Types of Telescopes

Types Of Telescopes

Types Of Telescopes

There are 3 main Types of Telescopes – and it might just turn out that the best telescope for you is the one that looks least like a traditional telescope. All 3 telescope types have the same purpose – to collect light and focus it to a point where it can be magnified so that we can examine it. How each of the different types of telescopes does this is different, and you need to understand the differences as they greatly impact upon what it is you might want to look at, portability, cost and style.

The 3 Types of Telescopes

Catadioptric Telescopes

Also known as Cassegrain

These types of telescopes represent the best of both worlds as they utilise both lenses and mirrors to fold the optics and form an image. They may look the least like a ‘conventional’ telescope but they are right now the most popular type of telescope on the market. The two main types are Schmidt-Cassegrain and Maksutov-Cassegrain.


    Celestron CPC 1100 StarBright XLT GPS Schmidt-Cassegrain 2800mm Telescope

    Catadioptric Telescope - Celestron StarBright

  • Best all rounder – can be used for planetary, deep space and terrestrial observation
  • Easy to use and portable
  • Excellent optics and focussing capability


  • They just don’t look like a telescope to most people
  • They are more costly than other Newtonians of equal aperture

Take a look at our Recommended Catadioptric Telescopes

Reflector Telescopes

Also known as Newtonioan or Dobsonian Telescope

A Reflector, or Newtonian telescope uses a primary concave mirror that sends light to a secondary flat mirror which reflects the light out a side opening and to the eyepiece where it is magnified and focused.


    • Mirrors cost a lot less than lenses meaning you get more aperture and light gathering power for your money
Orion Spaceprobe 3 Altazimuth Reflector Telescope  Up Close

Reflector Telescope - Orion Spaceprobe

  • Wider aperture makes for better night time viewing and these telescopes excel at viewing faint deep space objects such as remote galaxies and star clusters


  • Can be fragile and sensitive
  • May require regular alignment
  • Mirrors require complicated cleaning and may require re-coating after several years

Take a look at our Recommended Reflecting Telescopes

Refracting Telescopes

These types of telescopes are your classic ‘long tube’ looking telescopes with a big lens at one end and an eyepiece at the other. As the light passes through the curved lens its path is bent (refraction) towards the optical axis of the smaller (objective) lens where it is bought to a focus.


    • Very easy to use
Orion Astroview 120ST Refractor Telescope

Refractor Telescope - Orion Astroview

  • Requires little to no maintenance
  • Excel at planetary viewing as they are the best choice for looking at objects that have width e.g. the moon


  • They are heavier, longer and more bulky than the other types
  • It is incredibly expensive to make large lenses so they are limited in size and this means less aperture
  • Less aperture means that you cannot get a wide view of the sky and so they are not great for looking into deep space

Take a look at our Recommended Refracting Telescopes


Now that you understand the different types of telescopes it’s time to work out how much you should pay for a telescope.