Top 8 Best Budget Telescopes On The Market In 2022 Reviews

Whether you’re intent on probing the mysteries of space or just doing some urban spotting, a telescope can be an excellent machine to tinker with. While telescopes of any reasonable quality were really expensive in the past, that’s not the case anymore. You can now get a decent telescope for ship spotting, stargazing, or amateur astronomy for a very reasonable price.

In this review of the best budget telescopes out there, I’m going to cap my budget at $250. This is enough to explore the difference between some bargain basement scopes and some really decent low-priced machines. And hopefully, one of them will <ahem> catch your eye!

best budget telescopes

Top 8 Best Budget Telescopes In 2022 Reviews

  1. MaxUSee Refractor Telescope F400X70 – Best Basic Budget Telescope
  2. Orion GoScope III – Best Super Budget Daylight Telescope
  3. Gskyer Telescope AZ70400 – Best Super Budget Telescope for Brightness
  4. Celestron AstroMaster 70AZ – Best Beginners Budget Telescope
  5. ESSLNB 80mm Refractor Astronomy Telescope – Best Budget Telescope Kit
  6. Orion StarSeeker 100mm TableTop Reflector – Best Budget Tabletop Telescope
  7. Celestron PowerSeeker 70EQ – Best Budget Telescope for Astronomy
  8. Celestron PowerSeeker 127EQ – Best Image Quality Budget Telescope

1 MaxUSee Refractor Telescope F400X70 – Best Basic Budget Telescope

Aperture: 2.76 inches (70 mm)

Focal Length: 15.75 inches (400 mm)

Let’s start out with something really basic. The $80 F400X70 Refractor Telescope from MaxUSee is marketed as one of the best telescopes for kids and beginner astronomers, and this really fits the bill.

This is a small telescope that’s portable and easy to cart around. It weighs only about 4½ pounds, including the whole package.

And what does that package consist of?

You’ve got the telescope main tube and mount, an aluminum tripod, a 5 x 24 finder scope, 1.25” H6mm / 1.25” H12.5mm / 1.25” H20mm eyepieces, a Kellner 1.25” K25mm eyepiece, a 1.5x erecting eyepiece, a moon mirror, a 3x Barlow lens, and a smartphone adapter.

Phew!

With all of those different lenses and eyepieces, you can get magnification from 16x-200x. However, slow down a bit and don’t get your hopes up too high. The really functional magnification that this telescope can produce is only about 140x (roughly double the aperture in mm). Anything outside of that is going to get pretty blurry. And practically, the range of this telescope is more like 22x-110x for relatively sharp images.

The aperture here is relatively small, and that means less light gets in. This is still perfectly useful for daytime use like birding and wildlife spotting. However, for farther-away objects in the night sky, particularly within urban or suburban areas, planets and nebulae will look pretty dull.

The tripod is actually pretty disappointing…

It’s short and only meant for table standing. That makes it pretty hard to get under the telescope and look at the sky up overhead. The locking motion handles don’t stay in place unless really tightened well, and that means untightening them creates a whole lot of movement that will knock your sights out.

And while it has a cellphone adapter, it’s really basic and just suctions to your phone rather than clamping. That makes it pretty limited.

All told, this is an affordable best basic telescope that is probably best for daytime spotting and suitable for kids and complete beginners.

MaxUSee Refractor Telescope F400X70
Our rating:4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)

Pros

  • Lightweight and small.
  • Affordable.
  • Comes with a tripod.

Cons

  • Image isn’t very clear.
  • Limited brightness.
  • Tripod is cheap and unsteady.

2 Orion GoScope III – Best Super Budget Daylight Telescope

Aperture: 2.76 inches (70 mm)

Focal Length: 15.75 inches (400 mm)

The next telescope in my Best Budget Telescopes review is the roughly $90 Orion GoScope III. Orion has a whole bunch of different models to choose from, but this is one of two in the budget range that we’ll be exploring.

The 3.5 pound GoScope III has the same aperture (2.7” / 70mm) and focal length (15.75” / 400mm) as the MaxUSee. Without going through the math again, this means that they should both let in the same amount of light through their apertures. In practice, though, the GoScope III is brighter. I suspect this is just because of the quality of the glass and multi-coating used here.

