Deep Sky Astrophotography Telescopes for Beginners
Had enough of shooting with the 'ol camera lens? Ready to take the plunge and start capturing images of nebulae and galaxies up close? Here are five telescopes I recommend for those buying their first scope for astrophotography!
Before we get into the list, you should probably know about the different types of telescopes you could get, and why refractor telescopes are the best for beginners. There are three main types of telescopes:
Refractors are the best choice for beginner astrophotographers by far. Refractors use sets of lenses to refract light down to a focus point, exactly like a regular camera lens. The huge advantage they offer over all other types of scope are their ease of use. These telescopes are plug-and-play. You will not need to worry about collimation, tip-tilt adjustment, or other major optical challenges.
Newtonian reflectors are a type of telescope which uses mirrors to focus light down to a point. They have a primary mirror, secondary mirror, and usually a corrector element at the focuser. The secondary mirror is tilted 45 degrees from the primary to shoot light out to the side of the instrument. What these telescopes offer are large aperture and fast light collecting ability at a low price. The problem is consumer newt astrographs usually have poor mechanical design. They are difficult to balance, difficult to collimate, and are just harder to use compared to a refractor. For a beginner this isn't ideal, but for an experienced user it may be worth it for the benefits listed above.
Cassegrains also use mirrors to collect and focus light, but instead of shooting light out of the side of the scope, it goes out of the back through a hole in the primary mirror. Most consumer cassegrains are SCT’s or Schmidt cassegrains which use a corrector plate to hold the secondary mirror at the front of the scope. They have very long focal lengths, are slow, and have their own mechanical/optical problems like the newtonian. They are great for experienced users, but not so much fun starting out.
Taking all this into consideration, I am going to be keeping my recommendation list to refractors only, since I am keeping beginners in mind. The other important thing to keep in mind is that the more focal length in your telescope, the more difficult it is to use. The ‘zoom’ in your telescope is not everything when it comes to deep sky astrophotography. Also, you NEED A MOUNT for all of these telescopes to work. So please budget in a mount to your setup. I will be covering these shortly as well.
Here are five scopes ordered by what’s in stock:
Focal length: 300mm
Focal ratio: f/5
Image Circle: 44mm
If you're inexperienced and looking for a telescope that is going to be very simple to use, and not give you any major problems, this is a good option. This is the Asker FRA300 which is an extremely short focal length quintuplet refractor quoting a full frame image circle. This thing is really lightweight, and will be very simple for learning how to autoguide, polar align, and all the other strenuous technical things with using a telescope. You can find images taken with this telescope here.
Focal length: 250mm
Focal ratio: f/4.9
Image Circle: 44mm
The redcat 51 is alot like the FRA300, it is a litter smaller with almost identical specs. The only difference with this one is that there is a helical focuser like a camera lens instead of a crayford telescope focuser. This can be a pro or a con depending on your intended use of the scope, but it is definitely a good option. You can find images taken with this scope here.
This is a slightly larger refractor with a new focuser design not found in other refractors. It has. 81mm of aperture and more reach than the other telescopes listed. With the special focuser design this telescope is very future proofed for whatever upgrades you will make to your camera system, since the focuser cannot experience any flexure. You will definitely be able to handle a full frame camera with a filter wheel on this system without issue.
In summary, for your first telescope try to keep it simple. The night sky will still be there when you decide to upgrade even more. Short focal length refractors will provide you the best balance of ease of use and image quality possible. Your astrophotography will be its best when you spend more time shooting and less time troubleshooting. It is already one of the most difficult kinds of photography, no need to make it hard right away!
Good luck and clear skies!