Top 3 APO Barlow Lenses For Every Budget

Upgrade your lenses for mesmerizing views of our galaxy. Check out these high-quality Barlow lenses that will get you closer to the stars at any price point.

Since the dawn of time, man has been captivated by the stars, planets, and galaxies light-years away. It’s only natural that over the millennia we’ve developed different optical systems that allow us a better peek into the night sky. While you might think you’re limited by the telescope you already own, there’s another, cheaper way to achieve fascinating images of the stars around us.

A handy tool for at-home astronomers, the Barlow lens was designed specifically to enhance the views of the celestial bodies you can expect to see through a telescope. However, early on humans realized that simply increasing magnification power does not yield more insight into the above skies. The field of optics has had to understand and overcome wavelengths, focal lengths, apertures (terms we’ll explore in this article) to design lenses that produce quality images. Many of these factors will also help you determine whether you should invest in an achromatic or apochromatic lens to correct issues and increase your magnification.

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Why You Need A Barlow Lens

Whether you’re a hobbyist stargazer or practiced astrophotographer, your craft can benefit from the right Barlow lens. These lenses are designed so that you can easily thread, or screw, the Barlows lens directly into your eyepiece so that it is between the eyepiece and the telescope’s objective lens. The added lenses will double your magnification power without losing image quality because of the unique design. It’s also the cheapest way to increase your eyepiece collection. For example, a 20mm eyepiece with a Barlow lens will now give the same results as a 10mm eyepiece. Essentially, it is the only way to see craters on the moon or a close image of Mars with limited – or in the case of these apochromatic lenses – no distortions.

Just like when buying a telescope, you should consider your needs and budget before purchasing an apochromatic Barlow lens. The market ranges from about $20 to several hundred dollar lenses. A common myth on the internet is that Barlow lenses degrade image quality. A Barlow lens can indeed lengthen the focal length, which will help with magnification, but can have the effect of making images appear distorted, depending on the image you are trying to capture. A high-quality telescope with high-capacity light gathering will also help to correct distortions and create contrast. Although the sage advice, you get what you pay for, holds here, your power of magnification on a Barlow lens should complement the quality of your telescope. A high magnification Barlow lens will still be blurry if your telescope has a smaller objective lens or low-quality optical system.

As you can see, there are a ton of factors for achieving the images you want of our galaxy. Before diving into our recommended brands for every price point, let’s first dig into lens quality and key terms so that you can make an informed decision.

How Lenses Work

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CONS:

SVBONY 2X Barlow Lens 1.25 inch

SVBONY 2X Barlow Lens 1.25 inch

The SVBONY 2x Barlow Lens is one of the most budget-friendly on the market, coming in at $16.99. Amazon offers three versions for purchase, and it’s important to note which one you’re ordering. There is a 2x, 3x, and 5x magnification eyepiece. Most home astronomers agree that a 2x Barlow lens is the highest you should go in magnification with a beginner or mid-range telescope. As previously mentioned, higher magnifications with a smaller aperture telescope are not going to shorten the focal length. The image will appear closer but will be blurry and distorted.

It’s also important to note that this Barlow lens uses achromatic lenses rather than apochromatic. As a reminder, the achromatic lens will only correct two wavelengths, so despite the assurances from their Amazon page that their achromatic lens is “advanced” there is likely still some color-fringing that will occur. Several Amazon reviewers confirm that while this product is great for the price, there will be distortions and the product is a bit flimsy.

A bit of saving grace is their lens is multi-coated and the housing is blackened. This combination allows in more light, which will help with image quality.

Our take – This Barlow lens is great to use for kids and novices practicing backyard astronomy.

PROS:
  • Inexpensive and accessible for any budget
  • Multi-coated lens and blackened housing for more light-gathering
  • T mount adapter for DSLR camera
  • Comes with a dust cap to protect the lens
CONS:
  • Achromatic, 2 glass-element optical system

GSO 1.25" 2.5x Apochromatic Barlow Lens

GSO 1.25

The GSO 1.25” 2.5x Apochromatic Barlow Lens is one of the best and unique in the market. GSO’s (Guan Sheng Optical) Barlow lens is a big step up in price, but also image quality. This Barlow lens is full-on apochromatic, meaning those color wavelengths will be kept in check. This lens also packs a powerful punch with 2.5x magnification. The magnification does let the GSO stand out as different in the Barlow lens market, where most are either 2x or 3x magnification. Again, you’ll want to make sure your telescope can handle the level of magnification that you are looking to produce with your Barlow lens. According to homeschooling experts at, Home Science Tools, “a basic rule of thumb is the maximum magnification is 2.4 times the aperture diameter in mm or 60 times the aperture diameter in inches.”

Similar to the SVBONY, the edges and the barrel of the GSO are also blackened to allow for ultimate light-gathering capacity. GSO also mentions its 23 mm aperture. However, several reviewers of the product commented that this Barlow lens might be closer to 2x magnification rather than 2.5. This could be difficult to prove, and might not make much of a difference to novice astronomers.

Our take – This Barlow lens is great to use for emerging and longtime astronomy hobbyists

PROS:
  • APO lens
  • 2.5x magnification (depending on your telescope situation)
  • Blackened edges and barrel for optimal light-gathering capacity
  • 23 mm aperture
CONS:
  • Cheaper telescopes with smaller objective lenses might not benefit from 2.5x magnification
  • Some reviewers doubt the 2.5x magnification
  • Did not include information about whether the product comes with an adapter for a DSLR camera

Astromania 1.25" 2X TeleXtender Barlow Lens

Astromania 1.25

The Astromania 1.25” 2x TeleXtender Barlow lens is another great option for stargazers looking to see the details of celestial bodies. Another apochromatic lens – meaning a three lens-element design – this Barlow lens will give you crisp, clear images. The 2x magnification power and the brilliant optical system will pair well with any 1.25” barrel telescope. Their website confirms their Barlow lens is multi-layered and multi-coated and boasts that their APO lens will yield high-contrast images. Altogether, this Barlow lens is excellent for taking pictures of planets, stars, and galaxies.

The price tag of this Barlow lens will also buy you comfort. This product maintains a good eye relief so that you can observe for hours on end. Astromania is also great for astrophotographers and allows you to connect your DSLR camera via the Barlow’s lens’ compression ring.

The only downside to this Barlow lens, aside from cost if you’re watching your budget, is the discrepancy in their website’s marketing materials. The market materials claim that this product has four lenses in some places, but the name describes the Barlow lens as being a three-element lens. While four-element Barlow lenses exist, this product does seem to only have three. A three-element APO lens is plenty for your stargazing needs, but it is worth noting this discrepancy.

PROS:
  • APO lens that produces high contrast images and eliminates chromatic aberrations
  • Multi-layered, multi-coated lens
  • Compression ring allows for attachment to DSLR camera
CONS:
  • The discrepancy with different descriptions in the number of lenses on their website

Conclusion

Many factors and calculations go into astronomy, which is part of the allure that attracts many amateur stargazers. Understanding lenses and their interactions are the first big step as you get started in exploring the night sky. Once you know your telescope and the images you’re trying to capture, it’s easy to select the Barlow lens that best fits your needs. A Barlow lens is a key utensil that any home-astronomer should have in their tool kit, and at these prices, there’s no excuse not to get your hands on one.

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