What Did I Learn from My EAA Experiences?

Electronic Telescopes | Cameras | Preliminary Conclusions | Links

On this page, I try to answer the question of what I have learned from my various EAA experiences. On the one hand, it is about the electronic telescopes that I have used and still use, and on the other hand, about the cameras that I have used and still use in configurations I have put together myself. Of course, this answer will be very personal, but it may still be of interest to others.

 

Electronic Telescopes

I used (and since sold) the Unistellar eVscope and eVscope 2 telescopes, as well as the Vaonis Vespera, which I also sold, and the Vaonis Vespera Pro, which I still own.

Note: The information about the eVscope and eVscope 2 are also valid for the eQuinox and eQuinox 2.

Unistellar eVscope

The Unistellar eVscope was my first electronic or "smart" telescope; it's a Newtonian telescope that has a sensor instead of a secondary mirror. I bought it a little more cheaply through a Kickstarter campaign. Despite all the technical problems I had, especially at the beginning, I have observed the most DSO with it of all my telescopes so far - almost 300. On the one hand, I have seen pretty much everything that SkySafari showed me in terms of DSO. Of course, a lot of it was small and inconspicuous, but at least I had visited it and now I knew about it! On the other hand, the fact that you can observe most objects in 2-5 minutes played an important role. Rarely do you need longer (possibly for better photos), so you can easily visit 20-30 (and more) DSOs in one evening. You can get away with it!

Because the eVscope normally only requires short observation times, it is much more suitable than other "smart" telescopes for sharing observations with other people. Especially with children, but also with many adults, patience is exhausted after a few minutes, and it makes no sense to wait 15 or 30 minutes for an "even better" image. By then everyone will have run away!

The biggest criticism of the eVscope (and its successors) in the relevant forums, apart from the price, is always the image quality (or the combination of both...). I can only confirm this, although some objects are better suited to the eVscope than others (large nebulae, for example, are completely unsuitable). Unistellar has repeatedly "tweaked" the image quality, but not everything has improved (e.g. globular clusters, until then a domain of the eVscope, now wash out in the center). However, it should be borne in mind that not every application requires optimum image quality. This is especially desired if you want to do "low cost" astrophotography with the eVscope. But if you want to show other people DSO on your smartphone, this is not necessary, especially as you will only be exposing for a few minutes anyway.

And there are other cases that do not require optimum image quality. I only recently "stumbled across" such an application of the eVscope in a forum, which I had already tried to some extent. Due to its comparatively large aperture and the focal ratio of f/4, the eVscope can show objects up to a magnitude of 18. Some amateur astronomers take advantage of this property to go "galaxy hunting". They photograph regions of the sky, search the photos for small fuzzy dots, as these are presumably galaxies and not stars, and try to identify them. Very short exposure times of 1-2 minutes are sufficient to make the objects visible. Supernovae can also be found without the image being "optimal". I cannot judge the extent to which scientific applications require good image quality, as I have never taken part in them.

All in all, the eVscope has "opened the sky" for me and I have learned many new things with its help. In this respect, I do not want to complain about the inadequate image quality (at most about the app, which is always buggy...), especially as devices with better image quality have now come onto the market and will continue to do so. The only thing you could complain about is the self-praise that Unistellar gives of itself in the highest terms and which, in the opinion of many, including myself, has little to do with reality...

Many of the things I liked about the eVscope are certainly due to the fact that it was my first "smart" telescope (I sold it after I bought an eVscope 2). However, I really miss its high "observation speed". Waiting one to three hours for a result, as with the Vaonis Vespera, is difficult for me. But that is the way it is when the focus shifts from observation (EAA) to "simple" astrophotography (based on EAA). While 5-10 minutes of observation time are usually sufficient for pure EAA, there are hardly any limits in terms of time and effort when trying to achieve beautiful photos. However, I myself try to keep the post-processing effort as low as possible.

I cannot understand the prices that Unistellar charges for its telescopes, but by participating in the Kickstarter campaign for the eVscope, I was able to purchase it at a much lower price.

What have I learned? The eVscope was certainly a good choice as a "smart entry-level telescope", even if the buggy app cost me a lot of nerves. The observations run "quickly" (within a few minutes), which gave me access to many DSOs and also makes it suitable as a "demonstration telescope". The image quality of the eVscope cannot compete with that of other "smart" telescopes, but not every application requires optimal image quality. Some applications, such as the search for galaxies, can also be best operated with the eVscope. In this respect, it very much depends on what you want to do with the telescope and what you do not; in case of doubt, the eVscope can be a good complement to other "smart" telescopes (if you want to make the effort - I do not).

