Dobsonian telescopes are what I usually recommend to beginners, and if you ask most astronomy clubs, websites, or observatories, they’ll probably respond in unison: “Get a Dob”. The famed San Francisco monk’s simple, pioneering design allows for a smooth-moving, easy-to-use telescope that puts as much money as possible into the optics and simply gives you the most bang for your buck. Heck, half of my personal telescopes are Dobsonians. Anything that is 10” or above and is either cheap or portable is going to be a Dobsonian. The design just works.
Beginner telescopes on tripods seem to be sold almost entirely because they “look like a telescope,” whereas Dobsonians look kind of strange by comparison. Don’t be fooled.
In this guide, we are excluding the smaller, tabletop Dobsonians, which are among our highest recommended telescopes in the under-£500 price range. While technically Dobsonians, these scopes lack the double-armed rocker boxes of a true Dob and don’t sit on the ground. But a tabletop Dobsonian will last you even after you’ve moved on to more advanced and complicated equipment, as it remains an easy-to-use, portable Grab n’ Go scope.
A full-sized Dobsonian remains easy to use and ideal for visual astronomy even when you get some big, expensive astrophoto setup later on.
At higher price points, Dobsonians tend to diversify a lot, and it gets difficult to pick the best dob among them. You have to decide whether you want GoTo, digital setting circles, or an entirely manual instrument. Also, there are numerous other design features that often make it hard to really nail down a single “best” Dobsonian telescope in one price bracket.
First off, here are our top Dobsonian recommendations straightaway, in case you don’t want to read them in detail. These recommendations hold true if you are looking for the best deep-space telescopes as well, since Dobs are perfect for deep space viewing.
Best Dobsonian Telescopes Overview
- Budget 6″ : Ursa Major 6” f/8 Planetary Dobsonian – The Ursa Major 6” f/8 Planetary Dobsonian offers everything you need to get started, though its mechanical design limits your room to grow into things like 2” eyepieces.
- Best 6” : Bresser Messier 6″ Planetary Dobsonian – The Bresser Messier 6” Planetary Dobsonian is a well-crafted 6” Dob – but for just a bit more money, you could get a considerably more powerful 8-incher.
- Budget 8” : Ursa Major 8” f/6 Dobsonian – The Ursa Major 8” f/6 Dobsonian is a simple but well-made 8” Dobsonian with all of the basic features and accessories you’ll need to get started on your astronomy journey.
- Best 8” : StellaLyra 8” f/6 – The StellaLyra 8” f/6, as with its American counterparts from Apertura and Zhumell, is one of our most highly recommended telescopes for good reason – it offers fantastic optics, mechanics, and a decent included accessory bundle all at a staggerinly low price.
- Best Computerized 8″ : Celestron StarSense Explorer 8” – The StarSense Explorer 8” doesn’t come with a lot of features or accessories; but features Celestron’s easy-to-use StarSense Explorer navigation aid.
- Best 10″: StellaLyra 10” f/5 – Just like the remarkable StellaLyra 8″ f/6, the StellaLyra 10″ f/5 presents a comprehensive set of accessories, all included as standard, along with a little extra aperture.
- Computer-Aided 10” : Celestron StarSense Explorer 10″ – As with the 8” model, the 10” StarSense Explorer is remarkably lightweight, and aiming it around the sky is a breeze.
- Best 12″ : StellaLyra 12” f/5 – The StellaLyra 12” f/5 Dobsonian may be bulky, but it delivers huge aperture at a lower price than any of its competitors with the same great features/accessories of the smaller StellaLyra scopes.
- Best Portable 12″ : Sky-Watcher FlexTube 300P Collapsible Dobsonian – The Sky-Watcher Flextube Dobsonians have some compromises in their design that make the 8” and 10” models rather unappealing, at least as a first choice. However, the Flextube 300P is a lot more portable than a solid-tubed 12” Dobsonian; its collapsible tube can fit across the back of a vehicle whereas the long tube of a conventional 12” will need to have seats folded down – and plenty of available cargo space – to be transported.
- Best Computerized 12″ : Sky-Watcher 12″ Flextube Dobsonian GoTo – The GoTo version of the 300P FlexTube gives you motorized tracking regardless of whether you need assistance in finding objects, making it an excellent upgrade from the standard edition.
- Best 14″ : Sky-Watcher FlexTube 350P SynScan GoTo Collapsible Dobsonian – The FlexTube 350P further improves upon the 300P GoTo with a dual-speed focuser, more aperture, and a fully collapsible Dobsonian base, too.
