The Best Smart Telescopes (Stellina vs Evscope vs Equinox)

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There is a new trend that started taking astronomy and astrophotography by storm recently and that is automated smart telescopes that have cameras built-in.

In this article, we dig into the emergence of these new telescopes, examine the most popular models (the Vaonis Stellina, the Unistellar eVscope, and the Unistellar Equinox), and layout the pros and cons of each and of using them over more conventional telescopes.

equinox roboscope

A new trend: Smart telescopes for astrophotography & astronomy

Obviously telescopes have been around for a while and taking photos with them has been possible. What has emerged recently though is a new type of hybrid telescope that take photos with an in-built camera.

Easy astrophotography

This means that advanced astrophotography is possible with just one piece of equipment that is relatively easy to use.

Previously, if you wanted to get into deep sky astrophotography you needed to research and buy a camera, a telescope or zoom lens, a mount or star tracker, plus any adapters required to make the parts fit together.

Getting all these pieces together and finding the right ones for you and your budget is a lot of work (hence the buying guides of thousands of words for each of these things on this website) and creates a barrier to entry for more casual astrophotographers.

In addition, even once you have you kit all together taking the photos is a lot of work and requires a lot of learning (again, reflected in much of the content on this website).

Of course, for many this is the fun part that can make it so rewarding, but many others crave something much simpler.

Solving visual astronomy in light polluted cities

One of the major things that these telescopes also do is overcome the light pollution problem with regards to visual astronomy for those that live in or near cities.

Essentially, the light from cities makes it very hard to just look up at the skies with a regular telescope and see what you want to see in the night sky.

With these smart telescopes, they gather the light and develop the image of the galaxy, planet or whatever you are looking at for you to view through the eyepiece (for the eVscope) or on your phone (for both).

This means that you can do it from your backyard or rooftop in a city in a way that you can’t with similar sized regular telescopes.

Telescopes for the experience

Therefore these new telescopes are a massive breakthrough in making astronomy and astrophotography more easily accessible for beginners, particularly with people keen to share images on social media.

They are also perfect for those that want the results of observing and photographing the night sky without spending months or years learning and just want to grab-and-go outside and get instant results.

Also they are future proofed, in that once you buy one it will continue to improve in features and performance as updates are provided over wifi.

There are three main smart telescopes that can take photos on the market right now – the Vaonis Stellina, the Unistellar Evscope, and the Unistellar Equinox (with the Vaonis Vespera coming in 2022).

We examine each of these below and see how they compare to each other.


Vaonis Stellina

Vaonis STELLINA Observation Station and Hybrid Telescope with Gitzo Systematic Short Tripod

The Stellina telescope from French company Vaonis is a pretty amazing piece of kit.

It comes out of the box looking a bit like a large router standing 68cm (26 inches) tall:

How it works is you turn it on, it takes a few minutes to automatically establish the time and date and where it is in the world by GPS and then it is good to go. There’s not much more to it, no collimating (adjusting) the telescope or manual focusing.

It is operated via an app on your smartphone or tablet. The Stellina knows from your location what you should be able to see and gives you a list of options of objects in the night sky.

Vaonis STELLINA Observation Station and Hybrid Telescope with Gitzo Systematic Short Tripod

You then choose which galaxy, nebula or other object that you want it to point at and it will take the image at the press of a button and send it to your smartphone.

The images are of a high resolution of 3096 x 2080 pixels and are processed automatically and sent as jpeg files. One thing to note though is that you can connect a USB-C cable and get the raw FITS data, which means that, if you want to, you can get the unprocessed image data and play around with it yourself in PhotoShop or whatever software you use.

It is battery powered with a rechargeable battery that lasts around five hours and has an in-built light pollution filter built onto the front so that it can be used from within cities and other built-up areas.

It comes with a high-quality mini tripod from Gitzo (one of the best tripod manufacturers). You can also buy a separate tall Gitzo tripod for the Stellina with a height of 130cm (51 inches).

Vaonis STELLINA Observation Station and Hybrid Telescope with Gitzo Systematic Short Tripod

I think of this as being like the Apple version of a telescope where they have made the ease-of-use right out of the box a priority.

This then makes it appeal to a different market from experienced astrophotographers.

This video from Vaonis gives a good overview of how it works:

The only real downsides are that it is not cheap and that the images it produces, while good, are not of comparable quality to those being taken by advanced astrophotographers with good camera/telescope/mount set ups.

However, it’s about a thousand times quicker and easier and the prospect is there that the Stellina will improve in performance over time as updates take place over its internet connection, much like your laptop or phone does.

Stellina pros and cons

Stellina Pros

  • Simple, quick and easy to use with an intuitive interface
  • Up to 20 users can connect to it at once to share the images which adds a social element
  • Performance improvements and new features can be added after you have bought it as it receives software updates over the internet

Stellina Cons

  • Not cheap (although in the ballpark of buying high-quality astrophotography equipment like a camera, telescope, mount)
  • Not so good at photographing planets or the sun, it mostly specializes in widefield deep sky astrophotography (galaxies, nebula etc)
  • Fairly large

Stellina specifications

  • Aperture: 80 mm (3.25 inches)
  • Focal Length: 400 mm (15.7 inches)
  • Weight: 29 lbs (13 kg)
  • Height: 68cm (26 inches)
  • Sensor: Sony IMX 178
  • Resolution: 6.4 MP (3096 x 2080 px)

Unistellar eVscope

EVSCOPE-UNISTELLAR

The eVscope comes from another French company, Unistellar.

