Orion has long established itself as one of the most trusted names in astronomy. They manufacture a full line of scopes suited for everyone from the greenest beginners through to professional astronomers.
The Orion SkyQuest XX12i is one of the crown jewels of their product line, and it’s an ideal scope for serious astronomers who are looking to set their sights on the deepest objects in our sky.
While this scope is far from cheap, the impressive optical quality, massive aperture, and high-quality components make this powerful Dobsonian a great value at around $1,900 (check today’s price – opens a new tab).
In our XX12i Dobsonian Telescope Review, we’re going to cover everything you’ll need to become an expert on this high-end Dobsonian scope, including its features, included equipment, and so much more.
Things to Consider Before Buying
This SkyQuest scope from Dobsonian is one of the premier Dobs on the market, and any experienced astronomer will find plenty to like it.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that the SkyQuest XX12i is ideal for everyone. There are some things you’ll want to consider and take into account before pulling the trigger.
This massive Dobsonian provides incredibly sharp optical quality with a truly giant 12” mirror that’s able to gather tons of light. In fact, this Dob takes in 44% more light than a slightly smaller 10” model, which will allow users to enjoy crisp views of incredibly faint deep sky objects.
If you’re currently enjoying a 6-inch model and thinking of upgrading, the 12″ mirror on this model gathers a massive 400% more light! That’s why the XX12i is perfect for astronomers who are frustrated by scopes with smaller apertures limiting how crisp and precise deep sky images can be.
This telescope is a ‘push-to’ model, which is a bit of a rare find in the telescope world. Most telescopes that feature computerized technology are the GoTo variety.
Whereas a GoTo model uses motors to slew the telescope to a chosen object, the push-to needs the user to move the telescope in whichever direction it needs to go.
With a push-to scope, a computer database of objects plugs into the telescope. The user selects an object they’d like to view and the database displays where to move the telescope to have that object centered in your field of view.
This means you’ll need to engage in a bit more work than with a GoTo scope that automatically adjusts to center the object in the field. But, there are several bonuses with push-to scopes.
The main advantage of push-to over go-to is there’s no need for a motor, which reduces the overall weight of the telescope. This is important with the XX12i, as it’s a massive scope, so any bit of weight savings is helpful.
Plus, with a push-to scope, you won’t be able to rely on a computer to make your movements for you. Instead, you’ll have to rely on your own experience and astronomy knowledge to take the telescope on a trip through the sky. If you’re apprehensive about this idea, don’t worry because, with a little practice, you’ll become an astute night sky navigator.
The final and perhaps most important benefit of a push-to scope is the price. With a push-to, the computer database is less complicated, and there are no motors necessary. This translates to a significantly more affordable telescope than a GoTo-equipped model, so opting for a push-to scope is a great way to save money without compromising much on features.
Of course, if you had your heart set on a GoTo model, you may want to look past the XX12i in favor of a Dob equipped with GoTo. Orion manufacturers a GoTo version of this scope that’s available for several hundred dollars more.
The benefit of GoTo over push-to is astrophotography. Because GoTo allows you to track, you can take the long exposures needed for deep sky astrophotography. That’s not the case with a push-to mode like the XX12i.
Beyond the question of GoTo or push-to, there are also a few other things to consider as you decide whether or not this telescope is a good fit for you.
While this telescope doesn’t carry the same upper-echelon price tag of other professional telescopes, it’s still a model that’s intended for professional use. If you’re just getting started, this is probably too much telescope for you, at least until you’ve found your way around a bit.
Features & Benefits
Whether you’re shopping for your first telescope or you’re looking to add a showpiece telescope to a massive collection of astronomy equipment, you’ll always want to evaluate a telescope based on the features and benefits it provides. There are six different criteria you’ll want to consider:
- Optical Quality
- Included Equipment
- Setup & Use
- What You Can See
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:||120x||167x||300x|
One of the most critical areas to evaluate will always be the quality of the scope’s optics. Quality optical components turn any telescope into a powerful instrument for studying the sky. Conversely, if the manufacturer cheaps out in the optics department, the other aspects of the telescope will hardly matter; it will always be mediocre.
