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Zhumell Z10 Dobsonian Review – Editor’s Choice

The Zhumell Z10 is one of the best telescopes around, particularly in its price range and for beginners. We highly recommend it, even though it’s a bit expensive.

Over time, the general recommendation for a good beginner telescope has escalated from 4” in the 1960s, to 6” in the 1970s, to 8” until relatively recently and it has now arrived at 10” due to a combination of lower prices, higher light pollution and advances in telescope design. A 10” Dobsonian truthfully isn’t much less different to handle than an 8” or even a 6”; everything just progressively gets fatter and a bit heavier. Yes, a 10-incher is harder on eyepieces and your wallet, but it’ll show you more and it’ll stave off your desire to upgrade to a truly monstrous instrument for at least a little longer. 

The Zhumell Z10 is the best 10” Dobsonian available to consumers and one of the best beginner telescopes available period, with good optics, an easy-to-use mount, and a nice portfolio of accessories included to get you started with. It’s not perfect, but no telescope is. 

If the Z10 is not available in your region, the Apertura AD10, Orion Skyline 10”, Omegon 10” ProDob, GSO 10” Deluxe, and Bintel 10” Dobsonian are all essentially the same telescope and thus our comments apply to them as well.

How It Stacks Up

Ranked #2 of 21 ~$800 telescopes

Rank 1
4.8
Rank 3

Orion Skyline 10″ Dobsonian

4.7
Rank 2
Zhumell Z10
4.8
What We Like

  • Great value
  • Great optics
  • Very good accessories
  • Good balance between aperture/portability


What We Don't Like

  • Finderscope can be confusing for beginners
  • Unusual bearings
  • Poorly made laser collimator
  • Starting to get a bit bulky


Bottom Line
TelescopicWatch Editor's Choice

The Zhumell Z10 is a fabulous beginner telescope. However, you’ll still want to do some additional shopping to get the most out of it as with any telescope. If it seems too bulky for you, consider downsizing to the 8” version. 

For purchasing this telescope, we highly recommend HighPointScientific, the largest telescope retailer in the United States. Their knowledge of the subject, combined with features like a price match promise, free lifetime tech support, a 30-day return policy, and financing choices, makes them a great pick.

The Optical Tube

The BK7, or soda-lime plate glass, used in the Z10 is similar to what is found in many mass-produced telescopes. You’ll need to let the telescope sit if there’s an extreme difference between the outside temperature and where you’ve stored it, and that’s where the included battery-powered fan comes in. The fan significantly accelerates cooldown time (though it doesn’t eliminate it)-but make sure to turn it off before you actually start observing so that the vibrations don’t disturb the telescope!

The Z10 is easy to collimate-the secondary rarely needs adjustment but does require tools, while the primary is on a simple spring-loaded mirror cell. However, you may want to remove the included “locking bolts” because they aren’t necessary and may even crack the mirror should the telescope take a fall. Some users have re-used the threaded holes where the lock bolts go to mount rubber feet so the telescope tube can be easily stood up on its end during setup or for storage purposes.

It’s a small detail, but the included plastic front cap for the Z10 can get stuck sometimes and is difficult to remove. A drill or hole punch and a $2 drawer pull knob from the hardware store will fix this problem. 

The included 2” Crayford focuser on the Z10 is the same GSO dual-speed Crayford provided with a variety of Dobsonians, imaging Newtonians, Cassegrains, and Ritchey-Chretien instruments. It works by rolling the focuser draw tube against a set of 4 rollers and a piece of Teflon (PTFE) plastic, with no gears or teeth beside those in the 10:1 reduction knob, which you use for fine focusing. The focuser has a compression ring to grab your eyepieces without scratching them, and it includes a 1.25” adapter with filter threads and a compression ring as well.

The optical tube of the Z10 fits across the back of most vehicles, and is actually shorter than that of some 8” Dobsonians. Contrary to what some believe, there’s no need to buy a case or a carry bag-if you’re concerned about marring the tube, just wrap it in a blanket or towel. At 33 pounds (15 kg) overall, most people shouldn’t have too much trouble moving the tube, though its size and smooth metal surface can make it somewhat awkward. Some people buy or make lifting straps or add additional handles to make life easier.

