The Orion SkyScanner 100 is basically the cheapest good telescope available these days, with a proper parabolic primary mirror to deliver sharp images, enough aperture to show you faint fuzzies, and accessories that aren’t plastic garbage. The scope does have a few concessions due to its low price tag but these are easily ignored.
Like many low-cost telescopes we recommend, the SkyScanner 100 is a tabletop telescope that requires an elevated surface to use (though the SkyScanner 100 can theoretically attach to a tripod). A good tripod for even a small telescope would cost as much as the entire SkyScanner 100 package itself. If you’re interested in a larger tabletop telescope, Orion’s StarBlast line along with the larger Sky-Watcher Heritage and Zhumell Z series scopes are great choices too.
The SkyScanner 100 is not to be confused with Orion’s new, confusingly-named SkyScanner BL102, which is a low-quality generic telescope Orion has been importing to compensate for supply chain issues, and should be avoided due to its poor quality optics, accessories, and mechanical design.
Orion SkyScanner 100
FEATURES: f/4.0 focal ratio, 400mm focal length,1.25" Rack-and-pinion, and 200x highest magnification
- Weighing only 6.2lbs, the Orion SkyScanner 100 is significantly lightweight and portable
- f/4.0 focal ratio and 400mm focal length is more than sufficient to deliver sharp images
- Decent build and accessories for an affordable price tag
What We Like
- Good optics
- Easy to use
- Very lightweight/portable
- Wide field of view
- Low price
- Decent accessories
What We Don’t Like
- No collimation adjustments
- Needs additional eyepieces/Barlow to achieve acceptable planetary views
How the Orion SkyScanner 100 compares to other products
- Sky-Watcher Heritage 130P – The 130P’s larger aperture and adjustable collimation give it sharper and brighter views, and the scope’s f/5 focal ratio is a little more lenient on cheaper eyepieces. The 130P’s collapsible tube also means it can fit in a remarkably small space.
- Zhumell Z114 – The Z114 offers a bit more aperture than the SkyScanner without a huge hike in price and with the added benefits of adjustable collimation and a rotatable tube, which can be helpful when using the scope on a less-than-optimal height surface.
- Orion SkyScanner BL102mm – Don’t be fooled. Despite the similar name and price tag, the BL102mm has little in common with the 100mm SkyScanner, with lower quality mechanical parts and optics which don’t really qualify as parabolic. The included accessories are also complete garbage.
The Optical Tube Assembly
The SkyScanner 100 is a 100mm (3.94”) f/4 Newtonian reflector with a focal length of 400mm. With such a fast focal ratio, the edge of the field of view at low power is going to have some coma, which manifests itself as oval or seagull-shaped stars, and cheaper oculars like the included Kellner eyepieces have other issues performing in such instruments as the SkyScanner 100.
Even a nice wide-angle eyepiece costing several times much as this telescope will still have coma, as coma correctors don’t work with such small telescopes. However, it’s easy enough to ignore this issue and the SkyScanner has no trouble delivering stunning and sharp stars at low magnification.
The SkyScanner 100’s primary mirror is also parabolic, so it is able to deliver sharp views at high magnifications too. Many cheap, low-quality reflectors either have shoddy spherical optics or “corrector lenses” which marginally improve their fuzzy views and add a whole host of other issues – not the SkyScanner 100.
One of the biggest concerns some may have about the SkyScanner 100 is the lack of collimation adjustments on the primary mirror – a concession of its low price and simple construction.
Short of dismantling the scope and attempting to stick shims under the mirror, you cannot do much if the scope is out of collimation, and the views will be terrible as a result. If you do receive a unit that isn’t collimated, you should be able to get a replacement from Orion right away. The good news is that the SkyScanner 100 usually arrives collimated and is likely to stay that way. The secondary mirror is adjustable, but you will likely never need to mess with it.
The SkyScanner 100 uses a plastic, 1.25” rack-and-pinion focuser to hold your eyepieces and dial in focus for a sharp image. Its shiny chrome painted drawtube pokes a bit into the main telescope tube of the SkyScanner 100 and can cause annoying glare problems on bright optics – simply undoing the screws holding it against the pinion gear and pulling it out will allow you to remove the drawtube and paint it black.
The plastic teeth on the SkyScanner 100’s focuser are easily damaged and not easily replaced, but work well if taken good care of. Any slop or play in the teeth/gear can easily be remedied by adjusting the screws and/or adding high-quality machine lubricant.
The SkyScanner 100 attaches to its mount with a very short Vixen-style dovetail rail, which technically allows you to put the tube on another mount/tripod if you have a reason to do so.
The SkyScanner 100’s mount is a simple single-arm tabletop “Dobsonian” design. The tube attaches to the side of the mount with a clamp to hold its dovetail bar, and pivots up and down on a screw and washers, which can be adjusted for optimal smooth motion with a hand knob.
