Unistellar eVscope 2 smart telescope review
The only smart telescope with an eyepiece also has the most megapixels, citizen science campaigns, and a new planet mode
Does a smart telescope need an eyepiece? Unistellar’s flagship smart telescope, the eVscope 2, is fully motorized and exclusively controlled via an app on a smartphone or tablet. Along with the ability to easily slew the telescope to various deep-sky targets, it comes equipped with a camera sensor, making it a tool for astrophotography as much as for amateur astronomy. No, it doesn’t need an eyepiece – but it not only has one, but it actually includes a new, improved version manufactured by Nikon. It’s one of three improvements on arguably the finest smart telescope available, which also boasts a higher resolution Sony sensor and a new wider field of view.
Are you ready to explore the highest-resolution smart telescope on the market? Here’s everything you need to know about the Unistellar eVscope 2 from weeks of testing – including lots of test images and a look at the new Unistellar app.
eVscope 2 smart telescope: price and availability
- Originally on sale September 2021
- On sale for $4,899 / £3,999 / €4,499
The Unistellar eVscope 2 is the Marseille-France-based company’s flagship product – and it’s priced accordingly. It’s part of a line-up of two eVscope models, the other being the Unistellar eVscope eQuinox 2. The Unistellar eVscope 2 went on sale in September 2021 to replace the original Unistellar eVscope, hence known as the Unistellar eVscope 1, from 2019. We would expect it to be next upgraded – likely with a new Sony sensor – in 2024, though as with all Unistellar products, it will likely continue to receive some impressive firmware upgrades far into the future. That’s the beauty of smart telescopes!
eVscope 2 smart telescope: eyepiece
- Manufactured with Nikon
- Micro-OLED tech gives a blacker view
- Makes it easier to focus the telescope
Smart telescopes like the eVscope 2 have no need for traditional eyepieces since their images can be viewed on up to 10 smartphones or tablets connected via WiFi. The Unistellar eVscope eQuinox 2 variant doesn’t even have an eyepiece, while the earlier eVscope had an inferior electronic eyepiece that didn’t much impress. The eVscope 2, however, boasts a new electronic eyepiece created by Nikon that impresses for two reasons. Firstly, it helps to focus the telescope – which is one of the few manual tasks. Secondly, its micro-OLED display has high pixel density, helping create sharper, more contrasty and vivid images. The result is a more engaging and immersive experience. Overall, the eyepiece on the eVscope 2 represents a significant improvement over its predecessor, providing live views of deep sky objects that are now richer in both color and contrast.
eVscope 2 smart telescope: electronics and battery
- Sony Exmor IMX347 CMOS sensor
- 64GB hard disk
- Built-in lithium-ion rechargeable battery (10 hours)
The Unistellar eVscope 2 is equipped with a computer housed in its mount that runs the image algorithms responsible for producing the final images visible on the Unistellar app on users’ smartphones or tablets. The mount also contains a 64 GB flash drive that stores all captured images, ranging from compressed JPEGs for easy sharing to lossless PNG and FITS files for post-processing later. This is also where data is saved if the Unistellar eVscope 2 is used for citizen science observations. The mount also includes a rechargeable lithium-ion battery, which gives a runtime of 10 hours. It’s recharged using a USB-C cable.
eVscope 2 smart telescope: connections
- USB-C (proprietary wall charger)
The Unistellar eVscope 2 has only two ports available. The first is a USB-C slot intended for charging the telescope’s internal battery, but it’s important to note that not all USB-C cables will work. You have to use the one included in the box, which is frustrating. This also means you may not be able to recharge the telescope with a portable battery while using it. It’s also true that the USB-C slot is inconveniently located on the underside of the mount, making it difficult to access. The second port is a USB-A connection that can be used to recharge a smartphone, but it’s recommended to use a separate smartphone battery for that, purely for convenience. In fact, it’s a good idea to attach your smartphone to a battery every time you use the Unistellar eVscope 2 to prevent it from running out of power too quickly.
eVscope 2 smart telescope: accessories
- No filters available
The chief accessory available for the Unistellar eVscope 2 is a backpack. It’s a hugely impressive item that comes complete with excellent build quality, plenty of padding and a custom-made section to protect the telescope tube. There’s also room for accessories. As a standalone product, it costs US$429/ UK£329 / €359. However, if you purchase it as part of a bundle with the Unistellar eVscope 2 there is a small saving to be made. The bundle costs $5,199 (so, $300 for the backpack), £4,199 (£200 for the backpack) and €4,699 (€200 for the backpack).
