Rating Astronomical Telescope Brands

By the Astronomy and Photography Online Staff

This article uses a simple to understand "star" rating system. One Star (*) is poor, Two Stars (**) is average, Three Stars is good (***), Four Stars (****) is very good and Five Stars (*****) is Excellent. We use a plus to indicate top of the category status. These star ratings are based on a combination of optical quality, physical quality, quality control (product uniformity) and retail price. They are not based on clear aperture, although large telescopes are naturally more expensive to manufacture and sell than smaller scopes. Naturally, all such ratings are to an extent subjective and debatable, but at least this list provides a starting point.

We have tried to include a majority of the better-known telescope brands, but if a brand is not included, it does not mean it is no good. There are many small companies making fine telescopes in very small numbers, most of which we are unfamiliar with and therefore unable to rate.

Some of the larger telescope companies, such as Celestron, Meade, Orion, Skywatcher and Vixen, market multiple telescope lines, ranging from inexpensive entry level to expert/professional instruments; these are broken-down by line, type, or models where possible. Department store brands and Shopping Channel brands are listed collectively, since there is little difference between any of them and they are generally inferior to all the other telescopes on this list. We give them a strong "Don't Buy" recommendation. The telescope brands on the list that follows are listed in alphabetical order.

  • Astro-Physics *****
  • Astro-Tech ****
  • Bushnell *+
  • Bosch & Lomb (discontinued CAT's) **
  • Celestron (FirstScope, PowerSeeker, AstroMaster, NexStar GT, NexStar SLT, LCM series) **
  • Celestron (Omni XLT series) ***
  • Celestron (C8-C14 SCT's) ***+
  • Celestron (Edge HD series) ****
  • Department Store brands (all) *
  • Discovery ***+
  • Explore Scientific ***+
  • iOptron ***+
  • Jason *
  • JMI (Jim's Mobile) ****
  • Meade (Starter series) *+
  • Meade (ETX series) **
  • Meade (LX-90, LXD75, LS, LT, LightBridge series) **+
  • Meade (LX-200 AFC series SCT's) ***
  • Meade (Max 20) ****
  • Orion (Beginner level: StarBlast, Space Probe, StarMax, Observer, etc.) **
  • Orion (most Newtonians, Dobs and achromatic refractors) **+
  • Orion (ED doublet refractors, Mak's) ***
  • Parks ****
  • PlaneWave *****
  • Questar *****
  • RC Optical Systems *****
  • Shopping Channel brands (all) *
  • Skywatcher (Heritage series) **
  • Skywatcher (Newtonians, Dobs and achromatic refractors) **+
  • Skywatcher (ED doublet refractors and Mak's) ***
  • Stellarvue (ED doublet refractors) ****
  • Stellarvue (APO triplet refractors) ****+
  • Takahashi *****
  • Tasco *
  • Tele Vue ****+
  • Vixen ("Eye" series achromats) **
  • Vixen (A70LF, A80MF refractors; R130Sf Newtonian; VMC95L, VMC110L CAT's) **+
  • Vixen (R200SS Newtonian, ED/APO refractors; VMC200, VC200L, VMC260L, VMC330L CAT's) ****
  • William Optics ****

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