What Telescope

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What Telescope Should I Get?

DISCLAIMER: Prices for astrophotography gear, and astronomy gear in general, are increasing due to world events, as we are sure you are aware. The prices indicated here might not be accurate.

The question of “what telescope do I need for astrophotography” is definitely one that gets asked a lot on this subreddit. This guide is aimed to help you decide. The equipment on this list is based on current market prices, however you can easily find a lot of whats listed here used on various classifieds websites. It's recommended that you do your own research and take these products as suggestions.

If you have any questions on alternative setups you can ask on our weekly "WAAT" ask-anything thread which can be found stickied on the subreddit, or on our sister subreddit /r/AskAstrophotography.

Remember - it's better to save up for a few months and buy something good than to make an impulse purchase right now. There are many many people who buy things on a whim, discover they aren't as good as they thought they would be and either spend much more in the future trying to fix the problems they're having or get put off astrophotography entirely. If your setup is working well this hobby can be incredibly rewarding and you too can be posting the astounding images which grace our subreddit every day.

With that in mind, this is a rough guide of what to expect at certain price points. I'd recommend browsing the subreddit for a few weeks, see what everybody else is using, research around and see if you can find anything different. It's possible to find better gear for similar prices as listed here online, the prices vary a lot - it's often very beneficial to buy second-hand equipment. It's cheaper, and often works just as good as new gear, especially mounts.

This article will be divided into several price increments based on what I've managed to find online that might be suitable for imaging with. As mentioned, it's possible to find lower prices, so shop around. We hope this guide is of use to you, if you have any further questions feel free to ask in our Discord.

There are a lot of different factors in what makes a telescope good for astrophotography – before settling on an OTA or a mount you need to know what to expect and decide what your goals are. A planetary setup may be completely different from a DSO setup and vice-versa, indeed a lot of us have a scope for each. Planets benefit from larger apertures but can be done with almost any telescope to some extent, DSOs benefit from fast focal ratios and require accurate tracking due to their faintness and subsequently longer exposure times. It can be difficult to find an entry-level setup that can do both well.

Choosing a Mount

The mount is arguably the most important part of Astrophotography. With that in mind it is usually the most expensive single item of your setup. Mounts for astrophotography need to have good tracking, good stability and payload capacity, and the capability for autoguiding.

The first mount we recommend is the Orion Sirus (aka Skywatcher HEQ5) for your first mount. Other options exist however, depending on your budget - the Celestron AVX can be found for cheaper but isn't quite as powerful, and the Orion Atlas (aka NEQ6) is better if you're using a heavier telescope. Synta have released newer mounts (AZ-EQ6) which make several great improvements over the old NEQ6 design, but may be more expensive on the 2nd hand market. The newest model of the EQ6, The EQ6r Pro, has significant advantages over previous models, and should be included in your research.

Autoguiding is the single biggest improvement to your setup you can make once you own a mount and telescope. A mass produced mount will usually allow for 2-3 minute unguided exposures given a great polar alignment due to gear errors. Autoguiding can help with gearing and alignment error and allow you to expose for 15+ minutes. Light collection is cumulative so the longer the exposure the more faint detail in your target will be visible. This however can be adjusted to best fit your needs, as certain sensors benefit from shorter exposure times. More about this later.

Choosing a Telescope

Since there are so many telescopes out there, it can be difficult to choose your first OTA. There are three main types of OTA commonly sold, these are Newtonian Reflectors, Apochromatic Refractors, and Schmidt-Cassegrains (SCTs). Each have their advantages and disadvantages, and are best suited to different aspects of astrophotography.

Apochromatic Refractors:

Pros: Refractors are very convenient. They don't need collimation and are small making them portable. Their light weight makes them resistant to wind and their short focal lengths make them easy to guide with.

Cons: The small aperture makes them unusable for serious planetary imaging, and most are F/7 in focal ratio which is "slow", meaning you dont collect as much light per unit of aperture compared to other scopes. Smaller refractors tend to have shorter focal lengths, so are only really good if you want to image large targets. Larger refractors become increasingly expensive quite quickly.

Best suited for: Deep sky imaging.

Newtonian Reflectors:

Pros: Fast focal ratio, most are F/4 or F/5 which allows the collection of a lot of light in a short amount of time. Cheap compared to refractors. Can be had in a nice array of apertures and focal lengths.

