Orion’s SkyView Pro 8” GoTo Reflector promises to deliver a complete all-in-one setup ideal for visual use and astrophotography in one package. However, the end result is an undermounted scope which is uncomfortable to use, not the most stable, not ideal for planetary astrophotography, and really incapable of deep-sky astrophotography. The SkyView Pro mount is a nice mount and the 8” f/5 optical tube is okay, but they are not a good combination.
If you’re looking at the manual version of the SkyView Pro 8, all of my comments here regarding the optics and mechanics still apply.
The Optical Tube Of Skyview Pro 8
The SkyView Pro 8’s optical tube is an 8” f/4.9 Newtonian. For some reason, every one of these Chinese-made 8” f/5 Newtonians I’ve looked through has been either mediocre or poor optically. They almost have undercorrection (resulting in spherical aberration) and sometimes turned-down edge (resulting in even more spherical aberration as well as other issues contributing to softness of the image). Other users have suffered from these issues, but there are also a lot of reports of very good ones.
The focuser on the SkyView Pro 8 is a single-speed Crayford unit. It works adequately, but if you had serious plans for astro-imaging a dual-speed would probably be better.
The SkyView Pro 8’s finder is an 8×40 straight-through – not a great size for actually using to find sky objects, and overkill for aligning the GoTo system. The finder is also frequently uncomfortable to look through due to its orientation.
The scope also includes two eyepieces: 25mm & 10mm Sirius Plossls giving 40x and 100x respectively. While decent, you would probably benefit from a 2” wide-angle eyepiece of some kind to get the optimal wide-field views this scope can achieve.
The SkyView Pro GoTo Mount
The SkyView Pro is one of the only astronomical mounts on the market – well, at least affordable ones – that can be bought completely manual and upgraded to GoTo over its lifetime. You can buy the mount either by itself or bundled with the scope as a completely manual unit, and then install dual-axis drives and a hand controller later. This is a nice attribute and great for the budget-conscious observer.
Unfortunately, the SkyView Pro really isn’t meant to hold the telescope Orion has chosen to bundle with it. The SkyView Pro is basically a copy of Sky-Watcher’s EQ3M-35 mount. While Sky-Watcher actually boasts a higher payload capacity of 22 pounds with their mount compared to the SkyView Pro’s already-optimistic 20 pounds, they also correctly bill it as capable of holding only a small scope such as a 4” refractor or 5” Maksutov-Cassegrain – either of which is much lighter than the 8” f/4.9 OTA Orion packages with the SkyView Pro.
The Orion 8” f/4.9 OTA, bare, not even including the tube rings, is 16.5 pounds. The tube rings and dovetail bar add at least another pound, the finder is close to a pound, and a typical 2” low-power eyepiece or an advanced 1.25” eyepiece might be a pound. So right there, we’re just 0.5 pounds short of the mount’s maximum capacity and all we’ve done is put a heavier eyepiece in the focuser. If you use a DSLR camera, piggyback a guidescope, or even just use an especially heavy eyepiece, the mount is over its weight capacity. And 20 pounds is really a theoretical limit in the first place.
Next, there’s the problem of balance. Contrary to what Orion depicts in its marketing and photos, balancing the SkyView Pro 8” requires putting the counterweights at basically the very bottom of the shaft and even then it is still heavy on the scope side – which while usable, is not great for the mount gears and can result in accidentally banging the scope into the mount if you loosen the clutches too much. You could solve this with a counterweight bar extension (hard to find) or adding another counterweight, but either requires an additional purchase and will result in even more strain on the mount.
One is faced with a bit of a problem when using any equatorially-mounted Newtonian reflector for visual use – the placement of the eyepiece and finder. Quite frequently, the eyepiece may end up in a position requiring crouching under or behind the telescope to reach, and the finder may be totally inaccessible.
You can loosen the tube rings to rotate the OTA and solve this problem, but this easily results in losing balance and moving the scope accidentally (which can ruin GoTo alignment). To solve the former problem you can fabricate some Wilcox Rings, but those take some time and a minor expense to make and still don’t solve the accidental movement issue.
As I’ve said before, you can basically discount all astrophotography besides smartphone Moon shots with the SkyView Pro 8”. The mediocre/average optics makes planetary imaging iffy at best even if you can solve the stability issues, and deep-sky astrophotography is straining the mount so severely that even the Orion Nebula may be hard to capture well. Oddly enough the mount does have an autoguider port, but a guide scope and autoguider, like almost any accessory, will probably result in a configuration that is impossible to balance and shakes too much – not to mention the massive strain on the mount’s gears.
If Orion billed this scope as visual-only and warned that the provided telescope is maxing out the mount, I would not be as disappointed. If Orion packaged this mount with a 6” OTA and advertised it as capable of some astrophotography I’d be happy. And if the SkyView Pro were sold with a small refractor or a 5” Newtonian OTA and billed as an imaging package, I’d solidly recommend it if the price were good. Unfortunately, none of these are the case and what you’re left with is an uncomfortable scope with iffy optics that looks like it’s going to break its mount, and Orion bills the thing as capable of astrophotography!