Five Gateways to the Greater Galaxy and Beyond
Hark, fellow eyestronaut! Dobsonian telescopes are the ultimate tools for observing the vast scintillating unknown.
They provide you with far greater apertures than your typical telescope, giving you brighter, clearer views of deep space objects, sating your innate astral curiosities in ways that you never thought possible.
So, if that all sounds good to you, fantastic, you’re in the right place. We’ve flipped the game and put Dobsonians under the scope, rating and reviewing five of the very best you can buy at the minute.
We’ve even compiled an in-depth buyer’s guide to the galaxy and FAQ section so, though you may have burning questions about the universe, you won’t have any about your telescope.
Stars Dying as We Speak?
Don’t worry, planet peeper. The stars may be lightyears away, but our top pick is right here!
OUR TOP PICK
Rather than have you peer into the infinite blackness of space, scribbling down coordinates only to land on more adamantine darkness, our top pick comes with a computerized object finder that plugs into the base and guides you to over 1400 astral treasures.
Imagine being able to dart from celestial to celestial with the simple press of a button or two.
A greedy 12” pyrex parabolic mirror gobbles up 44% more light than standard 10” optics and a whopping 126% more than 8” mirrors.
Even those well acquainted with - dare we say...bored of - the stars, will be witnessing them as if for the first time.
The XT12i, thanks to an open ventilation aluminum mirror cell with extra mounting holes, has the facilities to take on an extra cooling system which will sharpen images to an even more impressive degree.
You’re not only getting an otherworldly visual experience with this SkyQuest beauty; it’s also one of the nicest feeling telescopes to use.
The perfectly engineered metal focusing knobs have rubber grips providing lush tactility, and an ergonomic thumb screw allows you to lock focus and tension.
With a detachable 50lbs, 4’10” optical tube and a 30” x 26” base, this star snooper is huge but not unmanageable.
Anyone individual with reasonable, average strength should be able to man the helm with relative ease, and thanks to a built-in handle on the optics tube, transport isn’t too difficult either.
- Huge 12” aperture captures massive amounts of light for bright, crisp imaging.
- Automatic object finder helps you locate over 14000 celestial bodies
- Tactile rubber grips feel great and allow precision
- Thumb screw lets you lock setting easily
- Optics scope with handle uncouples from base for portability
- Space to fit cooling system
- Comes with 2” Crayford focuser and two Sirrius Plossl 1.25” eyepieces among other things
- This thing is huge
- It may be a little expensive for a lot of amateur enthusiasts
Our next Dobsonian dream through which nebulae are practically your neighbors is the perfect starter scope for someone with a large budget.
Much like our champion telescope, the Z12 has a 12” parabolic primary mirror that soaks up light like a sponge, allowing you to get really up close and personal with all those twinkly little things up there at night.
Two fully coated eyepieces are included in the purchase. The 2” wide field lens is really impressive for a factory eyepiece.
The 1.25” eyepiece for greater magnifications isn’t that amazing, so if you want to get the most out of the Z12, an upgrade is definitely on the cards on that front.
What is incredible about the Z12 is that it comes with its own cooling system locked and loaded which means images are going to be really bright and crisp.
Another treat you’ll find in the box is a laser collimator which is a device used to align all the optical mechanisms in your scope.
They’re not particularly expensive to buy separately, but it’s a thoughtful touch from Zhumell.
Once again, the scope uncouples from the base so you can wrestle it into your car and head for your favorite stargazing points to gawp for hours into the glittering black wash.
It also comes with a neck-friendly right-angle finder scope and the same Crawford precision focuser as our top pick
- 12” aperture makes it more of a light shed than a light bucket
- Comes with a cooling fan
- Laser collimator included
- Neck-kind right-angle finder scope
- Comes with fantastic Crawford focuser and two eyepieces
- Assembly is really easy
- Also massive. Weighs roughly 75lbs
- This is a pricey Dob
- Lining spotting scope crosshairs with main image can be quite difficult at first
Bringing the moon to your doorstep, at our number three spot, is a much smaller Dob, perfect for those who crave breathtaking views of outer space despite their limited storage space.
With a 4.5” aperture and 900mm focal length, you’re not going to be able to peer quite as far into the abyss as with our top two picks, but thanks to the durable Teflon bearings, you still have a smooth and enjoyable ride through the cosmos.
4.5” may seem infinitesimal compared to 12”, but you can still expect to glass pretty granular detail of planet surfaces, galaxy and nebula haze, and the moons and large cloud belts of Jupiter.
