Best Telescope Under 1000 – Who Is The Winner?

best telescope

The Best Telescope Under 1000?  Even before we started, we wondered if it would be possible for our team to test and review all of the candidate telescopes in the short two week period.

The Challenge

The entire staff decided to have shootout of higher-end consumer telescopes, with the only entry criteria being a price tag under $1000. It would've been extremely difficult if not completely impossible for all of our reviewers to have the opportunity to test and review every single telescope individually. We quickly realized that there wasn't a way for every member of our staff to review each telescope, so we decided  to use the time-tested "divide and conquer" approach.

So we devised a plan to divide the work up amongst the review team members, with everyone receiving a set of instructions to be used for each the telescopes that they were assigned to review. We tried to standardize the review process in an effort to provide consistency for all of the reviews.

The Contenders

We had been preparing for this massive undertaking months in advance. Good thing, because the logistics of pulling everything together was a nightmare. Fortunately for us, we have an office manager, Brandy, that is super organized and very detail oriented. If there was ever an office manager, it's Brandy !

She began contacting manufacturers six months ago, establishing points of contact, identifying and planning equipment, coordinating deliveries,  etc.  In the end, she had arranged for us to review equipment from 49 different manufacturers.  Here's the list of everyone that responded to our request:

  • AOMEKIE
  • Apexel
  • Artshai
  • ATOZstars
  • BARSKA
  • Bresser
  • Bushnell
  • Carson
  • Cassini
  • Celestron
  • Coleman
  • Collectibles Buy 
  • Coronado
  • CStar Optics
  • Danubia 
  • Eschenbach Optik 
  • Explore Scientific
  • ExploreOne
  • fosa
  • Fovitec
  • Fujifilm
  • Galileo 
  • Gskyer 
  • Handcrafted Nautical Decor
  • iOptron 
  • JMI Telescopes
  • Kartique 
  • Kenko
  • Kol-kit
  • Konus
  • Levenhuk 
  • Levenhuk and Schieber Telescopes 
  • Meade 
  • National Geographic
  • Opteka
  • ORION
  • Real Simple
  • Ritz Camera
  • Scopewise
  • Sky Watcher
  • Smartstar
  • Tasco 
  • Tele Vue 
  • Twin Star 
  • TwinStar / iOptron 
  • Visionking 
  • Vivitar 
  • Vixen 
  • Vixen Optics
  • More...

    Getting It Done

    We only had a two week timeframe, so the pressure on us to work smart and efficient... plus some of us also cheated a little bit and took a few of the telescopes home over the weekend to test in our own backyards.  Not too bad though, it was a mixture of work and fun at the same time!

    best telescope under 1000

    Brandy is updating the master testing schedule with the latest updates

    So how did we do?  After two weeks, we successfully tested and reviewed a whopping total of 157 telescopes from the various manufacturers.  It wasn't easy, especially since we encountered one or two nights of cloudy overcast skies that really hampered our efforts. But in the end, we exceeded our own expectations. Here's are the results of our "Best Telescope Under $1,000" competition (listed in alphabetical order):


    Celestron NexStar 8 SE Telescope

    best telescope under 1000
    best telescope under 1000

    Celestron NexStar 8 waiting to be tested

    This telescope has StarBright XLT high transmission coatings for superior opticals. It also includes SkyAlign, which allows for for performing alignment on any three bright celestial objects, making for a rapid, efficient alignment process.

    The 'GoTo' system accepts commands through the handset and effortlessly points the optical assembly toward any one of nearly 40,000 objects stored in its database. Using the (optional) CN-16 GPS accessory connection and an external GPS unit (also not included), the alignment process be made to entirely automatic.

    This telescope also includes the NexRemote telescope control software along with an included RS-232 for advanced control of the telescope with a personal computer. Unfortunately, most modern desktop and laptop computers no longer support the older RS-232 serial interface.  Instead, contemporary computers use the ubiquitous  USB interface for serial communications. (Are you listening Celestron? It's time to update!)

    The StarPointer finderscope helps with alignment and locating objects. The Star Diagonal internal flip mirror can be set for straight or 90-degree viewing angle. This capability may also be used for rapidly switch from the eyepiece to a camera without disturbing telescope alignment.

    It also comes with exceptionally sturdy steel tripod that feels very durable and should provide many years for reliable service and laser-sharp astrophotography.

    The unit is light enough that a person can grab it and take it out to the backyard or the end of the driveway for a quick look at the moon or a planet without hesitation.

    I just wish that it either got decent battery life on internal power, or could slew around in altaz mode with the power off. I added a Power Tank after reading reviews of the scope's internal battery life. The tank is awkward enough to compromise the scope's ease of deployment, but I suppose I can throw it in a backpack. I'll definitely want to invest in an adjustable chair; the eyepiece wound up at a very awkward height when Jupiter was up near the zenith. For objects closer to the horizon, the height of the tripod makes the eyepiece position much less bad.

