5 Best Dobsonian Telescopes in 2021 [From 8 to 12-inch Options]

Are you considering buying a telescope? Stargazing makes for relaxing me-time, romantic night-outs, and family bonding! The first question for beginners is – which is the best telescope to buy? 

With a large range available, it can be a challenge. You need to decide on price, features, and portability. Do you want a GoTo telescope that uses computerized software to point to the objects you want? Perhaps you are considering Digital Setting Circles? Or, do you want a classic manual instrument, for a great hands-on approach? 

We have reviewed 5 Dobsonian telescopes, giving a summary of the main features. This will help you make an informed decision and bring the wonder of astronomy into your life. 

We Recommend

Best price/value ratio

Zhumell Z8
Dobsonian Telescope

Best budget option

Orion SkyQuest
Dobsonian Telescope

Best 12-inch option

Zhumell Z12
Dobsonian Telescope

What's the difference between a Newtonian and Dobsonian telescope?

In your search for a telescope, the common buzzwords you are likely to come across are Newtonian and Dobsonian. What are they and what is the difference?

Newtonian Telescopes – Sir Isaac Newton invented these telescopes in 1668. They are also known as reflecting telescopes. Before reflecting telescopes, we had refracting telescopes. This design uses lenses to collect light and focus it on a single point, which often gives blurred images. Newton used mirrors in place of the lens. The mirrors reflect the light into eyepieces, giving a much clearer image.

Dobsonian Telescopes – Named after Sir John Dobson in 1960. The stand-out feature of this telescope is the altazimuth mount. This is the main structural difference between Dobsonian and Newtonian telescope.

A few other differences 

  • Dobsonian telescopes use thinner mirrors.
  • Newtonian telescopes do not travel well. They tend to lose their alignment and then require time-consuming realignment each time.
  • Paper tubes. Dobsonian tubes are made of thick industrial compressed paper, rather than aluminum or fiberglass.
  • Large apertures at affordable costs. This is one of the prime considerations of the Dobsonian design.
  • Designed with beginners in mind. The Dobsonian vision is to bring powerful telescopes to the amateur.

Dobsonian telescope is perfect for beginners

Newtonian and Dobsonian telescopes may sound similar, and, indeed, they do share common features. However, I would wholeheartedly recommend a Dobsonian as your first telescope. With a design specifically for beginners, they are easier to set-up, use, and understand. 

Here are some of the key points

  • More aperture for your money. Large apertures usually cost more. In the Dobsonian range, you will find 8” to 12” apertures (very big!) at extremely affordable prices.
  • Simple designs. As a beginner, you don’t want to struggle to set-up your telescope. Dobsonians are easy and many are point-and-view, adding to the fun experience.
  • Large light gathering capabilities and depth of sight. These scopes collect large amounts of light and focus it on a single point. This results in images that are super sharp, crisp, and clear.
  • Altazimuth mounts. Easy to use mounts that move up and down, left and right. Perfect for beginners to work with.
  • Far more portable. The best views of the night sky are usually found away from the lights and pollution of the city. Traveling with a telescope can be a challenge. Dobsonian telescopes are designed to disassemble the tube from the base. This makes it is easy to load into a vehicle and take along on an outing. 

Dobsonian telescope price timeline

The Dobsonian telescopes for beginners that we reviewed range in price from around $250 to $900. Like most high-end gadgets, you will find cheaper and more expensive models. Buying cheap is not always a good option. But, sometimes, paying a premium may not give you value for money.

Here is a quick overview of what you can expect from the different price ranges.

$100 – $300 – This cheaper range also includes a few tabletop models, which are great for traveling and easy set-up. This range usually comes with one eyepiece. They are ideal for younger and beginner stargazers. They also make great gifts.

$300 – $500 – Dobsonian scopes in this range offer large 8” lenses, which give fabulous crisp, clear views. They provide exceptional price/value ratio. Most come with two eyepieces. At this price point, you won’t get tracking.

$500 – $700 – Spending more, you will get the benefit of larger lenses up to 10”. The focal length is also longer, offering clearer and deeper views of celestial objects.

$700 – $1000 – This range offers instruments for professionals and serious amateurs. They offer 12” parabolic mirrors and a range of additional optical accessories.

$1000 Plus – At $1000+, you are entering the professional league. These scopes offer both computerized GoTo Options and manual tracking. Unique Truss-Tube designs allow disassembly for moving to observation sites around the country.

What can you see with Dobsonian?

When we first bought a telescope, the kids were super excited to see the Moon. But, we soon realized that there is a huge world of fascinating objects out there that could be easily viewed. 

