SkyWatcher 6″ Traditional Dobsonian Review (S11600 Telescope)


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The SkyWatcher 6” Dobsonian is guaranteed to satisfy.

It’s your grab-and-go, see-all type of telescope. It has patented technology, a good, large aperture, and a real parabolic mirror.

Best of all, it comes at an excellent price point of under $350.

What are the compromises for such a low price?

I’ll discuss that here as well as all the good things about it. If you have some basic knowledge about the mechanics of a telescope, you’ll be able to address them in a jiffy.

If not, you can still get viewing right away and learn a few tricks that’ll improve telescope performance that you can use in the future.

Zooming in…

✔️ Best Feature: It’s a Dobsonian

Worst Feature: Build quality issues

👌 Ideal For: Celestial Viewing, Stargazing, Lunar & Planetary Observation, DSO Viewing, Beginners

  • Optical Design: Reflector
  • Aperture: 153 mm (6”)
  • Focal Length: 1200 mm (47.2”)
  • Focal Ratio: f/7.8
  • Eyepieces Included: 25 mm, 10 mm

Our Verdict: There’s a lot more to be happy with than dissatisfied on the SkyWatcher Dobsonian. With plenty to see, little to learn, and minimal to spend, the 6” Dob is a winner. It’s a telescope that you can get viewing with right away and you won’t have to purchase additional equipment from the get-go.

Who is the SkyWatcher Traditional 6” Dobsonian Best Suited to?

This particular model is intended for beginners. It’s rather simple in mechanics with acceptable visibility that is expected for a 6” Dobsonian. Even at its price point, it’s set within a decent price range that is on the upper end for a newbie. The trade-off for spending this much is ease of use, a larger aperture, and the dependability a Dob provides. It features on our list of the best telescopes under $500 for a reason.

Intermediate users looking for a longer focal length specifically from a Dob will find the 6” model at a great price. While there are some things lacking, it’s nothing that an intermediate can’t fix easily and inexpensively.

But, since the point of buying a telescope isn’t to fix it up, making some DIY adjustments does allow for maximum performance that you would want out of a scope anyway. Read on if you think it’s worth it.

How Does the SkyWatcher Traditional 6” Dobsonian Perform?

The SkyWatcher 6” Dob performs exactly as you would expect – excellent optics, great mount, good accessories, and fantastic visibility of celestial targets. It’s also right within that size and weight limit of being a good telescope for kids, a comfy scope to use while sitting down, and it’s quite portable for a Dobsonian.

Where it needs some fine-tuning is with the focuser that has said to allow too much play in securing an eyepiece. The bearings may also need some attention for possible upgrades, but I’ll get into this later.

As-is, the SkyWatcher telescope hits it out of the ballpark for most buyers. It’s easy to setup, easy to use, and easy to see with. Until you can afford a bigger telescope, a 6” Dob should be part of your beginner’s telescope collection.

Features & Benefits

It’s a Dobsonian

Dobs are known for their large apertures, sturdy bases, and easy-to-use mounts. They’re often touted as an excellent telescope for beginners. This model is on the smaller end for a Dob when there are 8” models and even larger models available, but of course, they cost more. For a telescope in the sub-$350 price range, landing a 6” aperture offers obvious value.

This telescope incorporates the fundamental innovations of a Dobsonian: Newtonian reflector, Alt-azimuth mount, and large aperture. Portable, easy to use, inexpensive, big, for astronomy – classic features of a Dob.

Parabolic Mirror

The SkyWatcher Dobsonian has a real parabolic primary mirror. This eliminates spherical and chromatic aberration that would be apparent if the manufacturer had used a spherical mirror instead. You’d think that a parabolic mirror would be standard, but these days, more and more manufacturers are opting for a cheaper cost and less labor by outfitting their reflectors with a spherical mirror.

All-Purpose Tube Performance

The 6” Dobsonian has a 153 mm aperture, long 1200 mm focal length, and mid-range f/8 focal ratio. Its specs lend itself to a variety of all types of celestial viewing. With the focal ratio and large aperture combined, it’s a great wide-field and low magnification performer for stargazing and deep-sky observation, but it’s also good for providing lunar and planetary details with high magnification.

Of course, while eyepieces govern how it performs for any given target, this model is well-suited to provide satisfactory viewing with even cheap eyepieces. Imagine what it could be like if you invested in some high-quality ones?

