Are you looking for a way to get your feet wet with astronomy, but not sure you want to spend hundreds on a telescope yet? If so, the Orion Funscope may just be the perfect telescope for you!
The Orion Funscope is a telescope designed to get new people into the hobby without a large upfront financial investment, and this review will be written from the assumption that our readers are either looking to purchase their first telescope for themselves or their children.
To jump right in, you won’t find too many bells and whistles on this telescope, but what you will find is a small, portable, easy-to-use telescope, ready to explore the skies.
Because of these features, the following review tells you that the Orion FunScope 10033 76mm tabletop reflector telescope is an excellent first telescope for adults and kids alike.
Philosophy of Use:
Built specifically for people just entering the world of astronomy, the Funscope is an easy to use, classic Newtonian reflector telescope, on a tabletop base, designed with the “Keep It Simple” mentality in mind.
The Funscope, although small, actually has optics much larger than many new astronomers realize. Similar sized refractor (lens-based telescopes) can cost hundreds of dollars at the 75-80mm mark, and will not show nearly as much detail as the funscope.
Given its fast optics (F/3.9) and 300mm focal length, the Funscope provides great wide-field views of the night sky.
However, we need to be realistic about what to expect. It is not going to show you incredibly small details, or be able to resolve some of the really small faint fuzzies out there, but more important than that, it’s easy to set up and use… and sometimes that’s important for people just learning telescopic astronomy.
A telescope that’s hard to use, can quickly deter its owner, due to complex mechanical issues, and push them away from the hobby all together. This is not a telescope you need to worry about that with.
If you have kids who show an interest in astronomy, the Orion Funscope is the perfect first telescope for them. Orion has done their part to simplify the telescope’s mechanics and make the unit as portable, and easy to use as possible.
It is lightweight, requires minimal setup, and is so easy to operate that young children will be able to figure out how to set it up and navigate with no problem.
Another great factor here is the price point!
For under $100, the Orion Funscope 76mm comes with everything you need to start enjoying the sky right out of the box. It’s also reassuring to know that if you have kids like mine (who are less than careful with their toys) that in the even it does get broken, the scope didn’t cost a premium like some other options out there.
Given the price, you may be concerned that it’s not large enough to see anything…but it is!
What Can You See With It?
The Orion Funscope is advertised as a “Moon Scope” and in that capacity, it will show you some awesome details on the moon such as craters, mountain ranges, shadows, and many other geological features on the lunar surface. It even comes with a map of the moon for viewers to try and locate different regions and features with.
The moon is one of the best celestial objects to show first-time astronomers because it has countless details, and can be seen quite well in even the smallest of telescopes. Kids especially will have a blast looking for “the man on the moon” with this telescope.
However, just because the Orion Funscope is advertised as a moon scope, doesn’t mean it can’t resolve other celestial objects. Targets such as Jupiter and its moons, the rings of Saturn, as well as star clusters and other bright objects will all be viewable in the Funscope. Just note that they will not have the resolution, or detail provided by larger alternatives.
That being said, the Funscope should be able to do exactly what it was designed for and get new users interested in looking up at the night sky by providing views far superior to the ones we have with just our eyes.
The Orion Funscope 76mm telescope is, as mentioned, a classic Newtonian reflector, mounted on a single arm Dobsonian styled base. This is one of the most common types of telescopes for visual observing. Reflectors use two mirrors to gather and reflect the light from celestial objects into the eyepiece. The 76mm mirrors of the Funscope offer a lot of light gathering potential.
Because it’s easier and cheaper to manufacture a mirror than a lens, owners of Newtonians, or “Newts” as they’re often called, are able to afford a scope that gives them much brighter, and more detailed views, for far less money than a traditional refractor telescope of similar aperture would cost.
Boasting a 76mm aperture, and a total length right around 350mm (13.5 inches) fully-assembled, it may not seem big, but this little telescope actually packs quite a punch for the price.
The Orion comes on a tabletop base for easy setup, and only weighs 4lbs put together. In fact, all you need to do is take the scope out its storage location, set it on a solid surface, and it’s ready to go. The Dobsonian, push-to styled controls make traversing the sky on the Funscope, intuitive and easy.
However, if you do not want to use it as a tabletop unit (as they can cause quite a bit of vibration) the entire unit can be attached to a standard camera tripod instead. A feature not found in similar competitor scopes…more on this later.
Orion has outfitted the telescope with a 1.25-inch focuser, designed to accept standard eyepieces, meaning all sorts of aftermarket eyepiece options are available. Eyepieces are held in place with simple set screws and can be easily interchanged.
The focuser has a rack and pinion style adjuster, and although a bit crude, will do the job asked of it nicely.
The Funscope features a single post-secondary mirror spider for both cost reduction and design simplification for the end-user.
There are a number of features on the Orion Funscope that may make it a better option than some of its similarly sized and priced competitors.
One of these features is the red-dot finder scope that comes with the Orion.