Accessories

The Zhumell Z10 includes a 9x50mm right angle correct-image finder scope, a laser collimator, a cheap 1.25” “Moon filter”, and two eyepieces: a 2”, 30mm focal length “SuperView” (42x) and a 1.25” 9mm Plossl (139x).

The well-made 9×50 finder works fantastically as designed, and it will show many fainter stars than your naked eye can detect, along with many of the brightest deep-sky objects, even when under rather light-polluted viewing conditions. However, using it can be difficult for beginners, and the crosshairs are somewhat difficult to see in the dark. Sighting along the tube and then looking through the finder to locate your target, while also not massively overshooting it, takes a bit of practice. A zero-power red dot finder or reflex sight such as the Telrad might be easier to use, but it is also complemented well by the 9×50, so there’s no reason to not just use both if you can afford the purchase.

The laser collimator included with the Z10 is advertised as being easier to use than a standard collimation cap or Cheshire, and is also supposedly some of the “value” of the package. In fact, it’s a generic, cheap device that can be purchased separately for less than $30. Furthermore, the quality of this laser is quite low-the dimmer settings barely work, it’s not that accurate to begin with, and most of the time the laser itself is out of square with the body, which means it will never give you an accurate read on whether or not you’re collimated and will probably make things worse. Without hours of tweaking, it’s better left unused. A collimation cap can be made for practically nothing, and there’s always the star test – check out our collimation guide.

The included 30mm SuperView, which provides 42x with the Z10, is a pretty good low-power eyepiece. You might notice that stars toward the edge are less-than-sharp and look like seagulls or crosses; this is partly an issue with how the SuperView design (basically a modified Erfle, a design invented in the 1930s) works in a fast telescope, and partly the coma inherent in a fast instrument with any eyepiece or accessory. However, it’s definitely an improvement compared to the typical 25mm Plossl or Kellner, which many beginner telescopes include, and which tend to be pretty mediocre in an f/5 telescope, in addition to providing a rather cramped field of view for low-power sweeping.

The Z10’s included 9mm Plossl, which provides 139x, has rather little eye relief and requires practically jamming your eye into it to take in the full apparent field of view – which itself is rather narrow, at a bit less than 50 degrees. Thankfully, it’s quite sharp, and 139x will show you quite a lot of detail on the Moon and planets, as well as being a good general medium-high power for small deep-sky objects and double stars, – though it’s hardly pushing the limits of the telescope, especially on a good night of steady seeing.

The included 1.25” “Moon filter” is not only almost completely unnecessary and, of course, not usable with the low-power eyepiece, which it would theoretically be best with, but it’s extremely low in quality, tinting the view green and adding a bit of fuzziness to boot. You’re best off discarding it.

Mount

For azimuth or side-to-side motion, the Zhumell/GSO Dobsonians use roller bearings—essentially a “lazy Susan” with over a dozen tiny plastic rollers pushing between the ground board and the bottom of the rocker box. This is cheap, smooth, and works well, but many users find it too loose and easily spun—particularly a problem when using it in windy conditions, with children, or for public events. Tightening the center bolt tends to lead to the opposite problem-the motions are too stiff. Thankfully, replacing the lazy Susan with PTFE (Teflon) pads like an ordinary Dobsonian uses can be done cheaply, and some companies even sell kits for it.

The Z10’s altitude bearings, which allow it to pivot up and down, are ball bearings with clutches to adjust their tightness/friction for optimal smoothness – and to lock them up should you be adding/removing a particularly heavy accessory. You can shift the bearings back and forth with a hex key along a track attached to the tube to adjust for the center of gravity with different accessories, though it’s best done ahead of time indoors as adjustment in the field is a huge pain. 

As with all mass-manufactured Dobsonians, the Z10’s base, which is made out of particle board, comes packed flat and can be assembled with the included tools and screws in just a few minutes, no differently from the flat-pack furniture sold at a big box store. You’ll almost certainly wind up damaging the base over time, and it will be lucky to last more than 10 years before it breaks or succumbs to moisture damage, but by that point, you can go ahead and make a replacement out of plywood, which will be lighter, stronger, and more durable to boot.

Weighing 29 lbs (13 kg), the solid particle board base of the Z10 shouldn’t be that heavy, but it feels much worse to lug around despite the built-in handles thanks to its density and awkwardness. Replacing it with a homemade square plywood base reduces both these problems, but you can also just throw the base or the whole scope on a hand truck or dolly to cart it around if the bulk intimidates you.

