Astrophotography With A Smartphone: Telescopes and Binoculars

The second part of our guide to getting the best astrophotos with a smartphone camera

It's possible to get some great shots through a pair of binoculars.

By Jamie Carter

Part 2 – Using a smartphone with telescopes & binoculars

In the second part of our guide to astrophotography using a smartphone we look at how you can use your existing telescopes and binoculars to create more impressive photographs than the zoom lens photos we looked at in Part 1.

If you've got a telescope or a pair of binoculars, the optics you have at your disposal are already far better than any add-on you can get for a smartphone. By just putting a phone on the eyepiece of a telescope or a pair of binoculars you can get some good shots, but it can be troublesome to keep the camera steady. It’s worth persevering though – this is digiscoping at its most impressive.

This image of Tyco Crater on the Moon was taken using an iPhone through a 4-inch telescope

The easiest way is to simply position the phone's camera over the eyepiece of the telescope. Since they're not specifically designed to align, they rarely do, but it should be possible to get something on the screen of the phone by angling it in all directions around the edges of the eyepiece. If you don't see anything that could be because the object you're trying to take a photo of has moved out of view (if you're using a high-power eyepiece, that won't take long). Holding the phone steady while you take a photo, is easier if you set the shutter delay to a few seconds especially if you've zoomed-in digitally using the touchscreen. Don't worry if the image is wonky or reversed (as it will always be through a reflector telescope), because Instagram provides many easy-to-use editing options.

The Celestron Ultima Duo works well, but does require buying new eyepieces

How to attach a phone to a telescope

If you yearn for something a little more reliable, there are a number of options. One of the most reliable methods is buying an adaptor specially built for your eyepieces, such as those available for Celestron’s Ultima duo and X-Cel LX eyepieces, £55.00, a smartphone adaptor for the various models of phone that works with any telescope their eyepieces. However if you don’t own the correct eyepieces the adapter isn’t universal. However, there are many other options available.

The Full Moon-rise through 15x70 binoculars using a Carson HookUpz

The crudest, but cheapest and most versatile option is the Carson IS-100 Universal Hook-Upz phone mount, £65 which essentially forms a scaffold around any phone to get the camera in exactly the right position. It then clips onto a telescope or a binocular eyepiece for more-or-less accurate alignment. However, the weight of the phone does cause some slippage, and perfect alignment is rare.

A Crescent Moon and Earth-shine through 10x70 binoculars, put through an Instagram filter

NEXT WEEK: Using a smartphone to create a time-lapse video


Jamie Carter is a freelance journalist and author of the forthcoming book A Stargazing Program for Beginners (Springer). You can see his astro-phoneography on Instagram and Twitter.


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