If purchased separately, the finderscope that comes with the Orion Funscope would cost roughly $40.00 new…the entire Funscope package costs less than $75.00. The bargain here should be obvious, and having a finderscope included will help users to line up their targets much easier than if they had to do it all inside the eyepiece.
Beyond that, the Orion comes with two – 3-element Kellner eyepieces, which is a very good thing with such a low F-ratio, or “fast” telescope.
Without getting too technical, reflectors suffer from what is called “Coma” – stars that do not look round at the edges of the field of view – and the lower the F-ratio, the worse the coma is. Coma can be especially pronounced when using low-quality eyepieces, and ruin what would otherwise be a pleasant viewing experience.
Orion has tried to counter this by providing two 3-element eyepieces, instead of the cheaper 2-element ones provided with similar competitor scopes.
The eyepieces included are a 20mm wide-angle Kellner lens, and a 6mm Kellner lens for a more narrow view. Both of which can be used with the included 2X Barlow.
The 2X Barlow will essentially “zoom” the view in by a factor of two, bringing the observer seemingly twice as close to the target object. This is quite useful when trying to see details on the moon or resolve the rings of Saturn; for example.
Another key feature of the Orion Funscope is its ability to be mounted on a standard camera tripod. This is especially useful if traveling to dark sites that do not have a picnic table or other solid surface to place the telescope on and can also help to get the scope up to a height where adults can use it without straining their back.
Mounting to a tripod will also dampen many of the vibrations that would be introduced if set up on a table.
A nice bonus to the scope is the included Moon Map book that it comes with. This book will make it easy for new users, and kids to start exploring. The book identifies 260 features on the moon and includes things such as the locations of all successful U.S. and Soviet moon landings, the size of the features, and a brief description of each object it identifies.
Although built as a complete starter kit, there are a few accessories that may be worth investing in, to get the most out of the Orion Funscope.
The first on this list would be a moon filter.
The moon is actually an incredibly bright object, and when nearing fullness can become quite difficult to look at without straining your eyes (it’s like looking directly into a bright light). Details on the moon also get washed out when the moon is more than three-quarters full, due to all of the light reflecting off the lunar surface.
This, of course, is exactly the time when everyone with a telescope wants to look at it…when the moon is full!
A 1.25-inch moon filter will thread right onto the bottom of an eyepiece and act to dampen the excess light, which will create greater contrast for the viewer and relieve them of the eyestrain they may otherwise experience. Cheap and effective, an Orion moon filter runs about $20.00 and is well worth the investment.
New owners may also want to pick up some different eyepieces for the telescope in order to obtain different fields of view, resolve smaller objects, and improve the experience overall. The good news is that any 1.25-inch eyepieces purchased for use with the Orion Funscope will also work with the vast majority of other telescopes on the market. There are plenty of kits available online.
One last accessory new astronomers should consider is a star atlas. A star atlas is a map of the night sky and will show you all the different constellations, deep sky objects, planets, and other celestial objects floating around out there.
An atlas is especially useful for finding out what will be in the sky during different times of the year. As we know, the sky is ever-changing and each month there are new objects to point a telescope towards. Knowing what’s coming up, or in the sky on any given night can save hours of aimlessly drifting around in the sky, looking for something interesting.
However, if that’s what you want to do, the Orion Funscope is great at that as well!
All-in the Orion Funscope is a wonderful first telescope for both adults and children alike. It’s easy to set up and use, compact, portable, and lightweight. Because it’s so easy, it stands a far better chance of actually making it out of the closet, and into the field, compared to heavier, more complex alternatives.
Nobody wants to lug around a big heavy telescope, and Orion has done their part to make sure Funscope owners will not have that problem.
They have also done an excellent job of designing a telescope with optics large enough, and mechanics simple enough to entertain everyone, without getting bogged down with technical or mechanical issues.
A telescope is an investment, not only in money but also time. Worrying that your money is being wasted is a major concern, especially for beginners who can only afford to buy one telescope. Orion has spared its owners of wasted time by keeping the funscope simple…but what about the money?
We’ll be honest here; the funscope is an excellent ready-to-go budget telescope, but building such an affordable scope does come at a cost to quality.
The scope is very basic, and because of this, it does not feature some of the things you’d get on other, higher-end telescopes. It uses cheaper spherical mirrors than the parabolic counterparts found in more expensive scopes. It also lacks the ability to adjust the collimation, or fine-tune the scope.
That being said as a beginner, I would not shy away from the Orion Funscope as a first telescope at all. Although it may lack a few features and some of the materials may be cheaper, it is well built and priced very fairly for what it delivers. It is an excellent choice if you’re unsure whether you want to really take the dive into amateur astronomy by investing in a larger, more expensive telescope.
Many users may find that after using the Orion FunScope 76mm reflector telescope they’d like to upgrade to something else…in which case we say the Funscope has done exactly what it was designed for:
Getting new astronomers into the hobby at a price point that everyone can afford.