Jump to content


- - - - -

Orion Skyview Pro 100 EQ

Discuss this article in our forums
Telescope Review

Orion SkyView Pro 100

100mm F/6 Refractor - MSRP $469

Bottom Line: If you're buying a first scope and have $500 to play with, this is absolutely the best use of your money. This package lets you start observing things from day one and is an excellent base that will allow you to grow at your own pace.


I came to California in 2000, I gave up work on my astronomy PhD having been lured to Silicon Valley and a job in the Internet business. As an 'astronomer' I'd never actually gone observing, I was more of a computer guy, developing models of near Earth asteroid populations and making dire predictions about the end of the world at the hands of a killer asteroid. Obviously I never applied those keen prediction skills to the tech industry otherwise I'd have stayed where I was and watched the bubble burst from a safe distance. Anyway, my professional experience with telescopes was minimal, but I did spend a fair amount of time with the observatory's 1895 10" Grubb refractor, an instrument which was as beautiful to look at as it was to look through. I remember touring the night sky with this, somewhat awed by the fact that this was one of the instruments Dreyer used to compile 'The New General Catalogue of Nebulae and Clusters of Stars'. When Hale Bopp came around it was in use on every clear night, providing great views of the comet for the interested public. We even hosted Anne McCaffrey when she was working on 'Skies of Pern', although weather stopped us from actually observing she assured me that just being in the presence of this magnificent instrument had provides pages of inspiration for her upcoming work. It's a hard act to live up to.

Armagh Observatory's 120 Year Old 10" Refractor. Sadly, I'm not going to review this.

So for 5 years I'd been without a telescope, and this year the itch got too strong to ignore, despite a generally tight financial situation I determined that Amy, my wonderful wife, and myself could spare around $500 for a Christmas present. This was back in October and it took me a month or so of reading reviews, making comparisons, and taking advice to settle on this relatively small scope, clocking in at $469 + $30 shipping and including a drive unit as a special offer. Enquiries were made, and the seller informed me that it would take 3-4 weeks to get one in stock and deliver it, I made sure to mention this to Amy, and left my web browser open at the product page to ensure that that hint had been communicated precisely. Always a sharp one Amy was quick on the uptake and 'secretly' ordered one, paying for it with our shared credit card just to ensure that I'd waste no time guessing what my Christmas present was when I could be spending that time working on the house....


Instead of taking 3 weeks the the package arrived in 3 days, and was too heavy for Amy to move out of sight, or wrap in Christmas paper, so I practically tripped over the box when I got home that evening. It was over a month until Christmas day.

Many telescope reviews mention the 'New Telescope Curse', well I believe I have discovered a new aspect to this curse, while the new scope sat in a box in the space where the Christmas tree would ultimately be erected we had fantastic clear skies. I spent some nights using binoculars to look around and imagine what I was missing as Mars began to slip away from Earth for the next couple of years (returning just in time for Christmas 2007), for good measure lady luck delivered a city wide power cut that cleared the skies of the omnipresent light pollution. The curse is a more devious creature than I had ever imagined. At the end of November I was partly responsible for a 'cat litter box accessibility problem' that resulted in Amy having to clean a lot of bedding (I was working at the time, otherwise I'd have dealt with it directly). By good fortune FedEx had chosen that day to deliver Amy's present - a Nikon Digital SLR - this was hastily wrapped and delivered as a peace offering, so we decided that Christmas 2005 should come a little early. The big box under the tree was opened and I got a first hand look at my Christmas gift. Always resourceful, the curse reacted quickly and sent down the first big rainstorm of the season, stealing another victory in its eternal struggle against new telescopes.


Even with cloudy skies there's a lot to say about the scope, the main reason I picked the scope was because I knew that the mounting was highly critical to a telescope's performance, and getting the heavier mount required a trade off in aperture. The model I selected was the cheapest thing that Orion sold on the SkyView Pro mount, and represents excellent value for money if you add up the price of all the individual parts, in fact it represents the best deal in Orion's entire SVP range, as a Scotsman I found this simple mathematical argument highly persuasive. The telescope and mount were packaged together, with a double boxed exterior and with individual components in smaller boxes, the packaging is excellent and there appears to have been a bit of thought put into making it environmentally friendly. Understandable given that Orion is based in Santa Cruz. The bonus drive unit came in a separate box and delivered the one real Christmas surprise, the dealer had upgraded the single axis drive unit to a dual axis unit.

