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Buzzard75

Unistellar eVscope

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Unistellar started shipping eVscope units to Kickstarter backers a couple weeks ago. I was fortunate enough to be selected as one of the beta testers. Now that it’s released and the app is available on Google Play and iTunes, I thought it was time to provide a review. I won’t talk too much about the beta test, but I will give you details about my own personal experience with the eVscope over the last few months and thoughts on its construction.

I received my eVscope at the beginning of October. I was lucky enough to be able to use it the same day I received it. When was the last time you received a piece of astronomy equipment and the skies were clear enough on the same day that you were able to use it? In fact, I had two clear nights in a row. Upon my first viewing, I was honestly rather unimpressed and somewhat disappointed in the performance. The mount had some trouble tracking and I was getting star trails. I could see them drifting through the live view. There was also a considerable amount of noise in the stacked image in the form of light pollution that should have been processed out. I wrote up my report and sent it to Unistellar. A few days later I received an email that they had taken the feedback of myself and other users and made some improvements to the software and firmware. All I had to do was update the app and the next time I connected to the eVscope it would be updated. To my surprise, it helped tremendously. I started seeing stacked images that appeared much closer to what I would have expected. Over the course of the next couple months I continued to make observations and provide my feedback. In turn, Unistellar continued to make improvements to the app and the eVscope firmware and provided some more information on how to calibrate the hardware to get a better image. In addition to a large focus knob on the back of the scope, there are collimation screws to better align the primary mirror to the sensor. That’s all the collimation and adjustment that’s required and it’s very easy to do.

During the couple of months I had the eVscope for beta testing, I took it to a star party one evening that our club was hosting. This would be the first time anyone other than myself and my immediate family had seen the device. We had about 450 people show up that night. That size of a crowd was a bit unexpected and overwhelming. Per the NDA I signed, I wasn’t supposed to show the eVscope to anyone or even talk about it or the beta testing. I chose not to show it to the general public. However, my club members knew I had it and knew all about it as I had been talking about it for a couple of years. I wanted to get their impressions and feedback so that I could also provide that to Unistellar as they may be more objective than I was being since I was invested in it. I waited until all the guests left before I pulled it out and set it up for a handful of members. I also really wanted to try it out at that location as that will be the primary place it will get used. All of the members who had the opportunity to look at the images presented were impressed by them. Again, the eVscope was performing as I had originally expected it to and as the club members had expected it to based on what I had told them about the product.

There are those who will say this is just a gimmick and it’s not the same as the photons falling directly in your eye. I would say to those people that this device is not for you then. It is also not for the dedicated astrophotographers who want highly detailed and vibrant images of objects using data that has been collected over several hours. I have an entire setup dedicated for astrophotography for that myself and I fully admit it is much more capable at pulling out detail than the eVscope. Arnaud said in the promotional videos that when he looked through his telescope and could only see faint fuzzy objects with no detail that he was disappointed. That is who this telescope is for, the people who want to see more detail than a faint fuzzy spot, but don’t want to deal with a full astrophotography setup and spend hours getting the data. We want to spend 10-15 minutes looking at one object and move onto something else. Some would also say that looking at a image projected on an OLED screen in a viewer is not the same as looking through an eyepiece. I would also tell those people they are also incorrect. I got the same reactions out of experienced club members looking through the viewer that we get out of the general public when they look through an eyepiece for the first time. It still provides some sense of wonder and personal connection with the object you’re viewing. Certainly, more so than looking at a computer or mobile device screen. I think the decision to include an OLED screen viewer was the correct one.

