Orion SkyQuest XT10 Review: Hoped for Better
Orion XT10 provides spectacular images by gathering a ridiculous amount of light, but its doesn’t feel well-though-out.
Orion SkyQuest XT10 is the lowest-priced of the 10″ Dobs, but to achieve that it sacrifices high-quality accessories and materials.
The problem with the XT10 is that out of the box, you won’t feel the potential of the telescope. The eyepiece is below-average, the finder is plastic, and the base is cheap Nylon. All these parts are budget choices, implemented by Orion to drive the price down.
XT10 is budget power.
Improving these parts will cost you money, time, and effort.
If you can’t stretch your budget any higher, get the XT10. You can do the necessary upgrades in time.
If you can stretch your budget, you should get the Z10. The upgrades that come with that model are more than worth it.
2″ Crayford Focuser
The optical performance of the XT10 is the best part of the package. The optics are the only part of a telescope you can’t upgrade later. It is a smart choice to channel most of the cost towards the optics.
You can’t go wrong with a 10″.
The 253mm primary mirror, combined with the 12000mm optical tube, provides an f/4.7 focal ratio. The optical design leans towards deep space performance, but the 253mm primary mirror is superb for planetary detail as well.
As I’ve mentioned before, you won’t get the maximum these optics can offer with the given 25mm eyepiece. To be fair to the XT10, I will write the optics section assuming a decent, 2″, wide-field eyepiece and a decent, Goldline eyepiece for planets.
Out of the box, expect half of the performance I will talk about below.
The Moon – Orion SkyQuest XT10
Planetary and Lunar Performance
Although the focal ratio is not ideal for planetary detail, the 253mm aperture is so wide the amount of detail you can gather from the Solar System is mesmerizing.
Jupiter’s many stripes, The Great Red Spot, its 4 Galilean Moon’s are all easily visible with phenomenal color accuracy.
Rings of Saturn, The Cassini Divison, its many moons and its largest moon Titan are visible with noticeable color.
Mars will show its surface with black and white stains covering it. A couple of its moons may be visible on ideal conditions.
Phases of Venus are easy to observe with some faint, yellowish color.
Neptune and Uranus will appear as blueish dots, with Triton orbiting Neptune.
Mercury and Pluto are hard to observe with any telescope. They will appear as tiny dots most of the time, or they won’t be observable at all.
The Moon will show a ridiculous amount of craters and mountain ranges, with on-point color accuracy.
Overall the planetary performance is top-notch. As long as you are gathering light with a 253mm-wide tube, it is hard to screw up planetary performance.
There is one thing I have to mention in this section. Don’t get a Barlow Lens for planetary detail. It will ruin the images by adding an additional layer. A specialized eyepiece is a much better choice.
Deep Space Performance
Deep space performance is even better than the planetary performance due to the low focal ratio and the 2″ focuser. The images are wide, bright, and sharp.
Around 80-90% of the Messier Catalog is within reach for the XT10. Popular objects such as the Andromeda, Orion, Pleiades, Hercules are crystal clear with a bunch of detail.
There is not much to say in this section. I could describe a few of the Messier Objects I’ve observed and how they looked, but that won’t help with anything. The thing you have to know is there is nothing better than a 10″ Dob with an f/4.7 focal ratio to observe the deep space. XT10 is a light bucket.
Just don’t forget to get a 2″, wide-field eyepiece. It will double the image quality and feel much better in hand.
The mount is disappointing for two reasons: the springs hanging from the sides of the optical tube and the cheap Nylon pads. Other than that, it is the usual, particleboard, Dobsonian mount.
The Nylon pads are a screw-up. They shouldn’t have been included with the XT6, XT8, or XT10. Especially with the XT10, since its optical tube and base is much heavier. I would have expected Teflon with this telescope. Disappointing.
The springs that hang out from the sides work properly. They provide additional friction for balance. They are not adjustable, and at this price range, most astronomers would expect adjustable springs.
The springs are lazy engineering.
The base is heavy due to the particleboard material, but it is the same case with all other 10″ Dobs.
Overall the base pulls the whole package down. It is a hard-to-upgrade part of the telescope, and for most people, it is a deal-breaker. Orion should have paid more attention to the base.
The accessories aren’t that bright either, but they are easily upgradable.
The 25mm Plössl eyepiece that comes with the telescope is below-average at this level. It will provide decent, wide-field images. You have to get a Godline and a 30mm-2″ eyepiece to get close to the potential of XT10.
The red dot finder is plastic but usable. It is not a horrible finder, but it is hard-to-use with a Dobsonian. You bend down every time you look through it, and your back won’t thank you for that.
2″ Crayford Focuser
The 2″ Crayford Focuser is the only accessory that will stand years of use. It has fine-tuning and will work well with more expensive eyepieces that you will most possibly acquire later.
There is a collimation cap included. It is a cheap choice compared to the Laser Collimator that comes with the Z10.
At this point, it is probably clear to you that XT10 doesn’t come well-equipped. This is all done to drive the price down.
The accessories are all below-average choices except the 2″ Focuser.
The Nylon bearings are a cheap choice.
The tensioner-springs are not adjustable.
The XT10 shouldn’t be your first choice, as the Z10 has a much better build-quality and set of accessories. Aside from the optics, it is vastly better.
But, if you can’t stretch your budget for the time being, and you want a 10″ Dob, XT10 is the best choice. It is the cheapest 10″ Dobsonian. In time you can upgrade all the cheap parts, but it will cost you more since you will purchase all the accessories separately.
XT10 is a decent choice for people who seek power and are on a tight budget.