A telescope under £300
I can't tell what telescope would be best for me.  I want to look at some planets and nebulae etc and would prefer something with a motorised drive unit (but only if it is easy to use and is reliable).  I might also want to take photographs of some images.

So, all that in mind... do you have any particular recommendations to make?  I'm willing to spend maybe £300.00 but that is flexible.  I'd especially like to use the Starguide CD-ROM to find my objects. -- Spencer

For that price you can get either a good telescope for optical viewing, or a basic Go To telescope that won't Go To very well, but not both at once!

To my mind the Go To facility is the least useful, and it is best to forego that and to get a larger telescope through which you can see more objects and on a more sturdy mounting.

What I suggest you need is a 130 mm or larger reflector, without Go To, but with a driven equatorial mount. These days you have the choice of either the Far Eastern Sky-Watcher/Celestron/Meade versions (all virtually the same) which have battery-driven motors, convenient for taking around in a car; and the Russian TAL-1 which is much more sturdily engineered and won't suffer nearly so much from vibration which is a real problem with the lighter Far Eastern telescopes. But its drawback is that it only has an AC motor that requires mains power, unless you also buy an inverter that converts car battery power into 220V AC (separate suppliers).

The telescope suppliers usually recommend the Far Eastern instruments but I prefer the more sturdy TAL, though it is heavier. It is still portable and easy enough to shove into the back of a car. However, Sky-Watcher telescopes do provide a lot more for your money these days -- the Explorer 150 (EQ3-2) comes in at under £300 and you get a 150 mm instrument compared with the TAL-2M which is only 110 mm.

Don't go to Argos or other similar sources – try the dedicated telescope shops such as Telescope House (http://www.telescopehouse.com), David Hinds Ltd (http://www.telescopesplus.co.uk) or Green Witch (http://www.green-witch.com/). There is a longer listing on the SPA website (www.popastro.com – look under www links). The suppliers are usually happy to give advice. Their only problem is that like all salesmen, they don't necessarily tell you about the drawbacks of their instruments. They will say that Go To does work, but in my experience of several instruments, it doesn’t, at least, not with the cheaper instruments. Most of the objects you will want to observe are fairly easy to find anyway.

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