Cons: Size. For 8" or above you will probably need an Orion Atlas mount or better. They are not very portable at all. They also need collimation every imaging session, the faster the f/ratio the more difficult a precise collimation is. They also can suffer from changes in air temperature, where a warmer pocket of air can sit on top of your primary mirror causing blurriness. Its recommended to let your telescope acclimate to outside temperatures before you begin imaging. Adding a fan on the back of your primary mirror, or just manually circulating air inside the scope can help with this.

Best suited for: Planetary or Deep sky imaging depending on mount and aperture.


Pros: More compact than newtonians while still maintaining that large aperture.

Cons: Requires collimation (which can be difficult on SCT's), very slow focal ratio (F/10), front corrector is very prone to dewing over. Large central obstruction (compared to newtonians) can reduce contrast on planets. Not recommended for deep sky imaging, but it is possible with a high quality mount.

Best suited for: Planetary imaging.

Choosing a Camera

Deep sky

There are lots and lots of different cameras out there with which to do astrophotography. We tend to recommend second-hand Canon or Nikon DSLRs due to software support and cost savings, but it's up to you to do research on which one is the best for your needs. DSLRs in general are recommended because they have fully adjustable shooting settings, and shoot in raw formats which don't mess with the data before you get a chance to process it. Generally newer cameras will have lower noise and better sensitivity than older cameras, plenty of great things have been done on old Canon 500Ds and it's unlikely you'll reach the limits of the camera for a long while.

  • We highly recommend checking out NINA for computer controlling your camera. Its a free and open source program created by /u/isbeorn86
  • They also have an active Discord server where you can check out the latest builds, leave suggestions, and get rapid support if you have problems with the software, or are just starting out.

Often you'll hear about IR-modded DSLRs. This process removes the IR block filter from the camera, the purpose of which is to block light outside of the visual spectrum for everyday imaging. This filter presents a problem for imaging nebulae, a lot of which tend to emit in IR, so getting an IR-modded camera will really help to pick up these faint objects. You can expect about a 75% increase in sensitivity in these wavelengths depending on the camera.

. If you can find such a camera premodded for sale it'll be worth picking up. Both Canon and Nikon have made their own IR sensitive DSLRs in the past (e.g. Canon 60Da and Nikon D810), but these are regarded as horribly overpriced. It's often cheaper to do the work yourself if you're confident taking your camera to pieces or to have it done by another company or individual.

Canon 1100D Warning

Avoid buying a Canon 1100D (T3 non-i version), They have issues with sensor bloom or some similar defect which leaves black lines under bright stars at long exposure. See here for example.

Some more advanced users use monochromatic CMOS or CCD cameras. Some of these are cooled and have lower noise than DSLRs but can really only be used for astrophotography. These aren't necessarily recommended for beginners, but if you are serious about getting into the hobby a dedicated mono camera is another great way to start. I will include some information about mono cameras, but they are mostly outside of the scope of this article.


Planetary imaging is an entirely different barrel of monkeys to DSOs, as you may be beginning to realize. As the acquisition and processing are totally different (DSO focuses on long exposure with tens to hundreds of frames whereas planetary focuses on short exposures with thousands of frames), it requires a different type of camera entirely. For this reason DSLRs are generally not recommended for planets.

One of the most prevalent planetary camera manufacturers is ZWO, who make the generally low-cost ASI range of cameras. These offer high framerate captures and good sensitivity. Other options are available but this is what I use so it's what I can recommend. A good example of these cameras is the ubiquitous ASI120 which is used by many imagers on the subreddit. Planetary can even be done with modified cheap webcams such as the Microsoft lifecam, as recommended further into the guide. Since high framerate is desirable, USB3 is a good thing to have on your planetary camera and laptop.

Planetary cameras come in mono and color, depending on how much effort you want to put into imaging. Mono has the advantage of sensitivity and some can also be used as effective guidecams for your DSO imaging too. They also allow you to shoot in high IR wavelengths such as CH4. The downside to this is that each channel must be processed separately then combined and colour calibrated, meaning about 4x as much work as taking a single video in color and processing that directly.

DSLRs tend to not be recommended for planetary. It is possible to take pictures of planets, but the only way DSLRs are able to get high enough framerates is using planetary mode in BackyardEOS which records via live view. This is usually not 1:1 pixel resolution as the sensor is resampled, and this means a lot of detail and definition is lost. The Canon DSLRs which can natively do a 1:1 region of interest are the Canon 60Da, 60D and 550D. DSLRs also tend to have larger pixels than planetary cameras which means the image will appear smaller with the same focal length.

