There are many reasons why someone might be researching the best small telescopes. Perhaps they live in a city and don’t have much space for a larger instrument. Or maybe they want a telescope that’s easy to transport so they can take it camping or on vacation. Whatever the reason, there are some great small telescopes out there that offer excellent views of the night sky.
Our astronomy advisor, Richard J. Bartlett, reviewed a variety of small telescopes to find the best of the best, based on factors including aperture, price, and portability. After careful consideration, he chose the Zhumell Z100 Portable as the best small telescope for most people. With a range of great features including an industry-standard 1.25″ focuser, compatibility with many accessories, and easy-to-use red dot finder, the Zhumell Z100 is a great choice for anyone looking for a small telescope.
Our Expert’s Top 5 Small Telescopes
Here are the top picks from our astronomy expert. Compare the ratings and features of different models.
|Best Overall||Zhumell Z100 Portable||Reflector||Dobsonian||100|
|Best Budget Buy||Meade Instruments Infinity 102||Refractor||Tripod||102|
|Best Computerized||Celestron StarSense Explorer LT 114AZ||Refractor||Tripod||114|
|Best for the Planets||Celestron AstroMaster 114EQ||Refractor||Equatorial||114|
|Best for Young Kids||Orion 10033 FunScope 76mm TableTop Reflector||Reflector||Dobsonian||76|
*Ratings are on a scale of 1 to 5 and based on reviews, feedback, and opinions of actual customers
In This Article
Who Should Buy a Small Telescope
- Amateur astronomers who live in an apartment – If you live in an apartment, you might not have the space for a larger telescope. A small telescope can easily be set up on a balcony or even inside your apartment.
- People who want a portable telescope – A small telescope is much easier to transport than a large one. If you like to camp or travel, a small telescope can be a great way to enjoy the night sky even when you’re away from home.
- Children or beginners – A small telescope is a great way to introduce someone to the hobby of astronomy. They are usually less expensive than larger telescopes and are easier to set up and use.
Who Should Not Buy a Small Telescope
- Serious astronomers – Small telescopes have a limited aperture, which means they can’t collect as much light as a larger telescope. If you’re serious about astronomy, you’ll want a larger telescope so you can see more faint objects in the night sky.
- People who want the best views – Small telescopes don’t offer the same level of detail and resolution as larger telescopes. If you’re looking for the best possible views, you’ll want to invest in a larger telescope.
Research Tips (from an Expert)
As an astronomy expert, I often get asked about how to choose a good small telescope. Here are some tips and best practices to consider when purchasing a this type of telescope. Be sure to do adequate research on the product you’re considering purchasing to look for key features and ask your friends, family, or any keen astronomers you know if they can recommend a good small telescope.
- Aperture size – A telescope’s aperture is the most important factor to consider when choosing one. The larger the aperture, the more light the telescope can collect and the better the views will be. However, keep in mind that a larger aperture also means a heavier and more expensive telescope. If you’re looking for a portable telescope, you’ll want to balance aperture size with weight and portability.
- Focal length – The focal length of a telescope is the distance from the lens to the point where the light is focused. A longer focal length means that the telescope can magnify objects more, but it will also have a narrower field of view. A shorter focal length means less magnification but a wider field of view.
- Type of mount – The mount is the part of the telescope that holds the optics in place. There are a few different types of mounts, but the two most common are altazimuth and Dobsonian. Altazimuth mounts are easier to use and set up, but they’re not as stable as Dobsonian mounts. Dobsonian mounts are more stable and offer better views, but they’re more difficult to set up and use.
- Weight and portability – If you plan on traveling with your telescope, you’ll want to consider its weight and portability. A lighter and more compact telescope will be easier to transport.
How Much Do They Cost?
Between $70 and $500
For most small telescopes, you can expect to pay between $70-$500 and still get a quality product. Cheaper models will have a smaller aperture and shorter focal length, while more expensive models will have a larger aperture and longer focal length. Higher-end models may also come with additional features, such as computerized controls and a tracking mount.
Our Methodology: Why Trust Moon and Back
As an astronomy expert, I’ve spoken with many amateur and professional astronomers about the best small telescopes. Many of these products were chosen based on my professional experience as an astronomy expert combined with product feature considerations. Products were chosen based on the criteria outlined above, plus personal experience using the product, price, customer reviews, and brand reputation.
The Best Small Telescopes: Full Reviews
The Zhumell Z100 Portable is a great option for those looking for a well-designed small telescope that’s easy to transport. The reflector telescope features a 100mm aperture and a 400mm focal length. It comes with two eyepieces (17mm and 10mm) and a Dobsonian mount.
This telescope is great for those new to astronomy as it’s easy to use and set up. It also comes with a red dot finder, which makes it easier to aim the telescope. The Dobsonian mount offers excellent stability and views.
- Easy to use and set up
- Good quality optics
- Comes with a red dot finder
- Stable Dobsonian mount
- No computerized controls
- A little basic for more experienced astronomers
The Meade Instruments Infinity 102 is the perfect choice for amateur astronomers who are looking for a portable telescope at a great price. This model features a 102mm aperture and a 600mm focal length. It also comes with three eyepieces (26mm, 9mm, and 6.3mm) and a 2x Barlow lens.
Other useful features include a tripod mount with slow motion controls, a red dot viewfinder, and an accessory tray. This telescope is easy to use and comes with everything you need to get started in astronomy.
- Affordable and easy to use
- Portable and lightweight
- Comes with three eyepieces and a 2x Barlow lens
- Red dot viewfinder makes it easy to aim
- No computerized controls
- The mount is not as stable as some other options
If you’re looking for a small telescope with computerized controls, the Celestron StarSense Explorer LT 114AZ is the best option. This refractor telescope features a 114mm aperture, StarSense sky recognition technology, and a tripod mount with slow motion controls.
The StarSense Explorer is a great choice for those who want the convenience of computerized controls but don’t want to spend a lot of money. It’s easy to use and set up, and the 114mm aperture provides good views of the night sky.
- StarSense sky recognition technology makes it easy to find objects
- Good views for a 114mm telescope
- Highly reflective coated optics
- Not ideal for viewing the planets
- A little difficult to set up
The Celestron AstroMaster 114EQ is a great choice for those looking for a powerful small telescope. It features a 114mm aperture, fully-coated glass optics, and a sturdy equatorial mount. The AstroMaster also comes with two eyepieces, a StarPointer red dot finderscope, and slow motion controls.
The telescope is easy to set up and use, and the lightweight frame makes it easy to transport. The 114mm aperture provides good views of the night sky, and the fully-coated optics produce clear images.
- Fully-coated glass optics for clear images
- Sturdy equatorial mount for precise tracking
- 114mm aperture for good views
- Lightweight and easy to transport
- Some reviewers say the frame is not very sturdy
- Difficult to assemble
The Orion 10033 FunScope 76mm TableTop Reflector is an excellent choice for young kids. The tabletop telescope features a 76mm aperture – 16mm more than many beginner telescopes. This means that the FunScope collects 60 percent more light than a 60mm telescope, allowing for brighter and clearer images.
The telescope also comes with the Orion Moon Map 260, which makes it easy to find and identify lunar features. The FunScope is a great first telescope for kids and families who want to test the waters of stargazing. Enjoy hours of fun viewing the Moon, bright planets in our solar system, and distant star clusters and nebulas.
- Very affordable
- 76mm aperture allows for bright and clear images
- Comes with the Orion Moon Map 260
- Great first telescope for kids and families
- Mount is not very sturdy
- Telescope is not computerized
Frequently Asked Questions
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