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help! i’m buying a scope as a gift and know nothing

Astrometry Observing Optics Refractor Reflector Catadioptric
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#1 miccymei

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Posted 01 December 2021 - 02:09 PM

I want to get a telescope for a gift but i have no idea what to get. I didn’t realise how complicated they were until I started looking - it’s pretty overwhelming. It would be his first telescope, so it doesn’t have to be the very best. I’ve got a pretty flexible budget although I don’t want to spend a ton because I’m not sure how much he’ll like/use it HOWEVER I’m okay spending enough that he won’t feel like he has to upgrade it in a few months. I’m in Canada so something sold here would be ideal. Something portable would be ideal but Ill take any suggestions. Thanks so much for your help!!! 


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#2 zakry3323

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Posted 01 December 2021 - 02:17 PM

We need more info Miccy! Who is "he"? What is your actual budget? Visual or astrophotography? Planets, Moon, Sun....or dim deep space targets? Answer those questions and we can really target our resposes. 

 

And welcome to CN!


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#3 Emman8

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Posted 01 December 2021 - 02:29 PM

I just started my endeavor 2 years ago thinking a telescope was all I needed.  Bought it at $11-1200... luckily it came with a case, diagonal, rings, 2"adaptor, etc.  Then came the $150-200ea eyepieces... Then the $1200 or so equatorial mount and voila, after 2 years, got things together to see through it lol.

 

There's quite a bit that goes into getting a telescope.  I'm not the best to give advice but I'd start with why you think this would be a good gift in the first place?  Do you imagine this individual looking at planets, galaxies, or everything?

 

Then define your budget better.  You need to fit a telescope, mount, and eyepiece collection into it.

 

I'd further suggest a refractor.  Refractor is relatively "small", easy to figure out, and maintain.  AstroTech has one advertised for $399 that seems to be decent start. 

 

Whatever telescope you decide on pay attention to the weight and then make sure you get either an Alt-Az or Equotorial mount  that can support it (pay load capacity).

 

You can get eyepiece set at any budget, but you get what you pay for.

 

The good thing is if you don't go cheap and get decent stuff, you can always sell it used to upgrade or unload if the individual doesn't take to it. 

 

My 2 cents.

 

Good luck!


Edited by Emman8, 01 December 2021 - 02:33 PM.


#4 rollomonk

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Posted 01 December 2021 - 02:41 PM

Since you don't know if the interest will 'take', you probably don't want to spend a lot. Here's one that is often recommended on Cloudy Nights when starting out since it is inexpensive, but capable, an excellent value, good for people of all ages and can be easily resold if later the person loses interest or want something better:

 

http://skywatcher.co.../heritage-p130/

 

Good luck!


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#5 rhetfield

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Posted 01 December 2021 - 02:56 PM

Since you don't know if the interest will 'take', you probably don't want to spend a lot. Here's one that is often recommended on Cloudy Nights when starting out since it is inexpensive, but capable, an excellent value, good for people of all ages and can be easily resold if later the person loses interest or want something better:

 

http://skywatcher.co.../heritage-p130/

 

Good luck!

I would second that recommendation.

 

Many people who get that scope keep it after moving on to a bigger/better scope.

 

It has good optics and is easy to transport and setup.  It gets both wide field views and decent magnification.  It is popular as a general purpose grab and go travel scope.  Most "better" scopes end up being more specialized in the things they are used for.  They also end up being more work to transport and setup/teardown/maintain.

 

The following thread is a good one on that scope:

https://www.cloudyni...ithout-borders/


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#6 Marcin_78

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Posted 01 December 2021 - 03:01 PM

I had gone through the process of choosing my first (and only) telescope in the early 2021, so I vividly remember how it feels – there are so many new things to consider that it's overwhelming. I'd suggest to do these two things to eliminate possible disappointment and/or annoyance later:

 

1. Read some articles or (even better) watch some Youtube videos about collimation (with details, NOT with only general remarks) and ask yourself this question: “Do I want to regularly do such a thing?”. My answer was: “No, I don’t. I don’t want to do it even ONCE. Maybe it’s not really hard, but it’s still troublesome and/or time consuming. I want a telescope that is almost as easy to use as a pair of binoculars.” Obviously your answer may be different.