- Best 16″: Explore Scientific 16″ f/4.5 Truss Tube – The 16” Explore Scientific Truss Tube is among the best we’ve tested, and it’s significantly more portable than the Sky-Watcher FlexTube options. However, it’s a little bit difficult to get up and running.
Recommended Best Dobsonians Individually Reviewed
1. Budget 6” Dobsonian – Ursa Major 6” f/8 Planetary Dobsonian
- Easy collimation
- Does everything a more expensive 6” can, view-wise
The Ursa Major 6″ Planetary Dobsonian Telescope is uncomplicated and reasonably priced, yet comes packed with enough potential to keep you engaged without inducing boredom or frustration. For the enthusiast who might already own a larger scope, this 6″ Planetary Dobsonian from Ursa Major presents itself as a perfect “grab and go” telescope. It easily accommodates your heavier eyepieces, offering spectacular visuals while negating the necessity for fussy collimation, substantial cooldown periods, or convoluted assembly and setup procedures.
2. Best 6” Dobsonian: Bresser Messier 6″ Planetary Dobsonian
- Smooth, well-designed mount
- 2” focuser
- Easily adjusted for balance thanks to tube rings
The Bresser Messier 6″ Planetary Dobsonian is part of a broader range of Dobsonian telescopes promoted under the Bresser brand. This collection also includes the full-size 8” and 10” models along with a duo of 6” and 5” f/5 tabletop Dobsonians. As suggested by its moniker, the Messier 6″ Planetary Dobsonian is more specifically attuned for planetary viewing compared to its f/5 tabletop equivalent, courtesy of its f/8 focal ratio. You get a 2” rack-and-pinion focuser with the Messier 6”, unlike its Ursa Major counterpart, and this scope’s mount is more well-equipped to handle heavy 2” accessories while retaining balance. However, the Messier 6” Planetary Dobsonian, like the other freestanding Messier scopes, is more expensive than most other competitors of this aperture, and the included accessories are fairly sub-par.
3. Budget 8” Dobsonian: Ursa Major 8” f/6 Dobsonian
- Lots of aperture for the money
- Great optics
- Similar form factor and portability to a 6” Dobsonian
The Ursa Major 8″ Dobsonian is an affordable offering in the 8″ Dobsonian category, maintaining many of the core design elements found in the pricier 8″ models, whilst trimming down to the bare essentials. This Ursa Major 8″ Dobsonian delivers impressive performance for its price tag, thereby making it an attractive choice for those operating on a limited budget.
Sporting a tube roughly 1.2 metres in length, matched by a similarly broad base, this telescope is only slightly more cumbersome than a 6″ f/8 Dobsonian. However, this modest increase in bulk is compensated by a remarkable doubling of light-gathering capacity, and a one-third increase in resolving power. In addition, the Ursa Major 8″ Dobsonian is compatible with 2″ eyepieces, courtesy of its 2″ diameter single-speed Crayford focuser. A pair of 1.25” Plossl eyepieces and a 9×50 finderscope are also provided to get you started.
4. Best 8” Dobsonian: StellaLyra 8” f/6
- Excellent combination of included accessories for a fairly low cost
- Sharp 8” optics
- Well-designed mount
Our preferred choice for an 8” Dob is the StellaLyra 8″ f/6 Dobsonian due to its excellent performance, complete set of accessories provided straight from the package, and its amalgamation of features that one would usually expect to come with twice its price tag. No other telescope offers as much value for money as the StellaLyra 8″ f/6 does straight out of the box.
The StellaLyra 8″ f/6 mirrors the Ursa Major 8″, being an 8” f/6 Dobsonian, but it comes with altitude bearings that can be adjusted in their positioning along the optical tube to achieve perfect balance. It boasts a sophisticated 2” dual-speed Crayford focuser. The 50mm finderscope it incorporates is a right-angle correct image model, although you might find it beneficial to supplement it with a Telrad. The StellaLyra 8″ f/6 offers adjustable bearing friction on both axes, and the altitude bearings can be slid along the tube to balance the telescope with accessories of varying weights.
The StellaLyra 8″ f/6 also includes a high-quality 30mm wide-angle 2” eyepiece for low power and a 9mm Plossl for high power, though you’ll certainly want something intermediate in focal length, as well as a shorter focal length, high-power eyepiece or two for a range of magnification and field of view options.