Assembling the mount according to instructions was generally easy, I was surprised at how heavy it was, even before the scope and counterweights were added to the mix. I had some problems attaching the heavy duty spreader plate, when unfolding the legs (quite marvelous tubular steel legs I should point out) I can't seem to get them wide enough to accept the plate the correct way up, instead I found myself inserting it upside down so I could thread the nut on and tighten it enough and expand the legs. In theory I could then remove the plate and flip it the correct way up, however I'm generally happy with the inverted plate for the moment, both the supplied eyepieces fit in the tray with without any trouble, but bigger Eyepieces will require the plate to be setup correctly.

The Scope on the Excellent SkyView Pro Mount - hanging out with my other expensive hobby.

Other minor problems with the mount includes the plastic end cap which covers the axis tube where the Polar scope would be fitted, this cap doesn't secure particularly well and gets knocked off practically every time I pick the mount up to move it. The declination adjustment screws are another part that doesn't really live up to the general build quality, but since these are rarely adjusted it's not a huge problem. Finally, while the plastic slow motion knobs are adequate for the task, they are definite candidates for replacement at the earliest opportunity.

The instructions for installing the drive were slightly less clear and I wasn't 100% sure I was doing everything right since it took several attempts to get the RA motor seated correctly in the housing with the gear teeth meshed. The Declination motor proved to be the biggest problem of the whole setup, despite my best efforts I couldn't get the motor to mount correctly, the gear teeth would not mesh at all, after attaching and removing the motor I determined that the problem was the plastic motor casing which featured a small channel for the wires that powered the motor. As supplied the motor had the channel in the wrong place and this was stopping the motor for seating correctly into the mount, the solution was relatively simple, I twisted the casing slowly until the channel was no longer an obstruction. I was somewhat concerned that if I had overdid this it would have stressed and possibly broken the wires, but everything worked fine in the end. Many people would not have been so bold as to attempt this fix, and others may have decided to return it for replacement, however since this was essentially a bonus item I felt that I had little to lose in the attempt.

Detail of the Declination motor showing the cable channel on the case which had to be rotated to allow installation.

The motor controller and power supply don't integrate into the package particularly well, the power pack takes 4 D cells and has a strap which I've used to hang it on the declination screws, and that's and that's an adequate, if a little hokey, solution. The controller comes with an adhesive velcro strip that is supposed to be used to stick the controller to one of the tripod legs. I found my one year old daughter Skye had manged to remove this not even 24 hours after it was fitted. So, the controller can sit in the spreader tray until I come up with a better solution. I see this as a common complaint with the SVP motor drives, but to be perfectly honest, I'd prefer they cut corners with these kind of things rather than with something more essential to the instrument's performance.

The controller also has an annoying green LED which lights up when the drive is engaged, this is not the greatest thing for us astronomers who like to protect our night vision from such unwelcome intrusions, so I guess I'm not the only user who covers the light with electrical tape. When moving the tripod it's a good idea to unhook all the cables since there's too much potential for snagging them and damaging the system, or worse tripping over them while carrying sensitive optics.... Incidently, if you don't want to spend a small fortune on batteries it's a good idea to get a 6v 1000mA power supply to power the motors when you're within reach of a wall socket.

The Drive Controller and Power Pack don't have a good place to go on the mount, so they end up in the tray.

The telescope itself was bigger than I'd imagined, it came already secured to tube rings and a dovetail plate, and it was trivial to secure it to the mount and balance it. In fact it was so light I found it hard to mount it out of balance, which is probably a good sign as to the stability of the mount, or perhaps it's a warning about that famous sticky grease the manufacturers like to use. The package is completed by a 1.25" Mirror Diagonal, a 6x30 straight through finder scope, a collimation eyepiece and a couple of Sirius Plössl Eyepieces. These are mid-range components, superior to the accessories supplied with the lower end scopes in Orion's range, and even similar scopes in this price range by other manufacturers. The supplied eyepieces are 25mm and 10mm providing magnifications and fields of 24x/2o and 60x/0.75o, perfectly adequate for starters, but just begging for a barlow to be added to the equation in the future.

Without clear skies to test the scope on I found myself staring at the scope, gazing down the tube, transfixed by the objective which was a thing of beauty, I'd never examined the lens on that famous 10" Grubb so I found this captivating. The objective is an achromatic doublet coated on all surfaces although it's not clear whether all of the surfaces are multi-coated, so I'm presuming that only the external optics get the multi-coat treatment.With the entire package assembled I finally felt that I'd made a good choice and left it near my kitchen window, just in case the clouds broke for a few minutes. I'd have to wait a couple of days and so November turned into December.

