Scope tube shown mounted on a photographic tripod.
Yes, this is a telescope. But at the end of the day it is a lens like any other and you can attach a camera to it. It is intended for sky observation, but can also be used terrestrially within some considerations.
This comes as not just a scope, but pretty much an all in one starter kit for optical observation. Included in the box you get a hefty tripod and motorised mount, so once set up it can track objects as they move across the sky. More on that later.
The scope itself is a Maksutov-Cassegrain catadioptric design. What that means in English is it has lens elements and mirrors in a certain configuration. This particular one gives a fairly sealed unit so maintenance is minimal. Size is also comparatively small for the focal length.
The specification in photographic terms is a focal length of 1325mm and aperture is fixed at f/13. There is a 20 turn knob on the back which moves the main mirror to focus the image.
This scope has two optical ports where you can connect to. A movable mirror at the back of the unit either passes the light out the back, or reflects it through 90 degrees to the side. The side port takes a standard 1.25" eyepiece, and the supplied 25mm one gives an optical magnification of about 53x. Due to the optics involved, the image in the eyepiece is vertically correct but mirrored left-right.
To mount a camera, you can use the dedicated port at the back. An optional adapter is required to connect here, and a T-ring to suit the camera mount. This time, the image is normally aligned as viewed by the camera.
Alternatively, using an optional eyepiece adapter you can connect the camera to the eyepiece port but I think this would result in a mirrored upside down image. The benefit of using the eyepiece adapter is that it will also take standard eyepiece filters which the rear port adapter does not.
The finder is on the upper left. Eyepiece port covered to left. Upper knob on back sets focus. Lower knob flips the internal mirror to direct the light to either the eyepiece or camera port.
You can use the scope with a regular photographic tripod. The mount on the scope includes two receptacles which take the standard tripod thread. The only caution I would give here is the scope is relatively heavy, so the tripod head would need to be able to take this. I first tried with a cheap tripod and it would keep slipping however hard I tried to tighten it. Also, with the long focal length, even small vibrations are more easily detectable. So it does need to be sturdy.
Using the supplied mount has its advantages and disadvantages. For starters it is heavy. This might help keep it stable, but you don't want to move it too much. The kit comes with a bubble level to help you flatten it, but you can't leave it fixed on the tripod so I haven't bothered with it.
On top of the tripod goes the motorised mount. This has a wedge which is needed if you want to attempt very long exposures. This aligns one of the degrees of motion so that only a simple sideways movement will track an object. Without this, two degrees of motion are needed to keep an object centered but it will appear to rotate.
The motorised mount has a computer control and various alignment modes. Basically once aligned, it can direct you to any object within view. I haven't tried this mode yet, and have only used the mount manually. Without alignment, you can simply move it up/down and left/right with the control pad.
The motor needs power and there are two main options here. The unit can take 8 AA batteries, or an external DC supply. The batteries last longer than I thought. Then again, the motors don't run that often, and the other main drain is the backlight of the handset controller.
The controller also has many connection options, including the possibility of remote computer control.
While on the mount, I'll also quickly mention the alignment. There is a red dot type finder on the side of the scope. This projects a red dot within its display which appears constant in position even if you move around. So once set up and aligned, you can use this to help you target the scope.
Other practical considerations
Due to the long focal length, you will need to keep any vibration down to a minimum during use. For photography, a remote release is strongly suggested unless you want to wait for the timer on every shot.
Even though the focus knob is 20 turns end to end, the difference between in focus and out of focus is still only a small rotation. Maybe equivalent to 1 hour on a clock. If you have any live view zoom function it will come in very useful here.
Ever heard of diffraction softening? You will now. In practice this scope is diffraction limited with any modern DSLR. What this means is that it doesn't matter how good the sensor is, as the optics are limiting the final image quality giving a soft look. This is not due to any fault in the scope design or build, but those pesky laws of physics getting in the way again. The only way around it is to get a bigger aperture scope.
100% crop. 1/200s, ISO400 on 50D. No PP.
You can use this scope generally in daytime too. The claimed minimum focus distance is 20 feet which is reasonable. Tracking fast moving objects wont be fun as the field of view is quite small plus you have the sensitive manual focus. Stationary objects are much easier. At f/13, it isn't particularly bright so fast shutter speeds will be a challenge.
It may not be visible to the naked eye, but this has enough effective magnification to show up air turbulence causing distortions on images.
100% crop. 1/15s, ISO400 on 50D. No PP. Subject was maybe 1km away.
Due to the mirror lens design, the bokeh is donut shaped.
I'm sure I've forgotten some things so I may update this later.