5 Best Reflector Telescopes Worth the Money (2020)

The reflecting telescopes are often called reflectors; their optics consist solely of mirrors. The most popular version of reflecting telescopes are Newtonian reflectors and Dobsonian reflector telescopes or Dobs for short. 

Dobsonians are arguably the best reflector telescope design and the cheapest ones in general because of their simple, easy to produce parabolic mirror, simple design, simple altazimuth mount (rocker box) and there is no need for extremely precise, sturdy construction. For visual observing the night skies from the Moon and the planets to star clusters and deep-sky objects, these telescopes are unrivaled in their price and performance as well.

Reflectors equipped with a nice equatorial mount, beginners can use them for exceptional astrophotography. The diffraction spikes that appear while imaging makes them less useful when you use narrowband filters from several nights of observation or if you use longer exposures. Until you are not interested in advanced astrophotography, than reflectors must be your first choice.

Astronomy and visual observation of celestial objects from the planets to the nebulae and galaxies can be a unique and exceptional hobby. That’s why you should be more familiar with what you need, what you’ll get, and what to buy before delving into amateur astronomy. Sometimes instead of joy, this hobby can be a drag and turn you down from the final frontier.

We Recommend

Best budget option

Sky-Watcher
8″ Dobsonian

Best value/price ratio

Orion 10023
SkyQuest XX12i

Best for the money

Orion 8968
SkyQuest XX16g 

Reflectors are the best bang for your buck

Reflectors should be the first telescopes that you get acquainted with. For visual observing the night skies, these should be your only option. Their low price, their large aperture, long focal length and a wider field of view are perfect for amateur astronomers. 

In the past several years, there was a significant price drop of the reflecting telescopes, especially the large aperture Dobsonians – the best reflector telescopes became more affordable to the broader public, and with that, astronomy became a lot more popular.

Dobsonian reflecting telescope will give you the best bang for your buck. You can find a nice 6” Dobsonian with a rocker base for under $300, and the respectable 12” can be under $1,000. That nice piece of optics coupled with less than a $100 spent for mid-range eyepieces and filters you can be set even for more advanced stargazing.

What can you see with a reflector telescope?

Reflectors are meant to observe almost anything. You can start with the Moon and its craters, but bear in mind if you have a larger aperture than 5 or 6 inches, you should use stronger ND filter to dim moonlight, too much brightness can be annoying. Maybe you should use ND filters with the planets too if your scope is larger than 14”. 

Planets are also a joy to look at with this kind of scope, mostly because reflectors don’t suffer from chromatic aberration. If you notice any chromatic aberration, it might be from your low-grade eyepiece or from the atmosphere at low altitudes from the horizon. Double stars and star clusters are also very nice to observe with reflectors, particularly with longer focal length telescopes.

And finally, the deep sky objects (DSO) like nebulae, galaxies, star clusters, comets, that’s what they are constructed for. It’s a pure joy hunting the DSOs with a large Dobsonian. Larger aperture Dobsonian will help you observe everything from the Messier catalog to large chunks of NGC and IC catalogs. Some periodic and nonperiodic comets can be an easy target with your 12” Dob.

Reflectors, in combination with a motorized equatorial mount, can be used quite successfully for astrophotography, just not for the best of it. There are prominent diffraction spikes from the spider that holds the secondary mirror. If you use exposures from several nights, the spikes will multiply because of the slightly different scope orientation. If longer exposures are used of brighter stars around the object, the spikes will saturate the image. I would encourage you to try astrophotography with a reflector, although a refractor is always a better choice for astrophotography.

A reflector telescope also needs proper maintenance

Most of the Dobsonian reflectors require collimation before every use. Other non-collapsible tube scopes aren’t prone to mirror skew. I would strongly suggest you buy a laser collimator; they are very cheap, they are easy to use and speed up the collimation process. You should have the custom to collimate your Dob before every use, it takes just a couple of minutes to properly collimate both of the mirrors to make sure they are aligned, and your viewing quality is as it should be. 

With almost all telescopes, you aren’t going to lose the collimation, but please check before every stargazing session. If your Dobsonian loses the collimation during one night of usage, you should check the construction of the truss poles, tighten the screws, check the spider of the secondary mirror and the cell where the primary mirror is embedded.

Reflectors are quite easy for maintenance. Just dust off the primary and secondary mirror, and that’s about it. Some are saying that because of their ‘open’ design, you should dust and clean them regularly, but in my experience, a bit more dust won’t impede the viewing quality at all. If you happen to be observing at a very dusty location, then very, very softly dust off the mirrors every now and then.

