Review: Orion ShortTube 80 Refractor Telescope

Author: Luna Gregoria


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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?


Total Score

7/10: Solid with some issues

Score Breakdown (out of 5)

Optics: 3.5

Focuser: 3

Mount: NA

Moon & Planets: 3

Rich Field: 3

Accessories: 3

Ease of use: 4

Portability: 5

Value: 4

Read our scoring methodology here.


  • Good value for an affordable refractor.
  • Bright, contrasty images.
  • Surprisingly good performance on planets.
  • Wide, binocular-like field of view.
  • Lightweight enough to go on some photo tripods.
  • Compact, great for a grab-n-go or portable setup.


  • Value not as good as many Newtonians.
  • False color fringing often distracting on the Moon.

The Competition

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.

  • SkyWatcher StarTravel 80 AZ3: Includes a decent AZ3 Altitude-Azimuth mount, a red dot finder, and some decent eyepieces. EU only.
  • Celestron PowerSeeker 80AZS: The venerable ST80 OTA on a cheap, poorly made altaz fork mount, which is more frustrating than it is worth. Cheap prism diagonal and cheap eyepieces.
  • Celestron TravelScope 80: The TS80 has some haphazardly positioned finder screw-stalks to accommodate the extremely cheap finderscope it uses. Its photo tripod is unusably undersized. Its 45 degree erecting prism is unsuitable for astronomy.
  • Meade AdventureScope 80: Cheap prism and the same unusable tripod as the Celestron.

Our Verdict

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

Rating: 3.5/5