Planetary and Lunar Imaging

Planetary and lunar are one of the easiest and cheapest types of imaging to get into. While tracking certainly helps in planetary it's certainly not required, the most important things are a good camera, a big scope and good atmospheric seeing. While there are only a few targets you can get with a dedicated planetary setup the surface of the planets changes all the time so it's still a very interesting part of the hobby. Planetary imaging is theoretically possible with any telescope, but the bigger the better. For a lot of astronomers it's a good entry to the hobby as they can use their visual telescope without issue.

$300 - $400 – The moon, some planets

Using a small beginner telescope we can take images of the moon and start to pull out some detail on the larger planets such as Jupiter, Saturn, Venus and Mars. 6" or larger dobsonians can be picked up on craigslist or Ebay for even less than listed here - as a popular beginner scope there tend to be a lot of them floating around. You can find up to 10" of aperture for <$300 if you're lucky. As there's no tracking on this type of telescope you usually need to record a video as the planet drifts through the field of view. You can learn more about stacking planets on our wiki.

Dobsonians >6" also make nice visual telescopes so it'll be good to pick up some eyepieces as well as your camera.

  • Telescope: Orion 4.5" dobsonian - $250
  • Telescope :Orion 6" (slightly more expensive, but a much better option) - $270
  • Camera: Orion Starshoot Solar system V imager - $80-$100

Optional: Save yourself $50-80 by making your own planetary camera! Check out this guide by Gary Honis to see how.

  • Camera: Modified Microsoft Lifecam Cinema HD - $20-30 from Ebay.
  • 1.25" nosepiece adapter: - Free if you disassemble the Barlow included with the scope.

Potential images

$400+ – The moon, large planets

At this budget you can do two things - add on to the previous setup or try to find a better scope. It may or may not be worth it for you to add on and you may wish to buy a better telescope instead or save up for one capable of DSOs. As with the previous section buying a second-hand dobsonian could save you a decent chunk of cash, which you can put toward a better planetary imaging camera.

  • Telescope: Orion Skyquest Xt8 - $380
  • Camera: Orion Starshoot Solar system V imager - $80-$100


Jupiter Saturn

Planetary above $500

Planetary above this price is hard to write a guide for because there are so so many options for cameras, telescopes, etc. The ideal planetary setup in our opinion has large aperture, a quality mono camera and equatorial tracking. EQ mounts can also be used for your DSO setup, a lot of us share one mount between the two. You could also stick with the dobsonian from the previous entry but get a better camera.

Option 1:

Option 2:

  • Mount: Orion Sirius (new): $1100 new on Orions Website
  • OTA: 8" newtonian (new): $500 on Orions website
  • Camera: ZWO ASI120MC: $150 on ZWOptical site

Again, you can find these products used on websites like Cloudynights and they will offer significant discounts compared to buying new. While this option is obviously a lot more expensive than the other options, you can use this setup for DSO imaging if you have another camera like a DSLR. That said, it isn't recommended to get started using such a high focal length such as this for DSOs. The Sirius mount will be the best upgrade you could make here, as you could easily use it to image DSOs.

Schmidt-Cassegrains are also OK for planetary imaging scopes. The issue with these is their cost to aperture ratio is much higher than newtonians, an 8" SCT is often more than double the price of an 8" newtonian and will not produce noticeably better images. Bigger budgets also allow you to buy larger telescopes and accessories such as barlows, just make sure your mount can handle the extra aperture. Imaging through a dobsonian with a long focal length isn't recommended because tracking is difficult so you won't be able to capture as many frames.

An example planetary imaging setup:

  • Mount: Skywatcher EQ6
  • OTA: Skywatcher 300P
  • Camera: ASI120MM
  • Other accessories: Televue 2.5x Powermate, Astro-engineering 4x Imagemate, Astronomiks proplanet 742nm IR filter

There is a good deal of variety out there when it comes to setups and there is no one "right" solution. Ask around and try to find what works best for you in terms of image quality and your overall budget.

DSO Imaging

The deep sky contains a vast number of objects to try and photograph. It can be challenging but ultimately very rewarding when you finish your first picture and see some lovely nebula or galaxy. There's a lot of learning to be done on DSO imaging with far more techniques and setups than we can cover in this wiki.

