My New Favorite iPhone Telescope Adapter for iAstrophotography!

I’ve been writing a bit lately about different smartphone adapters for both telescopes and binoculars, as this is perhaps the most essential accessory to really get going with iAstrophotography.  In the past I’ve written about the Orion SteadyPix Universal Smartphone Adapter and the SnapZoom.  But now, I want to discuss my new favorite iPhone adapter for both telescopes and binoculars.

The Carson Universal Smartphone Adapter is just downright awesome.  In my estimation, it’s the easiest to use and most versatile adapter out there.  Here’s a video to show it off:

As you can see from the video, the Carson Universal is intended to hook up to any optics.  From my tests with various telescope eyepieces and binoculars, this really seems to be accurate.  What you can’t really get from the video though, is just how easy it is to use the Carson Universal.

***Important Update***:  There is now a version 2.0 of the Carson Hookupz Universal.  I haven’t had a chance to use this new model, but it looks pretty awesome!  From this video below, you can see that it’s now easier to align your camera lens in the center of the adapter.  There also appears to be a new lock which will help the adapter grip onto an eyepiece.

 

Here’s another video showing that the Carson Hookupz 2.0 works with dual camera phones (such as the iPhone 7+).

 

The only downside I see to the 2.0 is that it looks to be about $15 more expensive than the 1.0 on Amazon.  If I were buying my first adapter, I’d probably opt for the more expensive 2.0, as it looks to make this great adapter even more user friendly.

***End of Update***

Initial setup is significantly easier than with any other adapter I’ve tried.  There are two latches that can be easily unlocked to allow your phone to slide into place.  Once you have your smartphone camera in place, you tighten the clamps and lock the latches.  From there, simple spring mechanisms will do the rest of the work.  So far, this is the only universal adapter I’ve tested that is actually easy enough to interchange with multiple phone types out in typical observing conditions (i.e. dark and cold).  Here’s a video from Carson showing the setup:

The Carson adapter is also extremely easy to get on and off your eyepieces/binoculars.  You just squeeze the back spring-loaded clamps open, drop over your eyepiece, and release.  Again, I can’t overstate how important this ease of use is when in typical observing conditions.  This is a huge plus when you’re constantly switching eyepieces and trying to locate objects in your field of view.  Here’s a pic of the eyepiece clamp triggers being squeezed to open:

Carson Universal Smartphone Adapter

Carson Universal Smartphone Adapter

The only downside I can find is that the Carson Universal Smartphone Adapter doesn’t currently support “phablet” sized phones, like the iPhone 6 Plus.  Though I’ve heard that they have a new model in the works that will support these phones.  For my iPhone 6 and most other smartphones, this thing is very nearly perfect.  Here are a few pictures I captured the other night out camping with some friends and then hiking in Cuyamaca Rancho State Park and then Julian, CA.

Orion Nebula with iPhone 6 and Carson Universal

Orion Nebula with iPhone 6 and Carson Universal

Waning Gibbous Moon shot with iPhone 6 and Carson Universal

Waning Gibbous Moon shot with iPhone 6 and Carson Universal

Turkey Vultures shot with iPhone 6 and Carson Universal

Turkey Vultures shot with iPhone 6 and Carson Universal

The Moon and Orion Nebula pictures were taken through my Celestron Advanced VX 6 inch Newtonian telescope, and the picture of the turkey vultures (I think that’s what they are?) was taken through my Celestron SkyMaster 15 x 70 Binoculars.

Overall the Carson Universal Smartphone Adapter is extremely well thought out.  It has a lens spacer, which can help you find the right focal distance to optimize the image in your smartphone.  It even comes with a really nice protective case and carabiner:

Carson Universal Case

Carson Universal Case

If you’re in the market for an iAstrophotography smartphone mount, I highly recommend the Carson Universal Smartphone Adapter.  You can pick one up on Amazon for a great price.  Here’s their website for additional info:  Carson Universal.