Unistellar eVscope 2

I purchased the Unistellar eVscope 2 after I had already supported the Vaonis Vespera. The reason for buying the eVscope 2 was the sample photos from Unistellar, certain technical improvements over the eVscope (e.g. a slightly larger field of view, a new sensor) and a discount for eVscope owners (at the time, the eVscope 2 was also significantly cheaper than later). I then sold the eVscope so as not to own too many telescopes.

Unfortunately, the eVscope 2 was a disappointment right from the start in terms of image quality; the photos I took with it never came close to the sample photos from Unistellar. I needed three copies before the image quality was reasonably satisfactory. In the end, I sold the eVscope 2 because it was competing with my Vaonis Vespera, which has better image quality but also requires longer exposure times.

In retrospect, I am annoyed in the first place that I bought the eVscope 2 - or at least did not return it straight away. At least, I learned that I should be more cautious about buying new equipment and wait until I have reliable information about the image quality. The sale of the eVscope 2 was then associated with a large financial loss (but I would not have wanted to take more money because of the image quality...), which I could/should have spared myself...

Vaonis Vespera

I also bought the Vaonis Vespera via a Kickstarter campaign and therefore at a slightly lower price. I opted for the Vespera because the different technology (refracting telescope) appealed to me (I almost bought the Stellina beforehand, but luckily I was able to control myself...). The Vespera could also have been a good addition to the eVscope and eVscope 2, but in the end I decided against it and just kept the Vespera. I had already learned my lessons with the eVscope (2), and I did not expect much more new from the eVscopes...

With the Vespera, I actually entered a "new world". To put it bluntly, the Vespera can do what the eVscope cannot and vice versa. So I went from being a star cluster and galaxy photographer to a nebula photographer. Many of the objects that I could just about photograph with the eVscope become so tiny with the Vespera that it no longer makes sense to observe them. Instead, the Vespera can be used to photograph larger objects, especially since the mosaic mode is available, which really is a game changer. But it is not just the field of view that is larger with the mosaic mode, the image quality is also better. Walking pattern noise is suppressed by dithering and hot pixels are apparently also suppressed. Some Vespera owners therefore only take mosaics, but this goes hand in hand with much longer exposure times.

On the one hand, I learned about walking pattern noise and dithering, on the other hand, I also entered the world of filters with nebula photography, because the Vespera can be used with two optional filters, a light pollution filter (CLS) and a Dual Band filter, the use of which needs to be tried out and learned.

Many Vespera owners put a lot of effort into post-processing their photos, almost getting into "real" astrophotography. However, not all the results convince me... When post-processing my photos, I have remained true to my simple and quick methods, because I want to keep the effort involved in post-processing to a minimum; I have not implemented the Affinity Photo tutorials. However, I use Topaz DeNoise AI, a noise removal software; but it is fast to apply...

Conclusions

In retrospect, I think that the order eVscope (2) - Vespera was exactly right for me. From a purely historical point of view, it would not have worked any other way... Today, of course, things look different and you can choose between the various alternatives. The eVscope (2) offered a quick introduction to the world of DSO, and its weaknesses in terms of image quality did not bother me much at first (there were no alternatives apart from configurations I put together myself, and I had little success with those). So I quickly got to know a lot of new things. The "eVscope experience" also largely corresponded to the "EAA experience" with modular combinations. It was only with time that I started to wonder about the image quality, at the latest since I owned a Vespera. So I was (and still am) faced with the question: "speed" or "image quality"? I decided in favor of the latter because I do not think I will be scouring the skies for DSO on a large scale any more - too many of them are not worth visiting (unless you are aiming for "completeness"). But I also want to limit myself in terms of image quality and keep post-processing work to a minimum. There are so many great DSO photos on the Internet that I cannot compete with anyway and never will be able to do so. I am more interested in "being there is everything" and "selfmade".

Vaonis Vespera Pro

I purchased the Vaonis Vespera Pro directly from Vaonis via a pre-order (June 2023) and therefore at a slightly lower price; I received it at the beginning of May 2024. Basically, what I wrote about the Vespera also applies to the Vespera Pro. However, it has a square image format, offers a higher resolution (1.8x compared to the Vespera), and requires significantly more exposure time than the Vespera. On the other hand, it also offers dithering in normal mode, i.e. it shows less Walking Pattern noise. Unfortunately, the Vespera Pro still has a lot of "teething problems", such as background patterns in mosaics.

When it comes to post-processing photos, I sticked to my simple and quick methods with the Vespera Pro. However, Topaz DeNoise AI, a noise removal software, has also "crept in" on me; but it is quick to use...

