The Chinese Telescope/Lens Rip-Off

Super Zoom Chinese Manufactured Zoom Monocular Telescope (Lens)

We have been down this road before. The last time around, people paid from $60 to $220 for a cheap Chinese lens they could have bought for $12. The lens was touted as a German product and the ads used fake quotes from a fake German engineer. They created fake test results and used fake testimonials. They grabbed professionally created photographs taken with professional photo equipment and passed them off as iPhone photos created with the so called “German engineered lens”.

Originally posted August 1, 2020.  Updated, expanded, and re-posted March 12, 2021.

What has happened since last August.

As soon as I saw this scam hit the internet in late July 2020, I wrote my first article about the deception involved.

In the months since I originally posted this article I have received mostly two kinds of emails.

The first kind is from people who bought one of these “zoom monocular telescopes” before reading my article. Every single person who wrote to me said it was a worthless piece of junk. Some people were seriously overcharged. Refunds were difficult to get. Some of them sent me links to the sites where they got ripped-off. There are a lot of them.

The second kind of email is from people who saw my article and thanked me for warning them about this scam before they clicked “BUY”.

I also received an email from Natalie Clark, one of the co-authors of the NASA paper that was crudely Photoshopped (see below) to spread the dubious story that Johns Hopkins University designed this monocular telescope. Thanks to my information on this scam, the Photoshopped NASA article has been brought to the attention of NASA’s Inspector General.

Now, on to the updated version of this article.

12X Chinese telephoto camera phone lens vs DSLR and zoom lens
I wrote a whole series of articles in 2018 about the lens rip-off going on at the time, as tens of thousands of people were duped into buying cheap lenses at hugely inflated prices. I bought two of the lenses (at cheap prices) to test them. The image quality was lousy.

The New Zoom Monocular Telescope Scam

Super Zoom Chinese Telescope/Lens


The same kind of scam has appeared again, except this time the product is a “10-300X40 Super Telephoto Zoom Monocular Telescope”.  The name may vary, depending on which ad you see and at which web site, but it is the same cheap telescope. This particular “telescope and highway” image is being used to sell this zoom telescope at dozens of sites. After a while they will change to different images.

A Few of the Many Sites Selling the Super Zoom Telescope

I started making a list of all the sites that are selling this so called 300X telescope: 

tomaob, totrye, mococolly, kou100, yaugho, blawmp, grielo, winvye, bevait, voulith, ticasq, aunmail, crokelynn, telescopython, mococolly, mirinstitutions, vacatime, chilchesmaterials, olingery, heartmoon, geniemania, sunailoom, capeamberco, kameview, metalarrow, pagoshop, knoaz, geniuserver, jooosy, shopee, julyset, flipboard, gifttake, mustgrasp, gotrendvibe.

I finally quit counting.

The new scam is pretty much like the 2018 scam. The internet and Facebook in particular are being flooded with ads for this cheap telescope/lens. You can’t trust anything in the ad.  Most (and maybe all) of the photos and videos used in the ads were not taken with the telescope they are selling. More about that later. Instead of German engineering, this time they are claiming this super zoom telescope “was invented by Johns Hopkins University and released on July 1”, and they use a falsified (Photoshopped) NASA paper to prove it. Details later.

This telescope/lens is actually manufactured in China by Zhongshan Optake Industrial Co., Ltd. They are located at No. 6 Xinhua Road, 2Nd Building, Sanjiao Town, Zhongshan, Zhongshan, Guangdong, China (528400).

Global Sources in China sells the telescope from Zhongshan Optake Industrial Co., Ltd.

If you want to go into business, you can buy these super zoom telescopes in quantities of 500 or more from Global Sources in China. The cost varies from $10-12 each, depending on how many you order. If you order a high enough quantity you can get any brand name you want put on the telescope, even your own. Decide on the price you want to charge, open up a website, and sell them.

