From wilderness lovers who enjoy spending free time outdoors taking in the natural scenery to those who look to the sky and wish they could get a little bit closer to the moon, stars and planets, a refracting telescope is a must-have item. A refracting telescope is available in a wide variety of price points, magnification levels, and sizes, which means it’s easy to find the model that fits your needs and will make you feel like an explorer.
A refracting telescope works by refracting or bending light. First created in the early 17th century, refracting telescopes have an objective lens that works with an eyepiece to gather more light than is possible by the naked eye alone. The lens focuses this light, with the refraction creating parallel light rays that converge at the same focal point, so that the non-parallel beams of light land on a focal plane. The two groups of light make angles, and the ratio between the two angles creates an angular magnification that makes the area users see through the viewfinder appear significantly larger.
Refracting telescopes can be large enough to fill an entire observatory or compact enough to be carried in a backpack and set up on a balcony. We’ve rounded up the best refracting telescopes that aren’t quite large enough to warrant their own observatory but still deliver a stunning view.
1. Gskyer Telescope 600x90mm
The powerful telescope comes with three replaceable eyepieces with 24x, 60x, and 120x magnification, as well as one 3x Barlow lens that increases the magnifying power of each eyepiece. The Gskyer Telescope 600 X 90mm is simple to assemble and use, even for novices, and it’s designed to work with smartphones, with the telescope including a smartphone attachment and a remote that allows users to snap pictures without touching their phone and possibly shifting the telescope. We also like that the telescope comes with an adjustable aluminum tripod with a max height of 49 inches.
Pros: The Gskyer Telescope 600 X 90mm has a max magnification of 360 and a focal ratio of F6.7.
Cons: The Gskyer comes with a big price tag.
2. Gskyer Telescope 400mm x 70 mm
Ideal for beginners and still powerful enough that it won’t need to be replaced after a few uses, the Gskyer Telescope 400 X 70 mm has a fully coated optics lens that protects users’ eyes as they explore the stars and moon. The Gskyer Telescope 400 X 70 mm comes with two eyepieces, including a 25mm and 10mm option, with both eyepieces featuring a 3x Barlow lens that magnifies their power. Objects are easy to locate and focus on thanks to the 5 x 24 finderscope with mounting bracket and cross-hair lines. The Gskyer Telescope 400 X 70 mm is also compatible with smartphones and comes with a tripod and carrying case.
Pros: The Gskyer 400 X 70 mm comes with a lifetime maintenance guarantee.
Cons: The Gskyer 400 X 70 mm does not include as many eyepieces as the larger Gskyer model and does not offer the same magnification.
3. TELMU Telescope
The Telmu has a 400 mm focal length and 70 mm aperture that captures a clear picture for users. Designed for students and beginners, the Telmu includes two Keller eyepieces (K6mm/16X, K25/67X) to be used in conjunction with the 5 x 24 scope finder. The scope finder contains a mounting bracket and cross-lines that make it easy to locate specific targets. The Telmu includes a smartphone attachment, carrying case and tripod, which has a low beginning height of 17.7 inches, making it an excellent option for using on a desk or table.
Pros: The Telmu includes a hook on the bottom of the tripod that allows users to hang weights to provide added balance and security, which is a great benefit when using outdoors in windy conditions.
Cons: The Telmu tripod has a max height of 35.4 inches, which is shorter than the Gskyer’s 49-inch tripod. Unlike the Gskyer, the Telmu does not come with a remote for the smartphone feature.
4. Orion SpaceProbe 130ST Equatorial Reflector Telescope
The Orion features a 5.1-inch aperture that is designed to pull in ample light and give users a clear and bright view of the night sky, including galaxies, nebulas, and star clusters. The Orion has a short 24-inch optical tube and fast f/5 focal ratio that creates a wide field of vision. Packaged with an equatorial telescope mount and adjustable tripod (balance weight included), users can smoothly pan while looking through the two 1.25-inch Sirius Plossl eyepieces (25mm and 10mm) and 6 x 30 finder scope. The Orion comes with all the tools necessary for assembly.
Pros: The Orion comes with Starry Night software that teaches customers how to find specific constellations.
Cons: The Orion has the biggest price tag on our list. It also doesn’t come with the same bonuses at other models, including a carrying case and smartphone adapter.
5. Emarth Telescope Travel Scope
The Emarth has a 300 m f/5.1 focal length and 70 mm aperture, with a fully coated optical glass that includes high-transmission coating, giving users bright and clear images both day and night. The 5 x 24 finderscope comes with a mounting bracket, with the Emarth also including 25 mm and 10 mm eyepieces that can be enhanced using the 3x Barlow lens. The Emarth is simple to set up and comes with an adjustable tripod to provide stability and make for smooth panning. We also like that the Emarth comes with a clear instruction manual, a map of the night sky and a two-year warranty guarantee.
Pros: At only 2.87 pounds, the Emarth is the lightest telescope on our list. It also comes with a travel bag that fits both the telescope and tripod, making this the most portable option.
Cons: The Emarth does not come with a smartphone attachment.