The telescope mount pivots side to side like a “lazy Susan” on three small plastic pads gliding against its melamine-coated surface. This makes for a very simple, low-cost, and sturdy mounting.
You can set the SkyScanner 100 on a table, chair, bench, the hood of a car, or pretty much any elevated surface that’s convenient and comfortable to use, and with the overall light weight of the scope even a cheap folding table or stool will be plenty sturdy.
Unusually, the bottom of this scope’s mount also has a ¼ 20 socket for standard photo tripods, though a fairly big tripod will be required to adequately support the whole instrument without vibrations or any worries of tipping over.
The Scopes Accessories
The SkyScanner 100 comes with two 1.25” Kellner eyepieces: a 20mm providing 20x and a 10mm providing 40x. These have glass lenses, provide sharp images, and are good to start with.
You can’t go much lower than 20x without encountering more coma and the sky background getting too bright for light-polluted locales, which is why Orion provides a 20mm ocular instead of the more commonly seen 25mm eyepieces usually included with telescopes as a starter eyepiece.
However, for planetary viewing, 80-120x or so is optimal, so a 2x Barlow lens or a shorter 6mm or even 4.5mm planetary eyepiece is a good idea. Atmospheric conditions almost always will let you use this amount of magnification, which would still be considered pretty low for a larger instrument anyway.
The SkyScanner 100 includes no collimation tools – there’s no need for them really. The only other accessory besides the finder and caps is a red dot finder, which projects a small dot in the sky which can be lined up to correspond with where the telescope is pointed. The SkyScanner 100 arguably has such a wide field of view at 20x that even this finder could be considered overkill, but the red dot makes aiming the SkyScanner 100 a breeze even if you aren’t good at identifying where to look.
Orion SkyScanner 100 Specs
What Can You See With Orion SkyScanner 100 Product
The SkyScanner 100 is much bigger and more powerful than the cheap “department store” refractors and small reflectors offered around its price, but it is still very much a small telescope and limited by both its aperture and your viewing conditions.
The most interesting deep-sky objects you can see with the SkyScanner 100 are probably open clusters. Hundreds of them can be viewed even under light-polluted skies, and many have colorful, bright stars within.
Globular clusters are a bit less exciting; a 4” telescope can’t quite resolve the stars in them and most appear as fuzzy blobs devoid of detail. A few planetary nebulae, namely M27 (the Dumbbell) can be seen with the SkyScanner 100 as well, though you’ll need medium or high magnification to easily see them.
The SkyScanner 100 can show you the bright emission nebulae like Orion (M42) and the Lagoon (M8) with ease; the Rosette and the Swan (M17) are also visible. With a UHC nebula filter you can also see the Veil Nebula, which the SkyScanner 100 has a large enough field of view to fit with ease.
Galaxies are a bit of a disappointment with the SkyScanner 100; most are dim smudges with no detail. The Andromeda Galaxy (M31) shows its companions and dust lanes, and if you’re far enough south you can also see the dust lane in Centaurus A, but that’s about it.
The SkyScanner 100 fares a bit better on Solar System objects. Venus’ phases are easy to see; Mercury is a bit more difficult to resolve as a clear crescent and will require high magnification verging on the limit of the SkyScanner 100’s resolving power.
The Moon looks magnificent at any magnification under almost any conditions, showing thousands of mountains, craters, ridges, valleys, cracks, and more. Mars’ polar ice cap can be resolved most of the time with the SkyScanner 100, and when the planet is close to Earth, you might be able to see a few dark patches if you’re lucky.
Jupiter’s moons and cloud belts can be easily seen with the SkyScanner 100. With high magnification you can also just barely resolve the moons as disks, along with their shadows whenever they transit across Jupiter. The Great Red Spot can also be seen, but may be difficult to initially distinguish from the planet’s cloud belts.
Saturn’s rings are similarly easy to catch with the SkyScanner 100, and the Cassini Division can sometimes be spotted as a razor-thin gap in the rings. Saturn itself has some slight cloud belts and a few of its moons – namely Titan and Rhea – can be seen.
Uranus and Neptune are difficult to locate, let alone distinguish from stars, with the SkyScanner 100, and neither is likely to show a clearly resolvable disk. Their moons are too faint to glimpse at all with such a small aperture, as is Pluto.
Final Thoughts on the SkyScanner 100
The Orion SkyScanner 100 isn’t perfect, but it’s amazing for the price – there are eyepieces and filters that cost much more than this entire telescope. Even if you find yourself outgrowing it, the lightweight and simple nature of the SkyScanner make it a great secondary instrument which can be carried in a backpack and brought out at a moment’s notice for a celestial spectacle or to entertain friends.
If you like the SkyScanner 100 but have a larger budget, consider one of the larger 4.5”, 5” or 6” tabletop Dobsonians – or a full-sized 6-12” Dobsonian if you can accommodate one and are confident you’ll stay interested. Any larger aperture Dobsonian will show you a lot more but it is still no more difficult to set up and operate than the SkyScanner 100.