes

If you’re buying one of these you’re serious about astronomy and astrophotography. These kinds of setups allow you to take long exposures of the sky, are fully computerised and can be used for everything from visual astronomy to astrophotography to serious observatory-level science. It’s the most expensive path and the one that takes the most learning initially, which is why I’d recommend an alt-az first for a beginner. One you outgrow that, step up to an equatorial mount like these. Here are some example of mounts and scopes you could try for a setup like this.

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