Night Sky MiniScope Review: This iPhone Telescope is More Frustrating Than Fun

Discussion in 'Guides, How Tos and Reviews' started by MacRumors, Aug 18, 2015.

  1. MacRumors macrumors bot


    Apr 12, 2001

    iCandi Apps makes a series of popular star gazing apps designed to let iPhone owners discover constellations, stars, planets, satellites, and more just by pointing an iPhone at the sky. For kids and people interested in learning more about the night sky, these kind of apps are invaluable, and now iCandi Apps has released a new device for home astronomers -- the Night Sky MiniScope.

    Night Sky MiniScope is a full portable telescope that attaches to your iPhone and pairs with the Night Sky app so you can capture photographs of stars, planets, the Moon, and more. Night Sky MiniScope is not cheap, priced at $349, but it's undeniably unique.


    I want to make it clear that this review is written from a layperson's point of view. I have never owned a telescope, I don't do astrophotography, and I can't review the Night Sky MiniScope comparative to other similarly priced telescopes because I don't have a point of reference. I'm coming to this review as someone who has an iPhone, an interest in stargazing apps, and experience with photography, so testing the MiniScope is a new experience for me.

    The Hardware

    iCandi Apps packages the Night Sky MiniScope beautifully. It comes in a custom-designed box that houses the telescope itself, the miniature tripod, case adapters for six different iPhone models, lens caps, and a carry case.


    The Night Sky MiniScope is made from a brushed aluminum that matches the aluminum finish on the iPhone. It's much smaller than a standard telescope and is compact enough to fit into a backpack or a large purse, so it can be taken along on a hike or a camping trip. It's not going to fit in a pocket or anything, but it's more portable than the average telescope.

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    Article Link: Night Sky MiniScope Review: This iPhone Telescope is More Frustrating Than Fun
  2. oneMadRssn macrumors 601


    Sep 8, 2011
    New England
    Looks like it's more for spying on the neighbors.
  3. keysofanxiety macrumors G3


    Nov 23, 2011
    Dunno about that, the tried-and-tested method of a thick shrubbery and binoculars works just fine for me.
  4. Makosuke macrumors 603

    Aug 15, 2001
    The Cool Part of CA, USA
    I can't for the life of me figure out why they're advertising this for astrophotography.

    As a birding scope, it might actually work well, and it's exactly the kind of thing birders would like--light, easy to pocket for those times you see something cool when you weren't expecting and don't have your usual optics with you.

    For the night sky, though, it's basically good for taking photos of the moon. Period. Without tracking, it's absolutely impossible to take a photo of any of the less-extreme-zoom-requiring objects like nebulae or galaxies, and it doesn't have sufficient zoom or optical quality to take a good photo of Venus or Jupiter, which are the only two planets that are likely to look at all interesting.

    So what's it for? You can't photograph dim objects, you can't get a decent photo of any of the four big planets, and the only thing you're left with is star trails and the moon--and I suspect you can take star trails without a scope if you really want. They usually look cooler at low zoom anyway.

    If I had a $350, 55x scope that could take decent photos of exactly one celestial body, but might actually be useful for birding, I sure as heck wouldn't be advertising it to stargazers--you're just asking for disappointment. Even the shots on their own website are awful!
  5. SgtPepper12 macrumors 6502a


    Feb 1, 2011
    You can only hope nobody fell for this crap. It's probably the worst optical instrument you can buy for this price.
  6. mrgraff macrumors 6502a


    Apr 18, 2010
    You're not joking. Their "Daylight Moon" shot is actually lower quality than naked-eye.
  7. rubenrp macrumors newbie

    Aug 18, 2015
    For a little bit more than $350 you can get a far higher quality setup that will really allow you to enjoy exploring the skies, and get your feet wet with astrophotography. For instance, an excellent Dobsonian telescope like the Orion StarBlast 6 will set you back about $340, and a digiscoping adapter for an iPhone will run you somewhere between $20-$75, depending upon the model phone, features, etc. You could also save some money with a (still very good) telescope like the Orion StarBlast 4.5 for about $210, or go with a good pair of astronomy binoculars for about $75-$150 - the magnification of the latter will be less than 50X, but they will be far clearer and sharper than the MiniScope, and almost as portable.

