Low-Cost Starter Scopes
To make a long story very short, the top-performing scopes are the:
These telescopes are listed in order, with the best first. But there's more to a scope than a comparative ranking. Each of these has its own strengths and weaknesses, and each is the perfect scope for certain purposes. So by all means click here to download Gary's complete review as a printable, 300-Kb PDF File.
The Celestron FirstScope lists for $49.95, but often sells at deep discounts in brick-and-mortar stores. The Orion FunScope, available primarily by mail order, is the same scope at the same list price. But it comes with better eyepieces and a red-dot finder, and is unlikely to be found at a significant discount. Both scopes are limited by the quality of their mirrors, but they have stable mounts and good focusers — two critical areas where most low-cost scopes fall far short.
The Galileoscope comes without a mount — one of the most important components of any serious telescopes — and it also retails for $49.95. So if you want an off-the-shelf telescope, you would probably do better with the offerings from Celestron and Orion. But the Galileoscope is a superb educational kit, allowing you to see the inner workings of a telescope as you assemble it from scratch — with the bonus of a serious, astro-ready telescope when you've finished the assembly.