I have no problem with products made in China, or importing them and selling them in the U.S., so long as they are clearly identified.

I have a problem with falsifying a NASA document to prove the telescope was invented by Johns Hopkins University. I have a problem with making outrageous claims for the quality of a lousy telescope. I have a problem with using professional photos created with professional equipment by professional photographers, and giving the impression they were created with a smart phone and this cheaply made telescope. I have a problem with charging ridiculously inflated prices. I also have a problem with making it difficult to get a refund.

Like last time, they will probably make a small fortune selling these to people who know very little about quality optics and prices.

The Digitally Altered NASA Article

Screen capture, Tomaob website.


This is a screen capture from the Tomaob website, one of many online “companies” selling this telescope/lens. Note the claim the telescope was invented by Johns Hopkins University and check out the “Academic report of the telescope” in the ad.

Closeup of the academic report, screen capture from the Tomaob website.


This is a closeup of the “academic report” from the Tomaob website. If you look closely at the report, the first and last names do not have matching fonts, and the first and last names do not exactly line up. Someone with poor Photoshop skills has changed the first names, and they also changed the first address which is in a bolder font than the second address. They also made up new, fake email addresses.

Original NASA paper by Natalie Clark and James Breckinridge.


This is the top of the first page of the original NASA paper, which you can download from NASA’s archives here. This has the original names at the top. This paper is about optics used in NASA space science missions. It was written for the 28th Annual AIAA/USU Conference on Small Satellites which was in 2014. This paper, despite the ad, has nothing to do with a Chinese telescope being sold in 2020-2021.

So the dishonest people who put together the ad changed Natalie Clark’s first name to Iris and her address from NASA Langley Research Center to Johns Hopkins University Institute of Optics to promote the notion that the telescope was “invented” by Johns Hopkins University.

Original NASA paper names and the altered names and address for the ad.

In this comparison between the original and altered names you can see the poor quality Photoshop work.

Photos that Have Nothing to do with the Telescope

Screen capture, some of the photos in the ad at the Tomaob website.

It is typical in this type of scam to grab professionally created photos and videos on the internet and pass them off as photos and videos created with the product they are selling.  That is just as true for this new telescope scam. Many of the photos in the ads were published months or years before the telescope’s release date of July 1, 2020. This screen capture from the ad at the Tomaob site is typical. They are clever. They do their best to give you the impression these photos were created with their zoom telescope, but they never come right out and actually say it.

I went looking for these images on the internet.

Campers under the Milky Way by Anatoliy Gleb


This beautiful image of campers under the Milky Way was created by Anatoliy Gleb. I could tell immediately it was created with a very wide angle lens, not a telephoto lens and certainly not with the telescope/lens in the ad at Tomaob. It takes a super wide angle lens to capture the whole Milky Way across the sky.  This image is sold as a stock image by iStock and you can see it here. I wrote to Anatoliy, who lives in Ivano-Frankivsk, Ukraine, and asked him what he used to create this image. He wrote back and told me he used a Nikon D-700 and a Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 lens. This photo was uploaded May 4, 2017, over three years before the “release” of the telescope.

Friends on a Road Trip.


This “road trip” photo is another stock image. It is at Dreamstime and several other stock photo agencies. It was created by Monkey Business Images. You can see it here. It has been published a lot (screen capture below).

Road trip image search.

A Google image search found this “road trip” photo in several articles published as far back as Feb 14, 2017, over three years before this telescope is supposed to have been released.


This photo of the hiker illustrates an article on hiking in Japan. You can see the article here. This article and photo were published July 6, 2019, a year before the alleged release date of the telescope.


The topic of this article is “Is Honey Acidic of Alkaline?”  Other than that I can’t tell you much about the article with this image of a bee because I don’t speak or read the Chinese language. You can see the article here. It was published July 8, 2020, just 7 days after the telescope was released. Photos are usually submitted to magazines weeks before the publication date.

Composite image for the zoom telescope/lens at the Tomaob website.