    Oh, and if anyone is thinking of getting the MiniScope (or a similar low-quality scope) for a child because "they're just starting out, so it doesn't matter", please don't - I've seen far too many budding astronomers turned off by the difficulty of getting a worthwhile image with poor quality optics. Instead, give them one taste of a sharp image of the moon's craters, or Saturn's rings, and they'll be hooked for life...

    (That last observation also holds for low-quality microscopes, btw.)
  8. jpgr15 macrumors 6502a

    Apr 28, 2015
    Thanks for these reviews! So many iPhone products out there I didn't even know existed.
  9. japanime macrumors 68000


    Feb 27, 2006
    I couldn't agree more. And if the parents can't afford a quality telescope, buy some affordable stargazing books or apps instead and start attending the "star parties" in your community. Your neighborhood community center will have a schedule of when these events are held (or just Google "star parties" + your-town's-name), and you'll meet lots of friendly folks who are more than willing to let you look through their high-end telescopes.
  10. Anonymous Freak macrumors 603

    Anonymous Freak

    Dec 12, 2002
    So this review proves that being provided with the item doesn't guarantee a good review on MR!

    Yeah, this is a terrible product. This, as others have said, is more likely to turn people *OFF* astronomy. Their own example photos show just how terrible it is - even a basic telescope or decent pair of binoculars are sufficient to see the four Galilean moons (the four largest moons of Jupiter,) yet in their Venus+Jupiter photo, you can't see any of them.

    I'm not sure what's up with Saturn - you can't see rings at all, and there is a "shadow" across the middle. The clouds on Saturn aren't that contrasty, and when the ring is edge-on, it isn't that thick or dark.

    As others have said, the moon pictures are "okay," but I've taken better with a $200 digital still camera that is more pocketable than this device. Heck, I've taken better hand-holding my iPhone 3 up to a pair of decent binoculars! (Before I had a decent-for-astro-photography digital still camera.)
  11. canman4PM macrumors 6502


    Mar 8, 2012
    Kelowna BC
    I get better moon shots with my Canon T1i with a 55-250 mm lens at full zoom. Walmart is advertising a T5 kit (almost certainly slightly better than mine) with 18-55mm and 75-300mm lenses, a 64GB memory card, 2 UV filters for the lenses, memory card reader, USB cable, cleaning kit, "5-piece digital camera accessory kit"(?), bag, mini HDMI cable, wrist strap and a 10" Spider flexible mini-tripod.

    So, in other words, for a measly extra $150, you can take better moon shots and have a real camera for all kinds of other stuff. With a boatload of accessories. I paid $1500 for all my gear (essentially equivalent to Walmarts package) about 6-7 years ago, minus the card reader, wrist strap and mini-tripod but plus a very good heavy duty tripod, better bag and neck strap. So it's a good deal. Shop around used and it'll be even cheaper.

    For those that argue the portability of Night Sky scope over my DSLR, it's not more portable enough. Granted, attached to a phone, vs my 55-250 on a small DSLR body, yes that is smaller. But it's too big for a "casual, in my pocket every day, spur of the moment use". If I gotta lug that thing around, it'd be just as easy to bring the DSLR. Better, in fact, since it takes better pictures and I'd use it for more than night shots of the moon. As rubenrp says, better to have decent gear.

    As a total digression, I agree with rubenrp about the telescopes too. We bought a monster from COSTCO. Cheap. Nice, big, great images. But no tracking. It'd take forever to find anything smaller than the moon in your viewfinder, and loose it seconds later. We bought without knows what we needed and paid the price. Next time, a specialty store where a person who knows the product can tell you what features are out there and why you might want them.
  12. martin.busek macrumors newbie

    Jun 10, 2015

    Looks like it's much better to add couple of $100s and buy for example Nikon P900. And you get not just much better telescope but also a decent camera.
  13. alexgowers macrumors 65816

    Jun 3, 2012
    You could buy a telescope for that price and point the iphone down the lens.


    You could buy a DSLR and use that to take pictures. For the price you can get one on eBay with a long lens!

    The quality here is appalling THB it makes zero sense to even consider this
  14. SteveW928 macrumors 68000


    May 28, 2010
    Victoria, B.C. Canada
    Rich folk looking for iPhone accessories who know nothing about photography or telescopes.
    They'll probably sell a bunch though, if promoted in the right places. sigh :)
  15. windowpain macrumors 6502a

    Apr 19, 2008
    You can also pick up similar looking (and possibly better performing) monoculars on Amazon for about 10-20 dollars.
    A bit of duct tape, and you get the same thing.