In the XX12i case, quality optics are one of the main selling points of the telescope. Fantastic optical quality is a hallmark of all Orion’s larger Dobsonians, so this is expected. When used with the included eyepieces or with others in your collection, this telescope delivers incredibly crisp and clear lunar, planetary, and deep-sky views.
The massive 12” parabolic primary mirror features enhanced aluminum and silicon dioxide coatings for improved clarity and light transmission. The mirror assembly sits on a 9-point floatation cell with a large cooling fan behind the mirror.
The telescope is very well ventilated, to begin with, thanks to its truss design. The cooling fan helps to provide faster equilibration to ambient temperature, so your scope is ready to use quickly regardless of the temperature in your environment.
The optical quality on the XX12i is tough to beat, and you’ll notice a marked difference in optical quality when comparing this telescope to other similarly priced Dobsonians from other manufacturers.
If there is one area that could be improved optically, it’s the eyepieces. The included eyepieces are certainly adequate, and they’ll provide you with some incredible views of practically any object you’d be able to enjoy with a backyard telescope. But, they’re far from exemplary.
This scope includes two eyepieces, a 35mm DeepView and a 10mm Sirius Plössl, and they provide 42x and 150x magnifications, respectively. Both eyepieces are serviceable, especially the Plössl. The DeepView does leave some to be desired. While you’ll want a low magnification eyepiece, something slightly higher than the 42x magnification of the DeepView would be preferable.
The exit pupil is also quite large, at over 7mm, which will result in brightness loss and shadows from the secondary mirror. The 10mm Plossl doesn’t suffer from the same issues, and it’s a solid addition to any astronomer’s collection of eyepieces.
Quality eyepieces help you get the most out of a top-quality telescope like this one, so most astronomers will choose to quickly add a few additional eyepieces to use with this scope.
The XX12i performs exceptionally well at lower magnifications in the 60-80x range, so that’s a great place to start when considering additional eyepieces.
The long focal length of this scope, coupled with its massive 12” aperture, allows for a slightly fast field of view. The field is wide enough for you to achieve breathtaking views of larger deep sky objects, galaxies, and nebulae. But, it’s not so wide as to take away from lunar and planetary viewing.
The Orion SkyQuest XX12i makes use of one of Orion’s heavy-duty Dobsonian mounts, which provides smooth operation, and the rugged build quality and weight capacity needed to support this monster Dobsonian.
The mount is made from ¾” thick particleboard, which is common with large Dobsonians in this price range. Some assembly is required, and most users can put together the base for this scope in less than ten minutes.
Being able to quickly assemble the base is essential because it’s quite large and traveling with it is difficult. If you plan on transporting your scope in a small car, you’ll probably want to disassemble at least part of the base to make it more manageable.
For the XX12i, Orion spared no expense on the bearings. Most affordable Dob mounts use cheap melamine bearings mounted on thin and inexpensive Teflon pads. The larger XX series Dobs, like this one, use Ebony Star bearings with thick and durable Teflon pads that provide impressively smooth motion throughout the base’s full rotational axis.
Two large handwheels attach the optical tube to the base (see one on the image above), and they also allow you to adjust the tension to your liking so you can quickly slew the scope to any position for viewing.
In addition to the telescope itself, Orion throws in some useful extras so you can begin observing the night sky right out of the box.
Included with your scope is a 9×50 finderscope, a 1.25-2” eyepiece adapter, eyepiece rack, cooling fan, collimation cap, dust covers, and a copy of the Starry Night SE software.
Whether you spend a few hundred or a few thousand dollars on a scope, the finderscope that’s included always feels like an afterthought. That isn’t the case with the 9×50 finderscope that’s included with the XX12i. This finderscope manages to take in enough light to be useful for various scenarios, from finding exciting new lunar features to study to pinpointing the location of distant galaxies and nebulae.
The eyepiece adapter is another welcomed inclusion, as it allows you to use 2” and 1.25” eyepieces. This is an incredibly useful accessory to have for astronomers that already have an extensive collection of eyepieces.