Clear skies!

Matt

 

P.S. I also recently checked out the iOptron Universal Smartphone Eyepiece Adapter.  In short, the thought behind it isn’t bad, but it doesn’t quite deliver.  It wouldn’t work with my iPhone 6 due to constantly pushing the volume buttons.  It is also limited to only working with the 12.5mm eyepiece that it screws into, so forget about using your own eyepieces or binoculars.  To sum it up, go with the Carson Universal or Carson Hookupz 2.0!

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46 comments on “My New Favorite iPhone Telescope Adapter for iAstrophotography!
  1. Mike says:

    Great to know! Thanks for sharing!

    Have you determined how to get an iPhone to make exposures longer than 1/2 (.5) second?

    Thanks,
    Mike

  2. Matt says:

    Hi Mike,

    You’re very welcome! So unfortunately, the iPhone hardware limits exposure time to a maximum of a half second. However, there’s a really nice app called NightCap Pro – http://www.nightcapcamera.com/ (there’s a free version with not quite as much functionality too). This app has a long exposure setting, which basically takes multiple 1/2 second exposures, then automatically combines them and reduces noise. This is the best solution I’ve found so far, and it’s how I’ve taken pictures of things like the Orion Nebula, Comet Q2 2014 Lovejoy, and star clusters. Let me know if you have any more questions about it, and maybe I’ll try to do a post with some tips soon!

    Matt

  3. Eric Teske says:

    This is exactly what I’ve been looking for! Good thing I held off on ordering the snapzoom and saw your post about this, I literally ran to my laptop and bought one just now – they should give you free stuff for that great review 😉

  4. Farbod Ab says:

    There are a lot of negative reviews for this product on amazon. This one in particular I was wondering your opinion on: “After attaching to telescope eyepiece, the adapter sags and almost falls to the floor. The tension springs are simply not strong enough to hold the clamp to an eyepiece and the “green” grippers are made of the wrong material. ”

    I’m guessing you don’t have these problems or how did you fix it if you did?

    • Matt says:

      Hi Farbod!

      Yes, I have read some of those comments on Amazon. I guess this would be my take. I can see the concern…it does take some manipulation to get the adapter aligned perfectly with the eyepiece. This has been true of every adapter I’ve used. It ultimately takes a little guess and check work. In my mind though, the beauty of the Carson adapter is that this guess and check work is extremely easy – especially compared to other adapters.

      Regarding the adapter sagging off, this may depend on the weight of the phone being used and the angle at which it’s being attached. The adapter relies on the tension of the spring arms to squeeze the eyepiece. If the phone is very heavy, or there isn’t much eyepiece to grip onto, or the phone is angled down toward the floor, the adapter will have a hard time holding on. However, I think with most telescoping observing, the angle of the adapter should work rather well. Occassionaly, if I’m having a hard time with the angle for my Newtonian telescope, I’ll simply rotate the telescope within the O-rings to put the scope at a better angle.

      So I guess my main takeaway is that all adapters will have a little bit of fiddle to them, it’s just the nature of trying to line up a small image onto a small camera sensor perfectly. With that in mind, I love the Carson adaptor, because it seems to be the easiest to play around with until you get it just right.

      Hope that helps, and let me know if you have any additional questions!

      Matt

      • Farbod Ab says:

        Hey Matt.

        Thanks for the great response, I was considering purchasing this so this definitely helps. I also have an unrelated question to ask you. So I’m using a Celestron 130 eq 5 inch reflector and I was looking at Venus on 210x magnification last night, but all I see was just a big circular blob of light. Is this because of the atmosphere conditions or something else? I couldn’t see any its phase as I expected and zero detail whatsoever. I hadn’t given the telescope time to cool down though, so I was thinking maybe it’s because of that. What do you think?