After 3 to 5 years of moderate use, you can wash the mirrors properly with water and soap after dismantling them from the tube. Or maybe you shouldn’t even wash them. These are a heavy-duty, very durable, and tough piece of engineering, just don’t put too much dust on them. Also, the aluminized surfaces of a reflector’s mirrors may need to be sent off for recoating every 20 years or so, more frequently if you live in a high humidity environment, near the sea or badly air-polluted urban area.

The reflector telescope price range

Starter – up to $150 – Please don’t underestimate this small ‘starter’ reflecting telescopes. If they are small doesn’t mean they are incapable. I’m sure 5” aperture can’t compete with 12” Dobs, but make no mistake they are great for the Moon, the planets and some of the brightest deep-sky objects. These scopes can do what the larger ones can’t, like get the entire Andromeda galaxy or all the Pleiades in your view with a lot of stars around them.

Bargain – $250 to $350 – This is where most of the exploration may begin. This is where every backyard astronomer should start to learn about the night sky, constellations, and star hopping. Most of the Dobs you buy at this price range, you can use them years later, these are always going to be great for the craters on the Moon and the planets.

Budget – $400 to $500 – This is the fun range, not too expensive, not too small. Mid-range scopes are a bit ‘complicated.’ They are nice and better than most people had at the beginning, but you’ll need to spend a lot more money in order to get a meaningful improvement over 8” aperture. And if you start here, you are never going to use these scopes later when you purchase larger ones.

Advanced – $800 to $1100My favorite place for shopping. When I bought my 18” Dob, I never knew how much more I’m going to use the compact and lightweight 12” Dob. Why? Because it’s a lot lighter, compact enough to get in the trunk, and have your backseats free for more friends to come along. Most of you will end here, and that’s fine. More powerful scopes you can find at star parties and astronomy camps.

Pro – $2000 to $3500Somebody is calling himself a ‘Pro,’ a pro-observer. Well… that can be true if you really love stargazing and you want to observe the faintest details of most of the nebulae in the sky. You can choose whether to opt for 16” with GoTo motorized base or an 18” super compact and lightweight Goliath.

Alien – $6000+If you really love this thing, while approaching singularity, astronomy is your real passion. All the family members abandoned you; then, I presume if you have the budget, you’ll spend it on your perfect hyper-scope. 

You are going to break through the final frontier; you spent ten grand to see the cosmos as only a few of us have seen it. Accompanied by the greatest, sharpest, and widest apparent field of view eyepieces, you couldn’t get a better view of the stars even from the starship Enterprise.

How to choose the right reflector telescope?

Call your accountant to estimate your budget for astronomy and spend it all. That’s your perfect scope, for now. But bear in mind that for astronomy there is nothing too big either too small, so choose wisely.

There are several things you should take into consideration, the performance of the scope and the portability.

  • Aperture – reflector telescopes are the largest ones for astronomy enthusiasts. If you use your scope for visual observing only, this is the most important detail for the best performance. With wider aperture, you’ll get more light, with that more contrast, and more details you’ll be able to observe.
  • Focal length – the longer the focal length of your scope is, the higher magnification you’ll get, the sharper the view will be.
  • Field of view – this depends on the eyepieces you use. Their apparent field of view and focal length will give you the true field of view of the telescope.
  • Mount – Dobsonian telescopes use rocker bases that are very cheap but very practical. Some rocker boxes can be better and a lot smoother than others because of the materials used. If you choose to have a smaller reflector with an equatorial mount than you can choose between manual or motorized mounts.
  • Portability and weight – When you are buying bigger scopes, you must think of portability. This doesn’t affect the viewing quality but can affect your willingness to go out and use it. That’s why sometimes you should pay 20 to 30 percent more for a more compact Dobsonian reflector telescope.

Best reflector telescope

1. Orion 8944 SkyQuest XT6 Classic Dobsonian Telescope

The best bang for your buck. If you are looking for a telescope for visual observation of the night sky, you don’t want to break the budget, and you are not sure if you are into this magnificent hobby. 

Then start right here, this is the best reflector telescope for beginners. 

I’m sure you’ll be amazed at the quality of the view of the planets and the Moon, plus you can start your deep-sky career with several dozen of the most popular DSOs.

At this price point, you’ll never find a better one. And remember, when you buy a 12” or 16” you can still use this one for planets, and largest and brightest deep-sky objects.

