Refractor vs Dobsonian

Refractor vs Dobsonian – 5 Features That Make  Them Different!

Newbie into the stargazing world? Then so many telescopes in the market might make you super confused. We understand this can be an annoying situation.

But we are here to remove your visible confusion regarding this.

So, what makes refractor vs dobsonian different from each other?

The basic difference is that one uses lenses and the other uses mirrors for focusing. The lightpath of the reflectors is at a 90° angle. On the other hand,  the dobsonian light path is at a 180° angle. There are more differences such as contrast, sharpness, portability, etc. 

Before this short intro makes you more confused, be assured that there’s a long discussion ahead. 

Let’s move along to know everything in detail-

Refractor vs Dobsonian: Quick Look

As an amateur or even an experienced stargazer, a quick comparison may save your time. However, if you want a thorough discussion, we have that for you as well. 

But first, let’s have a quick look at the topic.

Comparison FactorRefractorsDobsonian
Focusing SystemUses lenseUses mirror
Chromatic Aberration and Light FringingYesNo
LightPathAngled at 90°Angled at 180°
Output ImageHorizontally ReversedVertically Reversed
PriceOrder NowOrder Now

We hope this quick comparison will help you to carry the main information easily. If you’re too excited to make a choice already then just jump to our final discussion section.

Now it’s time to swoop into the next section-

Dobsonian Vs Refractor: Detailed Comparison

As you have come reading along till now, you must be very interested in the comparison. And we will try not to disappoint you. 

We saw some interesting differences while comparing 20 x 50 or 10 x 50 binoculars. So, this following comparison might interest you as well. 

Let’s get to know about refractor vs. dobsonian in 5 points for more detail.

1. Focusing System

Refractors and Dobsonians don’t focus in the same way. They are quite different when it comes to focusing and light gathering.

Refractors use lenses that can gather light and help to focus. The size of the lens affects the focusing ability. That means, the longer the lens, the longer the optical tube is needed to focus.

On the other hand, Dobsonian is a kind of reflector telescope. So they use the same basic theory in terms of focusing and light gathering.

Just like reflector telescopes, Dobsonians use mirrors to focus and gather light. Lights fall into the mirror at different angles and thus extend the light path. These angles also determine the focusing point.

Nevertheless, no matter what the lens type is you can use a zoom eyepiece with it. It’ll help you to zoom any object instantly from low to high power.

Here are all the zoom eyepieces I’ve happily used so far-

2. Chromatic Aberration

Refractors have this problem of chromatic aberration. When this occurs, color fringing is seen in higher magnification. Different wavelengths of light get split and the output doesn’t look good.

Dobsonian telescopes usually don’t suffer from chromatic aberration. So, color fringing is also not an issue here. Here light keeps reflecting through the mirrors, so no such problem occurs.

However, chromatic aberrations in refractors are reduced to negligible levels. This can be done by using additional equipment. 

Such as a parabolic mirror or by using a fringe killer filter.

Looking for these equipments? No worries! We got you covered with all the best quality recommendations in the following table. Take a look-

3. Light Path

Refractor telescopes contain a diagonal light path. The entered light is bent at a 90° angle. So, the eyepiece can be placed in quite a convenient position due to this reason.

On the contrary, in Dobsonians, the light path is rotated to a 180° angle. This telescope contains the eyepiece on the top.

So, here we can see that this angle difference creates different outputs.

4. Output Image

The output image produced by refractors and Dobsonians has some dissimilation.

Refractors produce an image that is reversed left and right. To understand this better, you can think of bathroom mirrors as an example. Just like them, the output image is reversed. However, this isn’t a problem.

In the case of Dobsonians, this reversing is found on the vertical sides. That means you’ll see upside-down images as output. But most of the modern telescopes come with a finderscope that solves this problem.

Even if your telescope doesn’t have a finderscope you can easily buy one within a reasonable price. But the good news I’ve already listed some of my know options below that you can rely on-

5. Price Difference

There is a significant difference between the pricing of refractors and Dobsonian telescopes.

Due to the use of lenses in refractors, it’s expensive. Large refractor lenses are hard to manufacture. Also, the increased size adds to the cost. So, all in all, it’s an expensive telescope to have.

On the other hand, Dobsonians are budget-friendly and made for beginners. Also, it’s easier to produce Dobsonian telescopes without spending a lot of bucks.

In fact, in some cases, the cost of Dobsonian telescopes is half compared to refractors. So, this creates a big price gap between the two. So, Dobsonian is the winner in terms of pricing.

That’s why if you’re getting a Dobsonian then you’ll be able to buy more accessories with the additional money. 

I’ll definitely recommend you the following must-have accessories for your telescope. If you want to make stargazing experience more comfortable and enjoyable, take a look below-

So, these are the 5 differences between refractors and Dobsonian. We hope you got the differences well enough.

Final Discussion: Which One to Choose?

It’s hard to choose any one between the two, but let’s make it easier for you. Refractors and Dobsonian can primarily attract two different types of customers. But keep in mind that they are not like handmade sunspotter telescopes.

Take a quick look at the summary table below for your last call-

If you want to know what refractors are good for, they are quite good for astrophotography. They produce sharp and contrasty images. 

But when we talk about Dobsonian or what Dobsonians are good for, it’s a hotcake to amateurs.

So, defining which category of enthusiasts you belong to, choosing a telescope can be easy. Hope you’ll be able to find yours from here.


Can you see the planets using Dobsonian telescopes?

Yes, Dobsonian telescopes can be used for viewing planets. A 6” Dobsonian is capable enough to show you the rings of Saturn and so on. Or else, you can see the polar caps on Mars.

Are refractors and Dobsonian the same?

No, refractors and Dobsonian aren’t the same. From the optical perspective, Dobsonian is similar to reflector telescopes. So, the basic principles are the same on the Dobsonian and reflector telescopes.

What is the Dobsonian telescope specialized in?

Dobsonian telescopes are good deep-sky telescopes. They are great for observing dim star clusters. Nebulae and galaxies can also be observed greatly by Dobsonian.

Are Dobsonian telescopes good for beginners?

Yes, Dobsonian telescopes are good for beginners. Dobsonian telescopes are easy to operate. Also, there’s sheer simplicity in their design. All of these factors make them ideal for beginners.

Refractor or reflector, which one is better?

Refractors get an upper hand due to superior image quality. It has a specialized optic design. It’s also high in budget.


After a comprehensive discussion, we’re at the end of the refractor vs dobsonian comparison. 

Whichever telescope you choose, make sure you know their maintenance steps. That’s all from us for this time. 

Have fun stargazing!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *