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Best Refractor Telescope for Astrophotography [Top 10 in 2020]

Sandy Fargus

Last updated: November 12, 2020

Best Refractor Telescope for Astrophotography

Astrophotography is not an easy or low-cost hobby. It can, however, be a very rewarding one. If you’re going to get into astrophotography, then you want to know you’re using the right kit. We have a selection of great telescopes to meet your needs, whatever your level of experience.

Our top pick of best refractor telescope for astrophotography is the Sky Watcher EvoStar 100 APO Doublet Refractor. It offers a good mix of image quality and value. It doesn’t come with many accessories, so every cent is going towards the quality of this high-quality telescope.

Our Top Picks
Best Overall
Sky Watcher EvoStar 100 APO Doublet Refractor – Compact and Portable Optical Tube for Affordable Astrophotography and Visual Astronomy, White/Black (S11120)
Best for Picture Quality
Orion EON 85mm ED-X2 f/6.6 Triplet Apo Refractor Telescope
Best Budget Option
Orion 9836 120mm f/5.0 Refractor Telescope Optical Tube Assembly
Name
Sky Watcher EvoStar Doublet Refractor
Orion EON Triplet APO Refractor Telescope
Orion Refractor Telescope
Features
This high-end amateur scope offers great deep-sky views as well as crystal clear views of solar system objects.
Two of the lenses in this triplet APO scope are made from high-quality ED glass; it’s ideal for long exposure photography.
This is a large aperture, fast telescope that excels at wide field photography.
Best Overall
Our Top Picks
Sky Watcher EvoStar 100 APO Doublet Refractor – Compact and Portable Optical Tube for Affordable Astrophotography and Visual Astronomy, White/Black (S11120)
Name
Sky Watcher EvoStar Doublet Refractor
Features
This high-end amateur scope offers great deep-sky views as well as crystal clear views of solar system objects.
More Info
Best for Picture Quality
Our Top Picks
Orion EON 85mm ED-X2 f/6.6 Triplet Apo Refractor Telescope
Name
Orion EON Triplet APO Refractor Telescope
Features
Two of the lenses in this triplet APO scope are made from high-quality ED glass; it’s ideal for long exposure photography.
More Info
Best Budget Option
Our Top Picks
Orion 9836 120mm f/5.0 Refractor Telescope Optical Tube Assembly
Name
Orion Refractor Telescope
Features
This is a large aperture, fast telescope that excels at wide field photography.
More Info

Related post: Best Computerized Telescope for Beginners [Top 11 in 2020]

Best Refractor Telescopes for Astrophotography in 2020

Best Overall – Sky Watcher EvoStar 100 APO Doublet Refractor

Best Overall
Sky Watcher EvoStar Doublet Refractor
This high-end amateur scope offers great deep-sky views as well as crystal clear views of solar system objects.

The Sky Watcher EvoStar 100 APO Doublet Refractor is not the right choice for a very first telescope. However, it is an ideal telescope for astrophotography. It lacks a mount and accessories, but the telescope itself is top-notch.

This telescope is a doublet APO; for this price, you’re not going to find a better telescope. The two glass lenses provide minimal chromatic aberration, which gives you sharp images and minimal distortions.

The telescope comes with a Crawford-style focuser, with two speeds. This allows you to find a rough focus before you carefully hone in on your target. This whole mechanism is very smooth and works well.

This scope is quite light at only 3kg, although it is on the longer side. The aluminum case it comes makes it easy and safe to transport.

The aperture size is 4”, which isn’t the biggest on our list. The optical quality is top-notch, though. The deep-sky viewing is bright and clear.

The most significant limitation of this scope is the resolution limit. It’s not the best you can find at only 1.39 arcseconds. However, unless you are just going to be hunting for double stars, this is unlikely to be a major problem.

In terms of speed, it is on the slower end with a focal ratio of f/9. However, it does deliver in terms of image quality. For the price, this is possibly the best telescope for astrophotography you can get.

Best for Outstanding Picture Quality – Orion EON 85mm ED-X2 f/6.6 Triplet APO Refractor Telescope

Best for Picture Quality
Orion EON Triplet APO Refractor Telescope
Two of the lenses in this triplet APO scope are made from high-quality ED glass; it’s ideal for long exposure photography.

The Orion EON Triplet APO Refractor Telescope is an amazing triplet telescope. If you’re hunting for a telescope with the best quality image and the minimal amount of chromatic aberration, then this is the best telescope for astrophotography for your needs.

