One of the most popular telescope types for beginners is Dobsonian telescopes. It is easy to use, provides good views and is one of the best values in astronomy. One of the major problems, however, is that there are a ton of them so which one is the best Dobsonian for you? You could sit around for months comparing one to another to find the one that gives you the best bang for your buck. Continue reading and you can save yourself a ton of time and effort and get the best Dobsonian for you with almost none of the work.
Best Dobsonian for general-purpose beginners: Orion SkyQuest 8″xt8
The Orion SkyQuest Dobsonian line has been one of the best Dobsonians for beginners for many years. While it may not offer the most bells and whistles, and it may not be the least expensive, and it may not come with the best accessories, it is a serious workhorse of a telescope and is my choice for the best Dobsonian for most beginners.
What the Orion SkyQyest has in spades is reliability. This scope has been produced in the same configuration with only minor changes as they found and fixed things for years. No other dob in this roundup has been beaten on for this long by this many people, and that means something that always works. That is how they made one of the best Dobsonian telescopes ever made.
I know people who had one of these for years, then sold it to someone else who used it for years. Go talk to the people who sold theirs and they will tell you it was one of the best Dobsonians they have ever used, always ready, always capable.
Orion also has excellent technical support and parts availability. The one downside to this is that they don’t want to sell parts to someone who is not the original purchaser. While this stinks, it also isn’t really that much of a problem as there are plenty of after-market people who can supply virtually anything you may need. Besides, this is a simple scope so there just are not too many complex pieces. For some of the best Dobsonian parts and upgrades out there, check out www.scopestuff.com
Best for beginners who need portability: Sky-Watcher 8″
When you need the best Dobsonian that will fit in the back of your VW Beetle convertible, this is the telescope you want and is the best Dobsonian for portability and storage. Not only does the tube come off the mount, but it then collapses down making it even more portable. It is also the best Dobsonian to fit in the bottom of virtually any closet making it perfect for someone who lives in an apartment or just does not have much storage space.
The Sky-Watcher is a bit more expensive than the Orion xt8 but of course, it has the ability to compress down. It also has a much nicer finder and a tension clutch on the bearings, which the xt8 lacks. Overall this scope will feel nicer and has a much more refined quality to it. If you want something sensible in size but that also feels like the best Dobsonian, this is it.
The only downside is that since it is not a solid tube design, you may need to collimate it more often. It, unfortunately, does not come with a laser collimator but that is something that is easy to fix. My favorite, and what I consider the best Dobsonian laser collimator, is the Astromania Alignment Next Generation Laser Collimator which is around $25.
Best for more advanced users: Orion 12″ XT12i
Almost everyone who buys a Dobsonian as a beginner gets one without a computer. That’s fine for general observing for newcomers to the hobby. Once you have been doing this a while and want to find more and more difficult targets you may need two things; a larger aperture telescope and a computer. This is the best Dobsonian for solving those problems.
The Orion Intelliscope push to system is the best Dobsonian electronics package and bridges the gap between full manual with no computer to a full go-to system. It tells you where to push and then confirms you are on the target once you get there. Not only does that make finding objects easier, but substantially faster. Besides, one of the things that makes the best Dobsonian for you is if you will use it. Being able to find targets quickly absolutely makes some people more likely to use their telescope and therefore, makes it the best Dobsonian for them.
Another excellent use for the computer on a dob is for outreach. Set it up, align it, and take requests on what people want to see. With a 12″ aperture there is virtually nothing you can’t see, assuming it is up. This is probably the absolute best Dobsonian for outreach.
This is much like the xt8 as far as reliability and simplicity is concerned. Orion also added a much nicer finder and improved substantially on the base. Overall this the best Dobsonian for any user if it is in your budget.
Best for advanced users who need portability: Orion 12″ XX12i
This little guy is on the best Dobsonian list because it will allow you all the capabilities of the standard 12″ Intelliscope Dobsonian telescope with the added benefit of being far easier to transport, even in a small car. It also has an upgraded focuser but not quite as nice a finder when compared to the standard 12″ Intelliscope.
To really make the portability work, Orion even makes a set of padded cases, the Orion 15094 Case Set, that each piece goes into. While there are other cases for telescopes, and some for dobs, these Orion cases are the best Dobsonian cases out there. This makes it one of the best Dobsonians to carry out to the dark site.
The base on this and the standard Intelliscope are the same, making the tube the only difference. The components of the truss tube variant seem to be made of heavier gauge metal making it not only stiffer, but a lot nicer to work with. Everything seems amazingly stable.
As with most truss tube setups, you will want to make sure you get the shroud that fits it and Orion makes a specific 15097 Light Shroud for this model and it really is the best Dobsinain shroud you can get for it.
If you need portability, a reasonable price, push to capabilities, and excellent views, this is the best Dobsonian for you.
Best top of the line mass-produced: Orion 14″ XX14g
Most of the portability of the 12″ truss tube with more seeing power and a full go to computer system, this guy will provide amazing images of any target you choose to point it at and still not give you a hernia trying to get it out to the field.
If you want the best views you can get while still staying portable in a mass-produced telescope, this is the best Dobsonian for you.
One of the advantages of the 14″ over the 12″ is that the base also collapses. This makes it as easy to transport than the 12″ model, just a little different.
This telescope also has the full goto controller that they use with their EQ mounts. In my opinion, this is the absolute best Dobsonian GOTO package available from any manufacturer.
Off and on Orion, as well as other manufacturers, have produced larger models than this 14″. They did not make this list because they are not always in production or lack some of the features of the XX14g. They also tend to get exponentially harder to transport once you get over this 14″ model. Unless you drive a full-sized SUV or don’t mind putting a telescope in the back of a pickup, this is about as large as you want to go.