Should I buy a Used Zhumell Z10?

A used Z10 is a great scope, and there’s not a ton that can go wrong beside wear to the mirror coatings or damage to the base. Both of these are fixable issues, however. Mirrors that look ugly probably just need cleaning, and if the coatings are truly damaged, they can be recoated for a few hundred dollars at worst – and a well maintained coating may last a lifetime. A damaged or outright missing base is easier to remedy with just a jig saw and some plywood, costing less than $50 and with a lighter weight to boot – plus, if you spend time on it you can make it look quite pretty. 

A dented optical tube is a non-issue; most dents on these scopes (which are somewhat inevitable if you use them regularly anyway) do not get into the light path of the optics and can thus be completely ignored.

Alternative Recommendations

The Z10 is easily one of the best telescopes available in its price range, or for beginners in general. If you can’t get one due to availability or your geographic location, as we’ve mentioned previously, the Apertura AD10, Orion Skyline 10”, Omegon 10” ProDob, GSO 10” Deluxe, and Bintel 10” Dobsonian are all similar or identical to the Z10. These telescopes are all made by GSO and tend to have the same features with minor variations in the mounting and accessories.

  • The Explore Scientific 10” Truss Tube is significantly more compact than the Z10 but comes with abysmal accessories and really needs some tinkering out of the box to perform well. If portability is a key concern, this is the ticket, but be prepared to shell out an extra few hundred bucks at a minimum.
  • The Sky-Watcher 10” Collapsible has similar optics to the Z10 but lacks the dual-speed focuser, and its finder is a straight-through unit that’s more uncomfortable to use, if perhaps easier than the Z10’s RACI. The main feature of this telescope, the collapsible tube, is either a pro or a con depending on who you ask, though it doesn’t save on weight, and the bulky base is arguably a bigger problem for transportation anyway.
  • The Orion XT8i is a little smaller than the Z10 and its brethren, but includes Orion’s IntelliScope digital object locator, which makes locating deep-sky objects a lot easier- though they’ll, of course, be harder to see with its lesser aperture. 

Aftermarket Accessory Recommendations

The Z10’s included 30mm and 9mm eyepieces are enough to get you started, but at the minimum, you’ll want something else for higher magnification.  The 6mm “goldline” or “redline” sold by a variety of manufacturers such as SVBONY is low in cost and quite popular, and will provide 208x with the Z10. For a bit more power, a 4mm Astromania will provide 312x, which will quite often be the limit under typical seeing conditions-plus, tracking by hand at higher power with anything other than a super wide angle eyepiece can be a pain. The Z10 is an expensive scope, and expensive eyepieces are great, but these two low-cost picks are just fine. 

If you’re satisfied with your eyepiece collection at the higher magnification range, the next step would be something for medium power – a single eyepiece between 12 mm and 18mm, or both 12mm and 8mm eyepieces will work. A 15mm gold-line eyepiece exists, but performs poorly with the steep f/5 light cone of the Z10. Our favorite is the 15mm Agena Starguider – it’s comfortable to use, sharp, and the 60 degree apparent field at least doesn’t feel like a soda straw.

A coma corrector would be a lovely accessory, but the budget coma correctors from a variety of manufacturers (often just rebrands of the GSO unit) are really not designed with visual astronomy in mind and often have ridiculous spacing requirements or reduce the overall sharpness of the view. A Tele-Vue Paracorr or the Explore Scientific HRCC is best; either will be expensive, and due to their high quality, they tend to rarely show up on the used market.

Another great accessory choice is a nebula filter, specifically an ultra-high-contrast filter (some people swear by an oxygen-III filter in addition to a UHC, but this is expensive and really only a necessity for advanced observers). A UHC filter doesn’t remove light pollution altogether, and won’t work on stars or galaxies, but for most nebulae it greatly blackens the sky background and increases the contrast by only letting through a handful of spectral lines of light – the same spectra produced by the ionized gasses in nebulae. Even under dark skies, this contrast enhancement is helpful. We recommend the Orion UltraBlock 2” UHC filter for this purpose – with 1.25” eyepieces, you can just screw the UltraBlock onto the Z10’s 2” to 1.25” adapter thanks to its built-in filter threads. 

