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Celestron vs Orion Vs SkyWatcher (Which Brand Makes The Best Telescopes?)

You might be in the market for buying a new telescope and wondering which is better Celestron vs Orion or perhaps SkyWatcher? Let’s look at the important things to know about these brands and compare their products.

Why these three brands? Of all the telescope brands, Orion, Celestron, and SkyWatcher are typical of the ones you’ll see promoted the most – a lot! on the best telescope lists. Other brands are Meade, Astro Tech, Explore Scientific, iOptron, Bresser, TS (Teleskop Service), Altair, and Saxon, depending on where you live.

Which Is Better, Celestron Or Orion? Or SkyWatcher?

If you base it on search popularity alone, Orion is the winner. Over the past 12 months (before writing this), internet users on average per month have searched for ‘Orion telescope’ more often than ‘Celestron telescope’ or ‘SkyWatcher telescope’, the other common telescope brands covered in this article (US results).

graph comparing orion vs skywatcher vs celestron telescope popularity in online search
Source: Ubersuggest.com (US search results 12 mths to August 2020)

Such popularity aside, what defines these telescope brands…

Is Celestron a Good Brand?

Celestron is a well-known brand of hobbyist telescope with 105 products and 130 models (give or take) of telescopes that include AstroMaster, PowerSeeker, NexStar, Schmidt Cassegrain, and more.

About Celestron

Celestron makes telescopes for all skill levels and budgets. Founded in Los Angelos, California by Tom Johnson, the Celestron brand has been around since the 1960s. They are known for refractor and reflector telescope types as well as premium Schmidt-Cassegrain telescopes( aka SCTs), but not so much the Dobsonian telescopes. Users typically rate their NexStar and more heavy-duty mounts and their Schmidt-Cassegrains as good quality.

More on the Celestron brand

YouTube video

Since 2005, Celestron has been owned by SW Technology Corporation, a Delaware company that is a partner of Synta Technology Corporation. Previous to that it was owned and run by Tasco and before that by Diethelm & Co., Ltd.

Synta is one of the two major manufacturers of home telescopes today. At the time of writing, over 80% of telescopes imported into the US for consumer-use are reported as made by either Synta or its competitor, Ningbo Sunny (maker of Meade telescopes and at one time, Orion telescopes).

Are SkyWatcher and Celestron the same brand?

The best explanation as to whether Skywatcher is the same brand as Celestron is this: Celestron’s parent company is Synta Technology Corporation of Taiwan and this company, Synta, owns SkyWatcher.

Questions like these are common when products appear similar, except for the branding, which sets them apart. Most times, the reason is that they are owned or manufactured by the same parent company and so made with the same mold. Elements may differ between them, however. For instance, one might have cheaper quality parts, e.g. plastic bits rather than metal.

The Synta company established the brand SkyWatcher in 1999.

Is Orion a good brand?

Orion is also a well-known brand of telescope for the hobbyist. It’s been around since 1975 and has been described as the last major American telescope brand.

Are Orion telescopes any good? If it is anything at all to go by, the number of searches online over the past 12 months indicates Orion is by far the most popular of consumer telescope brands in the US out of the three covered in this article. This on its own is not a conclusive result, however, as there can be obscure reasons for this higher number of searches.

What the company says about themselves:

The Orion brand stands for high quality, excellent value, and an unswerving commitment to customer care and service.

They offer a 30-day money-back guarantee and are an American-owned company.

About Orion

Orion Telescopes & Binoculars is the business name of the company Optronic Technologies Inc.

Orion was founded in 1975 in Santa Cruz, California, by Tim Gieseler. Since 2017, Orion has been a Californian employee-owned company that designs recreational telescopes for import and sale in the US. Previous to this, it was acquired and owned by Imaginova, a US conglomerate. 

Orion today design telescopes that are made in Asia by Chinese manufacturers, including Synta and previously Ningbo Sunny.

The Orion brand is known for its Dobsonians (Classic and Intelliscope). Beginner astronomers and experienced stargazing hobbyists alike choose Dobsonians because of their ‘bang for the buck’.

Orion sells telescopes for all levels of experience and apart from Dobsonians, you’ll also find Orion Newtonians, Maksutovs-Cassegrains, Ritchey-Chrétiens, and refractors.

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Telescope Series by brand

You may often hear or see different names of telescope mentioned (e.g. in forums) without knowing the brand involved. The many names and types of telescope on the market can make it overwhelming when trying to figure it all out.

Telescope lines / brands

The above are examples of telescope lines of the three brands.
SCT: Schmidt-Cassegrain; Mak: Maksutov-Cassegrain

The above should help you identify and differentiate the different lines or series of telescope according to the brand. So, if you’re in the US looking for a Dobsonian, for example, you’ll likely consider an Orion or SkyWatcher brand telescope, rather than Celestron.

Whereas for an SCT, among these brands, you’d look at a Celestron. Meade is the other brand making SCTs and a comparison of these is a subject for another article.

(Note: Orion markets Ritchey-Chretien, which is another type of Cassegrain – not shown in table).

Who makes Celestron vs Orion vs SkyWatcher?

You might (or might not) be surprised to know that most consumer telescopes are made in China or Taiwan and this has been the case since the 1990s. The two largest manufacturers of telescopes sold in the US are Synta and Sunny.

Where are celestron telescopes made?

Is Celestron made in China? Celestron telescopes are made in China by the company Synta Technology Corporation of Taiwan.

Who makes SkyWatcher brand?

SkyWatcher telescopes are made by the Taiwanese company Synta Optical Technology Co. Ltd at manufacturing facilities in Suzhou (Jiangsu), China.

Who makes Orion brand?

Most of Orion telescopes are also made by the Chinese company, Synta.

Summing it up

Which is best? It’s probably a much of a muchness in terms of the brand alone. At the end of the day, the brands tend to use the same manufacturers and in each of the brands, you’re likely to find an excellent product and also a not-so-satisfying one.

The things that count the most depend on what you are willing to accept regarding the quality of the optics, the mount, and other specifications of the telescope and your purpose for obtaining a telescope as well as your budget. You’ll find a number of articles on this site covering these quandaries that aim to help – check them out!

Info Sources

Celestron Ownership | Orion’s Business Profile