Best Catadioptric Telescope

Under £250 – Cheapest Catadioptric Telescope

Sky-Watcher Skymax 90 EQ1

  • Breaks down into extremely small/lightweight components
  • Entire setup easy to carry with 1 hand
  • Sharp optics despite low price

The Sky-Watcher Skymax 90/EQ1 package consists of Sky-Watcher’s Skymax 90mm Maksutov-Cassegrain optical tube atop an EQ1 mount and tripod. The EQ1 is a diminutive and cheaply-made mount which is commonly supplied as part of “department store” telescope kits, but the Skymax 90 is so tiny that the mount has no trouble supporting it. 

Sky-Watcher also provides a full set of accessories with the SkyMax 90 to get you started – two eyepieces and a red dot finder, which might be all you need for this telescope. While a 90mm Maksutov is mainly a lunar, planetary, and double star instrument, rest assured that you’ll be able to get outside and observe them in just a few minutes thanks to the light weight of this setup (just a few kilos when assembled).

£250 – £300 Range

Sky-Watcher Skymax 102S AZ Pronto

  • Convenient for both terrestrial and celestial viewing
  • 28% more light-gathering power than a 90mm
  • Lightweight/compact

The Skymax 102S AZ Pronto pairs Sky-Watcher’s larger 102mm Skymax optical tube assembly with the Pronto alt-azimuth mount. The Pronto, like the EQ1, is a bit compromised in overall quality due to its low price, but nonetheless is a sturdy foundation for the Skymax 102 and its slow-motion controls provide precise tracking/pointing adjustments. The manual alt-azimuth design of the mount also lends itself well to using the Skymax 102 as a daytime spotting scope, though the included star diagonal flips views left-right which may be problematic for terrestrial use.

£300 – £400 Range

Celestron Astro Fi 127

  • 120mm aperture 
  • WiFi-controlled GoTo mount with automated pointing/tracking
  • Fairly sturdy provided mount/tripod

Affordability meets advanced technology in the Celestron Astro Fi 127. As one of the most budget-friendly GoTo telescopes, this 120mm (4.7”) Maksutov-Cassegrain promises a step up in performance compared to its 102mm counterparts. 

A 120mm Maksutov-Cassegrain is mainly a lunar and planetary instrument, but you can also begin to resolve the brightest globular clusters and dust lanes in the brightest and most prominent galaxies, such as Andromeda. The Astro Fi mount seamlessly integrates with your smartphone or tablet; by using the SkyPortal app, the telescope will automatically point at and track any object after a quick alignment procedure. 

£400 – £550 Range

Sky-Watcher Skymax 127 AZ-GTi

Sharing the same 120mm Maksutov-Cassegrain optics as the Celestron Astro Fi 127, the Sky-Watcher Skymax 127 boasts a substantial performance boost over a 102mm or 90mm unit but is still extremely compact and portable. The advanced AZ-GTi GoTo mount can be aimed manually with or without being powered on, and is controlled via your smartphone or tablet with the SynScan app. The SynScan app is compatible with other astronomy software like SkySafari Pro for an even better user experience, too. The AZ-GTi is also usable as an equatorial mount/star tracker with additional parts, and is compatible with any telescope that uses a Vixen-style dovetail bar. 

The Skymax 127 package includes two eyepieces, a star diagonal, and a red dot finder to get you started, and the 120mm aperture is enough for great views of the Moon, planets, double stars, and the brightest deep-sky objects. If you don’t like the somewhat flimsy stock tripod provided with the AZ-GTi/Skymax, it’s easier to replace it with a beefier photo unit thanks to the ⅜” stud on the bottom of the AZ-GTi mount head.

£550 – £800 Range

Celestron Astro Fi 6” SCT

  • Sharp 6” Schmidt-Cassegrain optics
  • Fully motorised/tracking GoTo mount
  • Cheaper than most other 6” SCT/GoTo mount bundles

The Celestron Astro Fi 6” SCT incorporates the esteemed C6 XLT optical tube atop the Astro Fi mount. While certainly not the Rock of Gibraltar, the Astro Fi is a sturdy enough platform for this telescope, and of course offers fully computerised tracking/pointing capabilities controlled via your smartphone or tablet. A 6” telescope can resolve globular star clusters into individual stars and reveals other celestial wonders which a smaller telescope is simply not capable of, especially under clear and dark skies. The Astro Fi 6” remains remarkably compact and lightweight, however, and setup is of course a breeze requiring just a few minutes to level and align the Astro Fi mount on the night sky.

