I choose: “Things that telescope users will always say for $200”, Alex
“What is, ‘don’t drink the magnification kool-aid!'”
Truth be told, I wouldn’t care if people get these items… they honestly seem like a fun thing to have! However, once I saw the claim of “It will replace the previous telescope in the future” on some of these social media posts… I had to say something!
If you are reading this, please share this to anyone you feel might be getting duped into buying these things!
These ads are doing nothing but preying on the gullible and the layperson who doesn’t understand how telescope optics are supposed to work. It’s very common for people to assume that magnification is what a telescope is all about, and think that because the magnification is being advertised with a big number, then that means the telescope is “super!”
I am NOT kidding when I say that I’ve seen these same ads pop up every few postings… you click on one to investigate and all of the sudden more of these pop up in your feed! It gets more repetitive than a broken record!
If you skip to the sections that talk more about popular “zoom cameras” like the P900, and learn about how magnification works on telescopes and cameras, then you’ll get a better idea!
How to Tell If These Product Ads Are Too Good To Be True
1. Advertisements from different “companies” always seem to play the same attraction video, or the video contains the same images/clips!
Keep scrolling down on Facebook and you’re bound to see a different “company” trying to sell you the same product under a different listing. This is more likely a black market company creating different “clones.”
Look at the mosaic above, it’s almost word for word the same listing! These were all found within a few minutes of scrolling through Facebook!
2. The actual website selling the item is selling other random merchandise, and not at all specializing in selling similar technology… that should tell you right there that it isn’t legitimate.
3. You are also more likely not going to get what you see on the pictures.
Case in point, one time I actually did try to buy a set of lasers (three for $45) from one of these vendors just to see if they actually would work. I know enough that bright green low power astronomy lasers are not that expensive- I was more curious to see how the blue and red lasers would be. Not only did the laser bodies themselves look NOTHING like the product, but the blue one arrived broken!
4. Check the comment section!
One thing you can do is look at the comment section of the post. They may be lost in swaths of comments from inquirers, but there is bound to be posts from real people who got duped and post a picture of the ACTUAL piece of merchandise, especially if you sort them by “newest”….
5. How does the customer care contact information look, if there is any at all?
Oh, so it turns out the product you waited more than two weeks to be shipped from China has finally arrived but looks nothing like the video or pictures you saw on the ad? Well that’s too bad if there’s no actual customer support service!
No company based in California as they claim will take 2-4 weeks to ship an item to an address in California! They’re NOT in California!
6. The price is indeed too good to be true!
Something being advertised as a “replacement” for a telescope has a lot of balls to make that claim, especially when going against people who actually know how telescopes and optics are supposed to work!
These listings boast about how you can achieve 300x magnification with it… again, another ballsy but check-able claim!
Well, first off, let’s talk about the popular Nikon P900… a camera often referenced for high zoom capabilities. By default it has a 2000mm focal lens that achieves 83x… a Nikon P1000 can get to 3000, or 125x zoom, and I’m not including what you can get with “Dynamic Fine Zoom.”
Both of these products start selling for as little as $500 – $800 respectively… they’re obviously not cheap.
What about telephoto lenses?
The Nikkor 70-300 mm F/4.5 to F/6.3 lens that I’ve done astrophotography with – by itself without the camera it can cost as low as a couple hundred bucks new…
This long exposure shot of the Andromeda Galaxy above was shot with a Nikon D5300 using the same Nikkor 70-300 mm focal lens mentioned prior on a tracking mount – not through a telescope.
In prime focus astrophotography where the camera body becomes the eyepiece, the telescope itself becomes the focal lens depending on the focal length involved – thus a 1000 mm focal length telescope becomes the equivalent of a 1000 mm focal lens! Oh, and let’s not forget about Barlow Lenses, which multiply the focal length depending on the specific lens. Hence, a 1000 mm scope using a 2x Barlow is now virtually 2000 mm.
