On this page I try to come to "final" conclusions for my electronic 4,5" Newton telescope Unistellar eVscope 112 mm/450 mm (f/4)*.
*) I took part in a Kickstarter campaign in mid-November 2017; my eVscope arrived on January 27, 2020; I sold it in mid-March 2022.
|Note: At the beginning of December 2021, I received an eVscope 2 ordered in October (I had ordered it, because I was convinced by the better image quality of the demonstration photos by Unistellar and the slightly larger field of view). I therefore sold my eVscope in mid-March 2022. For this reason, I will not report any further experiences with this telescope here.
In November 2017, when reading the "Adventure Astronomy" newsletter , I learned about the Unistellar eVscope for the first time. For a few weeks already, a Kickstarter campaign was running on this new kind of telescope (it ended up with 2.144 supporters and 2,209,270 $ in cash by November 24, 2017), and I also supported this project. Regrettably, I was already far too late to get hold of one of the two cheap offers. The delivery of the telescope, which can be assigned to "electronically augmented astronomy" (EAA), was initially scheduled for November 2018 (I received my sample at the end January 2020).
Photos: My eVscope (End of January 2020)
I received my "original" eVscope from Unistellar at the end of January 2020 and owned it until mid-March 2022. Before March 2022 I had already ordered an eVscope 2, which was meant to replace my eVscope. In the following, I would like to draw a sort of "conclusion" for the original eVscope. By the way, over time I wrote three "interim conclusions", which might also be an interesting read (First Conclusions - Second Conclusions - Third Conclusions).
My start with the eVscope was very bumpy, but in March 2020 I was already able to observe a large part of the Messier objects in a one-week "Messier marathon". Over time, it was more than 250 objects that I observed with my eVscope, including some (the "hot sellers") very often, because I used them to "tune in" and assess the "observing conditions" - or to demonstrate them to others. See page My Deep Sky Observations with the eVscope (Complete List of Observed DSO) for a complete list of observed objects!
The eVscope is advertised with the remarkable claim of being a hundred times better than a comparable visual telescope*. This comparison has not gone down particularly well with many potential customers; nevertheless, Unistellar has tried to make it "comprehensible". It is perhaps more interesting to put into words where the eVscope roughly ranks in the "telescope landscape." The eVscope, unlike astrophotography, is designed for "direct" observation. Here, however, one does not "observe" the object itself directly, but an electronic image taken by the built-in camera sensor and displayed by the internal computer (Raspberry Pie) on a smartphone or tablet computer after appropriate calculation steps (with the eVscope also in an "electronic" eyepiece). Already here, opinions are divided: what some consider as a great advance, namely to be able to see sky objects in detail and color (and even under poor conditions such as in a big city), others consider the results obtained as a poor representation of the object, which can be found on the Internet in much better quality. And many amateur astronomers do not regard such a procedure as a "real" observation. Many jokes have been made about the eVscope, which anyone is welcome to read for themselves in the relevant forums.
*) See 100 times more powerful than a standard telescope? Really?
In simple words, the eVscope is to be assigned to the EAA (electronically augmented astronomy). The resulting image (the "image stack") created by superimposing many single images or frames is displayed, can be observed in "real time" (or live...), and can also be saved as a file (the single frames are normally not accessible). Thanks to the superposition, the stack image becomes more and more detailed and less noisy over time. Very strict EAA followers, by the way, do not save photos, but only observe... Typically, with the eVscope you get a viewable image of the captured object in a few minutes. Depending on the object and your own "standards", it can, however, take 1-2 hours until a picture looks good enough for you. Astrophotographers do similar things, but not quite - they do not observe "live". They take hundreds or more single photos* for hours or even days, which are later superimposed and processed with suitable software, often in tedious work. The result is, however, typically of much better quality than an image taken with the eVscope or other EAA equipment (for a number of reasons, which would take too much room to be discussed here...).
*) Sometimes only ump teens...
The eVscope represents, so to speak, an "all-in-one" or "ready-made" solution for EAA, which Unistellar customers pay for accordingly. There are endless controversial discussions about this on the Internet... But note that the eVscope is "unique" only in that it represents a ready-made solution, not in that it enables observers to do EAA. And the eVscope is not the only ready-made solution either, if you think of the Vaonis refractors for example... In any case, Unistellar promises practically everyone to succeed within a few minutes and to be able to observe sky objects. Of course, this is also a thorn in the eye of some amateur astronomers, who insist that the gods have put sweat before success.
In summary, the eVscope is an "all-in-one" or "ready-made" solution for the EAA,
Already here one can have different opinions, without having been "in touch" with the eVscope (maybe one has seen photos...). In practice, however, there are still quite a few, partly unexpected further aspects...
In the following, I report from practice, and these are partly things that you have hardly thought about before, or not at all.
