Orion’s SkyQuest line is one of the most popular, affordable, and high-quality options on the market. This Dobsonian scope features a massive 8” aperture which is capable of sucking in tons of light to illuminate deep-sky objects, as well as the more familiar objects of our solar system.
Like most Orion telescopes, the SkyQuest XT8 features impressive optics, thanks in part to its low thermal expansion borosilicate glass lenses and double-coated mirrors. Right out of the box, this Dobsonian will provide countless hours of stargazing enjoyment.
Orion’s XT Range of Telescopes
Orion produces a large range of XT telescopes, with this 8″ model being in the middle of the range, which is why it is one of our best serious telescopes this year.
Their sizes range from the beginner’s 4.5-inch telescope and range through 6”, 8”, 10” (our full review), 12”, 14” and 16”. Technically, the largest two models are XX models, not XT, because they have open truss frames instead of solid OTAs. The 12” is available in XT and XX versions.
To make things a little more complicated, there are also sub-models for many of these sizes. However, they are easy enough to understand:
- ‘PLUS’ – these models have upgrades over the standard base design, including dual-speed Crayford focuser, adjustable tension in the Dob base, and extra accessories
- ‘g’ – models with a ‘g’ in them, e.g. SkyQuest XT10g, have a go-to motorized computer attached to them with a 42,000 object database
- ‘i’ – this stands for ‘Intelliscope’, e.g. SkyQuest XT10i, which is SkyQuest’s push-to database of 14,000 objects
The 8” and 10” SkyQuests are available as ‘Classic’ (base model), ‘plus’, goto or intelliscope. The 4.5” model only comes with the basic setup, and the 6” model is either ‘classic’ or ‘plus’.
At the top end of the range, the 12” and 14” models are only available with ‘intelliscope’ or ‘goto’ capability, and the 16” only comes with goto.
XT Telescope Pricing
At present, the telescopes in the XT range are priced as follows on Telescope.com. Click the links to see today’s prices:
- XT10 (see our complete review)
View the full range at Orion Telescopes (opens a new tab).
The XT8 offers a great mix of features and value, and after spending an evening viewing the sky through this scope, you’d be forgiven if you mistook it for one of Orion’s far pricier SkyQuest telescopes, which can exceed $2,000.
The XT8 will only set you back around $400 (click here for today’s price), which is fantastic value given the optical diameter and overall build quality of this telescope.
Orion also offers this telescope as part of a kit. The kit adds about $30 to the scope, and it includes a 2x Shorty Barlow lens and plenty of supplemental learning materials, like a planisphere and observation guide.
Things to Consider Before Buying
The XT8 provides an impressive blend of quality and value, and it’s a versatile telescope that will delight new astronomers and seasoned stargazers alike. While most users find they have lots of fun exploring with the XT8, it isn’t ideal for everybody. Read on as we look closer at who the Orion SkyQuest XT8 is best for.
With its large 8” aperture, the XT8 pulls in tons of light, making it a pleasure to use for viewing the deep sky, including the Messier objects, and fainter galaxies and nebulae. In fact, we voted the XT10 as one of our best telescopes for deep space astronomy.
The large aperture, coupled with the long focal length, provides a wide field of view that easily allows astronomers to find large objects like star clusters and galaxies and view them in striking detail.
Dobsonian telescopes are renowned for their ease of use, and there’s very little you’ll need to do to get your scope ready for viewing, which is why they’re such a wise choice for beginner astronomers. Dobsonian mounts are exceptionally sturdy, and they don’t require the precision adjustments that equatorial or altazimuth mounts need when you’re viewing the sky.
While the XT8 is a high end beginner scope, some new astronomers choose a refractor model instead of a reflector, like this XT8 Dobsonian, because they are anxious about collimation.
Mirrors inside the reflector redirect the light entering the telescope before it reaches the eyepiece. These mirrors require occasional adjustments to ensure good alignment and an optimal viewing experience. The name given to this realignment of the mirrors is collimation.
Instead of learning how to collimate a telescope properly, some beginners opt for a refractor scope so they can avoid making adjustments entirely. But, collimating your scope is easy, and the combination of a wide aperture and a low price make the XT8 one of the best ‘bang for your buck’ telescopes on the market.
Size and Weight
This is a big telescope. It’s over four feet long assembled and the two parts – telescope and base – weigh a combined 41lbs (18.6kg), which is something you should have in mind if you need to move it around a lot to make good use of it.
One last comment to make is that Dobsonians are not suitable for astrophotography. While this scope provides incredible sharpness and clarity, the large mount doesn’t offer GoTo (unless you want to spend another $700), limiting how useful this scope will be for photography purposes.
In reality, if you’re spending $1100 to get this model for astrophotography, you’d be better off putting that budget towards a specialist astrophotography scope.
This scope is also a bit large, so astronomers looking for the most portable telescope possible may choose to invest in something more portable.
Features & Benefits
With its crystal clear optics and unparalleled ease of use, it’s easy to see why the XT8 Dobsonian from Orion is so popular.
Whether you’re specifically in the market for a Dobsonian like this one, or you’re merely searching for the best beginner telescope model (link opens our choices in a new tab), there are five criteria you should consider when shopping for telescopes:
- Optical Performance
- Mount Performance
- Included Equipment
- Setup & Use
- What You Can See
We’ll consider each of these in turn for the XT8.
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|
When you’re in the market for a telescope under $500, you’ll quickly learn that most scopes in this price range offer only smaller apertures that don’t deliver the kind of ‘wow’ factor astronomers are hunting for.