What comes with it?

You’ve got the telescope itself, 20mm and 9mm 1.25″ Kellner telescope eyepieces, a 5 x 24 finder scope, a full-sized tripod, and a handy backpack-style carrying case. With these eyepieces, you get fixed 20x and 44x magnification. While this is enough for bird spotting, other daytime uses, and casual viewing of the moon. However, it won’t be powerful enough for deeper astronomy.

The image here is fairly clear and sharp, though there is some noticeable color aberration around the moon and other bright objects.

Tall but shakey…

The tripod here is quite a lot better than the MaxUSee tripod. It’s full-sized and can you up to a height of almost 50 inches (4 feet+) off the ground for easier viewing. However, it still lacks sturdiness. It can be bumped easily and will shake to throw your spotting out. The locking knobs are a little easier to use but still cause quite a lot of movement.

In short, this is a step up, but just a small one.

Orion GoScope III
Our rating:4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)

Pros

  • Inexpensive.
  • Lightweight and portable.
  • Good clarity for daytime spotting.

Cons

  • Tripod is weak and moves a lot.
  • Limited magnification.
  • Some noticeable color aberration.

3 Gskyer Telescope AZ70400 – Best Super Budget Telescope for Brightness

Aperture: 2.76 inches (70 mm)

Focal Length: 15.75 inches (400 mm)

We’re again in the same aperture and focal length specs as with the previous two telescopes with the Gysker Telescope AZ70400. This model sells for close to $120, so we should expect something a little better from this budget telescope, right?

Same, same…

With the same 2.76 inches (70 mm) aperture, we’re getting roughly the same amount of light capture as with the other two scopes. The magnification is controlled by the focal length and the eyepieces we have on hand.

Here, a 25mm and a 10mm eyepiece can give you 16x and 40x magnification. Gysker also throws in a 3x Barlow lens that can triple your magnification to up to 120x. In practice, though, you’re getting limited clarity above 110x.

What’s in the box?

Also included are a 5 x 24 finder scope, a carry bag, an aluminum tripod, a phone attachment, and a Bluetooth remote for taking pictures. At 4.76 pounds, this unit is still compact and portable like the others. The tripod is slightly sturdier than we saw with the Orion GoScope III, though it can still be sturdier. The locking mechanism is an improvement but still can cause enough movement to throw you off.

The biggest difference here is the brightness which is noticeably better than with the other two telescopes I’ve reviewed. A quality BaK4 (barium-potassium) glass prism helps to reflect more light to the eyepieces, and that gives you better brightness in dark conditions. However, the image here is actually not as sharp as the significantly cheaper Orion.

Therefore, we’re going to have to continue looking for the best budget telescope.

Gskyer Telescope AZ70400
Our rating:4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)

Pros

  • Affordable.
  • Lightweight and small and comes with a tripod.
  • Reasonably bright for small aperture.

Cons

  • Not very sharp image.
  • Tripod is not very sturdy.
  • Limited magnification.

4 Celestron AstroMaster 70AZ – Best Beginners Budget Telescope

Aperture: 2.76 inches (70 mm)

Focal Length: 35 inches (900 mm)

Our next telescope is the first of three from Celestron. This company is all over the budget and mid-range telescope market and has been getting some great reviews for their relatively high quality, low-cost products.

How does the AstroMaster 70AZ measure up?

At around $120, this is still a very affordable beginner’s telescope. It has that same 2.76 inches (70 mm) aperture that we’ve been looking at, but this time we’ve got a much longer tube. The focal length here is 35 inches (900 mm) which gives you a lot more magnification off the bat.

With the two included 1.25” eyepieces (at 20mm and 10mm focal lengths), the magnifications here are 45x and 90x. This is enough to see Saturn’s rings and details on Jupiter.

What’s in the box?

Also included with this telescope are an erect image star diagonal, a tripod, and a red dot finder scope. The red dot scope is, I think, easier to use than a regular finder scope for beginners. The heavier steel tripod here is a step up in sturdiness from the previous one, the Gysker, but still not excellent. The simple alt-azimuth mount is smooth and locks well to keep your telescope in place, but it’s not great for making small, precise movements.