That said, This is a very affordable scope, and as such, some components aren’t exactly top of the line.
The one to be most concerned about is the spherical mirror. Images may suffer slightly from spherical aberration.
Assembly should take roughly 30 minutes. You have to put the base together yourself, but thanks to some very thoughtful and intuitive instructions, it’s no problem at all.
In total, you’re looking at a minuscule 22lbs assembled weight which is featherweight in Dob terms.
So, if you plan to take your telescope on many a trip, the XT 4.5 may be the back-saver you’ve been praying for.
Just remember to take a fold-out chair because the eyepiece is only 3 feet from the floor.
- Super affordable
- Comes with two fairly decent eyepieces
- Very small for a Dob
- 4.5” aperture gives you great views of loads of celestial objects
- Only weighs 22lbs
- Easy to assemble
- Great instructions
- Teflon bearings keep movement incredibly smooth
- Spherical mirror may cause aberration
- Plastic focuser isn’t very tactile
- Eyepiece is only around 3 feet from the ground
- You may outgrow this pretty fast
Giving your eyes the power to see deep into the stark blackness of space, at our penultimate spot is another awesome Zhumell telescope.
The 8” aperture will provide only half the resolution a 12” would, but it’s a parabolic mirror, so it’s perfectly capable of gathering enough light to see distant star clusters, Jupiter’s cloud bands, and the moon like you’ve never witnessed it before.
Saturn is a little blurry but defined enough to appreciate.
The mirror cell is supported by springs which are strong enough on their own, but the springs themselves are backed up with mirror locks just in case.
All in all, it’s an incredibly durable telescope, perfect for camping trips and star parties.
Though it’s a medium-sized Dob scope, at 54lbs, it’s still pretty heavy, but the quality is unmatched at this price point.
The dual-speed Crayford-style focuser makes for amazing precision, and the bearings keep slewing silky smooth.
Moreover, the low profile altitude tensioning knobs can be moved along the optical tube for optimal weight distribution and ease of use.
The Z8 comes with the standard eyepieces for a Dob, a super wide-angle 30mm and a 9mm for extra magnification.
These are very similar if not the same as the ones that come with the Z12, but with an 8” aperture, it’s not as essential to replace the 9mm.
Much like its bigger sibling, the Z8 comes with a cooling system, and a laser collimator, for aligning the sights.
- Factory eyepieces are fully coated and very clear
- Comes with laser collimator
- Fairly portable
- Dual supported mirror cell
- Focuser is well designed and precise
- Durable construction
- Quite pricey for an 8” aperture Dob
Bringing that wash of stars down low enough to knock your head on, in our final spot is a scope perfect for those with smaller budgets and large curiosities.
With an 8 '' aperture, this thing eats light up, giving you ultra-bright, high definition images of those distant luminaries, and the multi-coated borosilicate mirrors sharpen things up to an astounding degree.
The proprietary Teflon bearings don’t provide as smooth azimuth movement as, say, the Zhummell, and the lock needs to be extra tight to prevent dipping, but these are small practical prices to pay for the exquisite imagery.
You’re looking at 45lbs fully assembled with the Sky Watcher, which is perfect for portability.
It’s still pretty large, but separating the scope from the base, you shouldn’t have any problem lugging it around.
Included with purchase is a 2” Crawford-like focuser with a 1 ¼ “ adapter and two wide-angle eyepieces, the smallest of which has a base with T2 threads for attaching a camera for some astrophotography.
Both of these eyepieces are proficient, but an upgrade will optimize your viewing experience.
- Fairly large 8” aperture collects lots of light
- Mirrors are fully coated to prevent reflection
- Exists at an intersection between power and portability
- Comes with a decent focuser
- Includes two eyepieces
- Smaller eyepiece has threads for camera attachment
- Still quite expensive
- Movement isn’t as smooth
Buyer’s Guide to the Galaxy
We know, we know...you’ve got some hungry eyes there just itching to get their fill of our solar system, but before you blast off into space, there are a few important things to consider.
Dobsonian telescopes are massive bits of star gazing gear that can carry pretty hefty price tags. Giving yourself a budget will help to keep you grounded during your search and will lead you to the correct area of the market.
What you should expect to spend depends mostly on the size of the Dob, but quality of components also has a huge impact on the price. For a 12” aperture Dob, we’d suggest putting aside at least $1300.
