When it comes to purchasing a telescope, the common approach is to sift through dozens if not hundreds of telescopes until you finally decide on one.
It may be a particular feature, recommendation, or “gut feeling”; either way this takes a considerable amount of time and you may end up with a telescope that isn’t quite what you were looking for.
Thankfully, I’ve conducted countless hours of research, discussed spec with numerous fellow astronomers, and run detailed comparisons to find the best telescope for our particular budget.
Will it be as powerful as a NASA Telescope? Not quite, but at $2000 it will be considerably better than cheaper telescopes in the $100-$500 range. With your budget, you are able to purchase some seriously good kit to observe the night sky.
Best Telescope Under $2000
The following telescopes combine fantastic Apertures, Strong Optics, Portability, Durability, and Overall Quality. These are all critically acclaimed telescopes regardless of which model you choose:
Celestron NexStar 8SE Telescope
Aperture: 203.2mm (8″)
Focal Length: 2032mm (80”)
Focal Ratio: f/10
Highest Useful Magnification: 480x
Mount Type: Computerized
Object Database: 40,000
Weight: 24 lbs (10.88 kg)
The infamous Orange Tube, the Celestron NexStar range is perhaps one of the most commonly used and desired for amateur astronomers and experienced observers.
The NexStar 8SE is the premium model in this range; a computerized 8-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain that packs a lot of power and features for an outstanding stargazing experience.
The completely automated GoTo mount (and database of 40,000+ celestial objects) plus the innovative SkyAlign technology will get you aligned and observing in minutes.
Regardless of your experience observing the night sky, you can easily and easily isolate a new target of your choice.
The specs of this telescope are quite frankly incredible considering the price (it comes in at the bottom of the $2000 budget). It has a focal length of 2032mm (8″) and a max magnification of 480x.
The 8SE is able to reveal details of even the faintest celestial objects due to its high light-gathering ability. Users report the success of being able to see Cassini’s Division in Saturn’s rings, the cloud bands on Jupiter, and the Great Red Spot.
Outside of the solar system, the 8SE can show you hundreds of pinpoint stars in the Hercules Globular Cluster, the spiral arms of the Whirlpool Galaxy, and far more.
- The NexStar SE is compatible with many high-tech accessories.
- You can control your telescope using your iPhone or iPad with the SkyQ Link, or add GPS functionality with SkySync.
- Fully automated, GoTo mount with a database of 40,000+ celestial objects automatically locates and tracks objects for you.
- SkyAlign technology aligns the scope quickly (in a couple of minutes). Great for beginners without a knowledge of the night sky.
- Difficult to set up initially; takes some time initially to learn.
- Nexstar computerized telescope: The NexStar 8SE Computerized Telescope features Celestron’s iconic orange tube design with updated technology and the latest features for amazing stargazing for beginners and experienced observers.
- 8-Inch aperture: The 8-inch primary mirror in this Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope for adults and kids to be used together packs enough light-gathering ability to observe the best that our Solar System has to offer, while retaining a compact form factor. Compatible with starsense technology, Wifi
- Fully-automated go to mount: Featuring a database of more than 40,000 celestial objects, the go to mount built into our telescopes for astronomy beginners automatically locates and tracks objects for you.
- Easy to assemble and break down: The single fork arm design and sturdy steel tripod all assemble and break down from separate components for easy transportation. SkyAlign technology gets your telescope aligned and ready in minutes.
- Unbeatable warranty and customer support: Buy with confidence from the telescope brand, based in California since 1960. You’ll also receive a 2-year warranty and unlimited access to technical support from our team of US-based experts.
Celestron NexStar Evolution Telescope
Aperture: 150mm (6″)
Focal Length: 1500mm (59″)
Focal Ratio: f/10
Highest Useful Magnification: 354x
Mount Type: Computerized Equatorial
Object Database: 40,000
Weight: 38 lbs (17.23 kg)
The Celestron NexStar Evolution Telescope falls just under the budget with considerable spec.
