Lonely Spaceman - Hey, What's Up!

Helping beginner and amateur stargazers understand and enjoy the night sky

What telescopes are good for Astrophotography

If you’ve already dipped your toe in to the world of astrophotography, or are a complete beginner but awe-struck from photos you’ve seen on Instagram and the net featuring dramatic nebula patterns, far off galaxies, global clusters or even the craters of the moon – I’ll explain what telescopes are good for astrophotography to help get you started.

The best telescopes for astrophotography are those telescopes with ED glass, which stands for ‘Extra-Low Dispersion’. This is the equivalent of upgrading your TV from standard to High Definition. This special glass reduces an affect called chromatic aberration, which gives bright objects a rather unsightly glow or a fringing affect which can be purple in color.


Andromeda Galaxy


I am going to run through some good telescope examples for astrophotography, and some not so good telescopes for astrophotography.

Obviously the better the glass, and clearer the view, the more dollars a telescope will cost.

Astrophotography is an expensive hobby. There’s no getting around this. You can take images of wonderful and beautiful wonders in space on a budget, absolutely, and the results are good – but for me, and so many astrophotographers I talk to, you always want better.




Examples of good telescopes for Astrophotography

The following list are examples of good telescopes for astrophotography. I’ve tried to include those that can be purchased on a more, relative, budget and of course examples of higher end telescopes for those with deeper pockets


Sky Watcher Evostar 72 ED

Skywatcher Evostar 72ED

The Evostar 72ED is a fantastic little scope. Pretty small and light, so great for smaller and budget friendly mounts, this telescope is simply great for starting astrophotography.

You’ll notice by the telescopes name it has extra low dispersion glass (see above), so eliminates chromatic aberration.

This telescope will set you back around $400 and one of the cheaper ED telescopes on the market.



Sky Watcher Evostar 80 ED

Skywatcher Evostar 80 ED

The big brother of the 72ED. The 80ED is longer in length, larger on aperture and slightly heavier than its smaller sibling.

Most mounts are capable of dealing with the 80ED without issue. Even the budget AZ GTi can just about manage the weight of the ED80, with a camera connected, but this is pushing the payload.



Sky Watcher 130PDS

Skywatcher 130PDS

Now the Skywatcher 130PDS is slightly different. The 72Ed and 80ED telescopes are refractor scopes, whereas the 130PDS is a reflector.

This is what I mean:


Reflector vs Refractor

A reflector telescope alongside a refractor telescope, showing how the mirrors and lens work together


You sometimes have to be really familiar with the brand and model versions to really know what you’re buying and what it’s capable of. You’ll notice the Skywatcher 130P in the ‘bad’ section below and we will cover why soon.

The 130PDS has been designed to attach a camera and be able to focus (something that wasn’t possible with the 130P).

The ‘P’ in this model refers to the Parabolic mirrors. This means enhanced quality. The 130PDS is a great all-round versatile telescope. Perfect for visual astronomy and a great starter telescope for astrophotography.



Skywatcher Esprit 100 ED Pro

Skywatcher Esprit 100ED

This telescope needs little introduction. The Esprit 100ED from Skywatcher is an amazing telescope for astrophotography.

You’ll notice the ED in the model name, but this is a triplet rather than a doublet. Views and imaging are quite something. It’s nowhere near the high-end costs of some triplets but at $2,200 it certainly isn’t in the budget range for most.

Once you get started and want more out of your equipment, this is a good stepping-stone to the next level. This coupled with a mount such as the HEQ5 will end up costing near $4,000.

It’s a lot of money but this type of equipment can last you years and years, and quite frankly a lot of good quality scopes and mounts can really hold their price in the second hand reseller market if you were to ever sell to upgrade further.

If you want to see an image taken by the Esprit 100ED (which is of one of the most elusive but magnificent nebula – the Horsehead Nebula) click here





Examples of bad telescopes for Astrophotography – and why

Here are some examples of telescopes that may be great for visual exploring of the night skies, but not so great for long exposure astrophotography. Beside each are the reasons why, which may help you see which features or specs you need to avoid!


Orion ST 80

The Orion ST 80 is a great starter scope for youngsters to stat exploring the night sky, or perhaps as a travel companion to the National Parks, or hiking trips.

It’s small and compact and usually under $100. This doesn’t make it bad, but it doesn’t make it good enough to attach a DSLR and take long exposure shots of feint nebula I’m afraid. Unless you’re buying a small ED telescope, the budget small telescopes will only be good for connecting a mobile phone to the eyepiece and see what you can capture. It can be great fun on a budget – but will leave you wanting more.


