Hone in on a wide range of objects in the sky with the Vaonis Stellina, a smart telescope that can produce some stunning photos automatically, even under challenging conditions. Its high price will cause many to pause, though: this is really a product for the keen astronomer only.
- Works automatically
- Takes incredible photos even with light pollution
- Helps you understand the night sky
- Can’t enter custom co-ordinates
- CameraThis telescope has a 16-megapixel sensor combined with a 400mm f/5 lens
Ever wanted to explore the night sky but struggled with the complexities of setting up a telescope and decent alignment? The Vaonis Stellina is the answer to those problems.
A smart telescope (or observation station, in the words of the company), this Wi-Fi controlled device can locate, track and photograph celestial objects without any knowledge of how to find them manually. Impressive results, even in light-polluted areas, show the quality of this device – but it’s hugely expensive, a touch limited on what you can aim it at, and the Wi-Fi connection is a little fiddly, too.
Design and features
- Chunky box that’s just about portable
- Easy to set up
- Allows up to 10 devices to connect
The gloss white exterior makes the Vaonis Stellina look a little like a high-end projector. It’s as heavy as a full home cinema projector, too, weighing in at a hefty 11.2kg. That makes it just about manageable to carry from a car to where you want to place it, but you wouldn’t want to cart this telescope around too often.
Rather than sitting flat, the Vaonis Stellina stands end-up on the provided short-legged tripod. This has a handy spirit level on the side, helping you ensure the telescope is level.
For power, Vaonis provides a 10,000mAh battery pack, which tucks into the side compartment of the projector. In here, you’ll also find USB ports, which can record RAW images from the telescope, since the app only gives you JPG files.
When you turn the projector on, the 400mm lens swings up and into action. That’s all you can do from the projector itself; everything else is controlled via the Stellina app. To use the app you first have to connect to the telescope’s personal Wi-Fi network, which means you can’t use the app and the internet at the same time.
It would have been nice to be presented with the option to connect the telescope to a home network, leaving the dedicated Wi-Fi link for when you’re out in the wild. Still, using Wi-Fi means that up to 10 devices can connect at one time and view what the telescope can see – although there can be only one primary controller.
There’s no option to point the telescope at a certain part of the sky. Instead, you must select from the 200+ objects in the database, running from planets in the solar system to galaxies and stars.
Next to each object is an indicator that shows how good the view is from your location, with the telescope positioning itself via GPS. Green is good, orange is possible and red is a no-go. With orange objects, you may find the viewing angle is such that trees or buildings will block the view. Of course, the list of viewable objects changes on a daily basis.
Each object comes with a full description, plus a recommended observation time, typically ranging from 15 minutes upwards. Observation time is the amount of time that the telescope needs in order to take a reasonable image.
Once you’ve selected an object, the Stellina automatically moves and focuses – something that can take a few minutes. Images are then taken every minute, with the results layered on top of each other to create a final image.
Since the Earth is continually spinning and moving, the Stellina automatically handles this with its mechanical and automated field derotator. Gently stepping its motors with a quiet whirr, the Stellina automatically compensates for the Earth spinning, keeping the observed object in perfect focus.
It’s all very clever – but, even with an expanding database, you’re locked into looking at what has been pre-programmed; there’s no freedom to point the telescope where you want it.
- Hugely impressive photos
- Works well even under a lot of light pollution
The iPhone 13 Pro may produce impressive night-time shots, but the Vaonis Stellina is even more impressive. Here, there’s a 400mm f/5 lens, with a 6.4-megapixel Sony sensor. In front of the sensor is a Light pollution (CLS) filter, designed to cut out the glare caused by street lights and such in cities.
All of this tech combines to produce some stunning shots. Over time, the images the telescope takes are layered on top of each other, building up detail. This is the reason Stellina needs long exposure times. As you can see from the screenshot below, the level of detail grows from one minute (left) to six minutes (right).
The final shot of the Hercules Cluster (below) is quite incredible, particularly when you think that the telescope was placed in the middle of a garden in East London, where I can barely see a star with my naked eye.
Similar results are achievable on a cloud-free night of any object listed as green. While you do need a clear line of sight, you don’t need to worry about temperature, since the Stellina’s integrated heater not only keeps it working but means you can sit somewhere warm while the telescope does the hard work.
Available from Vaonis
Should you buy it?
If you’re a keen astronomer and want an easy way to take photos of the night sky, then the Stellina makes that job simple.
If you’re not going to use the telescope often, then the high price will put you off. You may find investing in a high-end camera, lenses and motorised mount a more flexible long-term choice – although such a system won’t be as simple to use.
Its ability to cope with challenging lighting situations means the Vaonis Stellina is perfect for exploring the night sky, capturing some stunning shots. There’s a growing database of objects, although the ability to enter coordinates manually would increase the versatility of this device.
Price – more than anything – is likely to be the limiting factor; at €3999, you need to know you’ll use the Stellina regularly to justify spending this much.
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It can photograph anything in the database, which receives constant updates. At the time of review, there were 200+ objects in the database.
The telescope needs line-of-sight to work, although it can filter out the occasional bit of cloud passing in front of the lens.