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10 inch Dob - help me decide (OO vs Skywatcher)


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Hi all. This is my first post, though I've been browsing this forum for a while.

Short version:

I'm considering buying my 2nd telescope, a Dobsonian. I think that 10 inches would be the best compromise between aperture and usability. I'd like some help in choosing between the Orion Optics VX10L and the Skywatcher Skyliner 250PX. I'm approaching the "running round in circles" stage of deliberating between the two and I think the wise heads on this forum might be able to help me make a decision.

Long version (brace yourselves!):

I bought a Celestron Firstscope 114 on an EQ3-2 mount a little over 10 years ago. Budget was very limited, and as I recall prices on most things were higher regardless (I guess China's mass production has gotten better and cheaper since!), so it seemed a good compromise at the time. On the whole I have to admit that I regret the purchase, because it has too little aperture. Also, because I was new to it all, I probably would have been better off with binoculars than with a telescope. They'd have been more grab-and-go, the wider field of view would help me learn the sky and find things more easily, etc. I didn't have an internet connection back then so I didn't have much access to good advice on how to use this equatorial telescope well (within its abilities).

In recent years I've gotten into using binoculars (perhaps on the rebound from my dissatisfaction with my telescope!). A year ago I settled on my ideal binocular setup - Fuji FMT-SX 16x70s on a parallelogram mount. I really like this setup for wide field, relaxed (very comfortable in a reclining chair!) viewing.

Frankly I'm still a newbie - I don't get as much observing time as I would like - but I want to correct my mistake from a decade ago. I'd like to buy a big (ish) telescope. One that I can manage to set up alone in my own backyard. I don't plan on moving it around much. I want to be able to fill the gap my binoculars can't reach - high magnification and lots of light-gathering, for visually observing both planets and DSOs.

It seems to me that a 10 inch Dobsonian would fit the bill well. Any larger and it starts to become too unwieldy to set up alone. Any smaller and it... well... it's just not big enough :p

I am trying to decide between two options... the Orion Optics VX10L and the Skywatcher Skyliner 250PX Dobsonian.

I looked at the Skywatcher first, but I became a bit concerned about the optical consequences of the short focal ratio (f/4.7): I'll need to collimate more often, and more accurately, I'll need higher quality eyepieces and I'll have more coma to deal with generally. Of course regardless of which telescope I choose it's unavoidable that I'll have to collimate sometimes but I find the prospect slightly daunting, since it'll be new to me (I never had to collimate the old 4.5in f/8 Newt back in the old days). Plus the secondary mirror will be larger, blocking more light than the secondary of a slower telescope would (which I just don't like as a matter of principle :p, but I'd appreciate any feedback on what little difference it makes).

I'm also concerned with the simple ergonomics of using it. I am 6 foot 2, the telescope has a focal length of 1200mm, so when I'm trying to observe with it the eyepiece will be quite low down. I'll need to either get a height-adjustable chair of some sort or learn to live with a bad back!

On the plus side, its short focal length means that it would be easier to fit in a car if I ever wish to move it around. Currently I have no plans to do so, but who knows what tomorrow will bring.

On the other side we have the Orion Optics VX10L. I'm considering it, first and foremost, because of the longer focal length of 1600mm (f/6.3): resulting in more forgiving collimation needs, better ergonomics when observing standing up, less coma and more options for eyepieces that can work well. And there's the simple difference in terms of the field of view and magnification I'll achieve with any given eyepiece. I think I won't lose too much field of view for DSO observing (anything really wide is a target for my binos, regardless) but will perhaps be glad of the magnification.

There's a smaller secondary mirror, 50mm instead of perhaps 63mm (like I say, I just like this aspect though have no idea how much it will really matter), as well as other bonuses OO throw in like "fan assisted cooling on optics" (though I think I could manage to plan ahead and put the telescope outside earlier if I didn't have this!).