Sky Watcher 102 ST

Don’t get me wrong, the Sky Watcher 102 ST is a great telescope for beginners (it’s my recommended telescope for beginners) and although it’s quite a capable scope for astrophotography it I’m afraid is an apochromatic scope.

This means you’ll see a bloated halo effect around stars, and possibly purple color fringing around large bright objects such as the moon. These things can be ignored for visual observing, but the camera is less forgiving.

Stay clear of apochromatic telescopes for astrophotography, as you will wish you waited and invested a little more.


Sky Watcher 130P

I’ve briefly covered this already. The 130P is an amazing telescope for visual astronomy and the parabolic mirrors give a crisp clear view. It’s not too heavy and it’s 5 inch aperture allows lots of good light to enter.

Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to achieve focus with a DSLR camera on a 130P telescope. Not without modification that unless you really know what you’re doing, could leave your telescope impossible to use.

For this very reason Skywatcher brought out the 130PDS telescope (priced around $250) which allows you to achieve focus with your camera, and allow you to start snapping away!




Is a mount more important than a telescope for Astrophotography?

You may have read somewhere that the mount can be more important for astrophotography than the telescope itself. This isn’t an internet myth, it’s very true.

Let me explain – it may sound so strange that the mount is more important than the telescope. After all your camera connects to the telescope to take the photo, not the mount.

The reason for this curiosity is because those amazingly detailed space photographs you see of nebulas or galaxies in particular are not taken in a single photo.

Horsehead Nebula Astrophotography

During the day the sun creates enough light so that a photo is taken in a fraction of a second (something like 1/1000th of a second). Even during this incredibly short amount of time, there is enough light gathered to expose the photo correctly.

Sometimes the object you want to take photos of in the night sky are so dim and feint that you can’t even see them with the naked eye. This is true for most galaxies and nebulas (with a small number of exceptions, like the Andromeda galaxy).

In order to capture these night sky objects you’ll need to take a series of long exposure photos. Most DSLR cameras can take long exposures – but of course the Earth rotates and the objects move in relation to our viewing point.

How stars move in the night sky

If you’ve ever stared at the moon through a telescope through, say, a 10mm lens, you will notice the moon looks as if it’s moving fast. The moon is moving but it moves pretty slowly (it travels around the Earth once every 28 days or so). The movement you see is because of the Earth rotation.

If you want your long exposure photos to be crisp and clear, you’ll need a good tracking mount. The more accurate the tracking – and precise your setup – the better quality the photo.

You will also need a mount that is capable for holding the weight of your telescope, lenses, cameras, guide scope etc…. (this is also called the ‘Payload’).

The heavier your telescope and equipment, the larger and more expensive the mount.

This article isn’t designed to look at the best mounts for astrophotography – the Lonely Spaceman will cover that off in a separate article – but suffice to say tracking mounts start at around $400 brand new (around $200-$300 on a reseller market) and up to around and beyond $2,000 for a good quality heavy duty tracking mount such as the HEQ5 (around $1,200-$1,400) or the EQ6-R (around $1,800-$2,000).




Hopefully this gives you an understanding of the different telescopes available and what telescopes are good for astrophotography – and what to look out for in telescope listings.

In summary, ED telescopes (i.e. glass) will give the clearest and crispest shots of the night sky. This of course must be with the use of a suitable tracking mount if you plan to photograph deep sky objects.

The mount is of less important if you just plan to take astrophotography shots of our celestial neighbors – the planets and our moon. These objects require much shorter exposures.

Tracking mounts are not essential but they will help keep the planet or moon in the field rather than needing to manually realign each time you wish to take another photo, or want to take a number of short exposures and stack them together to bring out detail such as the rings of Saturn or the Great Red Spot on Jupiter.

You May Also Be Interested IN

Can you use the AZ GTi for Astrophotography

Can you use the AZ GTi for Astrophotography

The Skywatcher AZ GTi mount has literally opened so many opportunities to the amateur and budget friendly astronomer. It’s an awesome little mount that really delivers. But – can you use the AZ GTi for Astrophotography? The answer is yes you can. You can use the AZ...

read more
Are 10×50 binoculars good for stargazing

Are 10×50 binoculars good for stargazing

Yes, 10x50 are really good for stargazing. They are relatively light weight, so are better for holding at eye level for longer periods of time than heavier binoculars. Also, larger binoculars have a more magnified view and means your hands need to be extra still to...

read more