For a quality 8” scope, saving $800 to $1100 should see you through. For anything less, $300 to $800 should suffice.
Size and Weight
Being that these telescopes can be dinosaurian in scale, it’s a good idea to think practically about their size and weight. It’s no good buying one you couldn’t in a million lifetimes pick up or store.
If portability is important to you, say, you want to take it out of the city to special dark sky locations, we’d recommend choosing an 8” aperture telescope, especially if you’re a solo stargazer.
8” Dobs can weigh anywhere between 40 and 60lbs when fully assembled, but split between base and scope, most should be able to handle it.
If you want the best possible Dob going, 12” apertures are the ones for you, but we recommend having a bit of help for setting up as they can run close to 90lbs.
Focal ratio, often printed as f/number or f/ratio, primarily refers to the relationship between aperture and focal length and has implications about magnification.
To find the focal ratio, simply divide the focal length by the aperture. Smaller ratios typically produce images with less clarity.
Aperture is one of the most important defining factors of a telescope. It’s a measurement of the primary lens or mirror and describes how much light the telescope collects.
Generally speaking, larger apertures mean more light, leading to a brighter, crisper picture.
Focal length is the distance from the center of the aperture to the eyepiece where images are displayed.
Shorter focal lengths produce wider images which is ideal for reflector telescopes such as the ones on our list.
Magnification is another big consideration when it comes to buying telescopes. Generally speaking, the higher the focal ratio, the more powerful the magnification of a scope will be.
A quality 12” Dob may be capable of 600X magnification, which is great for close by objects like the moon, but for distant objects such as Saturn or Jupiter, a lower magnification of around 200- 250 provides better contrast and a sharper image.
You may run across this term when shopping around for telescopes. It’s actually a measure of brightness emitted by a celestial body. The lower the number, the brighter it is.
So, if a telescope gives 14 as its stellar magnitude, it means stars and other celestials of 14 and below can be observed as long as they’re within its range. To put this stellar scale in context for you, a typical full moon measures around -12.6, and the north star is a +2.
Cooling is an oft-forgotten aspect of astronomy. Telescopes need cooling systems because light travels differently through hot and cold temperatures. Hot air has a different refractive power that disrupts light transmission, preventing the optics from sharpening focus.
The more powerful a telescope is, the more important cooling becomes. Some, like are magnificent Zhumell scopes, come with fans built-in. Others, like our top pick, have space for them to be installed. You can pick up a quality cooling fan separately for around $40.
A finder scope is a smaller telescope mounted on the side of the main scope. It offers a wider field of view for slewing (manual aiming), helping you find astral objects quicker. Some have crosshairs that help with precision aiming, but many enthusiasts prefer a clear view.
There are two main types of finder scope, regular, and right angle. Right angle ones allow you to look straight down into the eyepiece so you can use them comfortably at any height.
Standard scopes are straight requiring you to get directly behind them to look through the eyepiece. They’re not as comfortable but the eyepiece is protected from the weather.
Mirror - Parabolic Vs Spherical
There’s no question here. Parabolic mirrors perform better than spherical mirrors. The reason for this is that parabolic mirrors have a singular focal point, meaning light that travels through it converges into a single point.
Spherical mirrors transfer light into many focal points which can lead to what’s known as spherical aberration, an irritating blur.
The problem is, parabolic mirror telescopes tend to cost quite a bit more, but if you want high def deep space quality, it’s 100% worth it.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is a Dobsonian telescope good?
Yes, thanks to their large apertures Dobsonian telescopes are awesome for viewing objects in deep space.
They’re also great value for money as other kinds of telescope with Dobsonian level apertures would cost far more than Dobs do.
What can you see with a 10” Dobsonian?
In good conditions with very dark skies, you should be able to see, well...everything. Most of the important celestial objects in our solar system will be visible to you.
You can see the planets, star clusters, nebulae, the moon (obviously), galaxies, asteroids, comets...if it’s up there, you’ll be able to see it.
What size telescope do you need to see Saturn’s rings?
You really don’t need much power to see Saturn’s rings.
Even a relatively small scope set to 25X is powerful enough to see them, but for better viewing quality, we recommend a minimum 3” aperture and 50X magnification.
Time for a Star Party
There you have it, galaxy gawpers, five of the most impressive pieces of Dobsonian telescopic engineering available.
Any of these Dobs would make an epic addition to your star snooping arsenal, bringing the wonders of the galaxy down to eye level. Happy viewing, eystronauts.