Check the price of Orion 8944 SkyQuest XT6 Classic Dobsonian Telescope here

What we liked

  • Unbeatable price
  • Amazing beginner’s telescope
  • Very easy assembling
  • Excellent focal length
  • Sharp view
  • Very good for the Moon and planets
  • Use it as a secondary scope

What we didn’t like

  • No dual-speed focuser
  • Very bulky tube and mount
  • 20 mm Plossl eyepiece
  • Hard panning and tilting
  • Eyepiece position at low altitude objects

Type: Dobsonian reflecting telescope
Aperture: 6”
Focal length: 1200 mm
Focal ratio: f/8
Limiting stellar magnitude: 13.5
Weight: 34.4 lbs. (15.8 kg)
What’s special about it: Amazing beginners, an unbeatable price even for occasional usage.

2. Sky-Watcher 8" Collapsible Dobsonian Telescope

The wide aperture and its long focal length can sometimes be excellent for every backyard astronomer. 

The performance should be enough for most of the Messier catalog and similar deep sky objects. 

Telescopes with collapsible tubes are really nice for portability; unfortunately, the rocker base is not designed to be disassembled into smaller pieces. 

I was surprised that the focuser wasn’t dual speed for fine-tuning. 

If you put larger and heavier eyepiece, the scope might lose balance, but my recommendation is to remove the viewfinder and use the lightweight red dot that’s better for pointing the scope and fixes the large eyepiece issue.

This telescope has great value, despite having some drawbacks. I wouldn’d use the included low-grade eyepieces, but that is quickly fixable if you order the cheap aspherical eyepieces, or something better is highly recommended for this nice optics scope.

20 years ago, I would love to have had a Dob like this to start with.

Check the price of Sky-Watcher 8″ Collapsible Dobsonian Telescope here

What we liked

  • Nice 8” aperture
  • Ease of use
  • Collapsible, compact tube
  • Nice 8×50 viewfinder
  • Nice long focal length
  • Great value telescope
  • Easy to assemble
  • Teflon rocker mount bearings 

What we didn’t like

  • No fine-tuning focuser
  • Very rocker base
  • Tube balancing
  • Low-quality eyepieces
  • Heavy for its size

Type: Collapsible Dobsonian reflecting telescope
Aperture: 8”
Focal length: 1200 mm
Focal ratio: f/6
Limiting stellar magnitude: 14.2
Weight: 53 lbs. (24 kg)
What’s special about it: Great for beginners, semi-compact, quite powerful.

3. Sky-Watcher 12" Collapsible Dobsonian Telescope

The 12-inch scope is almost the same quality as the 8-inch Sky-Watcher version. 

This one has a larger aperture, longer focal length, a lot better dual-speed focuser, and almost the same weight, which is a good thing for portability. 

The same two eyepieces are coming with this scope as well, so please buy at least the cheap aspherical eyepieces

For backyard astronomy, its bulky rocker base won’t be an issue, but if you ask me, I would drag everywhere any kind of 12”. 

One UHC filter for a start will help a lot, not just for light pollution, but for more contrast as well. Its larger aperture and longer focal length can utilize the best eyepieces out there. In order to experience the full potential of this 12-inch scope, maybe you should buy at least one high-end eyepiece with an ultra-wide apparent field of view at 100°.

The viewfinder is great, but a red dot sight is highly recommended for the Dobsonians. Because of its 12” aperture, for observing the Moon and Moon’s crater, you’ll need an ND-16 filter or a variable ND filter that is an even better choice.

Check the price of Sky-Watcher 12″ Collapsible Dobsonian Telescope here

What we liked

  • 12” aperture
  • Serious DSO hunter
  • High contrast
  • Large focal length
  • Collapsible tube
  • Well two-speed fine-tuning focuser
  • Great performance
  • Nice 8×50 viewfinder
  • Easy collimation

What we didn’t like

  • Very bulky rocker base
  • Both eyepieces are low quality
  • Bulky to transport

Type: Collapsible Dobsonian reflecting telescope
Aperture: 12”
Focal length: 1500 mm
Focal ratio: f/5
Limiting stellar magnitude: 14.9
Weight: 58 lbs. (27 kg)
What’s special about it: Great for advanced users, semi-compact, very powerful telescope.

4. Orion 10023 SkyQuest XX12i IntelliScope Truss Dobsonian Telescope

I’m not a great fan of GoTo and Push-To systems; I enjoy star hopping. Push-To system can be very helpful for beginners to quickly find all those nice deep sky objects. 

