What Scoped (Dobsonian) for a Begninner?

Well, the weather has been horrible and full moon so no observing lately. I could possibly have gone out last night but I got glutened on Friday and that kills me for 24 to 48 hours with digestive issues, joint aches, fatigue and not clear thinking. The weather is good today so I may head out but most likely will hit the backyard since the moon rises at 23:31, which is actually a little later since it has to rise or the Wasatch Mountains.

One question I see on forums and one I respond to is what telescope to get out of all the dobs? This question is usually centered around the Chinese made dobs so we'll start there. As most know, I own an Orion XT6, XT8 and XT10. I use my XT10 for most if not all of my Deep Sky Observing and the XT8 for my planetary and double star viewing. This post will review the options of a 8 inch or 10 inch dob, and then review the XT10 and the Z10 telescopes.

The first question to ask is what size of a dob do you want? I love my 8 inch dob. Why? I can easily carry it by myself, the tube or the base do not weight a lot and I have never asked if I wanted to carry it outside on a so-so night. The tube is 20.3 lbs and the base is 20.7 lbs or 41 lbs together (I never move my scopes in one piece though). The views are very good and a 8 inch dob will last you a very long time. I did all my Messier objects using my XT8, well all but 6 which were done in the XT10. I love how it shows planets, deep sky objects and double stars. The XT8 at F6 is easy to collimate and very forgiving.

In terms of mods, on my XT8 I added a Telrad, Bob's Knobs for collimation and Scope Gripps. I don't think the Scope Gripps were needed but I just don't like Orion's tension spring system. I wish they would upgrade that aspect of their classic line of dobs. Flocking is good and it decreases the stray light in the tube. My XT8 came with a 9x50 finder, the 10mm and 25mm Sirius Plossl. Today they come with no finder which is a disappointment and the EZ Finder. I got the EZ Finder on my XT6 and I don't like it. It works, but not like a Rigel Quickfinder or a Telrad which is my preferred method. A RA 9x50 finder will cost around $90 I believe and a Telrad is $40 so you'll have that cost to add on to either Orion's XT8 or XT10. I would like to see Orion go back to offering a 9x50 Finder again instead of the red dot EZ Finder.

My XT10 is perhaps my favorite scope. It is heavy, much heavier than the XT8 and you need to realize that. This scope's weight has made me have to think through going out on a questionable night. You'll feel the weight on the tube which comes in at 30.8 lbs. To make it easier to move I purchased Scope Totes which cost $60.00 but have been a life saver. If you search on people have made them which you could do also. I just like the completed product. These make carrying the tube much easier and saves my back. The base comes in at 22.6 lbs, is larger than the base of the 8 but easy to move around. My XT10 came with the same items my XT8 came with and I only had to buy the Telrad. You won't be so lucky. My finder though is from an XT10i as is the mirror (when I bought it they had a return for damage to the secondary and they let me swap out the primary mirror and the finder with the returned XT10i). The tubes are both the same length on the XT8 and XT10 at 1200mm. The XT10 makes it at F4.7 which is faster than the XT8. As a result you need good collimation. I love my combined Cheshire/Sight Tube and use that often to collimate. I recently ordered a Howie Glatter Tblug and laser so we'll see about that. I do have two Orion lasers that came with the XT8 and XT10. I do use them as they are collimated but only to check my Cheshire/Sight Tube combo.

The views in my XT10 are wonderful, though not significantly different than a XT8. Where I see the greatest is I do see some level of brightness and some more detail in the 10 vs the 8 inch. If I had had a choice, I would have gotten a 12 inch scope, but I didn't have a choice. I got the XT8 and XT10 for a good deal through an education program and thus the no choice. If I was choosing between the XT8 and the XT10, I would purchase the XT10 because of the views it offers and its portability.

Mods for the XT10 that I've made. Scope Totes were one, Scope-Gripps were another because the spring tension system did not work for me and the scope-gripps have been wonderful. I added a magnet that you can see in the picture below from Harbor Freight and some Ceramic Retangle Magnets from Lowes wrapped in black electrical tape. That has resolved the weight issue on the front of this scope and the alt. is just fine now. I also put a wood knob because in winter the gloves I use have it to where I can take the finger tips off and touching cold metal is an issue in the winter for me. The biggest issue was the asimuth motion. Here I put on milk jug washers that I made on the main bearing/screw and a CD, and then some virgin teflon next to the teflon pad Orion installed. This corrected the issue for me and my scope works like I want it to.

