A friend asked me for “suggestions on entry level telescopes that I
can slap a camera on?”, and I wrote a textwall. I sure as heck don’t
want to write this again, so, let’s put it on the internet!
- Tier 0) Point a DSLR at the sky, take ~1 minute shots, however long
you can get away with without star trails.
- Tier 1) Barn door tracker: basically, a little motorized panel that
you can mount a camera to, that turns roughly at the same rate of
earth’s rotation. Can significantly extend the possible exposure time,
allowing you to use a traditional telephoto lens for some zoomie pics.
Relatively cheap, maybe 50-100 bucks?
- Tier 2) Doesn’t h*cking exist.
- Tier 3) Cheapest solid tracking mount you can buy, and the
(extremely tiny) telescope you can put on it. $400-500 for the mount,
$200 for the telescope? I do not recommend this, it’s kind of crappy and
you’ll be saddened by the quality you get from the money you put
- Tier 4) Entry-level mount, entry-level telescope (my current tier):
$800-1000 mount, $400 newtonian telescope. Produces some dang fine
results, I’m super happy (would be even if I hadn’t sunk a LOT of money
into accessory gear). You can get a $10 adapter for a DSLR to the
telescope’s mount system, if you don’t want to go full dedicated CMOS
astro cam right away. (Entry-level CMOS is $1000-2000, CCD is even
- Tier 4b) Entry-level mount, entry-level refracting telescope:
$600-800 mount, $1000 refracting (lens) telescope: The Good Shit(tm) for
deep sky astrophotography (galaxies, nebulae, open/globular clusters,
anything not in our solar system). I used to run this for a while, until
my parents decided to kick me out, and my telescope is at their house,
and no way in hell am I ever seeing this heap of money again.
- Tier 5) Beefier mount, beefier reflector: $2000-3000 mount,
$1000-1500 scope. Get those super fast, super deep images, and some
hella nice pics of some real dark stuff. You’ll want a full equipment
arsenal at this tier - filters, dedicated astrophotography camera,
guidescope, all that good stuff.
- Tier 5b) Mid-range mount, schmidt cassegrain telescope: I dunno,
something price?? SCTs are for the hella long focal lengths, and this is
for those goooood (good shit, aww yeah, mmhmm) planetary pics. Planetary
is a whole different beast than deep sky, generally uses a completely
different set of equipment/processing flow (e.g. thousands of 10-50ms
exposures, instead of 10-50 extremely long exposures)
- Tier god) Dedicated lil house in the back of your yard, permanent
mount poured into concrete, fully automated setup, congratulations, your
shack in your yard costs more than your car.
(These “tiers” are completely made up, don’t google them)
Clarifications on 4/4b (reflectors/refractors): Reflectors are way
cheaper, and generally longer focal lengths than refractors. They’re
also usually much physically bigger which means they need bigger (more
expensive) mounts. Longer focal length sometimes isn’t what you’re going
for, though! Sometimes you need some really quality lenses to get some
seriously sharp pics - and yes, traditional refracting lenses are pretty
dang good. The end result of the weight is that for refractors, you
don’t need as beefy of a mount, but the telescope itself is usually as
expensive or more so than the mount. With reflectors, the mount usually
dominates the cost - the actual telescope tube itself is surprisingly
cheap!! (A refractor is way easier for portability, too, if that’s a
For reference, here’s the telescope
tube I currently have - I really hecking love the speed of it, f/4
is pretty dang fast in the world of telescopes. (also, telescope f ratio
means something completely different in astro world than photography
world) For a mount, I have an older (cheaper?) version of the EQ6 mount.