The eVscope is operated with a smartphone or tablet computer running an app, which is the "command center", so to speak, for handling the eVscope. My eVscope came with a pre-version of the app that was still full of bugs. Crashes were "normal". Over time, this improved, but app version 1 simply had too many bugs until its final days. App version 2 was released in mid-2022, too late to try it out with my original eVscope. This was done with my eVscope 2, and unfortunately quite a number of bugs still showed up... In this respect, the completely redesigned version 2 remained in the tradition of version 1. Otherwise, however, everything was "completely different", partly also the terminology was changed... Overall, I found version 1 relatively easy and intuitive to use, while version 2 still causes me some headaches and also seems less "intuitive" and more complex.
Over time, especially in the beginning, a number of useful improvements were introduced (see version history), such as the rectangular file format; however, my request for observation data to be stored in the EXIF buttons of photos was unfortunately not fulfilled until version 2.
Overall, the app was a frequent source of frustration and had to be restarted again and again for things to continue... The eVscope software itself, on the other hand, seemed rock solid, and only rarely did I have to restart the eVscope.
WLAN disconnections were another source of frustrations, especially when I tried to control the eVscope, located on the terrace, from our kitchen. After reconnecting, I was then often just an "observer" rather than an "operator" of the eVscope, and it took some effort or trial and error to become the operator again.
The range problem of the eVscope seems to be due to the fact that a Raspberry Pie computer is working in the eVscope, which has an insufficient WLAN range. Sometimes it was not even enough to stand next to the eVscope with the smartphone...
Initially, the number of target was small, so I had to enter some destinations via coordinates (at least that worked!). At the beginning of 2023, Unistellar advertises over 5000 targets in the app's database, which is certainly enough for most cases. Comets have also been "retrofitted" at times, making it easy to find them. The "targets" include stars, DSO, moon, planets, minor planets and just comets. Some targets, especially extended nebulae and star clusters, are too large for the eVscope's field of view, others are too small to see much; these include the planets, many planetary nebulae, and also small globular clusters and galaxies. In December 2022, Unistellar introduced a new "planet mode" that magnifies planets much more, making certain surface details visible (e.g., the red spot in Jupiter, provided that it is visible). It would certainly be useful to extend this mode to other small objects...
Since you cannot change the magnification of the eVscope (only electronically), you cannot expect all targets to be equally well visible. Overall, though, I think the field of view of the eVscope is a good choice (unfortunately, the moon does not quite fit in the field of view; this has been "touched up" with the eVscope 2 and eQuinox 2, which both have a larger field of view).
By the way, it is not in all cases important to see an object "beautifully", but you are glad that it is recognized by the eVscope at all. This is especially true for the many galaxies in the "large" Virgo.
It is true for all eVscope types that they are ready for use very quickly. However, you should let the telescope cool down for 15 minutes before you start observing. The automatic field detection mostly worked very fast for me, only you should not use it when the telescope is vertical and pointing to the zenith. The approaching of the targets can take a bit longer, especially if the approached object is far away from the previous position. The last step is to start the Enhanced Vision mode. This can take longer or even fail in unfavorable cases.
Since summer 2022, I also own a Vaonis Vespera, and with the Vespera it takes significantly longer before it is "ready for use" (Vaonis writes of 5 minutes...). And since the Vespera automatically searches for the sky section for the orientation, the orientation can take longer or fail completely with the Vespera in unfavorable conditions. The eVscope, on the other hand, can be moved manually to a section of the sky in which stars are actually present und thus, succeeds.
Originally, Unistellar's founders probably thought that eVscope users would primarily observe celestial objects through the built-in eyepiece and not on the smartphone. And they even pointed out that users should not take photos, because that is not what the eVscope was meant/designed for. However, as I know it from software ergonomics, users have their own views - and that was and is to view sky objects on the smartphone and also take photos of them to be able to present and share the photos. Unistellar has long since realized this, launched telescopes without eyepieces (eQuinox (2)) and is currently (January 2023) even advertising "pin sharp and high resolution images of sky objects" (I think that the eVscope photos are not that!). In my opinion, the views/photos have typical "EAA*-quality" and do not reach by far the quality of "real" astrophotos - and which nobody should really expect.
*) Electronically assisted astronomy
After 2 years of owning the eVscope, I have to admit that the image quality that can be achieved with it is fairly disappointing. I write this after having tested different astronomy cameras at my telescopes (EAA) and after having purchased a Vaonis Vespera. My EAA results are very inconsistent, but I was able to find out that with suitable combinations of telescope and camera, a much better image quality than with the eVscope can be achieved.
But please note that image quality is just one of many aspects, although an important one!
In the following I discuss what you can do with the eVscope. The field of view of the eVscope also plays a role here!
The original eVscope has a field of view of about half a degree, in the vertical a little bit less, so that the moon does not fit the imaged frame (only with so-called "mosaics"). So its main field of application are deep sky objects like open and globular clusters, galaxies, not too big nebulae, and also some planetary nebulae. On the other hand, it is less suitable for planets (meanwhile, there is a planet mode that magnifies more and in the case of Jupiter and Mars makes certain surface details visible, e.g. the red spot of Jupiter). Some testers and users criticize the eVscope for not being suitable for planets, but for a "fixed" instrument, the angle of view of the eVscope is certainly well chosen, as I already mentioned above.
