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Orion SkyScanner 100mm Review – Z100 Instead?

Though the SkyScanner is a toy telescope, it does come seriously close to a serious observing instrument.

Tested By

TelescopicWatch

4.5 /5
4.5

The Orion SkyScanner 100mm Tabletop Reflector Telescope is a good choice for a beginner telescope. It’s one of the cheapest telescopes you can get with a real parabolic mirror, and its views have pleasantly surprised me. The telescope is a fast Newtonian on a tabletop Dobsonian mount, very similar to telescopes like the FirstScope, Zhumell Z100 and StarBlast 4.5”. It’s the cheapest telescope I’ve used which produces views which “wow” observers. Being small and light it is a real “grab n’ go” telescope. The SkyScanner is one of the least expensive scopes we recommend, alongside the Zhumell Z100 which is basically the same product with the same optics and mount functionality, but different eyepieces and focuser placement. The telescope is very easy to use, but for reasons I’ll explain later in this review, it can be uncomfortable to use in certain situations.

Ranked 2 in 23 Telescopes
Rank 1
Zhumell Z100
Rank 3
Orion SpaceProbe II 76 EQ
Rank 2
Orion Skyscanner 100mm
 

Amazon prices as of 2020-09-28 at 16:53

  • Low price
  • Portability
  • Decent optics
  • Attractive appearance
  • Poor eyepiece/focuser placement
  • Lack of primary collimation screws
Optical Tube Rating 80%
Accessories Rating 80%
Mount Rating 80%
Visibility Score 76%
TelescopicWatch Editor's Choice

Orion Skyscanner 100mm  is a very portable telescope and can easily be stowed away in the trunk or a car seat or carried with you as it is easy to grab and go. The only thing which lets it down is the eyepiece position, and that may not be a problem for everyone. Few telescopes in this price range are as fun and easy to use and show as much.

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Recommended! Why?

Unboxing

The Orion SkyScanner 100mm is shipped in a doubled box to protect it during shipping. We would suggest you save the box so you can pack the telescope and toss it in the car for vacation travel. You could also put it in checked baggage for air travel in this box.

If you don’t have some protected place to store it, remove the finder and put the SkyScanner 100 back in the box. 

However, I think this attractive little red scope would look great on a bookshelf or displayed in plain sight. It would make a great conversation piece when it is not gathering starlight.

When it arrives, the scope already assembled and mounted on the base. The only assembly required is the attachment of the finder. This takes about a minute. Fully assembled the SkyScanner 100 weighs a mere 6.2 pounds which could easily be handled by a child or preteen.

There is not much in the way of instructions in the box, but Orion provides a glossy quick start guide that has links to the Orion site where you can find an online manual for their tabletop scopes.

Orion Skyscanner 100mm tabletop

The Optical Tube

Normally a Newtonian reflector telescope has a way to adjust the primary mirror to get the optics aligned in a process called collimation – and the primary mirror would normally have a center spot as an alignment target for this collimation process.

The SkyScanner 100 does not have provisions for adjusting the primary mirror and the mirror is not center spotted. It is collimated at the factory and fixed in place. This can present problems if the scope is knocked out of collimation during use/shipping, but there are methods (although not exactly easy) that allow one to collimate the primary mirror, and the scope tends to hold collimation well anyways. The secondary mirror can be adjusted for collimation, though this should rarely if ever need to take place.

The focuser is a standard 1.25” rack and pinion unit. While plastic, it works surprisingly well even at relatively high magnifications. For perfect motion you may have to adjust the two small screws on the focuser housing. The dust cap is two-part, so the inner cap can be removed to stop down the aperture for dimmer lunar viewing, which is useful especially during the fuller phases. (This will also reduce the maximum magnification of the telescope, however)

The SkyScanner’s Newtonian optical tube contains a parabolic primary mirror 100mm (4 inches) in diameter with a focal length of 400mm, yielding a fast focal ratio of f/4. While the parabolic mirror is the correct shape for a Newtonian telescope, it is not a diffraction-limited shape like more expensive Newtonians. This is hard to notice but it will result in a slightly fuzzier image at very high magnifications. But since the telescope doesn’t come with high power eyepieces, it won’t be easy to notice this.