One thing that surprises me is the quoted weight of the OO vs. the weight of the Skywatcher (12kg vs 15kg). Where is that 3kg difference coming from? Is the Skywatcher mirror a bit thicker, or does this hint at a difference in physical build quality?...

The main downside, to me, for the OO is a bit nebulous. I'm worried about basic mechanical/build quality. As I've seen in various threads, people always give OO a 10/10 for optics but (in discussions mostly dating to 2 or more years ago) people do criticise details of mechanical quality. I'm wondering if this is something that is likely to have been steadily improved by the manufacturer since these criticisms were made and I'm wondering what perspective to put those criticisms into - especially in comparison to the Skywatcher I'm looking at as an alternative.

I know that the price difference between these two options is large but I'm not overly concerned about price. I just want to make sure I'm buying the right thing. The price is only painful once! If Skywatcher offered a f/6.3 version of their 250px I expect I'd be asking instead for help choosing between f/4.7 and f/6.3 Skywatchers. But I haven't managed to find such a beast and the OO seems to be the alternative for me in the UK. Though it costs a lot more, I can console myself with the thought of the higher optical quality I might never notice :)

If the OO is what I end up buying, I'll probably want to quiz you all about your views on the optional extras Orion offer - should I step up to the 10:1 focuser they make (or just replace the focuser separately with a 3rd party one)? What optical quality upgrade should I consider (I'm sure I would rarely, if ever, appreciate much of a step up from 1/6PV HiLux anyway though!)? Etc.

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I have an OO 10" F/4.8 and I've owned a Skywatcher 10" F/4.7 dobsonian. Optically I think the OO is slightly better than the Skywatcher was - my OO has 1/6 wave PV optics and Hilux coatings. But the difference is very slight, at best.

Mechanically, the Skywatcher is on the whole, better. The tube on the OO is very thin which accounts for much of the weight difference I reckon.

I'm happy with my OO generally and I like it's portability. I'm not convinced that the Hilux coatings deliver a noticable performance boost but their longevity claims are impressive compared to standard mirror coatings so I hope those claims are matched in practice.

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Hi

I don't own either of the two scopes mentioned so I will not attempt to convince you either way but I do have a home built (with meade optics) 10" f/4.5 Dob.

I would just like to inform you that collimating is not a big deal and hardly rocket science you will find it pretty easy.

As for observing mine is about 4' (1200mm) long so I do all my observing with it in comfort from an adjustable drum throne.

There is no position the tube can get in that is awkward or uncomfortable I would swear it's the most comfortable scope you can observe with.

As you are slightly taller than me both the scopes you are thinking of should be "just right" for you to observe with exactly the same level of comfort.

Although the secondary of a newtonian does obstruct the primary the loss of light/contrast is not as bad as is widely publicized.

Even my fast f/4.5 still produces very satisfactory Planetary and Lunar views.

Faster newtonians will show some coma that is for sure although if that bothers you there is always the option to get a coma corrector later.

It doesn't bother some people it's a case of suck it and see.

Hope this helps to lessen your worries about collimating, eyepiece comfort....etc

IMO you can't go wrong with either scope

Good luck with your choice and please inform us of your decision.

Regards Steve

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I think it's worth noting that the Orion Optics 10 costs a whopping £1111.20 when you factor in the VAT, dobsonian mount and dual speed crayford.......ouch!

That would buy the Skywatcher 300p Flextube (£880) plus leave enough for a juicy eyepiece or two.

Dobsonians - Skywatcher Skyliner 300P FlexTube Dobsonian

Edited by russ
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Indeed Russ, the OO stuff is very expensive for what it is, optics aside.. :)

The optics are good and i love my OO 150. But i think i would still bulk at that price personally. The 300P is still a mean performer.

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One thing to remember is that the OO dob is hand made to your specifications. You can customise it just about any way you want and change focusers, tube material (steel instead of aluminium) have the OTA powder coated any colour you want as well as the quality of the optics of course. And then there's the OO alloy dob base which is so much better than the chipboard bases that come with most dobs.

