New iPhone Telescope Adapter – SnapZoom – Part 1

Fellow iAstrophotographers!

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.

SnapZoom Packaging

SnapZoom Packaging

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.

SnapZoom set screw adjustment

SnapZoom set screw adjustment

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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:

SnapZoom setup on binoculars

SnapZoom setup on binoculars

Moon with iPhone 6 and SnapZoom

Moon with iPhone 6 and SnapZoom

Here’s another shot through the binos…and some clouds!

Cloudy Moon with SnapZoom

Cloudy Moon with SnapZoom

Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to get out with my telescope and the SnapZoom yet, so stay tuned for part 2!

Thanks again to Mike from Orange County Telescope for turning me on to the SnapZoom!

Clear skies,

Matt

4 comments on “New iPhone Telescope Adapter – SnapZoom – Part 1
  1. Joan Coyne says:

    I bought the Snap Zoom a few weeks ago and have been very happy with it. After adjusting as you described for my iPhone 5, I was able to get some nice shots of moon through my Nexstar 6Se. The counter balance was necessary on the scope, but it worked just fine.

    It didn’t work well with my binoculars though because there wasn’t enough clearance between the eyepieces and the center pivot. My binoculars are old and fairly small though (Celestron Ultima 7x42s). I don’t use them for observing much, I just wanted to try out the SnapZoom.

  2. Matt says:

    Hi Joan!

    Glad to hear you’re enjoying your SnapZoom. I’d love to see some of the pictures you were able to take and put them up on the site if you’re interested. Just let me know!

    As for your binoculars…that’s kind of a bummer. Did you try attaching the SnapZoom so that it’s only clamped onto the right eyecup (rather than with the camera over the left eyecup). I tried doing this on mine, and it seems like it might help with the center pivot clearance. On mine it wanted to rotate down to be shooting portrait rather than landscape, but it seems like it would work. Let me know if this helps out!

    Cheers,
    Matt

  3. Eric Teske says:

    Hi Matt,

    Great review – I’ve been looking into getting a ‘real’ iPhone telescope adapter for some time but I just haven’t pulled the trigger. This one looks really good, but I was just wondering if you think it would still fit with the iPhone 6 (not the plus) with a case? It doesn’t come out of the case easily, and one less step means I’m more likely to actually go out in the cold here in Indiana to get a shot. Does it BARELY fit or would it fit with a case do you think?

  4. Matt says:

    Thanks Eric! So here’s the deal…the SnapZoom works perfectly well with an iPhone 6 left in its case. In fact, I think the case may actually help prevent the SnapZoom from clamping down on the side volume buttons. However, I just started using another case called the Carson Hookupz. I’m going to try and do a write up for it tomorrow night. Quick spoiler…it’s my new favorite. I think it’s the easiest to use. The mechanisms for attachment are super simple and spring loaded which is great for cold nights. AND it works great with the phone in a case. Anyway, be on the lookout for that write up for some more details and images.

    PS. I grew up in Carmel! Where in Indiana do you live?

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