Is it expensive? Absolutely. I backed the Kickstarter, so I received mine for a significantly lower cost than retail, but that savings was not without risk. So, what do you get for the retail price of $3000 USD? You get a sturdy, lightweight tripod with bubble level, a mount, a 4.5” telescope, a camera, a power supply, a computer and image integration and processing software with plate solving capability. I’ve said it before, many times, but if you were to build a similar system, you could easily spend a couple thousand dollars. What you won’t get for that though is something that is as easily transportable and simple to setup. The tripod, telescope and small toolkit all fit in a backpack and the whole thing weighs around 30lbs. Setting it up couldn’t be any simpler either. You setup the tripod, put the telescope/mount on top of it, turn it on, connect to your phone over Wi-Fi and you’re up and running in less than five minutes. There’s no polar alignment or star alignment required as it does plate solving at the push of a button. This system really is about as easy as it gets to setup and use, but it obviously comes with a cost. And while the idea of a backpack is nice, I opted to put everything into a Pelican Air 1615 case which brings the weight closer to 40-45lbs.

Could the imaging quality be improved? Probably. Everything can always be improved. The question though is how? They could have used a larger optical tube, but then that comes at the cost of portability which is a key feature of this product. The sensor used is the Sony IMX224LQR. This sensor is very sensitive and has an extremely low read noise. Both are obviously critical in this application. They could have used a larger sensor or one with smaller pixels, but why? A larger sensor would certainly give a wider field of view. It’s already a fairly wide field of view with a focal length of 450mm. I can fit in the entire moon in the field of view. A slightly wider field would take in all of Andromeda and the Orion Nebula though. Those are some of the largest objects we would look at though and the widefield would be wasted on smaller things like planetary nebula or other galaxies. As for the pixel size, 3.75µm is neither small nor large and is a perfectly reasonable size. With this focal length it gives a sampling ratio of 1.72”/pixel. It is neither oversampled nor undersampled, except in possibly some of the best seeing conditions. A slightly smaller pixel size of 2.9 or even 2.4 would give slightly better details, but would also require much more accurate tracking. Speaking of tracking, how accurate does the tracking need to be? It is an alt-az type mount. The exposures are currently software limited to about four seconds. At that short of an exposure, the tracking doesn’t need to be so accurate as to compare with an autoguided system. I honestly think for the size of device it is and the length of exposures being used, the chosen sensor is about as optimal as it gets. You’re going to be hard pressed to find a sensor with smaller pixels that is more sensitive and has such low read noise.

Overall, I would say I’m satisfied with how it currently performs, but I fully admit there is room for improvement. Unistellar continues to listen to its users and take feedback into consideration on how to make their product more capable than it already is. I know they value my input and that of others as is evidenced by the improvements they’ve already made to the device software and firmware. I look forward to all the improvements they have planned. I also look forward to all the innovations that will be made in this area of the field in the future. This device is just one of the first of many to follow.

 

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Great report and thank you so much for sharing your experiences and 'taking the plunge'. Well, I have to say it is a smart looking thing and in all honesty, the results are much better than I had expected. The colours are great, M15 and M27 looks superb and I think there are a wealth of fainter objects that it will pick up very nicely. It looks like the FOV is about half a degree which I have found just about perfect in my setup, small enough to show smaller galaxies in a decent scale and large to fit in most of the larger objects, except extended nebulae. How did you get the images - can you see the result on your mobile device as well as through the eyepiece?

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I'll second that, excellent report. This setup seems to be tailor made for public outreach.

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15 minutes ago, RobertI said:

Great report and thank you so much for sharing your experiences and 'taking the plunge'. Well, I have to say it is a smart looking thing and in all honesty, the results are much better than I had expected. The colours are great, M15 and M27 looks superb and I think there are a wealth of fainter objects that it will pick up very nicely. It looks like the FOV is about half a degree which I have found just about perfect in my setup, small enough to show smaller galaxies in a decent scale and large to fit in most of the larger objects, except extended nebulae. How did you get the images - can you see the result on your mobile device as well as through the eyepiece?

Right on with the FOV, it is about half a degree. Those images were captured using the app. They haven't implemented it yet, but there is supposed to be a feature to allow you to download the raw images and process them yourself. And yes, those images are exactly how it appears on your mobile device and in the eyepiece. There are some settings you can tweak for brightness and contrast as well as exposure length and camera gain.

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2 hours ago, cuivenion said:

I'll second that, excellent report. This setup seems to be tailor made for public outreach.

