When it comes to the telescopes we review, our editorial board (which is comprised entirely of astronomers) make unbiased judgments. Please keep in mind that our performance rating system on this page is completely unrelated to any kind of monetary gain.
The ShortTube 80 was introduced in the mid-1990s, when Orion Telescopes & Binoculars brought the Synta-manufactured 80mm achromatic refractor to the U.S. market. Despite its small size, it was a smash hit, due to its affordable price, compact size, decent optics, and wide field of view. Orion continued selling these until they were briefly taken off the market in 2017, returning early 2020.
The ST80 has been a part of amateur astronomy culture since its introduction. Many telescope nuts have at least one (I’ve heard it described as a “rite of passage”), and they even have a following of dedicated advanced observers who use it as a primary instrument.
How does the ST80 hold up?
7/10: Solid with some issues
Score Breakdown (out of 5)
Moon & Planets: 3
Rich Field: 3
Ease of use: 4
Read our scoring methodology here.
The ShortTube 80 is in competition with its Synta-made siblings. These all have identical optics and more or less identical mechanics, however they ship with different accessories and tripods. Some of them are cheaper than the ST80 as an OTA only.
The ShortTube 80 is a decent telescope which occupies the niche of highly affordable travel-scope. If you already have a decent photo tripod, this is a bargain which will introduce you to many deep-sky-objects and show you surprisingly good views of Jupiter & Saturn. However, if this is your first telescope and you need to buy a separate mount, or one of the already mounted options, consider that there are cheaper options, such as 4.5” and 5” tabletop Dobsonians Reflectors, which will show you more due to their larger apertures, for the same price. Tabletop Dobsonians aren’t especially portable however (they’re bulkier than the ST80 and you also need to transport their table), and typically won’t show you as wide a field of view.
I use my ST80 primarily as a lightweight telescope for those times when I don’t feel like pulling out the heavier telescopes. On one occasion I threw out my back and could not use my Dobsonians, but I could at least use the ST80 But it also works well as a backpacker’s scope, being compact and lightweight and with the wide field of view you’d want for deep sky work in a darker location.
Orion ShortTube 80