A British hand made scope is never going to be able to compete with far-eastern factory made scopes on price so you will have to decide if it's worth paying the premium for an OO scope.

John

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The one advantage with the OO scopes is that the optical quality has been measured and although there might be a debate as to what the figures really show, at least it gives you some kind of bench mark from which to compare. Skywatcher do make great scopes but you never really know if the one you have bought is the one that got through quality control. People coming up to your scope saying, "looks like you've got a good one there", would not instill me with a lot of confidence and I suppose explains the advantage that OO has by facilitating the option of you building your 'own' scope.

I observe with three people who use 12" dobsonians and interestingly enough, one is a Meade Lightbridge, the other a Skywatcher and the last one an Orion Optics. I know this isn't a scientific test but I believe that having looked through all three scopes many times, on the same evenings with the same eyepiece on the same subject (double cluster) I felt that there was a noticeable difference in brightness with the Hilux coating. Perhaps this was a false perception on my part but the difference I felt was noticeable. With regards to changing the focuser on the OO, I believe I have read somewhere on here that if you were to supply your own before the scope's construction, that Barry at OO will give you a credit note for the value of the original Crayford one that was included in the price. It would certainly make sense to supply them with your own before its made as it would save you having to do it later. It would seem focusers on all but the most expensive of scopes can always be improved upon.

For me, being able to specify or quantify what I'm paying for would form an important part of my purchasing criteria and although it is might be true that in the grand scheme of things all these details are probably given greater significance than they deserve, they can sometimes offer some comfort when you are attempting to get best value for your money.

James

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Skywatcher do make great scopes but you never really know if the one you have bought is the one that got through quality control.

Let's run a little experiment :)

SGL currently has 13,366 members. 3,859 are considered 'active' (they post regularly).

Skywatcher are the UK's bestselling brand of Newtonian reflecting telescopes so there must be hundreds, perhaps thousands of owners here on SGL.

An open question to all Skywatcher owners: Have you ever bought a Skywatcher Newtonian telescope (including Dobsonians) and felt that optically it was under performing?

Steve

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.

An open question to all Skywatcher owners: Have you ever bought a Skywatcher Newtonian telescope (including Dobsonians) and felt that optically it was under performing?

I'll kick us off then

My 12" was perfect, nothing wrong at all

Too be honest you can get a duff peice of equipment no matter what your pricepoint is

Edited by shaunster
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I have had my 10" SkyWatcher FlexTube Dob for about 2 years and the main change is that it has a MoonLite focuser. I am really pleased with the scope and with my TeleVue EPs I have sharp stars across the FOV.

At the recent SGL6 star party I was able to use the Skywatcher 150PDS Newt which FLO allowed me to try out for the night. Again the views through this scope were impressive and I stood with John (jahmanson) and we observed 20+ galaxies and a few PNs. John had his 6" Mak/Newt and the views of the DSOs were very similar. Maybe a little better contrast on some objects but generally not alot of difference.

I liked the 150PDS that much that I bought it :)

So my conclusion is that Skywatcher make great scopes for your money and only the individual can decide whether the extra expense of an OO is worth it.

Mark

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I've owned a few SkyWacher dobs and they have all had excellent optics, very consistent quality control.

However I have moved on to a 14" OO dob and a 150PL OTA fitted with OO optics and both are .990 Strehl or better and I've not regretted upgrading to them. Don't get me wrong I think that you can't beat the SkyWatcher Newt or dob as far as value for money is concerned, but you just have to accept that it gets much more expensive as you go to premium optics.

John

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So my conclusion is that Skywatcher make great scopes for your money and only the individual can decide whether the extra expense of an OO is worth it.

That pretty much covers it for me too Mark, when/if we move to darker skies and I feel I can enjoy observing on a more serious scale, I like the idea of a long-ish focal newt, something like an 8" f8 with a smaller, optimised secondary for better contrast. Unless skywatcher have what I want then OO would be a consideration. If you want something 'off the shelf' then skywatcher are hard to beat.