It is certainly that. I will admit the images I posted may not be the most flattering display of its capabilities. They were a bit rushed as you can see by the integration time. The longer you observe an object the better it will get, obviously. It is good for public outreach though. I can't even count the number of times I've tried to point out a galaxy or nebula in the eyepiece to someone and they say they think they see it, but aren't sure or say they don't see anything at all. This will allow them to see and I can have a screen in my hand to point it out to them and show them any structure that may be visible in the object.

Can you do the same with an EAA setup? Of course, but as I said, it won't be this compact or easy to setup and use.

Edited by Buzzard75
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I note that the  eVscope has an aperture and field of view not too dissimilar to my EEVA assembly (102mm f5 achro, ASI224MC camera, SLT mount and laptop.  Most of the objects in the report also feature in my EEVA reports (see EEVA reports thread on this forum).  Comparing the two, the eVscope has performed quite well.   I had all that gear already, but you could duplicate my assembly, including laptop, for around £1000.   Though I'm sure the eVscope will be quicker to set up.

Edited by Cosmic Geoff
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Thank you for posting. I have followed this product along the way and it is great to see a positive outcome. Now could I ever afford one, definitely no? Perhaps the years will make this technology affordable to more people, really hope so.

Cheers,

Steve

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1 hour ago, SteveNickolls said:

Thank you for posting. I have followed this product along the way and it is great to see a positive outcome. Now could I ever afford one, definitely no? Perhaps the years will make this technology affordable to more people, really hope so.

Cheers,

Steve

This is my hope. As I said, it is one of the first of many to come. As it is with all technology, it should become more affordable over time. If you look at the price of all the individual components that make it up, it probably is overpriced as Geoff suggests. It's certainly not 'new' technology by any means, but the form factor definitely is and integrating all of it together into a package like this comes with a price attached both monetarily and otherwise.

The downside to packaging all of it together like this is that if one thing goes wrong (say your sensor stops working, the battery goes out, or the mount fails) the whole thing dies and you can't just swap out a single component with a new one. That's where EAA setups certainly have the advantage. Pros and cons to everything I suppose and the eVscope is no exception in that regard.

As a Kickstarter backer who received a discount for taking a risk, I am happy with the price I paid and think it was well worth the investment. Had I been asked to put down a deposit at full price, I honestly would have passed.

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Wow, nice review !

I can see this beeing a hit at public events, but you pay top dollar for the sleek design and development cost, and that's going to hold off a lot of people i guess.

The Vaonis Stellina is even more expensive at €4000 .

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Very interesting report on this fascinating scope - thanks for posting it :smiley:

I'd be interested to know how the eVscope performs on targets where the technology assistance does not improve the view ?

 

 

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A frank and interesting report - However $3000 should read £3000 as we ,in the UK, tend to have to pay the same in £ as USA does in $. 

IMHO

Pro's :-

1. Compact

2. Easy to set up.

3. Very Mobile

4. Useful for a complete solution for a novice of both IT ,Astronomy and EEVA. 

5. Another option for many.

Cons:-

1. Overpriced for UK market. £3000 would get a decent AND upgradeable set up - mount, Scope ,All in one PC and a CCD camera

2. Images not very startling,especially when factoring in the cost, even for EEVA use - get  the same or better "Real Time" viewing using Astrotoaster software and some less expensive kit which could be updated in stages.

3. Seems a very unfinished product with many promises still even after a long wait in tech terms.

4. Too integrated and not flexible enough - as stated in thread already - any single item goes bang - not changable(?) and "updates" would ,most likely,cost the same again as this would most likely by a "newer model".

5. Integration with other software might be harder especially in the short term although may not be needed !

6. Support - to early to tell I guess - especially for the "normal" user - not someone involved in product testing.

7. Tech moves forward faster than the evolution of this product.

As I say IMHO which maybe wrong 🙂

 

 

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Thanks for taking time to review Buzzard75.  Your review makes me feel much better about choosing to take a chance on the evscope. Mine should be with by the end of February they say. I'm still nervous. I think I still have to pay around £250 in taxes just to get it home. Yikes!

