A Review Of The Orion SkyQuest XT4.5 Classic Dobsonian Telescope: The Budget Telescope That Digs Deep.

Orion SkyQuest XT4.5 Classic Dobsonian Telescope
To avoid giving you my own biased opinion, I asked my fellow stargazers at the local astronomy club what they thought of the Orion SkyQuest XT4.5 Classic Dobsonian Telescope.

Aside from a couple of complaints (which I’ll go into later), it seems to be a hit with both newbies and advanced users alike. Even the guys that have gone on to buy bigger telescopes, still keep their little SkyQuest xt4.5 inch Dobsonian handy for that spur of the moment viewing.

They just pick the little scope up and put it down for a quick’n easy viewing. On that bed or table by the window, the garden table or park bench. Nobody wants to hurl around and assemble a huge scope for just a 20-minute viewing, and then have to take it apart again for storage.

Another common theme was how easy this telescope is for kids to use. Thanks to its small size they don’t have to get on a step-ladder or stool to take a look. Some had bought this telescope for their kids as a birthday or Christmas present, others had passed it on to their kids when they’d gone on to buy a bigger one.

The bottom line is I didn’t meet a single member who regretted not buying a bigger first telescope.

Sure, a bigger scope will give better deep space views, but if you’re on a tight budget, want a portable scope or something simple and rugged as a first telescope, this could be just what you need.

SkyQuest XT4.5 Portability
With the SkyQuest XT4.5, you just grab the handle and go!

Is The SkyQuest XT4.5 A Good Beginner Telescope?

A lot of happy customers are saying it’s the best beginner telescope, but It really depends on what you’re looking for. If you’re a die-hard enthusiast and care only about getting the best views with no regard for portability, convenience or ease of use, AND have more money to spend then you aught to try something bigger.

But if you want to ease into astronomy with a simple, small and convenient scope with excellent views that will keep you spellbound for a good number of years, then I strongly recommend the orion skyquest xt4.5 dobsonian reflector telescope.

It’s also great if you’re on a budget.

The old adage that you have to spend at least $300 to get those breathtaking views of space is still true in most cases, but not here.

This telescope will give you professional views that are worthy of a telescope twice its price.

How Much Detail Can I See With This Telescope?

The XT4.5 Dobsonian’s 4.5 inch mirror pulls in 260% more light than a 60mm refractor, the classic beginner telescope. Its image quality will sweep the floor with all those department store telescopes that try to fool you with their top magnification figures.

Buying tip: Magnification alone tells you very little about how good a telescope is at doing its job. If you keep reading you’ll learn about the more important features of a telescope, such as aperture and focal length.

You can get some great views of the moon, our neighboring planets, the moons of Jupiter and the rings of Saturn.

You also get some good deep space views. The bright nebulae show up nicely. These include the Orion, Dumbell and Lagoon Nebulae. You can also see star clusters, including the M13 Hurcules cluster, M45 – Pleaides, M44 – Beehive and many more.

The Messier catalogue is a list of 110 star clusters, nebulae and galaxies that can be seen with a standard 4 inch telescope. Over a span of a year I located all of these with my XT4.5 Dobsonian telescope, and they all show up very well.

Just remember that the views you get won’t be as clear as the pictures you see on the internet. Those are taken by telescopes in space and don’t have to contend with the earth’s atmosphere. But the thrill of having your own telescope is you can see all those things in real-time, and there’s nothing more mesmerizing.

What Sets The SkyQuest XT4.5 Apart From The Others?

This particular Dobsonian is different because it provides excellent views at a budget price.

Few telescopes offer such good views at this price range. The SkyQuest XT4.5 Dobsonian telescope makes this possible with its Dobsonian base and a modification to its primary lens.

The Dobsonian base is a relatively new and simplified mount compared to the old equatorial mount. Due to its simple design and stable and sturdy hold, it’s able to hold larger optics at much cheaper prices.

Another strong cost-cutting measure that preserves image quality includes the use of a spherical primary mirror.

