If you have about $100 to spend, you may be feeling disappointed with the current options.
They may seem too fragile, too much like a child’s toy, or not good enough to see anything with.
The age-old advice of “you get what you pay for” is true, but there’s a loophole.
The Orion SkyScanner 100 mm TableTop Dobsonian is the loophole.
It’s a telescope that is within budget, is not a kid’s toy, and it has quality where it needs it plus a few, extra perks.
If you doubted that you can get excited about a cheap telescope, you’re about to be proven wrong.
✔️ Best Feature: Parabolic Mirror
❌ Worst Feature: Non-collimatable cell
👌 Ideal For: Celestial Viewing, Stargazing, Lunar & Planetary Observation, Bright DSO Viewing, Limited Astrophotography, Kids, Beginners, Intermediates, Experts
- Optical Design: Reflector
- Aperture: 100 mm (3.94”)
- Focal Length: 400 mm
- Focal Ratio: f/4
- Eyepieces Included: 20 mm, 10 mm
Our Verdict: The Orion SkyScanner 100 mm TableTop Dobsonian is likely one of the best starter telescopes and most portable mini telescopes in the market. Visibility and optics are as expected for its size, it has a parabolic mirror, and it comes with various mounting options. For the price? It absolutely cannot be beat!
Who is the Orion SkyScanner 100 mm Best Suited to?
The SkyScanner is on the small size for aperture for a Newtonian on a Dobsonian-style mount, but it’s perfectly sized for portability and kids. The good optics will not only inspire a child to get interested in astronomy, but the stunning views and ability to mount the tube to different mounts will help keep them interested.
The tabletop telescope is an excellent option for any buyer, both kids and adults. It’s a great starter telescope as it’s easy to use, comes preassembled, and has quality at its core.
More experienced users may find the smallish aperture limiting, but they’ll find value in the grab-and-go convenience and the many mounting options this platform offers.
How Does the Orion SkyScanner 100 mm Perform?
The Orion SkyScanner is a great performer for bright DSOs and good lunar and planetary observation. With the stock eyepieces and a 3x Barlow, you’ll be able to explore quite a lot including globular clusters and our planets with some of their features, but max useful magnification will top out at about 150x due to the inability to focus precisely at such high power.
Exploring the night skies with different eyepieces will allow you to fit the entire Andromeda Galaxy within the field of view (likely a 25 mm Plossl). With the included eyepieces, you can search the Milky Way, star hop, and explore the moon and open clusters, and almost all of the entire Messier Catalog.
So, visibility is obviously a non-issue. What about the mount? It’s incredibly versatile! I have a lot to say about that here in a second, so stay tuned.
Features & Benefits
The Orion SkyScanner 100 is one of the best telescopes under $100 and offers excellent value with its parabolic primary mirror. At this price point, it’s standard to see a spherical mirror which is a red flag for optics with fast focal specs. Spherical aberration causes blurry viewing because light rays are not able to come to the same single point of focus to provide a crisp and clear image. But, this isn’t the case with the SkyScanner. With its parabolic mirror, light rays can come to a central focus point to provide excellent seeing quality. Viewing quality is usually the make-or-break feature that determines if a cheap scope will be a hit. With a quality foundation in the optical system, it’s a hit.
As is, it’s a standard Dobsonian tabletop design. It’s supposed to sit atop a solid surface like, well, a table. Many users find other things to mount their telescope on, and as long as it’s rock solid, then there will be no movement when looking through the eyepiece.
The mount has alt-azimuth movement which means up-and-down and side-to-side. The up-and-down movement is called altitude motion which is controlled by the tensioning knob that provides friction of the tube against a bearing system that keeps movement smooth. The tensioning adjustment also allows you to lock the tube in place, so it doesn’t move, and this is especially convenient when using heavy loads, i.e. eyepieces. The azimuth motion is side-to-side and swivels like a lazy-Susan you would have in your kitchen.