        Thanks again

        • Matt says:

          Great questions! I actually haven’t done much observing of Venus either. It tends to get blocked by the garage behind my house before I can get home from work in time. But I think you could be right on with your reasoning. Being that Venus is so low in the sky when you can observe, the seeing conditions tend to be pretty bad. Definitely give your telescope a chance to come to equilibrium with the outside air and see if that helps. Other thoughts – could it have just been an issue of focus or getting condensation of the eyepiece. Sadly, I’ve had both of those user errors on cold, dark nights before!

          Give it another shot, and let me know what you find. I doubt you’ll be able to ever see any detail with that scope, but hopefully you’ll be able to pick out the phase.

          Let me know if you have any other questions and if you end up going with that Carson adapter!

          Matt

          • Thomas Webb says:

            I’d recommend much lower power with a 5″ and on Venus!! 210x is far too much for a 5″… In most places, it’s almost too much for any sized scope unless the air is steady. You ought to be able to see the phases even in the 50-80x range.

            Also, if you’re looking in the sky or across people’s roofs, it’s going to be a blobby mess.

          • Farbod Ab says:

            Yeah. It was mostly the atmospheric conditions and the super high magnification. I was finally able to see the phases. My next goal is Jupiter. It’s just been very cold or cloudy up here in Canada.

    • Ed Bride says:

      I have this problem,too. It is useless to me.

      • Matt says:

        Hi Ed,

        Thanks for stopping by the site, and sorry for the delayed response!

        What type of scope are you using with this adapter? I’ve found that the amount of “sagging” is largely influenced by the angle which you attach the adapter (which thus changes the moment arm). The ideal position is going to be with the phone pointed directly vertical.

        I found that with a Newtonian scope, if the angle was really causing a problem, I could rotate the scope within its O-rings to reposition the eyepiece appropriately.

        Similarly with a refractor or SCT, you can rotate the diagonal to reposition the eyepiece appropriately. In fact, using a refractor or SCT is probably easier than a Newtonian.

        Let me know if this helps!

        Matt

        • Ed Bride says:

          I am using an 8″ SCT. Touching the camera button is enough to make the adapter lose its grip. After my phone dropped (twice), I realized that without some sort of brace, this is not a good solution, and that’s putting it kindly. I have tried vertical, horizontal; there just is not enough tension (except in my body, after it dropped the second time). I’ll gladly sell it to anyone for half the new price (except for those two occurrences, it is brand new).

          • Matt says:

            Hey Ed,

            Really sorry to hear that – what a bummer! I agree with you, touching the camera button will usually shift the adapter and possibly cause it to fall off the eyepiece unless you touch it extremely lightly.

            Typically when I’m shooting, I’ll use the volume button on my earbuds while plugged into the headphone jack to release the shutter. This is a great way to eliminate shaking from touching the camera, and it’s also a great way to use the Carson adapter. I’ve found that some of the other adapters can tolerate a little bit more physical touching of the camera. At least to the point where it won’t knock the adapter off the eyepiece. However, with pretty much every adapter I’ve used, if you touch the camera it will at the very least shake your image or put the camera out of alignment. I guess I like the Carson best because it’s the least fiddly to get back into proper alignment.

            Sorry you had a bad experience though, and hope that tip with the earbuds helps!

            Matt

          • Arun says:

            Hi Ed Bride, I am just 6 months late 🙂 but if you still have the adapter for sale then I would be willing to buy it for the price you mentioned.

  5. Thomas Webb says:

    That should have been looking too low in the sky…

  6. Matt says:

    Nice reviews! I just stumbled on your blog after buying a Carson HookUpz adapter – an even simpler and cheaper solution. Just looking at the videos for the Universal model, it looks like it’ll work best with large-diameter, cylindrical eyepieces. I wonder how that claw would grip a smaller ortho or plossl, especially one with a tapered barrel. The Snapzoom looks like the next one I want to try.