    Pros:

    • Really sharp optics
    • Light weight
    • Low price, especially compared to what computer-controlled SCTs sold for when I owned my previous scope
    • Star Pointer instead of a crappy 5x24 finder
    • Some attempt at including a built-in wedge

    Cons:

    • Azimuth locks up when power turned off, which prevents you from using it in altazimuth mode with the drive switched off
    •  Battery life is short when using the internal pack. For serious extended viewing, it really requires the use of Celestron's Power Tank (optional). Unfortunately, lugging around the Power Tank reduces the mobility of the setup.
    • Built-in wedge is very rudimentary
    • Won't take a 2" diagonal for wide-angle views without vignetting

    Celestron NexStar 5 SE Telescope

    best telescope under 1000
    Celestron NexStar 5 SE Telescope

    Celestron NexStar 8 SE Telescope


    StarBright XLT high transmission coatings SkyAlign allows alignment on any three bright celestial objects, making for a rapid, efficient alignment process. It then functions as a 'go-to' system accepting commands through the handset and pointing the optical assembly toward any one of nearly 40,000 objects stored in its database. Using the (optional) CN-16 GPS accessory connection and an external GPS (not included), alignment is entirely automatic. NexRemote telescope control software and RS-232 cable included for advanced control of the telescope with a PC StarPointer finderscope helps with alignment and locating objects Flash-upgradeable hand control software and motor control units by way of downloadable updates Robust, computerized altazimuth mount Star Diagonal internal flip mirror for straight or 90-degree viewing angle. May also be used to rapidly switch from the eyepiece to a camera without disturbing telescope alignment Exceptionally sturdy steel tripod for long service and rapier-sharp astrophotography


    I've owned a 10" dob (Coulter 10" f/4.5) and an ETX-90 (the original non-computerized model). This scope is my re-entry into amateur astronomy after being away for a few years. I live right smack in the middle of a heavily light polluted metropolitan area (Toronto), and it would take at least two hours to get to a genuinely dark site. So I wound up looking for a small scope that would give me good views of solar system objects.


    I've been pleasantly surprised. There have been only two nights since I got thing that the sky hasn't been completely socked in by clouds, and the moon has been down for both of them. So I haven't gotten the scope on the moon yet, but Jupiter has been beautifully placed, and it looks fantastic! I get a ton more detail off the planetary disc than I ever got from either previous instrument, and it compares favourably with views I've had through an assortment of friends' scopes. (I used the supplied 25mm Plössl, and a 7mm Nagler.)


    It's light enough that I can grab it and take it out to the end of the driveway for a quick look at the moon or a planet. I just wish that it either got decent battery life on internal power, or could slew around in altaz mode with the power off. I added a Power Tank after reading reviews of the scope's internal battery life. The tank is awkward enough to compromise the scope's ease of deployment, but I suppose I can throw it in a backpack. I'll definitely want to invest in an adjustable chair; the eyepiece wound up at a very awkward height when Jupiter was up near the zenith. For objects closer to the horizon, the height of the tripod makes the eyepiece position much less bad.


    Pros:


    * Really sharp optics

    * Light weight

    * Low price, especially compared to what computer-controlled SCTs sold for when I owned my previous scope

    * Star Pointer instead of a crappy 5x24 finder

    * Some attempt at including a built-in wedge


    Cons:


    * Azimuth locks up when power turned off, which prevents you from using it in altazimuth mode with the drive switched off

    * Really needs a Power Tank for use, which degrades the value of the scope's light weight

    * Built-in wedge is very rudimentary

    * Won't take a 2" diagonal for wide-angle views without vignetting


    The NexStar 6 gets all the attention, and for 36% more light gathering area for 18% more money, it's a great value. But at 45 pounds vs. the 28 of the NexStar 5, it's 50% heavier for that extra 36% light, more if you add a wedge. The 5 is a big small instrument; I scaled up to it after looking at the computerized ETX-90. The 6 is a small primary instrument; I can imagine scaling down to one after looking at an 8" SCT. For shallow-sky observing in the light-polluted city, and for an instrument that I can carry a long way from my car in one trip with the tripod, single-arm fork, and tube mated up, I think this is a winner.


    Check this one out later... the full review is still on progress, but it will be here soon !


    Celestron Advanced VX 6" Newtonian

    best telescope under 1000
    Celestron Advanced VX 6" Newtonian

    The new motor design offers improved tracking performance & provide more power to overcome load imbalances.

    Updated industrial design offers more rigidity, so that there is less flex with improved aesthetics as an additional side benefit. The new overall design allows viewing or imaging across the meridian without interference from the motor housings, providing improved latitude range. This telescope system may be used between 7 and 77 degrees latitude.