Dobsonian telescopes have a wide field of view, to give the best images of the wonderful world of celestial objects. They have large lenses that gather light and give crisp images that are not distorted. The Altazimuth mount makes it easy to set-up and point the scope to focus on any object you choose. 

We soon learned about Near Space Objects. These include the Moon, the Planets, and the Sun. The special Moon Filter that comes with some models will reduce glare and bring out more contrasting surface detail. After the Moon, we focused on Saturn. Seeing the rings sends shivers down your spine! We also saw Mars’ two satellites. 

We soon got more ambitious and progressed to Deep Space Objects, known as DSOS. These include Galaxies, Nebulae, and Star Clusters. With the help of Star Guides that come with the telescopes, we were able to pinpoint constellations and learn about their fascinating ancient mythological stories. 

How to choose the right Dobsonian telescope?

Here are some key points to consider when choosing the best Dobsonian telescope. 

Aperture. For great views, choose a telescope with an aperture of 8” or more. Dobsonians offer this large range at affordable prices. With this size, you will get clear views of Moon craters and deep sky objects. 

Focal length. The longer the focal length, the better. Look for 1200 to 1500mm as a starting point. 

Mount. Most Dobsonian telescopes come with Altazimuth mounts. These are lightweight, easy to set-up, and use. They move up and down, left and right. Telescopes with tabletop mounts are great for traveling.

Portability. If you plan on taking your stargazing out of the city, you will certainly get the benefit of clearer, less polluted skies. Your scope needs to be lightweight and compact. Scopes that can be disassembled are best. If they don’t come with a carry bag, invest in a sturdy padded bag that protects your instrument while in transit. 

Ease of set-up. Spending hours aligning your telescope is not something you want to do. Point-and-view models are simple and get you stargazing in no time. 

Extra Accessories. Extra accessories add value to your viewing experience. Different size lenses give different magnifications. Moon filters enhance the view. Finderscopes make it easy to locate your objects.

Best Dobsonian telescopes

1. Orion 8944 SkyQuest XT6 Classic Dobsonian Telescope

Out of the five, it is the best budget Dobsonian telescope, ideal for beginners

If your family cannot get enough of the galaxy and you want a more advanced, but very cost-effective telescope, this is the model to choose. 

The great feature of this scope is the large 150mm (6”) aperture coupled with a simple base that allows easy point-and-look navigation. 

Set-up is very quick and there is no need to struggle with polar alignment. Even my younger children found it easy to use.

Included in the set is a 1.25” Rack-and-pinion focuser, an EZ Finder II aiming device, a 25mm (1.25″) Sirius Plossl eyepiece, and a quick-collimation cap.

We enjoyed looking at crisp images of the moon craters. We also saw amazing views of deep-sky nebulae, galaxies, and star clusters.

Check the price of Orion SkyQuest XT6 Classic Dobsonian Telescope here

What we liked

  • Very well priced
  • Large 150mm (6”) aperture
  • Easy point-and-view
  • Assembly tools included
  • Sturdy base, won’t topple

What we didn’t like

  • A bit bulky
  • Not easily transportable

Aperture: 150mm (6”)
Focal Length: 1200mm
Motorized: No
Focuser: 25mm (1.25”) rack-and-pinion focuser
Eyepieces: 25mm (1.25″) Sirius Plossl
Weight: 20.1 pounds
Dimensions: 48.7 x 16.3 x 13.6 inches

2. SkyWatcher S11610 Traditional Dobsonian 8-Inch

The SkyWatcher S11610 is a good choice for amateurs, priced in the middle range. It comes in a stylish white color, which attracted my eye. 

The scope arrived in 2 boxes, one with the tube and one with the base. We managed to set it up fairly easily using the instruction manual. 

The telescope features a 203mm (8”) Dobsonian-style Newtonian lens. The glass is Borosilicate, which is extremely strong and shatterproof 

The package includes two eyepieces, a Super 25mm and a Super 10mm 1.25”. It has a 9×50 finderscope and a 2” single-speed Crayford with 1.25” adapter.

This model has a tension control handle, which allowed us to move the mount easily. When released, the telescope kept its position and view of the skies. Using this scope, we saw great images of the Moon and some amazing views of Saturn’s rings.