I felt like I was going to fall in.....

First Light

As luck would happen the clouds broke into patches, giving me the occasional chance to glimpse clear patches of sky for a few minutes. Still viewing from my kitchen window, since I hadn't had time to carry the completed scope downstairs, the first target was obvious as Orion loomed large out of the window and the brand name made it feel more appropriate than ever. Despite the light pollution the nebula was clearer than I'd ever remembered it, most likely because I was 15 degrees further south than I was the last time I'd looked at it through a small scope. Swapping in the 10mm eyepiece let me see 4 stars of the trapezium, which was a pleasant surprise considering that I was essentially grabbing glances in a somewhat turbulent Oakland sky. The focuser needed quite a bit of work to get the best image possible, I found myself tweaking it back and forth around the middle, there's definitely a little bit of play in the focuser. I had been warned about the famously sticky grease that these Chinese components ship with, but it certainly never presented itself as a problem here or at any other point while operating the mechanical components. I'm guessing that it's most likely a temperature dependent problem that really manifests itself on those cold frosty nights, those very same nights that have clear, stable skies. The kind of nights we just don't get around here.

The new telescope curse delivered some truly malicious weather, even long after the rain ceased.

The stars in the frame weren't as sharp as I would have liked, as they moved in and out of focus it was clear that they were coming to focus off center, after consulting a website I guessed that this might be coma, but given the amount of turbulence I couldn't be sure. After a few minutes grabbing at gaps in the clouds my first light desires were satisfied and I resigned myself to waiting for some real observing weather.

I'd read about collimation, and the trouble that reflector owners go through to get a properly aligned mirror, as something of a beginner I was comforted by the comments that suggested that collimation on a refractor would be less of an issue. However, lacking clear skies a decision was made to put the optics to the test using the collimation eyepiece included in the package, I expected this test to be nothing more than a reassuring diversion. So I was quite taken aback when I clearly saw two reflected circles which were a far cry from being concentric, on actually looking at the screws which hold the lens assembly in place the skew was apparent to even cursory examination.The lens cell is adjustable using 3 pairs of push-pull screws and Orion thoughtfully supplies a screwdriver and allan keys for adjusting these, however I found that one of the screws had been tightened beyond the capability of the supplied screwdriver. All I could do with the tool was tear up the head and make things more difficult for myself, a more substantial device was brought into play to loosen the screw in question and complete the collimation.

After aligning the optics I spent some time fixing everything else that needed tweaking, in particular, the finder scope uses two screws working against a spring for alignment, making light work of the procedure. I have memories of aligning the finder on an old 70mm Tasco refractor which used a total of 6 screws, the Orion makes that old scope seem like a bad dream when I think about the build quality,and ease of use.

Collimating the lens cell required me to do battle with this very stubborn screw, note the damage it sustained from the supplied screwdriver.

Out Into The World

Mars was already falling behind so it was one of my primary targets for my next observing session, it was near the zenith so this required transferring the scope from my kitchen to my back yard, a non-trivial journey out of my front door and down the side of the house. This was relatively easy, the scope is pretty portable and can be moved without removing the tube or collapsing the legs, although I did have to be careful in negotiating some of my doorways. This package makes an excellent choice for those users seeking a grab n' go scope, and for car transport it breaks down and rebuilds quickly and easily - most of the other scopes I had considered would have more trouble fitting in my car (a 1999 Mustang Convertible), especially if I needed to bring Amy, Skye and a weekend's worth of luggage along for the trip.

On attempting to observe Mars I encountered another couple of minor problems, I'm sure you can tell from the pictures that the finder can be somewhat awkward to use for targets near the zenith. I found myself frequently rotating the eyepiece and diagonal to move it out of the way to use the finder scope and then rotating it back to actually look at the target, only to find I'd managed to knock the finder out of alignment. I'm sure this is just because I'm out of practice with my telescope contortions, but it does make me want to put a right angle finder near the top of my accessory list. The more pressing problem is that when rotating the mount I found the Declination drive motor was bumping into the RA knob, I switched the slow motion knob to the other side, but even then it was still possible to run the motor into the bare drive shaft. I'm not sure whether the drive system would be powerful enough to damage the Dec motor assembly from the pressure, or burn out the motor due to it being stuck?

