They could end up selling a lot of those eVscopes. They effectively already have more than 1700 pre-orders with a total amount of money received at well over $2 million.
Considering that they have had an effective but not at all overwhelming (although very over-hyped IMHO) marketing campaign the suggestion I take from this is that there is a big pent-up demand for devices such as this Unistellar unit. I'd bet that any of our major astronomical vendors would be absolutely delighted if they could ever have pre-orders for 1,700 instruments costing $2,000 each. Maybe they equaled or exceeded those kinds of numbers back during the misguided Comet Halley craze, but I have my doubts.
I, too, have some real concerns about the longevity of this Unistellar camera. Maybe they've all been addressed but I really don't know it:
- Collimation. I'm not sure there is much of a provision for doing this. Might not need to be done often, but if you ever have to take out the mirror for cleaning I'd be guessing you need to re-do the collimation at least then.
- Cleaning the mirror. I've dropped the mirror out of a number of Newts for cleaning and I'm not entirely sure how easy it will be with this camera. Might be very easy or they may require you to return the thing for servicing?
- Cleaning the sensor. This is the cleaning which actually sort of concerns me most. Cleaning sensors can be fairly straightforward but it can also be a bit delicate. The pixel-side surface of the sensor is not even visible for inspection without removal and I don't know how easy it will be to remove and re-install (think collimation/alignment?).
- Focusing - I'm betting they have some sort of provision for doing this but I don't know about it. It may be that with great tolerances they figure they can set it once during manufacture and never have to do it again since you won't be using different eyepieces with it. But again, it seems a bit iffy if you ever clean either the mirror or the sensor. Anyway, my best (but probably misguided) bet is that you use screws on the sensor holder to do both the alignment and focusing - and that the assumption is that you won't have to do this often.
- Battery replacement. If I buy a $2,000 instrument I'm going to want to be able to replace the battery when it gives out. It may be simplicity itself or it may be that the battery is quickly unavailable. If it is really simple to replace I'd probably want to get an extra or two with a charger so I could go to multiple-day star parties and swap out the batteries if I'm not able to recharge the thing.
- No upgrade path that I know about - not even to an IMX385 sensor.
- Fairly small FOV seems likely (we could run the numbers but I don't remember the focal ratio of the camera). I tend to like a relatively wide FOV.
And yes, I'd want to have the ability to put the image on a good screen rather than an ersatz eyepiece. I think there has been a suggestion that you can access the image on something like a smartphone through their app, but I think the app is just for control.
Upshot for me at this time is that I find this version (as I understand it) to be unsuitable for my use. This does not, however, mean that a future version by Unistellar or by a competitor would not get my business.
The fact that it is not suitable for me at this time does not, however, mean that it will not be exactly what others would want. I don't own a single product made by Apple but my wife and daughters all have one, and even my Android smartphone's battery can't be swapped out (and it wasn't cheap).
Also, the ability to put the Unistellar in a backpack and fairly readily transport the thing on your back for even several miles to a dark site, set the thing up and have it working quite soon (little cool-down with the small mirror) and no hassles of hooking up cameras, power, etc.? Then readily packing it out again? This thing in even this version could be pure gold for some people even in its first version just due to the portability and ease of setup/use.
I applaud the developers, those who are investing/buying, etc. I do not applaud what I consider to be over-hyping, but I still hope that they will sell a whole lot of them. I also hope that the price comes down and this and similar scopes sell by the tens or hundreds of millions.