The image here is clearer than what we’ve seen so far, thanks to the longer focal length giving true magnification. There is still some color aberration present, and the brightness of this scope leaves something to be desired.

Mobile, but not easily…

Altogether, this telescope weighs over 11 pounds and is about three feet long, making it less convenient for travel but still mobile enough to be carted around. You might also find you want to get extra parts like a 2x or 3x Barlow lens and a moon filter to reduce brightness. I think Celestron could have included these parts and raised the price a bit for convenience.

Celestron AstroMaster 70AZ
Our rating:4.6 out of 5 stars (4.6 / 5)

Pros

  • Sturdier than cheaper models.
  • Clear magnification both day and night.
  • Affordable.

Cons

  • Tripod could be better.
  • Still not very bright.

5 ESSLNB 80mm Refractor Astronomy Telescope – Best Budget Telescope Kit

Aperture: 3.15 inches (80 mm)

Focal Length: 15.75 inches (400 mm)

After looking at four telescopes in a row that have the same aperture, we’re finally able to move up in size a bit. The 80mm Refractor Astronomy Telescope from ESSLNB features a 3.15 inch (80 mm) aperture with the same 15.75 inch (400 mm) focal length we saw on our first three scopes.

How does the larger aperture affect things?

You get a noticeably brighter image here, especially when using this during the day. At night, Jupiter’s moons and the larger planets do look slightly brighter. With the shorter focal length, however, you can’t see a lot of the details in the night sky that would benefit from this brightness.

At the same time, the optics are a bit disappointing. There is a lot of chromatic aberration and not a lot of clarity here.

On the plus side…

This telescope comes with a pile of accessories. You get a tripod, phone mount, 5×20 erect image finder scope, moon filter, 3x Barlow lens, protective cover, and a backpack. You get two eyepieces at 9mm and 25mm. Plus, you get 44x and 16x with these eyepieces, which can be increased to 132x and 48x with the 3x Barlow lens.

The tripod here is back to the really flimsy aluminum models we first saw. It’s wobbly and also only gets up to about under 4 feet (1.2m). This is disappointing, and I’d much rather have a sturdy tripod than a big bag of accessories thrown in.

All told, while the telescope is brighter, it’s not as clear, and the quality isn’t as good as some cheaper models we’ve already seen.

ESSLNB 80mm Refractor Astronomy Telescope
Our rating:4.8 out of 5 stars (4.8 / 5)

Pros

  • Bright with larger aperture.
  • Lots of accessories included.

Cons

  • Image not very clear.
  • Tripod is flimsy.

6 Orion StarSeeker 100mm TableTop Reflector – Best Budget Tabletop Telescope

Aperture: 3.94 inches (100 mm)

Focal Length: 15.75 inches (400 mm)

I haven’t mentioned it yet, but all the telescopes we’ve seen up to this point have been refractor type Galilean telescopes. They’re generally the cheapest and easiest to use, which is why they show up on a list of low-priced telescopes.

However…

The roughly $150 Orion StarSeeker 100mm TableTop Reflector is different. This is a reflector telescope which uses a shorter focal length with a wider aperture to produce brighter images. For this low price, you get a much wider aperture than you could expect on a refractor.

But, this creates some challenges. You have to be vigilant in keeping the big reflector lens clean. And if the telescope ever comes out of alignment, you have a tricky job ahead of you.

Brighten up your day…

However, the trade-off is the large aperture which here at 3.94 inches (100 mm) gives you a much better and brighter view of night sky objects of interest. This telescope is not meant for terrestrial viewing, and I wouldn’t even bother trying. But at night, even with a fair amount of light pollution, this allows you to see the larger planets and even the moons of Jupiter. Images are clear and fairly sharp with limited color aberration.

You get two eyepieces here at 20mm for 20x and 10mm for 40x magnification. You could also add a 2x Barlow lens, or a 3x that would push this telescope to its max. For moon viewing, though, you’ll definitely want to pick up a moon filter to reduce brightness.

Nice and steady…

The whole unit is only about six pounds and sits on a table or desk top nicely, so you don’t need a tripod. The mount is stiff enough to let you lock it in place and keep it steady while you focus on your viewing.