Unlike its rival, Vaonis, Unistellar doesn’t offer any custom-fit filters, instead using image processing to battle light pollution and to get the most detail from nebulae. However, this may change in the future – with a solar filter the most likely future accessory as we get closer to the total solar eclipse on April 8, 2024 in North America.
eVscope 2 smart telescope: mount and tripod
- Motorized single-arm altazimuth GoTo
- Aluminum, adjustable height tripod
The Unistellar eVscope 2 has a motorized single-arm altazimuth mount that tracks the night sky like other GoTo telescopes. It comes with a robust tripod weighing 2.2 kg, with two extendable sections on each leg allowing for a stand-alone height of 133cm or a table height of 59cm. Setting up is as simple as placing the telescope on the tripod top and tightening two thumbscrews, which may seem precarious, but works effectively. The tripod legs are equipped with foam covers for a comfortable grip, while high-quality clasps and a built-in bubble level add to its impressive features. Although it’s slightly annoying that a third-party tripod can’t be used, the built-in bubble level makes it really useful, chiefly because it’s critical for the accuracy of the GoTo system for the telescope to be placed on a stable surface.
eVscope 2 smart telescope: optics
- 4.5-inch / 114mm Newtonian reflector
- f/4 aperture
- 450mm focal length
At its core the Unistellar eVscope 2 is a Newtonian reflector telescope. Starlight comes in and hits a primary concave mirror at the back. It’s then focused on a secondary flat diagonal mirror, which sends it onto the camera sensor (instead of an eyepiece, as you’d find on a manual telescope). The design was invented by English astronomer Sir Isaac Newton in the 17th century … aside from the camera sensor and electronics!
Objects as faint as 18th stellar magnitude can be imaged by the Unistellar eVscope 2. Used in a center of a light-polluted city and the reduces to 16th magnitude – and without the need for any filters. That’s very impressive!
However, the design of the telescope does mean that it may need collimating (aligning all components in a telescope to bring light to its best focus) now and again, for which that Unistellar provides a YouTube video tutorial.
eVscope 2 smart telescope: field of view
- Increased to 34 x 47 arcminutes
- Large enough for the Pleiades and Andromeda galaxy
- No ‘Moon mode’
One of the biggest changes on the Unistellar eVscope 2 is that it now has a larger field of view. Whereas it was 30 x 37 arcminutes, it’s now 34 x 47 arcminutes. So it’s now possible for it to image more of large objects, such as the Andromeda Galaxy (M31), the Pleiades (M45) and the Moon — though a dedicated ‘Moon mode’ is yet to surface.
An arcminute (often abbreviated as arcmin.) is a unit of angular measurement used to express small angles, such as the apparent size of celestial objects, the separation between two celestial objects, or the angular resolution of telescopes.
One arcminute is equal to 1/60th of a degree, which means there are 60 arcminutes in a degree. The symbol used for arcminute is ‘ (a single quote).
For example, if a star has an angular size of 1 arcminute (1′), it means that its apparent size is equivalent to 1/60th of a degree when viewed from Earth. Similarly, if two stars have an angular separation of 2 arcminutes (2′), it means that the angle between them, as measured from Earth, is 1/30th of a degree.
Arcminutes are an essential unit of measurement in astronomy since many astronomical objects have very small apparent sizes or separations that can only be measured accurately using angular measurements.
eVscope 2 smart telescope: set-up and alignment
- Autonomous Field Detection (AFD)
- Focus using eyepiece and/or Bahtinov focus mask
Setting up the Unistellar eVscope 2 means putting its all-in-one motor, computer and battery on a sturdy tripod, which is equipped with a spirit level. It’s really important to get the telescope completely level since that will greatly affect the accuracy of its GoTo functionality. Once the device is in place and level, the user merely needs to switch it on, connect a smartphone phone or tablet to its WiFi network so the telescope can fetch its exact GPS position, and run a brief set-up. Then with one button press on the app its highly impressive Automatic Field Detection software scans the skies for stars (even very faint stars) and matches them against its vast library of more than 37 million points of light.
During our tests it had a near-perfect success rate; within a minute of being turned on, it was ready for use. That’s not typical for most GoTo telescopes, which usually need lengthy alignments with two or three stars.