This triplet scope has not only one but two ED lenses. This means that even with extra-long exposure photographs, you’re still going to get minimal halos, and even the smallest distant stars will remain tight. The image quality is exceptional.

The aperture is 85mm, which is not the largest on the list. It’s coupled into a good-sized barrel with the end result being a focal ratio of f/6.6. That’s a pretty good speed for this type of telescope.

A nice feature of this scope is the rotatable focuser. This allows you to get the focusing knobs in whichever alignment you find the most comfortable. There are two speeds on the focusing knobs. This lets you quickly get a rough focus and then fine-tune to find the precise focus you want.

The focuser is a hybrid style. It’s a cross between a Crawford and a rack and pinion. The combination means that it moves smoothie and can support a lot of weight. This is ideal for astrophotography as it allows you to move your camera with confidence.

For such a good telescope, it’s surprisingly lightweight. It comes in at 9.25lbs. This means that you should be able to use a reasonably lightweight mount as well. This can help to offset a little bit of the cost of this high-end telescope.

Budget Option – Orion 9836 120mm f/5.0 Refractor Telescope

Best Budget Option
Orion Refractor Telescope
This is a large aperture, fast telescope that excels at wide field photography.

The Orion 9836 120mm f/5.0 Refractor Telescope is a great low-cost option. It won’t do everything, but it is very good at what it’s designed for. It provides some great wide-field views of the night sky.

If you are looking for a telescope for taking high magnification pictures of the moon or the planets, then this is not the right scope for you. Its fast f/5.0 rating means that it has a lot of chromatic aberration. This is not at all surprising as it’s an achromatic refractor.

Where this scope really shines is with its wide-field view. You can easily get anywhere from 2.7 to 4 degrees of viewing angle—more than enough to capture some stunning views of the Andromeda Galaxy.

The focuser is a simple rack and pinion, single-speed affair. It’s a solid all-metal construction, so it can hold a good amount of gear. The downside is that it’s hard to get a precise focus.

You do only get the optical tube when you choose this scope, so you will need to get a dovetail mount if you wish to attach it directly to a mount.

If you have a limited budget and want to get some gorgeous wide-field shots, then this is a good option.

Telescopes with an F/6 Ratio or Less

Best for Introduction to Deep Sky Astrophotography – SVBONY SV48 Telescope with Aluminum Carrying Case

Best for Deep Sky Astrophotography
SVBONY SV48 Refractor Telescope
This is a fast and reasonably sized doublet scope, which is great for wide-field astrophotography.

The SVBONY SV48 Refractor Telescope is similar in cost and use to the Orion 9836. It has a smaller aperture and a higher f/ratio. It’s also a doublet. It is still an achromatic refractor, and it is best suited to wide field photography.

Even as a doublet, this scope will suffer from chromatic aberration if used at higher magnification. However, it’s a great scope for wide field deep-sky astrophotography.

In direct comparison to the Orion Refractor Telescope Optical Tube, it might appear to have lower specs. However, some of its features may make it a better choice for you. It comes with a dovetail plate, so it’s easy to get started with. It also has a more advanced focuser.

The focuser on this telescope is a Crawford Style two-speed focuser. This does allow you to get a good view of the objects you’re photographing.

The double lenses do mean that you will get much less chromatic aberration than you would with other comparable achromatic reflectors. This is a good second option if you are looking for a budget scope for wide-field deep-sky astrophotography.

Best for Beginners –Meade Instruments – S102mm Aperture, Portable Beginner Refracting Astronomy Telescope

Best for Beginners
Meade Instruments Portable Refracting Astronomy Telescope
This telescope comes with everything you need to get started in astrophotography; it’s an ideal telescope for a beginner.

The Meade Instruments Portable Refracting Astronomy Telescope is a perfect choice for a beginner. Unlike many of the options on this list, it comes with everything you need to get started. It has a mount, a red dot viewfinder, a pair of eyepieces, a pair of Barlow lenses, and a smartphone adapter.

The tripod is collapsible, which is good for transporting it, but is sturdy when constructed. The mount is an Alt-Az model. This makes it intuitive and easy to use, but not a good choice for long exposure photography.

The aperture is a really good size for a beginner telescope. It is an f/5.9 telescope, which makes it a particularly fast scope. When combined with the smartphone adapter, it makes for a good combination for anyone interested in taking quick and easy snaps of the night sky.

