Orion SkyQuest XT8 offers awesome optical quality, but the accessories are disappointing. Naturally, this is reflected in its price, as it is cheaper than most 8″ Dobsonians. But a telescope should provide something close its full potential out of the box, and the SkyQuest XT8 doesn’t offer that.
What is the point in a low price tag if it is going to be increased by extra purchases?
The problem is the lack of high-quality accessories.
The finder in this picture is a 90-degree 9×50, not an EZ II Red Dot Finder.
I have nothing bad to say about SkyQuest XT8’s optics, as they are nothing short of the best they can be. The primary mirror is an 8″ parabolic, and the reflectivity of the main mirror is top-notch.
The primary mirror is top-notch.
Of course, the smallest increase in aperture would make a huge difference. A 10″ Dobsonian would collect %56 more light, therefore the images it provides would be %56 better. It is almost the same difference between a 480p video and a 720p video.
XT8 is an all-rounder.
The f/6 focal ratio provides all-round performance. It doesn’t lean towards planetary detail or deep space. F/6 is actually quite ideal for beginners, as they will have the chance to experience both fields.
Planetary and Lunar Performance
In terms of planetary detail, SkyQuest XT8 is able to provide some detail from Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. You will be able to see Rings of Saturn, Galilean Moon’s of Jupiter, The Great Red Spot, Polar Ice Caps on Mars with some surface detail on ideal conditions. Phases of Venus are possible to observe, and Uranus and Neptune will appear blueish dots. You can get some idea about what you would see with the XT8 with our simulator. Just turn the settings to 200mm. In real life, images would look slightly better, and with a high-quality eyepiece, even better.
Moon with the XT8. The image will look much better in real life.
Deep Space Performance
Deep space performance is pretty good as well, and this is mostly due to the 2″ focuser. You can get a mesmerizing amount of detail from the Pleiades, Orion, Andromeda, and many more Messier objects with a wide field-view.
But here is the problem. With the 1.25″ eyepiece the comes with Orion XT8, you won’t be able to enjoy the 2″ focuser. You will have to use an adapter, and the deep space performance will naturally drift down. Zhumell Z8, for example, comes with a 30mm-2″ eyepiece so you can enjoy the deep space performance an 8″ Dobsonian would provide. SkyQuest XT8 falls short in this area.
The focuser is ideal for deep space, the eyepiece is not.
Deep space performance has the potential to become top-notch, but with an extra, wide-field, 2″ eyepiece. Such an eyepiece will cost around 70-80$.
The mount has the same functionalities as any other 8″ Dobsonian base. It is friction-adjustable and provides slow-motion on the vertical and horizontal axis. I prefer the attachments on the Z8‘s optical tube since they feel more compact. But in terms of functionality, they are the same.
Tension Adjuster Springs
The springs hanging from these attachments provide friction and balance control. If the optical tube becomes top-heavy, you will have to use additional weight attachments or increase the friction. While they are functional, the friction-adjusters on the Zhumell Z8 are much better as they are movable along the optical tube, thus eliminating the need for additional weights.
The base is particle board. It is not easy to carry as it weighs around 21 lbs (9.7 kg). The optical tube is heavy as well, coming around 20 lbs (9.1 kg). It is always an effort to move this telescope, but considering the amount of optical power a Dobsonian provides, this is an acceptable sacrifice.
If you are concerned about being able to fit the telescope in the back of your car or your trunk, it is possible. After you detach the optical tube, things become easier.
The main problem with the particleboard base is its coverings. They easily get peeled off, and in such a case, it will get damaged by moisture and scratches.
Overall, the mount is simple. It doesn’t come with extra accessories such as a flashlight or a cooling fan. Orion aimed for low-priced power with SkyQuest XT8, and it is apparent with the simple Dobsonian mount it comes with.
Are you missing anything with this mount? Definitely not. Anything additional would be extra, and this telescope will function perfectly fine with this base.
The accessories are the main disappointment. They are low-quality, inconvenient and unwise for an 8″ Dob.
The Single-Speed Focuser, The Red Dot Finder
The first strike is the 2″ Crayford focuser. It is a single-speed rather than a dual-speed. If you don’t know the meaning of this, it is simply a lack of fine-tuning. A dual-speed focuser is awesome for slight adjustments at high-magnifications, and you get addicted to it after a while.
Z8 comes with a dual-speed focuser. Although this is reflected in its price, changing the focuser after you get the telescope would be a burden, and no one would buy a single-speed focuser second hand.
The second strike is the red dot finder. I would understand this decision to drive the price down, but the position of the finder is uncomfortable. You have to bend down every time you use it, and it becomes the cause of disturbing back-pains. A Telrad or a 90-degree scope would be much better.
The third strike is the lack of eyepieces. Only a 25mm Plössl eyepiece comes with the Orion SkyQuest XT8. It provides an average, 48x image. It definitely is not enough for the XT8. You have to get an extra eyepiece for planetary and deep-space viewing, and this adds to the cost.
The accessories are incomplete and insufficient.
The finder and the focuser are not pleasing, and the 25mm eyepiece is near enough for a telescope this size.
The friction adjusters are not as good the ones that come with the Z8.
SkyQuest XT8 is heavy.
This telescope is supposed to be a cheap, powerful device. But the additional accessories that you will have to buy in the future drives the cost up and defeats the whole purpose. And they add a layer of effort to owning a new telescope.
I recommend saving a little more for the Z8 instead of buying the XT8. XT8 is buyable if you own telescope accessories yourself, and don’t have to spend time getting new ones.