This is a great computerized telescope that helps you find and observe the most difficult to find objects and makes stargazing a phenomenal and fascinating experience.
With over 40,000+ objects in the database, it will literally take you years to see them all!
You’re not just getting a premium high-quality telescope with HD optics, you are getting a scope with integrated WiFi!
With 3 different f-stop configurations and the ability to shoot at ultra-fast f2; this is a very versatile and powerful piece of kit.
You can even connect your device to NexStar Evolution’s built-in wireless network, and explore the universe with the Celestron mobile app for iOS and Android
One of the significant benefits of this scope is the combination of power and versatility. It’s great to take with you on the go and transport.
- Designed based on years of customer feedback. It offers many thoughtful design features that combine to provide you the best possible experience.
- Own built-in long-lasting battery – no batteries or external power supply required.
- 6″ aperture less than other telescopes featured in this list – essentially less powerful.
- Control your telescope wirelessly from your iOS or Android smartphone or tablet with the free Celestron mobile app with planetarium interface and SkyAlign technology
- Compact, portable Schmidt Cassegrain telescope with StarBright XLT optical coatings and Fastar compatibility
- Computerized GoTo mount with high-performance worm gears and motors for improved tracking accuracy, along with reduced gear backlash
- Rechargeable lithium-ion battery with enough power for 10 hours of continuous observing
- Improved industrial design with manual clutches and integrated carry handles, plus the added convenience of two accessory trays and a USB charge port for your smart device
Zhumell Z12 Deluxe Dobsonian Reflector Telescope
Aperture: 305mm (12″)
Focal Ratio: 4:95
Highest Useful Magnification: 600x
Mount Type: Computerized
Weight: 75 lbs (34 kg)
The Zhumell Z12 Deluxe Dobsonian Reflector Telescope is one of the most powerful telescopes you will find at this price point (within the $2000 budget).
It has terrific optics (Aperture, Focal Length, and Magnification) that will provide you with scintillating views of the sky with great image brightness and contrast.
Beyond the optics, the Z12’s is durable and sturdy; very well built and built to last.
And as your objects start to move across the sky, you can use the adjustable azimuth bearing system to track in an effortless way.
- Incredible light gathering ability for crisp, bright images
- Beautifully constructed and designed. Looks great.
- Heavy and challenging to move once set up.
Celestron StarSense Explorer DX 130AZ Telescope
Aperture: 130mm (5.11″)
Focal Length: 650mm (25″)
Focal Ratio: f/4.7
Highest Useful Magnification: 307x
Mount Type: Computerized
Weight: 18 lbs (8 kg)
The Celestron StarSense Explorer DX 130AZ Telescope is the budget-friendly option, coming in at around half the price as some other options on the list.
But that does not mean you will not benefit from Celestron’s brilliant optical and mechanical designs.
This is certainly the best beginner-friendly option.
It is the first telescope that uses a smartphone to analyze the night sky and calculate its position in real-time. The app then provides user-friendly tutorials that you can follow along with.
Just like the other options above, being fully motorized you can automatically locate, center, and track any object with a simple press of a button.
The downside is that the Focal Length and Magnification are not as powerful as other options, the latter for this scope maxes out at around 307x. So you are essentially losing some “zooming” functionality with this scope.
- Very cost effective
- Particularly user friendly and ideal for beginners
- Lacks the power for the more advanced astronomer.
- UNLEASH THE POWER OF YOUR SMARTPHONE: Let your iPhone or Android phone take you on a guided tour of the night sky—no telescope experience required. Just follow the arrows to locate stars, planets & more!
- PATENTED STARSENSE SKY RECOGNITION TECHNOLOGY: This one-of-a-kind telescope uses patented, award-winning StarSense sky recognition technology and your smartphone to analyze star patterns overhead and calculate its position in real time.