Given that the motor doesn't drive the scope any faster than 8x sidereal the impact velocity works out to 1/25th of a millimeter per second (slower than even the most lethargic snail), it's not going to damage the motor assembly directly. If you were using the drive to track an object on the sky it has the effect of pitching the telescope up in the declination axis which might be bad if you're exposing an image at that time. Whatever happens it's the one bona fide design flaw in the mount that I have reservations about. I also tried rotating the telescope 180 degrees on the RA axis, putting the motor on top of the tube, this puts it well clear of the mount, but I found that it also made the tube unstable and if I left the brake off the weight of the motor wanted to flip the tube until the motor was on the bottom again. I should point out that personally I don't have huge grounds for complaint since the Dec motor was essentially a bonus, but if I'd paid for it I might be a little more concerned.

When moving the mount around the declination motor can easily collide with the RA drive shaft.

After lining up Mars and actually getting a look this was the first object that clearly showed a violet halo due to chromatic aberration (Amy thought it looked pretty), it clearly visible at 60x but it didn't distract from the target. I can't say for sure whether I saw any real detail on the surface, the seeing was pretty turbulent, and I attempted to get some video frames with a view to stacking, but the martian disc wobbled too much to get anything definitive. Now that the mount was properly on terra firma it was possible for me to appreciate the stability of the mount which had been the major factor in my selection of this scope. The tube was held steady against the small amount of wind and when deliberately disturbed the damping time was easily under a second, and for good measure I added a few pounds of camera gear to the screw on the tube ring, the mount performed admirably. It was at this point, however, that I realized that the Tube had been mounted backwards in the tube rings, the mounting screw was on the rear tube ring, this barely qualifies as a problem but it does make me wonder once again about general quality control.

Venus was still in the sky and I had a go at this, again the chromatic aberration was plainly visible, in fact Venus was perhaps the only object I observed where the blue halo was an inescapable feature, but otherwise the planet resolved wonderfully and showed a sharply defined phase. The dust cap supplied with the package allows you to mask down the objective to a 60mm aperture, using this smaller aperture reduced the halos to something more manageable, although I'm sure there's an entire army of apochromat owners who'd be less than satisfied with this.

But planets are not the forte of these short tube refractors, its those wide angle views where the scope excells, M45 was also high in the sky and seemed to be a good target, at least after doing the finder scope limbo dance to locate it. The cluster showed reasonably sharp star images over about 90% of the field of view, with some minor image degradation towards the edge, CA was apparent on the brighter stars, but really with an f/6 refractor there's no getting away from the blue meanies. I used to look at the Pleiades a lot with that 70mm Tasco but the views provided by this scope seemed to bring with them a new sense of clarity and crispness,  maybe my memories of that old scope have blurred with age, but more likely the doubling of my objective area and superior optics made the real improvement

Some effort was expended on aligning the mount so that the drive would track correctly, one of the tripod legs does have a big 'N' that might help some people or confuse them if they're in south of the equator, it will accept a polar alignment scope, but that's an optional extra that I've done without. Even if I had one it wouldn't do me any good in my back yard since my house blocks line of sight to Polaris, and indeed to most of the north sky. Instead I've been getting alignment through the old fashioned method of observing stars and their slow drift, the tripod leg locations have now been marked off on my concrete patio, although there's still room for improvement. However the drive does have a fair amount of play in both axes and even with the best alignment I could get there remained too much jitter for anything that would qualify as long exposure photography, thankfully in this era technology allows us to get a decent approximation by stacking many short exposures. It'll satisfy my needs until I can save up enough pennies for a mount with an integrated drive and PEC capabilities.

The mount also comes with adjustable setting circles which are roughly 3 inches in diameter, the RA circle is has marking every 10 minutes and the Dec circle has marks every degree, with the 25mm eyepiece and good mount alignment this should let you get your intended target into view and allow you to make the final adjustments through the eyepiece. I located a couple of Messier objects this way, just to prove to myself that it was possible, but the amount of work required for the initial alignment means that star hopping still retains a great appeal for casual observing sessions. Orion is now selling an Intelliscope upgrade for the SkyView Pro mount, it's not a Go-To system by any means - slewing to a target at the drive's top speed could take over an hour at 8x sidereal, instead its their 'user driven go-to' which gives the operator directional queues to help them home in on the desired target. It's certainly an interesting feature as a potential upgrade, although the only reviews I've read so far are for the intelliscope on Orion's dobsons.

