I’ve received a few emails that the Orion SteadyPix Universal Smartphone Adapter is currently unavailable on Amazon, and it looks to be true. Don’t fear though! There are several other great options for adapters out there, and this is a great opportunity to check some of them out. Let’s start with a look at the SnapZoom.
A few weeks ago, I was contacted by Mike from Orange County Telescope – thanks to the reader who turned him onto the site! Mike told me to check out the SnapZoom. You can see from the website, the SnapZoom is intended for broad compatibility. Telescope, binoculars, microscope, spotting scope; the SnapZoom should work with all of them. Here’s a link to the SnapZoom YouTube video. Having just picked up a pair of Celestron SkyMaster 15 x 70 Binoculars, I was eager to try it out!
You can get the SnapZoom from Mike’s online store here for $69.95. It’s a little more expensive than the Orion adapter was, but it has some really nice advantages! Here’s a look at the packaging as it arrived – nice, sleek look.
It was just starting to get dark, and the moon was nearly full. So I wanted to get these onto my new binoculars ASAP. The SnapZoom comes with minimal, easy-to-follow, instructions, because it’s really pretty straightforward. There are essentially two main mechanisms. 1) A clamp for your phone. 2) A clamp for the eyepiece(s). These are driven open and closed by two, independent screw systems.
Seems simple enough; however, when you load in your iPhone, you’ll immediately notice that the camera isn’t going to end up centered where the eyepiece goes. I’m assuming that smartphones with centered cameras won’t have this problem. I was a little concerned at first, but it just takes a little adjustment to get things lined up. For this adjustment, you’ll use the small screwdriver that’s included in the packaging. You simply loosen the small set screw in the image below, then slide the two clamp systems to the desired position for your specific phone. It takes a little tweaking to get just right, but it’s easy to adjust for different size phones.
With that out of the way, I was ready to go. Here were some of the other things I really liked about the SnapZoom on first use:
- Limited degrees of freedom for simplicity. The Orion universal adapter strangely allowed all different sections of the adapter to rotate. This made it extremely difficult to get everything lined up correctly. Then once you had it lined up, it was easy to mess up. The SnapZoom is super simple – open and close on the phone and eyepiece, no rotation.
- Secure grip. The screw mechanisms can clamp really tightly. So tightly, that the package includes a foam strip if you end up putting too much pressure on volume buttons which may act as camera triggers. I haven’t had to use this, but nice to have. The eyepiece clamp also works really well. I found that the Orion clamp would take a lot of turns to tighten/loosen, then could still be rotated around the eyepiece.
- Access to the headphone jack! This one is huge! iPhones now have the headphone jack on the bottom, and using earbuds as a remote shutter is the best way to get steady shots. It drove me crazy that the Orion adapter blocked the headphone jack.
- Strap and counterbalance. The strap is a nice touch. It’s always a little anxiety inducing to have your phone sitting in a clamp, attached to an eyepiece, in a telescope. Being able to hook onto something is nice peace of mind in case something slips. I haven’t had to use the counterbalance yet, but glad it’s included in case.
To sum it all up though, it’s all about simplicity with the SnapZoom. Once you have it tweaked for your phone, it’s super easy to slide your phone in, and clamp onto the binocular eyecups. I had it setup in probably five minutes and was out taking shots of the moon – super cool! Here’s the setup and a shot of the moon:
Here’s another shot through the binos…and some clouds!
Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to get out with my telescope and the SnapZoom yet, so stay tuned for part 2!