6 Best Telescopes Under $300 – Get Closer to the Stars!

Last updatedLast updated: December 25, 2020
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Astronomy is not the cheapest hobby but if every time you look up the sky you wish you could get closer to the stars then you have no choice but to invest in the best telescope. That is if you don’t become an astronaut. Thanks to the advancement of technology, anyone can access great telescopes without devastating their bank balance. For as little as 300 bucks or less, you can easily get a telescope if you want to take up astronomy as a hobby.

So, which is the best telescope under 300 dollars of the entire lot flooding the market? We came up with a list of the highest-rated telescopes under the 300 dollar mark to help you make the best-informed choice. We considered a few features in our reviews that determine the efficiency and functionality of the telescopes like type, aperture, mount, eyepiece diameter, weight, focal length and ratio among others.

Top 6 Telescopes Under $300 Review 2021

1.

Meade StarPro AZ 102 234004Editor’s Choice

Features
  • Type: refractor
  • Aperture: 102 mm
  • Focal length: 660 mm
  • Focal ratio: f/6.5
  • Mount: altazimuth
  • Eyepiece: MA 6.3mm, 9mm, 26mm 1.25”
  • Weight: 10.9 lbs.

Other features: 1.25 Rack-and-Pinion focuser, 2X Barlow, red-dot viewfinder, smartphone adapter

This telescope scooped the top position on our list for all the right reasons. It is super lightweight, and easy to use, thus great for beginner astronomers on the go. It is hard to beat its perfect balance of a convenient price tag and superior functionality that allows you to observe details of the stars, moon and deep space objects.

The telescope comes in a lightweight and compact build that you can easily carry around. If you are new to astronomy, you will love how easy it is to use this telescope. For instance, if you are just learning to use mounts, you will benefit highly from the simple-to-use single-arm and the alt-azimuth mount that has slow-motion control cables.

Moreover, the telescope comes with a vixen-style dovetail receiver which allows you to use various optical tubes.

Also, features is a full-size aluminium tripod to enhance your viewing experience. On the tripod, is an integrated accessory tray on which you can place your essentials while you enjoy your night sky adventures.

Another plus for this telescope is that you will be able to capture and share the beauty of the night sky, thanks to the smartphone adapter featured. It helps you take photos using the telescope’s eyepiece.

Even more, you can use the telescope’s AZ refractors on land to view beautiful landscapes and wildlife.

Overall, this is one of the best refractor telescopes under 300 dollars out there. Its wide array of accessories make it such a huge steal.

What we liked:

  • Lightweight and compact build
  • Easy to use
  • Vixen-Style Dovetail-allows use of different optical tubes
  • Full-size aluminium tripod
  • Accessory tray
  • Smartphone adaptor

What could be better:

  • Complaints- The Barlow, viewfinder, and lenses didn’t work right away
2.

Sky-Watcher StarTravel 102 AZ3 S10100Best Refractor Telescope

Features
  • Type: achromatic refractor
  • Aperture: 102 mm
  • Focal length: 500mm
  • Focal ratio: f/4.9
  • Mount: manual, alt-az. (AZ3)
  • Eyepiece: 25mm and 10mm 1.25’’ Super
  • Weight: 15 lbs.

Other features: fine motion control knobs, adjustable aluminum tripod, red dot finder

This is the cream of the crop among the premium telescopes under 300 bucks. There is nothing to not like on this brilliantly designed telescope.  It is incredibly affordable, lightweight, and grabs a lot of light to give excellent optical quality. It is a fantastic beginner option and even if you upgrade it will remain your favourite grab-and-go.

The telescope boasts of a compact and lightweight tube design that is a breeze to mount. The tube is all metal and it has a perfect finish and a properly matted interior.

Unlike most affordable telescopes, the Star Travel 102 sets itself apart with a unique focuser which can take 2-inch eyepieces that are great for deep sky viewing plus, it is remarkably smooth and accurate.

What’s more, the telescope comes with the AZ3 mount which is ultra-lightweight, super-sturdy and has the slow-motion controls which are much easier to use compared to the pushing and pulling motions.

Its tripod includes an accessory tray for holding your small essentials whilst observing. You can easily fold the tripod’s legs when you need to move from one place to another.

As for the optics, the Star Travel 102 has achromatic doublet objective lenses which have wide airspace between them to reduce achromatic aberration. The lenses are pretty rugged but they lack the proper kind of cell found in most quality refractors. On the bright side, they are all multi-coated.

