Portable and Handheld Telescopes: Introduction
Telescopes have undergone significant transformations since the 17th century – or when the first refractor telescope was invented. Note that spectacle-maker Hans Lippershey was credited as the inventor of the telescope and Galileo Galilei as the scientist who pointed the telescope towards the skies. In 1668 Sir Isaac Newton created the so-called Newtonian reflecting telescope that consisted of mirrors instead of lenses. Over the years, improvements in lens technology led to the development of the catadioptric telescopes that employ both lenses and mirrors.
While there’s a wide range of telescopes for both professional and amateur use, portable and handheld scopes are highly popular. In contrast to other telescopic devices for sale, portable and handheld units are light, compact, and easy to use. They can be utilized for a wide range of activities, such as stargazing, camping, bird watching, and hunting.
Talking about size, we should note that giant telescopes are the most sophisticated and powerful units that enhance the scientific study of distant objects, such as nebulas, novae, and asteroids, by their emission or reflection of electromagnetic radiation. Note that the first giant reflector telescope was built in 1789 by William Herschel. The design of large and computerized units (including radio, infrared, and gamma-ray telescopes) has evolved during the 20th century – the fast-moving century when space agencies also started launching telescopic devices into space.
Portable and Handheld Telescopes: A Buyer’s Guide
Portable and handheld telescopes are highly popular because of their light and compact designs. While there’s a wide range of units and competitors on the market, there are three main factors users should consider before purchasing a telescopic device:
- Total cost
Requirements: When choosing a telescope, users should decide what objects they want to see (e.g., deep-sky objects) and where they’ll be viewing them (e.g., rural areas). As stated above, there are three types of telescopes: 1) refracting telescopes that employ lenses; 2) reflecting telescopes that use mirrors; 3) catadioptric telescopes that utilize both mirrors and lenses. Note that they all can be portable (when clearly stated).
When it comes to portable telescopes, two of the most important aspects to consider are size and weight. Smaller items are easier to operate, especially units with longer focal lengths. Weight, on the other hand, can vary according to the materials used, with aluminum being light and sturdy material at the same time. If prospective buyers are planning on using a tripod, they should consider its weight as well.
Specifications: Aperture and magnification are the two main specifications that should determine purchasing choices. Higher aperture translates into high levels of light-gathering, which is ideal for observing deep-sky objects.
Magnification is another vital characteristic to consider. Usually, the maximum useful magnification should be 50 times the unit’s aperture in inches or twice of its aperture in millimeters. Note that excess magnification can lead to blurry images.
Total costs: Telescopes come in all shapes and sizes, with aperture, optical quality, and materials used being among the most crucial factors that determine costs. When it comes to portable and handheld units, the materials used are essential. To provide an example, sturdy material, and waterproof exterior coating are mandatory to ensure a long lifetime and user comfort. We should note that some small units can be priced as high as stationary telescopes.
Accessories, such as stands, mounts, and camera adapters, can increase the final cost of a unit. Note that there are two types of mounts: equatorial and altazimuth, with altazimuth mounts being popular among amateur astronomers. The carrying case is also essential for portable models; while hard cases are good for traveling, soft or backpack styled cases are ideal for hiking.
Best Portable and Handheld Telescopes
I. Portable telescopes: Portable telescopes are highly popular among both beginners and seasoned users. They can be used for stargazing, bird watching, observing wildlife, and ship spotting. Based on different specifications and user reviews, here are the best portable telescopes:
- Orion 10016 StarBlast 6 Astro Reflector Telescope
- Aperture: 150 mm
Orion 10016 StarBlast 6 Astro Reflector Telescope is a powerful reflector with compact tabletop design, suitable for traveling and camping. Note that the unit’s total weight is 10.7 kg (23.5 lbs). This telescope has an aperture of 150 mm and a magnification rate of 300X. Additionally, it is equipped with two 1.25-inch eyepieces (25 mm and 10 mm), an EZ Finder II aiming device, and Starry Night software. Orion 10016 StarBlast 6 Astro Reflector Telescope is simply a wonderful product that can reveal the secrets of the night sky.
