Unistellar eVscope - Information (4.5" Newton)

Introduction | About the eVscope | Look | Sensor, Pixel Data, Field of View | Image Size (Pixels) | How To Observe with the eVscope | Visited Sky Objects | First Experiences | Photo Attempts | First Conclusions | Links | Appendix: Data

Archive

On this page I provide some information about 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; sold in mid-March 2022.

Notes:

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 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.

 

Introduction

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)

Bridging the Waiting Time...

Experienced Kickstarter supporters, however, rather expected one or more years more to delivery... Therefore, I decided to also buy a similar solution (which may be more flexible, but may also be much more cumbersome to install and operate) in order to get already an idea of ​​the possibilities of the eVscope. But note that this solution is still much simpler than "true" astro photography. It is an Atik Infinity Color camera (it has a similar Sony chip as the eVscope, but the chip size is larger, and it is a CCD chip) that I put on my Sky-Watcher Star Discovery mount and initially on my 6" Explorer 150PDS Newton tube (except for the camera, a "pure" Sky-Watcher solution...) and now on my Celestron C8 with f/6.3 reducer/corrector.

Delivery: Delivery Delayed for Three/Four Times...

As stated above, during the Kickstarter campaign for the eVscope in November 2017, the delivery was announced for November 2018. It was, however, delayed for three/four times:

    • April 2018: Custom-made electronics
    • May 2018: Industrial prototyping begins
    • July 2018: First industrial prototype
    • November 2018: Second industrial prototype (i.e. near-final product)
    • December 2018: Tooling, molding, and assembly lines
    • January 2019: Pre-productions
    • March 2019: Mass production starts
    • May 2019: Delivery

Delivery: My Delivery (Course)

Further Events (Course)

 

About the eVscope

What is the eVscope?

First of all, the eVscope is a 4.5" Newtonian telescope (aperture 112 mm, focal length 450 mm, aperture ratio f/4) on an Alt-AZ GoTo mount. Its special feature is, however, that it is designed to produce images of celestial objects that are reminiscent of photos taken with large or space telescopes (of course, in a lower resolution, but at least, it can...) and that can even show colors. The telescope is simple to use and works more or less fully automatically. The list below (similar to the graphic from the Kickstarter campaign) illustrates the main features of the eVscope:

    
  • Enhanced Vision Technology
    for incredible views of the night
  • Autonomous Field Detection
    easy pinpointing and learning
  • Campaign Mode
    feel the thrills of scientific discovery
  • Connected
    smartphone controllable and social media sharing
  • Portable and Autonomous
    carry it and use it anywhere

To be able to produce such images, the telescope uses a highly sensitive CMOS sensor. The images it produces are processed in the built-in computer using complex algorithms, especially, images are superimposed with ever new images (this is called "image stacking") that are recorded continually to reduce the noise. Also, the field rotation that arises in Alt-AZ mounts over time is eliminated by the software. The processed image is displayed in "real time" on an OLED display, which is viewed through an eyepiece (i.e., a kind of electronic viewfinder), so that a similar observation experience as in normal visual observation is achieved. As you can see in the schematics below, this design does not need a secondary mirror - the sensor resides at its place. This kind of astronomy is called "electronically augmented astronomy (EAA)", because an electronically amplified and software-processed image is viewed (see page EAA, Video Astronomy... for more information).

Figure: Schematics of the Unistellar eVscope (source: Unistellar)

In addition, the image can be wirelessly transferred to smartphones and computers, so that you do not need to photograph the image in the viewfinder (some of the samples published by Unistellar may be photos taken at the eyepiece, though...).

The telescope is controlled wirelessly using a smartphone app. Since the sensor signal is transmitted to the smartphone, there is no need to photograph the eyepiece view (some of the early examples published by Unistellar may be photos taken at the eyepiece) - and basically even the use of the eyepiece (Unistellar is already thinking about a version without an eyepiece...)

The alignment of the telescope is fully automatic, which I appreciate very much, because the 2-star alignment procedure of my Sky-Watcher Star Discovery AZ GoTo mount is sometimes a bit tedious (or I cannot find matching stars ...). Last but not least, the telescope is easy to transport (9 kg with tripod) and delivers acceptable results even under a light-polluted sky (which applies to astro photography in general, as I learned from a hobby astronomer who took photos with a DSLR...).

I am less interested in is the campaign mode, which is mainly pushed forward by a member of the founder team who works at the SETI Institute. But other supporters seem to be very interested in it.