- STARSENSE EXPLORER APP: The app generates a list of the best objects to view based on your exact time & location. View planets, brighter nebulae, galaxies, and star clusters from the city PLUS fainter, deep sky objects from darker sites.
- EASY TO SET UP AND USE: Manual altazimuth mount with smooth, dual-axis slow-motion controls makes it easy to follow the on-screen arrows to your desired target. When the bullseye turns green, it’s ready to view in the telescope’s eyepiece.
- HIGH-QUALITY 130MM NEWTONIAN REFLECTOR: The 5" primary mirror features highly reflective coatings and enough light gathering ability to view craters on the Moon, Jupiter, Saturn, Mars, and deep sky objects like the Orion Nebula, Andromeda Galaxy, and Pleiades Open Star Cluster.
Finding The Best Telescope
Whether you want to observe the planets and the stars, or delve deeper and explore deep space objects like nebulae, galaxies, comets, and asteroids, then you are going to want to get the best scope you can for your budget.
There are a lot of things to look out for, particularly spec, functionality, and features. Below I will outline some of the different types of telescopes that are available to purchase:
Refractors vs Reflectors
In a simple sense, there are two kinds of telescopes that are available to buy; Refractors and Reflectors.
In many ways they work in a similar fashion; they both use an objective that collects light. However, they mainly differ in the sense that they both use a different kind of objective lens.
Refractors utilize a glass lens as their objective. If you are a beginner in astronomy, this typically does not pose a problem or limitation.
However, glass proves to be an inferior material when used in larger telescopes. This is due to what is known as “lens sagging” – where the weight of glass causes it to sag and bow resulting in a distortion of the images.
Older, traditional and simple Refractor telescopes are called Galilean telescopes. These are not normally used by astronomers in the 21st Century due to their relatively distorted view and a narrow field of view.
In many ways, they are inconvenient for the modern-day astronomer and you will rarely see them recommended or promoted.
A significant improvement in the design led to the modern-day version – the Keplerian telescope.
This warrants a much wider field of view and provides greater eye relief.
Additionally, they provide a much higher magnification. However, this all results in their primary disadvantage – images appear inverted (upside-down and left-to-right) to the user.
Reflecting telescopes, on the other hand, utilize mirrors instead of lenses. The primary benefit of this is that it reduces/eliminates the main problems of Refractors.
The Newtonian telescopes are notable and prove effective for beginners, but some are put off by the design which leads to having to observe an object in the sky from the side of the telescope. The Cassegrain design removes this problem.
Now you may be thinking that any telescope that is not a Cassegrain is automatically inferior considering the factors stated above.
This is not necessarily true. It is important to note that each type of telescope comes with its own pros and cons. Some are more suited to you than others would be – it ultimately comes down to preference and compromise.
Specific telescope styles may have inconveniences, but this could be in order to provide better quality images and views and a larger resolution for less cost, as an example.
Features To Consider In A Telescope
Alongside an understanding of the different types of telescopes, another thing to consider is the features and functionality.
It is these very things that ensure you opt for a scope that suits your own unique needs makes sure you get the best quality you can for your budget and the price.
In order of importance:
If you are not familiar with the term Aperture; then this is perhaps the most significant spec to consider.
The majority of astronomers would agree that Aperture is the central spec that dictates the power of a telescope.
So, this is one of those things to check on any scope you consider.
In its simplest sense, Aperture is the terminology used to describe how wide the objective is in the scope.
It is usually measured in millimeters (mm) and it is the measure of the diameter of the light-gathering objective.
Regardless of whether the objective is a mirror or a lens (Refractor/Reflector), the importance is the size of the objective – the larger it is the sharper and brighter the images provided. So, a larger Aperture means you can observe fainter and more distant objects in the night sky.
Another very important factor to consider is the Focal Length. This is essentially the distance between the objective and the point at which the light rays meet together to focus.