However, one important manual step is required – focusing. There are two ways of doing this. The first and most user-friendly is to use the eyepiece. It’s then possible to manually adjust the focusing wheel on the bottom of the tube. A second way is to use a Bahtinov focus mask, which is hidden in the dust cap and which easily attaches to the front of the telescope tube. Before doing so, the user needs to point the Unistellar eVscope 2 at a bright star. Now clip on the Bahtinov mask and manually twist the focus wheel (on the back of the telescope tube) to align the mask’s three diffraction starlight spikes until they form a cross with a line running through. That means super-sharp stars and, crucially, infects deep-sky objects.
It’s not a difficult process, but for some, this will be a steep learning curve. It would be better if the Unistellar eVscope 2 had a motorized lens, which would also make autofocus possible.
eVscope 2 smart telescope: control and app
- New Unistellar app for 2023
- 10 smart devices can be connected
2023 sees a brand new refresh of the all-important Unistellar app. It’s a bold move given that the previous version was already outstanding. Nevertheless, the updated version is equally impressive, if not better in some respects. With the app downloaded and a smartphone or tablet connected to the Unistellar eVscope 2’s Wi-Fi network, users can choose from a vast selection of 5,000 celestial objects, including planets, galaxies, and nebulae. The app streamlines the selection process by highlighting the most well-positioned and brightest objects at the top of the list. After selecting an object, the Unistellar eVscope 2 will automatically slew to it and start capturing a series of brief exposures. It gradually builds up an image by stacking one exposure on top of the other – it’s even possible to see this happen in real time as images are aligned with a very slight wobble.
Despite the Unistellar app’s impressive capabilities, it places a significant strain on the battery. While it is possible to begin a long imaging session and disconnect the smartphone for over an hour before reconnecting it to check the telescope’s progress, users are often tempted to keep their smartphone connected to view the latest images. However, this approach drains the phone’s battery quickly, so it’s best to start each session with a fully charged portable battery connected to the smartphone. Alternatively, users could consider using a spare smartphone.
eVscope 2 smart telescope: usability
- No WiFi dropouts or app crashes
- Imaging is time-consuming
Using the Unistellar eVscope 2 is a breeze. Once you initiate the image capture process, you can sit back and watch as the image quality progressively improves in the app. For example, capturing a series of images over five minutes can give you a decent representation of a galaxy, but waiting for an hour can reveal astonishing details, such as spiral arms and dust lanes. Similarly, faint nebulae may require at least 30 minutes of observation before becoming visible. Others appear in seconds. You can choose to download the image to your smartphone or save a high-quality version to the Unistellar eVscope 2’s 64GB hard disk at any point during the observation. During our tests, we did not encounter any app crashes, signal dropouts, or WiFi problems – it’s all incredibly reliable.
eVscope 2 smart telescope: image quality
- 7.7 megapixels
- JPEG, TIFF and FITS files types
- Enhanced Vision and exclusive Super Resolution algorithms
The Unistellar eVscope 2’s images offer a resolution of 7.7 megapixels. That’s a massive increase on the original eVscope and makes it the highest-resolution smart telescope available. Something you get on this model that you don’t get on the more affordable Unistellar eVscope eQuinox 2 is the latest version of Enhanced Vision and also the detail-boosting Super Resolution technology, which is exclusive to this specific model of smart telescope. Though image settings are automatic, users can manually adjust gain, exposure and brightness.
With its exceptional level of detail and vivid colors, the Unistellar eVscope eQuinox 2 surpasses what can be seen through an optical telescope and offer an excellent way to explore and share astronomy, especially in areas with light pollution. It’s one of the reasons why smart telescopes like this one have the potential to transform amateur astronomy.
eVscope 2 smart telescope: sample images
- Images shared to social media come pre-formatted and captioned
- Lossless files can be saved to the hard disk
Here are some images taken with the Unistellar eVscope 2 in September 2021:
The Orion Nebula
The Unistellar eVscope 2 telescope employs Enhanced Vision technology to reveal the complex features of the Orion Nebula. Over time, the telescope uncovers dusty elements, brilliant luminosity, and striking colors. However, the basic image is available in seconds because the Orion Nebula is relatively bright. This image took 21 minutes.
The wider field of view makes it easier than ever to capture the Andromeda galaxy, also known as M31, including details within the dust lanes in its outer regions.
The eVscope 2 draws out impressive detail in M103 (also known as NGC 581), an open cluster in Cassiopeia.
