When it comes to beginner telescopes, it is harder to write a review. The reason is that their prices change frequently.
SkyWatcher 8″ Dobsonian is a great telescope. It is well-built, has exceptional optics, and will stand years of use. But its current price at 450$ is not reasonable. For only 30$ more, you can get a Zhumell Z8, which comes with vastly better accessories.
But still, SkyWatcher may be the only brand in your country, or you may find it for cheaper. In such cases, SkyWatcher 8″ is a no-brainer, except for a few small weaknesses.
The optical quality is top-notch. This is due to the cheap manufacturing cost of Dobsonians, and the optimal size of the 8″ aperture. With the 1200mm optical tube, this kind of combination will provide an f/6 focal ratio. This will provide an all-round performance, without leaning towards planetary or deep space performance. This is ideal for beginners.
The Solar System
SkyWatcher 8″ Dobsonian lets in enough light for a good amount of detail in the Solar System. Jupiter will show its stripes, The Great Red Spot, and its 4 Galilean Moon’s.
Rings of Saturn will show themselves with the Cassini Division. It’s many moon’s will appear, and Titan will look as a yellowish dot. You may be able to see stripes on the surface.
Mars will look as a red disk, with a white spot on its top and black stains on its surface. The white spots are the Polar Ice Caps and the black stains are due to the nature of its rocky surface.
Neptune and Uranus will show themselves as blueish dots, as they are farther and harder to observe. You may be able to get a glimpse of thier moons on ideal conditions.
Phases of Venus are easily observable.
As for deep space, most of the Messier Catalog is within reach for the SkyWatcher 8″. Popular and bright objects such as The Andromeda Galaxy, Orion Nebula, and Pleiades Star Cluster are easy targets. The Whirlpool Galaxy will show its spirals, and a fair amount of star clusters will appear detailed and bright.
With the eyepieces that come with the telescope, deep space performance will be slightly disappointing, as they are 1.25″. If you get a wide-field, 2″ eyepiece deep space performance will become vastly better.
Overall the optics are quite pleasing. You can’t beat a Dobsonian in the optics area; they are easy to manufacture and bulky. Their huge size helps them with light gathering ability, and this is key to a good optical performance.
The mount is sturdy, but the smoothness could have been better. The pads that provide the motion are not Teflon, but Nylon. This is a cheap choice and Teflon pads are much better choices for an 8″ Dobsonian as they would provide butter-smooth motion.
Except the pads the mount is solid. The tension adjusters attached to the sides are easy to use and work quite well. They are much better than the XT8, but not better than the Z8, but at this point it becomes a matter of preferance. They have the same functionalities.
The tensioners are not movable across the optical tube, and that is a feature of Z8 that I love. It provides the ability to create balance when using a heavy accessory, and SkyWatcher 8″ Dob lacks this feature. You may create balance with weights attached to the optical tube, but this is more cumbersome.
The base of the mount is cheap particle board as it is with most Dobsonians. It is not an important feauture of the telescope, but if the coverings get peeled off they may get damaged from moisture.
The weight is the most important factor about the mount. The mount is 25 lbs and the optical tube is 20 lbs. The telescope is “carryable”, but it will always require some effort. You can take the telescope to National Parks and mountains sides in the trunk or in the back seat of your car, so don’t worry about that.
Overall I expected the mount to be better. The Nylon pads, the rather simple fricton adjusters are small drawbacks, but premium prices should include premium features.
The accessories that come with SkyWatcher 8″ Dob are a huge letdown. I expected smarter choices.
The finder is not easy to use. It is a 9×50 that works well, but it is in an uncomfortable position. You have to bend down and look up through the finder, and your back won’t thank you for that.
The focuser is not dual-speed as anyone might expect; it is a single-speed. A dual-speed focuser is incredibly helpful for fine-tuning at high magnifications, and I miss it whenever I have to use a single-speed focuser.
But it is 2″ instead of 1.25″, which is an absolute treat for an 8″ Dob. It provides gorgeous wide-field images and enables usage with much better eyepieces.
The finder is uncomfortable and the focuser is single-speed.
The eyepieces are boring, plastic Plössl’s. They have 10mm(120x) and 25mm(48x) apertures, 1.25″, one for planetary detail and one for deep space. These eyepieces don’t take advantage of the 2″ focuser as they are 1.25″.
That is it for the accessories. None of them are pleasing in terms of quality, and they are not suitable for an 8″ Dob. Don’t get me wrong; they are not trash or anything. I just expected better for this price.
The Nylon pad choice for the mount is not a deal-breaker, but Teflon is smoother. At the premium price range, this is a letdown.
The focuser and finder are just sad to see from SkyWatcher 8″. The finder is uncomfortable, and the focuser lacks fine-tuning.
The eyepieces are boring Plössl’s.
SkyWatcher 8″ Dobsonian is bulky.
SkyWatcher 8″ Dobsonian is a favourite among astronomers, and I don’t understand this norm. But as I’ve mentioned before prices change frequently in the telescope market, and SkyWatcher 8″ Dob’s price tag might have increased substantially since it sells like hotcakes.
This telescope is pretty good and buyable, but keep in mind a Z8 is much, much better. SkyWatcher 8″ Dobsonian requires upgrades and effort, and it is not as good as its 8″ siblings out of the box.
Here is a nice video if you want to see the SkyWatcher 8″ Dobsonian closer.