Further details and technical data can be found at Data for the Unistellar eVscope.

Brief History of the eVscope

The basic idea of ​​the eVscope was developed by Arnaud Malvache, in exchange with Laurent Marfisi, because both were disappointed of the possibilities of traditional telescopes. Malvache's idea was to use a "low-light sensor to progressively intensify the light we see through the eyepiece of a telescope." This must have happened in 2014...

Between January 2015 and November 2016, the image processing algorithms were developed, and a first prototype was built in the laboratory. During this time, also a business plan and a design concept emerged. In any case, after three years of development work, Unistellar had built a working prototype and presented it at astronomy events and computer exhibitions in Europe and the USA from early summer 2017 on. In 2017, there are also pictures available of what the final product would look like. Whether this design study was also functional, I do not know. The product is manufactured in Asia (Shanghai, China) - from parts that originate from Europe and Asia.

In October 2017, Unistellar launched a Kickstarter campaign that ended on November 24, with 2144 supporters and over 2.2 million $ capital. I participated in this campaign on 11.11.2017 ($ 1499) as supporter no. 1834.

The delivery of the finished telescope was scheduled for November 2018, but hardly anyone dared to believe this. And indeed, the delivery was postponed for several times, "finally" to December 2019 to February 2020 (in the end, delivery was announced as ranging up to the end of May 2020), which disappointed a lot of Kickstarter backers. In October 2019, a one-month beta test took place which, after all, did not require any technical changes of the telescope. The first deliveries were made in December 2019; the first batch of 1000 eVscopes was probably delivered from the end of December 2019, partly January 2020 to February 2020. The second batch was delayed due to the corona crisis and the resulting adverse effects. The respective deliveries will begin in May or June 2020. Deliveries outside of North America and Europe will probably be made even later.

Since, like many others, I did not trust the initial delivery date and also did not want to wait for a year mor more for the "experience," I bought a used Atik Infinity Colour camera at the end of 2017 to understand the basic principles, before the telescope would arrive, and also to be able to practice a bit with astrophotogrphy... And after delivery delays were announced again and again, I was even more convinced that I did the right thing when buying the camera. Unfortunately, however, I used it only very little.

Who is Behind the eVscope?

The eVscope is being developed by four French scientists, each contributing his specific knowledge to the project. The eVscope was conceived by Arnaud Malvache, who specializes in image processing. Laurent Marfisi seems to have made the eVscope into a "product," Antonin Borot developed the optical architecture of the eVscope, and Franck Marchis, who works at the SETI institute, extends the eVscope towards scientific applications (e.g. SETI campaigns).

Photos: Arnaud Malvache (CTO, left), Laurent Marfisi (CEO, second left), Antonin Borot (Chief of Optical Engineering, second right) and Franck Marchis (Chief Scientific Officer, right) (Source: Unistellar)

In March or April 2018, Unistellar "signed a production agreement with a well-known manufacturer that is highly regarded in its field and very experienced at making complex, high-quality consumer electronics." They did, however, not disclose its name. It is located in Shanghai, China.

Questions to the Founders (from Unistellar Website)

What was your initial motivation for creating Unistellar?

Classical telescopes are great for viewing the four main planets - Mars, Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn - but even expensive, high-end devices don't allow us to see much beyond that, and totally miss the truly awe-inspiring colors and details of many deep-space objects. While astronomy remains hugely popular as a hobby, most people quickly grow disappointed at what they see through their telescopes and wind up moving them into the basement, where they gather dust. This was the problem we wanted to solve. Our first goal was to make observational astronomy far more fun, exciting, and easy to do. As scientists, we also wanted to foster a strong, growing interest in astronomical research and citizen science, and we believed that the way to do that was by transforming the telescope into a far more powerful and user-friendly device.

How does the eVscope "enhance" an image? For example, you mentioned that it collects light over time…what does that mean?

Most astronomical objects are too faint to be seen by the human eye, even with a telescope. This is the case because our eyes simply cannot accumulate light the way a sensor does. Our idea was to use state-of-the-art, low-light sensor technology and proprietary algorithms to accumulate light and re-project it real time into the telescope’s eyepiece. In a matter of seconds, this allows observers to see colors and details of nebulae, galaxies, and comets that that normally cannot be seen, even in larger, traditional telescopes.

eVscope eQuinox

In the spring of 2021, Unistellar launched the eVscope eQuinox, which does not have an electronic eyepiece. It differs from the original eVscope by the absence of the eyepiece and the black color of the tube. It costs 200 Euros less than the original model. The differences between the two models are described below.