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21 hours ago, stash_old said:

A frank and interesting report - However $3000 should read £3000 as we ,in the UK, tend to have to pay the same in £ as USA does in $. 

IMHO

Pro's :-

1. Compact

2. Easy to set up.

3. Very Mobile

4. Useful for a complete solution for a novice of both IT ,Astronomy and EEVA. 

5. Another option for many.

Cons:-

1. Overpriced for UK market. £3000 would get a decent AND upgradeable set up - mount, Scope ,All in one PC and a CCD camera

2. Images not very startling,especially when factoring in the cost, even for EEVA use - get  the same or better "Real Time" viewing using Astrotoaster software and some less expensive kit which could be updated in stages.

3. Seems a very unfinished product with many promises still even after a long wait in tech terms.

4. Too integrated and not flexible enough - as stated in thread already - any single item goes bang - not changable(?) and "updates" would ,most likely,cost the same again as this would most likely by a "newer model".

5. Integration with other software might be harder especially in the short term although may not be needed !

6. Support - to early to tell I guess - especially for the "normal" user - not someone involved in product testing.

7. Tech moves forward faster than the evolution of this product.

As I say IMHO which maybe wrong 🙂

 

 

As you've outlined and as I provided in my review and the subsequent comments, it definitely has pros and cons. I hope I didn't come across as a shill for the product. I definitely wouldn't recommend it to everyone and I actually cautioned a fellow club member who was interested in buying one. I wanted it to be clear that this wasn't as capable as a dedicated EEVA or astrophotography setup, but I also wanted it to be clear that it isn't intended to be. I've definitely seen better images from EEVA setups and produced some myself. You absolutely need to fully understand what it's capabilities and limitations are.

The price is certainly one of the biggest cons. Since you're in Europe, your price would actually be in Euros (€3000 is roughly £2550), still more than I paid in USD. You can certainly get a lot of nice gear for that price, but that's when you have to look at all the pros and cons of this and all the pros and cons of having a dedicated setup. As I said, had I been required to pay full price, I most likely would have passed.

As for being an unfinished product, the scope itself is done. There will be no further changes to the hardware. The app software and scope firmware is still in work and probably always will be, as is the nature of software. About the only features that haven't been fully implemented or I haven't had the chance to take part in are the citizen science projects and raw data processing. The raw data processing is really what interests me. I want to see how stacking and processing software on my PC compares to the stacking and processing software of the mount itself. For comparison, this is 20 minutes worth of live stacked data that I captured with my astrophotography setup using LRGB filters (15x20s per filter, live stacked and calibrated with darks) and then combined and processed on my PC. It puts the 4-minute eVscope processed image to shame, but I want to see what I can do with the raw data myself.

 

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Been following. Got a little burnt with an earlier kickstarter, so avoided adding my name to the list. 

This and the other similar scope would make excellent scopes for outreach events and open evenings at our club. Easy to set up / align, and they give great views.

How long though until the Skywatcher / Celestron variant comes to the market for less cash?

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4 hours ago, Cjg said:

Been following. Got a little burnt with an earlier kickstarter, so avoided adding my name to the list. 

This and the other similar scope would make excellent scopes for outreach events and open evenings at our club. Easy to set up / align, and they give great views.

How long though until the Skywatcher / Celestron variant comes to the market for less cash?

I've done several Kickstarters, but never one of this magnitude so I was a bit hesitant about it. The partnership with SETI is what sold me on it.

The outreach is exactly what I had in mind when I did back it and will be its primary use.

I would love to see one of those big name astronomy companies come up with a competing product as well.

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To be honest for that type of money I would prefer to go down the NV route (white phosphorus preferably) .  

Jim 

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I'm new to this forum as of today. Thanks for that very detailed review. I too am an eVscope backer and received my scope on Christmas Eve. As always when getting a new telescope it's been cloudy every single night since! SO frustrating! I hope to read other reviews from users and see more images as well. My first target once the sky clears will be NGC 7331. One of my favorite galaxies.

