5 Best Maksutov-Cassegrain Telescopes Worth the Money (2020)

The Maksutov-Cassegrain telescope is a catadioptric telescope design that combines lenses and mirrors to capture and focus the light to your eye or camera. The design corrects the known optical problems of other telescope designs, such as coma found in reflecting telescopes while also correcting chromatic aberration found in refracting telescopes. 

The popular Mak, pronounced just like your computer from Apple, is a very well-known design for beginner amateur astronomers. The manufacturers are calling it Mak-Cass, but for us, amateur astronomers, there are no other types of Maksutov telescopes, that’s why we are calling it just ‘Mak.’ This arguably could be ‘the best beginner’s telescope’ out there, but not the best telescope design. Some are calling it ‘The Planet Buster’ or ‘The Planet Killer,’ just because its usual attributes are a relatively great focal length and somewhat narrow aperture.

Most of the smaller size Maksutov-Cassegrain telescopes are equipped and sold with fully automated GoTo altazimuth mount. With altazimuth mounts, you can only photograph the Moon and the planets (short exposures). You can get a nice Maksutov-Cassegrain telescope at a similar performance and a 10 to 20 percent lower price than the more popular Schmidt-Cassegrain design.

We Recommend

Best price/value ratio

Orion StarSeeker
IV 150mm GoTo

Best budget option

Meade Instruments
228001 Lx65 5″

Best for the money

SkyWatcher 180mm
Maksutov-Cassegrain

Maksutov-Cassegrain vs. Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope?

Maks vs. SCTs… Since both use mirrors as primary optics, the main and the most important difference between Maksutov-Cassegrains telescopes (Mak) and Schmidt-Cassegrain telescopes (SCT) is the design and curvature of the frontal lens of the telescope and the curvature of the secondary mirror, the former and the latter are parts of the ‘correcting lens.’ Both telescopes use spherical mirrors, which cause spherical aberration.

The frontal, correcting lens is designed to eliminate that optical distortion at a relatively lower price compared to the SCT. SCTs use just slightly aspheric, almost flat lens, while the Maks have a highly curved spherical lens. Although the simpler design of the Maks uses a much ticker glass lens, because of that it takes more time to achieve thermal equilibrium with the surroundings, especially with larger size scopes.

The second difference that shouldn’t be considered as a drawback is the design of the secondary mirror. Maks use a lot simpler and less expensive method. The secondary mirror is just a metalized center portion of the glass from the correcting lens. Larger aperture Maks instead of metalized spots, they use a bracket holder for the secondary mirror that performs better. For SCTs, the center portion of the correcting lens is cut and placed a much better and more optimized curved (convex) mirror.

Mak’s design always has longer focal ratios than SCT telescopes, making them far better for photographing the Moon and the planets and less convenient for the usually larger and fainter deep-sky objects (DSO).

I guess for the consumers, the main question is whether they would like to optimize for the Solar System astrophotography, the more mysterious deep-sky astrophotography, or you can use them as high-quality optics even for terrestrial observing and photographing.

The good and bad of Maks (Maksutov-Cassegrains)

Smaller sized Maksutov-Cassegrains telescopes are perfect for beginners, hence their popularity. You can get a small, portable, long focal length, high-end optics telescope with GoTo motorized mount at a very reasonable price. 

The price of higher quality, larger Maksutov-Cassegrains telescopes will not be much lower than an equivalent performance refractor telescope, but it will be a lot more portable, and because of the lower weight, you can use less expensive mount. Though I have mentioned that the Maks, because of their ticker frontal lens, takes longer to achieve thermal equilibrium with the surroundings, they are still better than the refractor telescopes, and most of them have internal fans for dissipating the heat.

Large size Maks are not that common because you can still use them only for Solar System astrophotography and observing. Unlike the similar priced SCTs that can be used for DSO as well as Solar System astrophotography while having similar optical quality. Also, their secondary mirrors are a lot smaller than SCT; because of that, they have a lot better light gathering capabilities.

Have I mentioned that you don’t have to look for dark skies for using these scopes? Yes, just because of their abilities to observe the brightest celestial objects, you shouldn’t run away from the light pollution of the city lights.

What can you observe with a Maksutov-Cassegrains?

With smaller factor Maks you can photograph the Solar System objects as well as excellent visual observation like Saturn’s rings and the Cassini division in them, Jupiter’s equatorial bands, Jupiter’s Great Red Spot, the Galilean moons and the magnificent lunar landscapes, Moon’s craters with always-changing shadows on them. 

The smaller, terrestrial planets are also very good for observing with these telescopes. You can observe the polar caps on Mars, some surface features, Venus’ phases, and of course, the smallest of them all, Mercury as a pale dot. The outer ice giants are also an easy target for Maksutov-Cassegrains telescopes, but those are just bright, deep-blue, slightly larger pricks on the sky.