From the Unistellar Help Center: eVscope vs eQuinox

Both models are very similar and the only differences between the eQuinox and the eVscope are:

There is no other hardware or software difference.

eVscope 2 vs. eVscope Equinox and vs. the original eVscope

In September 2021 Unistellar launched the eVscope 2, which offers an improved electronic eyepiece and a new, larger sensor (Sony IMX347). It differs from the original eVscope with respect to tits look. It costs including the backpack with which it is sold as a package, 800 Euros more than the original model. The differences between the models (the original eVscope is no longer availabe) are described in the table below (from Unistellar Help Center: eQuinox VS eVscope 1.0 VS eVscope 2), to which I added some information:

Specifications eQuinox eVscope 1 eVscope 2
Battery Life up to 12h
(no eyepiece)
up to 10h up to 10h
µSD Storage Capacity 64GB 16GB 64GB
Display --- OLED screen OLED screen
HARDWARE
Optical Magnification: 50x
Digital Magnification: up to 400x (150x recommended maximum)
Field of View 27 arcmin x 37 arcmin 27 arcmin x 37 arcmin 34 arcmin x 47 arcmin
Max Magnitude: <16 in the medium quality night sky in under a minute, up to 18 in excellent conditions in a few minutes
Resolving Power (Image Scale) 1.72 arcsec 1.72 arcsec 1.33 arcsec
Mirror Diameter: 4.5"
Focal Length: 450 mm
Motorized Alt-Az Mount with extreme tracking accuracy thanks to Automated Celestial Tracking with Feedback
Weight: 19.8 lbs (9 kg) including tripod
ELECTRONICS
Sensor Technology: Sony Exmor with NIR technology
Sensor Model IMX224 IMX224 IMX347
Pixel Size 3.75 x 3.75 µm 3.75 x 3.75 µm 2.9 x 2.9 µm
Pixels 1280 x 960 1280 x 960 2048 x 1536
Megapixels approx. 1.23** approx. 1.23** approx. 4.09**
eVscope Pixels in EV Mode (since app version 1.3/1.4) 2560 x 1920 2560 x 1920 3200 * 2400
eVscope Megapixels in EV Mode (since App Version 1.3/1.4) 4.9* 4.9* 7.7*

*) According to Unistellar ; **) according to Sony; more on the eVscope 2 on page Unistellar eVscope 2 - Information (4.5" Newton)!

 

Look

Unboxing

The Box

    

Box weight: 17.25 kg
Box size: 800 x 575 x 300 mm (L x W x H)

    

Box weight: about 17 kg (my own measurement)
Empty box: 4.7 - 4.8 kg (my own measurement)
My size measurements see below...

The box...

 

Ditto

 

Ditto

   

Ditto

 

About 80 cm long ...

 

... as can be seen here

   

About 57 cm wide ...

 

... as can be seen here

 

And about 34 cm high

Opening the Box

    

    

Box opened

 

Ditto, closer view

 

Inner lid opened

   

Second inner lid opened

 

Instructions

 

Foam lid removed

   

Tripod taken out of the box

 

Backpack with telescope also taken out of the box

 

Ditto

The Box Content...

    

    

Backpack back-side, tripod, box with accessories

 

Backpack front-side, tripod, box with accessories

 

Backpack opened, eVscope, and accessory box

    
    

Ditto, accessory box

 

Diito, accessories unpacked

 

eVscope in backpack, accessory bag removed

    
    

Instructions

 

Tripod fully extended

 

Level in the tripod

   

eVscope

 

USB-A and USB-C slots at the bottom of the eVscope

 

Accessory bag provisionally filled with the supplied accessories

eVscope Look

    
    
    

eVscope in parking position, tripod fully extended

 

Ditto, tripod half extended

 

Ditto, tube moved (finally managed this...)

