Best Telescope Under $1000 – Reviewed

When you have a decent amount of money to spend of a telescope,the problem of which one to pick can become even greater.

You can feel a real pressure to make sure that you get the best scope for your money and don't come away feeling like you made a mistake.

In this review, then, we're going to make sure to show you the best telescopes under $1000 and breakdown exactly why they should be on your shortlist.

As we go through the list of contenders, we'll share with you the model we think is the best telescope for $1000.​

Each of the scopes in our list is ready to be bought today on Amazon.com, and you can click on any picture or link of the relevant telescope to go there and see today's price.​

Without further ado, we'd like to share with you our winners table for the best telescopes under $1000. Scroll further down for detailed reviews of each scope, or use the quick navigation box above to go straight to the scope of your choice.


Our Top 5 Telescopes for Under $1000

Best Telescopes
Under $1000

Picture

Ideal For...

Price

Our Rating

Best Newtonian under $1000

Celestron Advanced VX 6" Newtonian

Best reflector telescope under $1000

Celestron Advanced VX 6"
(Click for Amazon Price)

Getting started with astrophotography, or just a decent set-up of mount and telescope getting started without the hassle of buying separates

$$$

Best Catadioptric
under $1000

Celestron NexStar 6 SE Schmidt-Cassegrain

Best catadioptric telescope under $1000

Celestron 6SE (Click for Amazon Price)

Newbies and experienced astronomers alike who want a reliable, high-powered point-and-shoot telescope.

$

Best Refractor
under $1000 (OTA only)

Orion 9534 ED80T CF Refractor

The serious sky watcher who already has equipment but needs a high-quality refractor for amazing detail and astrophotography

$$$

Best Dobsonian
under $1000

Meade 12" LightBridge Dobsonian

Best dobsonian below 1000

Meade 12"LightBridge (Click for Amazon price)

The backyard astronomer who wants to gather as much light as possible and is happy to 'point and shoot' their own telescope

$$$

Best Refractor with Mount
under $1000

Celestron Omni XLT 150 Refractor with CG-4 EQ Mount

Sub 1000 mounted refractor telescope

Celestron Omni 150 Refractor
(Click for Amazon price)

Getting started with astronomy. You get a reliable, good value refractor telescope and steady mount... but without maxing your budget

$$


Our BEST TELESCOPES OF 2017 have been chosen - Click HERE to see all 16


How to Choose a Telescope for Under $1000

Knowing where to start buying a telescope for under a thousand dollars can be daunting.

To make it so much simpler for you, we've looked only at the best telescope for your budget in one of five different telescope types:

  1. Newtonian Reflector
  2. Catadioptric (Schmidt-Cassegrain)
  3. Refractor OTA (optical tube assembly, i.e. telescope only, no mount)
  4. Dobsonian Reflector
  5. Mounted Refractor

If you want to know more about the different types of scopes and their relative strengths and weaknesses, click here.

Magnification on Telescopes Below $1000

Make no mistake, if you spend around $1000 on one of these telescopes, you are going to get some pretty decent optics. 

However, there are laws of physics which apply no matter how much money you spend. So, when looking at the more detailed reviews below, keep in mind these thoughts around optimal magnification.

A telescope's magnification is calculated by dividing its focal length by that of the eyepiece you're using.

For example, take telescope with a focal length​ of 600mm. Insert a 25mm eyepiece and you'll have a magnification of 24x (i.e. 600 / 25).

If you now put a 6mm eyepiece in the same telescope, you'll have a magnification of 100x (i.e. 600/6).​

In theory this could go on for ever (e.g. 600x magnification if we use a 1 mm eyepiece) but there is an upper limit to a telescope's magnification. That limit​ is set by how much light it collects (it's aperture) and by the disruption to air quality of our swirling atmosphere.