The Mount

The intention is that you place this on a table, stool or some other suitable stand so it is at a comfortable height. It is light enough that even a sturdy box could serve as a base. Just make sure that it is rock solid steady. I have seen reports of people using it on the hood of their car or placed on a large rock when camping. Just remember that, if the base moves, the image in the eyepiece will show it, so be sure it is stable.

The included mount is a tabletop Dobsonian style mount. If you are not familiar with the Dobsonian design, it operates like a Lazy Susan turntable that you might have on your dining room table. The optical tube hangs from an arm using a standard dovetail bar. It pivots on the arm for up and down movement.

You have a tension adjustment dial on the side so you can firm up the friction on the altitude pivot, up and down, so the optical tube stays in place. This will be especially helpful if you buy additional eyepieces that are heavier than the ones that come with the telescope.

The base rotates left and right so it is classified as an altitude/azimuth or AltAz mount. Since the motion is smooth, following targets should be no problem.

The SkyScanner mounted on a photo tripod
The SkyScanner mounted on a photo tripod

Normally the SkyScanner 100 is used on a table or stand of some type. However, on the bottom of the base is a standard ¼ 20 attachment point which will allow you to place the entire unit on a photo type tripod(as pictured) or any other kind of tripod or stand that accepts ¼ 20 devices and can support the scopes 6-pound weight.

Orion also provides a second mounting option, one I intend to take advantage of from time to time. You can remove the optical tube from the Dobsonian mount with the twist of a knob and slide the dovetail out of the slot. In the center of the dovetail is another ¼ 20 mount point so you can attach just the optical tube to the photo tripod. The optical tube alone only weighs 3.4 pounds which should be well within the weight range of most camera tripods.

Price – $99.99

If you are traveling and normally bring a camera tripod with you, just pack the optical tube in your bag and use it on the camera tripod. This might make this a great travel scope for airline trips. It is small enough to put in your carryon luggage.
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Orion 10012 SkyScanner 100mm TableTop Reflector Telescope (Burgundy)

Little details like these ¼ 20 mount points are very thoughtful and useful and not something you typically see in a telescope package at this price. In fact, many entry-level telescopes are attached to their mount in such a way that the optical tube cannot be used on any other mount but the one included in its package. Orion has built to standards that give you flexibility in how you use the telescope.

A third mounting option is provided by the fact that the optical tube is attached to the table top Dobsonian mount with a standardly sized dovetail. This also allows you to shift the optical tube forward or back to improve balance if you are using heavy eyepieces. However, if you have another telescope mount that takes a standard dovetail attachment you can remove the optical tube from the tabletop mount and use it on your other telescope mount as shown in the photo.

Issues With Focuser Position

SkyScanner set up for viewingThe position of the focuser, finderscope, and dovetail is not ideal, because it puts the eyepiece on the top of the telescope. If you point the telescope very near the horizon, the eyepiece is placed far forward and up at the top, meaning you must stand and bend over the telescope to look through. If you point the telescope up high near the zenith, the eyepiece is pointed horizontally, so you must sit down and look forward.

When the telescope tube is mounted directly to a photo tripod, the eyepiece is at the side in all orientations, which is better, but the tripod should be raised to the eye level of the observer, meaning sharing the telescope between people of very different heights (i.e., a parent showing their child) is uncomfortable.

If the focuser were positioned at 45 degrees from the top of the tube, then it would be easy to use and look through from either a seated position or a standing position, when pointed to any altitude. Many tabletop dobs mount the telescope in tube rings so that the telescope can be freely rotated within the tube rings to get whatever eyepiece position is needed at any time, but this is not an option for the SkyScanner.

I’ve seen people modify the tube to move the dovetail to another position, thus providing a better location for the eyepiece.