Simply stated, the focal length dictates the magnifying power of a telescope (how much you can “zoom”.
It follows that the larger the focal length, the more magnification.
When it comes to identifying what Focal Length is best for you; you should consider what you want to look at. If you want to look at certain celestial objects, a larger focal length could be more appropriate.
However, if you want to look further afield at more distant solar systems and entire galaxies, a smaller focal length will likely be more advantageous.
Now, this is where it gets a little difficult.
A large focal length will only be beneficial if the Aperture of the scope is high enough to start with.
Consider it this way – if you were to zoom into an image with a low resolution you will not be able to identify any detail better than not zooming in at all. It just becomes more blurred.
However, if you were to zoom into an image with a high resolution – you’ll be able to identify more (and benefit in the process).
To identify the magnification of a telescope, there’s a simple calculation that you can run:
2x the objective’s diameter in millimeters.
So, as an example, a 100mm telescope would have a 200x magnification (at its highest).
The larger a telescope is the better in terms of Aperture and Focal Length (providing better image quality and magnification).
But having a huge telescope not only costs more, but it reduces the portability (which may or may not be an issue for you depending on your preferences).
Certain telescopes are harder to move and transport than others.
Consider the fact that some telescopes will require a car to be transported. So if you want to take a telescope with you on the go, then ensure you have this access.
Having said all this, you may not want to take your telescope with you anywhere.
You may be purchasing it specifically for home use, and you may even leave it in the same place year-round.
So consider where and when you will be using your scope. The more static you plan to be, a larger telescope would be advised.
Ultimately this is all down to personal preference, but if you go for a telescope in between portability and size then you can hedge your bets and use it in both contexts. So if you did decide to suddenly take it with you on a trip, you can.
Not all telescopes come with a mount, but if you are paying in the $2000 range, you typically will get one as part of the package.
This is something that you should investigate before any purchase.
The mount is an integral component of a telescope in the fact that it provides a platform and structure to your telescope.
The mount is used to connect to a tripod which in turn provides stability and elevation. Plus, you’ll also benefit from ease of use, comfort, portability, and stability.
Like all telescope components, there are different types and styles available. Alt-Azimuth mounts are some of the easiest to use, ideal for beginners, and also smaller and lighter telescopes.
The Equatorial mount is best for larger and heavier telescopes. They are typically used by astronomers who partake in Astrophotography.
Certain Equatorial mounts offer computerized functionality. This is a terrific, simple, and effective way to identify objects in the sky, especially for beginners.
Hopefully, this buyer’s guide has helped you to make a decision on what will be the right scope for you, at the very least, it would have helped you to compare spec and functionality.
At this kind of price range, every model is going to have excellent optics and provide you with extraordinary views of the sky.
But, there are always going to be slight differences and individual preferences that dictate what will be best for you. Without being able to test each model, you will not be able to understand the subtle differences between them.
If you’re struggling to make a decision, consider what you are looking to see (galaxies and clusters of stars and planets) and how you are going to use your scope.
Do you want it to be more versatile or more powerful? Or something in between?
Another piece of advice is to ensure that you consider the overall package and what you are getting with the telescope.
Sure you can find cheaper models, but they typically do not come with all the additional accessories that you need. you will likely end up having to buy them separately and I wouldn’t be surprised if this ends up costing you more.
So even if a bundle does seem more expensive always try to weigh it up.
All the telescopes in this list come with the essentials and more; typically tripods, eyepieces, viewfinders, mounts, and other additional gear.
I hope you enjoyed this guide and I wish you all the best. If you have any questions on the models or astronomy in general, be sure to drop a comment below!
Hey, my name is Chris. I’m a passionate and seasoned astronomer who loves nothing more than observing the night sky. I also love researching, learning, and writing all things Space and the Universe. I created Astronomy Scope to share my knowledge, experience, suggestions, and recommendations of what I have learned along the way while helping anyone to get into and maximize their enjoyment of the hobby.
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