Yes, you can observe some parts of the brightest DSO, but at a focal ratio of f/12 some are f/15; those objects are going to be very faint. For DSOs, you’ll need an aperture of more than 6”.

For terrestrial observing, you can have the benefit of longer focal ratios, hence higher magnification of neighboring and sky-line objects. If you have nice cityscape scenery out of your window or you are witnessing amazing nature from your country villa, then you can use the smaller versions of these scopes for your daytime leisure as well.

How to choose the best Maksutov-Cassegrains telescope?

If planet astrophotography is your thing, then this is the scope design for you. These are the “Planet Killers” for sure. They are cheap and affordable on the low-end and very reasonably priced at the high end of the spectrum. Because of their narrow purpose of planet ‘hunting’, I’ll try to focus and describe its performances just through that specific field.

Aperture – The wider the aperture is, the more light you’ll capture the shorter exposition you can make. For visual observing and astrophotography, 4 inches are just fine.

Focal ratio – The larger its ratio is, the sharper image you’ll get. Unfortunately, at large focal ratios, you’ll have a much fainter image.

Field of view – The field of view is the circle of sky visible through the eyepiece. Different eyepieces will give you wider or narrower fields of view.

Magnification – You can easily calculate the magnification by dividing the focal length of the scope with the focal length of the eyepiece.

Mounts – There are two basic mount designs. Altazimuth and equatorial mounts, they can be motorized or manually operated depending on the general purpose. Most of the Maks come with altazimuth motorized GoTo mounts.

Portability – This is quite an important factor. Portability can sometimes mean the difference between using it once a year and every week.

Best Maksutov-Cassegrain Telescopes

1. Celestron NexStar 4SE Telescope

If you’re a beginner looking to get into the hobby of amateur astronomy, one of the things you’re going to need to help you get started is a telescope that’s easy to use and set up. 

And if you’re an advanced amateur who’s been at this for a while well, then you want those features. 

This telescope can meet both users’ needs, it doesn’t do everything perfectly, but it gets enough things right that this little scope can satisfy both classes of amateur astronomers. 

This a good first-time telescope for Solar System objects, a lot of great detail like craters on the Moon, and it can be just fine for several of the brightest deep-sky objects, especially the globular star clusters.

Setting up this scope is very quick and easy. After 3 star alignment, you’ll have very precise guiding of the celestial objects that you are observing. The tripod is very steady, it might be an overkill for this size scope, but at least there are no vibrations during stargazing.

With its quick and portable setup, you’re ready to start observing in minutes. This system breaks down into three compact pieces. It does not require any tools, making it a breeze to transport to your favorite location.

Check the price of Celestron NexStar 4SE Telescope here

What we liked

  • Great focal length
  • Sharp image
  • Amazing GoTo mount
  • Very steady tripod
  • Declination wedge
  • High-quality build
  • Database with more than 40,000 celestial objects
  • Free Starry Night software
  • Easy alignment

What we didn’t like

  • Small aperture for DSO
  • Heavy mount
  • Not good portability

Aperture: 4” (102 mm)
Focal length: 1325 mm
Focal ratio: f/13
Weight: 23 lbs. (10.5 kg)
Mount type: Altazimuth GoTo

2. SkyWatcher Maksutov-Cassegrain 150mm

This is a serious scope; mechanically, it’s a very solid telescope with an amazing paint sparkly finish. 

You’ll get very sharp details not just from Solar System objects but from some nebulae, star clusters, and galaxies. 

As we know, these kinds of telescopes are great for planets, getting great details from that narrow field of view, on this scope, even globular clusters will shine brightly.

The standard focus on the scope is actually more precise than expected; it’s quite easy to use. 

Obviously, it’s a single-speed focuser, so it’s not going to be what you need for fast focusing if you’re changing eyepieces constantly. But for normal astrophotography use and otherwise, it’s a nice focuser to use. I must add up that the included 8×50 finderscope is very nice and sharp but without a 45° mirror diagonal.

The greatest drawback, in my opinion, is the slower thermal dissipation. You’ll have to wait 40 minutes to an hour in order to have a crisp, clear image. A dew shield is almost a must for this scope’s chunky frontal correcting lens.

Check the price of SkyWatcher Maksutov-Cassegrain 150mm here

What we liked

  • Great focal length
  • Excellent image quality
  • High-quality optics
  • Good value
  • Great portability
  • Small diameter of the secondary mirror
  • Nice 8×50 finderscope

What we didn’t like

  • Small aperture
  • Slow(ish) thermal equilibrium
  • Somewhat heavier weight

Aperture: 6” (150 mm)
Focal length: 1800 mm
Focal ratio: f/12
Weight: 14 lbs. (6.5 kg) – telescope only
Mount type: Not included

3. Meade Instruments LX65 5" Maksutov-Cassegrain Telescope

Meade’s 5-inch Mak scope combines advanced features and premium optics in an easy to use telescope system for everyone to enjoy. 

It features a newly designed single arm mount with great, full of features hand controller. The hand controller has a database containing over 30,000 objects to observe. 