    In case you’re curious here’s my writeup of the HookUpz adapter, which I posted to the Cloudynights forum:

    “Carson HookUpz adapter:
    http://www.amazon.co…0?ie=UTF8&psc=1

    This is basically a cell phone case with a hole centered over the phone’s camera, and a rubber cup to fit over an eyepiece. It’s marketed for imaging through binoculars and only fits a limited number of eyepieces: those with an upper barrel 40-44mm in diameter. I gave it a go because it looked a little less complicated than the Orion Steadypix smartphone adapter, and….I’m cheap. The HookUpz is only about 12 bucks.

    And it works! Sorta. On the plus side, being made especially for my model of phone the camera lines right up with the eyepiece, with no fidgeting. But being intended for use with handheld binos I’m not sure you’re really meant to let go of the phone and let the adapter support the full weight. My phone fell off the scope once….no damage as I’d taken the precaution of padding the patio underneath, just in case. After this mishap I rotated the phone so it was upside down, with the center of gravity more or less directly above the adapter, and the grip held for the rest of the evening. Security of fit will no doubt depend on how well the adapter fits your eyepiece, too. I expected some kind of twist-to-tighten gripper-fitting, but the Hookupz actually just offers a plastic-reinforced rubbery cup that grips the eyepiece by friction. It comes with two different-diameter rubber sleeves, I guess to fit 40-42 and 42-44mm eyepieces. It fits my 30mm Orion Ultrascopic OK, and my TMB Planetaries if I take their eyecups off. Before I go out next time I’ll decide which eyepiece to use and put a wrap of tape around the top end – maybe even some of the nonslip tape used on stair treads, of which I know I have a scrap somewhere in the garage. That should help the Hookupz to grip.”

    • Matt says:

      Hi Matt,

      Thanks for stopping by the blog! I’ve managed to use my Carson adapter with my binoculars a handful of times, and while it’s not quite as good as the SnapZoom for binocs, it definitely gets the job done and is a lot easier to setup.

      I like the ideas about the nonslip tape to give the Carson even better grip…will have to try it out!

      Thanks again,
      Matt

  7. Ed Bride says:

    Never heard of that trick with the earbuds. I have an Android (LG) phone…will see if it works. Could be that this will restore my interest in the Carson, which is otherwise a dust-gathering paperweight.

    • Matt says:

      Hey Ed,

      I know this works on an iPhone as long as you use earbuds with volume buttons and the app your using allows for shutter release with the volume buttons. Give it a shot with your Android phone…you may have to check out the settings depending on which camera app you use to turn on volume button shutter release.

      If you could report back what you find, I’d really appreciate it. Good luck!

      Matt

      • Ed Bride says:

        No luck with the earbud-volumecontrol trigger, and there doesn’t seem to be a setting to enable that. Perhaps there’s an app that I can download. Meanwhile, I suppose I could use the timer, maximum 10 seconds. That would give me time (duh) to squeeze the button and re-set the adapter. What’s needed is a strut to stabilize the Carson to the back of the SCT.

      • Ed Bride says:

        It turns out that the Droid phone has an audio trigger (shoot with voice). It’s not an app, so when I looked for it, it didn’t show up. But I discovered what was behind the icon of the face with sound waves. Activate that, and I can say “shoot” or any other word in a small vocabulary, and it’s a hands-off shot. Can’t wait to try it.

        • Matt says:

          Oh cool, that should work really well! Having a wireless option is definitely ideal. I’m supposed to be getting my Apple Watch today and can’t wait to try it out as a remote shutter for my phone! Let me know how it goes.

          Matt

  8. Matt says:

    Hmmm maybe check out the Remote Shutter Camera app for Android or other apps like it. The timer definitely does help, but that’s still kind of a pain having only 10 seconds to readjust.

    I agree it could use some additional support…what about even just tying a string around the 4 Carson arms to squeeze it tight to the eyepiece?

    I just moved, and all my stuff is in storage. Once I get it out I’ll play around with some things and will let you know what I find. Keep me posted about your efforts too!