Another praiseworthy feature of this telescope is that it performs pretty well as a fixed aperture for both astrophotography and terrestrial. Its fast f/5 focal ration together with advanced high-speed films can capture lunar and solar eclipses perfectly as well as take great nature photographs.

In sum, this is one of the best deep-sky telescopes under the 300 dollar mark out there. It offers excellent value for money with its wide array of superb features and accessories.

What we liked:

  • Compact and lightweight
  • Easy to use
  • Accessory tray
  • Foldable sturdy tripod
  • Multi-coated optics
  • High-quality optical view
  • Can be used for both astrophotography and terrestrial

What could be better:

  • Not found
3.

Celestron AstroMaster 130 EQ 31045Best Reflector Telescope

Features
  • Type: Newtonian reflector
  • Aperture: 130mm (5.11’’)
  • Focal length: 650mm (25.6’’)
  • Focal ratio: f/5
  • Mount: Equatorial
  • Eyepiece: 20 mm, 10 mm
  • Weight: 24 lbs.

Other features: dual-purpose, permanently mounted StarPointer, all coated glass optics, Starry Night Basic Edition | SkyPortal App

Celestron is a renowned brand known for the best beginner telescopes. The AstroMaster 130EQ isn’t an exception. It is a powerful reflector telescope packed with features and accessories that will give you the ultimate night viewing experience.

The telescope is exceptionally sturdy yet lightweight. It can be used by both kids and adults because of its straightforward and quick set up. It is the ultra-lightweight frame and the German manual equatorial mount that allows smooth and accurate pointing that makes it easy to set up. You wouldn’t need any tools when setting up.

In addition, its mount has 2 slow motion knobs that allow you to make accurate adjustments. The slow-motion knobs also offer a smooth tracking of objects in the right ascension. This is one of the features that make this telescope a perfect choice for beginners. Plus, its tripod is adjustable so you can get the best viewing angle as you like.

The heart of the entire telescope is the high-quality 130mm glass optic objective lens which allows all the light in to give the best optic image quality. They are all fully multi-coated for bright, crisp clear images.

Also featured on this telescope is the StarPointer finderscope. It is permanently mounted and it projects a red laser dot onto a viewing window that is non-magnified to allow you to aim easily.

Celestron is a tad the most generous when it comes to accessories. Apart from the pre-assembled mount and tripod, it comes with the Sky-level-1 planetarium software that has a 10000 object database and better images.

In a nutshell, this is a telescope worth considering if you are a novice astronomer. It has all the basic features you would need to enjoy night sky viewing.

What we liked:

  • High-quality images
  • Sturdy build
  • Easy to set up
  • Easy aiming
  • Includes astronomy software
  • Red dot viewfinder

What could be better:

  • The tripod can be a bit shaky
4.

Levenhuk Strike 100 PLUS 65617Best Deep Sky Telescope

Features
  • Type: Newtonian reflector
  • Aperture: 102 mm
  • Focal length: 640 mm
  • Focal ratio: f/6.27
  • Mount: German equatorial EQ1
  • Eyepiece: KF 25 mm, Zoom 6.8–16 mm 1.25”
  • Weight: 32 lbs.

Other features: 12.1 limiting stellar magnitude, 2x Barlow lens, red dot finderscope, rack-and-pinion focuser 1.25”

Here is another deep-sky telescope that will give you a seamless enjoyment of night sky viewing without having to decimate your bank balance. With it, you can view all the phases of Venus, distant star clusters, seas on Mars, nebulae, the moons on Jupiter and the rings on Saturn.

The Strike 100Plus is solidly built to withstand all the external environmental elements you could expose it to. It comes with a manual equatorial mount which is a breeze to set up. Its steel tripod is not only sturdy and steady but also adjustable to give the best viewing angles.

You will enjoy wide bright and crisp clean images thanks to the reflector telescope’s focal length (640mm) and a fast focal ratio of f/6.27. Also featured is are 2 eyepieces with varying dimensions.

For the most detailed images, the telescope comes with a 2-element achromatic Barlow lens that doubles the 2 eyepieces’ magnifications. You will also have an easier time locating the objects for viewing with the red dot finderscope before zooming in with your eyepiece for a closer look.

What’s more, the telescope provides for all the basic controls needed to compensate for the earth’s rotation or tracking objects as they move across the sky.

As if that’s enough, the telescope comes with an entire suite of educational materials like the famous ‘see it all’ handbook for astronomers, a compass, a planisphere rotating star chart, a Stellarium 3D planetarium software and a carry bag for the entire kit.