5. Best Computer-Aided 8” Dobsonian: Celestron StarSense Explorer 8”
- StarSense Explorer technology assists in aiming
- Lightweight base makes for better portability
- Good performance
The StarSense Explorer 8” doesn’t come with a lot of features or accessories; you only get a single eyepiece, red dot finder, and single speed focuser. However, the telescope uses Celestron’s StarSense Explorer technology to turn your smartphone into a precision-pointing device without the hassle of any additional electronics, batteries, or controllers.
The StarSense Explorer 8” also has a lightweight, optimized base with cutouts built-in along with numerous carrying handles, so it’s quite a bit more portable than the other 8” Dobsonians on our list. However, the price is a little high for what you get, and collimating the primary mirror in the field requires a screwdriver. If you’re okay with these compromises, however, the StarSense Explorer 8” Dobsonian makes for a great telescope.
6. Best 10” Dobsonian: StellaLyra 10” f/5
- Excellent combination of included accessories for a fairly low cost
- Sharp 10” optics for excellent lunar, planetary and deep-sky views
- About as portable as most 8” Dobs
The tube of this telescope is somewhat longer than that of a 6” f/8 or 8” f/6 Dobsonian, but not by a significant margin. However, the scope’s dimensions and weight render it a touch more unwieldy than its smaller counterparts.
The included 30mm eyepiece might display some off-axis coma and astigmatism in a fast scope like the StellaLyra 10″ f/5, but it delivers a considerably broader field of view than a 25mm Plossl, which is undeniably a massive advantage when locating and observing deep-sky objects.
With the StellaLyra 10″ f/5’s dual-speed Crayford focuser, high-power focusing becomes an absolute joy. The StellaLyra 10″ f/5’s cooling fan, while essentially a sophisticated computer fan attached to the rear end of the tube with a battery pack wired on, proves quite useful for a 25 cm scope.
Just like the StellaLyra 8″ f/6, the StellaLyra 10″ f/5 also includes a 9mm Plossl eyepiece, although the telescope is capable of handling significantly more magnification than the 133x it provides—a good 10” scope can achieve up to 500x with proper collimation and calm skies, and the StellaLyra 10″ f/5’s dual-speed focuser makes focusing easier at these high magnifications.
7. Best Computer-Aided 10” Dobsonian: Celestron StarSense Explorer 10”
- StarSense Explorer technology assists in aiming
- Optimized, lightweight base makes for significantly better portability than competitors
- Great performance
As with the StarSense Explorer 8” Dobsonian, the StarSense Explorer 10” Dobsonian really doesn’t get you a lot of kit for the money; the main thing you’re paying for is the StarSense Explorer technology and lightened base design.
The StarSense Explorer 10” offers a lot of performance, as with any good 10” Dobsonian, and is significantly more portable than the 10” StellaLyra – however, it costs more than the StellaLyra 10” f/5 to begin with, and upgrading to have a similar set of accessories will put you into an even higher price range.
8. Best Computer-Aided 10” Dobsonian: StellaLyra 12” f/5
- Huge 12” aperture
- Lower price than collapsible/truss 12” telescopes
- Good set of provided features/accessories
The StellaLyra 12″ f/5 Dobsonian features the same sharp optics, 30mm 2” wide-angle eyepiece, cooling fan, dual-speed Crayford focuser, adjustable altitude bearings, 50mm right-angle finderscope, and excellent optics that make the smaller StellaLyra scopes such a good value for the money. However, there are some practical considerations to bear in mind before purchasing this telescope.
Firstly: it’s heavy. 34 kilograms might not sound too excessive, particularly as it can be divided into two components. However, imagine having to load it into your vehicle to reach an observing site. Now envisage reloading that scope back into your vehicle, then unloading it.
9. Best Portable 12” Dobsonian: Sky-Watcher FlexTube 300P Collapsible Dobsonian
- Massive aperture but still fits in most vehicles
- Easy to set up and assemble
- Individual components not too heavy
The Sky-Watcher Flextube Dobsonians have some compromises in their design that make the 8” and 10” models rather unappealing, at least as a first choice. However, the Flextube 300P is a lot more portable than a solid-tubed 12” Dobsonian; its collapsible tube can fit across the back of a vehicle whereas the long tube of a conventional 12” will need to have seats folded down – and plenty of available cargo space – to be transported. The focuser on the Flextube 300P is only a single-speed and it comes with a pair of rather basic 1.25” wide-angle eyepieces, but the scope features the same awe-inspiring views of any good 12” Dobsonian and a right-angle 9×50 finder is included.