The result of the focuser position is it’s not as good a grab-n-go scope as our most recommended telescope in this category, Zhumell Z100. Zhumell Z100 is essentially the same product but with the eyepiece mounted in a better position.

Accessories

The SkyScanner 100 comes with two eyepieces: 20mm & 10mm Kellners yielding 20x and 40x respectively.

The Kellner eyepieces are much better than the trash supplied with most cheap beginner telescopes. They show generally very clear, sharp views, and have acceptable eye relief and field of view. They’re not spectacular, but they’re all you need to get started.

Still an aftermarket 6mm “goldline” eyepiece or Barlow lens would allow you to get higher magnification and thus obtain the best planetary views possible with the scope. 

Also included is an Orion EZ Finder II red dot type finder. This is the only part of the package that has to be assembled and it is a simple matter of removing two knurled nuts on the optical tube, slipping the finder over the studs and tightening them back on. 

The red dot finder is fun and easy to use. You don’t need a magnifying finder with a telescope with such a wide field of view, as spotting objects can easily be done with the 20mm eyepiece. You will have to align the finder on a bright star or planet. Polaris is the easiest to align with since it doesn’t really move in the sky. Once it’s aligned, the red dot finder will project a bright red dot onto the sky (seen through the finder’s window) with no visible parallax (that is, it seems to be as far away as the stars) and will effectively become a bright, large red star in the sky showing you exactly where your telescope is pointed.

Aftermarket Additions

You’ll probably want to pick up a few extra accessories eventually. A 6mm Kellner eyepiece provides a pretty poor field of view but can be found very cheaply. A 6mm Gold-Line eyepiece provides the same magnification but a much wider field of view and more pleasant viewing experience. They’ll both give 67x magnification.

The minimum power possible with this telescope is 14.4x, and can be reached with a 27 or 28mm eyepiece. I recommend a 25-28mm Plossl-type  (4-element) eyepiece for the best (reasonably cheap) wide-field views.

You’ll also want to pick up a nice 2.5x or 3x barlow lens for viewing planets and close-up lunar details. You don’t want to cheap out on a barlow–a barlow can potentially last your whole observing career and can be used in any telescope. Budget a minimum of 40 dollars for a decent Barlow lens, and generally don’t go for no-name brands. Barlow lenses effectively increase the focal length of the telescope, and therefore the magnification when used with a given eyepiece. A 2x barlow will overlap magnifications (the 20mm with the 2x barlow will give the same magnification as the 10mm), so get either a 2.5x or a 3x barlow instead unless you’re already building up a set of eyepieces.

What Can You See?

As the name implies, the SkyScanner 100 is very well suited for scanning the sky. The short focal length produces great low power wide field views with the included eyepieces. I would highly recommend using the SkyScanner 100 for scanning the Milky Way if it can be seen from your location.

If you started your journey into astronomy using binoculars and this would be your first telescope you will enjoy having this wide field of view capability. If you were to add a 25 mm Plossl eyepiece to your eyepiece set you would get a view as wide as 3 degrees which is wide enough to take in almost all of the Andromeda Galaxy. Most telescopes cannot do this.

Star clusters like the Pleiades, the Hyades cluster, the Dragonfly, the Double Cluster, the Sailboat Cluster and so many other low to medium power deep sky objects will look wonderful. The Coathanger star cluster, one of my favorite binocular targets, would also be outstanding with this telescope.

Using the included 20 mm eyepiece you get 20X and approximately a 2-degree field of view. This combination will work well for star hoping to find a wide range of targets. The included 10 mm eyepiece provides a 40X image and about 1-degree field of view. This will work well for the Moon, Venus, and open clusters.