£800 – £1200 Range

Celestron Nexstar 6SE

Of the four Celestron NexStar SE telescope models, the 6SE is the only one we really recommend, as the 8SE is unsteady while the other two models offer poor performance for the price. The NexStar SE mount requires a fair bit of setup to get going, but once ready, it can easily track and slew up to 40,000 objects of your choosing from its database. It comes with a hand controller by default, but you can purchase and install a WiFi dongle to use your phone or tablet for remote operation. The NexStar 6SE’s mount is a lot more sturdy than the Astro Fi mount, though you are essentially purchasing the same actual telescope.

The 6SE – using the same C6 XLT optical tube as the Astro Fi 6” – offers great views of the Moon and planets, and with its 6” aperture, you can observe a fair amount of deep-sky objects, and see details such as dust lanes in galaxies and individual stars in globular clusters, where smaller scopes fall short in capability. Moreover, the scope is still light and compact enough that you can take it on a plane with the tube attached to the mount. However, only a single 25mm Plossl (60x) and basic 1.25” visual back, diagonal prism, and red dot finder are included, so you will certainly want to add more accessories later on, and the NexStar SE mount cannot be aimed manually in any capacity.

£1200 – £2000 Range

Celestron Nexstar Evolution 6

  • 6” Schmidt-Cassegrain optics provide solid performance
  • Well-designed, sturdy GoTo mount and tripod with advanced features such as built-in WiFi and battery
  • Easy to transport

While none of the improvements over the Celestron NexStar 6SE are jaw-dropping with the NexStar Evolution 6, what you do get is pretty nice. In addition to a pair of Plossl eyepieces, the NexStar Evolution 6 features a mount with no plastic components and a superior-quality drive system. It also has a built-in rechargeable battery, and can be controlled either with the included handset or with your smartphone or tablet thanks to its built-in WiFi adapter. However, you could also just buy a WiFi dongle and batteries for the 6SE and get the same features, or spend a little more and wind up with the far more powerful 8” Evolution model.

£2000+ Range

Celestron Nexstar Evolution 8

Celestron’s NexStar Evolution 8 provides the resolving and light-gathering power of Celestron’s classic C8 optical tube mounted atop an advanced GoTo mount. The NexStar Evolution mount features a built-in lithium battery, clutches to allow (theoretical) manual aiming when the scope is powered off, and a WiFi dongle along with a hand controller that allows you to run the scope with either the handset or your smartphone/tablet. The Evolution is significantly sturdier than the NexStar 8SE model, which we don’t particularly recommend, and the whole scope breaks down into fairly manageable pieces too. You also get a decent pair of 1.25” Plossl eyepieces to start out with, though the Evolution 8 benefits from a good 2” star diagonal and wide-angle 2” eyepieces.

Honorable Mention

Under £250

SarBlue Mak60

The SarBlue Mak60 is an excellent choice if you’re looking for a compact telescope, and the tabletop-mounted version is extremely simple, rock-steady, and affordable. The Mak60’s beverage can sized optical tube is small enough to pack in a backpack or handbag, and the package includes a medium-power eyepiece, star diagonal, and finder. However, this telescope’s small aperture size restricts it from reaching targets other than the Moon and bright planets; with its limited field of view and light-gathering capability, you won’t be able to observe fainter objects at all, and the brighter star clusters simply don’t fit in this scope’s field of view.

£250 – £300

Sky-Watcher Virtuoso 90

The Sky-Watcher Virtuoso 90 utilises the same optics as the Skymax 90, and comes with the added bonuses of a motorized tracking mount and a safe white-light solar filter. You can use it either on a table or attached to a heavy-duty photo tripod via the threaded mounting hole at the bottom of the Virtuoso’s base. The motorized tracking helps with planetary observing or basic astrophotography with the Virtuoso, but the setup is easier and quicker than would be required for a full GoTo system, which is not necessary for such a small telescope. You simply level the scope and point it north, turn the mount on, and it automatically tracks. Aiming can be adjusted with the keypad or by unlocking the clutches and pushing the scope manually around the sky. The Virtuoso 90 includes a pair of eyepieces, a star diagonal, and a 5×24 finder scope for aiming.

£800 – £1200

Sky-Watcher Skymax 150 Pro EQ5

Like any 6” Maksutov, the Sky-Watcher Skymax 150 Pro provides impressive views of the Moon, planets, and double stars. The EQ5 mount, is a sturdy, albeit basic, foundation for this telescope. For those desiring a touch of modern technology, a variant featuring the computerised HEQ5 mount is available, offering enhanced tracking and object-finding capabilities.