Gear Review: Telescope for iPad

Apple's iPad is quickly becoming a very versatile onboard tool able to serve up the functions of several more traditional pieces of boat gear and marine electronics. While I've highlighted many of my favorite iPad apps and uses for sailing, I haven't yet blogged about useful iPad accessories for boating and sailing. Enter the iPad 2 Telescope from Brando, an iPad add-on that extends the viewing range of the built-in camera. The telescope accessory comes with a special iPad backplate and attachable lens. The lens adds 6X optical zoom capabilities and features manual focus by rotating the bezel.

iPad 2 Telescope accessory

Why on Earth would you want a telescope accessory for your iPad? Theoretically, the iPad telescope could serve as a back-up to your binoculars, which should be in every cruiser's inventory for making landfall, spotting ships, reading navigational aids, and much more. But don't go dumping your expensive Fujinons just yet.

iPad 2 Telescope accessory
The telescope accessory is very simple to use. Just attached the lens to the backplate and then snap the backplate on your iPad. Keep in mind, the back plate only fits iPad2 (not the original iPad or the "new iPad"). If you have an Apple SmartCover, you'll need to remove it before attaching the backplate as the two are not compatible.

How about the optics? Well, as I mentioned above, the telescope adds 6X optical power to the iPad's built-in camera lens. The iPad's "pinch to zoom" function adds increased power, but via digital zoom only and therefore increases pixelation and decreases image quality. I've posted some pictures I took yesterday at the end of this post so you can see the different variations in image quality and zoom produced with and without the telescope.

The iPad telescope accessory is fun but only marginally useful for boaters/sailors. First, having to snap on the backplate every time you want to use it is a minor inconvenience. Second, the telescopic lens protruding from the back of the iPad could potentially get knocked or dinged if you're not careful. Of course the iPad nor the telescope are weatherproof, so you can only use them in good conditions. Lastly, the iPad2's rear camera, while better than the front facing VGA camera, is still only 1MP so image quality is limited by default. If Brando decides to offer a backplate that fits the "new iPad", then image quality would be improved with the new iPad's 5MP rear camera. In most cases, I think using the iPad as a giant point-and-shoot camera looks silly, but in the case of the telescope it's actually really nice to have a 9.5" screen to see what's in the viewfinder.

The telescope accessory won't replace my binoculars and probably won't get all that much use onboard, but for around $26 I think it's a well-made and fun accessory to mess around with improve one of the iPad2's biggest weaknesses: the camera.  

Picture taken with iPad2 only (telescope accessory NOT attached)

Picture taken with iPad2 w/ telescope accessory (6X)

Picture taken with iPad2 w/ telescope accessory & full iPad digital zoom

iPad2 Telescope Accessory Review Summary

Pros: affordable, well-made, simple

Cons: limited by iPad2's camera specs, not ideal for marine environment

Bottom Line: A fun accessory that improves the iPad2's camera lens and usability.

3 comments:

  1. I wonder how well that would work taking photos of astronomical objects? Do they make a triPod for the iPad?

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  2. Nice review! I especially appreciated the example pictures. We're in the middle of trying to decide what nav/plotter/software/gear we're going to take and it's overwhelming!

    Deb
    S/V Kintala
    www.theretirementproject.blogspot.com

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