When it comes to state-of-the-art, high quality and affordable telescopes, you won’t go far wrong with the Orion company. They have been manufacturing domestic telescopes for decades, garnering massive popularity within the skywatching community.
This Orion SkyQuest XT8 Dobsonian scope is no different, with an impressive aperture of around 8-inches, which is capable of gathering plenty of light so you can illuminate those faint planets and stars that you might not be able to see with the naked eye.
Also, when it comes to spying bodies such as Jupiter and Mars close up, then you’ll be able to pick out some stunning details with this scope.
This telescope has plenty of precision-engineered features and great optics, with low thermal expansion borosilicate glass lenses and double-coated mirrors that you will be able to use come wind, rain or shine.
You’ll be able to get plenty of hours of quality sky searching with this model.
But what other features does the Orion SkyQuest XT8 Dobsonian telescope have to give you those impressive views of the terrestrial bodies? Can you use this telescope for things like astrophotography?
Will this telescope weigh you down if you plan on taking it out on the road with you? How much can you be expected to pay for this telescope?
Well, stargazers across the world will have these questions answered and a lot more, with our comprehensive review of the Orion SkyQuest XT8 Dobsonian telescope.
We give a rundown down of some of this telescope’s best features, as well as how much it will cost and whether or not it will let you down.
Orion’s XT Range
Orion is a well-known manufacturer of quality telescopes, the XT range being amongst the most popular. This particular telescope is 8-inches in length and can be considered a mid-range model, making it a great choice for beginner and intermediate telescope enthusiasts.
The sizes of telescopes will range dramatically, starting with a modest 4.5-inch telescope, hitting sizes like 6-inches, 8-inches, 10-inches, all the way up to 12-inches, 14-inches and eventually 16-inches.
The largest of these models are technically XX models, as they contain open truss frames rather than solid optical tube assemblies.
But that’s not all in this range, as many of the sizes we’ve listed above have their own sub-categories:
- Plus - these are standard models with enhanced upgrades, such as a dual-speed Crayford focuser, adjustability in the Dob base, as well as other accessories that increase functionality.
- G models - models with the letter ‘G’ at the end indicates that they have a go-to motorized computer attached to them with a 42,000 object database.
- I models - this letter stands for ‘Intelliscope’, which is the push-to database of 14,000 night sky objects established for the SkyQuest model.
The 8-inch and 10-inch SkyQuest telescopes can be bought in their ‘classic’ models, the ‘Plus’ variations as well as G and I models.
However, if you’re wanting to opt for the smaller 4.5-inch model, this will only come in the ‘classic’ setup, with the 6-inch model coming in both ‘classic’ or ‘plus’ models.
The 12-inch and 14-inch telescopes are only available in the I and G models, with the 16-inch being only available in a G model.
Overview Of XT8 and XT8 Plus
Now just looking at the XT8 and XT8 Plus models, the primary mirrors that they use is made from low-expansion borosilicate glass that will cool down a lot quicker than other models, making them much more resistant to thermal shocks and increased temperatures.
The classic XT8 model comes with a 25mm Plossl, which is a decent low-power eyepiece. However, we would recommend that you use an 82-degree eyepiece for increasing the power of your classic XT8.
The Plus models have a higher reflectivity in the mirrors and have swapped out the 25mm Plossl eyepiece for a 2-inch 28mm Kellner one.
The Kellner model is actually inferior, offering a slightly wider field of view. It does also include a 100mm Plossl, although this will give you increased strain on the eyes.
Having a 9mm gold line eyepiece will vastly improve your viewing experience with the Plus model, although we would recommend using a Barlow lens that can be used with the 10mm to achieve a 240x magnification.
For premium viewing in your telescope, we would suggest using a dedicated 6mm eyepiece, which will both outperform the Barlow and the 10mm Plossl.
You can also pick up a limited edition XT8 classic with red tubing. The only difference between the limited edition and the classic is the 35mm DeepView eyepiece, along with the Barlow and the 25mm Plossl we mentioned above.
However, we wouldn’t suggest that you buy this, as the price difference is not really worth the extra accessories.
An XT8 Plus has been fitted with a safety film that will protect it against solar rays, allowing you to observe sunspots. However, you could make your own filter with Thousand Oaks film with cardboard and plywood and save yourself an extra few dollars.