One question I commonly get is what about the Zhumell brand of dobsonian telescopes? I have a friend I observe with who has the Z12. I love the tension system of the Zhumell and I enjoy the motions it has. It is a little too loose for me but it is smoother on its azimuth motion. I have to give the nod to the Zhumell's on motion though I also think the asimuth motion needs some modifications but I think that is true of both the Zhumell and Orion telescopes. I like that the Zhumell comes with a 9mm EP and a 2 inch 30mm 68 degree FOV EP. However, the EP's aren't the issue because either the 25mm Sirrus Plossl that comes with the Orion's or the two EP's that come with the Zhumell are not the end all. You'll need some EP's and you'll get them moving forward. What I really like about the Zhumell is the dual speed Crayford focuser. The Orion's only come with a single speed Crayford focuser. If I was buying at full price today and not picking up locally, I would probably have to buy the Zhumell or at least really consider it. Zhumell also has a finder so you just need a Telrad or Rigel Quickfinder with it. The Zhumell needs a good collimator like the Orion does, especially if you buy at 10 inches or more.

The one thing to consider and I have to admit this, if I was paying full price I probably would take the XT10i now. Why? Understand I am a star hopper. I love star hopping, it is how I learned the sky and my scopes are XT classics and I had to hop, no choice. My skies are relatively ok, even at home, and my dark sites rock so star hopping is no issue. Yet on a night like tonight where I can start observing at 9:30 p.m. and have to stop between 11:30p.m. and 12:00a.m. with the rise of that waning gibbous moon, a intelliscope would increase the number of objects I could get to, observe and sketch before the moon comes up. Also, at Star Parties it would be nice to use, not necessary because I can hunt the brighter objects as quickly as those with computers (done it) but it would allow a conversation to continue well I go to the object using the intelliscope. Also, if I observe in a light polluted area, have the intelliscope would allow me to perhaps be more productive. I still think people need to learn to star hop, but the reality is the computer will draw more people in and if they enjoy the hobby, it is not my place to tell them how to enjoy or do the hobby.

Accesories to Purchase:

Whether you buy Orion or Zhumell I recommend the following items:

1. Telrad. You just need one, it helps star hopping. If you get the intelliscope and don't intend to star hop then don't buy this.

2. Finderscope. Just helps when you get started out but after 3 months or so you can use a wide EP like the 21mm or a 32mm as a finder eyepiece. You just need to adjust to the view in the EP vs an atlas (the view is inverted).

3. EP: Either the Hyperions or Stratus line is good. The Hyperion Zoom is excellent. I use the 5mm Hyperion, the 13mm Stratus, the 21mm Stratus and the 17mm Stratus.

4. Filters: I use the Orion Narrowband Ultrablock (purchased locally) and the Lumicron OIII Filter. Also an Orion Skyglow Filter for the moon. I also have a H Beta Filter which I love.

5. Sky Pocket Atlas. $15 See Barnes and Noble, Amazom or your favorite book store.

6. Lowes Task Force Case/Eyepiece Case This is what I use and its cheaper than the Orion. Use a bungi cord around it when it is locked so if it falls, it doesn't open and spill out your eyepieces.

7. Observing Chair. I have a Stardust chair which is the best, no slippage people say but I haven't been using it lately. I have been using for almost a year now the Starbound Chair . Why? Because a lot of people have said how bad the chair is, and how people fall when it slips. I got a deal on one though, brought it home and have been using it over the last year. I'm a large man, and this chair hasn't had an issues with me and I observe in the mountains of northern Utah or the West Desert of Utah and have to wipe the dust off of it after each time out. We'll see if I have problems.

8. Homemade Dew Shield for a Telrad. You can see this on my Telrad on my scope and since I have done this, I haven't had my Telrad's window dew up or ice up at all. I also took the same foam, cut some up and put it into a roll with some velcro to make a dew shield for my finder. It works great there also.

9. Collimation Knobs. This make collimation so much easier. Not essential initially but you'll want them within 3 months of your purchase. You can get them from Tony at the Astronomy Shoppe (get the Orion ones for Orion, and call him for the Zhumell). Bob's Knobs also sells them.