It’s a good introductory telescope for a beginner astrophotographer, especially one who doesn’ already have a telescope of their own.

This is a good telescope for getting pictures of the moon and the planets. The mount will limit the pictures you can take of deep-sky objects as tracking will not be possible.

Best Doublet Refractor for Wide Field Views – Orion 10031 EON 110mm ED f/6.0 Apochromatic Refractor Telescope (Black)

Best Doublet Refractor
Orion EON Apochromatic Refractor Telescope
This 110mm aperture telescope is made with an ED glass lens, offering fantastic true-color views of the night sky.

The Orion EON 110mm ED f/6.0 Apochromatic Refractor Telescope is a high-quality refractor. It is fully coated, so you get maximum light transmission for the aperture size. This gives you crisp, sharp, and detailed images of whatever you’re looking at.

The scope is an f/6.0 scope. That makes it a medium wide-field refractor. It’s perfect for getting good views of objects like the Orion nebula of the Andromeda Galaxy. Because of the ED glass used, it also performs really well when you push the magnification.

There is hardly any chromatic aberration. It’s minute enough that you may be hard-pressed to even find it. This will give you excellent true color pictures of the night sky.

There is a really hand clamping system at the end of the scope. It makes attaching your eyepieces or camera really easy. You fix them in place by rotating a ring that goes all the way around the barrel. This is great for making adjustments on a cold night. You don’t have to abandon the warmth of your gloves to fiddle with a thumbscrew. Even though it’s easy, the attachment is very secure.

The scope doesn’t come with a finderscope, but there is a dovetail bracket for easy attachment of a scope of your choice. All the Orion models, along with many others, will be compatible.

Even though it’s a good-sized scope, it does collapse quite small for travel. It also comes with a hard shell carry case, so it’s certainly one you can consider as a grab and go telescope.

This is a really nice telescope for any astrophotographer who wants to have the choice of taking deep sky images as well as getting great high magnification shots of more local celestial bodies, like the moon and the planets.

Telescopes with an F/Ratio Above F/6

Best for Travel – Orion ED66 CF Carbon Fiber Refractor Telescope

Sale
Best for Travel
Orion Carbon Fiber Refractor Telescope
This compact refractor is ideal to grab and go, and it comes with a hard travel case for transport.

The Orion ED66 CF Carbon Fiber Refractor Telescope is an ideal refractor for anyone who is on the go. If you want to easily grab a telescope for astrophotography while you’re out and about, then this compact scope is ideal.

This telescope is made from carbon fiber. This not only makes it light, but it also makes it resistant to temperature changes. Metal scopes can suffer when they go through large temperature changes. You don’t have that issue with this scope. It’s another reason why this scope is so good for travel.

The barrel is a compact 12” long. When combined with the 66mm aperture, you get an f/6.1 scope. For a telescope of this size, it’s a nicely balanced speed.

This telescope is a doublet and contains one ED lens. This means the chromatic aberration is reasonably low. It has a Crawford style focuser with two speeds. It comes with a 14mm wide field eyepiece and a hard carry case.

This telescope is a good balance. It works for lunar, planetary, and wide-field astrophotography.

Best Computerized Telescope – Meade Instruments – StarNavigator NG 102mm Aperture Computerized GoTo Refracting Astronomy Telescope

Best Computerized Telescope
Meade Instruments StarNavigator GoTo Refracting Telescope
This refractor scope comes with a go-to mount and a database of over 40,000 celestial objects.

The Meade Instruments – StarNavigator NG 102mm Aperture Computerized GoTo Refracting Astronomy Telescope is a good option for anyone who is new to both astronomy and astrophotography. Because it is a computerized telescope, it makes it really easy to find anything you are looking for in the night sky. It will then track your chosen object allowing you to take a long exposure picture with ease.

This works well as a scope for beginners because it comes loaded with 4 hours of audio commentary. If you’re new to astronomy, you can ask the telescope to suggest objects to view and learn about them as you do.

This setup will work best with a lightweight camera set up. With a heavy rig, it can make the tracking inaccurate.

With an f/ratio of f/6.5, this scope is fast enough to take good pictures of the moon and planets.

It is an entry-level scope, so the optics are not the best on the market. You will get some chromatic aberrations.