One piece of advice we will offer - arguably the most important part of DSO imaging is the mount. As they are such faint objects you will often need to take exposures of many minutes in length. Guiding greatly improves on this. Without guiding the maximum exposure time for a mass produced mount is around 2 minutes, and with guiding you can go 15+.

$800+ - Widefield, large DSOs

This is probably one of the cheapest ways to start on DSOs. This setup is designed as one to be upgraded as opposed to a true widefield setup - if you want that we'd recommend the Skywatcher Star-Adventurer or Vixen Polarie as opposed to a large mount. You could also try other mounts such as the Celestron AVX which has slightly worse performance to the Sirius and is less compatible with software later on. Lens focal length is important for your target size - the usual Canon kit lenses are 18-55mm which are only really suited to widefield but you may be able to find a camera bundled with something longer.

Option 1:

Mount: Skywatcher Star Adventurer (new) Approximately $250, can be found cheaper. Camera: Canon / Nikon DSLR (e.g. 500D, 550D, 600D etc): Approximately $200 on Ebay or Craigslist. Find one with a lens included.

Option 2 (usable with telescopes for DSO/Planetary)

  • Mount: Orion Sirius (new): Approximately $1100 on Orions Website, Can be found cheaper used.
  • Camera: Canon / Nikon DSLR (e.g. 500D, 550D, 600D etc): Approximately $200 on Ebay or Craigslist. Find one with a lens included.
  • Accessories: Dovetail to attach your DSLR on the mount - Approximately $40.
  • Software: NINA - Free.

Potential images:

Scorpius region (Credit)

$1400+ - DSOs

This is about the 'entry level' price for DSOs. A cheap but functional tracking mount, a DSLR and a telescope. Simple, but it'll let you get some great shots and hopefully last you a little while before you feel like an upgrade.

  • Mount: Orion Sirius (new): Approximately $1100 on Orions Website, Can be found cheaper used.
  • Camera: Canon / Nikon DSLR: Approximately $200 on Ebay or Craigslist. Find one with a lens included.
  • Software: NINA - Free.
  • Telescope: AT6in imaging newtonian: $300
  • Accessories: T-ring, T-adapter, dovetail, tube rings for 6” newtonian: Unknown price, check Ebay.

The addition here is the AT6in telescope. This is a pretty nice imaging newtonian with a fast focal ratio and will let you get some stunning images even untracked. With the mount polar aligned correctly you may be able to go up to 60-second exposures before trailing occurs and at F/4 this will be a lot of detail.

Newtonians, especially fast focal length newts can be difficult to use. A lot of people prefer 80mm APO refractors to newtonians as they are easier to use and don't require collimation, but they are usually more expensive than their equivalent newt and due to being around F/7 in focal ratio will not show as much detail unguided. As always it's best to do research and figure out the pros and cons of each.

Potential images:

Triplet in Leo (Credit)

$2000+ – DSOs, but better

  • Mount: EQ5, Orion Atlas / EQ6r / EQ6 (new): Approximately $2000 on Skywatcher USA, Can be found cheaper used.
  • Camera: Nikon/Canon DSLR: Approximately $200-400 on Ebay or Craigslist.
  • Software: NINA - Free.
  • Telescope: AT6in imaging newtonian: $300
  • Accessories: T-ring, T-adapter, dovetail, tube rings for 6” newtonian: Varying prices, check online.

Potential images:

M51 (Credit)


For a bit more money we can add a Coma corrector and an Autoguider. The coma corrector fixes distortions around the edges of the telescope and the autoguider will let you take longer exposures. If you are using a refractor, look for a Field Flattener.

  • Accessories: T-ring, T-adapter, dovetail, tube rings for 6” newtonian: Unknown price, check Ebay.
  • Coma corrector – Astronomics coma corrector for fast newtonians - $135
  • Autoguider – ZWO ASI 120MM Mini and SVBONY 50mm Guidescope - $230 (together)

Note: For smaller setups (e.g. camera lenses), you can use a 30mm guidescope instead which saves weight and is easier to mount. For larger scopes (e.g. SCTs, RCs, large newts, etc), you will want to use an off-axis guider instead which uses a prism to redirect light to the guide camera, eliminating the need for a secondary guidescope.