Early Next Morning

Skye demanded attention when she woke up at some unreasonable hour and after calming her and putting her back to sleep I checked on the other sky and found that it too had settled somewhat and presented me with some new targets. Saturn was high in the sky and looked great, with the more stable air I tried to deploy the video camera only to have it shut of with a dew warning. Curses! foiled again, oh well, I'll have plenty more chances in the next couple of months. Still the view through the eyepiece was just reward for my endeavors with the young un'. Jupiter had risen and was high enough to be well worth a look, the disc showed at least one pair of cloud bands north and south of the equator and there were a few points of light where I expected to see the Galilean satellites. With its short focal length it's performance on planets isn't going to set the world on fire, but it's definitely better than I'd imagined.

Although lacking an eyepiece of sufficient power to perform a real star test I made my best efforts to ascertain the optical performance in the stable air, certainly I couldn't detect any optical defects at 60x, other than the obvious chromatic aberration, generally the observations confirmed my earlier impressions. Stars near the middle of the field came in and out of focus with no hint of asymmetry or spokes, in particular without that coma that had been so obvious before my epic battle with that stubborn collimation screw. Further testing will need higher magnifications, so instead I headed back to deep sky territory while waiting for Mercury to rise and bring the pre-dawn glow to the sky, I felt quite proud to have observed the 5 classical planets over the course of a single night. This little scope had but one more task ahead of it before I could consider it broken in......

Observing the Moon

Once the Moon returned the telescope treated me to some fabulous views, the instrument really excels at providing views of the lunar surface, I've seen all these craters before in images, and in my old Tasco, but I never did get the chance to point that magnificent Grubb at our nearest neighbor, no doubt that massive lens would have gathered too much light and dazzled away any detail. Even on this small scope masking down the objective delivers great gains in terms of viewing comfort and of course it virtually eliminates the blue halos making for practically colour free views of the lunar surface, even along the lunar limb it's hard to detect any rogue colour escaping the lunar surface into the blackness of space. I spent an awful lot of time studying the craters along the terminator, the images are truly magnificent with deep contrast and sharply defined features giving observers plenty of opportunity for lunar exploration,  the views of the moon alone practically justify this scope as a good investment.

A Great Investment For Dedicated Beginners

So here's why this scope is perfect for me, with a house and family my finances are generally tight, so I could budget about $500 as a one time expense and maybe look forward to smaller expenditures at random times in the future. This package represents an excellent base with plenty of scope for upgrades (no pun intended), but nothing in the package will find itself rendered redundant at any foreseeable point in the future. The SkyView Pro mount and drive is solid enough to use for some basic astrophotography and the scope is big enough to give new astronomers a big step up in what they can see while remaining sufficiently portable such that travelling to dark skies isn't a major operation. The base package is excellent value for money, especially when you compare it against the nearest equivalent packages from other manufacturers which frequently come with fewer accessories and lighter mounts. The tube has a 2" focuser even though all the supplied accessories are 1.25", it's great to have the possibility of acquiring the larger eyepieces. If I want a computer guided mount then that's a possibility with Orion's intelliscope upgrade kit, although it's not a complete go-to system it will make object location easier. And should I really feel the need for more aperture then I can just buy the tube and mounting hardware rather than buying a complete package, the mount will supposedly handle Orion's 8" newtonian OTA which gives a huge step up in light gathering for a relatively small outlay.

There are some people that might advocate big dobsons for beginners, that wouldn't be me.

Things I Like

  • Mount shows excellent stability
  • Generally great build quality
  • Portable
  • Decent quality optics all round
  • Plenty of upgrade potential
  • Great value ($469) - even better if you get the free drive.

Things I Don't Like

  • Dec Drive can crash into the mount
  • Controller and power pack don't have a real home
  • Plastic Slow-Mo knobs aren't up to the otherwise high build quality.
  • Some chromatic aberration (if this is a problem save your pennies for something else)

My Shopping List

  • The Essentials
    • Barlow Lens to extend the range of the supplied eyepieces.
    • Right angle finder to help reduce neck ache.
    • Replacement Slow Mo knobs since the plastic ones beg to be replaced.
    • A can of decent grease, a lot of people have advised that tearing down and rebuilding the mount is a good idea.
    • 2" Mirror Diagonal, so I can start collecting 2" eyepieces.
    • Polar Alignment Scope, for when I take the scope on the road.
  • Nice to have, Someday
    • Intelliscope upgrade Kit.
    • Replacement Focuser, there are several to choose from.
    • Bigger Tube with more aperture, longer focal length, or both...... but that's another review.
Thanks to Amy for buying the telescope and bringing Christmas early.
Thanks to Armagh Observatory for letting me use the photo of the Grubb 10" for this article.

Scott Manley


Cloudy Nights LLC
Cloudy Nights Sponsor: Astronomics