In the past, producing optical devices capable of viewing star clusters, planets, and deep-sky objects was costly, which put telescopes out of reach for many. However, a lot has changed since those days. Now, even with the best telescope brands you can easily find telescopes to fit your price range and needs.
If you’re shopping for a new telescope to satisfy your urge for outer space exploration, you have no shortage of great options to choose from. During your search for the best telescopes, you’ll likely encounter brands like Celestron, Orion, Sky-Watcher, Meade Instruments, Explore Scientific, and Vixen.
These brands produce some of the best telescopes on the market. They are highly respected in this field and offer products to suit both novice and seasoned amateur astronomers.
You can’t go wrong with either of those brands. But which one is right for you?
Best Telescope Brands Reviewed
There’s a lot to learn about these revered telescope brands. But before we get into what they have to offer, let’s take a look at some of the best telescopes each one offers. Here are some of our favorite models for each telescope brand for easy reference and comparison. Make sure to check out our brand overviews below!
This ACF telescope from Meade Instruments is a shining example of innovation done right. At its core, the telescope has some fine optics. Its 8-inch aperture lets light flood into the primary mirror. Meanwhile, the long focal length provides some impressive magnification power.
To provide a clear image, Meade uses a coma-free lens. It reduces distortion and creates an overall flatter field of view. pair that with the multi-coated optics and your images come out looking great!
This particular unit also has the GoTo mount. It’s connected to a database that can show you over 30,000 targets
- 203mm aperture
- 2,032mm focal length
- Coma-free lens
- Multi-coated optics
- Computerized GoTo mount
- Portable design
- Red dot finder
- Super Plossl eyepiece
Check out this beast of a telescope from Orion. It’s a Dobsonian telescope that offers some of the most impressive image quality around. The ultra-wide aperture produces a bright image. Meanwhile, the high magnification lets you view deep-space objects without any issues.
This telescope isn’t for the faint of heart! Weighing in at around 158 pounds, it’s not something you can take with you. But once you get it set up, you can enjoy the view through the erect image prism. The unit has a motorized base, which features a database of over 42,000 targets to enjoy.
- 365mm aperture
- Up to 47X magnification
- 11:1 focal ratio
- Motorized mount
- Collapsible design
- Wi-Fi enabled
- Made of enhanced aluminum
Don’t let the simple look of this telescope from Vixen Optics fool you. It’s a well-made optical device that’s designed for serious astronomy enthusiasts. The unit does not come with a mount or tripod. However, it does include a carrying handle for portability and a finderscope.
Inside the optical tube assembly, you’re getting multi-coated optics that are fine-tuned to produce a crystal-clear image. There are also a couple of additional features that will help you overcome obstacles as you stargaze. This includes the dew shield and the apochromatic lens.
- 103mm aperture
- 825mm focal length
- Integrated carry handle
- 7X50 Finderscope
- Dew shield
Explore Scientific blurs the line between professional equipment and hobbyist gear. This Newtonian telescope can provide you with an impressive look into the universe. It’s a superbly made optical device with attention to detail you would expect to find on equipment being used by real astronomers!
The aperture is wide, allowing as much light in as possible. The long tube magnifies the image without sacrificing the field of view too much.
One thing we like about this particular model is that it’s customizable. While it comes with several accessories, you can use your own gear to create the ultimate stargazing tool!
- 130mm aperture
- Comes with a red dot finder
- Heavy-duty mount
- Includes single eyepiece and smartphone adapter
Here’s another computerized system worth exploring. Sky-Watcher’s Flextube line offers the experience of a huge Dobsonian without the difficult setup process. The strut system is collapsible and relatively lightweight. Despite its size, you can carry the separate components to your favorite stargazing spot without hassle.
One thing we like about this particular telescope is the mount. It features Sky-Watcher’s SynScan database, which has over 42,000 targets. Plus, it’s Wi-Fi enables. You can take control of the telescope with a smartphone or tablet, which makes it more accessible than ever!