 

2. Read some articles or (even better) watch some Youtube videos about setting up a telescope on the equatorial (parallactic) mount (with details, NOT with only general remarks) and ask yourself the same question as previously. My answer was exactly the same.

 

If you are like me then you are left with only relatively small refractors. I myself bought a 70/700 one and I am VERY happy with it! Here’s my detailed review:
https://www.cloudyni...for-a-newcomer/


Edited by Marcin_78, 01 December 2021 - 03:05 PM.

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#7 drd715

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Posted 01 December 2021 - 03:04 PM

Dollar value wise a 6 inch DOBSONIAN  is the best performance scope.  Look at Orion and Skywatcher or similar. I like refractors, but to get the same performance you will have to spend 4-5 times the dollars in an equal comparison. 


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#8 miccymei

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Posted 01 December 2021 - 03:58 PM

I just started my endeavor 2 years ago thinking a telescope was all I needed.  Bought it at $11-1200... luckily it came with a case, diagonal, rings, 2"adaptor, etc.  Then came the $150-200ea eyepieces... Then the $1200 or so equatorial mount and voila, after 2 years, got things together to see through it lol.

 

There's quite a bit that goes into getting a telescope.  I'm not the best to give advice but I'd start with why you think this would be a good gift in the first place?  Do you imagine this individual looking at planets, galaxies, or everything?

 

Then define your budget better.  You need to fit a telescope, mount, and eyepiece collection into it.

 

I'd further suggest a refractor.  Refractor is relatively "small", easy to figure out, and maintain.  AstroTech has one advertised for $399 that seems to be decent start. 

 

Whatever telescope you decide on pay attention to the weight and then make sure you get either an Alt-Az or Equotorial mount  that can support it (pay load capacity).

 

You can get eyepiece set at any budget, but you get what you pay for.

 

The good thing is if you don't go cheap and get decent stuff, you can always sell it used to upgrade or unload if the individual doesn't take to it. 

 

My 2 cents.

 

Good luck!

honestly my budget is pretty flexible. i’ve come across recommendations online and they’re between 700-1200 which seems reasonable but i have no idea. is it? for some telescopes but not others? 


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#9 miccymei

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Posted 01 December 2021 - 04:06 PM

We need more info Miccy! Who is "he"? What is your actual budget? Visual or astrophotography? Planets, Moon, Sun....or dim deep space targets? Answer those questions and we can really target our resposes. 

 

And welcome to CN!

so he’s my husband and my actual budget is truly flexible. I’ve seen some recommendations online from 700-1200 and that seems reasonable. i think visual would be a good place to start although i’m not sure - is it? I think it would be super cool to see all of the above but maybe deep space targets would be best. i bet that’s not helpful, but i don’t want to ask him and ruin the surprise. 

and thanks! i’ve been learning a lot so far! 


Edited by miccymei, 01 December 2021 - 04:31 PM.

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#10 zakry3323

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Posted 01 December 2021 - 04:22 PM

so he’s my husband and my actual budget is truly flexible. I’ve seen some recommendations online from 700-1200 and that seems reasonable. i think visual would be a good place to start although i’m not sure - is it? I think it would be super cool to see all of the above but maybe deep space targets would be best. i bet that’s not helpful, but i don’t want to ask him and ruin the surprise. 

and thanks! i’ve been learning a lot so far! 

Flexible can mean a lot of things! For some folks $500 is a lot to start out with, for others, well, it's not difficult at all to spend more on a single setup than on a new car smile.gif I'm glad you narrowed it down for us to *under $1200* 

 

I agree, visual is a great place to start, and it's good to narrow down the wide berth of possibilities before selecting more specialized instruments. 

 

Three (primary) options for visual- any of which can be found to fit your budget: 

 

1. Refractor - Nice contrasty wider-field views. Good for brighter deep space targets, planets, moon, solar. Easiest to setup and maintain. Usually more portable than other designs. 

2. Reflector - As was mentioned, the best bang for the buck, visually. Excels at deep space targets. Requires collimation. Larger, usually less portable than other designs. 

3. Catadioptric - A combo of mirrors and lenses, at the smaller (within your budget) sizes these designs are great for planetary, lunar, and bright, small deep space objects. Heavy for their size, narrow field, usually requires periodic collimation, which can be difficult for a beginner. 

