The SkyQuest is a long-time favorite of mine and for many others, as a good first-buy telescope.
But, after 20 years in the market, is it still a good option?
Optically and mechanically, does it need an upgrade?
They’re legitimate concerns, and with a long run on the block, it’s worth doing a thorough once-over.
I will go over both the good and bad to see if it still deserves to be ranked as one of the best telescopes for beginners.
Orion SkyQuest XT8 Classic Dobsonian Telescope Review
✔️ Best Feature: Large aperture
❌ Worst Feature: Lacks accessories
👌 Ideal For: Celestial Viewing, Deep-Sky Viewing, Beginners, Intermediates
- Optical Design: Reflector
- Aperture: 203 mm
- Focal Length: 1200 mm
- Focal Ratio: f/5.9
- Eyepieces Included: 25 mm
Our Verdict: Even with the limited accessories, in my opinion the SkyQuest XT8 offers excellent potential and is one of our best rated telescopes under $500. Its optically and mechanically up to par with modern expectations and actually lacks nothing compared to other more expensive 8” Dobs. For its simplicity, price, and accurate imaging, it’s still a winning buy.
Who is the Orion SkyQuest XT8 Classic Dobsonian Best Suited to?
I think the XT8 is exceptionally well-suited to the beginner astronomer. It’s easy to use and setup, and its visibility will be breathtaking to the beginner stargazer. In the same manner, it’s also suitable to the intermediate stargazer who wants to upgrade from their entry-level telescope. The greater detail without the loss of ease-of-use is a great benefit.
How Does the Orion SkyQuest XT8 Classic Dobsonian Perform?
As a Dobsonian, I like that it already has a long track record that gives it a heads up in the market. This model is an 8” Dob that is simple in optics and design but with all the right features that makes it a winner. One such feature is the parabolic optics. Many manufacturers are making the switch to spherical primary mirrors, but with a focal ratio of under f/8, spherical aberration would run rampant.
Fortunately, the Orion maintains the higher image quality a parabolic mirror provides.
With a 1200 mm focal length, I feel you can sufficiently use the included eyepiece for both wide star gazing and seeing details on the moon and cloud bands on Jupiter. But, if you want additional magnification or wide FOV viewing, you’ll have to spend more to get more.
Features & Benefits
Dobs are known for their large apertures and they’re often cheaper in price against telescopes with the same measuring diameter. The 8” represents the diameter of the primary mirror which is 203 mm. It’s a decent size for a Dobsonian and offers excellent handleability for the beginner. There are smaller Dobs and larger, but in my opinion 8” is considered a good entry-level model size to explore the skies with.
With such a large aperture, more light is available and transmitted to the eyepiece. This is important to note as visibility of DSOs (Deep Sky Objects) and faint objects is improved without aberrations.
Optical Quality & Visibility
As I mentioned, this XT8 Dobsonian has parabolic mirrors instead of spherical. Spherical mirrors aren’t bad, but in tubes with a short focal length, they introduce spherical aberration. This can be manifested in image quality lacking resolution, inability to focus the image, and the focus point moves no matter how much you try to correct it.
So, to have an affordable 8” Dob with parabolic mirrors is an advantage. Better image quality, usable light, focused rays, and images free of aberration pays for itself.
What can you see with the Orion 8945 SkyQuest?
The included 25 mm Plossl eyepiece provides 48x magnification with this telescope. It’s low power, but remember, image quality is excellent. Depending on where you live, light pollution will obscure some of those dim and deep-sky catalogs, but most of the Messier catalog will be visible and should be easy enough to locate.
Of course, the moon and its craterlets will be visible along with differing features and moons of Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, and Neptune.
The focuser included with the Orion XT8 is a single-speed 2” Crayford-style focuser. It’s large and there’s zero plastic to be worried about. It also comes with a 2”-1.5” eyepiece adapter that allows you to use both sizes and this will provide flexibility when it comes time to purchase extra eyepieces. You can choose a little heavier 2” accessories too and still achieve smooth and accurate focus adjustments.
I find the XT8 is somewhat portable for travel as far as Dobsonian telescopes go. The tube weighs 20.3 lbs and the base weighs 20.7 lbs providing a total weight of 41 lbs. The two pieces can be detached for transportation. It’s still a heck of a weight to consider, but it’s significantly lighter than other similar Dobs of like specs. The tube itself is 46.5” long and the base is 19” wide.
There’s nothing really fancy about the particle-board mount and base itself, but it can be replaced DIY-style if it gets roughed up. There is a carry handle on the base and that has proven to be a convenient feature. The entire system is simple, easy to setup, and Orion did put their CorrecTension Springs on to keep things balanced.
Orion says they’re heavy-duty springs, so they essentially serve two purposes: keep the telescope in place from drifting and keep the tube coupled to the base. The most observable advantage is its ability to keep the tube from drifting, even if you have a DSLR camera mounted. However, it’s been said it’s a little difficult to attach and remove, but that should add to its durability and dependability in performance, right?
The ugly includes the bearings. They’re small and both PTFE and UHMW are used. This may present some noticeable difference in adjustment quality for experienced users, but many newbies may not notice anything at all.
I guess the main gripe I have is that it comes with only one eyepiece, the 25 mm Orion Sirius Plossl 1.25” eyepiece. All other eyepieces and additional lenses must be purchased separately. It does come with a red dot EZ Finder II reflex sight and 2-1.25” Crawford-style focuser, but I feel the reflex sight is rather limited on a big telescope like the XT8.
For the price and quality of the telescope, you can justify spending more on additional eyepieces that you would want from the get-go and not stock ones that are usually mediocre in quality at best.
Other Telescopes to Consider
Yes. The XT8 comes with The Starry Night Special Edition Software. It comes with sky simulations and what celestial objects are visible at any point in time. It will also give you pointers in telescope control and how to plan and understand your observations. You must have a PC that runs with Windows 10 or Macintosh OS X 10.10 or higher to run the software.
No. This is a telescope meant for celestial viewing. As a reflector telescope, images will be upside down. As such, it’s not recommended for terrestrial use.
This model is not motorized or computerized for tracking and neither can it be upgraded for it. It is a manual model only, but with steady hands and practice, you can track sky bodies as you observe. As such, it’s not a good model for long exposure astrophotography.
There are pros and cons to motorized telescopes, but there is an Orion SkyQuest XT8g Computerized GoTo Dobsonian Telescope available.
Many observers set this up on the ground as the eyepiece would be approximately 4 feet off the ground. For most people under 5’7”, this would be suitable. You could also pull up a chair for comfortable viewing. Taller observers may want to place the base on top of a short table to help provide more height for comfortable viewing.
No, the telescope comes disassembled and must be assembled by you. It comes with all the necessary hardware to get it put together. Once assembled, it’s relatively easy to take apart if necessary. Simply unattach the tube from the base and you have two pieces to move. The base has a carry handle to add to portability. The entire assembly weighs 41 lbs and stands approximately 5 feet tall. Each piece (tube and base) weighs approximately 20 lbs.
It’s still rather large and bulky to transport.
In my opinion the XT8 Dobsonian telescope will bring the wow-factor to a beginner astronomer.
For the price, it offers more optical quality and ease of use than other types of telescopes, but it is lacking in the accessory department. Immediate purchases should include additional eyepieces, and if there is any repairs or replacements in the future to consider, it would be the base, if necessary.
As far as optics and mechanics – I think they can’t be beat for the price point. As a simple point and aim telescope, look forward to using it for many years to come.