A spherical mirror in a telescope any bigger than the SkyQuest XT4.5 would not be able to focus all of the incoming light at the same point. This effect reduces image quality and detail. They call it “spherical aberration.”

Spherical Aberration In A Big Spherical Lens

Spherical aberration in action. See how the light from the edges doesn’t focus at the same point as light from the center?

Larger telescopes require a ‘parabolic’ primary mirror, which has a deeper curve and is much more expensive to manufacture. Here’s how it looks:

Parabolic Primary Mirror
All incoming light is perfectly focussed. But this mirror is bloody expensive!

So being just the right size to use a cheaper mirror, the SkyQuest XT4.5 is able to provide good views at bargain prices.

Is This Telescope Difficult To Set Up?

My wife got me the SkyQuest XT4.5 as a gift, and she put it together herself. That’s saying a lot. It doesn’t take much in the way of mechanical skills, I just hope she isn’t reading this review.

It takes about 30 minutes to put together. You don’t need any special skills or tools, everything you need is provided, and it comes with an instruction manual with clear step-by-step instructions on how to set it up.

Here’s what you get straight out of the box:

Out of the box
What you get out of the box

The optics all come pre-installed in the tube, so you only have to put together the base and then attach the tube to it.

Can You Use This Telescope If You Live In The City?

If you live in the city, the brighter celestial bodies are not a problem. You can see the lunar surface, the neighboring planets, Jupiter and Saturn’s moons and some of the brighter deep space objects.

But it is a small scope so the clarity on the deep space views will be limited if those city lights are really bright. But being small, you can always shove it in the trunk or even back seat of your car and take it somewhere dark. You’ll be amazed at the difference a dark sky will make.

Weighing in at only 17.6 lb, I can mount the thing on my car bonnet without causing a dent.

What Kind Of Prices Should You Expect To Pay For This Telescope?

I’ve had a good look around on the internet, and the prices for this Dobsonian vary from roughly $230 to $275. I found the best deal on Amazon, where you get the cheapest shipping costs. In my own experience the shipping was very fast and reliable from Amazon, and the customer reviews there are all excellent.

Click here to check what price this is going for on Amazon right now.

What Are Some Of The Complaints?

The main complaint from my fellow astronomers was that the eyepiece is set kind of low, so an adult would have to stoop to take a look.

But this is easily solved in two ways. Astronomers either mount the scope on a table, chair or even a milk-crate. Or, they sit in a low chair to observe. One of my friends mentioned how she likes to just lay out a blanket and sit on the lawn and observe at night.

Some even see the low-lying eyepiece as an advantage because it’s easy for their kids to use.

Mount it higher or sit down

Another common complaint is that the focuser is made of plastic. We all prefer the feel of something solid, metallic and a little on the heavy side. The good news is I’ve never heard of one breaking, so it’s solid enough to last. And more importantly, it does the job.

Is There A Warranty?

Yes, there’s a 1 year limited manufacturer’s warranty. If any part of the telescope is defective, then Orion will either repair or replace it for you, but you have to tell them within a year after purchase.

It’s not a license to trash it around though, because the warranty doesn’t cover parts that have been abused, mishandled or modified.

Delving Into All The Optical Details And Telescope Jargon…

As I’ve mentioned to you before, magnification is just one piece of the puzzle when you’re looking for the right telescope. You should be looking at details like the aperture, focal length and the size of the eyepiece also.

114mm or 4.5 inch Aperture…

Many telescopes are named by their aperture size, such as with the Orion SkyQuest XT4.5 Classic Dobsonian Telescope, where the ’4.5′ refers to the aperture size in inches. But what is the aperture and how does it effect your telescope’s performance?

The aperture is the diameter of your telescope’s primary mirror (or lens in the case of a refractor telescope). This is the first mirror that light has contact with as it enters your telescope.

The bigger the aperture size, the more light is gathered, and so the clearer and more detailed your image. Large aperture sizes allow for better deep space views, and better views in the city where there’s lots of light pollution.

