Orion Telescopes: Models, Reviews & Ratings

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Written By: Zane Landers
Category: Learn

Currently, Orion’s offerings are rather limited compared to their heyday. The bulk of their products used to be made by Synta Optical Technologies, the same Chinese company that owns Celestron and Sky-Watcher. However, a lawsuit in 2019 that ended with Orion’s acquisition of Meade Instruments has ended that relationship. Orion is now in the process, seemingly, of phasing Synta products out. Orion’s products are now primarily made by KSON Optical in China, Guan Sheng Optical in Taiwan, and Long Perng Optical in Taiwan. These companies market similar, if not nearly identical, products under other brands. Unfortunately, Orion doesn’t always offer the best deals on them. 

Orion now offers a variety of mostly beginner-level telescopes with a sampling of higher-end mounts, eyepieces, etc. But due to their breakup with Synta, many of their highest quality products—which could mostly already be found elsewhere—are being increasingly replaced by poorly made instruments (mostly manufactured by KSON) with subpar optics, plastic parts everywhere, shoddy mechanical design, and overall poor value. 

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 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.

History of Orion Telescopes & Binoculars

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. However, with recent shakeups due to their lawsuit and its success, Orion’s portfolio is increasingly becoming a series of overpriced products offered by other retailers for less and low-quality instruments no one should buy. Whether this is enough to keep them afloat remains to be seen.

Orion Telescopes Reviewed By Us

Where to Buy Orion Telescopes?

In the US, most of the online Orion telescopes are sold through:

2 thoughts on “Orion Telescopes: Models, Reviews & Ratings”

  1. Hi ..and thanks for your time in putting together a great site. How do you feel about Orions Giantview bt100? You mentioned that many of their products are offered under other names, at better prices. Can you tell me what companies offer similar 100mm, 45 degree binoculars? I may be able to pick up a used bt100 but wanted to ensure I couldn’t get them new at a similar price point. TY… Don

    • I think the BT100 EDs are the same as the Oberwerk and APM ones. The regular BT100 I don’t know of any equivalent to; that being said they are achromats and if you plan on doing any lunar/planetary viewing you certainly want ED glass with these relatively fast scopes!


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