To achieve 300x magnification in the telephoto lens sense, that means the focal length has to go all the way to 7200 mm! Try looking for DSLR telephoto lenses that exceed above 500 mm… they’re not that widely available, and if they are, they’re not cheap! Depending on the quality of the lens itself and the focal lengths involved, they range from three figures into the five figure price tags!
Okay… What About Telescope Magnification?
When it comes to telescopes, technically, you can magnify any telescope to the levels you wish depending on the specs involved and the eyepieces and Barlow lens combinations being used… but if you magnify more than the telescope itself can resolve, then you’re just seeing mush!
Telescopes must have an aperture of 6″ (150 mm) or wider to be theoretically capable of resolving details at 300x magnification, and again, their default focal lengths are between 1000-3000 mm. Will you find telescopes with these specs that sell for $30-40? Not in your life!
Magnification being used is calculated by the focal length of the telescope divided by the eyepiece being used, hence a 1000 mm focal length scope using a 25 mm eyepiece is magnifying at 40x. How would I get to 300x on a 1000 mm focal length telescope? The easiest way would be to insert a 10 mm eyepiece (100x) into 3x Barlow, which will triple the magnification into 300x.
If telescopes need to be as wide as 150 mm in diameter to even think about resolving at 300x , then how can something 35-40 mm in diameter resolve anything at that amount of zoom?!
So you’re telling me these “super nanotechnology zoom monocular telescopes” that sell for $30-40 are going to perform like the examples mentioned prior?!
will have the same optical quality and zoom capabilities as THIS?!
Then if you buy one of those so called “super nanotechnology zoom telescopes,” I just have two words…
With Telescopes – IT AINT ABOUT THE ZOOM!
Perhaps those things will be great for terrestrial viewing, and anything bright enough that you can see. I’m sure one would have a lot of fun zooming in on faraway landscape features. So yes, there is some practical use for them.
But there is absolutely no way it will replace a telescope when it comes to views of the celestial sights in the night sky! You may get the Moon, but that’s easy because it’s big enough and bright enough!
Here is what they don’t tell you!
- Telescopes are not glorified magnifiers, they are what we call collectors of light, or “light buckets.” The wider the scope, the more light it collects, hence the more into deep space you can see!
- Most “beginner telescopes” are between 60 – 114 mm (2.3 – 4.5 inches) in aperture. That’s anywhere between 73x to 265x light gathering power. These “nanotechnology 35mm telephoto zoom lenses” are only collecting 25x more light than the unaided eye sees under the best conditions.
- the more you zoom in, the more that tiny movements in your hand affect how unsteady the view is… hence your FOV is prone to a lot more shaking and blurring from your hands trying to hold the thing steady!
- The more you magnify, the less light you are allowing, hence your trek into deep space and quest to see distant galaxies will most likely be nothing but black through such a small aperture device!
So much for all that zoom power, right? Not only can you not keep a steady shot because of how much your hands shake, but you’re not collecting enough light to see anything that a even a good pair of binoculars can get!
Most of the time when looking at the deep sky, we observe objects at low magnification so we can allow the most light possible to see these deep sky objects. Zooming in can make closer details impossible to see because the incoming light is too dim, especially through smaller telescopes!
Even if you could get the thing steady enough to look at the Rings of Saturn at 300x magnfication, and somehow track it with Earth’s rotation, then your 35-40 mm aperture will be simply too small resolution and make things way too mushy to have any semblance of a pleasant experience!
Oh, but don’t listen to me, I’ve only been observing the sky with telescopes for the past 20 years… 3 of them professionally…
If you made it all the way to the end of this article and feel this opened your eyes, please share this to anyone who you think might be getting fooled into a newbie trap!
Once again… Things that Telescope Users Say for $200 – What is, “Don’t Drink the Magnification Kool-Aid,” Alex…
I sincerely hope that if you read this and already have purchased these items from these sellers, that the product does exactly what the advertisements said they do, and if anything, you get something that looks like the pictures! Have fun checking out what you can see over land or sea… but don’t think you’ve found anything revolutionary that puts astronomy telescopes out of commission!
If you have not bought one of these yet, save the $40 and just look for a pair of binoculars instead!
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