Alright, with about a year of experience taking astrophotos with an iPhone under my belt, here are my telescope recommendations if I had to do it all over again. These are ordered from least expensive to most expensive. Hopefully this will help some of you make your first purchase. Feel free to reach out if you have any questions!
- Celestron SkyMaster 15 x 70 Binoculars – OK, so these are admittedly not a telescope, but keep reading! I saw the same suggestion elsewhere and never wanted to listen, “your first telescope purchase should be a good pair of binoculars.” I guess I thought that because I wanted to take astrophotos with my iPhone, binoculars wouldn’t cut it. However, I picked up a pair of these from Amazon about two months ago. They typically run right around $60, but I’ve seen them on sale for as low as $49.99 at times! First of all, they are just awesomely portable and easy to use. Second, they give you a truly impressive view; the 15 times magnification and 70mm aperture will give you a phenomenal view of the moon, Jupiter, Saturn, the Pleaides, the Orion Nebula, and some dimmer objects like the Andromeda Galaxy. Third, you can take iAstrophotos with them! Pair these up with a mount like the SnapZoom and a tripod (here’s one I like from Amazon) to get started with iAstrophotography for right around $150.
- Orion XT6 Dobsonian Telescope – If you’re really looking to get a telescope, here’s the least expensive one I would recommend. I’m speaking from experience here. I thought I wanted an equatorial mounted Newtonian telescope, but without a true tracking motor drive, it was extremely frustrating to use. Keep it simple and go with a Dobsonian. Because the Dobsonian won’t track, you won’t be able to take long exposure astrophotos. However, you should be able to get really good photos and videos of the moon, planets, and other bright objects. With this telescope, you’ll get a great 6 inch aperture for just $300.
- Celestron Advanced VX 6 Inch Newtonian – If I had it to do over again, this would have been my first telescope purchase. Usually retailing for $899, this is a serious investment into amateur astronomy. But this scope really gives you a lot of bang for your buck and will give you an incredible first experience. The optics here are really a great value. This telescope will give you great views of the planets and many deep sky objects. On top of that the tripod and mount for this scope are awesome. The tripod is super sturdy. The mount is a fully computerized Go-To equatorial mount. Setup and alignment couldn’t be easier. Just follow the on screen instructions of the controller, and you’re ready to go. The ability to find and track objects with ease will make a huge difference in your iAstrophotography. You’ll spend less time (really no time) hunting for objects and more time observing and enjoying. The easy and accurate tracking here will let you experiment with a lot of long exposure astrophotos.
- Celestron Advanced VX 8 Inch Newtonian – As the name implies, this is the big brother of the scope above. Same great tripod, same great mount, with 2 extra inches of aperture. Those 2 extra inches give you 78% more light gathering power than the 6 inch model though! If you can afford the extra aperture ($200 more), then go for it. The increased light gathering capability will really help you out when taking astrophotos with a smartphone. My next upgrade is to an 8 inch optical tube!
Again, hope this helps, and let me know if you have any questions!