In sum, this is one of the best reflector telescopes on the market for deep-sky viewing. With all its superb features and multiple accessories, it should be on top of your list if you are looking to explore the night sky on a tight budget.

What we liked:

  • Solid build
  • 2 eyepieces
  • Barlow lenses for detailed images
  • Can track moving objects in the sky
  • Multiple accessories

What could be better:

  • Can be a bit challenging to set up for a novice
5.

Cassini C-90080EQ1Best Easy-To-Use

Features
  • Type: refractor
  • Aperture: 80 mm
  • Focal length: 900 mm
  • Focal ratio: f/11.25
  • Mount: equatorial w/slow-motion controls
  • Eyepiece: 1” 10mm Plossl, 1” 25mm, C-13MP Digital USB eyepiece
  • Weight: n/a

Other features: Mars Eye electronic finderscope, fully multi-coated optics, 1’3x 2-Element Astroscopic Barlow

Here is another refractor telescope with an impressive intuitive design and remarkable power. It packs a punch with a wide range of features that offer the best top quality and detailed images.

The telescope has a perfect compact and lightweight build that is ideal for on-the-go city dwellers. It is also very straightforward to set up and operate. It comes with the equatorial mount and slow-motion controls which makes assembly much easier compared to the push and pull ones.

Still on easy setup, apart from slow-motion controls, the mount also comes with setting circles, counterbalance shafts and weights and locking knobs and a latitude adjuster. Sounds too much but anyone can wrap their head around it pretty quick.

The telescope comes with a solid metal tripod that is preassembled to make life easier for you. It is sturdily built with retractable rubber feet for stability and also fully adjustable.

Even more, you can attach a motor drive to improve its tracking capability so that you don’t miss out on the moving objects in the sky.

You will enjoy the clearest, brightest and most detailed images thanks to the telescope’s focal length and ratio. Plus, you wouldn’t miss a thing in the sky thanks to the incredible Mars eye electronic finderscope. It helps you locate the objects in the sky faster so you can zoom in with the eyepieces for a clearer view.

The 2-element Astroscopic Barlow also enhances the quality of the images you’ll be getting. They’ll not only be bright and crisp clear but also detailed.

All in all, this is another refractor telescope worth the buy. Besides its attractive price tag, it is built with the beginner astronomer in mind and it comes with a 1-year warranty.

What we liked:

  • Easy to set up and use
  • Sturdy build
  • High-quality detailed images
  • 2 eyepieces
  • 1-year warranty

What could be better:

  • Not found
6.

Meade Polaris 130mm 216006Best Value

Features
  • Type: Newtonian reflector
  • Aperture: 130 mm (5.1”)
  • Focal length: 650 mm
  • Focal ratio: f/5
  • Mount: equatorial
  • Eyepiece: 1.25” MA (26mm, 9mm, 6.3mm)
  • Weight: 26.5 lbs.

Other features: 260x highest useful magnification, red dot viewfinder, slow-motion control cables, 2x Barlow lens

Something worth the penny? Look no further. The Polaris 130mm is an outstanding scope with superbly clear and powerful optics. It’s optical potential alone makes it the best telescope that money can buy.

The scope is built with beginners in mind. It has the simplest design and most intuitive interface that anyone can figure out without a hassle. Unlike other scopes within its range, it comes packaged with a few more extras including a solidly built tripod, 3 eyepieces of different sizes, Barlow lens for more detailed images and an instructional DVD and astronomical software.

No object in the sky is hard to see with the Meade. It has a handful of tools made with beginners in mind that will help you get the most out of every sky viewing session. They allow you to see all the hard to see objects like the rings of planets and the moon very easily.

The red dot viewfinder and equatorial mount are some of the essential tools. They help you find the celestial objects in the sky.

In addition, there are knobs which you can use to control the RA and DEC. they are large enough to give you an easy time turning them.

With all these features, you must be thinking this scope is very expensive for someone interested in picking up astronomy as their hobby. Well, shock on you, it is one of the most affordable scopes that doesn’t compromise on quality on this list.

What we liked:

  • Easy to use
  • Solid build
  • High-quality images
  • Great optical potential
  • Offers excellent value for money

What could be better:

  • Not the best portable scope

Things to Сonsider

There is more to buying an affordable telescope than just picking the first that you lay your eyes on. Since there are multiple brands flooding the market, choosing the best can be overwhelming especially if you are green when it comes to matters scopes. This guide contains all the essential tips you need to have before buying a telescope including the must-have features.

