Reflector vs. Refractor Telescopes – What is the Difference?
If you’re new to telescopes and you’re on the market for your first one, you have a lot of big decisions to make. One of the biggest decisions is whether to get a reflector or a refractor telescope.
The reflector vs refractor telescope debate is a very important one. Many enthusiasts have strong feelings about one over the other.
There’s no wrong telescope to purchase – they both come with their own pros and cons. Which one will work best for you is a matter of personal choice.
What is a Reflector Telescope?
Reflector telescopes have a few small mirrors inside. The bare minimum is two, but some of them have more. The eyepiece is on the top of a reflector telescope, so you need to look down inside of it, rather than straight through it.
A reflector telescope uses mirrors to transmit the image through the front of the telescope to the eyepiece.
What is a Refractor Telescope?
Refractor telescopes are a straight-through telescope. They’re shaped like a regular tube. The eyepiece is located directly on the other side of the lens, which magnifies the image and sends it down.
Refractor telescopes are the most common type of telescope, and they’re probably the image that first pops into your mind when you hear the word “telescope.”
The Pros and Cons of Reflector Telescopes
Reflector telescopes are very common. You can find them anywhere, and there are several great models at a really affordable price. Reflectors are mass produced nowadays, so they’re accessible to everyone.
Most aspects of a reflector are great, but there are some cons that may influence your opinion on reflecting vs refracting telescopes.
The Pros and Cons of Refractor Telescopes
Refractor telescopes are a little more like a professional tool. Whenever you go somewhere designed for people to look at the stars, such as an observatory deck, these places are often equipped with refractor telescopes. There are a lot of reasons why refractors are so popular, but there are also a few disadvantages to choosing a refractor.
Who Should Use a Reflector?
Reflectors give you great image quality with true colors, and if that’s what’s most important to you, you’ll appreciate a reflector.
They’re great for viewing up close objects like the moon, and you can even pick up some nebulas. It’s a great range of vision, even if they do sometimes require proper collimation.
Who Should Use a Refractor?
Refractors can view planets, but their real specialty lies in their ability to showcase things that are very far away.
Because refractors do such a good job at picking up light and creating contrast, you can see very distant stars with a refractor. A large diameter refractor can pick up things you would never know existed based on observations with the naked eye alone.
Reflector vs Refractor Telescope for a Beginner
The reflector vs refractor debate is most important for beginners who are looking to purchase their first telescope. They’re both great telescopes, but refractors are easiest for beginners who don’t want to tinker with their telescopes.
They’re a little more expensive, but they save you maintenance. Reflectors will show you true vivid colors, but you need to be prepared to collimate them. If this doesn’t bother you, choose a reflector.
Reflectors are going to give you the most true to life representation of what celestial objects look like. If you want to explore our solar system, you definitely want a reflector telescope.
They win out for viewing up close objects and creating stunning images. If you have to choose between a reflector vs refractor telescope, a reflector is almost always going to satisfy your needs.