Orion XT8 SkyQuest 8″ Dobsonian Telescope Review

I have had an Orion XT8 SkyQuest 8″ Dob for a few years now and it has held up well. This telescope has offered up a nice view of a lot of objects but for some reason I have never written about it. Let’s change that. Here is a short Orion Skyquest XT8 review.

Orion XT8 Classic Dobsonian Telescope

Orion 8945 SkyQuest XT8 Classic Dobsonian Telescope

I bought this telescope several years ago and paid less than the Orion Skyquest XT8 price on Amazon, but like most things, prices have gone up a little and they have changed the scope a little. My old Orion XT8 came with a couple of eyepieces and I believe one of Orion’s Deepmap 600 maps which I love. The new one has eliminated one eyepiece and the map, but thrown in a few enhancements we will look  at.

This is the older version which only had a 1.25″ rack and pinion focuser whereas the newer ones seem to come with a 2″ crayford which I can say would be a huge improvement. While this older focuser is not nearly as nice and I can’t use it with 2″ eyepieces, it is still a solid unit.

The newer versions of the Orion XT8 and  my version both come with a red dot finder which is really cheap and flimsy. I much prefer Orion’s Orion EZ Finder Deluxe which sadly is not available any more. You can however get a Astromania Finder Deluxe Telescope Reflex Sight from Amazon which is almost an exact copy, yea!

The best thing about this scope is that it is a solid scope, both in build quality and image quality. My Zhumell Z8 scope is a much nicer scope to use than this Orion XT8 and came with better accessories, but for the money, this is an awesome starter scope and no one will regret buying one. 

Orion’s technical support is also first rate and should you run into any problems, the solution is a quick phone call or email away. You probably won’t need that however because this Orion XT8 is not only well built, but drop dead easy to assemble and use as well.

Opening the Orion XT8 box you find the tube in one section and the base/parts in another. Assembling the base was a simple matter of three side pieces and the bottom, along with a hand full of allen head screws for which they provided the tools. 

Orion XT8 unboxed

Once the base was assembled, you can just set the tube in the base and attach the side springs which put tension on the setup so the scope stays where you put it. Other telescopes I have used have adjustable tension while this one does not, but I fail to think of a scenario that a typical beginner would get into where that would be a problem. In fact, the only time I have used my tensioners on my Zhumell Dob is when I was doing something the telescope was never designed to do in the first place so I am not going to penalize the Orion XT8 for not having it.

About the only thing left is to slide the finder into the slot for it and tighten it down, then grab the eyepiece and start looking around.

Initial thoughts on moving the scope around are that it is pretty smooth in both altitude and azimuth movements. Years later, it is still remarkably smooth. As smooth as the more expensive scopes that use high end ball bearings for everything? Well no, but for much less expensive scope it is more than smooth enough and seems to keep that smoothness over the years. Using the teflon (I am assuming) pads on the altitude might actually be a really good thing as bearings can wear out and possibly corrode, the pads probably will not.

One of the down sides to any Dobsonian telescope, including this Orion XT8, is the cool down time. This is the time it takes for the telescope mirrors to adjust to the temperature outside. Typically you take the telescope from an air conditioned inside to an outside viewing location and the temperature can vary between the two locations by up to forty degrees. This temperature variance causes terrible viewing as the mirrors cool down (or warm up). Once the mirrors have equalized, the viewing is exceptional. Although not included with the scope, Orion does have a cooling fan that attaches to the back of the Orion XT8 to help it cool down faster.

Although I much prefer dual speed crayford focusers in my telescopes, the single speed rack and pinion in my Orion XT8 is pretty nice, and very functional. The newer single speed crayford in the new version of the Orion XT8 I am sure is an excellent focuser. Users I have talked to say it is very fast and smooth and a real improvement over the rack and pinion design.

25mm Plossl eyepiece that comes with the Orion XT8

The 25mm eyepiece provided with the scope is a solid eyepiece for a beginner and provides excellent views of the moon, Andromeda galaxy, Orion nebula, and a host of other popular beginner targets. Unfortunately this one eyepiece choice can leave someone a little lacking so I would suggest you get an Orion moon filter and an Orion 12.5mm Sirius Plossl eyepiece to round things out.

Orion gives you a coupon for a download of some astronomy software included with the Orion XT8. I am not a fan. You can get Stellarium for free off the internet but really, who has a computer out next to their telescope unless they are doing astrophotography? Better options include Orion’s own Deepmap 600 which is awesome in the field, a nice Planisphere (be sure to select the right one for your location!) or any number of excellent phone/tablet apps.

If you wanted something a little nicer you could always go with Orion’s XT8 Plus. When looking at the orion xt8 vs xt8 plus, the plus includes adjustable tension, secondary mirror thumbscrews adjusters, two eyepieces, a 2x barlow and a dual speed crayford focuser for just $100 more:

Orion XT8 PLUS Dobsonian Reflector Telescope

Orion SkyQuest XT8 PLUS Dobsonian Reflector Telescope

Whichever Orion XT8 you decide on, you will have a telescope that should last for many years and provide excellent views.

I hope you enjoyed my little review of the Orion XT8 Dobsonian telescope!

 


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Zhumell Z8 Dobsonian Review, not all dobs are equal

After purchasing my new Zhumell Z8 Dobsonian I thought I would share some information on it.

In doing research for my upcoming book “Getting Started: Budget Astrophotography” I was in need of an 8″ Dobsonian telescope. Lots of people have this type of telescope so it is absolutely one that needed to be discussed in the book. Like most people, I wanted the best scope for the best deal I could get and I had heard a lot about Zhumell Dobsonian telescopes, that led me to Hayneedle.

If you are curious about the design of the Dobsonian, read more at Wikipedia.

Zhumell Z8 Dobsonian Most people who know me know that I typically have a brand preference that I stick with. They also know that I will only stick with that brand if the price, performance and quality are close to the competition. This meant that I wound up comparing the Orion XT8 vs Zhumell Z8. In this case they weren’t really close so I went with the Zhumell Z8 Dobsonian telescope which is the house brand for Hayneedle. To start with the price between the Zhumell and its competition is very close, not really enough to worry about. The Zhumell Z8 Dobsonian comes with both a 9mm 1.25″ eyepiece and a 30mm 2″ eyepiece whereas most competitors including the Orion only ship a 25mm 1.25″ eyepiece or something close. In addition they ship a screw on moon filter and laser collimator, the Orion ships with a collimation cap and cheap reflex finder.

Zhumell accessories While I prefer a red dot finder the 8x50mm right angle finderscope on the Zhumell Z8 Dobsonian is a very nice finder and typically considered an upgrade to a simple red dot. Another huge win for the Zhumell is the dual speed crayford focuser that is just as smooth as silk.

Zhumell focuser Finally, my favorite feature is that the Zhumell Z8 Dobsonian has adjustable pivot points so you can balance the scope (Orion has nothing like this), and then adjustable tensioners on each side (not flimsy little springs or friction tape) so you completely control balance and resistance, nice.

Zhumell pivot points

To make this telescope perfect they should offer a kit that swaps the 8x50mm finderscope with a deluxe red dot, and maybe throw in a 2x barlow which would effectively give you the equivalent of 4.5mm (pretty much unusable), 9mm, 15mm and 30mm eyepieces. Other than that little pickyness, I highly recommend this telescope and consider it the best Dobsonian telescope in this size and price range. If you are in the market for a Dobsonian, this should be on your short list. You can sometimes pick up the Zhumell Z8 Dobsonian used HERE or head on over to telescopes.com to get a new one.


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