Recommended Best Dobsonians Individually Reviewed
The Apertura DT6 will show you the entire Messier catalog as well as many other deep-sky objects and a wealth of detail on the Moon and planets.
6” f/8 scopes such as the Apertura DT6 are easy to collimate, lightweight, and portable. However, an 8” f/6 Dob is only slightly larger in width and is still pretty easy to collimate, despite being the same length/height overall. That being said, 6 inches of an aperture is more than enough for a lifetime of enjoyable views.
2. Best Budget 8″ Dobsonian Telescope – Skywatcher 200P (8″ Classic)
The Sky Watcher 8″ classic dobsonian (also called Skywatcher 200P) is the lowest-priced 8” Dob on the market, and while it does make some sacrifices when it comes to accessories compared to more expensive models like Apertura AD8, it doesn’t sacrifice anything when it comes to the optics. It will show you everything any other 8” commercial dobsonian telescope can.
The Skywatcher 200P comes with a relatively inexpensive 2” rack-and-pinion focuser. This works reasonably well, but at high power, an f/6 telescope’s smaller depth of focus means that focusing may be a little difficult.
The 8” Traditional’s finder is a straight-through (not right-angle) 9×50 finderscope. While not quite as comfortable to use as a right-angle finder it does provide reasonably bright and sharp images.
Thanks to having the same focal length, the Skywatcher 200P has the same tube length and same height mount as a 6” Dobsonian like the aforementioned two and thus is really no less portable than a 6” Dobsonian apart from being slightly wider and heavier.
3. Best 8″ Dobsonian Telescope – Apertura AD8
The Apertura AD8 is my favorite because it’s a perfect size, comes with all the required accessories out of the box, and somehow bundles features that you normally have to pay double its price for. No other telescope provides as much bang for your buck out of the box as the Apertura AD8.
The AD8 is an 8” f/6 just like the Sky-Watcher 8” Traditional, but it has altitude tensioning knobs that don’t stick out and can be adjusted to move along the scope’s optical tube to properly balance it. It has a fancy 2” dual-speed Crayford focuser. The 50mm finderscope is a right-angle correct image model, though you may want to supplement it with a Telrad.
The AD8 also comes with a quality 30mm wide-angle 2” eyepiece for low power, and a 9mm Plossl for high power, though you’ll of course want something in between as well as a shorter focal length high power eyepiece or two if you want to squeeze out the maximum potential of the scope.
Lastly, the AD8 includes a cooling fan on the back, and a laser collimator which may or may not function out of the box – more often than not, the laser beam isn’t aligned with the body of the collimator and has to be collimated itself, which is an extremely difficult process. Don’t worry, though – you don’t really need the laser and the Apertura AD8 is still a fantastic deal even without it.
The Apertura DT10 comes with a 8x50mm straight-through, inverted-image finderscope, an inexpensive 25mm Plossl eyepiece, and a 2” Crayford style focuser.
The scope’s tube is a little longer than a 6” or 8” Dobsonian, but not by too much. However, the scope’s size and weight mean that it is a bit more awkward to handle than its smaller cousins. Also, with a focal ratio of f/4.9, precise collimation is critical.
However, the extra 2” of aperture amounts to a lot of practical use, so if you are willing to upgrade eyepiece later on, I say go for it. A 6” or 8” may be enough aperture for a lifetime, but even for the serious observer an Apertura DT10 may be the only telescope you ever want or need.
Like the fantastic Apertura AD8, the Apertura AD10 offers a great set of accessories bundled with it right out of the box and a little more aperture.
The 30mm eyepiece supplied will show some off-axis coma and astigmatism in a fast scope like the AD10 but provides a far larger field of view than a 25mm Plossl, which is, of course, a huge boon in locating and observing deep-sky objects.
Thanks to the AD10’s dual-speed Crayford focuser, focusing at high power is an absolute delight. The AD10’s cooldown fan is actually pretty helpful with a 10” scope, though it is really nothing more than a glorified computer fan attached to the rear end of the tube with a battery pack wired on.
Like the AD8, the AD10 also comes with a 9mm Plossl eyepiece, though the scope can handle a lot more magnification than the 133x it provides – a 10” scope is capable of up to 500x with good collimation and steady skies, and the AD10’s dual-speed focuser makes comfortably achieving that even easier.
Like with the AD8 and AD12, the Apertura AD10’s laser collimator is probably unusable and the Moon filter is a joke, but considering the great value the scope still otherwise provides, I don’t consider these to be a problem in the slightest.
The AD12 comes with the same 30mm 2” wide-angle eyepiece, cooling fan, dual-speed Crayford focuser, adjustable altitude bearings, 50mm right-angle finderscope, and great optics that make the smaller AD series scopes such great deals, as well as the same useless Moon filter and laser collimator. However, there are some practical considerations to be made in buying this telescope.
First: It’s heavy. 75 pounds may not sound so bad, especially considering that it splits into two pieces. But what if you have to load it into your car to get it to an observing site? Now picture loading that scope back into your car, then unloading it, then bringing it into your house very late on a cold, damp night. Even if you observe from your backyard, setting up the AD12 isn’t easy.
