Like Celestron’s Omni XLT 150, the Orion AstroView 6 draws on a century of heritage from the common 6” equatorially-mounted reflector, widely regarded as the main “serious” telescope until the 1970s. Besides the price difference, these two telescopes are largely similar, but the AstroView offers some advantages to the beginner as well as some disadvantages to the more experienced astronomer which will be explained in this review.
The Optical Tube of AstroView 6
The AstroView 6 is a 6” f/5 Newtonian. Compared to a longer scope like the regularly-offered 6” f/8 Dobsonians, the AstroView will be more difficult to collimate and it may show slight amounts of coma at the edge of the field at low power, but it’s still pretty easy to collimate and you’d be hard-pressed to find the coma in the first place let alone actually care about it.
The AstroView 6 comes with a 1.25” focuser. It is probably one of the last reflectors to have an all-metal 1.25” rack-and-pinion focuser; most scopes nowadays use plastic ones. The focuser is of decent quality and works quite well, my only complaint being that it can intrude into the light path and obstruct the primary mirror. Obviously, you can’t use 2” eyepieces here and the focuser isn’t as good at holding a heavy camera for astrophotography, so if you want to use 2” eyepieces or put the scope on a different mount for astrophotography later on the AstroView 6 is probably not for you.
The scope’s tube rings have a Vixen dovetail attached to the bottom which allows for easy attachment and removal from the mount saddle, and ¼ 20 captive knobs for piggybacking a camera.
The AstroView 6 comes with two eyepieces: A 25mm Sirius Plossl providing 30x and a 10mm Sirius providing 75x. These are excellent eyepieces, though you may want a 6mm “gold-line” eyepiece and/or Barlow to get the most magnification this scope offers for lunar and planetary viewing.
Additionally, the AstroView 6 comes with a simple collimation cap to align your optics with, and a 6×30 finderscope. I don’t really care for this 6×30 and would recommend swapping it for a 9×50 finder or Telrad, as the 30mm of aperture makes it hard to see much of anything – it’s arguably harder to use than a zero-power sight like a Telrad!
The AstroView EQ-3 Equatorial Mount
The AstroView mount is based on the Vixen Polaris, a mount which has been around since the 1980s and was originally imported to fulfill the massive demand for telescopes brought on by the arrival of Halley’s Comet. Today, its legacy lives on with mounts like the AstroView. The AstroView mount is more or less a Chinese-made copycat of the Polaris with a dovetail saddle and aluminum instead of wooden tripod legs.
The AstroView mount is nearing the limit of its capacity with the 6” f/5 Newtonian by the time you add accessories. While a motor drive is available and Orion claims you can do astrophotography with this scope, in practice, you are probably overloading the mount and only the shortest exposures are possible. However, piggybacking a DSLR and short lens on top of the scope’s tube rings is indeed possible and you can achieve some nice shots with this method.
The AstroView also includes a polar scope for precise polar alignment, as well as a nice accessory tray/spreader. I don’t like many modern spreaders which are only usable as an eyepiece rack; the AstroView’s large tray that you can actually put other stuff on is far better.
My only big criticism of the AstroView mount is that some of the leg hardware is plastic easily broken or damaged – a concession of the low price. A lot of people complain about the extruded aluminum legs, but I find them to be more than satisfactory with scopes up to the limit of the AstroView’s payload capacity.
Any serious astrophotography with the AstroView 6 will require Orion’s EQ-3M motor drive, available separately from them. As I mentioned previously, the AstroView mount is too lightweight and imprecise for long-exposure astrophotography, apart from piggybacked shots with a DSLR and short focal length lens where tracking errors are less important. However, lunar and planetary photos with a DSLR or CCD camera are possible and can be done quite well with the AstroView 6. You will want to use a quality 3x or 5x Barlow lens to get the focal length high enough, and if using a DSLR you’ll also want to use crop mode or a similar setting to get the maximum resolution of your target.
While it is more expensive than a 6” Dobsonian and you could indeed get an 8” Dob for the same price, if you’re looking for the convenience of equatorial movement (with the option to upgrade to motorized tracking) and the possibility of basic astrophotography, the Orion AstroView 6 is an excellent choice for the beginner or for the serious amateur looking for a smaller and more convenient instrument.