But as the aperture size increases, so does the size and weight of the telescope.

The Orion SkyQuest XT4.5 Dobsonian weighs in at just 17.6 lb, whereas the same telescope with an 8 inch aperture weighs 41 lb. So as you double the aperture, you more than double the weight. There’s also a notable increase in cost.

Standard aperture sizes for reflector telescopes range from 4.5 to 8 inches (although you can go all the way up to 16 inches). What size aperture you get depends on what you’re looking for and how much you’re willing to pay.

But keep in mind that a big telescope that is rarely used because it is heavy and unwieldy is not a good buy!

A 910mm Focal Length…

Focal length is the distance from the primary mirror to the point where the light is focused after being reflected by the mirror as shown in the diagram:

Focal Length

A telescope’s focal length is important in determining its magnification. The longer the focal length the higher the magnifications possible.

A typical focal length is around 1000mm. The SkyQuest XT4.5 being a relatively small telescope, has a focal length of 910mm.

“But why not have a longer focal length so you can get more magnification?”

Well as the focal length and magnification increase, the image also gets dimmer. Just like what happens with the image formed by a slide projector as you take it further away from the screen.

To account for the dimness you have to have a larger aperture. So a small telescope with a small aperture can only have a focal length so long.

Now For What You’ve Been Waiting For – Magnification!

Yeh, you’d probably stop reading my review if I told you I wasn’t going to discuss magnification.

To calculate magnification, all you do is divide the focal length of the eyepiece into the focal length of the primary lens (which we know to be 910mm in this telescope).

Eye piece focal lengths range from 6mm to 50mm. The highest you can get with the XT4.5 Dobsonian, is roughly 152x magnification, using a 6mm eye piece (910 divided by 6).

If you can get some really clear skies for viewing, you can even push that up to 200x magnification using a Barlow lens.

TWO 1.25″ Sirius Plossl Eyepieces – One For Deep Space, One For Moons & Planets

Yes, quite the treat. You get a 25mm eyepiece and a 10mm eyepiece. The 25mm gives you 36x magnification for deep space views, and the 10mm eyepiece gives you 91x magnification for getting stunning close-up views of the lunar surfaces and letting you easily discern Saturn’s rings and the Cassini Division.

What does ‘Sirius Plossl’ mean? They’re a particular type of eyepiece that give crisp, clear views and are a good all-round performer, excellent for beginners. Most people love them, a few experts say they’re average, but nobody thinks they’re crap. A the end of the day it’s down to personal preference, but everyone agrees that Sirius Plossl is a good eyepiece to start with.

To Sum It All Up…

The Orion SkyQuest XT4.5 Classic Dobsonian Telescope is praised for being the budget telescope that gives you excellent views to rival a telescope twice its price.

It’s exceptionally small and portable so you can use it in the spur of the moment – whenever and wherever you like, but big enough to begin showing you those breathtaking views of deep space objects such as galaxies, nebulae and star clusters.

Many go on to buy a bigger telescope later on but almost always keep their little SkyQuest XT4.5 handy for its ease of use, simplicity and portability.

Yes, some would consider this the best beginner telescope, but at the end of the day it boils down to your personal preferences. If you’re on a budget or you want to dip your feet into astronomy without anything too expensive, this is your ticket.

If you want something simple that doesn’t get in the way and is easy to set up and move around, this is your ticket. If you want a telescope for your child, or one you can hand down to your child incase you later decide to get a bigger one, this is your ticket.

Where’s The Best Place To Buy This Telescope?

I suggest you get this Telescope from Amazon, as they have the cheapest prices. Shipping is also cheap and delivery is fast. Click here to review the prices on Amazon.

You may also want to take a look at the customer reviews to see what other people have to say about the Orion SkyQuest XT4.5 Classic Dobsonian Telescope.

Good luck and happy observing.


Ted Thane

P.S.: If you’re looking for your second telescope, or you have more to spend, you may want to consider the Orion SkyQuest XT8 Classic Dobsonian Telescope. Click the link for a review.


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