A staple in their catalog for almost 20 years, the Orion ED80 – an 80 mm f.7.5 refractor – may lay claim to being the original bargain apochromat. This Chinese-sourced telescope raised some eyebrows at first. At the time, “apos” were rare and expensive to the point of being unattainable, and yet, here was an unassuming $499 telescope that seemed to perform far above its price point.
You start with a bare optical tube. It’s up to the owner to furnish the rest – mounting rings, plate, finder, diagonal, eyepiece(s) and the all-important mount. The telescope is light enough and has a short enough focal length of 600 mm that, even loaded with the accessories listed above, it barely breaks the 8 lb. barrier. A user can place it on a mid-priced alt-az mount like Vixen Optics’ Porta or Orion’s own VersaGo series. With a 25 mm eyepiece, the telescope yields only 24X, making manually finding and tracking objects easy. If you want automatic tracking and other computerized features, you’ll need a mid-sized equatorial mount like Orion’s SkyView series.
Good refractors excel at the moon, planets, and double stars, and the ED80 is no exception. The author has split Delta Cygnus (a double star that is normally a test for a 4-inch refractor) with it. The mosaic of the moon (below) was imaged in January of 2021. On deep sky, a 3-inch telescope will show you the showpiece objects, but be warned it may not have enough “reach” for the really dim stuff. As an example, the ED80 will show you the wonderful M81/M82 galaxy pair in Ursa Major, but owners of larger telescopes know that there are a few dimmer galaxies also in the region that may be beyond the reach of this telescope.
For experienced astronomers, the ED80 has long been known as a “gateway drug” into astrophotography. With a dedicated field flattener/.85 focal reducer ($275, sold by Sky-Watcher) the telescope turns into a 510 mm f/6.3 astrograph capable of superb astrophotographs in the right hands.
Could the budding amateur astronomer use an Orion ED80 as their first and only telescope? Yes, with the caveat that with only 3 inches of aperture, it will have limited light-gathering ability compared with larger telescopes. The ED80 has been sold in many configurations. Orion sometimes packages the bare optical tube with mounts and other accessories, often offering discounts in the process; check their catalog for the most recent deals.
For more on the Orion ED 80, including a large gallery of astrophotographs, see Ed’s YouTube video: