What type of telescope camera adapter do you need to connect your camera to a telescope? Connecting your camera or phone to your telescope is something that a lot of people are curious about. Everyone wants to snap a quick shot of the moon, Saturn or Jupiter. Most people’s first try at this can be a little disappointing because you can not hold the camera steady enough to get a sharp image. What you need is a way to connect the camera directly to the telescope to minimize vibrations.
Let’s explore the different ways of connecting a camera to a telescope.
Afocal: The easy telescope camera adapter for phones and small cameras
Most of us have probably tried just holding the camera or phone up to the eyepiece of the telescope, with varying degrees of success. If we just had a way to have it held up there it might work better. That is where this universal phone adapter comes into play.
For most phones, this universal cell phone adapter will hold your phone right over the eyepiece. This not only eliminates the shaking hands and keeps in alignment better, but by setting your phone’s self timer to take the photo it will make the image even sharper (your finder tapping the screen to take the image makes the image blurry).
For a small camera such as a point and shoot model, a universal camera adapter is used. Since cameras are heavier they require a more substantial support system and this Celestron model is my absolute favorite.
With either of these types of adapters you just get the object in the eyepiece and focused like you normally would for viewing. Then you attach the adapter to the eyepiece and use the screen on your phone or camera to make sure everything is good and centered before you set the self timer and let it take the picture.
One warning is that you want to make sure if you use a camera with a lens that moves in and out as it zooms that you do not zoom in so much that the lens hits the eyepiece. This can actually break your camera!
Eyepiece Projection: For detachable lens cameras
If you have a larger camera it may not be practical to have it hanging off the eyepiece. In this case there are two methods, and this one tends to work all the time whereas the next one does not.
For this to work, you need three things: a physically small eyepiece such as a Plossl in the 20-25mm range, an eyepiece projection adapter, and a T-Ring for your specific camera.
If you do not have an eyepiece that will work, this Astromania 25mm 1.25″ Plossl should work fine. The barrel is small and smooth making sure that it will fit into the adapter well. This eyepiece is also threaded for standard 1.25″ filters so you can attach a light pollution filter, ultra high contrast filter, or moon filter to make your images even better.
This Meade camera adapter is what you slide the eyepiece into, tighten it using the screw on the side, and then the assembly goes into the telescope where the eyepiece normally goes. Make sure that you slide it in slowly and carefully if you are using a diagonal on your telescope because the nose of this adapter can impact some diagonal mirrors and scratch or crack them.
This is a Celestron T-Ring for Canon cameras but many other makes are available such as a nikon t ring adapter. All T-Rings have a T-Thread which will screw on to the Meade adapter shown above. You do not have to get a Meade T-Ring or anything special, all T-Rings and T-Adapters should work together.
This particular celestron telescope camera adapter ring is solidly made and works well.
Once you have all the pieces, insert the eyepiece into the camera adapter and secure it with the thumbscrew. Next, screw on the T-Ring to the camera adapter and lock the T-Ring onto your camera where the lens would normally go. Remember to switch your camera to manual focus!
Slide the entire Assembly into where you would normally place your eyepiece and turn on your camera’s live view (or use the viewfinder). Focus and start taking pictures! Always use a remote shutter release or the camera’s self timer to avoid blurry images. You may need to play around a bit with the exposure settings to get a good image but it should not take much.
Prime Focus: When you want to get a little more serious
If you have a DSLR or similar camera and want to take your astrophotography to the next level, you can remove the eyepiece completely (eliminating the distortions etc caused by the extra optics) and use the telescope as a big lens.
This only works on some telescopes; virtually all refractors, some Newtonians, and a hand full of Dobsonians. The reason is because many telescopes, particularly Dobsonians, do not have enough travel in the focuser so when you attach a camera via prime focus you can not get the image to focus. For those telescopes you either have to move the mirror, buy a new low profile focuser, use a barlow, or use the previous eyepiece projection method.
Fortunately, you can try using the Meade Camera Adapter and T-Ring from above to try this method. It should work reasonably well but you may get some vignetting (darkening of the corners in the image). If you get vignetting and want to eliminate it, and if you have a focuser that accepts 2″ eyepieces, you can solve the vignetting problem with a 2″ prime focus adapter like this one:
This 2″ prime focus adapter from Astromania has threads on one end for the T-Ring and simply slides into your telescope where the 2″ eyepiece would go, no eyepiece needed! The 2 inch telescope camera adapter is of course only usable in telescope focusers which accept 2″ eyepieces or a 2″ diagonal. This is the prefered method of how to attach a dslr camera to a telescope.
I hope this has helped, now go take some awesome pictures with your new telescope camera adapter!