It is similar to the Stellina in many ways – it is a smart telescope with a camera built in to take photos.

It is operated via smartphone app and automatically finds objects in the night sky and captures images of them which are then sent to your phone or tablet.

Comes with a tripod included and a backpack can be bought separately for easy storage and transport.

A couple of things do mark it as different from the Stellina though:

  1. It has an eyepiece on the side so you can see what it is looking, rather than waiting for the images to be sent to you. This is quite a cool feature as you can see the galaxy or whatever you are photographing live as it is being captured and processed and means you see it more brightly than you would through a regular telescope.
  2. It enables you to take part in citizen astronomy initiatives as Unistellar are working with the SETI Institute. This allows you to connect your eVscope to a network of thousands of others around the world and help scientists while viewing astronomical events live they are happening.

With a 4.5 inch aperture, it is a more powerful telescope, and is also smaller and lighter than the Stellina.

This video from OPT gives a good overview of the eVscope:

The only real downside is that some setup and adjustment is required. The telescope has to be collimated and then manually focused. This is fairly easy though and you are taken through it step-by-step.

eVscope pros and cons

eVscope Pros

  • It has an eyepiece allowing you to view objects in space live
  • It enables you to join a citizen astronomy network and take part in fun and educational initiatives
  • It has a relatively high aperture (the best measurement of a telescope’s viewing power)
  • It is relatively cheaper than the Stellina (although, please check live prices)
  • It is smaller and lighter than the Stellina

eVscope Cons

  • Does require some collimation and focussing

eVscope specifications

  • Aperture: 114 mm (4.5″)
  • Focal Length: 450 mm (17.7 inches)
  • Weight: 19.8 lb (9 kg)
  • Height: 63.5cm (25 inches)
  • Sensor: Sony IMX224
  • Resolution: 1.2M (1305 x 977px)

Unistellar Equinox

unistellar equinox smart telescope

In 2021, Unistellar released the second generation of their smart telescope range with the Equinox.

It’s a sleeker, black telescope that looks a lot nicer than the eVscope. The battery life has been improved and it claims to able to be set up in under a minute (although we are currently unclear if any collimation is required).

It’s very similar in terms of specifications to the eVscope – 4.5-inch aperture reflector telescope. Same focal length and same Sony sensor.

One fairly big change is that they have removed the eyepiece on the side. You may or may not care about this but to some it was a big positive versus the Stellina as it allowed it to be used as an observing telescope. This was great for those living in light-polluted areas where observing is very difficult. Instead, now you can just see the images on your smartphone or tablet. However, it is the removal of the eyepiece that has resulted in the improved battery performance.

Watch a quick overview here:

Equinox pros and cons

Equinox Pros

  • Relatively high aperture (power)
  • Lighter than the Stellina
  • Longer battery life of 12 hours from a single charge (versus 9 hours for the eVscope)
  • You can join the citizen network and take part in astronomy initiatives
  • Faster setup time than the eVscope. Automatic alignment with the press of a few buttons.

Equinox Cons

  • No Eyepiece – this removes the element of taking it out and using it like an observing telescope.

Equinox specifications

  • Aperture: 114 mm (4.5″)
  • Focal Length: 450 mm (17.7 inches)
  • Weight: 19.8 lb (9 kg)
  • Sensor: Sony IMX224
  • Resolution: 1.2M (1305 x 977px)

Stellina Vs eVscope: advantages & disadvantages

The Stellina and eVscope are fairly similar in that they are:

  1. Easy to use for beginners out of the box
  2. Smartphone or tablet operated
  3. Have in-built cameras to provide all the equipment you need in one for astrophotography

There are a few things that make them differ from each other though and might help you choose whether the Stellina of the eVscope is right for you.

eVscope advantages versus the Stellina

  • The eyepiece on the side allows live viewing of the objects being imaged, rather than having to wait for it to come through on your phone
  • It enables you to join a network and take part in citizen astronomy activities
  • It is cheaper (at the time of writing – but please check)
  • It has higher aperture for better light gathering and imaging
  • It is smaller and lighter

Stellina advantages versus the eVscope

These mostly relate to ease of use:

  • No focusing or collimation of the telescope is required
  • Capable of higher resolution images

Essentially the Stellina is easier to use and is literally a matter of turning it on.

But the eVscope is better than the Stellina in a number of other ways. It is just slightly harder to use since each time it needs manual focusing and collimating. These processes are easy and should take around ten minutes once you know what you’re doing but it is a slight barrier to being fully ‘grab-and-go’ like the Stellina is.


FAQs

Do the Stellina and eVscope take good pictures?

The answer is yes, they do.

