Currently, Orion’s offerings are rather limited compared to their heyday. The bulk of their products are made by Synta Optical Technologies – the same Chinese company that owns Celestron and Sky-Watcher, Guan Sheng Optical in Taiwan, and Long Perng Optical in Taiwan. These companies market similar if not nearly identical products under other brands and unfortunately Orion doesn’t always offer the best deals on them. However, this does not appear to be entirely Orion’s fault, as there is some evidence and an ongoing lawsuit by Orion that some of these manufacturers may be colluding on pricing to choke Orion out of the market.
This isn’t to say Orion is irrelevant, however. They’re the only US-owned mass-manufacturer of telescopes, and their Sirius and Atlas Go-To German equatorial mounts are arguably some of the best entry-level astrophotography mounts available. Orion’s XT series Dobsonians are also still arguably some of the best entry-level Dobsonians, or entry-level telescopes period, out there, and if you want digital setting circles but not GoTo their IntelliScope Dobsonians are the only option out there.
Orion’s customer service is excellent – the only exception being if you buy their stuff used. Orion doesn’t carry a large spare parts inventory and refuses to service any product secondhand. So if you plan to buy anything used from them or to sell an Orion product secondhand to someone, do keep this in mind.
Whether Orion remains a major manufacturer probably depends on the outcome of that lawsuit, but I would not be surprised to at least see them stick around as a retailer for a long, long time.
Orion Telescopes & Binoculars was founded in the garage of Tim Gieseler in Santa Cruz, California in 1975 as Gieseler Electronics, later changing to Optronic Technologies. Originally, Optronic’s main product was their AccuTrack devices, a series of drive correctors and other motor drive parts for equatorially-mounted telescopes. By the late 1980s, however, Optronic products were becoming less and less needed as telescope drive systems became more sophisticated, so they sought to branch out, selling telescopes as a vendor under the “Orion” brand name. Eventually, Orion began manufacturing and importing its own telescopes and for a time no longer resold non-Orion branded telescopes – though they have resumed this practice.
Historically, Orion has primarily been known for two things: Their Dobsonians, and their importation of various high-quality telescopes from overseas – originally Japan but now mostly China and Taiwan. Orion used to sell a variety of products from manufacturers like Vixen in Japan and Intes in Russia, and offered these fine products even when other companies like Celestron dropped them in favor of less expensive versions from China. Orion was also one of the first manufacturers of inexpensive Dobsonian telescopes alongside companies like Coulter Optical, and the first to import quality Maksutov-Cassegrains from Synta in China.
Orion StarBlast Products
StarBlast 4.5 Astro
Orion SkyQuest Products
Orion Astrograph Telescopes
Other Orion Telescopes
Orion Equatorial Mounts