More advanced astrophotographers would be better served looking for an OTA that matches their needs and buying a computerized mount separately. For a beginner, though, this is a good computerized refracting telescope.

Best No-Nonsense Telescope – Orion 9895 ED80 80mm f/7.5 Apochromatic Refractor Telescope

Best No-Nonsense Telescope
Orion 9895 ED80 Refractor Telescope
This is a really nice mid-range scope. It’s short on frills and instead delivers good quality optics for the price point.

The Orion 9895 Refractor Telescope is, in essence, a well-made yet basic doublet. It doesn’t have ED glass, which is why it’s at a lower price point than others on this list. However, its design does mean that it still delivers a reasonably low level of chromatic aberration.

You don’t get much in the way of extras with this scope, so it’s possible a better choice for more experienced astronomers. It is the perfect size to serve as a grab and go scope. If you’re a beginner and don’t mind hunting around for the necessary accessories, then this is a really great first scope for astrophotography. I would, however, strongly recommend investing in a field flattener.

This scope is best suited to wide-field shots. Especially as it only comes with a single-speed Crawford style focuser.

For the price of this scope, it does deliver really well. It’s a great mid-range option.

Best Large Aperture Telescope – Sky Watcher EvoStar 120 APO Doublet Refractor

Best Large Aperture Telescope
Sky Watcher EvoStar 120 APO Doublet Refractor
This telescope offers stunning true colors of deep sky objects in astonishing detail plus, it’s just small enough to be a grab and go telescope.

The Sky Watcher EvoStar 120 APO Doublet Refractor is the big brother of our top pick. For the jump from a 100mm aperture to a 120mm one, you will be paying a pretty penny. However, you will easily notice the large jump in the number of celestial objects you can now see.

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This is also a doublet scope with an ED lens. This gives minimal chromatic aberration, as you would expect from an APO scope. There are minimal distortions, and the color is true across the whole field.

The scope has an f/ratio of f/7.5. This does put it at the top end of the scopes on this list. However, as this is a great telescope for deep sky astrophotography, you will likely already be leaning towards longer exposure times anyway. Given how much you can see, the f/ratio is pretty respectable.

While this scope doesn’t come with a mount, it does come with a respectable selection of accessories. It comes with split hinged tube rings and a Vixen-style dovetail plate. You get a 2” diagonal with both a 2” and a 1.25” eyepiece holder. There are then two eyepieces, a dew cover, dust covers, and a carry case.

The focuser is a Crawford style design. It has the expected two speeds and is smooth and sturdy.

If you are looking for a combination of a large aperture and quality optics, then this is going to be the best telescope on our list for you. It gives great quality images and can reveal a wealth of new celestial objects to your camera.

What to Consider When Buying a Refractor Astrophotography Telescope

A camera and a tablet showing a photo of a telescope for astrophotography

Aperture

The aperture of a telescope is the size of the opening through which light enters. For observation, the size of the aperture is one of the most important features of a telescope. For astrophotography, aperture size matters, but it is not such a stand out feature.

A larger aperture means that more light will enter your telescope, which will allow you to see more distant objects. As aperture size goes up, so too does cost and size. The increased aperture size will often lead to an increased focal length. This will then have an impact on your pictures.

So in astrophotography, aperture size needs to be balanced with focal length. The focal ratio is the number that highlights this balance.

Focal Length

The focal length is the distance between the lens/mirror of a telescope and the point at which the light comes into focus. With a longer focal length, you will get a larger image formed, which essentially means you’ll have more magnification.

Magnification can be good for local objects, but the downside to magnification is that everything gets magnified, even the details you don’t want like atmospheric distortions or sway from your mount.

Telescopes with long focal lengths tend to have smaller fields of view. They also often require longer exposure to get the same quality of the image.

If you want to avoid any hint of star trails, there is a rule you can follow based on the focal length of your telescope. The ‘500 rule’ states that 500 divided by the focal length of your scope is the maximum number of seconds you should use for a single picture. Beyond this, you’ll start to get star trails.

Telescope automatically set up to taking night sky photos

Focal Ratio (f/ratio / f/number)

The focal ratio of a telescope is found by dividing the focal length by the aperture size. It matters because it gives you an indication of how long an exposure you’ll need to get the pictures you want. It’s sometimes described as being the speed of the OTA.

For telescopes, good f/ratios are between f/5 and f/8. For anything lower, you’ll need a camera, not a telescope. Anything over f/9 is considered a slow system.