Tony..

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Skywatcher do make great scopes but you never really know if the one you have bought is the one that got through quality control.

If (for arguments sake) only one third of SGL's active members have bought Skywatcher Newtonians then there must be around 1,280 owners here on SGL. If just one percent of them are disappointed with its optical performance then we should be able to find 12 members who have had a negative experience...

My point, of course, is that the whole "you never really know if the one you have bought is the one that got through quality control" thing is a myth. The reality is that Synta (Skywatcher) have mastered the mass production of mirrors to such a high level that a faulty one is very rare indeed.

Steve

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I've owned 2 Skywatcher dobsonians, a Meade Lightbridge, a number of Synta refractors and I've looked through lots of other Synta scopes. I've not noticed any inconsistency in optical quality, if anything quite the opposite :p

This view was also shared by a friend who used to regularly write reviews for UK and US astro magazines - he had also tried loads of scopes and found the Skywatcher ones remarkably consistent in quality as well.

I bought my OO 10" second hand and I'm glad I did - I would have been a bit dissapointed with it if I'd shelled out the new price, which at the time was nearly 3x what the Skywatcher equivilent would have cost :)

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An open question to all Skywatcher owners: Have you ever bought a Skywatcher Newtonian telescope (including Dobsonians) and felt that optically it was under performing?

Steve

Short answer: No.

Might be a good idea to do a brand poll...

Edited by Beulah
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Might be a good idea to do a brand poll...

SW owners outnumber OO owners but that isn't what we are after here, neither am I asking OO owners to comment on OO's quality control. I am interested in whether there is any substance to the "with Skywatcher you never know whether you have bought a good one" rumour.

I hope this is in keeping with the original posters question and will assist anyone considering the two brands.

Steve

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One thing to note with OO is that they were primarily an optics manufacturer, and some of the mechanical quality control was a bit hit and miss on their Newts and Dobs. They are now moving up-market and getting out of the SkyWatcher/ Meade end of the market. Their new VX range has excellent build quality with better components than you would find on a SkyWatcher Newt / Dob such as the mirror and mirror cell, focuser, dob base etc.

So it's important to differentiate between what OO is offering now compared to even a year ago.

John

Edited by johninderby
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May I just flag up Mike's images taken with a 10 inch SW? They are consistently breathtaking and exposures as deep as that are pretty ungforgiving. I know imaging is not the OP's intention but the images in question do suggest fine optical quality.

Olly

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I have never used a Skywatcher scope but have two 1600mm tube OOUK dobsonians - a 6" f11 and a 12" f5.3. I love them both, the optics and build quality are good as far as I am concerned and the bases are superbly manufactured.

My reservations come with the 6" scope (and might be there with a 10" too) as I feel the base has too small a footprint for the 1600mm tube (but probably not a 1200mm tube) for anything less than 12".

You can get around this with mods of course - as far as I am concerned mods are a part of owning a dob.

e.g. the 8" Skywatcher dob base is quite a bit bigger than the 12" OO dob base so as a result, the 8" OO dob base would not be as stable in my view as the SW. The OO is made of ali plate though and will never rot or swell etc like the SW can with moisture I believe? Again this might be hearsay.

My personal view on the comparisons is that it's like deciding between a Nagler or a Nirvana. Can you really see a difference? Yes, probably. Is it worth the price difference? (As they say on Big Brother - "You Decide").

Unless you want a specified optical quality built to your spec, buy a SW - new or used. If you are lucky, quick and can wait a bit, then buy a used OO. Personally, I'd do the latter but you won't be disappointed with the former either. I for one would almost certainly never buy a new OOUK dob as they are so expensive.

Hope this helps in some long-winded way :)

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Thank you all for the replies. I'm grateful to see so much feedback so quickly. In fact a number of new posts have come in since I started writing this response, so it's probably out of date now, but here goes anyway...