    The electronics have also been updated with increased memory for future expansion. The NexStar+ hand control offers multiple language programming (English, French, Italian, German, Spanish) for international appeal.

    For setup, it is fairly simple and quick once you become familiar with it's operation. To begin with, you place the tripod aimed roughly toward the pole at about the height you're comfortable with (learned from experience), set the level (we used a simple, general purpose level that we purchased from the local hardware store). Next, attach the mount. Followed by the optical tube assembly and counterweight.

    Despite it's large physical stature, portability wasn't an issue for our reviewers. In fact, they mentioned that they were able to move and relocate the everything relative easy. The entire assembly can be carried as-is, assuming that you're of moderate strength. The entire assembly is approximately 65 lbs (30 kgs). Otherwise you can break everything down, move the pieces separately, and re-assemble.  All of the components seem to be constructed of quality materials, and the unit as a whole feels very durable, sturdy and well-built.

    New motors offer improved tracking performance & provide more power to overcome load imbalances Updated industrial design offers more rigidity, less flexure and improved aesthetics. New design allows viewing or imaging across the meridian without interference from the motors housings Improved latitude range. Can be used between 7 - 77 degrees latitude. Improved electronics with increased memory for future expansion NexStar+ hand control offers multiple language programming (English, French, Italian, German, Spanish)


    This is my first real telescope. I picked it as a compromise of weight/portability, aperture, price, capability of seeing our moon, the planets and deep-sky objects, and capability to do both visual observation and astrophotography.


    So far portability isn't an issue; I haven't put off using the scope due to any difficulty moving it from the garage to the driveway. I haven't tried packing it into my 05 Honda Accord yet but given the size of the parts it will fit nicely in the trunk, even leaving the OTA (optical tube assembly) in the original shipping box (which I'm using for storage/transport, since it has pre-formed non-fragmenting foam inserts and came sturdily double-boxed).


    Setup is fairly simple and quick once it's familiar; place the tripod aimed roughly toward the pole at about the height you're comfortable with (learned from experience), level it (I got a simple $5 hardware store level just for this purpose), attach and secure the mount, then attach the OTA (and counterweight).


    The entire assembly can be carried as-is if you're moderately strong and have decent dexterity/spatial awareness; if not, I believe no individual piece of the telescope is over 20 pounds / 9kg, and total weight is in the area of 65 pounds / 30kg, though I haven't actually weighed it yet. Everything seems sturdy and well-built.


    I don't have an ideal location for viewing outside my house at the moment, as half the sky (including the important reference point of Polaris) is blocked by trees, but even with my poor approximations of alignment the sky tracking makes keeping objects in view an occasional instead of constant annoyance. The computerized alignment setup is intuitive, just make sure you either have a GPS capable gadget with clock handy, or look up your lat/long online and write it down before going to your viewing site. You can get an add-on Celestron GPS unit to do this automatically for you but it is just a convenience, and a rather expensive one at that; so far I feel no need for it.


    As far as alignment, knowing your way around the sky a bit before getting this scope is a BIG plus. Calibration involves centering the telescope on stars, which are referenced by name. Everything I've read in preparation for getting a scope has said to get familiar with the sky and do some naked-eye or binocular stargazing before picking out a telescope, so this shouldn't be an issue if you've managed to pick up the names and relative locations of some of the brighter stars or come prepared with some basic star charts.


    The t-adapter and ring I purchased separately for my Canon DSLR work as advertised; I had the camera attached and was taking pictures with no issues due to the scope. (Celestron's T-adapter seems a bit fiddly to thread onto the back of this scope, but that's the t-adapter's fault I think, not the scope.)


    Included are some pictures I got with that setup (for reference, camera is a Canon EOS Rebel T3i, attached directly to the scope for "prime focus photography" with the t-adapter and Canon-appropriate t-ring). Given that it's winter the atmospheric conditions aren't ideal here in the northern United States, so I don't think the planetary pictures represent the best this scope is capable of. In particular, Saturn is fairly low in the sky right now (about 20 degrees above the horizon) so I'm getting a lot of atmospheric distortion. The live view (and videos I took) of Jupiter and especially Saturn let you 'see' a lot more detail than a simple still image gives. Still I'm pleased with the results, and looking forward to calmer skies for Saturn's opposition in May.


    The picture of the Orion nebula (a 10-second exposure) is adjusted on my computer, with exposure adjusted and "highlights" dimmed a bit so that the bright center isn't washed out when detecting the fainter colors surrounding it. Direct visual observation doesn't pick up the reddish and purple hues in this scope, in my limited observation. Just trying to be transparent. (to be completely fair, pretty much any pictures of nebula you see are tweaked in this way; expecting National Geographic or Sky and Telescope type pictures of nebula directly from a portable, personal-owned scope with zero image adjustment ranges from unfeasible to impossible).