The real perks here are unseen. There is a 3/8” tripod connection underneath the base that allows you to mount the telescope system atop a field tripod. A 3/8”-1/4” 20 threaded adapter is included if the tripod has a ¼” 20 post. The OTA also has a threaded receiver for mounting the tube directly to a photo tripod. Additionally, the dovetail bar that mounts the OTA to the Dobsonian-style tabletop base is compatible with many Orion EQ and azimuth mounts, so you can also use the tube on different mounts for various purposes.
These mounting options provide flexibility and it is definitely not the norm to have this type of versatility in a budget telescope. In fact, the norm for a scope of this size and style is to have a fixed OTA on its mount that comes preassembled and cannot be separated from each other. This is mounting excellence at its best here.
Included with the SkyScanner are two eyepieces: 20 mm and 10 mm and they provide 20x and 40x magnification. They’re Kellner eyepieces and they work well with this telescope. They’re especially good with low to medium magnifications, but a Barlow lens will help take advantage of maximum power for planetary observation. When you’re ready to spend more on additional eyepieces, you will be limited to 1.25” eyepieces as the focuser is a plastic 1.25” rack-and-pinion.
Not always included with a budget scope but it is with the Orion SkyScanner is a finder scope. This one is Orion’s stock EZ Finder II. It’s the only attachment that needs installing after box opening and is easy to do so. You must align the finder with the telescope in order for it to be effective.
A Dobsonian and its variants are not designed for astrophotography, and it’s usually due to the mount. Its focal specs can be modified with a Barlow lens to extend the focal length for a camera to come to focus. Without modifications, you can try taking photos through your smartphone of the moon and possibly some blurry images of planets. A webcam-style CCD camera may be more effective.
But, to incorporate use of a DSLR camera or to take long exposure shots, you’ll need an EQ mount with a motor drive. The EQ movement with a motor is able to track a target and keep it within the field of view. You’ll probably want to upgrade the focuser and use an attachment to extend the focal length.
The fact of the matter is entry-level reflectors will not have collimatable primary mirrors and this is the case with the SkyScanner tabletop telescope. The primary mirror cell is fixed in place and is collimated at the factory before it is shipped out. The secondary mirror is collimatable but should rarely need adjustments.
Having it glued in place will present issues for an owner if it should come out of alignment due to rough handling, but there are ways to rig the system to enable collimation although they’re not exactly easy for a beginner. This will void the warranty, so it’s not recommended. Fortunately, there is a 1-year manufacturer warranty and the scope holds collimation well.
What Type of Tripod will Work with the SkyScanner Telescope?
Any type of camera or field tripod will work with the SkyScanner as long as it has a 3/8” or ¼” 20 threaded post to receive the base of the telescope. It will also attach to a camera tripod with a ¼” 20 connection to directly mount the tube. If you wanted to put the tube on a different mount, you can do that too. The dovetail bar is compatible with many other Orion mounts either EQ or alt-az. The tube weighs 3.4 lbs, so it’s incredibly light and can be mounted to almost any light-duty mount.
Is the Orion SkyScanner Portable?
The Orion SkyScanner is conveniently portable thanks to its short tube length of 15.7” and total light weight of 6.2 lbs. Of course, it’s a tabletop, so it’s easy to take from one room to another, from the porch to the backyard, and from the house to a dark location in the country. It can sit on the passenger or back seat of a sedan or on a child’s lap during transport. It can also be repackaged into its box, the finder removed, and packed for transport for the skies or the road. A telescope that is easy to transport makes for a fun, grab-and-go setup.
Does the Starry Night Software come with the Orion Telescope?
The Starry Night Special Edition astronomy software is included with the SkyScanner telescope. It’s provided in the form of a digital download code and will be printed on a small document provided in the package. If you do not get this code, contact Orion customer service for the code.
What is the Warranty on the SkyScanner TableTop?
The SkyScanner TableTop telescope comes with a 1-year manufacturer warranty that starts from the date of purchase. It is not owner transferable.
The Orion SkyScanner 100 mm TableTop offers incredible value.
Yes, there are some compromises such as a non-collimatable cell and a plastic focuser, but what you can get out of it outweighs the flaws. Plus, the low price is an extremely motivating factor to give it a try.
For a kid, beginner, or even an experienced user, the SkyScanner delivers enjoyable observation sessions that will bring out child-like excitement like the good, old days.