~$1200 - $1500 range
Explore Scientific 12" Truss Tube Dobsonian
Offering even more portability than the 12” Lightbridge Plus Dobsonian, the ES 12” Truss Dobsonian can even fit in a passenger seat!!
Orion SkyQuest XT12i Dobsonian PushTo
While possessing the same massive size as the AD12 and its rebranded variants, the XT12i features Orion’s Intelliscope system like its smaller brethren, and comes with cutouts in the base which greatly enhance portability.
Sky-Watcher 10" Collapsible Dobsonian GoTo
Featuring full GoTo and a collapsible tube, the 10” Collapsible is a great option for beginners and experienced users alike. Like most GoTo Dobsonians, the 10” Collapsible can be operated completely manually should you not want to use the GoTo system, and it can be adjusted manually without upsetting the GoTo alignment.
Orion SkyQuest XT10g Dobsonain GoTo
The XT10G is basically identical in operation to the 10” Collapsible GoTo, but of course lacks the collapsible tube - and features a dual-speed focuser, unlike the Collapsible.
Celestron NexStar Evolution 6 Schmidt-Cassegrain GoTo
The Evolution 6 features substantial improvements over the NexStar 6SE - mainly, a built-in lithium-ion battery and Wi-Fi control capability out of the box. It also has better gearing, a slightly simpler setup, and comes with two eyepieces out of the box as opposed to the 6SE’s single 25mm Plossl. However, the views are identical to those through the 6SE.
Celestron Advanced VX Series 8" Newtonian
The Advanced VX is a decent platform for learning astrophotography, but quite a complicated rig to set up and assemble and arguably overkill for visual use.
Celestron Advanced VX Series 6" Refractor GoTo
The 6” Advanced VX Refractor suffers from some chromatic aberration, and is certainly not the astrophotography-ready platform that marketing material might suggest. It’s a great choice for those who want a big refractor, though you might want to ponder what it is that’s so appealing about such a rig before purchasing.
~$1500 - $2000 range
The XX12i functions similarly to the Meade Lightbridge 12, but features Orion’s Intelliscope Push-To system like the smaller XTi scopes in Orion’s catalog.
The 8” Evolution has the same bells and whistles as the 6”, but with more aperture - and is a substantially steadier and more well-made scope than its cheaper cousin, the NexStar 8SE.
Orion Atlas 8 EQ-G Reflector GoTo
The Atlas 8 is absolutely overkill for visual astronomy, but makes for a great beginner astrophotography setup if an autoguider and coma corrector are added.
The 8” Advanced VX Schmidt-Cassegrain makes for a surprisingly portable setup, and is especially good for planetary imaging. However, the Advanced VX is simply not up to the task of supporting the 8” Schmidt-Cassegrain optical tube for deep-sky astrophotography - nor is a C8 an ideal first astrophotography scope.
Orion Sirius ED80 EQ-G Refractor GoTo
The Sirius ED80 is a great scope for astrophotography - though you could probably assemble a better rig if you shop a la carte. However, its extremely cumbersome mount and small aperture make it nearly useless for visual astronomy.
Celestron CPC 800 GPS SCT GoTo
The CPC 800 is a little less fancy than the 8” NexStar Evolution, but comes on a beefier mount and can be used for astrophotography on an equatorial wedge (sold separately).
Orion SkyView Pro 180 EQ Mak
Orion SkyQuest XX12g Dobsonian GoTo
The XX12g is identical to the XX12i, but with full GoTo as opposed to the Intelliscope system. It’s probably the most rewarding scope to use of all the ones we recommend on our list. Larger and more expensive GoTo Dobsonians exist, but we’d recommend sticking with a 12” or smaller scope to start with.
Sky-Watcher 12" Flextube Dobsonian GoTo
The 12” Flextube is a little more cumbersome than the XX12g, but considerably simpler to set up for each use - it’s best if you have a minivan or truck to transport it, however - or if you can store and roll it out of a garage.
Orion Sirius EQ-G GoTo 180mm Maksutov GoTo
7” Maksutovs are a bit of a specialty project - mainly useful for lunar and planetary viewing - but the Sirius 180mm is a great pick - not only does it have great optics, but the Sirius EQ-G mount is great for astrophotography with a smaller and shorter telescope later on.
The Advanced VX 700 is identical optically to the Sirius 180mm, but the mount is a little more beefy - at the expense of being slightly less well-suited for astrophotography with another telescope.
Orion Atlas 10 EQ-G Reflector GoTo
The Atlas 10 provides great deep-sky views and with some patience can be configured for deep-sky astrophotography. However, it is incredibly cumbersome and absolutely nightmarish to set up, arguably belonging in some sort of permanent observatory or at least stored in a way that it can be rolled outside fully assembled.
Celestron 9.25" NexStar Evolution Schmidt Cassegrain GoTo
The 9.25” NexStar Evolution is an extremely massive setup - as bulky as the 12” Dobsonians on our list. However, it’s got all of the same features as the Evolution 8 with just a bit more aperture - all perched atop a super-heavy-duty tripod.
Orion SkyView Pro 180 EQ Mak GoTo