In order to use the Push-To system, you need to set up the IntelliScope system with a vertical position and 2-star alignment; after that, the system is all set up, and the hand controller will guide you to the location of the desired object.

 If you want to view the planets, you’ll need to enter the correct date and time as well.

I love the disassembling rocker base; compact Dobsonians are probably the best reflecting telescopes out there. This is a much more compact version of a Dobsonian reflecting telescope than the previously mentioned Sky-Watcher scopes. 

First of all, the tube disassembles into three segments, one where the primary mirror is, one segment with the secondary mirror, and truss poles as the third part. The rocker base (mount) disassembles into smaller parts as well without the requirement for any tools.

Even with this scope, there are two eyepieces in the box. The first one is a 10 mm Plossl, which is complete nonsense and the 35 mm, 2” Plossl is somewhat useful for larger DSO, but you won’t get much of a contrast with it. 

That’s why I would recommend buying at least the cheap aspherical eyepieces for start, and later you should definitely buy one high-end eyepiece between 10 mm and 25 mm with an ultra-wide apparent field of view at around 100°. That coupled with a nice set of narrowband filters, your Orion scope will be all you’ll ever need for occasional stargazing.

Check the price of Orion 10023 SkyQuest XX12i IntelliScope Truss Dobsonian Telescope here

What we liked

  • Nice and smooth alt-azimuth movement (panning and tilting)
  • Very large 12” aperture
  • Free Starry Night software
  • Real DSO hunter
  • High contrast for DSO
  • Long focal length
  • Very compact scope and base
  • Great portability
  • 14,000 DSO database
  • Fine-tune dual-speed (11:1) focuser
  • Amazing overall performance
  • 9×50 finderscope
  • Cooling fan

What we didn’t like

  • Price
  • Longer time for full assembly
  • Eyepieces with low-quality optics
  • Heavyweight scope
  • Need batteries for the hand controller

Type: IntelliScope (Push-To) Truss Dobsonian Telescope
Aperture: 12”
Focal length: 1500 mm
Focal ratio: f/5
Limiting stellar magnitude: 15.1
Weight: 83 lbs. (38 kg)
What’s special about it: Very compact when disassembled, great portability, very powerful telescope, great for DSO hunting.

5. Orion 8968 SkyQuest XX16g GoTo Truss Tube Dobsonian Telescope

With this colossal Dobsonian, you’ll be the fun center for star parties and astronomy camps. 

Excellent piece of hardware, a really large aperture, and great focal length sometimes can be too big. 

I’m sure if you are considering this scope, your love for astronomy is bigger than its aperture. 

You should be prepared to lift heavy weights or always have a helping hand next to you for transport and assembly. 

The secondary mirror is very heavy and very bulky to transport. If you are doing it alone, full unpacking and assembly could take up to 20 min. When pointed at zenith, the eyepiece is at 72 in. (182 cm) from the ground, that means some of you’ll need small steps in order to get to the eyepiece. 

The full GoTo motorized base makes this scope very unique in features and capabilities. In the beginning, you should set up the system by aligning with 2 stars and enter the current date and time. After alignment, you can use it as a GoTo system or regular Dobsonian by moving it manually. 

Luckily for this scope, there is a ‘closed-loop’ system that detects the manual movement of the scope, so you never lose alignment. There are very useful tension adjustments for nice and smooth manual panning and lifting.

Check the price of Orion 8968 SkyQuest XX16g GoTo Truss Tube Dobsonian Telescope here

What we liked

  • Mammoth 16” mirror
  • 4x more light than 8” telescope
  • Amazing for DSO and planets
  • 8 trusses for rigidness
  • Full GoTo functionality
  • Closed-loop system for manual use
  • 42,000 object in the database
  • Base breaks in 4 sections for better transport
  • Alt-az tension adjustments
  • Very compact scope and base
  • Designed for maximum portability 

What we didn’t like

  • 2x more expensive than regular 16” Dobsonian
  • 15-20 min. to full unpacking and assembly
  • Cloth shroud not included
  • 12V battery not included
  • Caring cases not included
  • Very heavy system

Type: GoTo Truss Tube Dobsonian Telescope
Aperture: 16”
Focal length: 1800 mm
Focal ratio: f/4.4
Limiting stellar magnitude: 15.7
Weight: 174.0 lbs. (79 kg)
What’s special about it: Very compact when disassembled, great portability for that telescope size, extremely powerful telescope, made for DSO observing.

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