Is it possible that the Orion Astroview 90mm EQ Refractor could be a better beginner telescope than the always recommended 8″ Dobsonian? That depends largely on who you ask, and who the beginner is. Let me explain.
First, I want to talk about the telescope itself. Orion Telescope has been making the Orion Astroview 90mm, or a version of it, since at least the 1990s. I know this because I own an old version, the Skyview 90mm. It was the same basic scope with a beefier mount. It was an accidental acquisition, but a happy one. That 90mm has turned out to be my favorite grab-and-go scope of all time.
Why is it important how long the Orion Astroview 90mm has been made? Because that gives them time to refine it, improve it, fix any faults. In addition, if you have had production of a product for over 30 years, that speaks volumes to its desirability. Want proof? Try to find one in stock during the holiday season, I dare you.
It also means that given how long the Orion Astroview has been in production, you can find a ton of 90mm refractor telescope reviews about it.
So why is the Orion Astroview 90mm so popular now, and for so long? Because it is the perfect combination of quality, ease of use, and giving excellent views. Let’s look at each of these things and get a better understanding.
When you unbox the Orion Astroview 90mm the first thing you will note is that it is metal. There is very little plastic in the box. Not just the tube, tripod, finder holder, mount, eyepieces, tube rings, focuser, and eyepiece tray, but a lot of the connecting stuff too.
So who cares if the Orion Astroview 90mm is metal? You do! As a general rule metal construction means it will last longer and provide more stability. Lasting longer means you can amortize your purchase over a longer period of time making it cost less per year of ownership. More stability means sharper views (you don’t like fuzzy and blurry views, do you?).
Everything on the Orion Astroview 90mm has good clearances, fits tight, and is easy to adjust. Knobs are the right size to make use easy and are right where they should be.
Want to swap out the viewfinder scope? Loosen one thumbscrew and slide it out of the standard vixen style dovetail then slide in a different one. Easy as pie and solidly connected.
The focuser on the Orion Astroview 90mm is, of course, metal. Yes, there are plastic knobs, but the bulk of it is a nice chunk of metal. This added rigidity means you can easily put a nicer diagonal and the largest 1.25″ eyepiece you can find in it and it will remain rock solid. In addition to its material, it is also very well made. Racking the focuser in and out is smooth and as precise as you could want in a beginner scope. It goes where you want it to go, and stays there when you let go.
Looking down, the mount might look small, and it is, but it too is all metal allowing for it to be remarkably strong and stable for its size. While no match for an EQ3/CG4 or equivalent mount, it does an excellent job with the Orion Astroview 90mm it comes with.
The same holds true with the metal legs bundled with the Orion Astroview 90mm. Not near as nice as the 1.25″ or 2″ tubular steel you find on the EQ3/CG4 mounts, but more than sufficient to provide excellent stability. This is particularly true if you resist the urge to fully extend the legs.
The Orion Astroview 90mm features an excellent objective lens for its price, providing remarkably high contrast views. Yes, there is some chromatic aberration that displays a colored glow around bright objects such as bright stars, planets, and the moon. It is not that bad and has little to no effect on your viewing of the detail of the moon and certainly no effect on nebulae or clusters.
This chromatic aberration is not unique to the Orion Astroview 90mm, but all refractors without serious correction (read that as serious expense). Just like reflectors have their drawbacks (coma, diffraction spikes, astigmatism), so do refractors.
The eyepieces that come with the Orion Astroview 90mm are very impressive for the money. No, they are not Televue Ethos eyepieces, just Orion Sirius Plossls. But for the money in a beginner kit, they are quite good. Far better than the ones you normally get in kits.
When you couple the Orion Astroview 90mm’s excellent objective lens with these eyepieces, you get crisp, high-contrast views that rival scopes costing much more money. I like that!
Ease Of Use
Sure, a telescope can be made like a Swiss watch and provide views like the Hubble, but if it is a pain in the rear to use, who is going to use it? Fortunately, that isn’t the case with the Orion Astroview 90mm. About the only thing easier is a pair of binoculars.
Seriously though, assembly and use are very easy with excellent instructions, in English, in a full-size booklet. The Orion Astroview 90 eq manual has all the information you need without a ton of ads or other junk you see in other manuals.
Like all refractors, you point the Orion Astroview 90mm’s big end at the thing you want to look at and put your eye on the eyepiece on the little end. OK, I am being a little over-simplistic but it almost is that easy.
Cooldown is fast with this Orion 90mm telescope, way faster than my reflectors. This means I can take it out and start viewing very fast. No fans are needed here.
The whole thing comes apart into three pieces for travel; the tube, the mount, and the legs. Putting these three things together or taking them apart is fast and easy. Each piece is fairly light and easy to store with the mount and its counter-weight being the heaviest. I usually throw the mount and weight in the floorboard with the tube and legs in the rear seat, if I disconnect the legs from the mount at all (which I rarely do). This makes the Orion Astroview 90mm extremely portable.
You can even get the Orion Astroview 90mm eq refractor telescope kit which includes a few filters (the moon filter is handy), a nice moon map, and an excellent little planisphere. It used to come with their DeepMap 600 which I dearly love. It is still worth purchasing separately if you ask me.
Compared to an 8″ Dobsonian
Now that you know more about the Orion Astroview 90mm, how does it stand up to the classic 8″ Dobsonian that everyone else seems to recommend? Let me run through the reasons I think it is a better choice for many people:
- Faster cool down – It can take 30 minutes to 2 hours for an 8″ dob to cool, this thing is ready to roll in ten minutes.
- Easier transport – Drive a MINI Cooper or other small car? Heck, I have carried my Orion Astroview 90mm on a motorcycle! Try that with an 8″ dob.
- Easier to handle – If you are small, ill, disabled, or old, the weight and size of the dob can be just too much. The Orion Astroview 90mm is lighter and designed to be easily and quickly broken down into much smaller and lighter pieces.
- Faster setup – Two thumbscrews and the scope is off, throw the two pieces in my car and I am gone.
- No maintainence – Collimation? I don’t need no stinkin collimation!
- No expensive eyepieces required – Fast dobs often require much more expensive eyepieces to give reasonable views due to their fast focal ratios. The Orion Astroview 90mm is F/10, cheap Plossls will work great!
- Easier object sighting – Point the big end……. seriously, forget the viewfinder, sight right down the tube. It doesn’t get any easier than that.
- Better views (to a point) – Higher contrast, no coma, diffraction spikes, or astigmatism (usually).
Does that mean the Orion Astroview 90mm is a better scope for every beginner? Absolutely not. There is no perfect telescope for everyone at any skill level. But I firmly believe it is a better beginner scope for some people.
The dob will collect more light than the Orion Astroview 90mm so if you are going for really faint nebulae it might be a better choice. Honestly though, that only holds true if you have pretty dark skies and the majority of beginners start out in their back yard or local park with horrible sky conditions.