    Of course it doesn't come with a wobbly tripod but if you tape it to fence or something it will accomplish the same thing.

    Or as others have said, save your money for a real telescope.
    You can even get a used dslr, something like a Nikon d3100 for less money and much much better optics..

    A one-trick pony, and not even good at that!
  16. BeatsByTim macrumors newbie

    Aug 1, 2014
    So yeah... took this a few weeks ago with a crop sensor dslr and a 250mm lens. No real effort involved at pointing at the moon and pulling the trigger. Yes, it costs a bit more, but it's not an insane amount and it's infinitely more useful.
  17. aarond12 macrumors 65816


    May 20, 2002
    Dallas, TX USA
    Not to mention the image quality is SIGNIFICANTLY better than the Night Sky MiniScope. I got better images using a $50 kid's telescope than the MiniScope. I could clearly see Saturn's rings where as the MiniScope can't even get a sharp picture of the moon.
  18. Moonlight macrumors 6502a


    Jul 9, 2002
    Los Angeles
    While I agree with what you are saying, you just rewrote what ALL beginning to astronomy websites say almost word for word.
  19. jclo Editor


    Staff Member

    Dec 7, 2012
    The team behind the Night Sky MiniScope at iCandi Apps has asked me to share their response to my review:

    I would like to take this opportunity to let you know what we are doing as a direct result of your review, and would appreciate it if you could share this as an “update” on the review to your readers, as we feel it’s important that they know we really care about our products and customers.

    Your review highlights many positive things about Night Sky MiniScope, but also highlights areas where our product falls short, and we want to do what we can to put this right. The first area is the ‘Mini Tripod’. The MiniScope and Mini Tripod both fit into the cloth bag supplied in the package, and are undoubtably very portable which was our main intention. The Mini Tripod is intended to be placed on a ledge or table, and never on the floor. It is there to simply steady the MiniScope and assist you in fixing on an object. We made Night Sky MiniScope with a universal fitting so customers can easily attach it to almost all tripods, should they wish to have the MiniScope higher off the ground as you did in your review. As a result of your experience, we have decided to improve the experience by in the future supplying an improved tripod with telescopic legs with Night Sky MiniScope. Whilst still being quite small and portable, the improved tripod will allow full movement of the MiniScope, and also allow it to be high enough off the ground to easily view the iPhone screen. We will include a telescopic tripod soon with Night Sky MiniScope.

    In terms of your experience of the app crashing occasionally when using the MiniScope mode, we’re running further tests and fixing this right now. We did not experience crashing on our tests, but one crash is one too many, so we are doing more in depth testing and fixing this. It will come as a free software update for all users soon. Also we would like to point out, users do not have to buy a paid version of Night Sky to use the MiniScope mode. Full MiniScope functionality comes in our Lite version, which has all of the MiniScope features free of charge.

    In terms of image quality, Night Sky MiniScope is not a full size telescope which is why it’s marketed as a MiniScope. Due to its portability, it is not always possible to get the results that you would from a full size telescope. We have been transparent with what can be achieved with the raw unedited images in our gallery on our website ( However Night Sky MiniScope can easily be taken anywhere, whether on camping, on a hike, or just kept in the glovebox of your car, so the likelihood of you having it when you need it is far higher than a full size telescope, especially in low light pollution areas. It’s very easy to set up. During our research and development we tried larger solutions, however the trade off in better image quality compared to the size and complicated process of setting up all the parts, made the MiniScope solution more consumer friendly. We would also like to point out that astrophotography is never a quick instant process, patience and time is required to obtain better quality images regardless of what product you are using.

    In terms of price point, it’s worth noting that our $349 price point also includes 24-48hr international shipping via UPS. This is from the UK, and shipping actually costs us between $70 and $100 USD dependant on customers location. iCandi Apps also pays all taxes and custom duty into the US and all other countries on the MiniScope. Every MiniScope also comes with a full 1 year warranty, and we offer great customer service. As stated in the review, the materials used are of the highest quality, a full aluminium shell, not plastic which most comparable products are made of. We could lower the price of the MiniScope then charge for shipping and leave it to the carrier to collect duty from the customer, as lower priced products do. We could use cheaper materials, but our emphasis was on quality of the product and creating a seamless ordering experience. So when comparing lower priced products, these factors should be taken into account.