This composite of four images at the Tomaob website was taken from an advertisement for a different product which you can see below.

Ad for the TravelTrace mobile telescope.

In the bottom row, second image from the left, you see the same composite image in this ad that is also used to sell the zoom telescope. That means at least one of these ads is using photos that were not created with the product they are selling.

You get the point. The photos in these ads have nothing to do with the kind of images this telescope/lens can actually create. There is a reason for that. If they could produce quality images with the product they are selling, they would use those images in the ad instead of grabbing images off the internet that were created with professional quality photo gear.

More Sites Pushing the Same Scam

Zoom telescope at the Totrye website.


I found the same zoom telescope that is in the Tomaob ad at dozens of other websites, some of which I listed earlier. Many of these sites use the same “borrowed” images in their ads. The prices for the telescope were all over the place, usually in the $30 – $90 range. I found it for $29.99 at the Totrye website. Tomaob wants $129.56 but that is without the smart phone adapter.

Zoom Telescope at

Here’s the same zoom telescope at the web site. I used a red arrow to mark the claim that this telescope was “invented by Johns Hopkins University and released on July 1”.

Genie Mania site, doctored NASA paper.

And here at the Genie Mania site is the Photoshopped NASA paper used to make the claim that Johns Hopkins University invented this telescope.

The Dangers of Buying From These Sites

I suggest you do not buy from any of these fly-by-night websites. Past history indicates that at many of these sites you can be charged well over the the price in the ad, and hit with huge shipping and handling charges. As an example, in one comment in the Facebook section below a person was charged $149 despite the ad saying the telescope was $39.95. And if you try to return it, you pay for the return shipping, and you usually have to ship it to some country in Asia, often China. Then you wait for weeks for your refund, if it ever comes. Some people have purchased these telescopes and not been able to return them for a refund. Not only is the telescope a scam, many of the sites that sell them are shady.

Where Many of These Sites Are Located

ICANN Lookup

If you do an ICANN lookup of the domain names of these web sites, guess where many of these “companies” are located? China.

And it gets worse. Thanks to recent changes in federal consumer protection laws, you may not have a legal claim to get your money back. Since you are dealing with a company that is not based in the U.S., you increase the odds you won’t get your money back if you aren’t happy with your purchase. And thanks to the new vagaries of U.S. law, your credit card company may not be legally legally obligated to return your money. The moral of the story is to purchase lenses only from highly reputable dealers. And most of them, for obvious reasons, don’t carry these cheap, poorly made, poor quality Chinese items.

Besides, you don’t seriously believe a telescope/lens that sells for as little as $30 can give you good optical quality at 300X, do you? If you do, I hear there is a bridge for sale in Brooklyn.


A professional review follows from Oberwerk High Performance Optics, followed by customer reviews at Facebook and Amazon.

Oberwerk Review

The folks at Oberwerk High Performance Optics (Dayton Ohio) bought one of these telescopes and did a review. According to them, every statement in the ad is a lie. No surprise there. The actual optical zoom according to their tests is 8x24X not 10x300X. No surprise there either. The image quality is “very poor”. Of course.

The full review is here and fun to read.

Facebook Ad and Reviews

Typical Facebook Ad

Ads like this using all kinds of different “company” names are showing up all over Facebook.

Facebook comments under the Telescopython ad.

Comments like this are typical. People unable to return the telescope. People being charged much more than the advertised price. Jerry Kolker’s comment is not unusual. He was charged $149 for a $39.95 telescope. What happened to him has happened to others. Whoever posts these ads on Facebook periodically goes back and deletes the negative comments.

Amazon Reviews

You can buy this zoom monocular telescope all over Amazon for varying prices from a lot of different sellers. The product names are different but it is the same exact product. I grabbed some screen captures of reviews to give you an idea what they are like.


Amazon Reviews – 1


Amazon Reviews – 2


Amazon Reviews – 3