Apertura’s small but expanding line of telescopes includes a diverse range of instruments, including the three Dobsonians that make up the AD line. Besides the AD8 in this review, there are also 10” and 12” models (links open a new page).
Apertura scopes are distributed exclusively by High Point Scientific, which allows them to cut the costs that would otherwise be dedicated to marketing, advertising, and logistics. The result is a telescope that greatly outperforms its price tag of well below $600.
These telescopes are all strikingly similar. The AD8 is the slowest of the bunch at f/5.9, while the larger two come in at f/4.9 and f/5.0, respectively.
All three telescopes are relatively fast, which makes them an excellent choice for deep sky observation. The main difference between the three is their aperture size. The 10” and 12” models can suck in considerably more light which allows them to better illuminate the fainter deep sky objects, but they also cost much more for the pleasure.
If your primary objective is to observe the more faint objects in the distant deep sky, then one of the larger Dobs will be ideal for you. However, if like most astronomers, you’re looking for a solid all-around performer at a great price, the 8” AD8 Dobsonian could be your ideal choice.
Keep reading to find out what we thought of this model.
Things to Consider Before Buying
While the AD8 is an awesome telescope that astronomers of all skill levels can appreciate, there are some important considerations you’ll want to make before pulling the trigger. Is the AD8 ideal for you? Read on to find out.
Who Is This Model For?
The Apertura AD8 is an ideal telescope for the majority of astronomers. If you’re a beginner, this telescope will provide you with years of enjoyment before you reach a point where your equipment is holding you back.
More experienced astronomers also tend to love the AD8 because it hits virtually every mark from optical quality to design to build quality. If you’re looking to add a simple Dobsonian to your arsenal, the AD8 is an affordable option that’s of excellent quality.
One of the best characteristics of the AD8 is it’s truly a jack-of-all-trades. This f/5.9 Dob provides a nice, wide field of view that’s perfectly suited for observing the deep sky, Messier objects, double stars, and the like. But, the field isn’t so wide as to hinder the telescope when viewing nearer objects, such as the moon and planets.
Who Should Not Buy It?
While the AD8 is a strong performer by most measures, there are a few caveats you’ll want to consider. For some astronomers, this telescope isn’t going to fit their needs.
The first thing to consider is the nature of Dobsonian mounts. These mounts are exceptionally simple and ideal for “point and shoot” astronomy. But, they lack some of the features of more advanced mounts. For the average backyard astronomer, this is of no consequence. But, if you’re looking for a telescope with a motorized base, you’re out of luck with the AD8.
Since the base can’t be motorized, this also means it isn’t a viable option for astrophotography, other than some simple moon and planet shots. Long exposure photography is completely out of the question without motorized tracking.
Since you can’t motorize this scope, that also means GoTo or PushTo controllers are out of the question. This a benefit if your joy comes from doing the work of locating objects, and you’ll learn the sky more fully than you would if you relied on a computer to take you to each object.
However, if you enjoy astronomy for the sights, rather than the thrill of the chase, then seek a model like this one that has goto tracking as standard.
Features and Benefits
Whether you’re looking for your first telescope or you’re adding to a growing collection, you’ll want to consider the features each scope offers and the benefits it can provide you with.
Whether you’re considering a Dobsonian, APO triplet, or anything in between, here are the areas to consider when you’re shopping.
- Optical Performance
- Mount Performance
- Included Equipment
- Setup & Use
- What You Can See
You can see each of these features in action to judge for yourself.
Standard Magnification Table
The table below shows the magnification levels you’ll achieve with this scope using a 25mm, 18mm, and 10mm eyepiece. The bottom row shows what this would be with a 2x Barlow Lens.
|With 2x Barlow:||96x||133x||240x|
The quality of a telescope’s optical components is the single biggest determiner of the scope’s quality. Without excellent optics, the telescope will produce fuzzy views with poor contrast, and your new telescope will quickly turn into a paperweight. Fortunately, that’s not something you’ll need to worry about with the Apertura AD8.
With its large 8” aperture and 1200mm focal length, the AD8 delivers a moderately wide field of view with vivid detail and accurate color.
The primary mirror is a parabolic design milled to 1/12th wave and coated with silicon dioxide and aluminum coatings, which deliver a solid 93% reflectively. The highly reflective mirror allows you to take advantage of all of the light-gathering ability of the 8” aperture, and the result is breathtakingly beautiful views.
Compared to peers like the SkyWatcher 8” Dob and Orion XT8, the AD8 has a slight edge in optical quality. When you look through the eyepiece, you’ll be pleased to find that stars are pinprick sharp, nebulosity shines gloriously in the brighter objects, and you’ll pick out details like the Cassini division in Saturn’s rings.
The AD8 comes equipped with two eyepieces, a 2”, 30mm wide-field SuperView eyepiece, which delivers an impressive 68-degree field of view and 40x magnification. There’s also a 9mm Super-Plossl that delivers 133x magnification.
While the SuperView eyepiece is excellent and adds lots of value to this telescope, the 9mm Super-Plössl is unremarkable. If it’s in your budget, it’s something to consider adding to, e.g. with a 12mm and a 24mm. You might even opt for a zoom eyepiece like this one (opens a new tab) for ease.
With a few additional eyepieces and a Barlow lens, you’ll have all you need to explore everything the sky has to offer.