Orion StarSeeker 100mm TableTop Reflector
Our rating:4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)

Pros

  • Bright and clear image.
  • Small, light, and relatively compact.
  • Sits on a table or desk.

Cons

  • Must be maintained.
  • No case or bag and few accessories included.

7 Celestron PowerSeeker 70EQ – Best Budget Telescope for Astronomy

Aperture: 2.76 inches (70 mm)

Focal Length: 28 inches (700 mm)

Coming to the end of my rundown of the Best Budget Telescopes and another Celestron telescope brings us back to the realm of refractors. And in this case, the same 2.76 inch aperture we saw earlier. After looking in the Orion StarSeeker, this telescope does seem a fair bit dimmer. But the image is still clear enough, even with some significant chromatic aberration.

What’s the difference between this model and the Celestron AstroMaster 70AZ?

Well, first the price – the PowerSeeker is over $160 while the AstroMaster is less than $130. You also get a shorter tube here at just 28 inches. However, this is a stronger, heftier, more durable telescope.

The big difference between these models is the mount and tripod system. The PowerSeeker is a vast improvement with a strong, double-reinforced leg tripod. The mount is a German equatorial mount with fine control knobs to slowly change and set your viewing area. At 13.9 lbs (6.3 kg), this telescope is heavier as well, but still not heavy enough to be hard to travel with.

Great for those new to astronomy…

It comes with two eyepieces at 4mm and 20mm focal lengths to give you 175x and 35x. You can also use the included 3x Barlow lens to triple the magnification. That said, at magnifications over 165x, you’re not getting a very clear image. You also get a finder scope for easy spotting.

All told, this is an alright telescope with a much better tripod system making it one of the best budget telescopes for beginner astronomers on the market.

Celestron PowerSeeker 70EQ
Our rating:5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

Pros

  • Good tripod/mounting system.
  • Clear image.

Cons

  • Not very bright.
  • No carrying bag included.

8 Celestron PowerSeeker 127EQ – Best Image Quality Budget Telescope

Aperture: 5 inches (127 mm)

Focal Length: 39 inches (1000 mm)

The last telescope on my list is also the last of the three Celestrons. The PowerSeeker 127EQ is a Newtonian reflector telescope like the Orion StarSeeker, and that means it needs to be maintained a lot more than a refractor.

Big and bright…

The large 5 inch (127 mm) aperture is the biggest and brightest we’ve seen so far, and may just make the added maintenance worth it. Images are far clearer and brighter with this large aperture, even during the daytime and in light polluted urban and suburban areas. And this makes sense because the 5 inch aperture lets in more than three times the amount of light that a 2.76 inch aperture does.

At 21.38 pounds and over a yard long, this is a much less-portable telescope than what we’ve been looking at so far. It can be moved around, yes, but doesn’t come with a bag to carry it in, so that would mean a further investment. But at nearly $220, it’s already pushing our budget for cheap telescopes.

Maximum magnification…

With the 4mm and 20mm eyepieces, you can get clear views at 250x and 50x magnification. There is also a 3x Barlow lens included that you can use to triple the 20mm to 150x. But with the 4mm eyepiece already pushing the maximum theoretical magnification of this telescope, you’re really maxed out at 250x.

The tripod and mounting system here is finally something to be proud of. The reinforced tripod uses a German equatorial mount with slow motion knobs for accurate and tiny changes to your settings. The tripod shakes very little and stays steady for viewing. It’s just a shame the finder scope is of really poor quality.

Also, this telescope is pretty tricky to collimate (re-adjust the focal length) for beginners. Unless you’re really a tinkerer, you may have to buy a laser collimating tool and a wrench to help you out.

Celestron PowerSeeker 127EQ
Our rating:4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)

Pros

  • Brightest telescope.
  • Clear images.
  • Sturdy tripod and mounting system.

Cons

  • Big and not very portable.
  • Hard to realign.
  • Finder scope is of poor quality.

Best Budget Telescopes Buying Guide

The question of which best cheap telescope to pick up is a tough one. It all depends on what you plan to use it for, what your budget is, and what limitations you can put up with. To help you on your way, have a look at these factors to consider when buying a telescope.