    As you can see we do really care about our customers and products. Night Sky MiniScope is a unique product, we are the first people to bring something like this to market, and we are dedicated to constantly improving the experience. We think the improvements to the app, and the big improvement of a much better tripod, will make the experience less frustrating and more fun going forward.​
  20. Makosuke macrumors 603

    Aug 15, 2001
    The Cool Part of CA, USA
    That response from the company basically doesn't address the problem at all; giving them the benefit of the doubt that the build quality is good enough to warrant the price, the problem isn't that it's a bad product, the problem is they're marketing it as a telescope instead of a daylight spotting scope when it's utterly useless as the former.

    Unless they add a tracking tripod to the thing, it simply is not capable of taking a photo of anything in the night sky other than the moon and two gas giants (and star trails, which I don't count). Even if it could photograph all three of those objects well, it is still less useful than a pair of binoculars for night-sky viewing, and essentially useless for astrophotography.

    The problem is, fundamentally, that it can't do what it's being advertised to do.

    On the other hand, it is a scope, so if they just advertised it for birding, they'd have a product somebody might want and that will do what it claims to. I guess the problem is they're not a birding company...
  21. macduke macrumors G4


    Jun 27, 2007
    Central U.S.
    Yeah this seems like a product without a market. The closing lines of this review really sums that up. Their customer aim is only matched by the aim of their telescope.

    I love astronomy and took some courses and labs on it in college. When my daughter gets a little older I'm going to buy an 8-12" reflector telescope with star tracker and camera mount. My dad always wanted to get a nice setup for us to stargaze as a kid but we never had the money for it. He had a decent set of higher-power (and heavy!) binoculars and a pretty old (and not well-maintained) refractor scope though. To this day those are still some of my best memories with my dad, hanging out late looking at the stars.

    I've seen some people online price out different kit options and you can get a decent kit for around $500 and actually some pretty amazing kits for $1500 or so. Of course the most expensive part is often the camera, but if you already have one then it's not really an extra expense. Modern dSLRs and mirrorless bodies (especially Sony) can shoot at rather high ISO without a lot of noise, so if you have a newer camera you might be able to get away with imaging nebulae and such without a higher-diameter scope.
  22. stncld macrumors newbie


    Sep 7, 2010
    Little Rock, Arkansas
    I can echo the sentiments of most of the posters on this thread. I think a modestly priced telescope or dslr is a better use of your money.
    I think one of the goals of amateur astronomy is to get people excited about astronomy. I can't see anyone getting excited over this miniscope. It's too small, inflexible and unfriendly for the price.
    I'm a member of a local astronomy club, and at some of our star parties I attach an iPhone adapter to my telescope and invite people to use it to take pictures of the moon and planets. The iPhone does have limitations when it comes to astrophotography but you can do it.
    If you're interested in buying a telescope, go to websites like Sky & Telescope or Astronomy Magazine, see what they have to say. Find out where and when your local club is hosting a star party and go. My advice, start simple and be patient.
  23. USAntigoon macrumors regular


    Feb 13, 2008
    Rochester Hills, MI
    Don't waste your money on these gadgets. Learn the basics of astronomy first by using your eyes, combined with a good set of binoculars s.a a Fujinon 7x50.. Download the SkySafari app from the Apple App Store and you will develop the base understanding of astronomy and by then you will understand the next step of buying a real telescope like a TeleVue refractor or similar quality brands. I went this route and have build a 20" Dobsonian telescope for the next step which is "deep sky" astronomy..
  24. abaxworld macrumors member

    Nov 14, 2008
    This kind of devices just lead people to get frustrated and never use a telescope again. For taking pictures you need at least a simple go-to mount, with this tiny tripod you can't do anything, even the Moon can appear moved. So please, save your money for something more serious like a SkyWatcher or Orion telescope with go-to ( it's just a few more money ), by a serious camera ( or at least a better adapter for the iPhone, but only for Moon and planetary astrophoto ) and discard this cheat, hoax or whatever you can to call it. This kind of cheats should be reported to the commercial authorities.
  25. canman4PM macrumors 6502


    Mar 8, 2012
    Kelowna BC
    That's a nice shot.

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