There is a built-in speaker on the hand controller. You will be able to hear a lot of details about the objects you’re viewing. 

This is a unique feature, but nowadays you have very cheap of free apps with a lot more comments and details about the celestial objects. This new mount is not that compact yet very sturdy, providing a great combination of portability and performance. 

Additionally, the versatile setup includes two dovetail receivers, giving you the ability to use two of your best telescopes at once, giving you a chance to use two different scopes for astrophotography. 

As they say at Meade, making your experience twice as enjoyable! Just remember that the mount is alt-azimuth and wedge is not even designed for use with this system. So you have to stick to the Solar System.

The biggest drawback is the power supply. You must use eight C-size batteries, or you have a possibility for 12 V external power source that is not included.

Check the price of Meade Instruments LX65 5″ Maksutov-Cassegrain Telescope here

What we liked

  • Amazing focal length at 1900 mm
  • Ultra-sharp image quality
  • Amazing GoTo alt-az mount
  • 30,000 object database
  • 4 hours of objects audio content
  • 2 dovetail receivers
  • Very steady tripod
  • Built-in speaker AudioStar 
  • High-quality build
  • Nice servo motors
  • Ease of use

What we didn’t like

  • Somewhat smaller aperture
  • Heavy setup
  • Not good portability

Aperture: 5” (127 mm)
Focal length: 1900 mm
Focal ratio: f/15
Weight: 34.2 lbs. (15.5 kg)
Mount type: 2 X Altazimuth GoTo

4. Orion StarSeeker IV 150mm GoTo Mak-Cass Telescope

This scope is a joy to use and to look at. From initially turning it on, setting your latitude and longitude, the time, the date, finding two stars, and then basically getting it calibrated to find the objects in the night sky just by pressing the GoTo function. 

GoTo functionality requires power for the mount to work. You can use internal batteries, external power battery sources for longer life, or 12 V power supply, none of which are included. 

I just can’t stand when you have to buy 8 new batteries just to use the GoTo option. 

For astrophotography, I guess an external power supply is a must. Once aligned, there are encoders on both axes that allow manual pointing of the scope without losing GoTo alignment.

The brilliant deep red color is very nice and the paint job is of high quality. There is one red dot finder that is a lot more practical than a finderscope.

Check the price of Orion StarSeeker IV 150mm GoTo Mak-Cass Telescope here

What we liked

  • Great focal length
  • Excellent image quality
  • High-quality optics
  • Huge database with 42,000 objects
  • Good value
  • Good portability for 6-inch scope
  • Small diameter of the secondary mirror
  • Two nice eyepieces included
  • Lightweight
  • Red dot finder

What we didn’t like

  • 8 AA batteries
  • Slow(ish) thermal equilibrium

Aperture: 6” (150 mm)
Focal length: 1800 mm
Focal ratio: f/12
Weight: 26 lbs. (12 kg)
Mount type: Altazimuth GoTo

5. SkyWatcher Maksutov-Cassegrain 180mm

Telescope has a focal ratio of f/15, which provides high contrast views of the planets and lunar landscapes, perfect for serious planetary imagers and visual observing. 

With its 7” aperture, you can easily go deep-sky hunting with this one at an amazing clarity and image sharpness. 

Just maybe a bit longer exposure and/or more frames captured, you can have excellent results in DSO astrophotography. If the field of view is a bit narrower than usual, you can make a 2×2 or 3×3 mosaic for world-class nebula images.

Just pair this planet killer with a nice, steady mount, fine auto guider for longer exposures, and you’ll hunt down some of the best globular clusters and galaxies out there. Its build quality is at a very high level. Just like the 6” version, this one is a dew magnet too, because of its large and tick correcting frontal lens. For that reason, a dew shield heater is almost always needed for even the mildest climates.

The 2700 mm focal length requires very precise polar alignment, an autoguider if you go deep sky and high resolution, low noise camera. If you are considering to buy this one at the double the price over the 6” version, I guess you already know what wicked things you can do with it, besides the Moon craters and a Solar family album.

This fine scope fills a nice niche in both size and price between the 6″ refractors and 8″ SCT telescopes. With this 7” Mak, you are getting better contrast, better resolution, and better portability than both options at a lower price.

Check the price of SkyWatcher Maksutov-Cassegrain 180mm here

What we liked

  • ‘The’ Planet Killer
  • Enormous focal length at 2700 mm
  • Excellent image quality
  • Excellent image contrast
  • High-quality optics
  • Superb portability for 7” and f/15
  • Small diameter of the secondary mirror
  • Nice 8×50 finderscope

What we didn’t like

  • Small aperture
  • Slow thermal equilibrium
  • Somewhat heavier weight
  • Dew shield is a must

Aperture: 7” (180 mm)
Focal length: 2700 mm
Focal ratio: f/15
Weight: 19 lbs. (9 kg) – telescope only
Mount type: Not included

 

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