Many experienced astrophotographers do prefer the results they get from their conventional telescope/mount/camera set-ups, however the time and dedication required to get to this level is beyond most casual users looking for an easier way to get into astrophotography.

To see galleries of images taken with the eVscope and Stellina, check out:

eVscope images

Stellina images

What’s the difference between the Stellina/eVscope/Equinox and GoTo / computerized telescopes?

The difference is that these new “smart telescopes” have cameras built in and that they automate many of the setup processes required for regular telescopes.

They use the same “GoTo” technology utilized by computerized telescope mounts that enable you to choose an object for the telescope to find for you from a database at the click of a button. The difference is that conventional telescopes need you to connect an external camera to take pictures and then go through a rigorous manual process for capturing the image.

What’s the Vaonis Vespera? What about Vespera vs Stellina?

Towards the end of 2020, Vaonis, the manufacturer of the Stellina, announced a smaller smart/hybrid telescope called the Vespera that will be released in Spring 2022.

See more information on the Vaonis website.

Can you attach your smartphone or digital camera to a regular telescope to take pictures?

Yes, you can. This is what the vast majority of people do to take night sky photos.

Quite a lot of beginners’ telescopes now come with smartphone adapters (or they can be bought separately). Similarly, DSLR cameras can be attached to telescopes with the right adapters.

See our guides to astrophotography equipment and astrophotography for beginners for a good introduction to this, as well as the best camera for astrophotography and the best telescopes for astrophotography.


Will you be buying a Stellina, eVscope or Equinox?

We hope you find this useful if you are considering buying one of this smart telescopes.

Please let us know which one you favor and why – the eVscope, Stellina or Equinox?

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10 thoughts on “The Best Smart Telescopes (Stellina vs Evscope vs Equinox)”

  1. I found this to be extremely helpful and useful.
    The videos were excellent.
    Nice impartial, balanced evaluations.
    Thank you.

    Reply
  2. Very helpful comparisons, Anthony. Thanks.
    The one thing I haven’t been able to find in reviews of the two scopes, is whether there is any significant difference in the quality of their astrophotos — especially with the same number of minutes of stacking (ie., say over 5 minutes of processing). The sense I get, is that their results are similar (comparing apples to apples).
    One of the things that I like about both scopes, is that they seem to be capable of producing images that are similar in quality to what I have been able to obtain over the years with two 8″ C8’s and two different (Atik) astrocameras and a significant amount of post-processing. In that sense, I think both scopes represent a breakthrough for astronomers who want good images of DSO’s with a minimum of fuss, the assembling of complex equipment, long boot times, frustrating issues of alignment and focussing, etc., not to mention unbelievably steep learning curves!

    Reply
    • After doing a little research, I think you hit the nail on the head, so to speak. An average person who wants to do astronomy observation and photography (especially to share with friends on the internet!) but isn’t a gearhead, this is the ticket.

      And of course as time goes on , I think we will see more and more like these. And given both are startups, they will eventually be bought by someone.

      Reply
  3. I am also appreciative of the in-depth review. I would like to see more information about the pictures themselves. Can a few be made available for download? I’m looking to see the size/resolution (i.e. does it just look good on my smartphone, or how big can I blow it up – will it look terrible on a large screen? I have a trip planned to Santa Fe in a few weeks and to Utah in the fall – I’m leaning heavily toward the eVscope as I didn’t see a benefit beyond 10 minutes of setup for $1000 – lighter (5#), faster (aperture), don’t have to swap batteries, viewport… am I missing anything? Nice job guys!

    Reply
    • Hi Russ (and John above), thanks for the great points and questions.

      I’ve added links now in the article to online galleries where people have shared images taken with the Stellina and eVscope. I haven’t linked to any “official” images, as they are usually a bit polished.

      I’ve also added details of the resolution – for the Stellina it is 6.4 MP (3096 x 2080 px), and for the eVscope it is smaller at 1.2M (1305 x 977px).

      Reply
    • Yeah it seems the optics on the eVscope is the best of the two, but the Sensor on the Stellina is better/higher resolution. I will expect both to improve over time, these are clearly “early adopter” style products.

      Reply
  4. I’m considering buying a computerized telescope. The Stellina was the leading contender until I discovered how difficult it was to communicate with Vaonis. I emailed the company 4 times and never got a reply. Does anyone have experience with Unistellar. I’ve read a couple of times that questions to Unistellar get a quick response.

    Reply
  5. I asked a question via the unistellar website late one evening (ET) and had a response by morning. I want the eyepiece, call me old school, but unfortunately they are out of stock on the evScope. My question was when would they expect to have stock and they are unsure. The possibility is perhaps maybe Christmas. But who knows 🙁

    Reply
    • I believe Unistellar is phasing out the evScope in favor of the Evolution, it may not be possible to purchase them much longer. The eyepiece is not optical. It is really just a built in electronic viewfinder, no different than viewing the electronic live image or enhanced stacked image on your phone or tablet except you have to stoop over and view it with one eye. The eyepiece was more of a gimmick to elicit the “old school” response you provided.

      Reply

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