With the Orion SkyQuest XT8, astronomers are treated to crystal-clear optics from that 8″ primary mirror that help take the viewing experience to the next level.
The primary mirror is made from ultra-reflective borosilicate glass, which is diffraction-limited for improved sharpness and clarity. This type of glass also cools down much faster than traditional plate-glass mirrors. This improves the scope’s performance by bringing it to ambient temperature more quickly.
The combination of the long 1,200mm focal length and its massive 8” aperture help this telescope pull in all the light it needs to provide sharp and detailed views of deep-sky objects in addition to the planets, stars, and moons of our solar system. The wide field of view helps ensure that you’re able to fit large objects into the frame for optimal viewing.
The XT8 fits nicely into the XT line of Dobsonian from Orion, and it’s perhaps the most popular telescope in the range, occupying a sweet spot between aperture size and price. We’d suggest the XT8 offers even better value than the smaller models.
The XT8 includes a 25mm Sirius Plössl eyepiece, which provides 48x magnification and a 52° apparent field of view. The eyepiece is fully multi-coated, and it’s good to see a quality eyepiece included that you’ll reach for regularly. The eyepiece is 1.25” but the scope is also compatible with 2” eyepieces.
In general, this scope provides a wide field that’s ideal for viewing larger objects. This scope will also deliver incredible detail of the moon, planets, and stars with the right eyepieces.
The XT8 includes a spring-tensioned Dobsonian mount that’s made from ¾” particleboard. The spring tension system is a welcome addition as many Dobsonian mounts have trouble distributing the scope’s weight, which makes them prone to tipping over and becoming damaged.
With the CorrecTension system, this scope is well balanced and incredibly stable. This feature is especially important when using 2” eyepieces and accessories, as they keep the scope stable despite the additional weight being added.
Like all Dobsonian mounts, there aren’t many moving parts to speak of. Dobsonian mounts are the easiest telescope mount for beginners to use, as there’s no need for polar alignment, and the entire scope can be moved by hand to follow objects through the sky effortlessly.
Whether moving up and down or left to right, this mount moves smoothly, making it easy to find objects and place them in the eyepiece.
Since this mount is made from sturdy particle board, it is much heavier than the average EQ or alt-az mount. While it’s still reasonably easy to transport this scope, users looking for a light, easy-to-transport telescope may want to look towards a different model.
Orion can offer this telescope for a great price by providing a reasonably bare-bones package that only consists of the essentials. There aren’t a ton of additional accessories to report on with the XT8.
Beyond the optical tube, mount, and Sirius Plössl eyepiece, Orion also includes an EZ-Finder II red dot scope, 2” Crayford focuser, collimation cap, 2”-1.25” eyepiece adapter, and accessory tray.
The EZ-Finder II is a capable red dot, and it helps you center objects inside the eyepiece properly for optimal viewing. This sight performs well and some users prefer, but you may soon want to upgrade to a Telrad or magnifying finderscope.
The 2” Crayford focuser is exceptionally high-quality. It features an all-metal construction and smooth operation. The fine adjustment knob allows you to dial in the image you’re seeing through the scope with laser precision, but it’s a shame Orion haven’t included a 2-speed model.
The included collimation cap allows you to quickly and easily collimate your scope for optimal viewing, and there’s also an eyepiece adapter that will enable you to use either 1.25” or 2” eyepieces with your telescope. This feature comes in handy, especially for astronomers who have multiple eyepieces for different kinds of viewing.
Overall, the additional items are a bit weak, but that’s the compromise of having a huge aperture for a small budget, so there are no complaints from us!
Setup & Use
One of the main draws to a Dobsonian telescope is that they’re incredibly easy to use. Anybody can use a Dobsonian with very little technical expertise, and the XT8 is no different. Getting started with this scope is as simple as attaching the optical tube to the mount using the CorrecTension springs, popping in an eyepiece, and enjoying the view.
The XT8 is a relatively large scope, and the OTA and base each weigh in at around 20 pounds, which makes this scope a bit more cumbersome to travel with than other, lighter telescopes.
Transporting the XT8 by car is easy, but it’s a bit cumbersome to travel with on foot. If you’re planning on hiking with your telescope to find the best viewing areas possible, you’ll want to consider a smaller telescope.
As a reflector, this telescope will need to be collimated on occasion using the included collimation cap or a laser collimator. It may seem intimidating at first, but collimating a telescope is relatively easy, and you can learn how with this guide to collimation.
Since it’s a Dobsonian, the mount operates manually, so there’s no computerized motor or GoTo to familiarize yourself with. The scope does include a copy of the Starry Night SE software, which acts as a helpful supplement to your stargazing.
The software features a vast database of celestial bodies to help you map out your own sessions, and with such a large aperture, you’ll be able to see most objects in the list under a dark sky.
What You Can See
Whether you’re spending a few hundred dollars on a new scope or a few thousand, what you’re able to see will always be the most crucial factor to consider.
With the XT8, you’ll be able to enjoy incredible views of deep-sky bodies, Messier objects, far away galaxies and nebulae. Thanks to the wide field of view that the XT8 provides, you’ll be able to enjoy all these objects in all their glory.
You’ll also be able to enjoy great views of objects in our solar system, such as the planets, moon, and stars. In these situations, the wide field of view and relatively low power of the included 25mm Plössl work against you, so you’ll want to invest in some higher power eyepieces for viewing brighter and nearer objects.
However, using higher magnification with this big scope will show you the Cassini Division in Saturn’s rings, Jupiter’ Great Red Spot, and maybe even Mount Olympus on Mars under good seeing conditions.