Conclusions

In retrospect, I think that the order eVscope (2) - Vespera Pro was exactly right for me. From a purely historical point of view, it would not have worked any other way... Today, of course, things look different and you can choose between the various alternatives. The eVscope (2) offered a quick introduction to the world of DSO, and its weaknesses in terms of image quality did not bother me much at first (there were no alternatives apart from configurations I put together myself, and I had little success with those). So I quickly got to know a lot of new things. The "eVscope experience" also largely corresponded to the "EAA experience" with modular combinations. It was only with time that I started to wonder about the image quality, at the latest since I owned a Vespera. So I was (and still am) faced with the question: "speed" or "image quality"? I decided in favor of the latter because I do not think I will be scouring the skies for DSO on a large scale any more - too many of them are not worth visiting (unless you are aiming for "completeness"). But I also want to limit myself in terms of image quality and keep post-processing work to a minimum. There are so many great DSO photos on the Internet that I cannot compete with anyway and never will be able to do so. I am more interested in "being there is everything" and "selfmade".

 

Cameras

In addition to the Atik Infinity camera, which was my introduction to EAA, I have also used or purchased (and one never used...) several cameras from ZWO.

Atik Infinity

After I had supported the Unistellar eVscope on Kickstarter, I bought a second-hand Atik Infinity camera to shorten the waiting time for the eVscope and to gain some initial experience with EAA.

To summarize, I can say that I did not achieve good results with this camera except for the Orion Nebula M 42. That is why I did not use it for two years and later sold it again.

Nevertheless, I learned a few things that I could also use with my cameras and "smart" telescopes I bought later. In this respect, the Atik Infinity was not a "useless expenditure of money" for me...

ZWO ASI224MC

I initially borrowed the ZWO ASI224MC and later bought it because it has the same sensor as the Unistellar eVscope (I have since sold the camera again). I wanted to find out whether I could get more out of this camera than the eVscope, where Unistellar's image processing is of course a "great unknown".

In the end, I found the eVscope photos to be consistently better than those I took with the ASI224. However, the ASI224MC photos did not look as "brushed up" as the eVscope photos (which Unistellar later reduced). I also found the amp glow on the ASI224MC disturbing, although this was supposed to be reduced. Unistellar at least compensated for this better, even if not completely.

With the ASI224MC I found out that I needed a UV/IR cut filter for the PS72 refractor so that the stars were not "blown up" too much. I also had problems with the stacking software from ZWO and with SharpCap. It turned out that a lot of things have to fit together in order to achieve similar results as with a "finished" electronic telescope. But if everything fits, the results should be better. You can also use different telescope tubes and are therefore much more flexible than with a "smart" telescope that has a fixed focal length.

In the end, I gained a lot of experience and learned a lot with the ASI224MC, but the results I achieved did not really satisfy me. That is why I sold the camera again, especially as it was not the most "modern"...

ZWO ASI294MC

Since I had problems with "plate solving" with the ZWO ASI224MC, probably because of the small field of view, I bought a second-hand ZWO ASI294MC with a much larger field of view. So far, however, I have used the camera almost exclusively as a "galaxy hunter" on the PS72 refractor, where the galaxies appear very small. So I cannot write anything "general" about this camera yet.

>> ZWO ASI294 Color Camera - Galaxies

ZWO ASI462MC

I bought the ZWO ASI462MC second-hand because it has the same sensor as my Vaonis Vespera. And as with the ASI224MC and the eVscope, I wanted to compare the results of both solutions. For various reasons, this did not happen... I therefore sold the ASI462MC in June 2024 (see ZWO ASI462 Color Camera - Information).

Conclusions

I did a lot of trial and error with these cameras, especially with the StellarMate computer that I had purchased as a plate solving solution (and whose app was as buggy as I had ever experienced...). In addition, the StellarMate computer, when it did work, delivered comparatively poor image quality when stacking. I sold the StellarMate computer in June 2024.

My mounts (Sky-Watcher AZGTi and Star Discovery) also often did not work "as desired" and cost me a lot of time and nerves, which was certainly partly my fault.

So the conclusion remains that I spent a lot of time with my self-assembled EAA solutions, but hardly achieved any useful results. Of course, this is also a result, especially as I would not have suspected this if I had not tried these solutions myself. But whether it was "worth it", I dare to doubt...

While I was trying to get into EAA with the Atik Infinity, the ASI224MC solution was also driven by a certain ambition, namely that I wanted to achieve better results than with the eVscope. This kept me "on the stick" for a very long time, because I usually do not give up that quickly; but the results remained rather poor. Better mounts (including EQ instead of AZ), better stacking software (SharpCap) and more care would certainly have helped, but my attempts mainly resulted in a lot of frustration, not least "thanks" to the StellarMate computer...

 

Preliminary Conclusions

I do not think that there is anything more to add...

 

Links

Electronic/Smart Telescopes

Cameras

 

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12.06.2024