 

You could take a guess at what your husband might enjoy best, but for a beginner I'd first suggest a refractor or reflector before a Catadioptric.  


Edited by zakry3323, 02 December 2021 - 09:28 AM.


#11 MJB87

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Posted 01 December 2021 - 05:35 PM

Some more questions that would help us...

 

Is your husband into similar endeavors, such as photography or bird watching?  Does he have a good pair of binoculars, even stabilized high-power binoculars? Is he an electronics geek?  Likes to tinker with gadgets?  Some more info on him might help.

 

Will the telescope stay at one place or will you be carrying it around on your travels?

 

Any issues with lifting or operating in the dark?


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#12 Emman8

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Posted 01 December 2021 - 10:13 PM

honestly my budget is pretty flexible. i’ve come across recommendations online and they’re between 700-1200 which seems reasonable but i have no idea. is it? for some telescopes but not others? 

Depends on what's being recommended.  Can you share? 

 

I purchased my 4.4in apochromatic triplet refractor used in the upper range of your reasonable range.  I've spent another $2k easily on a mount, eyepieces, and other accessories.   I didn't have too, I just know myself too well and learned to stretch the budget right where cost of things to start shooting up 90 degrees for a tiny bit of gains is cheaper and less headache in the long run.  I have to say its been a steep learning curve  using the equipment that I've personally enjoyed but I'm hesitant to recommend going that route given the circumstances.

 

The dobsonian is a great suggestion.  Another approach would be to get 2 quality zoom eyepieces to go with it (e.g. Televue 3-6mm zoom eyepiece, and  Baader Hyperion 8-24) and your husband is pretty good to go just under $1000 with equipment that will give you great bang for your buck viewing and will sell in a hot minute in the classifieds if he wants to upgrade or hang it up.  

 

Again I'm new at this but I'm sure others may think otherwise or will have better suggestions.



#13 Jethro7

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Posted 01 December 2021 - 10:20 PM

I want to get a telescope for a gift but i have no idea what to get. I didn’t realise how complicated they were until I started looking - it’s pretty overwhelming. It would be his first telescope, so it doesn’t have to be the very best. I’ve got a pretty flexible budget although I don’t want to spend a ton because I’m not sure how much he’ll like/use it HOWEVER I’m okay spending enough that he won’t feel like he has to upgrade it in a few months. I’m in Canada so something sold here would be ideal. Something portable would be ideal but Ill take any suggestions. Thanks so much for your help!!! 

Hello miccymei, Welcome to CloudyNights

This is very thoughtful of you and Backyard Astronomy is rewarding.  With your budget in mind, I would look into an 8" to 10" Dob. These are the best bang for the buck for visual Astronomy hands down. They are easy to use, they are inclusive and come with a stable bases ( very important) and they  have plenty of aperture (size of the primary mirror) that will allow you to view Deep space Objects (Nebulae, Star Clusters Galaxies and such) as well as breathtaking views of the moon and Planets.  8" to 10" Dobs are lifetime scopes. One of these scopes and a these two Books "NightWatch" by Terrence Dickerson and "Turn Left at Orion" by Guy Consolmagno and Dan M. Davis. will set your Husband up for adventure on the right path. I have the Orion Skyline 10 and highly recommend them. 

 

https://www.telescop...pe/p/113094.uts

 

https://www.telescop...pe/p/113095.uts

 

https://www.amazon.c...la-403917011747

 

https://www.amazon.c...la-526272983978

 

HAPPY SKIES AND KEEP LOOKING UP Jethro


Edited by Jethro7, 01 December 2021 - 10:29 PM.

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#14 sevenofnine

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Posted 01 December 2021 - 11:02 PM

Welcome to C/N! welcome.gif

 

The selection of a great starter scope isn't hard with a good budget like that. During these world wide pandemic times, finding stock is going to be the biggest problem. Hopefully Orion Telescopes delivers to Canada. This one is in stock and is basically the same as my best telescope. By best I mean shows me a lot and doesn't cost a fortune. It's also easy to operate once you learn the basics of navigating the night sky. 

 

https://www.telescop...1col5-prodimage. If this one is not available in Canada then choose any 8" manual Dobsonian reflector from a Canadian supplier. These scopes all come out of a few factories in Asia and they are all good. 