    Thanks,
    Matt

  9. yudo says:

    Thank you for sharing this article. Also, the pictures are great. I wonder how you got colorful image on orion nebula. Did you use a filter?

  10. JB says:

    I am looking for an iphone 5 adapter, so I was reading the replies here and had a thought that may help, small zip ties are extremely cheap and could be wrapped around the carson clamp arms to create a snug fit, then when you want to change anything just cut the zip tie and thrown on another one. Maybe someone with this adapter can give it a try and report back to the rest of us?
    Cheers

    • Matt says:

      Hi JB,

      Good thinking! I haven’t had a chance to try that out – have you? I was thinking maybe rubber bands could help too.

      I believe Carson is working on an updated model of their adapter, so I wouldn’t be surprised if this is something they address.

      Cheers!
      Matt

  11. Sarah says:

    Hello all.

    We have had the same problem with the iphone 4. To solve the problem we too put it on the eyepiece upside down. By happy coincidence it now rests on the bottom of the OTA therefore bracing itself! We have the Celestron Nexstar 6SE by the way – took delivery today and just waiting for clear skies…we are in the North of England so may have a long wait…

    Can’t wait to try taking i-pictures:)

  12. Mark says:

    This looks fab. I had my scope out last night for the first time and tried putting my iPhone 6 to the eye piece expecting a nice clear pic. Didn’t realise the struggles I would have. So this looks great. I see there are concerns though about it being a bit loose and that they may have been working on an update. Has there been one?

    Cheers! From the North East of England.

    • Matt says:

      Hi Mark, thanks for stopping by! I’ve exchanged some messages with the folks at Carson, and they said they’re still working on the new Universal Pro adapter. They say it will have more grip strength, which is great. I still really like the Universal as it is, but if you want to wait, they said the Universal Pro will be available in July!

      Matt

      • Ed Bride says:

        My Carson is essentially useless…I barely touch the phone, and it falls off the eyepiece, or at least loosens. I’ve finally figured out how to trigger the camera (an LG Android) with voice, but haven’t tried it yet.

        • Matt says:

          Hi Ed,

          Sorry to hear you’re still having trouble with the Carson adapter! I think there was someone else on this comments thread that had offered to buy it off you if you’re interested.

          With the Carson especially, but also most other mounts, you definitely want to avoid touching the phone to trigger the camera. This will almost always result in a blurry photo. Did you ever find a way to use headphones to trigger your phone camera? This works on iPhones and I think many Android phones.

          Good luck!
          Matt

  13. Esther says:

    I use a Bluetooth remote from a selfie stick to control the shutter so I don’t need to touch the phone at all…. Cost a couple of pounds (uk) 😀

      • hey! dude! says:

        this is a s*** product do not believe the hype. i bought one and it doesn’t clamp tight to the scope and it wobbles all ove the place

        • Matt says:

          Hey there! Sorry you had a bad experience with the Carson adapter! Have you had any better experiences with other adapters?

          I actually like the Carson adapter specifically because it isn’t a super tight grip on the eyepiece. The fact that it’s just a loose grip allows you to easily fine tune the alignment – especially in the dark and cold. There are other adapters that will truly clamp down, but in my experience, that always means a hard to adjust mechanism that’s difficult to swap between eyepieces.

          Now, on the Carson there are definitely some tricks to improve usability. First, you should ABSOLUTELY be using some sort of remote shutter control, either headphones or bluetooth. This goes for pretty much any adapter though. This will eliminate wobble from you pressing the shutter button on the phone itself. Second, you want to always have the adapter aligned so that the phone is vertical and perpendicular to the ground. This puts the least moment arm on the adapter’s grip. This is easiest to do if you have a star diagonal. You can always rotate the star diagonal so that the phone is vertical and perpendicular to the ground. If you’re using a Newtonian scope and don’t have a star diagonal, you can rotate the tube in its clamps to get the phone vertical and perpendicular to the ground.

