Equipment Review: XT8 Dob from Orion
The debate has gone on for years "What is the best scope for me to start out with?" or "What gives me the best bang for my buck?" These like so many other questions aren't really that easy to answer, but for me the answer is the Orion Sky Quest XT8 Dob.
For a long time Orion has been know for making quality scopes at a reasonable price. So when I got toughly fed up with my Meade DS114, I knew that somewhere in the pages of the Orion catalog there was a scope there for me. The first thing I did was figure out what type of budget I had. So with $750 I knew that I had quite a bit to choose from. The second thing I had to figure out is what I wanted to do with the scope. The answer to that question was obvious; I wanted to see the faint fuzzies that just were so poor looking in my Meade or that were just to faint for 4.5" of aperture to see.
So my once long list had started o shirk considerably. Most of the refractors that had the aperture to see what I wanted were too pricey because of beefy mounts to hold the large tubes. Cassegrain we well out of the picture from the start due to expensive mounts and computer driver drives. So by this point the list was very short, Orion had a hand full of quality reflectors inside my price range both on Dobsionain Mounts and on German Equatorial mounts.
So with a list of about 4 scopes to choose from it was time to do research on what was the best scope for me. The best place to start my research was with the club members. I was informed on how easy the Dob mount was to use. The draw back to the German Equatorial mounts were also made evident to me, that in a breeze the scope could vibrate, and that it was a large load for such a small mount. Butthere was one plus to the equatorial mount it could track objects. So I had a chose to make, so my second step was to do some research on the internet. I fount that www.excelsis.com is a great site for telescope reviews. So I went and looked at the reviews of the four scopes that I was looking at, the Orion XT8 Dob, XT10 Dob, Skyview 6 EQ and Skyview 8 EQ. Well both Skyviews the big down side was that the mount was not strong enough to hold the scope and a camera for astrophotography, and that the aluminum tripod legs needed to be altered to provide sufficient support. When I looked at the XT8 and XT10 reviews the only bad thing was that it was hard to use the finder scope when looking toward the zenith and that a Telrad was much easier to use with these scopes. So for the most part my mind was made up it was between the XT8 and the XT10, but which one. That decision came easy when I started to look at the specs of each of the scopes. The weight of the XT10 was just a little bit more than I was milling to track up and down stairs and in and out of the house. So the XT8 was it.
I have has my XT8 for three years now and rarely would I want to trade it in. The only modification I have made to the scope was to change the 6x30 finder scope to a Telrad finder. The optics on the scope is near perfect for a reflector and allows you to use very high magnification when the atmosphere allows, and holds colimation for a long time. Most of the time the focuser is smooth as can be. The scope is perfectly balanced, even with large eyepieces. The eyepieces that come with the scope are good but I added a TeleVue 32mm Plossl to do my scanning of the sky and viewing of most large deep space objects (Orion Nebula, Andromeda Galaxy). The rear mirror cell is ventilated well enough for most situations and the rear cell very easy to adjust, three large thumb screws hold the mirror once adjusted and three smaller thumb screws for adjusting the mirror.
There are a few drawbacks to the scope, if you get this scope you will need to get a fan for the rear mirror cell to be used when the humidity is very high (spring and summer) , and on those clod winter nights the focuser can be a bit stiff and sluggish to use. It also seemed that they just placed the finder scope in a very poor spot on the scope. To use the supplied 6x30 finder you have to get on the opposite side of the scope at the focuser. I took mine off and added a Telrad in a spot that would eliminate jumping from one side of the scope to the next. The problem that I found with the scope we minute and were quite easy to fix.
Another drawback for me is Orion's Technical Support. For those of you who didn't hear, a while back when I was moving the base to my scope fell off the moving truck and since it was made from particle board it smashed into pieces. I called customer service and they referred me to Technical Service. I left a message with technical service to call me with a description of the problem. Days went by and no call back so I called again left a message and still no return call. So for that reason I would have to say that there customer service is poor at best.
All in all with the all the pluses and the few drawbacks I would purchase a scope again from Orion and I would recommend the XT8 for anyone looking to purchase their first scope.