 

Ditto, "spikes" visible

 
 
 

Ditto

 

Front view towards the mirrore mirror

 

Ditto

 

Ditto

    
    
   

Tube seen from the other side

 

eVscope with its owner

 

Ditto

   

Backpack (mostly with Tripod)

    
    
    

eVscope in backpack

 

Backpack, tripod added

 

Ditto

 

Ditto

     

Ditto, other side

 

Backpack in action

 

Ditto

 

Ditto

    
   

Backpack in action

 

Ditto

 

Ditto

 

Ditto

    
      

Rain cover pulled out

 

Rain cover pulled over backpack (no tripod)

 

Ditto, back side

 

Rain cover pulled over backpack (with tripod)

 

Sensor, Pixel Data, Field of View

The eVscope (original and eQuinox) uses the same Sony sensor type as the ASI224 camera, namely the Sony IMX224/225 (CMOS), with a resolution of 1.2 MegaPixels, or 1280 x 960 pixels (H/V; the ASI224 uses a resolution of 1304 x 976 pixels). The pixel size is 3.75 µm (quadratic pixels).

With this, all sizes are known to calculate the field of view of the eVscope, which amounts to 0.61° x 0.46° (36.7'x 27.6').

The following table shows the eVscop, eVscope 2, and Vaonis Vespera in comparison with my current telescope tubes at the ASI224MC and Atik Infinity:

 
Field of View
 
Telescope Reducer Focal Length Aperture ASI224MC Atik Infinity Remarks
PS 72/432 --- 432 72 0.65° x 0.48° 1.19° x 0.89° The largest FOV
C5 --- 1250 127 0.22° x 0.17° 0.41° x 0.31° FOV like C8 with reducer
C5 f/6.3 787.5 127 0.36° x 0.17° 0.65° x 0.49° FOV a little smaller as with TLAPO1027
C8 --- 2032 203 0.14° x 0.1° 0.25° x 0.19° The smallest FOV
C8 f/6.3 1280 203 0.22° x 0.16° 0.4° x 0.3° FOV like C5
TLAPO1027 --- 714 102 0.39° x 0.29° 0.72° x 0.54° FOV a little larger than for C5 with reducer
        Degree Minutes  
eVscope --- 450 114 0.61° x 0.46 36,7'x 27,6' Same sensor as ASI224: Sony IMX224
eVscope 2 --- 450 114 0.78° x 0.57°* 47' x 34' *New sensor: Sony IMX347
Vespera   50 200 1.5° x 0.9°** 90' x 54' (ca.) ** New sensor: Sony IMX462

Roughly simplified, the fields of view of the Atik Infinity are almost twice as large per dimension, that is, the image areas are almost four times as large as those of the ASI224MC. The PS 72/432 refractor offers a similar FOV with the ASI224MC as the eVscope (and the C5 with reducer and Atik Infinity).

 

Image Size (Pixels)

Even if the sensor of the eVscope has 1280 x 960 pixels and the eVscope does exploit then, this does not necessarily mean that the eVscope saves its photos in this format. Moreover, in the beginning, the "makers" of the eVscope considered observation through the eyepiece more important than saving photos, and did not pay much attention to the latter. However, this changed when the eVscope users expressed their wishes (one result is the eVscope eQuinox without eyepiece)... And so, in the course of time, the image sizes of the saved photos were changed for several times. I try to describe this briefly in the following.

Before App Version 1.0: Square Photos with 1080 x 1080 Pixels and "Overlay"

Initially (as of late 2020), the eVscope saved only square photos with a circular caption ring that served as a vignette, also called an "overlay". Because of the overlay, the image format was expanded beyond 960 x 960 to 1080 x 1080 pixels. This was to make the saved photo largely correspond to the impression in the eyepiece (even if no caption appears there). The vignette placed over the image made the usable area even smaller than 960 x 960 pixels. It also created rings on brighter objects at the edge of the image field, which could be very distracting. Because a rectangular image was shown on the screen of the smartphone used for control, which corresponded exactly to the sensor size, it often happened (to me, at least...) that picture elements were missing on the saved photo, which could still be seen well on the screen of the smartphone. The problem was then to estimate in advance what will still be on the photo and what will not...

App Versions 1.0.0 and 1.0.3 (April 21, 2020): Square Photos with 1120 Pixels and "Overlay", Rectangular Photos with 1280 x 960 Pixels without Overlay

With app version 1.0.0, Unistellar introduced the following change to the image format:

And with app version 1.0.3, Unistellar introduced a long-requested change to the image format:

Unfortunately, the rectangular images lose the information that appears in the overlay, especially the dwell time in Enhanced Vision mode. Unistellar never responded to my requests to provide this in one form or another. Moreover, the selection of the rectangular image format is so hidden and "cloistered" in the user interface that quite a few eVscope users did not find this option...