The Moon will fit fully within the field of view of the telescope with both the 20mm and 10mm eyepieces, but the 10mm will show smaller details. Plenty of crisp and clear detail is visible on the Moon’s terminator. I was able to easily see the rare “Lunar X” feature.
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Smartphone photo of the Moon seen through the 20mm eyepiece in the SkyScanner
Smartphone photo of the Moon seen through the 20mm eyepiece in the SkyScanner

If you want to go higher in magnification for Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, globular clusters and the like you will need shorter focal length eyepieces or a Barlow lens. A 3X Barlow would work quite well with the included eyepieces as it would take the 20X eyepiece to 60X and the 40X eyepiece to 120X. That would give you four magnifications which would be plenty for most targets and should match up well with the SkyScanner’s capabilities.

You will be able to see the moons of Jupiter and the main cloud bands, and the rings and moons of Saturn. With a higher-power eyepiece or Barlow you should have no trouble seeing Jupiter’s Great Red Spot, Saturn’s cloud belts and the Cassini Division in Saturn’s rings too.

There are hundreds of bright open star clusters you can enjoy within the power range of the SkyScanner 100, and you can split double stars like Albireo, Mizar, and others. Showcase targets like the Orion Nebula will be wonderful in the SkyScanner 100.

Some specific observation notes from a night of testing:

The Orion Nebula – As a very familiar deep sky object, I know what to expect. At 40X, using the included 10 mm eyepiece, I was able to resolve the four stars of the Trapezium. I was pleased with that result. Using my 2X Barlow I was able to move in closer at 80X.

Messier 3 – On a night with a nearly full Moon, I wanted to try a more difficult target. I used the SkyScanner to observe Messier 3, a globular cluster in the constellation of Canes Venatici. I selected M3 because this can be a challenging target when the Moon is bright, but the SkyScanner did a good job. I had the image up to 80X using the 10 mm eyepiece with my 2X Barlow.

The Moon – Using the SkyScanner 100 on the Moon produces great results with the included eyepieces. The image is clean and sharp. Again I used the 10 mm with my 2X Barlow to observe the Moon. I had good surface detail and the edges of the moon were crisp with no chromatic aberration.

The Moon is usually the target that I can get the highest magnification and still have a good image. That is because it is close and so bright. So I took it up to 149X using a 2.5X Barlow and an Explore Scientific 6.7 mm 82 degree eyepiece. The image was pretty good but getting into precise focus was difficult. The focuser does not do well when fine adjustments are needed, as is required at high magnification. So I am going to say that I feel the scope tops out somewhere around 150X for this reason.

A characteristic of Newtonian reflectors is that if you take the magnification down too low you may begin to see the shadow of the secondary mirror in the field of view. According to the Orion website the scope should be able to go down to about 14X which would be about a 28 mm eyepiece. I tested this guess with a 32 mm Plossl which is what I would normally use to maximize the field of view. The 32 mm provides 12.5X. Surely enough, there was a very distinct dark area in the middle of the field of view. Thus, I would not recommend using an eyepiece of less than 25 mm in focal length, 16X, or you risk seeing the secondary mirror shadow.

I have also tested the SkyScanner 100 with other eyepieces including my Explore Scientific 14, 8.8 and 6.7 mm 82-degree eyepieces. All worked well in the little scope.

The Messier List is a popular first observing list with new telescope owners. If you can get to a moderately dark location the SkyScanner will likely be able to show you most of the 110 targets in the Messier Catalog.

Looking For Better Alternatives?

Compared to the lower-priced telescopes, the Orion SkyScanner 100mm blows it out of the water optically. In the same price range, only Zhumell Z100 is a better choice.

Many telescopes in this price range, even those sold by well-known brands like Celestron, Meade, and even Orion, are garbage refractors on cheap, finicky mounts. The Celestron PowerSeeker and AstroMaster series both have entries in this price range, and they are not at all worth it. They have tiny apertures and mounts so un-fun they end up being left in the attic, never being used. Or worse, left out on the sidewalk for someone else to take and try to use. These are basically “hobby killer” telescopes, but even more expensive than the (justly) maligned “department store refractors.”

Tabletop Dobsonians are practically the only worthwhile options in this price range.