- 12-inch aperture
- Collapsible struts
- Wi-Fi connectivity
- Coated mirrors
- Crayford-style focuser
- SynScan mount
The CPC 1100 is one of Celestron’s finest creations. The brand has a lot of computerized systems up for grabs, but this one takes the cake! It’s a Schmidt-Cassegrain that utilizes Celestron’s StarBright XLT coating. This coating helps to significantly improve light transmission. With the already larger aperture, you’ll have no issues seeing your target.
The mounting system is hiding some extra secrets, too. First, it has SkyAlign technology. With this system, preparing the telescope is as simple as pointing it to the North Star. The mount is also GPS-enabled. It uses satellites to provide accurate tracking and positioning.
- 279mm aperture
- 2,800mm focal length
- GPS connectivity
- StarBright XLT coating
A Comprehensive Guide to the Best Telescope Brands
Choosing a telescope should involve much more than just choosing a brand name. That said, there’s no denying how much weight brand recognition and reputation holds. There’s a reason why these six brands have become so popular withing the amateur astronomy community. They produce premium products that work!
These brands have been in the game for a long time and offer innovative technologies that no-name telescopes just can’t match. Each one is unique, so it pays to familiarize yourself with these brands before you invest in your stargazing endeavors.
Along with Orion and Meade, Celestron is one of the “Big Three” in the astronomy world. The brand has a solid reputation for creating premium products that are far more capable than most on the market. Many of Celestron’s telescopes do come at a premium price. But, any owner will tell you that the technology and power you get from the telescopes are well worth the price tag.
The cool thing about Celestron is that it has numerous lines that cater to different skill levels and price points. On the lower end, you can find simple refractor telescopes that will set you back only a few hundred dollars. On the opposite end of the price spectrum, you have Celestron’s crowning jewels. The higher-end telescopes utilize advanced technology that can help you get up close and personal with the cosmos!
The History of Celestron
Celestron’s origins are quite interesting. Originally, started as a division of Valor Electronics. Valor Electronics was founded by Tom Johnson all the way back in 1955. After building a reflector telescope with his sons, Tom Johnson created a separate division of his company to focus on telescopes. Eventually, that spun out to become Celestron!
Celestron hit the ground running and quickly became a favorite among astronomy buffs. One of the reasons why the brand became a hit was because it was one of the first to produce Schmidt-Cassegrain telescopes on a commercial scale. Even in the beginning, Celestron offered these catadioptric telescopes with large apertures and advanced optics.
The Cassegrain telescopes were a game-changer. All of a sudden, stargazers could look at celestial objects in our solar system and beyond! People weren’t just limited to looking at nearby stars. They could start viewing planets like Jupiter, appreciating the beauty of Saturn’s rings, and even get a glimpse of faraway nebulas!
It wasn’t all roses, though. Tom Johnson eventually sold Celestron in 1980. After changing hands several times, the brand eventually went to Tasco. After Tasco’s demise in 2001, Celestron’s future was up in the air.
Luckily, the brand was scooped up by a US-based affiliate of Synta Technology Corporation. After that acquisition, Celestron was able to flourish once again and become the brand we know today!
Awards and Accolades
Celestron has gone on to receive international recognition. The brand and its sizable product line have won awards from Popular Mechanics, the National American Business Awards, High Point Scientific, and more.
It’s been featured on several films and television shows. There’s even a Celestron Telescope on the International Space Station!
The Celestron Product Line
If you’re in the market for catadioptric telescopes, such as Schmidt-Cassegrains or Maksutov-Cassegrains, Celestron is the brand for you. It’s regarded as one of the best producers of these complex telescopes.
But, that’s not the only thing Celestron offers. As we mentioned earlier, the brand caters to a wide demographic and offers many different types of telescopes.
Some of Celestron’s most popular lines include the AstroMaster series, the PowerSeeker series, the Cometron series, and the iconic NexStar and NexStar 8se collections. The Celestron NexStar collection, in particular, has been a huge hit thanks to its high-tech tracking system and database.
Celestron also offers accessories like astrophotography adapters, eyepieces, Barlow lenses, and more.
