What Can a $750 Telescope Budget Get Me?

In previous posts, I have given you an idea of what a $200 budget and a $500 budget can get you when it comes to telescopes. Now we are upping the ante and pushing to a budget range around $750. As you are paying more, you’ll find you have more options when it comes to how much aperture you want, and/or how much technical function you want.

Please refer to either of those prior articles which add more pieces of helpful advice and give you an idea of what you’re upgrading from.

As always, remember these tidbits…

  • Don’t worry about the brands too much. This post just gives you a general idea of the telescope specs and what it can and cannot do. For example, if you see a product listing from Orion’s or Celestron’s respective websites, you should also look up similar models with similar specs on other online stores. This article doesn’t endorse nor is it sponsored by the brands mentioned. 
  • Magnification rule of thumb (how much you can use before the telescope can no longer resolve details) is two times the aperture in millimetres – ex. a 150 mm telescope can go as high as 300x magnification.
  • IF you decide on a computerized telescope, while some can operate on normal batteries, it is highly recommended you purchase a portable 12 V battery pack (“power bank” as some call it). Computer telescopes eat up batteries each use, so getting a rechargeable battery saves you money in the long run, especially it’s used rather frequently!

Orion SkyQuest XT10 PLUS Dobsonian Reflector Telescope

750 xt10

Price: $750 plus tax
Aperture: 254 mm / 10 in.
Focal Length: 1200 mm
Mount: Alt-Az
Motor Drive?: No
Included Eyepieces: 1.25″ 10mm, 2″ 28mm 

You want double digit aperture for less than 1,000? Here You Go!
A 10 inch telescope has the light gathering power of 1,316 versus an 8 inch’s respective power of 841, hence it will collect about 50% and you’ll definitely see the difference in deep sky objects.
As Dobsonians are well renowned for their ease of setup and use, take this thing out to a dark sky and witness seeing certain globular clusters like M13 start to resemble their pictures, and you may even start glimpsing some spiral arms on certain galaxies like M51 and M101.
However, it’s 100% manual, hence you’ll need to find everything yourself. Speaking of finders, if you don’t like the included red dot finder, nor want to keep using batteries for it, then you’ll definitely want a proper finder-scope.

Orion SkyQuest XT8i IntelliScope Dobsonian Telescope

750 xt8i

Price: $650 plus tax
Aperture: 203 mm / 8 in.
Focal Length: 1200 mm
Mount: Alt-Az
Motor/Computer Drive?: IntelliScope included
Included Eyepieces: 1.25″ 25 mm, 10 mm 

For $100 less, and with slightly less light gathering power compared to the previous entry, you could get an 8″ Dobsonian equipped with an IntelliScope system.

While the computerized system does have a database, it still requires you to still manually slew the telescope to the right location, then it will tell you when you’re there.  This is different than a GoTo System, where it automatically slews at the push of a button based on your alignment procedure accuracy, and stays on the object. Compared to a GoTo, Intelliscopes use less battery energy and are more lightweight, and they do not automatically stay on.

This one will also include a 9×50 right-angle finder scope, which is good for those who don’t like having to crouch down to look up through a finder.

Celestron NEXSTAR 5SE Computerized Schmidt-Cassegrain Telescope 

750 6se

Price: $700 plus tax
Aperture: 127 mm / 5 in.
Focal Length: 1250 mm
Mount: Alt-Az
Motor/ Computer Drive?: GoTo included
Included Eyepieces: 1.25″ 25 mm

The NEXSTAR line of Celestron GoTo Telescopes remain as popular as ever.

The 4 inch, 4SE Maksutov version was featured in the previous $500 budget article. The main difference going forward is that this is a Schmidt, not a Maksutov, and there are slight differences in specifications.

What leaves more to be desired is the inclusion of only one eye piece, so if you want to get to the highest resolvable magnification, it’s an extra purchase.

For $100 more, you can get the 6SE version of this model, which will have a slightly longer focal length and one more inch of aperture. The product page on Celestron’s website includes listings of all the models to help you compare!

Orion StarSeeker IV 127mm GoTo Mak-Cass Telescope

Price: $730 plus tax
Aperture: 127 mm / 5 in.
Focal Length: 1540 mm
Mount: Alt-Az
Motor/ Computer Drive?: GoTo included
Included Eyepieces: 1.25″ 23 mm, 10mm

Those who prefer the more compact Maksutov rather than a Shmidt for their catadioptic tastes will enjoy this 5″ go-to telescope.

If you’re a beginner and a first time buyer, the kit includes a moon filter, plus a moon map, star map, and an adapter for portable batteries or electrical outlets. The included eyepieces are slightly higher in quality than the standard Plossl eyepieces that usually come with telescope kits.

Orion SkyView Pro EQ 8″ Newtonian 
My SkyView Pro 8″ W/ the clock drive…. long before I converted it into a GoTo telescope

Price: $600 plus tax
Aperture: 203 mm / 8 in.
Focal Length: 1000 mm
Mount: Equatorial
Motor/ Computer Drive?: $170 Clock Drive  Sold Separately
Included Eyepieces: 1.25″ 25mm, 10 mm.

Now we’re moving into equatorial mount territory!

If you want a moderately sized Newtonian with a sturdy equatorial mount that will help you learn, then this is a good place to start with. The setting circles are easy to use, and the included polar opening will help you get your mount aligned with true north as needed for visual observing. A compatible polar scope can also be bought for $70.

While a dual axis clock drive is sold separately, the additional $170 still keeps the desired budget range for this post! It’s NOT a computer drive, but merely one that automatically keeps the telescope moving with the Earth’s rotation, and will stay on your object after you manually slew it. While coming separately, it is easy to install.

Compare this to the 8″ IntelliScope  – and you’ll see that both setups with their respective systems still require you to manually slew the telescopes to your desired spot. The main difference is the IntelliScope does not stay on the object with the Earth’s rotation while any equatorial mount with a clock drive does!

Plus it leaves it open for you to get introduced to astrophotography, which is something you won’t get with Dobsonians.

Meade LX85 Series 6″ Reflector 

750 lx85

Price: $800 plus tax
Aperture: 150 mm / 6 in.
Focal Length: 750 mm
Mount: Equatorial
Motor/ Computer Drive?: GoTo included
Included Eyepieces: 1.25″ 26mm, 9.7 mm

This 6″ German Equatorial Mount is equipped with a GoTo Drive, which also includes Audio Star, a built in speaker that can give you detailed educational descriptions on the objects you’re looking at. For beginners this can be a great function, but for advanced astrophotography users, they may turn that feature off.

Should you want to get introduced to astrophotography, assuming you will get the proper camera and adapters, then this would be a decent telescope to start with for the price!

Astroview 120 ST Equatorial Refractor 

750 astroview refractor

Price: $600 plus tax
Aperture: 120mm / 4.7 in .
Focal Length: 600mm
Motor/ Computer Drive?: Clock Drives Sold Separately
Included Eyepieces: 1.25″ 25 mm, 10 mm eyepiece

The previous post featured Orion’s Astroview Equatorial mount with a 6 inch reflector. Now in this post. This time, buying a 4.7 inch wide field refractor with that mount will cost more.

Refractors will definitely outperform a reflector of the same size in terms of clarity and image quality; thus if lunar and planetary views are more your thing with small telescopes, then go with the refractor! 

Wide field refractors are often recommended as a first telescope for beginner astrophotographers. Just be sure to get the compatible clock drives so you can track!

TL; DR – For the money we’re dealing with here, you can get a 100% manual 10 inch Dobsonian, 8 inch telescopes with some additional features that still require manual slewing, or fully computerized 5=6 inch telescopes.

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