You’ll need to make or buy a fabric shroud to keep stray light out of this open-tubed instrument and probably find a way to roll the base around if you need to move it a significant distance, but the Flextube 300P is a great choice for those with smaller vehicles, families, and/or limited storage space options at home.
10. Best Computerised 12” Dobsonian: Sky-Watcher 12″ Flextube Dobsonian GoTo
- Fully automatic motion and tracking
- Can still be used manually
- Great views as with any 12”
The GoTo FlexTube 300P is largely the same as its manual counterpart, but features full motorized pointing and tracking capability in all directions, controlled with the included handset; with an additional adapter you can run it with an app on your smart device. The FlexTube 300P GoTo can be used manually with the electronics powered off, or it can be pushed manually with the telescope fully activated and aligned without any impairment to its motorized pointing and tracking accuracy thanks to Sky-Watcher’s FreedomFind technology. This also allows you to push the scope partway to its targets if you are moving large distances around the sky to save power.
The motorized base of the FlexTube 300P GoTo is, however, quite heavy and you might need help – or wheels – to move it around at all, as well as load it into a vehicle.
11. Best 14” Dobsonian: Sky-Watcher FlexTube 350P SynScan GoToCollapsible Dobsonian
- 14” aperture for even brighter and bolder views, with motorized tracking and GoTo
- Base and tube both collapse for portability
- Dual-speed focuser
The FlexTube 350P Dobsonian is in some ways more portable than either the manual or GoTo FlexTube 300P variant. The reason? The whole base compacts flat with no tools and can be reassembled again in minutes. This allows you to save a lot of space when transporting the FlexTube 350P GoTo in a vehicle. The FlexTube 350P GoTo also comes standard with a premium dual-speed Crayford focuser for ultra-fine adjustment when focusing at high magnifications. This scope is certainly not for the faint of heart and requires plenty of storage and as well as a fairly large vehicle to transport it, but it will reward you with significantly brighter (by 36%) views than a 12” in a fairly portable and sturdy package. The manual FlexTube 350P is also an excellent scope.
12. Best 16” Dobsonian: StellaLyra 16″ f/4.5 Dobsonian
- Huge 16” aperture for the views of a lifetime
- Easily dismantled truss tube
- Decent starter features/accessories provided
The StellaLyra 16” f/4.5 Dobsonian is a monster telescope, but its carbon fibre poles easily break down in seconds, leaving you with the lower tube assembly, upper cage, poles, and a relatively beefy particle board base. This scope has the same focuser, finder, and pair of provided eyepieces as the smaller StellaLyra Dobsonians along with a built-in cooling fan. The base of this scope is fairly heavy and needlessly wide thanks to its circular frame, but a DIY replacement is easy to construct out of 18mm plywood. You’ll need a shroud for the exposed truss tube as well, which can be handmade or purchased from a third party. However, the huge mirror of this telescope will provide outstanding views of deep-sky objects if you can transport the telescope away from city lights.
- Sky-Watcher Classic Dobsonians (150P, 200P, 250P)
The Classic Dobsonians from Sky-Watcher aren’t bad scopes – but the Dobsonians from Ursa Major, StellaLyra, and Bresser feature superior focusers as well as better-designed bearings. However, if our other recommendations aren’t available to you, we would definitely recommend going with one of the solid-tubed scopes from Sky-Watcher.
- Sky-Watcher FlexTube Dobsonians (200P, 250P, 350P, 400P)
The Sky-Watcher FlexTube/collapsible design works really well with larger scopes, where it might make the difference between fitting in an automobile or not. However, the 8” and 10” FlexTube models are not any lighter than their solid-tubed counterparts and the space savings are really not much to brag about – and when you consider the need for a shroud, the nuisance of additional collimation (especially with the 8” model, which requires a screwdriver to adjust), and the price, there just isn’t much of a point. GoTo versions of all of the FlexTube models are also available at a higher price, but feature Sky-Watcher FreedomFind technology so you can still manually aim them.
- Explore Scientific 10”, 12” and 16” Ultra Light Dobsonians
While the Explore Scientific Ultra Light Dobsonians feature all-metal compact truss tubes and silky smooth bearing action, the high price and the additional spending required to get these scopes up and running makes them less-than-appealing for a first-timer. However, if storage space is of huge importance and you have extra room in the budget, these are both good scopes.
- Bresser Messier 8” & 10” Dobsonians
The larger Bresser Messier Dobsonians feature wonderfully smooth bearings, fully adjustable and rotatable tube cradles, and well-designed focusers. However, the included accessories are useless and the focusers are only single-speed; for the price, other options probably make more sense.