- Celestron 21061 AstroMaster 70AZ
- Aperture: 70 mm
Celestron 21061 AstroMaster 70AZ is another wonderful portable telescope, which is easy to assemble and use. This refractor unit is equipped with an altazimuth mount, two eyepieces (10 mm and 20 mm), an erect image diagonal, coated glass optics, a permanently mounted StarPointed finderscope, and a sturdy stand. With its compact design and extra features, Celestron 21061 AstroMaster 70AZ is ideal for both stargazing and terrestrial use.
- Orion 10149 StarBlast 62 mm Compact Travel Refractor Telescope
- Aperture: 62 mm
Orion 10149 StarBlast 62 mm Compact Travel Refractor Telescope is a beautiful 62 mm refractor. The unit includes a Crawford focuser, a 45-degree correct-image diagonal, and two Plossl eyepieces (20 mm and 4 mm). Its high-quality optics can provide sharp images of celestial objects, as well as wildlife and daytime targets. Orion 10149 StarBlast 62 mm Compact Travel Refractor Telescope comes with a hard case, which makes it ideal for all on-the-go astronomers and outdoor lovers.
- Celestron 21035 Travel Scope 70 Telescope
- Aperture: 70 mm
Celestron 21035 Travel Scope 70 Telescope is a popular portable refractor telescope. The unit features high-quality optics, a 70 mm objective lens, and two 20 mm and 10 mm eyepieces. With its lightweight frame and compact design, Celestron 21035 Travel Scope 70 Telescope is ideal for astronomy lovers and outdoor enthusiasts. Note that the unit comes with a custom backpack to facilitate user comfort.
- Gskyer 60 mm AZ Refractor
- Aperture: 60 mm
Gskyer 60 mm AZ Refractor is a popular telescope kit, which is ideal for observing animals, studying scenery, and viewing the night sky. Note that the unit has a 60 mm aperture, a 350 mm focal length, and a maximum magnification of 105X. This telescope features a 1.5X erecting eyepiece and a 3X Barlow lens. With a variety of accessories and unique portable design, Gskyer 60 mm AZ Refractor is a great tool for both beginners and seasoned users.
- Meade Instruments Infinity 209001
- Aperture: 50 mm
Meade Instruments Infinity 209001 is a compact refractor unit with an aperture of 50 mm and a focal length of 600 mm. It is equipped with a rack-and-pinion focuser, an altazimuth mount, a 5×24 optical ViewFinder, and astronomical software. Furthermore, this telescope comes with three low (20mm), medium (12mm), high (4mm) magnification eyepieces, as well as a 2X Barlow lens. Meade Instruments Infinity 209001 is ideal for traveling and outdoor adventures.
- TwinStar AstroMark 80 mm Portable Telescope
- Aperture: 80 mm
TwinStar AstroMark 80 mm Portable Telescope is a great beginner refractor telescope. The unit is easy to assemble and use. It features a fully coated 80 mm achromatic lens, a 400 mm focal length, and two 1.25-inch Kellner eyepieces (25 mm and 10 mm). Moreover, TwinStar AstroMark 80 mm Portable Telescope comes with a full-size and a mini tripod, as well as an over-the-shoulder carry case, making the unit ideal for camping, hiking, traveling, and stargazing.
- Orion Observer 80ST 80 mm Equatorial Refractor Telescope
- Aperture: 80 mm
Orion Observer 80ST 80 mm Equatorial Refractor Telescope is a compact refractor model with an aperture of 80 mm. Note that the unit includes an EQ-1B equatorial mount, a tripod, a 90-degree star diagonal, two anti-reflection coated 1.25-inch Kellner eyepieces, and a red-dot reflex sight. Additionally, Orion Observer 80ST 80 mm Equatorial Refractor Telescope comes with an astronomical Orion MoonMap 260 to facilitate your next outdoor endeavors.