Uses

Telescopes can be used for a number of applications, and the ones you choose will affect the telescope you want to buy.

For the best budget telescope for kids under 10, get something inexpensive and portable. Kids like to move around and will no doubt also knock their telescopes around a bit. Most expensive telescopes can’t stand up to the abuse a young kid might dish out!

If you’re buying a telescope for astronomy, look for something bright and clear with good controls. You may have to spend more money, but you’ll be rewarded with some great views.

And if you plan to use your telescope mostly in the daytime for spotting wildlife, ships, etc., don’t worry so much about brightness. You should instead focus on portability and durability.

best budget telescope

Aperture and Brightness

The aperture of a telescope is the size of the objective end of the tube. That’s the end that points at what you’re looking at. This number controls how much light will get into the telescope in the first place, so it’s critical for brightness. A 2.76 inches (70 mm) aperture is about the smallest you can get away with, at least for astronomy. A 5 inch (127mm) aperture is about double the width but actually lets in more than three times the light.

For clear spotting of astronomical features, you need more brightness.

Focal Length and Magnification

Focal length is the distance from the magnifying lens to your eye, and is pretty much the length of your telescope tube. Longer focal lengths mean more “natural” magnification. However, a longer telescope can become big and cumbersome, especially if you want to travel with it.

Magnification is essentially unlimited on telescopes, depending on the eyepieces you use. You can always add Barlow lenses like 2x and 3x to double and triple your magnification, BUT they will not improve your resolution. So if something is already blurry at 100x, it will just be big and blurry at 300x.

Telescope Type

The two main types of best low cost telescopes are refractors and reflectors. Refractors are the standard telescopes that have lenses at each end of a tube. Reflectors instead use a mirror to focus and then magnify light as it heads to your eye.

Refractors are good for daytime viewing. They’re also sealed against dust, and their lenses are fixed, so they shouldn’t need adjusting. Large aperture lenses are expensive, however, so refractors suffer from brightness vs. cost issues.

Reflectors can have much bigger apertures for the same price. However, you have to keep them maintained. You need to keep the mirrors dust free and also occasionally need to collimate or re-set the lens focal length. This can be tricky and inconvenient for beginners.

…or Maybe a Good Pair of Binoculars Would Do the Trick?

If so, check out our reviews of the Best Binoculars for Whale Watching, the Best Binoculars for the Money, the Best Binoculars for Sporting Events, the Best Binoculars for Theater Opera, the Best Binoculars for Birding, or, if you’re on a budget, the Best Binoculars under 100 Dollars you can buy in 2022.

And for more great information, our comprehensive guides on Binocular Parts and Their Functions, How to Repair Binoculars at Home, or What Do The Numbers ON Binoculars Mean could be incredibly useful.

You may also enjoy our comparisons of the Best Endoscopes for Android, the Best Handheld Magnifying Glasses, the Best Endoscopes for iPhone, or the Best Headband Magnifiers currently on the market.

Which of these Best Budget Telescopes Should You Buy?

It’s never easy to recommend a product to a diverse audience with different needs. For a good all-round telescope, I feel I need to choose something that can be used for both day and nighttime uses. It also needs to be relatively portable and provide a good, clear image.

To me, for the price, it has to be the…

Celestron PowerSeeker 70EQ

Though not the brightest telescope for astronomical uses, it provides good clarity and also stability. In fact, it has a much better tripod and mounting system than anything else you’ll find for this price.

But if your needs are different, don’t hesitate to check out the other great budget telescopes on this list.

Happy viewing, and enjoy your latest toy!

5/5 - (46 votes)
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About William Taylor

William is a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who served two tours in Afghanistan and one in Iraq. His duties included Security Advisor/Shift Sergeant, 0341/ Mortar Man- 0369 Infantry Unit Leader, Platoon Sergeant/ Personal Security Detachment, as well as being a Senior Mortar Advisor/Instructor.

He now spends most of his time at home in Michigan with his wife Nicola and their two bull terriers, Iggy and Joey. He fills up his time by writing as well as doing a lot of volunteering work for local charities.

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