The AD12 is also much physically larger than a 6”, 8”, or 10” Dob. It’s a full foot longer, and the tube is 14” wide with no good places to really grab it from. You’ll probably want straps or a helper to move the tube. Also, the length means it may not fit in smaller vehicles.
The AD12 is best if you have a smaller scope to complement it and/or a dolly and garage so you can conveniently roll it out for observing. If you’re shopping for your first telescope, I would recommend getting something smaller and cheaper first before purchasing the AD12. But if you’re sure you’re hooked and can accommodate this massive instrument in your home and lifestyle, a 12” Dobsonian like the Apertura AD12 can’t be beaten.
The below Dobsonians are not our first preference. But if you have any particular reasons to choose any of the below Dobsonians, we won’t say it’s a bad choice.
Best Collapsible Dobsonian Telescopes – Sky-Watcher Collapsible 8″ and 10″
The Sky-Watcher 8” and 10″ Collapsibles (also known as Skywatcher Flextube 200P and 250P respectively) differs from its Traditional cousin in two aspects: It has a collapsible tube and a single-speed Crayford focuser.
The focuser is certainly a nice upgrade, and is almost worth the money by itself. However, as the name implies, the main selling point of the Collapsible is its collapsible tube, made of 3 metal struts. Collapsing or extending the tube is as simple as loosening some knobs and adjusting the struts. Collapsing the tube shrinks it by a foot, which means it can fit in a smaller space and takes up less room when transported – it can sit vertically in a car seat and lay horizontally across the trunk of even a relatively modest-sized sedan.
However, this feature is a mixed bag. For one, you now need three dust covers – one for the lower assembly and two for the upper assembly, which means you have two more pieces to keep track of and clean. But more importantly, the open tube allows stray light to get in. Aftermarket shrouds are available to solve this, and you can make one yourself out of Spandex, Lycra or Ripstop fabric pretty easily if you have a sewing machine, but it’s again one more piece to keep track of and it also costs some extra money.
Finally, the scope tends to lose collimation more often than a solid tube even when left extended, simply because the three metal struts are less rigid than a solid tube. And of course, collapsing it will almost inevitably ruin the collimation.
The collapsible tube is a little more beneficial at the larger 10” aperture, but I still find the practicality of it questionable.
Best Computerized Dobsonian Telescopes (PushTo, not GoTo) – Orion SkyQuest XT8i and XT10i
Orion’s XT8i and XT10i feature a number of improvements over its corresponding standard XT series versions (XT8 and XT10, which I haven’t mentioned here as it is basically the same as the slightly superior Sky-Watcher 8” Traditional). It comes with two high-quality Plossls (a 25mm and 10mm), a single-speed 2” Crayford focuser, and a 9×50 right-angle correct-image finderscope, as well as some weight-saving cutouts in the base. However, its main selling point is the Intelliscope digital setting circle system.
The Intelliscope allows you to locate over 14,000 deep-sky objects, without consuming much in the way of battery power. It guides you to your target with arrows and measurements. However, it of course offers no motorized tracking or location of objects. All in all, I personally consider increasing your aperture or buying some better accessories more important than having the Intelliscope, but others have different opinions – read our review of it and decide for yourself.
While I don’t find the Intelliscope to be the most useful feature of all and would prioritize aperture, if a 10” is the most you can comfortably use, it is definitely beneficial to have the Intelliscope. The XT10i’s weight-saving cutouts and the knob on the end of the tube are also nice bonuses that even the Apertura AD10 doesn’t have.
This all being said, you are sacrificing some of the accessories supplied with the likes of Apertura AD8 and AD10, so it really comes down to whether you find the Intelliscope system and some cutouts in the mount to be worth this downgrade as well as the step-up in price.
Tips On Choosing The Best Dobsonian
If you’re on a tight budget, it’s probably best to get the largest scope for your dollar and worry about accessories later. However, don’t skimp to the point that you are unable to get everything you want out of your telescope.
- Try Before You Buy
If possible, I highly recommend borrowing a scope from a friend or at least examining it in person before purchasing it. Dobsonians are big, hefty instruments and sales brochures are going to try to make them seem as small and portable as possible. Don’t buy something that looks small in pictures and then ends up being an unwieldy behemoth that you never bother with – the best telescope is one you’ll use.
- You Get What You Pay For
A cheap Dob nowadays probably won’t be compromised optically (thank goodness), but the accessories and things like the focuser will be necessarily cheapened. If you can afford them, the more expensive models for a given aperture are probably worth it.
- Who’s Using It?
If you’re using your Dob for outreach, you’ll want something portable but at the same time with as much aperture as possible – GoTo or digital setting circle assistance also helps as you’ll save time locating targets. If you’re using it with your kids, portability may not be as much of a consideration but the “wow” factor of the image, as well as your kids’ attention span, will dictate a lot about your choice of the telescope.
If you’re buying a telescope for a child or teenager, I wouldn’t recommend going above 8 inches in aperture – collimation will be too difficult and it’ll be too heavy for them to set up and use on their own.