          Hope this helps!
          Matt

  14. Andre says:

    Will I have any problems using a samsung galaxy s7 edge? It’s a larger phone but it doesn’t seem to be much heavier than an Iphone 5.

  15. Matt says:

    Hi Andre,

    Sorry for the delayed response! I’m not exactly sure if it will fit the s7 edge. It fits an iPhone 6 or 6s just fine, but it will not fit an iPhone 6 Plus. Do you know if the s7 edge is similar in size to the iPhone 6?

    Thanks,
    Matt

  16. Kevin McCann says:

    Thanks for the information. Question – I have a beginner scope I’m using with my kids and am hopeful to get some good pictures with this adapter and my iphone 6s. Will it work with a Celestron Astromaster LT 80AZ (https://www.amazon.com/celestron-astromaster-LT-80AZ-telescope/dp/B016SI55M0)?
    And is there an adapter for my Canon T5i that I could use as well that you could recommend? Thanks in advance.

    Kevin

    • Matt says:

      Hi Kevin,

      Thanks for stopping by! This adapter should work great with that scope. It really depends on the eyepieces you’re using, but the vast majority will work well. There’s actually a new 2.0 version of this adapter. I just updated the post with some info about it. I haven’t had a chance to try it out yet. It’s about $15 more expensive, but it looks to be worth it in my estimation.

      As for a Canon T5i adapter, I don’t have any direct experience (I use a Sony a5000). However, this looks like a great adapter set, similar to what I use for my Sony: Canon Telescope Adapter Kit. Just a word of advice, I would think about what type of astrophotography you want to do with the Canon before buying that set. Without a motorized tracking mount for your scope, you won’t really be able to take any long exposure images (where the Canon has the biggest advantage over a phone). For the time being, you’ll probably have more fun and success with just the Carson adapter and a smartphone.

      Let me know if you have any more questions!

      Matt

  17. hey! dude! says:

    these contraptions are CRAP. Mine wobbled, did not grip properly and let light in all around thr lens. a waste of time and money. steer well clear

    • Matt says:

      Hi there,

      Sorry you had a bad experience with the Carson adapter! In my experience with it, there is definitely a bit of a learning curve. However, it’s by far the easiest to use adapter I’ve found. Can you elaborate a little bit on your issues? What do you mean that it wobbled, and when did it wobble? What exactly was wrong with the grip? This adapter isn’t meant to have a 100% locked in grip onto your eyepiece. Instead, it’s a light grip that lets you fine tune the alignment, especially in the dark and cold. What sort of eyepiece were you using, and how do you think that caused light to come in all around it?

      Here’s a longer response I gave to another commenter above. Hopefully some of the tips will help you out!

      Cheers,
      Matt

      “Hi Farbod!

      Yes, I have read some of those comments on Amazon. I guess this would be my take. I can see the concern…it does take some manipulation to get the adapter aligned perfectly with the eyepiece. This has been true of every adapter I’ve used. It ultimately takes a little guess and check work. In my mind though, the beauty of the Carson adapter is that this guess and check work is extremely easy – especially compared to other adapters.

      Regarding the adapter sagging off, this may depend on the weight of the phone being used and the angle at which it’s being attached. The adapter relies on the tension of the spring arms to squeeze the eyepiece. If the phone is very heavy, or there isn’t much eyepiece to grip onto, or the phone is angled down toward the floor, the adapter will have a hard time holding on. However, I think with most telescoping observing, the angle of the adapter should work rather well. Occassionaly, if I’m having a hard time with the angle for my Newtonian telescope, I’ll simply rotate the telescope within the O-rings to put the scope at a better angle.

      So I guess my main takeaway is that all adapters will have a little bit of fiddle to them, it’s just the nature of trying to line up a small image onto a small camera sensor perfectly. With that in mind, I love the Carson adaptor, because it seems to be the easiest to play around with until you get it just right.

      Hope that helps, and let me know if you have any additional questions!

      Matt”

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