Also, having an 8-inch telescope will mean that you won’t be able to achieve full resolution due to the intense heat from the sun.
You have a decent focuser on the XT8, with no plastic parts, which was an issue with some older models of XT8, which came with an average rack-and-pinion focuser and knobs that embedded themselves in your skin.
The Plus model also has a dual-speed, low-profile focuser that might seem a little too much for a modest 8-inch telescope with a medium-range focal ratio. This might result in your repeatedly having to focus the knob.
The finderscope on the XT8 has a red dot that will work well for bright objects but will struggle to hone in on dimmer deep-sky objects.
What To Consider Before Buying
Your XT8 will provide the user with a great blend of top-of-the-range performance and materials at an affordable price, making it a great high-end telescope to start out on. It is very versatile, with plenty of room to add your own accessories.
This has an 8-inch aperture that will allow lots of light to get in, allowing you to view those darker deep-sky objects, such as the outer planets Uranus and Neptune, faint galaxies and nebulae.
Combining this with a long focal length, you can get a wider field of view that will allow you to pinpoint star clusters and other galaxies.
Dobsonian telescopes are known for being easier to use than most other types of telescopes, again, making them an ideal choice for beginner astronomers.
They are very sturdy, which is crucial for maintaining those clear images. They will not need altazimuth or equatorial mounts to stabilize these models.
Collimation is when all the internal components of a telescope need to be aligned properly to allow the maximum amount of light filtration into your telescope.
This model of Dobsonian is a refactor rather than a reflector, as newer astronomers tend to feel anxious about manually changing their scope’s inner alignment.
The mirrors inside a reflector telescope reflect the light entering the telescope before it hits the eyepiece.
The mirrors inside will require occasional adjustments to make sure that the light is getting to the eyepiece properly and not impairing your viewing. This alignment is what experts call collimation.
Luckily for beginners, refractors do not have to be aligned, which takes away an additional challenge that you might not feel equipped to handle at this stage.
However, once you have gotten to grips with the fundamentals of your telescope, you should get a telescope that will allow collimation, as this will give you that added control over how clear you want your target to be.
Size And Weight
This is a larger telescope, coming it at over 4 feet in length, with a 2-part structure that has a combined weight of 18.6kg (40-pounds).
So if you’re planning on taking this cross-country to an area with less light pollution, then make sure that you have a vehicle with enough weight and storage capacity.
You might prefer to use this as simply a backyard telescope, although make sure you buy an adequate covering from protection in the rain if you don’t have an indoor area to operate it from.
Can You Use It For Astrophotography?
Unfortunately for those of you who plan on snapping pictures of Jupiter, Mars, or your favorite Galilean moon, Dobsonian telescopes are not suitable for astrophotography.
Despite this scope giving you incredible sharpness in the eyepiece, it doesn’t come as a G model, which will limit how powerful it will be for photographs.
We would recommend that if you’re willing to spend over $700 on a scope, that you bump the price up slightly to get a specially adapted telescope for astrophotography. Astrophotographers tend to want smaller telescopes that they can maneuver to synch up with their cameras.
When it comes to astrophotography, portability is key, so you’ll want something that you can pick up and shift to accommodate your shot.
One of the reasons why this camera is so popular is because of the amazing optics and the ease at which you can use it. This is why this telescope has so many positive reviews from amateur and seasoned astronomers around the world.
There are several criteria you should be looking for in a new telescope, especially if you’re a beginner and you don’t know the first thing about what to look for or what it is you are looking for:
- Optical performance - this is how clearly you can see objects through your telescope. Obviously, this will depend on what it is you actually want to see. If you just want to spy on the 5 visible planets of Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn, then you won’t need an impressive telescope range.
- Mount performance - This is how stable your telescope is. With bigger units like the Orion SkyQuest XT8, you’ll want something that can remain almost immovable once set up. Even the slightest shift can throw your carefully-calculated trajectory completely off course, ruining hours of meticulous work.
- Included equipment - you can get a range of accessories with certain telescopes, including a range of eyepieces that you can switch out depending on what it is you’re looking for.