I don't want this to become a generalised OO vs SW debate (not until I've made my own mind up, anyway! :)). I suppose I should try to re-state/re-phrase my specific questions to keep things on track.

First off: Am I wrong to think that at 10 inches of aperture, an f/6.3 scope would be preferable to an f/4.7 one? (For my reasons for asking and for thinking so, see my first post)

I was aware of the huge price of the OO scope. I suppose the basic question is, IF I'd rather have an f/6.3 focal ratio, does it matter "much"*** and are there any other benefits that help to make the expense somewhat worthwhile? (One very minor one that springs to mind is that I would, at least, be buying something British made. When my googling led me to OO's website I was suprised to see that there is a British telescope maker still trading, to be honest.)

***(the word "enough" is too much affected by people's subjective opinions on the amount of money involved, rather than the merits of the scope itself. "Much" is already subjective, but at least only regarding performance without price thrown into the mess)

The potential benefits mentioned of choosing the OO (other than what arises from the focal ratio) seem, so far, to be

- Optical quality, and in a more quantifiable way than the competition. But the optical quality of the competition is good enough already, especially for a newbie like me

- Custom design, options on various details of the telescope at the time of manufacture, even telling them to put a focuser you send them onto it

- lower weight (unless the reasons for this lower weight are bad news)

- the Dobsonian mount is perhaps nicer (based on comments in this thread about the material used, and the OO website's claim that you can shift the telescope up and down on the tube rings a bit to counterbalance heavy eyepieces better)

It's a fair point that I could get a 12 inch FlexTube for less than the 10 inch OO, but the thing is I (don't think I) particularly want one (feel free to educate me otherwise, though!). The thing is that I suspect it would be too heavy - or nearly too heavy, such that I perhaps can't always be bothered to take it outside and set it up. Skywatcher's website states that the 12" Flextube weighs 21kg, compared with 15kg for the 10" solid tube and 12kg for the OO f/6.3 solid tube. (But, argh, if weight is the only consideration I could simply go for the OO VX12L at 16kg... but I think at that point I really ought to draw a line and say it's too expensive. Probably ought to have drawn that line before now!) The advantage of the collapsible Flextube is physical size - the only upshot of this would be how easily it could be put into a car (I don't have a problem with room for storing the telescope indoors, broadly speaking). But as I said, at the moment I have no plans to drive it anywhere... though perhaps I should consider allowing for my plans to change in future. Oh, and if I consider the 300P Flextube then I'm looking at a just-under-f/5 telescope again!

I haven't started with a price tag in mind and then tried to squeeze the most aperture and other features into it. I've started with my own physical abilities, and optical wishes, in mind and have tried to find something that is close to what I'm after.

Yes, I feel giddy at the thought of spending over £1000 when I could only spend ~£500 for something not hugely different. But my view is that the most painful expense would be associated with the telescope I regret buying, even if it's cheaper in the first place. I've been through that once before already!

I already said this, but if Skywatcher happened to offer a solid tube off-the-shelf 10 inch f/6 (ish) Dob I would probably just go ahead and buy it, and wouldn't need to start a brand-name war on a forum xD. In the absence of the exact telescope I want I'm trying to work out where to compromise. In order to make that decision I'm trying to better understand what I'm getting for my money: What are the actual advantages of the longer focal length (and what is the magnitude of those advantages) and what else is there to bear in mind.

Edited by GHarris
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the longer focal length will have the following pros and cons:

Pros

More contrast

Less testing on eyepieces

Less susceptible to collimation errors (REALLY don't worry about this - I even collimate my f11 newt every time I observe and it takes seconds once you know how)

Taller - more comfortable viewing

Better base

More magnification for a given eyepiece

Cons

Cost

Less stable than a shorter tube at this size

Less wide field possible

In some ways this would be a better all rounder than an f5 10" but this is debatable.

You will not be disappointed with a SW dob.

Where do you live? I have the two scopes mentioned and you'd be welcome to see them if you are anywhere neat Manchester.

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