12 thoughts on “Orion SkyScanner 100mm Review – Z100 Instead?”

  1. One thing you missed is the unusual and awkward position of the focuser — sitting on top of the tube rather than to the side, say at a 45 or 60 degree angle — as it is on nearly all other Dobsonians.

    As many people have pointed out on Cloudy Nights, the focuser makes the scope harder to use as one has to look over the top of the scope. Most people prefer the standard positioning. They end up picking the Zhumell Z100 or Z114 or Orion Starblast 4.5 instead.

    Reply
    • Monty,

      You make a good point. Perhaps it would be better out the side at a 45-degree angle, or something like that. However, I find it quite acceptible on top. I just place it on a lower table when I use it.

      Reply
  2. Tell me if I’m wrong : the price of this telescope is low but it will get higher if I have to buy a 3x Barlow or a 25 mm eyepiece. It will then price in the 100-175$ range. So is it preferable to get a telescope in this range instead, like the Orion StarBlast II, which is priced at 180$?
    Thanks.

    Reply
    • Your question is about price vs. value. However, I don’t understand your comparison.

      Both scopes are F4. The StarBlast II 4.5 has a 50 mm longer FL. Each would need a similar FL eyepiece or a Barlow to achieve similar magnifications. In that respect they are nearly the same.

      I would rate the StarBlast II 4.5 as a better scope based on a larger aperture with an adjustable primary mirror, but that will require maintenance. The SkyScanner primary is fixed and needs no maintenance. I believe the StarBlast II has a better focuser and so should work better at high magnifications.

      All are valid comparison points but have nothing to do with the option to get a Barlow or a 25 mm eyepiece. Those are optional on both and would provide similar benefits on both.

      Reply
      • Thank you for your reply Ed, I am a beginner and that would be my first telescope. I still have a lot to learn. Thanks again, that helped me make my choice.

        Reply
        • Thank you again for your help Ed. I went to the link and read the text. As it is written, I am as most beginners and look first to see the Moon and the bright planets, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. Within my budget and that being my first steps in astronomy, I think of buying the Orion SkyScanner 100 and a a 25 mm Plossl eyepiece or a 3X Barlow (as recommended).
          Would it be a good product in my situation?
          Thanks again,
          Olivier

          Reply
          • Sounds like a good fit. I would recommend the Barlow first. The 25 mm will give you a wider field of view but the 20 mm does an OK job too.

  3. I read that sometimes a 2X barlow is better than a 3X with smaller scopes. Can you advise on which magnification would be better for this scope?

    Reply
    • There is no answer to that question. We use a Barlow lens to achieve a desired magnification. You pick a 2X if that is what gets you where you want to be. You choose a 3X barlow if that gets you where you want to be.

      It all depends on the eyepieces you have and the focal length of the scope.

      For example, the SkyScanner 100 comes with a 20 and 10 mm eyepiece set. If you plan to use those eyepieces and you get a 2X Barlow the 20, used in the Barlow is equal to the 10. You have gained nothing in terms of magnification. If you put the 20 in a 3X Barlow you now have the equivalent of a 6.7 mm, a unique focal length and a new magnification option.

      If you want to fully understand Barlow lenses, read this article.
      https://telescopicwatch.com/?s=barlow

      Reply
  4. Thanks for doing this review! You said that this telescope and the Zhumell Z100 are “basically the same product”. I like the Z100 better overall, but I really like that the SkyScanner 100 has another ¼ 20 mount point in the center of the dovetail, so I can attach it to my camera tripod. Does the Z100 have that as well? For me this is an important feature and it would be the deciding factor between the Z100 and the SkyScanner 100.

    Reply
    • They are not the same product. They are similar, but not the same. The focuser is in a different position, the mount is a bit different and they come with different eyepieces. They would compete directly against each other but they are not the same.

      I have never used a Z100 so I can’t say if it has the same mounting point options. However, there is a review here so you can read the comparison.
      https://telescopicwatch.com/zhumell-z100-telescope-review/

      Reply

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