SkyQuest XT8 Plus Dobsonian is slightly overpriced, but it is a mesmerizing telescope.
Orion SkyQuest XT8 Plus is an all-round performer. It is near perfect in all areas, aside from one thing: the price. It is expensive as hell.
Is the XT8 Plus worth it? That depends on whether Z8 is available in your country or not. Because if it is, for a lower price, you can get a package that is almost the same as the XT8.
If it is not, I say go for the XT8. The fact that it is slightly overpriced doesn’t undermine its beautiful build quality, useful accessories, and powerful optics. A telescope is a long-term purchase, and after a couple of years, you won’t mind whether you’ve paid an extra 50-60$ for your telescope.
XT8 Plus is delightful in every way.
The 253mm Primary Mirror on the Back
The optical quality of XT8 is top-notch in all areas. The 200mm primary mirror is well-coated with high reflectivity, the focuser is a wide-field 2″ model with fine-tuning, and the focal ratio is an all-rounder f/6. These features are perfect for beginners for three reasons:
Firstly, the optics are easy to align. The collimation screws attached to the secondary mirror makes the process even easier.
Secondly, deep space and planetary performance will both be awesome due to the 200mm aperture and 1200mm optical tube.
Thirdly, the telescope is not too heavy to carry around, and it is the perfect size.
If I was starting out with astronomy, I would either go with the XT8 Plus or Z8 for these reasons.
Planetary and Lunar Performance
With the eyepieces that come with the telescope, planetary performance is average. You will be able to gather some detail from Solar System objects, but the images will be dim and fuzzy. A 6mm Goldline would improve the quality of planetary images two-folds, and get close to the potential of SkyQuest XT8 Plus.
Without a planetary eyepiece, you will get the basic details of the major Solar System details. Stripes of Jupiter, its 4 Galilean Moon’s, and The Great Red Spot are all easily visible. Rings of Saturn and the Cassini Divison are easy targets, including its largest moon Titan. Mars will reveal some surface detail as black and white stains, and Phases of Venus are easy to observe. Uranus and Neptune will appear as bluish dots, and Neptune’s largest moon Triton is observable as a tiny dot.
With a planetary eyepiece, you will still get these details, but twice the sharpness and brightness. It will be the same difference between a 480p video and a 1080p video.
An additional planetary eyepiece is almost necessary with the XT8 Plus, but that is the case with all beginner telescopes. The important factor is the potential of the planetary performance, and it is through the roof with the XT8 Plus.
Deep Space Performance
In contrast to planetary performance, deep space performance is impressive out of the box. This is due to the 2″ focuser and the 2″-28mm eyepiece that comes with the telescope. Although the eyepiece still can’t deliver XT8’s full potential, it takes full advantage of the 2″ focuser. As a result, galaxies, nebulas, star clusters look sharp, bright, and the image is wide enough to contain even the largest deep space objects.
The classic targets are easy to observe with the XT8. Some of these are the Andromeda, Orion, Hercules, Pleiades, and the Whirlpool. Most of the Messier Catalog is available for observation, but as you get close to city lights, your options will decrease.
Overall deep space performance of XT8 Plus is delightful. It doesn’t get any better than this as long as you don’t increase the aperture.
The mount is the usual Dobsonian, but with Teflon all over the place. I appreciate Orion for not using any Nylon and going full Teflon with the Plus version. It is a better material in every way.
The mount is heavy and butter-smooth.
The base is heavy, weighing around 21.2 lbs(9.6 kg). It is not easy to carry, but it provides better stability, which I will prefer over portability anytime.
The motions are butter-smooth due to the Teflon bearings.
There is also Teflon used in the springs that attach the optical tube to the mount. They provide friction control in case of any imbalance. This is not an elegant solution to the imbalance problem, as the Z8 comes with movable bearings that work perfectly. You will have to attach additional weights to the optical tube in case of imbalance.
Overall the base is simple and does its job perfectly. The lack of a balance adjustment is not pleasing, but it is easily solvable.
2″ Crayford Focuser
Orion paid attention to the accessories with the Plus version. There are no unnecessary parts that you will throw out in a couple of weeks, and there a few extra accessories that are really useful.
The most important improvement over the usual XT8 is the 2″ Crayford Focuser as the 1.25″ focuser was the most significant weakness of the standard XT8.
The 2″ has fine-tuning, works with better eyepieces, and it feels better in hand. Once you use this focuser, you won’t want to go back to the plastic 1.25″ models.
28mm Eyepiece – 2X Barlow – 10mm Plössl
The 28mm, wide-field eyepiece takes advantage of the 2″ focuser by providing a wider field view. It is a great eyepiece for deep space observations and will put your deep space eyepiece improvements to hold for some time.
The 10mm Plössl eyepiece is “usable”, but it is certainly not at the same level as the other accessories. It gets a pass since planetary eyepieces are expensive, but it should be the first eyepiece you upgrade.
The 2x Barlow works well. It will be useful for getting a little more detail at the beginning. But you should slowly get specialized eyepieces for every magnification range.
The Solar Filter works surprisingly well. It allows for seeing some detail on the surface of the Sun.
The red dot finder is a cheap, plastic accessory. But it is my personal choice for budget prices. It works well, and it doesn’t bring up any problems. It is much better than the 6×30 finder, which is slightly more expensive.
There is not a single dollar wasted with the accessories, which is surprisingly rare among budget telescopes. Companies usually send useless Barlows or unnecessarily high-magnification eyepieces. In contrast, Orion sent smart choices.
The price is the biggest weakness of the XT8 Plus. The Z8 comes without a sun filter, but it is cheaper.
The lack of a balance adjuster is disappointing. You will have to take care of that with tension adjusters or extra weights.
Orion SkyQuest XT8 Plus completes the lacking, standard XT8 and improves upon it. It is the complete package that will stand years of use. Although I complain about the price a lot, a telescope like this deserves to be paid extra. As a starter telescope, it has only one competitor, and that is the Z8.