When looking at a manufacturer's claims on magnification, keep the following points in mind:

  1. The air quality (seeing) has a bigger impact as magnification gets higher. The moon can look almost like ​it's underwater if viewed at very high magnification, and that's because of air turbulence. Only rarely will you be able to make use of more than 200x magnification at the eyepiece, no matter how powerful your scope.
  2. Aperture size has an impact on how much magnification is theoretically possible with your telescope. A useful rule of thumb is that a scope's maximum magnification is 2x the diameter of its aperture in mm.
    A 100mm refractor, for example, is going to have a theoretical maximum magnification of 200x.
  3. The final thing to take account of is the quality of optics. We normally assume a usable maximum magnification of around 70% the theoretical maximum.
    Using the example from point 2 above, 70% of our 200x magnification is actually 140x usable magnification, and that's what we've used below.
    However, it may be fair that the quality of some of these scopes, especially the OTA refractor, means that the usable magnification might be as good as (or even better than) the theoretical maximum.

Trying to pick your first telescope but feeling overwhelmed..?

CLICK HERE for our free beginner's guide to choosing the right first telescope for your needs.

Best Optics in a $1000 Telescope

In common with all scopes, better optics make for a better experience.

Saturn will be more stunning with better optics (credit below)

Generally speaking, the best refractors for under $1000 will give a better view per mm of aperture than a reflector.... but you'll get more mm of aperture in a reflector.

Just compare the 80mm refractor with the 275mm Dobsonian below. The Dob gives you so much more light gathering power as to be in a different league

But...

The Orion Refractor has such stunning optical quality that astrophotography and general clarity of image through it will give the substantially larger Dob a run for  its money... especially considering that 200x magnification is about as good as we can hope for within Earth's atmosphere.

​If you never plan on photographing the night sky, then the Dob will show you fainter, deep-space objects than anything else on this list.


Five of the Best Telescopes for less than $1000

We've reviewed five different categories of Telescope and found the best one at or below the $1000 price point*.

They are:

  1. Best Newtonian Telescope Under $1000: ​Celestron Advanced VX 6" Newtonian
  2. Best Catadioptric Telescope Under $1000: Celestron NexStar 6SE  Schmidt-Cassegrain
  3. Best Refractor Under $1000 (OTA only): Orion 9534 ED80T CF Refractor
  4. Best Dobsonian Reflector Under $1000: Meade 12" LightBridge
  5. Best Mounted Refractor Under $1000: Celestron Omni XLT 150 Refractor with CG-4 EQ Mount

*For the current price on Amazon, click on the telescope's picture below.


Best reflector telescope under $1000

Celestron Advanced VX 6" (Click for Best Amazon Price)

Telescope Type: Newtonian Reflector

Mount: Go-to Motorised

Current Price: Click here for current Amazon price

Focal Length: 750mm

Aperture: 150mm

Focal Ratio: f5

Maximum Theoretical Magnification: 300x (3mm eyepiece)

Likely Useful Maximum Magnification: 210x (4mm eyepiece)

Pros

  • Great setup for astrophotography
  • Good value for the tripod
  • Solid telescope performance

Cons

  • Much of the price is in the mount (which is great) and not scope
  • Only one 20mm eyepiece supplied

Our Rating:

Ideal For: Getting started with astrophotography, or just a decent set-up of mount and telescope for someone just getting started but doesn't want the hassle of buying separates.


Telescope Type: Catadioptric (Schmidt-Cassegrain)

Mount: Motorised 'go-to'

Current Price: Click here for current Amazon price

Focal Length: 1500

Aperture: 150mm

Focal Ratio: f10

Maximum Theoretical Magnification: 300x (5mm eyepiece)

Likely Useful Maximum Magnification: 210x (7mm eyepiece)

Pros

  • Easy to get started
  • Decent optics
  • Good to transport
  • Huge star/ object database

Cons

  • Needs a power tank to run well
  • Only a 25mm eyepiece included (60x magnification)

Our Rating:

Ideal For: Newbies and experienced astronomers alike who want a reliable, high-powered point-and-shoot telescope.


Telescope Type: Refractor

Mount: OTA (optical tube assembly) only, no mount

Current Price: Click here for current Amazon price

Focal Length: 480mm

Aperture: 80mm

Focal Ratio: f6

Maximum Theoretical Magnification: 160x (4mm eyepiece)

Likely Useful Maximum Magnification: 160x (4mm eyepiece)

Pros

  • Very high quality lenses
  • Pin-sharp focus and 'real' color
  • Wide field of view
  • Less than 6lbs weight

Cons

  • This is scope only, needs mount
  • Wide FOV can mean objects appear small

Our Rating:

Ideal For: The serious sky watcher who already has equipment but needs a high-quality refractor for amazing detail and astrophotography.