Thanks to the optical tube truss system, this scope does a great job of acclimating to ambient temperatures, so it’s ready for use quickly. The included cooling accelerator fan helps ensure that the conditions surrounding the mirror are always optimized for viewing. It would be nice if the fan were a bit lighter, as it requires eight heavy D batteries for power, which adds more weight to the scope.
Orion also throws in a few extras, such as dust covers and a collimation cap. The dust covers are more than serviceable, but most astronomers will prefer to collimate their scope with a laser or by using the stars.
Rounding out the included accessories is a copy of the Starry Night SE software. This powerful software is an ideal supplement to your visual observations, and it’s a great way to map out your next star-hopping journey. Plus, there are bound to be plenty of cloudy nights where you won’t be able to use your telescope even though you’d like to.
The Starry Night software includes realistic sky simulations and tons of useful information about the different celestial bodies in the sky.
Setup and Use
Getting your Orion Skyquest XX12i set up and ready to use is relatively easy considering the massive size of this Dobsonian.
There is some initial setup required, as you’ll need to assemble the base and optical tube before joining them together for viewing. All the tools you’ll need for assembly are included in the box, and you’ll be assembled and ready for viewing within about a half-hour.
This Dob is a bit of a monster, size-wise, so transporting the scope is difficult at best and prohibitive at worse. At nearly 90 pounds fully assembled, it’s tough to transport without help. You can easily transport it in a car, but some disassembly may be required depending on how large your vehicle is.
Thanks to the OTA’s truss design, it’s effortless to take apart and reassemble, but the base is a bit less intuitive. If you’re transporting this scope in a small vehicle, you can expect to spend 10-15 minutes each time you need to load the telescope into the car.
The scope includes a collimation cap for adjusting your mirrors for optimal viewing, but it’s a bit of an afterthought as far as practicality is concerned. While it’s serviceable, most experienced astronomers prefer to use a laser or collimate the scope using a star. Check our guide to collimation for tips if you’re new to collimating a telescope.
As we mentioned, this scope is equipped with an Intelliscope for push-to operation. The Intelliscope is equipped with a 14,000 object database that will tell you exactly where to position the telescope to enjoy some of the most exciting sights in the night sky. And, with its massive mirror, all 14,000 objects are in reach of your eyepiece.
Once you’ve performed a basic star alignment, the Intelliscope does all the hard work for you, just slew the scope to the location provided by the Intelliscope, and enjoy!
What You Can See
What you’re able to see is perhaps the most important thing to consider when choosing a telescope. With its enormous 12” aperture and long focal length, this beast of a telescope allows you to enjoy practically every incredible object in the sky.
From the Moon’s features to the unique characteristics of the planets in the solar system, the XX12i will provide breathtaking views of anything in our solar system. It is plenty powerful enough to reveal Jupiter’s Great Red Spot and Mars’ moons… it will even reveal tiny, distant Pluto and other dwarf planets!
However, what most astronomers invest in a scope of this size for is to see deep into space, and the XX12i does not let you down!
Its spec’s set its limiting stellar magnitude at 15.1. Under a dark sky, you’ll see fainter objects than are available to most backyard astronomers. With brighter, larger galaxies and nebulae, you’ll see details like dust lanes and central stars which are just not visible in smaller scopes. Not to mention the hoards of fainter stars in clusters that you’ll now be able to resolve!
If you love challenging yourself to split double stars, then this huge mirror provides another treat for you. Its resolving power is less than 0.4 arcseconds – you’ll be able to distinguish some astonishingly close doubles with this OTA.
All in all, this model opens up a whole new world of deep space observing that smaller telescopes just can’t deliver.
Many astronomers are growing increasingly interested in astrophotography, which is a fun and rewarding extension of our hobby. However, astrophotography can be very expensive to break into.
In addition to camera equipment, you’ll also need an incredibly capable telescope that’s capable of providing the clarity, contrast, and detail that you need when photographing celestial objects.
With Dobsonians, there are limited applications for astrophotography. You’ll be able to capture incredible lunar and planetary photos. But, capturing pictures of deep-sky objects requires long exposures, and that’s impossible to do with a Dobsonian mount. If you’re interested in photographing the deep sky, you may want to look towards a telescope with an EQ mount and motorized slewing, like this 1100 Edge HD from Celestron.