Tom

 

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Posted (edited)
42 minutes ago, tommyr said:

I'm new to this forum as of today. Thanks for that very detailed review. I too am an eVscope backer and received my scope on Christmas Eve. As always when getting a new telescope it's been cloudy every single night since! SO frustrating! I hope to read other reviews from users and see more images as well. My first target once the sky clears will be NGC 7331. One of my favorite galaxies.

Tom

 

Welcome to the forum, Tom! Thank you and glad you were able to find the review.

Edited by Buzzard75
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Great review!  I was fortunate to participate in the Beta test as well.  Attached are a few more images. 

6801E5DE-C76F-4FDD-9B03-12F9AF20EAAC.jpeg

DCF3D282-42AE-4F0E-9DB0-CCF9D618E460.jpeg

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Posted (edited)

Nice images, I like the way the objects are framed with the information. It’s good to see the Horsehead to see how it deals with fainter objects. Perhaps we can see some of the spring galaxies in Leo and Virgo to see how it deals with those? M42 is nice, I would say the stars look sharper than the image earlier in the thread - does the scope allow focus to be adjusted?

Edit: From reading the thread again I think the answer is ‘yes’, as a focus knob is described. 👍

Edited by RobertI

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You could pick up a secondhand tubed NV and some reducers/filters and likely do a better job for the same money. Live viewing too, but no app and you’d have to find stuff yourself.... But then you could look at the larger nebulae out there.

Peter

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I ordered the Unistellar middle of last year after they had proven more of the concept--and at a higher price. However, having looked at the images of the Vaonis Stellina (just google it), which doesn't have an eyepiece, I thought this might be a better experience with similar images. However, the Vaonis Stellina images posted on their website are very sharp and almost textbook comparatively (granted at a higher price), but with a similar sensor and smaller 3" objective. So now I'm worried. Oh, well, I guess I will have to wait and see when they finally deliver mine this summer...And, I'm a newby to all of this, so my expectations are probably way, way to high, having only looked through a telescope several times in my life.

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If the images are significantly better, I would hazard a guess that it’s down to the “image processing algorithms ..... developed by experts who worked in the largest astronomical observatories...”. But I suspect those images were taken by expert users, using perfectly tuned equipment under perfect skies - they might even have been using just the scope strapped to a better tracking mount, who knows? I have my doubts whether the quality will be significantly different to the Unistellar, hopefully we’ll find out soon. 

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I wondering the same thing, Rob.  I will keep in touch here. I think I represent many of the people that would/will buy the Unistellar.  Years of dreaming that someday I would see first hand, some of the same images that the pros have seen for years and described using their huge Dobs. I had a 10", but never used it much; just too hard to setup and try to find something, plus we have a reasonable amount of light pollution here in Southwestern Michigan. And mosquitos--ouch, plus a lot of mosquito viruses now, so I stay inside at night, mostly.  And now we wait...I am also a published writer, so I will give an fair, but thorough review from my newbie perspective.

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1 hour ago, HWStar said:

I wondering the same thing, Rob.  I will keep in touch here. I think I represent many of the people that would/will buy the Unistellar.  Years of dreaming that someday I would see first hand, some of the same images that the pros have seen for years and described using their huge Dobs. I had a 10", but never used it much; just too hard to setup and try to find something, plus we have a reasonable amount of light pollution here in Southwestern Michigan. And mosquitos--ouch, plus a lot of mosquito viruses now, so I stay inside at night, mostly.  And now we wait...I am also a published writer, so I will give an fair, but thorough review from my newbie perspective.

I don't think there's much doubt that the Evoscope will pick up faint objects that cannot be seen visually without large scopes, show detail that is not visible through the eyepiece and reveal colour that is just not visible to the naked eye, so on those points alone the scope should make people very happy.

I look forward to the review.  Mosquitos - I'm scratching just thinking about them!

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