- Celestron PowerSeeker 70 EQ
- Aperture 70 mm
Celestron PowerSeeker 70 EQ is an easy-to-use refractor. The unit has a 70 mm aperture and a 700 mm focal length. It features a manual German equatorial mount, two eyepieces (20mm and 4mm), an erect image diagonal, a finderscope, and a 3x Barlow lens. Also, Celestron PowerSeeker 70 EQ comes with free astronomy software, which makes it appealing to children and adults alike.
II. Handheld telescopes: Handheld telescopes, also known as monocular scopes, are highly popular for hiking, bird watching, observing the scenery, and patrolling. Note that units for sale have two indications (e.g., 12×50); one is the magnification level (e.g., 12X), the other one is the diameter of the lens (e.g., 50 mm). Based on different characteristics and user reviews, here is a list of the best handheld telescopic devices on the market:
- Wingspan Optics High-Powered 12×50 Monocular Scope
- Aperture: 50 mm
Wingspan Optics High-Powered 12×50 Monocular Scope is a powerful handheld product, ideal for watching wildlife, birding, and any daytime use. It has a 12X magnification rate and a 50 mm lens. With its durable armor, non-slip grip, and design to inhibit internal fogging, Wingspan Optics Titan 12×50 High-Powered Monocular Scope is simply a wonderful monocular scope for multiple settings.
- Gosky Titan 12×50 High Power Prism Monocular
- Aperture: 50 mm
Gosky Titan 12×50 High Power Prism Monocular is an attractive unit with 12×50 power. This device has a large BAK-4 prism, fully multi-coated lens coatings, and shock-absorbing armor. One of the most attractive features is its quick alignment Smartphone adapter, compatible with numerous smartphones on the market (e.g., iPhone, Sony). Gosky Titan 12×50 High Power Prism Monocular is comfortable for use and ideal for hiking, climbing, and sports.
- Authentic Roxant Grip Scope High Definition Wide View Monocular
- Aperture: 30
Authentic Roxant Grip Scope High Definition Wide View Monocular is a beautiful handheld unit, with a retractable eyepiece, fully multi-coated optics, and BAK-4 prism. The unit is solid and light at the same time (with 6×30 viewing). Accessories include a carry pouch, a cleaning cloth, and a neck strap. Authentic Roxant Grip Scope High Definition Wide View Monocular can be used for outdoor activities, archery, camping, and much more.
- Laupha Retro Pirate Telescope Zoomable 25×30 Pocket Monocular
- Aperture: 30 mm
Laupha Retro Pirate Telescope Zoomable 25×30 Pocket Monocular is an attractive collapsible scope with 25×30 viewing. Note that this pocket monocular is made of aluminum, leather, and shiny brass finish. This waterproof unit has a 25X magnification rate, a 30 mm objective diameter, and a 1.2 mm exit pupil. Laupha Retro Pirate Telescope Zoomable 25×30 Pocket Monocular also comes with a user manual, a lens cloth, and a carry case, which makes an ideal present for little “pirates” and collectors.
Taking Care of Telescopes
- Always consult instruction manuals regarding assembling and use to ensure accurate and long use.
- Transport your unit accordingly. A reliable carry bag, for instance, is a must-have accessory. As mentioned above, hard cases are ideal for frequent traveling, while soft and backpack styled cases are ideal for hiking adventures.
- Clean your unit with care. Avoid touching its optical components with hands but use compressed gas, surgical cotton, lens tissues, or solution instead. Avoid dissembling your telescopic device.
- Familiarize yourself with the basics of telescopy before exploring the horizons.
Portable and Handheld Telescopes: Conclusion
Telescopes are fascinating instruments that provide enlarged images of distant objects. Telescopic devices are suitable for both terrestrial and astronomical use, with portable and handheld scopes being highly popular. Yet, users should consider three main factors before purchasing a portable telescope or a handheld monocular: requirements, specifications, and total costs. Note that when it comes to portable and handheld scopes, reliable carry bags and neck straps are a must-have accessory to resist harsh weather and changing environments.
Whether it’s a portable telescope or a handheld monocular, such telescopic devices are light, compact, and suitable for numerous activities, such as stargazing, terrestrial use, hiking, hunting, birding, watching sports, and ship spotting.