Unistellar eVscope Review by Zane Landers
The Unistellar eVscope is a product built largely on marketing hype.
The Unistellar eVscope is a product built largely on marketing hype and the laziness of its target demographic, providing lackluster images built on misleading promises and using components that cost roughly one-tenth to buy yourself as what Unistellar tricks you into purchasing. It is a scam marginally better than other crowdfunded products like solar roadways or artificial gills, designed to con those with more money than common sense into buying a bloated, barely functional product that rips away the entire point of purchasing a telescope in the first place. A real high-quality telescope is cheaper; a real astrophotography rig is more capable.
114mm (4.5”) Aperture
500mm Focal Length
Built-in electronic “eyepiece” on base model
The eVscope is a 114mm f/3.9, using a primary mirror identical to scopes like Orion’s StarBlast or Zhumell’s Z114. The primary mirror focuses light directly onto a Sony IMX224 sensor, an uncooled, small sensor used in the ZWO ASI224MC planetary camera. There is no secondary mirror, focuser, ability to install filters, or any kind of field flattener, derotator, or coma corrector. The sensor feeds the image into an onboard computer, which live stacks a series of short (under 30 second) exposures – it can’t take longer exposures due to the alt-azimuth design of the scope’s mount – and feeds them either to your phone/tablet or onto a tiny LCD screen and loupe that mimics an eyepiece. Unistellar calls this whole setup “enhanced vision technology” that makes the telescope “more powerful”, but really it’s just a cheap camera sensor and some very basic live stacking and automatic image processing.
The images of deep-sky objects with the eVscope are noisy and low-quality, stars are bloated and full of coma, and views of the Moon and planets are a joke due to the short 450mm focal length of the scope. Better astrophotos can be achieved with a DSLR, kit lens, and star tracker, while better lunar and planetary views can be produced by even a cheap 60mm refractor. The IMX224 sensor is cheap, not designed for time exposures, and full of noise, producing images that have more colored pixels of noise than bloated stars.
The “views” of large deep-sky objects are technically more detailed than through a “regular telescope” but lacking in resolution, aesthetic beauty, or the simple fact that in a real telescope and eyepiece those photons may have traveled thousands or millions of light-years to hit your eyeball, a precious experience the eVscope rips away in its ViewMaster-like novelty eyepiece or by simply sending them to your device, the brightness of which will blow out your natural night vision and make seeing the real night sky impossible.
If your goal is to view pretty pictures of space without effort, consider saving $3,000 and just looking at Hubble pictures or AstroBin.com’s highlights on your TV or computer. If your goal is good astrophotography, $3,000 or more will buy you a good equatorial mount, scope, and camera along with a copy of PixInsight processing software to get you started. If you want to look at the Universe for real, a 10” or 12” Dobsonian costs less than half as much as the evScope and you can spend the rest of your budget on eyepieces and tanks of gas to get you to dark skies if you lack them at home.
In heavy light pollution, the eVscope’s image quality does in fact suffer – something the manufacturers would prefer you not know – and under extremely bad viewing conditions some users have reported that the scope actually downloads images from the Web to make up for its inability
The eVscope’s mount uses cheap servo motors and software which is closely based on the cheap GoTo mounts from manufacturers such as Celestron sold with small scopes of 6” or less aperture. Its tracking quality is not the best, and being an alt-azimuth design it prevents the scope from taking exposures longer than 30 seconds. It’s attached to a cheap photo tripod that lacks a center brace or spreader, certainly not the most stable. The only good thing we have to say about it is that a battery is built in, though this could be of concern with regards to longevity.
The eVscope comes with a backpack and no other accessories. There’s no ability to swap any part of the eVscope yourself, or even install a broadband light pollution filter; the telescope is a useless door stop if something breaks and Unistellar is unwilling to repair it. But don’t worry, you can always buy a newer version of the eVscope for even more money and a marginal improvement in quality.
What Can You See?
As previously noted, the eVscope’s image quality is a joke. The Moon shows craters – but nothing a pair of 10×50 binoculars can’t show. The planets are smeared and hard to even recognize; Mercury, Mars, Uranus, and Neptune are mere smudges while even the rings of Saturn or the cloud belts on Jupiter are blurry and barely recognizable. Deep-sky objects – provided they are large such as the Orion Nebula or Andromeda Galaxy – show lots of detail under most conditions but amid a curtain of noise and absence of fine detail. And again, this isn’t “enhanced vision technology” – this isn’t built on a night vision photointensifier tube that captures real photons, nor a simple glass eyepiece – it’s merely fancy and misleading terminology for the age-old revolutionary technology of photography. And again, if photography is your goal, an eVscope’s pictures will be laughed out of the room by anyone who actually takes astrophotography seriously.
The eVscope is laughably overpriced, laughably incapable, impossible to modify or repair, and would be an outright scam were it not for the fact that it does indeed spit out pictures with pretty much no human effort besides plopping the telescope down and turning it on.
The Unistellar eVscope is not a new, revolutionary invention besides being a revolutionary new way to con people out of their money and take away the fundamental joys and experience of viewing the night sky – or eliminate the true art of astrophotography – for an even higher price tag than anyone else has managed to achieve in the past.
If your goal is viewing the night sky, a big Dobsonian telescope is a much better choice than the eVscope, while astrophotography depends on your budget, goals, and level of interest.
If you must have an all-in-one astrophotography-only rig, the Vaonis Stellina combines high-quality optics with a much better sensor, broadband light pollution filter, features like a derotator to allow for long exposures, and the ability to process the raw images yourself. It doesn’t have a fake eyepiece nor sell itself quite as extremely as a revolutionary new experience, and won’t compare to a dedicated astrophotography rig at its price level, but it can at least satisfy the lazy.