Orion is another heavy-hitter in the astronomy world. Like Celestron, Orion is a brand that caters to a wide range of stargazers. Many of the brand’s products are split up into three categories. These include “Beginner”, “Intermediate”, and “Advanced.” Price points reflect the complexity and capabilities of the Orion telescopes, so it’s not hard to find products to fit your price range.
The brand’s premium lineup is highly praised among astronomers. Orion offers unique Dobsonian telescopes that can give you a closer look at deep-sky objects. Thanks to high focal lengths and larger apertures, Orion’s high-end models are some of the most capable on the market.
The History of Orion
Orion started in 1975. The company was founded by Tim Giesler. Giesler started the brand in his garage and slowly great into a juggernaut. For most of Orion’s history, a vast majority of the brand’s sales came from mail-order catalogs.
However, the brand did move to e-commerce in 1997. Orion does have a couple of physical retail stores in California, but most of its sales still happen online.
The company went through a major change in 2005 when it was acquired by Imaginova. With this acquisition, Orion started to sell products from other brands. While Orion-branded optics were still at the forefront, products from competitors were also available in its catalog and e-commerce store.
In 2017, Orion went through another major shift. Orion’s employees repurchased the brand and became independently owned. It continues to be an entirely employee-owned company that operates out of Watsonville, California.
Orion Product Line
Orion has an impressive lineup of products. It’s most known for its series of Dobsonian telescopes. However, it also offers Newtonian reflectors and Cassegrain telescopes.
The brand’s higher-end lineup has a solid reputation in the hobby. Orion utilizes advanced optics, such as two-element apochromatic lenses and high-transmission coatings on the objective lens. This results in ultra-clear optics.
Orion also offers mounts. Some of the telescopes are sold as simple optical tube assemblies, freeing you up to pair it with the mount of your choice. You can get a basic altazimuth mount, a complex equatorial mount, or even one of the brand’s computerized GoTo mounts!
If you’re from the United States, Sky-Watcher might not be as familiar to you. It’s still a relatively new brand to astronomy hobbyists stateside. However, it’s been around for much longer in other parts of the world.
While not as well-known as Celestron or Orion, Sky-Watcher is quickly catching up! Known for making classic Dobsonian telescopes, refractor telescopes, and reflecting telescopes, Sky-Watcher has made quite the impact in recent years. This is thanks to the brand’s commitment to premium optics, innovative mounts, and convenient accessories.
The History of Sky-Watcher
Sky-Watcher’s roots date back to 1980. While many hobbyists think that Sky-Watcher is its own unique brand, it’s actually a division of Synta Technology Corporation of Taiwan. If you’re not familiar with Synta, this company is responsible for producing products for a lot of big-name brands.
Synta is the manufacturer and owner of Celestron. It also makes products for Orion and other brands you might be familiar with.
Synta was founded in 1980 by David Shen, a former polishing technician. However, the Sky-Watcher brand did not start until about 1999. It was created to distribute optical devices to consumers in Canada and Europe.
Upon its launch, Sky-Watcher had a relatively modest lineup of Dobsonian telescopes. But, it quickly expanded. By the end of the 2000s, Sky-Watcher set up shop in the United States to compete with other heavy-hitters.
Sky-Watcher Product Line
You can find some great telescopes at Sky-Watcher. Some of its most popular collections include Espirit, Equinox, Flextube, and more. Sky-Watcher is most-known for selling Dobsonians. You can find smaller tabletop models as well as larger units with low focal lengths.
More recently, Sky-Watcher has garnered a reputation for selling great accessories. The brand sells smartphone adapters, astrophotography gear, correctors, and more.
Rounding up the “Big Three” is Meade Instruments. Meade has a great reputation within the astronomy community. It’s headquartered in Irvine, California, and offers many different types of telescopes. The company has evolved quite a bit since its infancy. In addition to telescopes, Meade offers microscopes, binoculars, spotting scopes, weather stations, and more.
In terms of demographics, Meade caters to all amateur astronomers. Lower-end units are available for those looking for their first telescope. They feature sturdy designs and simple optics for learning. However, more experienced stargazers can benefit from the premium lineup, which features catadioptric models for viewing distant objects in the night sky.