There are many other purchases, and I welcome comments and suggestions on other things that can be added. Realize that 1. don't go into debt, buy what you can buy and there is no rush to get more. 2. Start with the scope and eyepieces and move from there.

In lieu of that it looks like I have reached a decision in my own aperture fever. I wanted a premium dob, and will still get one but it is delayed. We've had too much going on to buy a $5000 scope. So I am going with the Orion XX14i for now, and then either next spring or the following spring I am pretty confident I am going with either a 15 or 18 inch Rob Teetor Telescope. Rob has emailed me, got into details on his scopes and I have reached the decision that sometime in the next 18 to 24 months, a Teetor scope will be for me. Why not just keep the 10? I am going to keep my XT10 as a quick use scope but the 14 I will use and then sell when I am ready to upgrade to either a 15 or 18. I'm excited and will post as I get the scope here in a couple of weeks. I figure the weather sucks already so I might as well pull the trigger which I have done.

Edit: Well, things might be changing. I have read online at CloudyNights that the XX14i has very poor azimuth controls and though it might be possible to resolve that issue, the jury is still out. So know I am totally rethinking what I might be doing. I would still probably prefer a Discovery 15 inch Truss as my choice now, but I emailed them several days ago and got no response. My question was about the continue issue they seem to have with delivering product on time while requiring money upfront. That and their poor rating by their local Better Business Bureau. They have 3 complaints that have gone unanswered and based on their information I would need them to have the telescope on order and place the money in a third party account that would hold the payment until the scope actually arrived, and then would release the payment. I really like their scopes, but I'm not sure they can be trusted.

So am I back to a premium scope now? Maybe. I don't like the idea of the Lightbridge 16 inch, too many mods and I am not an overly crafty person and I only own a jig-saw and a drill so not sure how the wife would respond if I wanted to build a rocker box. Sigh. Just when you think something will work and get you by, it fails to do so. Ideas?


  1. Great Blog! Very "down to earth" (no pun intended). I bought my then 11-year-old son an XT6 2 Christmases ago. He's responded SO nicely to astronomy that he's EAGER (to say the least) now to move up. Well, An XT6 isn't gargantuan, BUT it still is a bit of a chore to move around, pack up in the car, etc. Maybe someday they'll invent a collapsible base to reduce bulkiness.

    This being said, he's looking to move up to a Go-To at the 12" reflector level. Hmmm...not exactly a breeze to take to the park on a whim. Any suggestions here? What would the equivalent scope be in a Cass design? I suspect that the $$$$ would virtually triple...

  2. yankeeboy,

    Love the XT6, I just sold one and will miss it. I'm not a great expert on SCT's but will share what I know and perhaps others might come along. The 12 inch dob on good nights will have a much better contrast over the SCT. The 12 inch dob with Go To will go up to $1599.95 from Orion and is a solid tube or the XX12i which is a truss design run $1499.95 right now through Orion's sale for the scope, transport bags and shroud or $1299.95 for just the scope.

    In terms of a 12 inch SCT a Meade LX90-SC will run $2999.00. A Celestron CPC 1100 GPS XLT at will run you $2599.00 on sale right now. Neither the Meade or the Celestron had a mount listed and you would need a mount to hold it which is more money.

    Some other thoughts. The dob will set up quicker than a SCT at that size. Collimation of the Dob vs alignment of the SCT is a wash. I think on planets both are very good but the advantage is to the SCT for its tracking capabilities. I do think the image of DSO's is better in a dob than in a SCT but that is a personal preference. The SCT is easier to use if you want to get into astrophotography, harder with the dob. Dew is easier with the dob to handle in my opinion. I have a club member/friend I observe with and at times the when it gets dewy, he has to call it quits long before I have to worry about it. Eventually the seeing is impacted and then I have to quit also, but my XT10 held out over his 14 or 15 inch Meade (not exactly sure on the model and size).

    Finally, the SCT is easier I think overall to use and that will be my next scope in five years, a nice large SCT. Less health issues on the back and overall easier to use than the dob for many people. Hard for me to say since I am a dob guy and love dobs. Hope others with more experience with SCT's can pipe in.