The Best Smartphone Adapter? Celestron’s NexYZ Is a Contender

The Celestron NexYZ is superior to the competition, but it still requires patience to get good afocal photos. Credit: Jamie Carter

Plus: Precision placement using X, Y and V axis; spring-loaded clamp; easy to insert and remove a smartphone

Minus: Some slippage; heavier than most smartphone adapters

Summary: The Celestron NexYZ’s clamp, safety lock and three directional knobs for the X, Y, and Z axis make it easy to precisely align a smartphone’s camera with a telescope’s eyepiece, but its weight can cause some slippage. 

Who Is It For? Amateurs and beginners wanting to dabble in astrophotography that’s easy to share online and doesn’t require complicated and expensive equipment. 

The NexYZ can also be attached to similar sized eyepieces for use in various hobbies and scientific pursuits. Credit: Celestron

Afocal photography through a telescope is one of the wonders of the smartphone era. At its simplest, this technique involves nothing more than bringing a smartphone’s camera lens up to the eyepiece of a telescope and taking a photo. The results can be incredible, but there’s a catch. Positioning a smartphone’s camera in exactly the right position is very difficult. Keeping it there is even harder. It’s therefore almost impossible to make adjustments to camera settings, and even to press the virtual shutter button on a phone’s touchscreen. 

Cue the Celestron NexYZ, one of a bevy of smartphone adaptors that attempt to precisely position a smartphone over the eyepiece to make the entire procedure hands-free. As well as taking images on a smartphone, an adapter like the Celestron NexYZ is useful for sharing what a telescope is pointed at by creating a bright live-view feed on the smartphone’s screen.

A spring-loaded holder makes it easy to switch phones. Credit: Celestron

Aside from a better than average build quality, what makes the Celestron NexYZ special is it’s a three-axis effort. You can move a smartphone’s precise position up and down and it adds depth, so you can bring the smartphone forward or push it back. 

That takes away the need to precisely position the bracket’s clamp around the eyepiece holder. On the Celestron NexYZ there’s a spring-loaded clamp that’s just about strong enough to grip onto 1.25” or 2” eyepiece barrels (it fits any eyepiece from 35 millimeter to 60 millimeter in diameter). What gives it stability is a cone-shaped screw nut that, once in position, locks it in place. 

The Celestron NexYZ looks like a complex piece of kit, but once it’s locked around an eyepiece holder all that needs adjusting are three X, Y and V axis knobs. It’s easy to insert and remove a smartphone, which will be important for anyone planning to use the Celestron NexYZ with an outreach telescope. However, while the spring-loaded holder can take any smartphone up to about six-inches in diameter, increasing the weight on the Celestron NexYZ can cause problems. 

The NexYZ has an X, Y and Z axis for precise alignment. Credit: Jamie Carter

Like all such products, the Celestron NexYZ slips. Not hugely – and nowhere near as much as some cheaper alternatives – but there remains an element of precariousness. Yes, those adjustment knobs covering three axes do enable a more precise placement than rivals (as long as you keep them all in balance to avoid any bending of the Z axis), but the Celestron NexYZ is fairly sizable. With a large smartphone in-situ, there’s some slippage. It makes the whole set-up more delicate than I would like, and harder to get steady enough to take a shake-free image. 

A photo of the crescent Moon taken using the Celestron NexYZ. Credit: Jamie Carter

The Celestron NexYZ also succumbs to the increasing complexity of modern smartphone photography arrays. For example, although it is possible to line-up a smartphone’s camera with the eyepiece very precisely using this rig, it remains necessary to pinch-to-zoom on a smartphone’s screen to go fullscreen on an object. However, most modern smartphones now have three or more lenses. So as you zoom in on a smartphone (in this case an iPhone 12 Pro) it automatically swaps to a different lens. Since that is in a different physical position, the Celestron NexYZ must be aligned all over again. It becomes an increasingly tedious process. 

A more solid, heavier and more precise smartphone adapter than its rivals, the Celestron NexYZ’s clamp, safety lock and three directional knobs for the X, Y, and Z axes make it easy to precisely align a smartphone’s camera with a telescope’s eyepiece. New quad-camera smartphones do introduce some complexity and annoyance, while the use of very large smartphones can make the Celestron NexYZ slip. Is this a fault-free product that will at last allow droop-proof, judder-free afocal photography through a telescope? No, it’s not – but, for now, it’s among the most reliable and easiest to use of all smartphone adapters. 

MSRP: $65

Website: https://www.celestron.com

About Jamie Carter

A science, travel and technology journalist for over 20 years, UK-based Jamie Carter writes for Forbes Science, Sky and Telescope magazine, the BBC's Sky At Night, Travel+Leisure and the South China Morning Post. He edits WhenIsTheNextEclipse.com, leads tours to see eclipses, and regularly tweets about stargazing (@jamieacarter) and eclipses (@thenexteclipse).

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