This setup is one that'll last you as long as you want. The slight downside is that the focal length of the AT6in is quite short for some targets and you may find yourself wanting a longer scope. For this budget you may wish to look at other telescope options such as 80mm apochromatic refractors (e.g. Orion ED80T, Skywatcher Evostar 80ED). The Sirius is an incredibly capable mount when coupled with autoguiding and a good polar alignment, mine will let me capture pinpoint stars for as long as I want it to.

Potential images:

Flame nebula (Credit)

NGC7661 (Credit)

Andromeda Galaxy (Credit)

DSOs above $2000

This is around the price point at which we can't really give recommendations. You could go almost any route from here both mount and OTA-wise, anything from an Orion Atlas to a Paramount ME, a bigger astrograph newtonian to a richey-chretain. If you're considering spending this much we'll assume you know what you're doing :).

Realistic future upgrades could include:

  • A mono CMOS/CCD and filter wheel for monochrome, low-noise imaging.
  • Astro-modifying your DSLR to capture hydrogen-alpha.
  • Hypertuning your mount to reduce periodic error.
  • Proper processing software - PixInsight is the gold standard for DSOs.
  • A bigger guidescope.
  • A better guidecamera and off-axis guiding.
  • Light pollution filters.

A very common mono starter camera is the ASI 1600mm-cool or Pro, these are cooled and are the main imaging camera of many.

Potential images:

Horsehead (Credit)

Widefield Imaging

Widefield can be an interesting way of imaging. It'll allow you to make those really cool Milky Way shots frequently seen online. Widefield can range from a simple untracked tripod to properly tracking at sidereal.

$250 - Basic Widefield

This is about as low as you can go on the widefield scale - a simple tripod and a DSLR with the 18-55 kit lens. If you're lucky and live outside of light polluted areas you will be able to capture the milky way. Chances are if you're interested in this type of photography you'll own a DSLR anyway. You can do star trails too with just a tripod and DSLR.

  • Camera: Canon/Nikon DSLR: Approximately $200-400 on Ebay or Craigslist. Find one with a lens included.
  • Tripod: Anything will work, the sturdier the better: $50

Potential results:

M31 (Credit)

Milky Way (Credit)

Milky Way (Credit)

$300-500 - Home-made Tracker

It's possible to make your own tracker for the sky. This is called a barndoor tracker. The price of these can vary wildly depending on the components, tripod and other items you use.

  • Mount: Home-made barndoor tracker: $100-200
  • Tripod: Sturdy tripod and ball-head: $100-200
  • Camera: Canon/Nikon DSLR: Approximately $200 on Ebay or Craigslist. Find one with a lens included.

There are several guides available online. A reddit thread by a user who has built their own barndoor tracker can be found here.

Possible images:

DSO Album

$800 - Tracked Milkyway

Tracking the milkyway as with all objects gives you a far greater amount of detail as you will be able to take longer exposures without streaking the stars.

  • Mount: Vixen Polarie: $600 with tripod included
  • Camera: Canon/Nikon DSLR (e.g. 450D, 500D, 1000D): Approximately $200 on Ebay or Craigslist. Find one with a lens included.

Alternatives to the Polarie include the Skywatcher Star-Adventurer bundle or the Astrotrac. If you're unconcerned with portability you could also consider a full sized mount (e.g. Orion Sirius) which will let you use actual telescopes later on.

Potential images:

Scorpius region (Credit)

Widefield above $800

Past $800 there are a fair few upgrades you can still do. For example the Star-adventurer is capable of having an autoguider, counterweight bar, and a latitude adjustment head for polar alignment. A good lens is always beneficial, an even sturdier tripod may improve your imaging. When shopping for lenses try to find fast (below f/2.8) widefield lenses.

Buying Cheap/Used Gear

It is highly recommended that you search the used market for this equipment. You can save a ton of money, and the gear usually works just as good. People can even work out the kinks of their equipment (such as mounts), so in the case of mounts, you could be buying something even better than from the factory. Do your research and use your best judgement before you pull the trigger on a purchase.


  • Ebay - Often a good place to pick up small accessories or beginner scopes.
  • Craigslist - Lots of telescopes and DSLRs end up on here.



  • Astroboot - Lots of little miscellaneous bits and bobs. Make sure to check the Specials category every so often.
  • Astrobuysell UK - Plenty of scopes for sale on here.




  • IceInSpace - Gear from some top Aussie blokes, good prices and very active for such a sparsely populated community

Note: If you have any other good sites to find second-hand gear let us know