Patented Tension Control Handle

You’ll notice two handles bundled with the accessories. One is the tension control and the other is simply a handle with no real, practical use except to hold onto it… maybe? But, the tension control handle essentially replaces what knobs would do.

You rotate the handle to loosen or tighten tension between the sideboard of the mount and the optical tube. This essentially keeps the tube exactly where you want it whether or not it’s “balanced.” You can lock the tube in its position by simply tightening the handle.

Focuser/Eyepiece Adapters

The SkyWatcher Traditional Dobsonian has a unique tube extension adapter system. This must be explained, otherwise, user-error is imminent, and you may not be able to focus the optics. The Dob comes with two 1.25” eyepieces and a 2” rack-and-pinion focuser – mostly made of metal by the way. The accessories package also includes a “1.25” adapter” but can be misleading to say the least. What the focusing system is, is actually two pieces. To use 1.25” eyepieces, you must use the 1.25” tube adapter. To use 2” eyepieces that are not included, you must use the 2” tube adapter which is included.

Too many users have incorrectly misinterpreted the concept behind this system and have stacked the adapters which can cause play in the assembly or inability to focus.

Limitations

Build Quality Issues

There actually isn’t too much complaint on this end of the spectrum, but I thought I’d point out some possible issues you may have to face. The first is some play between the focuser and the eyepiece. It very well could be a build quality issue, but most of the time, it’s user error. Make sure you’re using the correct size eyepieces with the right eyepiece adapter. Do not stack the adapters! Sure enough, focusing can be precisely achieved!

Secondly, the altitude bearings are not the best. Yes, you do have real Teflon cylinders that allow “smooth” motion with the, albeit, plastic bearings. Some say they don’t work at all and others say it’s sticky. The majority have no issues. You may want to replace or make your own bearings if this is an problem.

Thirdly, it does suffer from a common Dobsonian flaw – imbalance. It can become heavy on the eyepiece end of the tube when heavy 2” eyepieces are used or additional equipment like cameras. Again, this may come back to the bearings.

While these limitations are on the extreme end, they have come up even if they are only few and far between complaints. They’re not unfixable problems as they are solvable, but they may take a bit more knowledge and experience to address them.

Popular Questions

How do you Transport the SkyWatcher Dobsonian?

Most users will move and transport a Dobsonian in two steps: the base and the tube separately. This model is rather easy to take apart since there are no tools required. Simply loosen and remove the handle and tension control handle. You can carry the base in one load and then the tube in another load.

The tube weighs approximately 13 lbs and the base weighs approximately 25 lbs. The tube length is just over 47” (approx.) This setup is likely too large for the trunk, but the backseat of your vehicle should adequate.

Can the 6” Dobsonian be used for Astrophotography?

You may can use this excellent Dobsonian telescope for lunar and possibly planetary photography with a smartphone or webcam-style CCD camera. But, for long exposure astrophotography – no. You’ll need to equip the telescope with a motorized tracker, and you’ll need to purchase extra equipment to adequately guide and capture images.

Additionally, you’ll want to consider weight. Adding heavy loads like a DSLR camera, varying eyepieces, etc., will compromise your manual tracking ability since you’ll need to lock the tube in place because of balance issues. The tube will become eyepiece-end heavy, so moving the tube, locking it in place and capturing the image may prove to be tedious.

Does the SkyWatcher Traditional Dobsonian come with Collimation Tools?

Unfortunately, no collimation tools are included with the package. You will have to purchase your own, and it’s a good idea to have them in your toolbox as collimation will be required as often as you need to perform it. Newtonian scopes come out of alignment rather easily.

What Kind of Filters do I Need for Viewing?

There are multiple types of filters that you can purchase for your Dobsonian. But, highly recommended filters include moon and solar filters. A moon filter will dim the brightness of the moon so you can view details easier and navigate the night sky.

A full aperture solar filter will allow you to view a solar eclipse, however, it must be a filter that goes over the objective end of the telescope and not on the eyepiece. Light rays will concentrate within the optical tube and can burn through the filter and damage your retinas if you do not use a solar filter on the open end of the telescope at the objective end.

Conclusion

Now, there’s the full gist of the SkyWatcher Traditional 6” Dobsonian.

While I’ve exposed some of its flaws, it shouldn’t stop you from buying it.

The benefits far outweigh its possible flaws with its large aperture, out-of-this-world visibility of targets, ease of use, and low price. Plus, with the 2-size focuser, you can always upgrade to 2” eyepieces in the future.

Room to grow, tons to see, and multiple places to view from – that’s a Dob.

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