The History of Meade Instruments
Meade’s story starts in 1972. The brand was founded by John Diebel. Diebel created a mail-order catalog to market products sold by a Japanese-based optical company. The product line at the time was modest. It only included small entry-level refracting telescopes and accessories.
By 1976, Meade started selling its own branded products, including reflecting telescopes with 6 or 8-inch apertures. In 1980, Meade decided to expand its product line by creating Schmidt-Cassegrain telescopes. At the time, this market was dominated by Celestron. This started a fierce competition between the two brands which continues to this day!
Meade Product Line
Over the years, Meade has continued to be a real innovator in the astronomy world. It experimented with optical technology to create some of the best telescopes in the business!
While the brand started with simple refractors, it now offers many lines. Some of the most popular are its compound telescopes and Newtonian telescopes. Meade also has computerized telescopes, which feature databases filled with thousands of targets. You can use them to view distant galaxies, nebulae, and more. Whatever you view, you can get clear images thanks to the advanced optical design that Meade is known for.
About Explore Scientific
Here’s a brand that you might not be too familiar with. Explore Scientific is a new contender in the astronomy arena. Founded by a former Meade executive, Explore Scientific has done a lot to cement itself as a reliable telescope provider. It did all of this in just a little over a decade!
When compared to other brands, Explore Scientific is still a youngster. The product line is not as large as some of its bigger competitors. But what Explore Scientific lacks in options it makes up for in innovation. You can find several high-quality telescopes covering a range of capabilities. No matter what type of telescope you get, you’ll be able to get a beautiful glimpse of celestial bodies that you could never see with your naked eye.
The History of Explore Scientific
Founded in 2008, Explore Scientific is the brainchild of Scott W. Roberts. Roberts was formerly employed by Meade Instruments. He worked as Vice President of Brand Community.
Roberts was inspired by his time at Meade and wanted to create a brand that offered high-quality optics at lower costs. His goal was to instill a sense of exploration and wonder into younger hobbyists while also catering to more seasoned stargazers.
The founding of Explore Scientific was announced at the Astronomical League Conference Awards banquet in 2008. For a while, Roberts operated out of his home in Laguna Hills, California. However, Explore Scientific moved to Arkansas in 2010
Explore Scientific Product Line
Explore Scientific’s lineup may be smaller than some other brands. But, it certainly has more than enough options for hobbyists of any skill level. The brand primarily sells refractor and reflecting telescopes. These units are split up into several collections. The most popular collections are the APO Triplet series, FirstLight series, and Achromat Doublet series.
You can find several accessories as well. Invest in Plossl eyepieces, finder scopes, mounts, collimation caps, and more.
About Vixen Optics
Vixen is a provider of higher-end telescopes. There are a handful of beginner telescopes models available. But, Vixen primarily markets to more seasoned stargazers looking for more capability as they view the night sky.
The brand’s product line isn’t as large as some competitors. Most of the products are refractor and reflector units. However, the brand also focuses on portability. It offers compact models, durable mounts, and more. You can even find astrophotography gear to capture your finds!
The History of Vixen Optics
Vixen Optics is a Japanese-based company. It’s been around since 1949 and has continually been a top seller in the country. In recent years, Vixen has expanded to sell to a wider international audience.
The brand is most known for creating unique optical innovations. For example, the brand established its own mounting system for accessories, which is a modified version of the traditional dovetail. It also creates catadioptric units with an open-tube design. At the time of its creation, the open tube assembly was unheard of! But today, it’s replicated by many of Vixen’s competitors.
Vixen Optics Product Line
Vixen has a modest range of products. You can find refractors, reflectors, and catadioptric telescopes. Most of the telescopes are sold as a simple tube assembly. This allows you to create a custom setup while still taking advantage of Vixen’s optics.
If you want a complete build, you can purchase Vixen’s mounts and accessories.
You can’t go wrong with any of these brands. They have spent years developing products that amateur astronomers love! While there’s more to choosing a telescope than sticking with a brand name, you can rest easy knowing that products from these brands are a good investment!