 

I recommend get a good astronomy guide book too. This is one of the best: NightWatch by Terence Dickinson. Best of luck to you!  gnome.gif


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#15 jokrausdu

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Posted 02 December 2021 - 12:02 AM

I just ordered some books from RASC, and they have some great guidebooks. And they are a good Canadian organization for amateur astronomers You could get him a membership. https://rasc.ca

 

I sometimes recommend that beginners start with some star charts, a beginner book like Nightwatch (https://www.amazon.c.../dp/155407147X/) and a good pair of binoculars at $200-300 or more, either 7x50 or 10x50. The cheaper binoculars may not stay collimated. If they are not collimated, they can cause headaches.  If he doesn't stay interested in astronomy, the binoculars could be used for other purposes.

 

I also recommend either a 6-8 inch dobsonian reflector. Those can show you a lot of different types of objects for a low amount of money.

 

Get him a good eyepiece or two beyond what comes with the scope. Good Plossl design eyepieces start around $50-100, and other designs and brands that have wide fields or better eye relief can be $200-500 each (or more).

 

Welcome to the club.


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#16 DJL

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Posted 02 December 2021 - 12:27 AM

so he’s my husband and my actual budget is truly flexible. I’ve seen some recommendations online from 700-1200 and that seems reasonable. i think visual would be a good place to start although i’m not sure - is it? I think it would be super cool to see all of the above but maybe deep space targets would be best. i bet that’s not helpful, but i don’t want to ask him and ruin the surprise. 

and thanks! i’ve been learning a lot so far! 

I totally recommend having the conversation. The most important gift is the support and encouragement for a spouse spending hours outside in the cold and dark. Getting bits of gear that don't work together causes emotional conflict for the recipient - the best thing to do is try to sell it (probably at a loss) but you can't because it's a gift.

 

Visual vs astrophotography is one of the big divides in this activity. Some people (e.g. my spouse) want to look through a telescope, others (e.g. me) are interested in deep sky objects (DSOs) that are beautiful when photographed and hard or impossible to see with your eyes. There's a misconception that planets are easy targets for beginners with moderate optics and DSO's need vast knowledge and a personal Hubble telescope. In fact it's the opposite in my experience.

 

I already had a DSLR and adequate lenses, I had been watching Astrobackyard on YouTube for a while and had an understanding of stacking and the need for calibration frames. The transformative gift for me was receiving a Sky Watcher Star Adventurer, which allowed me to take long exposures of naked eye targets like the Orion Nebula and the Pleiades. The Andromeda Galaxy is not a naked eye target for me due to light pollution but I did manage to find and photograph it after learning to star hop. This led me to getting a goto mount, refractor telescope and dedicated astro camera last year.  

 

Edit: got my first and still only eyepiece about 18 months after starting astrophotography.

 

Choosing a gift depends on what you already have, what you already know and what you're interested in observing and or photographing. You could download the free Stellarium app for your computer and do some virtual observing of the night sky, find out what targets you are interested in and use the oculars plugin to find out what size of camera lens or telescope is suitable. Or search the Astrobin website, see what images you like and what was used to capture them. Whatever you get is not an end point, it's the first rung on a ladder. Good luck and welcome to Cloudy Nights!


Edited by DJL, 02 December 2021 - 12:31 AM.


#17 miccymei

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Posted 02 December 2021 - 06:21 AM

Some more questions that would help us...

Is your husband into similar endeavors, such as photography or bird watching? Does he have a good pair of binoculars, even stabilized high-power binoculars? Is he an electronics geek? Likes to tinker with gadgets? Some more info on him might help.

Will the telescope stay at one place or will you be carrying it around on your travels?

Any issues with lifting or operating in the dark?



#18 miccymei

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Posted 02 December 2021 - 06:26 AM

we have some nice camera equipment but i probably use it more. huge electronics guy; he rebuilds a computer every couple years and such (i’m NOT an electronics person so that seems very techie to me). it would be cool to bring it with us when we leave home but if i’d sacrifice really nice views for good portability, i’d leave it.
thanks for your help!!

#19 miccymei

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Posted 02 December 2021 - 06:31 AM

Depends on what's being recommended. Can you share?

