The subject of a smartphone telescope mount came up when speaking to a friend during the big New Jersey blizzard of 2016. He’s an amateur astronomer and was bragging about how he was taking photos of various constellations using his Apple iPhone. I wasn’t aware you could do this, so we talking in-depth and I began to check into this further because it sounded like something I wanted to do as well. This is called astrophotography. Had not heard that term until today.
With some research, I learned that while you could certainly hold your phone up to the lens of the telescope, it’s likely to result in a fuzzy photo unless your phone has some advanced image stabilization software embedded. Investing a good quality steady mount will improve the photo quality of the image.
The premise is fairly simple. You want to line up the phone’s rear camera with the telescope lens as the front camera as the back has a far better lens. A smartphone telescope mount is going to clamp onto the scope itself and line up the rear camera lens with the telescope lens. You will line up your telescope first and lock it in place with the phone out of the mount. After lining it up, bring up the camera app and mount your phone into the cradle that is part of the mount. Snap the photo. While I suppose you can also add a Bluetooth photo shutter to the configuration, it’s fairly simple to snap the photo by pressing the application button.
Most smartphone telescope mounts are made of metal or plastic. Some of these mounts can also be used for similar applications such as a microscope or a monocular. Anything cylindrical. The concept is the same across the devices. There are two parts to the mount. A clamp to fit the scope and a universal expandable cradle for your phone. These are what I call specialty mounts. You aren’t going to find these from the mainstream manufacturers. They are manufactured by specialty companies. Often companies specializing in telescope accessories.
The Gosky Universal Cell Phone Telescope Adapter Mount is a real well made mount that is made specifically for this purpose. These mounts fit eyepiece diameters of 28mm-47mm. The universal cradle opens from 2.1 to 3.5 inches so most smartphones should fit with or without a case or skin. The mount is made mostly of aluminum with the cradle being made of high strength plastic. The interface to connect the smartphone and eyepiece are covered by a soft material to protect your device from scratches.
The Carson HookUpz Universal SmartPhone Mount Adapter For Telescopes and Microscopes is made a little differently versus the one just discussed. Where the previous mount is made of two distinct parts, this is one cohesive unit meaning the smartphone cradle and the part which attaches to the telescope lens are one part. The part which attaches to the telescope is on the back of the cradle itself. In my opinion, the design is a little more thought out and is more compact than the prior mount. These mounts fit eyepiece diameters of 20mm-58mm and a depth of at least 14mm. This particular smartphone telescope mount includes thoughtful additions of a storage case that has an attached clip and a lens spacer for longer eye relief eyepieces.
These are two good examples of a smartphone telescope mount. There are a few others out there, but very few. I have a lot of mounts at home and thought I could rig something up for this purpose, but couldn’t do that. If you want to take photos with your telescope and smartphone, a specialized mount is the way to go.