Created and popularized by John Dobson in the 1960’s, the Dobsonian telescope was created as an alternative to the Newtonian design. It is in every way considered a low cost adaptation of that model, and with its altazimuth base it is able to hold large telescopes with ease. Dobsonian telescopes are sometimes referred to as sidewalk telescopes, although it has been a long time since that term has been used. So what makes it so special and why do some people favor it? Are there any disadvantages to a Dobsonian telescope? And what are the pros? The below list is a good example of why Dobsonian telescopes are preferred by some users.
It Has the Most Forgiving Mount
Since they are tied at the hip, both the telescope and the mount are made for each other (literally!) giving you the best balance, strength and flexibility of any platform. If you end up buying a telescope without a mount then you have to go out and find a compatible one. This can not only eat up your time, but money if you want the best one. It isn’t surprising in some cases to have a mount that costs just as much as the telescope itself. Then there are the mount/tripod/telescope combos.
While most of these are top notch across the board, there are some that may not adhere to those same standards. In the worst case you will get a great telescope but bad mount. Or an average telescope and a flaky tripod. When you buy a Dobsonian telescope you’re getting an all in one that is 100% the same quality from top to bottom. The fusion of the materials into one really makes a difference, leaving you with a good deal and not having to guess if the materials you bought will be overpriced or bad.
Prices Are Fair
As with any product that is an all in one you will get a discount since it costs the manufacturer less to make it. Dobsonian telescopes cost a good 10% less than other scopes on average, but remember that they also are slightly less powerful than other telescopes as well. So it is a give take on the price vs. value, and you’ll get a hassle free telescope with great portability if you’re not looking for a beast of a telescope.
Due to their size they can fit on a desk in your office or go in a backpack and travel with you. It is one of the most unobtrusive telescope designs in history, and without the millions of accessories that other telescopes come with you’ll be able to point and look. But remember the larger the Dobsonian tube the less portable it becomes. If portability is really important to you then you don’t want to go over a certain amount of inches in order to maintain that feature. And then again, a larger tube means more detailed and deep space viewing. Decide what size you’re comfortable with, and you can have the best of both worlds.
You Can Make One!
Hobbyist all over the world have made blueprints and shared them for making your own Dobsonian telescope! It’s not as hard as you may think, and the community supports the building of it by offering ready-made materials like mirrors for you to start your project. The days of grinding your own mirrors are over with and you can comfortably purchase all of the pieces to complete your project without doing any extra work other than putting it together like Lego blocks. For those that like to tinker a bit they can do as little or as much modifying as they want. The option to create your very own Dobsonian telescope is unique to this type, and another reason it has a nice following.
It’s a very straightforward design that doesn’t beat new users across the head with its features. This is something that can happen with other models that have pages of features and knobs to execute. A Dobsonian telescope is a simple point and look device that lets you play with the extras only if the user is up for it. That’s why it is an excellent telescope choice for beginners and kids, and the ability to build your own is the reason it is such a hit with experts and hobbyists.
So is a Dobsonian telescope for you? No matter what you’re level, the answer is a resounding yes! There are too many was to enjoy this type of telescope and very few cons. It does lack some of the power form its bigger brothers and sisters, but that can be remedied by getting a larger tube with the loss of portability. And if you don’t like what is being offered on the market, you can always build one of your very own.