Best dobsonian below 1000

Meade 12"LightBridge (Click for Amazon price)

Telescope Type: Dobsonian Reflector

Mount: Dobsonian

Current Price: Click here for current Amazon price

Focal Length: 1524mm

Aperture: 305mm

Focal Ratio: f5

Maximum Theoretical Magnification: 600x (3mm eyepiece)

Likely Useful Maximum Magnification: 300x (5mm eyepiece)

Pros

  • Huge light collector
  • Will show extremely faint deep-sky objects
  • More aperture per dollar than any other scope

Cons

  • AltAz base and no 'goto'
  • Big and heavy beast (80lbs total) to move around

Our Rating:

Ideal For: The backyard astronomer who wants to gather as much light as possible and is happy to 'point and shoot' their own telescope.


Sub 1000 mounted refractor telescope

Celestron Omni 150 Refractor
(Click for Amazon price)

Telescope Type: Refractor

Mount: German Equatorial

Current Price: Click here for current Amazon price

Focal Length: 750mm

Aperture: 150mm

Focal Ratio: f5

Maximum Theoretical Magnification: 300x (3mm eyepiece)

Likely Useful Maximum Magnification: 210x (4mm eyepiece)

Pros

  • Affordable large refractor and good quality mount
  • Crisp images with good contrast
  • Easy set-up and represents great value for this price point

Cons

  • One eyepiece only (25mm)
  • Optics not as good as Orion: some minor chromatic aberration

Our Rating:

Ideal For: When getting started with astronomy and you need a reliable, good value refractor telescope and steady mount... but without maxing your budget.


The Best Telescope Under $1000?

How did we decide which of our five best telescopes you can buy for a thousand dollars was the best?

Well... it's not straightforward because they have different qualities that make them better or worse depending on what they're being used for.

Since Love the Night Sky is for 'amteur and aspiring' backyard astronomers, we set the scoring based on what would be the best telescope somebody could get for their $1000 budget which would let them get started and deliver brilliant results.

There are no bad scopes on this list, but in last place, with three stars, came the Celestron Advanced VX6". It's a great scope and it comes  with a great stand, but... if you're looking for a portable and motorised goto telescope then the Celestron Schmidt-Cassegrain NexStar 6SE offers substantially better value for money. Which is why we gave it 4.5 stars for second place.

In well-deserved first place on our list is a scope whose price only just makes it into this review (i.e. don't expect any change for your $1000). It's the Meade 12" LightBridge Dobsonian.

Although this is a big beast of a telescope, it wins for having not only the classic Dobsonian ease of use, but for the sheer audacity of providing a full 12" of light-gathering power for less than $1000.

Best dobsonian below 1000

YEs, it is a big, beefy monster and no, you can't do astrophotography with it and, yet...

You will see deeper and more faintly into space than you ever have before if you can erect this big old mirrored eye under a dark sky near you!

The other riders missed out on first place but are still amazing telescopes. 

The Orion OTA Refractor is truly a magnificent telescope if you want to seriously invest in astrophotography. But, it's lack of a mount and features like go-to meant it could only score 3.5 stars in a review where being able to get started is an important measure.

Finally, there's the Celestron Omni XLT mounted refractor. It is another good scope and there is no argument to e had with the quality of the mount included. The reason it's only scored four stars is simply that there are so much better telescopes available for your $1000.

We hope you've found a winner for your budget amongst these five planet-watching scopes!


Image Credits

Product images sourced from Amazon.com​

​Jupiter picture  Credit: By NASA, ESA, and A. Simon (Goddard Space Flight Center) - http://www.spacetelescope.org/images/heic1410a/ or http://hubblesite.org/newscenter/archive/releases/2014/24/image/b/, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=32799232

Saturn Picture Credit: ​ By NASA / JPL / Space Science Institute - http://www.ciclops.org/view/5155/Saturn-Four-Years-On https://www.nasa.gov/images/content/365640main_PIA11141_full.jpg http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA11141, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7228953


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