    The picture of the first quarter moon represents the full view of my camera (which has Canon's "cropped" sensor, and therefore a narrower field of view) at prime focus. Additionally the aura/haze around the moon in that picture is due to a light sheen of clouds/haze that was in the sky at the time (notably absent in the other moon picture due to clearer skies). The picture of the waxing gibbous is actually five pictures stitched together, but still gives an idea of the telescope's capability as far as resolution. Again, trying not to be misleading.


    Biggest complaints:

    The handset's readout does not respond quickly at lower temperatures (sub freezing; the only temps available to me so far given that this is winter). I have a tough time reading what it says any time there's text scrolling across the screen. You can adjust the speed it scrolls at but either it's a glacial crawl that is still only marginally readable, or a barely decipherable jumble of letters. I adjusted the contrast and that helped marginally. Fortunately the scrolling text is usually instructions that, once you know what you need to do, you won't need to read every time. When the text is stationary it's very clear.


    Also, when moving the scope at the highest speed the motors seem really loud. I don't have any reference of other scopes to compare it to but at the highest setting ("9") it's loud enough that I worry it might be audible by my nearby neighbors in the dead of night (I live in a small town in rural Montana, so it's quite quiet here). The speed setting is quickly accessible though, and "8" is significantly quieter, though inconveniently slower.


    And on Celestron's website for this product it says it comes with a 20mm eyepiece; the one I received with the scope is a 25mm. This does not really affect me since I specifically avoided buying other eyepiece sizes before trying out the scope, but could be an issue if you based other eyepiece purchases around already having a 20mm.


    Overall I'm very pleased with both my choice of type of scope and mount, and this particular model's build quality and visual performance.



    Gskyer Telescope, 130EQ Professional Reflector Telescope

    best telescope under 1000
    best telescope under 1000

    Assembled and ready for testing

    Gskyer Telescope, 130EQ Professional Astronomical Reflector Telescope

    The Gskyer 130EQ is a high quality yet affordable telescope that is capable of being used for multiple purposes: astronomy, landscape, wildlife views, etc. The telescope includes advanced German technology and craftsmanship, which will provide users with spectacular views and and allow them to capture amazing celestial and terrestrial image photos.

    The Gskyer Astromaster 130EQ telescope features a 130 mm aperture, with a total focal length of 650 + 50 mm, and a focal ratio of f/5. Additionally, Astromaster 130EQ comes equipped with a 3x Barlow lenses and three different eyepieces (25mm, 10mm, and 5mm). Each of the optical components is constructed with the multilayer green glass, specifically engineered to gather light more efficiently and to increase the magnification factor. Additionally, the eyepiece does not require a universal T-Ring adapter to attach a DSLR or SLR camera since this telescope was specifically made for stellar photography.

    The telescope integrates with the a stainless steel tube tripod though the use of an advanced German-designed and built equatorial mount. Equipped with a hook and dovetail plate, the smoothness of the mount allows the telescope to be used for tracking fast-moving objects with exacting precision.

    Telescope Specification- Aperture: 130mm (5.1 IN) - Focal Length: 650mm ( 26IN) - Focal Ratio: 5 - Eyepiece1: 25mm(0.98 IN) - Magnification1: 40X - Eyepiece2: 10mm(0.39 IN) - Magnification2: 100X - Eyepiece3: 5mm(0.2 IN) - Magnification3: 200X - Barlow lens: 3X - Finderscope: Red dot finder - Tube Connection: Anchor Ear - Tube Connection: Hook,Dovetail Plate - Mount: EQ Advanced Equatorial Mount - Optical Coating: Multi Antireflection Blue Film - Tripod: 1.25 inch Stainless Steel Tripod - Max Magnification: 307X - Minimum Magnification: 40X - Field of view: 1.5° - Main mirror length: 609.6mm (24IN)Remark3 Inverted images eyepiece and a positive prism, switching between useAbout Refund PolicyWe support customers return goods if you don’t like, But We suggest that if you have any problems please contact us first on amazon email directly,We have professional team and professional technical personnel to do the operation and guidance for you, I do hope you can support our work, and Love our products.About FeedbackYour satisfaction and positive feedback is very important to us if you are satisfied with our items and services. If you have any problems with our items or services, please feel free to contact us first before you leave feedback. We will do our best to solve your any problems and provide you the best customer services.Product DescriptionGskyer Infinity have over 20 years Optical history,Use of Germany's advanced technology, for different groups of people from different telescopes for science, astronomy, exploration, and tourism, etc.Gskyer's value priced AstroMaster 130EQ is an affordable entry high level telescope with some nice extras like a correct image prism and "The Sky" astronomy.


    Want To See Other Options?

    If you'd like to see and compare some lower priced telescopes, be sure to check out our review of the Best Telescopes Under $500.

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