Achromatic vs. Apochromatic

You will typically come across two types of reflectors.

Achromatic Refractor

These reflectors use two glass pieces to focus the incoming light. The problem with these is that they don’t fully focus on the whole spectrum of the light. They work well at the extremes of the spectrum but less well in the middle. The end result is a slightly blurry image. For observation, it’s not hugely noticeable. However, it will show up in any long exposure photographs.

Apochromatic Refractor (APO)

Where Achromatic reflectors bring the extremes of the visible spectrum into focus together, Apochromatic reflectors bring red, blue, and green light into focus at the same point. This means you will have a much better final result. They almost completely remove any chromatic aberration that you can experience with refractors. They are also easier to focus and tend to be lighter and more portable.

Long story short – Apochromatic reflectors are the better option for astrophotography.

Number of Lenses

As you get into more sophisticated telescopes, you’ll start to come across doublet and triplet telescopes. In these devices, the main objective lens is made from more than one piece of glass. By adding the extra layers of glass, you are able to decrease the amount of chromatic aberration. However, this comes with a much steeper price tag.

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A refractor telescope for astrophotography

For beginners who are looking for their first telescope, it may not be worth getting anything more than a standard telescope. If you are determined to get the best possible pictures, then a triplet scope is going to provide the best possible final result with the truest color. For most astrophotographers, a good quality doublet will tread the line between the cost and quality of the image.

Glass Type

When it comes to lenses, it’s not just the number that matters. The quality is a big factor as well. The best lenses are made from extra-low dispersion glass (ED). This glass reduces the spread of light as it passes through it. The result is less chromatic aberration and truer colors.

Focuser

You generally have two choices in focuser on telescopes. There is a rack and pinion style. This is the basic option. It moves your scope using a simple rack and pinion. This gives you set increments and a single speed.

A Crawford style focuser is a little more involved. It uses a spring-loaded shaft against four bearings. The result is a smoother and more precise focus. It’s also not uncommon to find a two-speed option. This allows you to get a rough focus and then a fine one after at the slower speed.

The other consideration for the focuser is if it can carry the weight of your camera sn accessories. It has to move with all your kit attached, so it’s worth checking it can carry the weight you need it to.

Type of Mount

If the telescope you’re considering comes with a mount, then you might want to take some time to consider if it’s the best telescope mount for astrophotography, and if it meets your needs. The mount you use is going to have as much of an impact on your photography as your telescope.

An Alt-Az mount does not have a fixed field. This means that stars in the background will appear to rotate as you take a picture. So, for long exposure pictures, you’ll end up with star trails.

EQ mounts are aligned with the polar star. This results in a fixed field. So there will be no distracting star trails in the background of any long exposure pictures you take.

A computerized mount will allow you to automatically track stars. This is essential if you are interested in photographing any deep sky objects.

Accessories

Close up shot of a telescope for astrophotography

There are a large number of accessories that can come with a telescope that can be beneficial for astrophotography. You can find them separately, but it’s nice if they are included, especially if you’re new to astrophotography. Some examples include a field flattener, focal reducers, and Barlow lenses.

Type of Photos

One large consideration when it comes to choosing the right telescope for your needs is the type of pictures you want to take.

If you are planning on taking long exposure shots of deep-sky objects, you’ll need to look for a telescope with a respectable aperture size and a go-to mount.

If you’re planning to take pictures of brighter objects, like the sun and moon, then you get by with a larger f/ratio. So you can get good quality pictures without shelling out for a much more expensive OTA.

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the most important consideration for astrophotography?

There are probably two main considerations which will have a major effect on the pictures you are able to take. These are the types of mount and the f/ratio.

You need to identify the types of shots you want to take. This will guide you towards the f/ratio you can settle for and the type of mount you need.

What is astrophotography?

Astrophotography is just a posh name for taking pictures of the night sky. It can be done with a regular camera. However, if you want to get detailed pictures of the sky, you need to use either a camera with a telephoto lens or a telescope with a camera mounted to it.

What type of camera do you need for astrophotography?

If you want to take anything more than ‘snaps’ of the night sky, you’ll want to invest in a camera that is capable of taking long-exposure photographs. The generally agreed-upon best option is a DSLR camera. These will work well for beginners and more experienced photographers alike. There is also a good choice of inexpensive options.

Sandy Fargus

Last update on 2020-12-03 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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