If you want to take a "relaxed" approach to observing with the eVscope, it is easiest to observe the objects suggested by the app or to get recommendations and suggestions elsewhere (or from others). However, there is a risk that you visit the same "beautiful" objects again and again, and the whole affair threatens to become boring over time. I can confirm this from my own experience... It is also interesting to observe the same object under different sky conditions; but you will soon notice that the darker the sky is, the better the photos will be...
You can also become a "hunter-gatherer" and try to observe and photograph as many sky objects as possible. There are so many possibilities for this that I just list a few options. For example, one could collect certain types of sky objects (galaxies, planetary nebulae, globular star clusters, etc.). One might also collect Messier objects, or objects in a constellation or in a particular region of the sky. Or one collects certain events like comets (see below). And so on. ...
With the eVscope, there is also the possibility to participate in scientific observations; this alone could keep one well occupied. I myself refrain from participating because I already feel "busy" without these observations.
Particularly with the rectangular image format, you can already observe several deep sky objects at the same time with the eVscope as it is (for example, the galaxies M 65 and M 66). But you can also extend the field of view by creating "mosaics". But this has to be done manually with the eVscope, because it does not have a mosaic mode like the Vaonis telescopes. I am thinking more of "small" mosaics of several images, which can be suitably overlaid using an image processing program. I found it quite exciting to identify small galaxies on the photos of certain celestial objects (with the help of astrometry.net); here practically every small "fuzz", which one finds on a photo, comes into question.
With the eVscope it is also possible to observe and photograph certain "sky events" like comets, supernovae, or even star occultations. I have already successfully tried searching for comets and supernovae.
Sometimes, to one's surprise, one not only finds the objects one is looking for in photographs, but also makes "surprise finds." I always found this a very exciting aspect of eVscope, but of course it applies to EAA in general and, of course, to astrophotography as well.
Without having deeply explored the possibilities that the eVscope offers, I assume that there are enough use cases for eVscope that it should not become boring to observe and photograph with it. However, I have to admit that at times I only observed "on a whim" (and what SkySafari indicated...), and then it can get a bit boring with the eVscope in the long run, especially since I had to realize after some time that I simply did not get beyond a certain "quality level". If again and again observed objects do not "come out" better, a certain frustration or disappointment can occur, especially since the quality of the eVscope photos has its limits!
In my interim conclusions, I wrote that I am glad that I purchased the eVscope. In the third interim conclusion, however, I have already become a bit impatient because certain things, such as the app crashes, had simply not improved. The Unistellar app has since been replaced by version 2, and it will take a while before I can pass judgment on that. In any case, I have experienced crashes and errors with it as well...
After the acquisition of a Vaonis Vespera (50mm/250mm), I see the eVscope with somewhat different, perhaps "expanded," eyes. Working with the eVscope is much faster, the alignment is fortunately not completely automated and can therefore better deal with unfavorable sky conditions, the image quality is lower and the field of view smaller, the latter of which has both advantages and disadvantages. Only the Vespera has a mosaic mode, although not from the beginning. Sometimes, I consider selling the eVscope 2 that I now own again and going just with the Vespera. In addition, I still own the StellarMate astronomy computer, cameras, and telescopes to put together "building block" EAA systems. However, so far this system is not working to my satisfaction (January 2023) (it would work without the StellarMate via GoTo and stacking software). However, the eVscope displays globular clusters larger than the Vespera and is more favorable overall for smaller objects. The Vespera, thanks to the mosaic mode, has its advantages in the case of large objects.
In addition, I have noticed that the resulting (stacked) image of the eVscope does not really get better and brighter after a longer time, while with the Vespera the image gets brighter and better the longer you expose (which can take up to 2 hours). This characteristic of the eVscope is evident, for example, with large area nebulae, which turn out largely disappointing (subsequent processing helps a little...).
Note: This seems to have changed with the introduction of the Deep Dark Technology (mid-June 2023).
Unistellar's pricing policy is unclear to me: the new eQuinox 2 costs about 2,500 EUR (January 2023), which is a lot of money, but still justifiable; the eVscope 2, however, costs about 4,500 EUR, which I consider "beyond good and evil". The additional Nikon eyepiece and small, probably marketing-related, differences in resolution do not justify a price difference of 2,000 EUR in my eyes (whereby the backpack is sometimes included and sometimes not...).
In summary, I can say:
Overall, I draw a positive conclusion for my original eVscope despite all the changes in models and app updates, especially since I was able to purchase it much cheaper than later customers by participating in the Kickstarter campaign for the eVscope. The eVscope has opened up many possibilities for me, some of which I mention above. Can I make a recommendation for others interested in the eVscope? Certainly not, because there are too many variables in the equation for this, depending on personal preferences. Not for nothing was there a lot of ado about the eVscope in the discussion forums! If you are interested in the eVscope, you will find enough photos on the Internet that were taken with the eVscope and you can have it demonstrated (which is easy and fast...) to get your own impression of it. And last but not least, this Website might provide some help...