- Setup And Use - If you’re going to be moving through different locations, portability is going to be something you’ll need to factor into your decision. Also whether it has digitized monitoring systems and tracking, as these will make all the difference between a clear and a blurry image.
- What You Can See - As mentioned above, this all depends on your intentions. If you want to see planets, then you’re going to want the image quality to be as good as it can get.
Now that we’ve covered these basics, we can look in-depth as to what the Orion SkyQuest XT8 Dobson can provide in each of these categories.
If you’re looking to spend less than $500 on a telescope, then the likelihood is that the optical performance will be distinctly subpar.
However, with the Orion XT8, you’ll be lavished with crystal clear optics that will enable you to see the finer surface detail of planets such as Jupiter and Saturn.
The main mirror is made from ultra-reflective borosilicate glass that is highly thermal resistant, with limited diffraction that will increase the eventual sharpness and clarity of your image.
The ability to transfer heat quicker will also improve the performance of the magnification and make your mirror last a lot longer.
Combining the 8-inch aperture with a 1,200mm focal length provides you with NASA-quality results, giving you a generous light collection and sharp, detailed views of distant night sky objects, that is, things outside the planets, moons and suns of our solar system.
The wide field of the viewfinder will help you ensure that you can fit larger objects into the optical range.
This XT8 sits very nicely in the middle of the XT8 range, its popularity owing to the balance between aperture size and price.
If you are a newbie sky-spotter, the chances are that you’ll want to get something that will give you great views of the stars but for a price that won’t break the bank.
As mentioned above, the XT8 comes with a 25mm Plossl eyepiece that will provide you with 48x magnification and a field of view that ranges at 52-degrees.
This eyepiece is fully coated, so it will be able to resist thermal and impact damage. The scope is compatible with a 1.25-inch and 2-inch eyepiece.
If you want to view larger objects like the moon, Jupiter or Saturn then we would recommend that you get this scope for its wider field of vision. It will give you incredible detail of all of the planets and some of the dimmer stars.
This telescope comes fitted with a spring-tension mount constructed from three-quarter inch particleboard.
This system distributes the weight on this Dobsonian unit perfectly, unlike some shoddier mounts that have trouble balancing such a large tube. This will reduce the likelihood of your scope tipping over and getting damaged.
Utilizing the CorrecTension system, this scope will be very balanced and stable throughout use, which is crucial when using 2-inch eyepieces and accessories, as these additional items can cause the weight of your scope to be unevenly distributed.
This mount does not contain too many moving parts, which again adds to its stability. This is incredibly easy for beginners to use, you won’t need to have polar alignment, and you can pick up and move the entire scope to track your planets and moons across the sky when necessary.
This mount will also move smoothly, again, very important for tracking objects in the night sky with the utmost precision. Budging your telescope even one millimeter will result in your planet completely disappearing from your eyepiece.
However, if you are searching for a mount that is easy to transport, you might want to opt for a different model, as this is made from particleboard, which is a very heavy material.
If you are planning on transporting this scope, we recommend that you have a hefty vehicle or truck to do so.
One of the reasons that Orion can offer this telescope for such an affordable price is because of the relatively small amount of accessories that it comes with. With the XT8, it is a pretty minimal offering when it comes to extras.
But there some things included in this package, such as the Plossl eyepiece, an EZ-Finder II red dot scope, a 2-inch Crayford focuser, a collimation cap, a 1.25-2-inch eyepiece adapter and an accessory tray.
The EZ-Finder II is a red dot that is more than capable of helping you align your telescope with your viewing object for maximal viewing. This is a top-performing sight, although some seasoned telescope users have complained that it does not pick up fainter deep-sky objects.
However, the 2-inch focuser is of exceptionally high quality, with a completely metallic construction and a smooth operation. It allows you to dial in whatever you see in your viewfinder, allowing you to get as clear and defined an image as possible.
The collimation cap will allow you to align everything in your scope, giving you that assurance of optimal viewing.
The eyepiece adapter will also mean you can use multiple focal strengths, which will be important for viewing objects at different distances. Often, you will want to offset your focal length with the magnitude of your eyepiece.
When it comes to accessories, there isn’t much in this package, although if all you want is a decent aperture size for a modest price, then this is perfect. You can always buy extras later when you feel more comfortable with your main unit.