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What about a telescope?

September 12, 2017

So last tie I posted pics and video from an experimental moon shot that used one of these big add on lenses meant for smart phones. There are many many kinds of optional do-dads to designed to extract money from smart phone photographers. But there are also do-dads designed to attach smart phones to some serious lenses. For example:


This pictured thing is a Gorsky universal telescope adapter for Smart Phones. With some patience, it allows you to line up your smart phones camera to look through the eye piece of a telescope or similar viewing device.

Intrigued, in the throes of camera gear acquisitiveness, and also on the lookout for more ways to take moon pics, I got one.

I set it up indoors, which I highly recommend. There is better light indoors. You can work out the kinks of the getting the camera lens over the eyepiece where you can see and where hopefully you will be pestered less by insects.

Like other smart phone photography gear I have tried, this one insists on mashing the buttons on the side of the phone. There is no getting around this.

Out of habit, when the smart phone screen goes off I used to press the power button. You can’t do that with this accessory. The other method is to double tab the phone’s screen.

On the whole though, I found this setup less fidly and easier to focus then the Youniker setup I talked about in my previous post. I used the same tripod and tripod head, but obviously, used a much bigger lens.


This thing was also easier to aim then the Youniker lens, despite them both being on the same tripod and head. (Not the tripod in the picture above.)

So how do these widgets do?


Clearly the best shot yet.

The notable improvements over other shots are the level of detail. It is a decent exposure as well.


What can you do with a Smart Phone and a big lens?

September 12, 2017

I took some time to get back to my moon shot experiments. A while back I had purchased a lens made to attach to Smart Phones by means of a clamp. It was red among other things.

Youniker 18x Zoom

This is described as an 18x universal optical camera lens kit. It is made by a company named Youniker. The reason I got this one instead of anything else is because it attached to the camera using a clamp rather then a plastic spring loaded clip. Also it is red.

So I got this thing because I am an acquisitive camera junkie, but once I had it I wondered if I could use it to take a Moon shot.  Well yes I can.

The first time I tried this I could not get the setup to focus and it finally dawned on me that there was condensation on the lens. This is the price of living in air conditioned comfort. Well and global warming.

The second time I tried I put the setup in the garage a few hours before taking the shot. This appeared to have helped.

I say setup because I did not use the cute little table top tripod that came with it. The ball head on the tripod is difficult to adjust and when you get the moon zoomed in, it moves rather faster then you might expect it to. Meaning there is constant adjustment, something no ball head, never mind the one on this tripod, is good at.

With that in mind I put the lens on my gear head tripod head. A gear head is like it sounds. It has knobs that you can turn to adjust the equipment mounted to it in three directions. (Roll, pitch and yaw.) This has made moon shot so much easier. I can quickly make minor adjustments and line up the shot. I don’t think it would do for astro-photography in general though as you need something that can track. The gear head I have is the Manfrotto 410 Junior Gear Head.

Because I actually use my phone, I did not align it in the holder prior to going in my backyard. At night. Where it is dark. Well I live in a big city so darkish. So to align I shined a flashlight into the lens until I could see this on the screen of my phone. It occurs to me writing this I could have taken care of this in the garage. Which had a light. And fewer mosquitoes.

Setting up somewhere well lit is definitely a good idea. Set up the phone and then carefully transport to your viewing location.

As a tip if you happen to be using this lens and mount hardware on your phone. Mount it so that the phone’s lens is the lowest part. Put another way mount in upside down portrait mode. Why? Because then the weight of the phone presses the lens towards the lens and bracket arrangement. In pretty much every other orientation, the weight of the lens pulls the phone’s lens away which will cause vignetting and a smaller image.

The next challenge was actually pointing at the moon. The moon was full on the night I chose. It turned out to be pretty difficult to get it.

Once aligned I had difficulties getting the image focused. This is a two part problem with a setup like this. Firstly the Younkier 18x lens has a manual focus ring. So you adjust that. And then you have to focus the phone’s camera. There are phone camera apps that allow you to focus manually, so I could have locked in the focus. Maybe I will try that next time.

But after all that work here is the result.


This is a zoomed in shot of the moon. Meaning that I had to use the digital zoom features of the phone’s camera to get this shot. Considering the necessary distortion this adds, it turned out pretty well.

So what are the pros and cons of this setup?

Pros –

It is inexpensive for what it is. Besides your smart phone, you purchase an add on lens which runs around $30 and comes with some accessories. The lens and its accessories are pretty portable, but to use it for a moon shot you will need better a better head and tripod.

Cons –

It is endlessly fiddly. You have to get the phone aligned just so and clamp it down good so it doesn’t fall. (Mine fell out once.) This is problematic as you can’t use it with a camera case. You know, the thing designed to protect your phone in the event of a fall? The magnification is less then ideal for a moon shot. Another problem is that the clamp, and pretty much every clamp I have tried, interferes with the phones button on the side of the phone. (My phone at least. Your phone may be fine.) This can be annoying when the phone is trying to power off because the power button is being held. Why not clamp somewhere else? Because the clamp has to fit on where the lens attachment is over the lens of the phone. My phone also has a curved back further complicating getting the lens set up right.

Overall, if this is the gear you have, you can make it work. The main thing is get a better tripod head and tripod. (The tripod head I used is many times more expensive then the lens. Think about that when considering this plan.)

Here is a link to a video I took while getting this picture. You can see me fiddling with the manual focus on the lens, the auto focus in the camera app and also the adjustments on the tripod head.

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May 22, 2009

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