Dobsonian mounts are practically foolproof, so there’s never going to be much to worry about in the mount department. However, Apertura have designed the AD8 mount thoughtfully and made it very capable.
While most manufacturers use a friction-bearing system to control movement, the AD8 relies on roller bearings. Not only are roller bearings more durable, but they also provide smoother operation, and it’s a pleasure to skew this scope through the sky as you locate objects.
The tensioners on the AD8 mount are also worth discussing.
Most manufacturers rely on a traditional friction-based tensioner. Orion telescopes use a spring tensioning system that represents a slight improvement. While both of these work fine for just the optical tube and a 1.25” eyepiece, they can be left wanting when you need to balance heavier accessories.
The tensioner for the AD8 features an ingenious design that lets the tensioner slide up or down the optical tube and allowing it to balance heavier accessories. Anyone who has ever struggled to use a wide-field eyepiece on a scope with a flimsy mount can attest to how annoying it can be. This feature alone is reason enough to make an experienced astronomer fall in love with the AD8.
Outside of the standout tensioning feature and the improved bearings, the AD8 mount is straightforward. It’s made from the same melamine-coated particle board as the competition, and it weighs a ton, which is par for the course with a Dob base.
While most telescopes do come with a few accessories, typically, they’re little more than throw-ins that don’t lend any value to the outfit as a whole, but they look good on paper.
That isn’t the case with the AD8. Not only does this telescope include the most generous assortment of accessories, but they’re all surprisingly high quality.
The most notable piece is the 2” Crayford-style focuser. This focuser is a 10:1 dual-speed model, and it’s one of the best you’ll find on any telescope in this price range. Since it’s a 2” focuser, you’ll be able to use it with any eyepiece you like.
Thanks to the adjustable tensioning system reviewed above, you also won’t have to struggle to balance the scope when you break out heavier eyepieces.
Another breath of fresh air is the 8×50 correct-image finder, which is a vast improvement from the usual cheap red-dot finders normally supplied. This offering has a large enough aperture to gather the light needed to be useful, with the build quality needed to last a lifetime.
One of the more interesting inclusions is a cooling fan for the primary mirror. One drawback of reflector telescopes is that the primary mirror and optical tube must acclimate to the ambient temperature before use; otherwise, image aberrations will be present.
A cooling fan helps create optimal conditions for viewing, and for as useful as it is, they’re almost never included when you purchase a large Dob.
The only downside of the cooling fan is that it’s a battery-eater. You’ll need to pack the fan with eight AA batteries, and they’ll likely need to be replaced every few months. The way around this is to either store your telescope somewhere close to ambient temperature or get it outside early so that it can acclimate before you need it.
You’ll also receive a laser collimator, which is an exceptionally useful tool to help you accurately collimate your telescope. A moon filter, 35mm extension tube, 1.25″ adapter, and an eyepiece tray round out the huge selection of accessories you’ll receive.
All told, the value of the extras is in excess of $200, which makes it an even sweeter deal for beginners who are entering the astronomy hobby without any equipment.
Setup and Use
After their price per inch of aperture, the main reason why Dobs are so beloved is they’re so easy to set up and enjoy. A true point-and-shoot option, you’ll be able to enjoy the skies in a matter of minutes with a Dobsonian like the AD8.
All you’ll need to do is attach the optical tube to the base, drop an eyepiece into the focuser, use the finderscope to find an object to view, and enjoy it in all its glory.
For all the light-gathering power of a large Dobsonian like the AD8, there is one caveat: it’s quite large. Both the optical tube and rocker box are rather heavy at around 25-pounds each. Together, the outfit weighs about 55 pounds.
While it’s fairly easy for most people to transport this rather cumbersome telescope, its size may be prohibitive for some astronomers. And most of us would need to carry its bulk in two separate sections.
Collimating the scope is simple (especially with the supplied laser collimator) and once you’ve gotten the hang of it, you’ll be able to check your alignment and make any necessary adjustments in a minute or two using the large thumbscrews at the rear.
What You Can See With the AD8
For all that power, what can you expect to see when you gaze through the eyepiece of the AD8?
In short: A lot!
The popularity of Dobsonians boils down to how much light they’re able to gather, and the AD8 is a true light bucket in that regard. Whether you’re interested in the moon and planets or the deep sky, the AD8 will deliver awe-inspiring views.
At higher magnifications, this scope delivers breathtaking views of the moon and its topographical wonders. You’ll be able to enjoy every crater and valley in vivid detail with good color balance.
When conditions are good, this Apertura delivers incredible detail for planetary observation. Features of Jupiter, like its Galilean Moons and Great Red Spot, are sharp and clear, and you’ll get close enough to the Rings of Saturn to observe the Cassini Division.
Switching to a wide-field 2” eyepiece allows you to scan the skies and marvel at monstrous deep sky objects. All of the Messier catalog is visible, and some of the greatest hits like the Orion nebula, Pleiades, and Andromeda Galaxy appear with unrivaled crispness.
Resolving double stars with the AD8 is another simple joy and a testament to the optics. You can split doubles with separations well below one arcsecond.
Unfortunately, astrophotography buffs are left in the cold with the AD8. The Dobsonian mount is an altazimuth, and without motorized tracking, astrophotography becomes all but impossible. This model is a visual scope, through and through.