SkyWatcher Traditional Dobsonian 8-Inch Telescope Review


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If you’re looking for your first, high-quality telescope, it should be a Dob – a Dobsonian that is.

The SkyWatcher 8” Dobsonian is exactly as expected; simple optics on a simple mount, but don’t underestimate its simplicity.

As a telescope under $500, it should be a serious competitor amongst your other considerations.

It will likely fit the bill for many looking to stay within a given budget for a more-than-decent telescope as it will last you a long time and see you through the mapping and star-hopping skills you’re still yet to learn.

Zooming in…

✔️ Best Feature: Large aperture

Worst Feature: Not good for astrophotography

👌 Ideal For: Celestial Viewing, Deep-Sky Viewing, Beginners, Intermediates

  • Optical Design: Newtonian
  • Aperture: 203 mm
  • Focal Length: 1200 mm
  • Focal Ratio: f/5.9
  • Eyepieces Included: 25 mm, 10 mm

Our Verdict: The SkyWatcher is an excellent and affordable Dob. It provides the classic and undisputed benefits of a Dob with bright and clear viewing of deep space objects. As a first-time buy, it’s an excellent investment into furthering your hobby goals and acquiring necessary skills to upgrade in the future.

Who is the SkyWatcher Traditional 8” Dobsonian Best Suited to?

The 8” Traditional Dobsonian is best suited to beginners looking for a first-time buy or even for intermediate users who want something a little more lightweight, compact, and more practical to use over larger Dobs.

As a deep-sky telescope, it’s not intended for terrestrial use but for looking into the vast space of the heavens. To achieve this, it comes with the necessary accessories to get observing right away. There may be some DIY upgrades needed to get it up to top notch, but even a beginner can perform these simple, optional steps to improve maximum performance out of the SkyWatcher Dobsonian.  

How Does the SkyWatcher Traditional 8” Dobsonian Perform?

It’s not computerized, it’s not collapsible, but it is affordable. The 8” Dob is a Dobsonian at its core, so it has the makings of an excellent deep space viewing telescope. Its large optical diameter provides great value as it’s large enough to get that wide field of view and great detail without killing it in weight, handleability, and price.

The Dobsonian mount is strong and smooth to use, and to promote stability, it has a patented tension control handle to keep the optical tube exactly where you want it – even if it’s not balanced. Suffice it to say that the Skywatcher Dobinson is a delight to use and you’ll see some pretty impressive details you won’t see with an inferior scope in the same price range!

Features & Benefits

Large Aperture

The aperture is the measurement of the diameter of the primary mirror in the optical assembly. Since it’s a Newtonian reflector, it has mirrors instead of lenses, therefore, it can be made larger and cheaply to increase size and reduce cost. The size of the primary mirror in this telescope is 8” – the same as its millimeter measurement of 203 mm. This is on the smaller side for Dobsonians since they can range from 6” to 32”, but you’ll see a lot more 6”-16” telescopes in the entry-level and beginner market.

The gist is, the larger the aperture, the more light is available to be transmitted to the eyepiece. This improves visibility of DSO (Deep Sky Objects) and faint objects – just the type of celestial bodies you want to see.

Optical Quality

Due to its design, it has parabolic mirrors and not spherical mirrors. The latter is often seen on budget models but unfortunately introduces spherical aberrations and additional image quality issues that essentially make it unusable in Newtonian scopes with large mirrors. Parabolic mirrors are more expensive, but they ensure the highest quality image that is essential for viewing DSOs like galaxies and other dim targets like star clusters and nebulae.

With two included eyepieces, you have 48x and 120x magnification. To increase power to get maximum useful magnification of 406x, you can purchase additional eyepieces. The focuser measures 2”, but it comes with a 1.25” adapter, so you can use eyepieces of either size.

Deep Space Observation

For greater detail, a Dob will serve you well. You can see craterlets on the moon, clearly see the Giant Red Spot and cloud bands on Jupiter, the Cassini and Saturn’s rings, and much more. Beyond our solar system, you’ll be able to observe the entire set of 110 astronomical objects of the Messier Catalog, have useful resolution for star clusters like the M2, M3, M4, and M5, and more. Dimmer ones like M10 and M12 can be observed as your skills improve.

As always, light pollution will play a role, so buying filters may be necessary. Fortunately, this Dob is reasonably lightweight as it’s likely that you will travel to dark locations to get maximum viewing pleasure from your telescope.

Dobsonian Mount

There are a lot of techs, specs, and modifications to a mount that is installed to a Dobsonian telescope depending on the manufacturer. The SkyWatcher scope has a type of Alt-azimuth mount that is made from particleboard, and in place of using stabilizing devices and the traditional side bearings and frictional material, they opted for patented tech instead. They’ve installed a tension control handle that can be adjusted to increase and decrease friction by securing the optical tube with the rod against the sideboard of the mount.

Limitations

Not for Astrophotography

Unfortunately, you won’t be able to share these excellent views of deep space. Don’t get me wrong, you can take photos, but the problem is exposure time. This is not a good telescope for long exposure astrophotography partly due to the Alt-azimuth’s tracking limitations. You’ll likely need an equatorial mount and/or additional equipment that can quickly get pricey.

Popular Questions

Can you use a DSLR Camera with the SkyWatcher Telescope?

You can use a DSLR camera for most photos within the solar system. Due to long exposure and tracking, it is not ideal for DSO astrophotography. To attach your camera, you’ll need an adapter to mount it. You may have to observe what the image quality is like through the lens as some bright objects may be overwhelming for photos. You may have to leave the small lens cap on to reduce light like a moon filter and perhaps additional filters to cancel out light pollution.

Is the Traditional 8” Dobsonian Telescope Portable?

The telescope is heavy with the optical tube weighing in at 24.25 lbs. The mount is made completely of particleboard which is where a lot of the additional weight will come in. Transporting it should be done with the tube and mount disassembled for transportation and then assembled at the site. When some of the lightest refractor scopes come in around under 10 lbs, the 8” Dob is heavy indeed. However, considering that this is on the smaller side for a Dob, it’s pretty lightweight. Portable and lightweight – only if you’re willing to haul it.

What Accessories come with the SkyWatcher Dobsonian?

The 8” Traditional Dobsonian comes with the Dobsonian Alt-azimuth mount, tension control rod, and all the necessary hardware and tools. Two eyepieces, a 2” focuser with a 1.25” adapter, and an 8×50 finderscope. 

Is the SkyWatcher 8” Dobsonian Delivered in One Package?

This depends on the seller. Many packages have been shipped in two separate boxes – one for the tube and the other for the base with each box weighing approximately 30 lbs.

Conclusion

The SkyWatcher Dobsonian telescope is highly recommended and one of the best Dobsonian telescopes for any beginner and intermediate observer.

It will help you learn how to star hop and chart maps while learning the techniques that will make you a pro. While it’s not the greatest for astrophotography, the images you’ll see will motivate you to learn more to justify an upgrade in the future.

Fortunately, this isn’t a scope that you throw away after you’ve bought a new one. It will last a long time and may likely be your go-to telescope for many years to come.

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