The Dobsonian telescope design is easy to manufacture, allowing for large primary mirrors for lots of light gathering at an affordable price. Even with a budget of below $500, you can get an excellent performing Dobsonian for visual observing.
Dobsonians can provide fantastic views of both deep sky objects and solar system objects like the planets and moon. This is due to their large aperture and therefore large light-gathering area. Other than Dobsonians, telescopes in the sub-$500 price range rarely exceed 4" in aperture due to cost. In comparison, you can get an 8" Dobsonian for that price, which has 4x the light-gathering power of a comparably-priced 4" telescope! This extra light translates to more overall detail when observing planets, as well as being able to observe much fainter objects. This makes them especially great for observing galaxies and nebulae. If you ever attend a star party, you'll notice that most of the visual observers are using Dobsonians for this reason. They come in a wide variety of sizes, ranging from small tabletop Dobsonians to medium and large-sized models, which can become very heavy and difficult to transport. A good rule of thumb for visual observers is to get the largest telescope you can both afford and also carry.
For a beginner looking for a telescope with great visual performance and versatility, the Dobsonian is tough to beat. So what are some downsides? For one, Dobsonians are a type of reflector telescope, meaning they use mirrors to form an image, and these mirrors need to be aligned. This process is known as collimation, and it's similar to having to tune an instrument before playing it. It's a brief process once you get the hang of it, but you'll need a special tool to do it; a collimator. Collimation normally takes around 5 minutes, but it is an added step compared to other telescopes like refractors.
Second, most Dobsonians are entirely manual, meaning they usually don't have computers or motorization to point at targets for you automatically. Some Dobsonians have this go-to ability, but this ability comes with an added cost.
Third, Dobsonians make for below-average telescopes for deep sky astrophotography. Due to the type of mount Dobsonians have, the alt-azimuth type, they can't track the night sky long enough for deep sky imaging of galaxies or nebulae. As a silver lining, Dobsonians can make for great budget planetary imaging telescopes. However, a Schmidt-Cassegrain will usually outperform a Dobsonian of similar price for planetary imaging.
All said and done, Dobsonians are among the best visual telescopes out there, and can give the best views of both deep sky and solar system objects for the money. If you need help picking out a Dobsonian, continue reading below, or get in touch with our friendly and knowledgeable Sales team!