Features to consider when choosing a telescope under $300

Here are some of the essential features that you must pay attention to before making a purchase:

Type

There are several types of telescopes: refractor, compound, reflector, and Dobsonian. It is hard to find a Dobsonian telescope under 300 dollars.

If you are a beginner, go for a refractor telescope as they are simple to use and require low maintenance. They gather light using a lens and the bigger their aperture size, the more costly they are.

Reflector telescopes, like the Celestron AstroMaster 130 EQ 31045 above, are the cheapest and they use a mirror to gather light and let you view objects. Compound telescopes are the best portable and they use both mirrors and lens to gather light and view objects.

Aperture

This is also known as the objective lens diameter. The bigger the aperture the more light the lens can gather for great magnification thus high-quality images. A scope with a bigger aperture also allows you to view objects from a far distance. Price increases with an increase in the aperture size.

Magnification

You have to be careful with magnification as most brands often use a high magnification as a marketing trick. Ensure the scope has all the other essential features like a bigger aperture. You wouldn’t want to zoom in on a low-quality image.

Barlow lens

Barlow lens enhances the quality of images. With Barlow lens, you can be able to see clear detailed images of all the hard to see celestial objects like moons and rings on planets.

Focal length and ratio

6 Best Telescopes Under $300 - Get Closer to the Stars!

The focal length and ration are some of the most important qualities of a telescope. The focal length is the distance that light travels from the objective optics to the focal plane while the focal ratio is the speed of the optics. If you want to do deep-sky viewing go for faster focal ration as it will give you brighter images with a wider field of view.

If you want to observe the solar system, moon and planets closely, then go for a slower focal ratio of about f/6 and above like the Meade StarPro AZ 102 234004 reviewed above in detail.

Mount type

There are 3 types of mounts; the Dobsonian mount, the altazimuth, and the equatorial mount. The Alt-az mount allows you to move the telescope clockwise and anti-clockwise as well as up and down. The Dobsonian mount is made to reduce stress on the internal components of the scope while the equatorial mount allows you to turn the scope as you like, thus the best for long-time astrophotography.

GoTo telescopes

These are computerized telescopes. They allow automatic tracking of stars as long as they have been calibrated. They are a great option for beginners because they automatically realign with any object you input on them and some of them even come with databases that help you track celestial objects with much ease.

Finders

Finders are also important as they help you locate objects in the sky before you can zoom in with your eyepiece for a clearer view.

Weight and portability

6 Best Telescopes Under $300 - Get Closer to the Stars!

If you are the on-the-go kind of a person then you better settle for a lightweight scope that comes with a durable carry-on bag. The bigger the aperture, the more likely it is for the scope to be big. So you have to strike a balance between getting the best images and being able to handle the weight of the scope.

Accessories

Some telescopes come with a few more extras than other like the Levenhuk Strike 100 PLUS 65617 above. Accessories include; educational materials like the famous ‘see it all’ handbook for astronomers, a Stellarium 3D planetarium software, a planisphere rotating star chart, a compass, and a carry bag for the entire kit. Even tripods and eyepieces are considered as accessories.

FAQ

A telescope with a slow focal ratio of about f/6 and above, a high aperture and high magnification is the best for viewing planets as it would give clear detailed images.

Yes, with any telescope with an 8–inch aperture or more you can view the galaxies.

70MM is the minimum size for a top-quality beginner telescope and it can be used to view bright things like planets, star clusters, lunar details and bright double stars.

Our Verdict

Choosing the best telescope under 300 dollars can never be easier with all the tips in our buying guide and the detailed product reviews. There are multiple brands and models of telescopes under the 300-dollar mark but they all have varying strengths and weaknesses. For instance, our best overall pick, the Meade StarPro AZ 102 234004 packs power with its impressive intuitive design and powerful optical potential. Its smartphone adapter that allows you to take photos through the eyepiece set it apart from its competition.

The Sky-Watcher StarTravel 102 AZ3 S10100 stood out as the best refractor telescope. It has a solid lightweight build that you can easily move around. It is also easy to set up and operate thanks to its intuitive design.

Third on our product list, the Celestron AstroMaster 130 EQ 31045 is undoubtedly the best reflector scope you can get at its price. It is feature-rich, easy to use and not so heavy. Its dual-purpose capabilities and the SkyPortal app made it stand out as one of the best telescopes under 300 dollars.

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