Example: For M 65/66 the overlay makes it quite tight, without overlay both fit well into the image:

    

M 65 & M 66 - March 22, 2020, processed

 

M 65 & M 66 - April 23, 2020, processed

Example: With M 84/86, there is now more room for a third galaxy (NGC 4402):

    

M 86 and M 84 (right; top left NGC 4402) - March 25, 2020, processed

 

M 86 and M 84 (right; top left NGC 4402) - April 22, 2020, processed

App Version 1.3: Scaling to Twice the Side Length (2560 x 1920) in Enhanced Vision Mode

For app version 1.3, Unistellar announced, "Four times larger observation records for even more impressive memories of your stargazing." In plain English, this meant that starting with the new app version, the image in Enhanced Vision mode is scaled up to twice the side length (i.e., four times the area), or 2560 x 1920 pixels. In Live View mode, the image size remains at 1120 (square) or 1280 x 960 pixels (rectangular).

When I read this, I was horrified at first, because upscaling actually only makes photos that are not particularly sharp even blurrier. However, more detailed comparisons with "before" and "after" taken photos showed that a new image processing was introduced, which makes the photos look sharper and better. But there are also exceptions like globular clusters and galaxies with bright cores, which are now more washed out. I discuss this on page Old Versus New Image Processing (since V. 1.3).

It remains to be seen if this is the last word in image format for the eVscope (eQuinox) or not...

 

How To Observe with the eVscope

Page Observation in Brief offers instructions for using the eVscope.

 

Visited Sky Objects

In order to avoid redundancy and double work, I moved the list of visited sky objects to a separate page: Deep Sky Observations with eVscope (Complete Object List)

 

First Experiences

General Experiences

For space reasons, I outsourced my first general experiences with the eVscope to separate pages: First Experiences, First Experiences Part 2, and Further Experiences (WLAN, data transfer). They refer to app version 1.0 and earlier.

Observations

 

Photo Attempts

First Photo Attempt with the eVscope

The following photos were taken during my very first observation night (January 28, 2020) with the eVscope. For some objects, there are comparison images available, which I took with the Atik Infinity camera.

         

M 1 - eVscope, processed

 

M 1 - eVscope, processed

 

M 1 - Atik Infinity, processed and noise removed

         

M 78 - eVscope, processed

 

B 33 - eVscope, heavily processed

 

B 33 - eVscope, heavily processed, black-and-white

   

M 42/43 - eVscope, processed

 

M 42/43 - eVscope, processed

 

M 42/43 - Atik Infinity, processed

         

M 34 - eVscope

 

M 34 - eVscope

 

M 35 - eVscope

         

M 45 - eVscope

 

M 45 - Atik Infinity, processed

 

M 35 - Atik Infinity, processed

Further Photo Attempts with the eVscope

The photos above and further early photo attempts with the eVscope are collected on page Unistellar eVscope - First Observation Sessions.

I collect my best photos in my eVscope photo galleries: Unistellar eVscope - Photo Gallery (Messier Catalog) - Unistellar eVscope - Photo Gallery (Other) - Unistellar eVscope - Specialty Gallery Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 .

Furthermore, I created overview pages that show just one photo of each object: Messier Catalog - Galaxies - Globular Star Clusters - Open Star Clusters - Nebulae

 

First Conclusions

For space reasons, I moved my first conclusions after owing the eVscope for a little more than three months to an extra page: Unistellar eVscope - First Conclusions.
From there: I am glad to have taken part in the Kickstarter campaign for the eVscope, to have it already delivered and, despite a rough start, to be able to use it quite a lot. I will not give it away anymore - and hope that this opinion will hold for quite a number of years (and the eVscope as well). Thank you Unistellar for this great telescope!
*) This opinion held only until the end of 2021, then the eVscope 2 took over!

 

Links

 

Appendix: Data for the Unistellar eVscope

Hardware

Bag

Electronics

Smarts

Sensor Data

*) Diagonal: 6.09 mm (type 1/3, Quad VGA mode) or 5.59 mm (type 1/3.2, HD720p mode)

Backpack Features

Carefully designed with the world-leading manufacturer of large telephoto lens transportation bags, the eVscope backpack is made of tough reinforced fabric, and carefully padded with high-density foam to protect your telescope from any shock.

The ideal accessory to take full advantage of the eVscope’s portability. (Source: Unistellar Help Center)

 

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20.09.2022