Should I get a reflector or refractor? 6 Easy Tips

By Chris Klein

Should I get a reflector or refractor

Are you an aspiring astronomer looking to purchase your first telescope? Are you researching reflectors vs. refractors? If so, this article is for you!

In this article, you get

A look at aperture size considerations

Which field of view is better for you

The pros and cons of a central obstruction

A comparison of the light-gathering power of refractors vs. reflectors

A quick look at options for your telescope

Price considerations for you to make an informed decision

By the end of this article, you’ll be able to decide if you should get a reflector or refractor telescope and more!

Let’s dive right in.

INTRODUCTION: SHOULD I GET A REFLECTOR OR REFRACTOR TELESCOPE?

Refractors and reflector telescopes are the most well-known astronomical instruments available today.

Refractor telescopes use lenses to focus light. They are capable of producing sharp, high-contrast images. But, refractors have some problems.

Reflector telescopes use mirrors to focus light. They are capable of producing brighter images. They also require frequent adjustment.

The size of the telescope’s aperture (the diameter of the lens or mirror) determines how much light it can gather. The amount of light affects the image quality.

A reflector telescope can have a much larger aperture than a refractor telescope, allowing it to collect more light and produce brighter images. Reflectors also tend to be slightly less expensive than refractors, making them a great choice if you’re on a budget.

A refractor telescope can be more compact and rugged. It also requires far less maintenance.

Both types of telescopes offer great options for exploring the night sky.

Let’s explore the six considerations to help you decide between a reflector and a refractor.

1. APERTURE SIZE CONSIDERATIONS

When it comes to aperture size, you want to consider both the size of the tube and the diameter of the objective lens.

If you’re looking for a large-aperture telescope, choose a reflector.

When shopping for large aperture telescopes, it is essential to know that reflectors typically need a longer focal length than refractors to provide the best viewing quality.

On the other hand, if you are looking for a small telescope, then choose a refractor. Refractors have better light-gathering power than reflectors.

APERTURE SIZE AND LIGHT-GATHERING POWER

You should already know that the size of your telescope’s aperture matters significantly regarding its light-gathering power.

A larger aperture will allow more light in, allowing you to see brighter celestial objects like the Moon or planets.

A practical first telescope should have a minimum aperture of at least 90mm for refractors and 130mm for reflectors.

The Dobsonian reflecting telescope offers excellent light-gathering power and affordability. With the right size and quality of telescope, you’ll get great views of planets, star clusters, galaxies, and more!

WHY SIZE MATTERS FOR VIEWING QUALITY

When considering a refractor or reflector telescope, you should know that size matters!

Bigger apertures mean more light. More light means more detailed images.

Larger apertures also provide a larger field of view. A larger field of view gives you more of the night sky to enjoy.

2. FIELD OF VIEW CONSIDERATIONS

If you want a wider field of view, you’ll want a telescope with a shorter focal length.

A 4-inch refractor generally shows a wider field of view than an equivalent-sized reflector. However, a refractor will have slightly lower magnification power.

The size of the objective lens plays a vital role in determining the field of view. A larger lens provides a wider angle of view.

A larger objective lens comes with a higher price tag. On the other hand, a smaller objective lens makes refractors lighter and more compact. While this does mean a lower price tag, it also means less light, resulting in less detail and image quality.

APERTURE DIAMETER AND MAGNIFICATION

When it comes to aperture diameter, more is better!

Besides the light-gathering power, the size of the aperture also affects magnification.

Telescope magnification depends on the eyepiece used. A telescope always comes with several eyepieces, and you can always buy more.

Increasing the telescope magnification will allow you to see more detail. Too much magnification can lead to poor image quality.

That’s why often small refractors outperform larger reflectors because of superior contrast.

3. CENTRAL OBSTRUCTION CONSIDERATIONS

A key advantage of refractors over reflectors is that there is no central obstruction!

The secondary mirror of the reflector will block some of the light coming in. Refractors have the edge over reflectors when it comes to a quality image.

An oft-heard rule is that a reflector’s aperture minus the obstruction diameter gives an equivalent (perfect) refractor aperture for detecting fainter objects.

The need to constantly adjust the primary mirror, and sometimes the secondary mirror, might be a strong enough reason to avoid reflectors.

4. LIGHT GATHERING POWER CONSIDERATIONS

Regarding light-gathering power, refractors and reflectors can provide a great night sky view.

The reflector telescope produces brighter celestial objects, such as the Moon and planets, as its larger aperture allows for more light to be collected.

Refractors provide sharper images over long distances.

REFRACTOR VS. REFLECTOR LIGHT GATHERING POWER

Reflectors typically have larger apertures than refractors for the same price, making them more suitable for viewing faint objects.

Refractor telescopes have a more stable optical system and are lighter and more compact. This makes them easier to transport and set up.

You may prefer refractors if you plan to move your telescope a lot.

5. ADAPTABILITY CONSIDERATIONS

When it comes to adaptability, reflectors and refractors offer different advantages.

You can equip reflectors with various accessories like eyepieces, Barlow lenses, and filters.

Refractors typically come with fewer accessories.

6. PRICE CONSIDERATIONS

Reflector telescopes are often much more affordable than refractors.

Reflectors are less expensive because they are simpler in design and require less intricate materials.

For example, you can get an eight-inch reflector telescope for a few hundred dollars, while an eight-inch refractor would cost you several thousand dollars.

Should I buy a refractor? If quality is your main priority, you might be willing to pay the extra price for a refractor telescope. Refractors often offer better image quality and performance than reflectors.

SUMMARY

Thank you for reading my article “Should I get a reflector or refractor telescope.”

The type of telescope you choose is essential.

Refractors are typically easier to use than reflectors.

A larger aperture will gather more light, resulting in a brighter, sharper image. A large-diameter lens or mirror costs money. Telescope mirrors are less expensive to manufacture than lenses.

Your telescope’s field of view and adaptability are also essential for you to consider.

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About the Author

Chris Klein

Chris Klein is an amateur astronomy advisor, astrophotographer, and entrepreneur. Go here to read his incredible story "From $50,000 in Debt to Award-Winning Photographer Living in Switzerland". If you want to send Chris a quick message, then visit his contact page here.

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