Despite not having a dedicated ‘Moon mode’ the new, wider field of view coupled with some impressive processing produces more than usable images of the lunar surface.
eVscope 2 smart telescope: planet mode
- ‘Lucky imaging’
- Don’t expect wonders
Unistellar’s smart telescopes now have the capability to provide detailed views of planets. While Unistellar’s Enhanced Vision technology is already excellent for deep sky objects, the engineers have recently developed a new algorithm that focuses specifically on planetary imaging. This new mode has been available to all eVscope users since December 2022.
Unlike the long exposures needed for deep sky objects, Unistellar’s planetary imaging relies on a technique called “lucky imaging,” which is combined with its own Super Resolution technology. This approach is also utilized by larger ground-based telescopes. With lucky imaging, astrophotographers take multiple images of an object in the night sky, hoping for a brief moment when Earth’s turbulent atmosphere will settle, allowing for a perfect exposure that is sharp and free of distortion. The Super Resolution chipset then selects only the images free of turbulence, using different pixel grids to infer the details. In our tests on Mars, the technique worked reasonably well despite less than optimal seeing conditions. Unfortunately, we did not have the opportunity to observe other planets, but we’ll add to this review when ‘planet season’ returns.
eVscope 2 smart telescope: solar imaging
- No official accessories are available
- No dedicated solar mode
- Manual observations are possible with care
Unlike rival smart telescope the Vaonis Vespera – for which a range of filters is available – there are no solar filters sold to accompany the Unistellar eVscope 2. That doesn’t mean you can’t use a solar filter, but it’s at your own risk.
eVscope 2 smart telescope: citizen science
- Easy to make in-app scientific observations
- Help NASA and SETI scientists
- Asteroids, comets and exoplanets
The new Unistellar app offers a unique opportunity to be cited as a co-author of a scientific discovery through citizen science. With Unistellar, even novice astronomers can quickly become involved in real scientific research. The app allows users to participate in observational studies in partnership with NASA and the SETI Institute, focusing on asteroid occultations, passing comets, and verifying new exoplanet discoveries made by NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS).
The biggest success so far has been the use of eVscopes to confirm the impact of NASA’s DART planetary defense mission on asteroid Dimorphos in late 2022. Over thirty eVscope users worldwide observed the impact and behavior of the asteroid afterward. Their observations were crowdsourced and credited as co-authors on a paper published in the journal Nature in March 2023.
After signing up for a citizen science campaign from within the Unistellar app, users can attempt to capture asteroid occultations and exoplanet transits or make observations of these celestial bodies. Selecting either option takes the user to Unistellar’s website, which searches for specific events or targets and informs the user of the observation’s duration before transferring the coordinates back into the telescope. While testing the app, we found it successful in collecting data on comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) for 20 minutes. Users can also input their own coordinates to image a comet.
The Unistellar eVscope 2 is particularly useful for confirming exoplanets around other stars, especially those identified by TESS. Some exoplanets take many hours to transit their host star from Earth’s point of view, making eVscopes ideal for daisy-chaining to cover extended periods of uninterrupted relay observations. This type of citizen science is perhaps the most important application of the Unistellar eVscope 2 as a scientific instrument.
eVscope 2 smart telescope: verdict
We think that this expensive digital telescope is the ultimate anti-light pollution solution. While the images produced by the Unistellar eVscope 2 may not be award-winning in astrophotography competitions, they offer an excellent way to explore and share astronomy, especially in areas with light pollution. The eVscope 2’s new sensor captures images with improved detail, contrast, and color vibrancy compared to previous models, aided by clear and transparent skies. While we don’t believe it will replace high-end astrophotography rigs, and we also recognize that it may not be affordable to most amateur astronomers, we do find it to be a highly impressive piece of new consumer technology. In fact, we believe that it could represent the future of urban astronomy.
eVscope 2 smart telescope: specifications
|Price||$4,899 ($5,199 with backpack) / £3,999 (£4,199 with backpack)/ €4,499 (€4,699 with backpack)|
|Optics||4.5-inch/114mm Newtonian reflector|
|Focal length||450mm, f/4|
|Field of view||34 x 47 arcminutes (0.56 x 0.78 degrees)|
|Sensor||Sony Exmor IMX347|
|Image resolution||2,520 x 2,520 pixels, 7.7 megapixels|
|Image format||JPEF, TIFF, FITS|
|Mount||Motorised single arm, altaz, Go-To|
|Battery||Built-in lithium-ion rechargeable (10 hours)|
|Tripod||Aluminum, adjustable height|
|Ports||USB-C (for power) and USB-A for charging a smartphone|
|App control||Unistellar app for smartphones|
|Weight||19.8 lbs / 9kg|