Check the price of SkyWatcher Traditional Dobsonian 8-Inch here

What we liked

  • Well priced in the middle range 
  • Large 203mm (8”) aperture
  • 2 eyepieces
  • Easy to use with a tension handle
  • Good choice for amateurs

What we didn’t like

  • Base adds an extra 20 pounds to the weight
  • Not easily transportable

Aperture: 200mm (8”)
Focal Length: 1200 mm
Motorized: No
Focuser: 2” single-speed Crayford-style Focuser
Eyepieces: 25mm and 10mm 1.25”
Weight: 27.4 pounds
Dimensions: 49 x 27 x 18 inches

3. Zhumell Z8 Deluxe Dobsonian Reflector Telescope

If you are looking for the best price/value ratio, this is the telescope to choose from. 

It features a 200mm (8”) parabolic primary mirror lens that produces crisp, bright images

It comes with two eyepieces. The first is a 30mm (2”) eyepiece for wide-field views. 

The second is a 9mm (1.25”) eyepiece, which gives higher magnification. For ease of use, it has an included Laser Collimator, which we found very useful.  

We found that the sturdy, durable construction made it fairly portable. It breaks down into two manageable pieces and we were able to take it along on a weekend away from the city lights. 

The family enjoyed viewing the Moon with the moon filter. We also enjoyed views of planets, nebulae, and deep-sky objects.

Check the price of Zhumell Z8 Deluxe Dobsonian Reflector Telescope here

What we liked

  • Great price / value ratio 
  • Large 200mm (8”) aperture
  • 2 eyepieces 30mm (2”) and 9mm (1.25”)
  • Right Angle Finderscope
  • Breaks into 2 pieces for easy transporting 

What we didn’t like

  • Higher price for beginners

Aperture: 200mm (8”)
Focal Length: 1200mm
Motorized: No
Focuser: Dual speed Crayford focuser
Eyepieces: 30mm (2”) and 9mm (1.25”)
Weight: 33 pounds
Dimensions: 19 x 19 x 51 inches

4. SkyWatcher S11620 Traditional Dobsonian 10-Inch

This 10” Dobsonian telescope offers the most aperture for your money. After being impressed by the Skywatcher 8” model, we decided to try out the bigger version. 

It also comes in white and features the very handy tension control handle. This allows you to easily change the settings which it maintains when released. 

The massive 254mm (10”) Newtonian-style aperture gave stunning views of the galaxy, deep-sky objects, planets, and stars. 

Included in the set is a 2” single-speed Crayford-style Focuser with a 1.25” adaptor. It also comes with 2 eyepieces, a 1.25″ Super 25 mm and a 10mm. 

This model is a step up from the smaller SkyWatcher 8” and makes a great buy for beginners who are becoming serious sky-watchers.

Check the price of SkyWatcher Traditional Dobsonian 10-Inch here

What we liked

  • Most aperture for your money
  • Large 254mm (10”) aperture
  • 2 eyepieces
  • Solid rocker-mount 
  • Easy to use

What we didn’t like

  • Heavier than others 
  • Not easily transportable

Aperture: 254mm (10”)
Focal Length: 1200mm
Motorized: No
Focuser: 2” single-speed Crayford-style Focuser with 1. 25” adapter
Eyepieces: 1.25″ Super 25 mm and 10 mm
Weight: 40 pounds
Dimensions: 49 x 27 x 20 inches

5. Zhumell Z12 Deluxe Dobsonian Reflector Telescope

The final Dobsonian telescope that we reviewed was the Zhumell Z12. It is step up from the Z8 and comes at a higher price. 

This model is better suited for more professional skywatchers, but we enjoyed it just as much. 

It features a 305mm (12”) parabolic lens that captures large amounts of light and produces bright and clear images. 

There are two eyepieces. The first is a 30mm (2”) eyepiece for wide-field views. The second is a 9mm (1. 25”) eyepiece for higher magnification.

This model offers precise focusing with a dual-speed Crayford focuser. It has an adjustable balancing and an included laser collimator. 

We especially enjoyed the moon filter, which gave exquisite views. If you want to invest in a lifetime telescope, this is the model of choice.

Check the price of Zhumell Z12 Deluxe Dobsonian Reflector Telescope here

What we liked

  • Very large  305mm (12”) parabolic lens
  • Clear, crisp views
  • 2 eyepieces 30mm (2”) and 9mm (1.25”)
  • Right Angle Finderscope
  • Included laser collimator

What we didn’t like

  • Higher pricepoint
  • Not motorized

Aperture: 305mm (12”)
Focal Length: 1500mm
Motorized: No
Focuser: Dual speed Crayford focuser
Eyepieces: 30mm (2”) and 9mm (1. 25”)
Weight: 50.7 pounds
Dimensions: 26 x 26 x 64 inches

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