Lastly, as we’ve mentioned, you’ll almost certainly want a zero-power red dot finder or reflex sight, which projects a dot or bullseye much like a gun sight in front of your naked-eye view of the sky. The two leaders in this department are the Telrad and Rigel Quikfinder. The Telrad is a big empty box that runs off AA batteries, while the Rigel Quikfinder is lighter, less prone to dew, and takes up less space on the tube, at the expense of requiring uncommon CR2032 batteries and suffering from the reticle drifting when you move your head, reducing its accuracy. Either one attaches to your tube with no drilling with the included sticky tape, though drilling a hole and adding screws is a more secure mounting option if you’re comfortable with doing it.

What can you see?

The Zhumell Z10 is an extremely capable instrument thanks to its large aperture and high-quality optics. Contrary to popular belief, big Dobsonians’ “light bucket” status doesn’t just help on deep-sky objects, but also enables greater resolution on small targets such as the planets and details on the Moon – though a telescope larger than 12-14” rarely gets to flex the full resolution capabilities it can truly offer due to the limits of atmospheric conditions most of the time. 

With regards to Solar System targets, you’ll be able to see Mercury and Venus’ phases, but little else of them. Mercury is rarely able to be viewed when it’s high in the sky and has few high-contrast features, while Venus’ cloud deck obscures its near-molten surface – though some observers can see striations and dark markings in the clouds on some occasions. The Moon shows details less than a mile wide (no, you can’t see the Apollo landing sites) – you’ll struggle to even count how many craterlets you can see in regions like Clavius. Mars shows an ice cap or two, and if there’s a global dust storm, you’ll see it. Under optimal conditions when Mars is at its closest to Earth, you can actually spot dozens of dark markings or even Olympus Mons with a skilled eye and steady air, but most of the time only a few are visible. Mars’ moons can also be seen if you can block out the planet’s glare from the field of view; Deimos is moderately challenging, but few people ever get to see Phobos.

Jupiter’s cloud belts are an easy catch with the Z10, and its moons are obviously tiny disks, though seeing details on any of them is really a job for a bigger instrument. Shadow transits of the moons across the face of Jupiter occur regularly, and the Great Red Spot is also no challenge to see. Saturn’s rings are similarly easy to spot, as is the Cassini Division within them and some faint cloud bands on the planet itself. Around a half dozen of Saturn’s moons are visible with the Z10, with Titan having a visibly gold disk. On a really good night, the much more challenging Encke gap in Saturn’s rings can also be seen. The Z10 will show you 3 or 4 of Uranus’ moons if you’re lucky, while both of the ice giants are bluish, featureless dots. Neptune’s moon Triton can be faintly seen, and Pluto is at least theoretically possible to spot if you can distinguish it from the hundreds of similarly dim stars littering its current location in the constellation Sagittarius. Ceres and Vesta, the two largest asteroids, are visibly not star-like points on a good night, and you might even be able to tell that Vesta is not round and appears a gold-yellow color.

The visibility of targets outside the Solar System – what are known as deep-sky objects – strongly depends on your light pollution conditions. Galaxies in particular are affected severely – at a dark sky site with the Milky Way clearly visible overhead, the Z10 will show you details of thousands of galaxies and the beautiful spiral arms of several dozen of them, while under a city sky, only the brightest galaxies can be seen as pale, dim shadows of their former selves, with little to no detail visible beside the occasional dust lane or elongated ovoid shape. 

Emission nebulae like Orion (M42) or the Lagoon (M8) look fantastic with the Z10, especially under dark skies and/or with a filter, but they are beautiful nonetheless. Dozens of colorful blue and green planetary nebulae can also be seen, as can larger (albeit less vivid) ones like M27, the Dumbbell, and M57, the Ring. The Z10 is also big enough to resolve several dozen globular clusters, including most of the ones in the Messier catalog, and you can, of course, spot thousands of beautiful open star clusters, ranging from the gigantic Pleiades, with its faint glimmer of reflective dust visible under dark and clear skies, to small and obscure open clusters from the NGC or IC catalogs that may be embedded within larger targets. Plus, there are always double stars, of which tens of thousands are resolvable and many of which tend to have interesting colors.

Aperture:10 " (254mm)
Optical Design:Newtonian Reflector
Mount Design:Wooden Alt-Azimuth
Focal Length:1250mm
Focal Ratio:f/5
Focuser:2" Dual Speed Crayford
Total Assembled Weight60 lbs
Warranty:2 year Zhumell

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