I purchased my 4.4in apochromatic triplet refractor used in the upper range of your reasonable range. I've spent another $2k easily on a mount, eyepieces, and other accessories. I didn't have too, I just know myself too well and learned to stretch the budget right where cost of things to start shooting up 90 degrees for a tiny bit of gains is cheaper and less headache in the long run. I have to say its been a steep learning curve using the equipment that I've personally enjoyed but I'm hesitant to recommend going that route given the circumstances.

The dobsonian is a great suggestion. Another approach would be to get 2 quality zoom eyepieces to go with it (e.g. Televue 3-6mm zoom eyepiece, and Baader Hyperion 8-24) and your husband is pretty good to go just under $1000 with equipment that will give you great bang for your buck viewing and will sell in a hot minute in the classifieds if he wants to upgrade or hang it up.

Again I'm new at this but I'm sure others may think otherwise or will have better suggestions.



#20 miccymei

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Posted 02 December 2021 - 06:43 AM

honestly kind of the appeal is that if he likes it i can get accessories as gifts in the future (he is super hard to buy for because he has almost everything). one recommendation that i still have a tab open for was a StarBlast 6i IntelliScope, another was a NexStar 127 SLT Maksutov i believe. i’ve looked at so many little article-type things online that i’m not sure where those suggestions came from.
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#21 sevenofnine

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Posted 02 December 2021 - 12:06 PM

If your are considering a smaller Maksutov design then I recommend looking for this one in stock somewhere. The scope/mount combination is particularly good and a modern design. You control it with an app. on your cell phone or an accessory hand controller. I have a version of this and like it a lot waytogo.gif

 

https://www.skywatch...ymax-127-az-gti.


Edited by sevenofnine, 02 December 2021 - 12:12 PM.

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#22 pweiler

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Posted 02 December 2021 - 03:57 PM

One of many good articles on the internet:

https://skyandtelesc...se-a-telescope/

Some initial considerations may be how heavy of a scope can the user handle and if the scope happens to get bumped around would it need alignment adjustments / would the user be willing to learn how to re-align things such as mirrors bouncing light off of each other.

Edited by pweiler, 02 December 2021 - 03:59 PM.


#23 PNW

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Posted 02 December 2021 - 06:11 PM

I think you should look into the Celestron Starsense Explorer series. 



#24 Emman8

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Posted 02 December 2021 - 07:31 PM

honestly kind of the appeal is that if he likes it i can get accessories as gifts in the future (he is super hard to buy for because he has almost everything). one recommendation that i still have a tab open for was a StarBlast 6i IntelliScope, another was a NexStar 127 SLT Maksutov i believe. i’ve looked at so many little article-type things online that i’m not sure where those suggestions came from.

He sounds like a great fit for Astronomy to me lol.

 

 I'm not familiar with the Maksutov telescopes quite yet.  It's really hard to beat the packaged set-up... if you can find a quality one that you like in stock.  



#25 Bener

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Posted 03 December 2021 - 04:49 PM

Hi Miccymei,

 

I am someone who is the recipient of my first telescope just this past Father’s Day.  Previous to my getting my scope, I hadn’t expressed a particular interest in one, so my family picked one out that would be useful for me to discover astronomy without spending a lot of money that may have been wasted if I didn’t become more interested in the hobby.  The telescope my family picked out is fairly modest scope in terms of price (ca $250) that is good enough for me to see some planets like Jupiter and Saturn as well as a myriad of stars and much more.  Although I have purchased some extras since getting my scope, it came complete with all that’s needed to get a good start.  Now that I have dabbled in my new hobby for a few months, I know I want a more capable scope, but this first one is certainly not obsolete. I will keep it and be able to use it going forward.

 

 I would suggest you consider this model or something similar and perhaps just one additional lens to get him started.  I f he ends up really enjoying astronomy, the additional lens will still be useful, so you won’t be buying something that will need to be upgraded right away.

 

Here’s the scope:  AWB OneSky

 

And the additional lens I am suggesting: Svbony zoom

 

You may have already noticed that many astronomy related items are back ordered, unfortunately. There are similar models made by or branded by other manufacturers that are equivalent.  Let us know if this interests you, and we can help tracking those down.




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