Even if you are going to spend more than about £300 or £400 on your first telescope virtually all of the preceding comments still apply. In particular, a bigger aperture will give you better views and GOTO scopes will find objects for you far more easily than manual scopes, provided you follow their alignment procedures correctly. They will also inform you about what you are looking at.
However, one point worth considering for beginners is that viewing conditions,
in particular the size of air cells,
are often such that you may well be able to
see better with a small or medium size scope (4" - 6") than a larger one.
When starting out there is much to learn and if all that you see with a large scope
is a very wavy object it can be rather off-putting.
Although the larger aperture Dobsonians and Newtonians are still relatively cheap, to get a larger aperture GOTO scope you will have to spend upward of £700. Thus a 200mm (8 inch) Skywatcher SynScan Newtonian Reflector comes in at about £710 whilst the 8 inch Catadioptrics from Celestron and Meade cost from around the £1100 - £1400 mark. Serious money. With these scopes you should be able to see a wide range of objects.
Of course, if you want to try for the larger non-computerised scopes then the prices are much more attractive. An 200mm (8 inch) Dobsonian Reflector comes in under £300, the 250mm (10inch) at £450, the 300mm (12 inch) at around £540. Obviously these are bigger and heavier and you do need to carefully consider the potential problems outlined in the preceding pages. But if you are serious, are sure that you can handle the scope and that it is not too big and heavy, and are prepared to take your time, learn slowly and be patient, they are undoubtedly tremendous value for money. However there is one disease that all Astronomers suffer from at some stage, and it can lead to very expensive mistakes for beginners. It is called
Aperture Fever: Quite simply the desire to have a bigger and better telescope. Our weather is such that we can go for weeks without using our telescopes. This gives us far too much time to dream and browse through the magazines and imagine what we could see, if only we had a bigger scope. From the weight-lifter who bought a 14 inch GOTO Newtonian which even he couldn't handle, to our friends who bought it and then discovered it wouldn't fit into their observatory. All beginners who got carried away. Which brings us to another expensive dream, namely an
Observatory: If you are a casual observer, or someone who is quite happy to go to the trouble of setting your scope up every time you use it, then you don't need one. Otherwise, at some stage you will begin to realise that in order to observe in relative comfort for any length of time, an observatory is an absolute necessity. Not only can you have your scope permanently setup, and with GOTO scopes this can mean that you don't have to go through the business of aligning it every time you use it, but most types will also help with cutting out stray light from neighbours, or street lamps, not to mention shielding you and your scope from those annoying breezes.
But observatories don't come cheap and even if you are a do-it-yourself expert there will be expenses and a lot of time and effort needed. Of the 2 types, the roll-off wooden sheds are the cheapest but need the most space, whilst you won't get much change from £4000 with the fibre-glass dome types by the time you add on the cost of the concrete base, etc., - and much more if you start to add on a pillar mount, electricity supply, motorised domes, etc. One further important point to note is that Dobsonians aren't really suitable for observatories due to their 'low' mounting.
Please note that all prices quoted are approximate, subject to change
and for guidance only