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Vixen Polarie vs Ioptron Sky Tracker, conclusions

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#1 luigis

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Posted 06 March 2013 - 01:28 PM

Hi All,

After using both portable mounts for a while I wanted to share my review and comments in case they help somebody looking to buy one and needing to make a decision.


My short conclusion is the following one:

If you have a panning base or you buy a panning base then the Ioptron Sky-Tracker is a better choice. It has longer battery life, can be aligned without removing the camera and you don' need two ballheads.

The Feisol panning base ($39) matches the sky-tracker perfectly.

If you don't have a panning base or you don't plan to buy one then the Polarie is better as the Ioptron is totally unusable.

Luis

#2 Patrick

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Posted 06 March 2013 - 07:00 PM

If you don't have a panning base or you don't plan to buy one then the Polarie is better as the Ioptron is totally unusable.



I just received the panning base for my iOptron and I agree that it will make the Sky Tracker a lot more user friendly. I wouldn't say though that the iOptron is totally unusable. It's just more cumbersome to move the tripod around. With shorter focal length lens the polar alignment is not quite as critical. Just my 2 cents. :smirk:

The FEISOL PB-70 Panning Base is well worth the cost and should just be added into the price of the iOptron when making purchasing decisions.

Patrick

#3 Peds

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Posted 06 March 2013 - 07:08 PM

Thanks Luis and Patrick! Your thoughts are valuable indeed!

P.

#4 TONGKW

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Posted 06 March 2013 - 09:09 PM

I find the Polarie would work better if a counterweight is incorporated. Herewith is the DIY counterweight system for my Polarie.
The base is also a DIY unit from a few piece of thick aluminum angle. Polar alignment is quick and easy.

K W TONG
C8+CG5 GT, TSA102+HEQ5 PRO, MK67+Voyager, NexStar 6SE, C5+Mizar K, WO ZS80FD+Kenko NES, Megrez 72FD+Kenko KDS, Mini Borg 50, PST

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#5 Bluejay08

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Posted 06 March 2013 - 09:20 PM

So does this mean that a Polarie can be used without a ball head or a panning base on a tripod? Based on the price difference, I may still go for the SkyTracker.

Thanks for the info.

Jay

#6 Patrick

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Posted 06 March 2013 - 11:11 PM

I find the Polarie would work better if a counterweight is incorporated. Herewith is the DIY counterweight system for my Polarie.
The base is also a DIY unit from a few piece of thick aluminum angle. Polar alignment is quick and easy.

K W TONG



Nice work, K W!

#7 core

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Posted 07 March 2013 - 12:02 AM

Luis,

Thanks for the review - wondering if you have any opinions with regards to tracking accuracy and load capacity of both units? (The Polarie can be over-loaded quite a bit).

#8 luigis

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Posted 07 March 2013 - 04:43 PM

Both track really really well.

I used the Sky-Tracker last night and I was doing 4 minute exposures with a 50mm lens and no trails at all. The vixen is also very accurate once polar aligned.

About load capacity I think they are similar, the Ioptron looks more solid and can probably carry a little more weight.

The biggest problem is not the weight but the torque. If you use a long lens (long in length) then the weight will put a heavier torque on the two little screws that hold the mounting plate to the mount and then you have a problem.

I really wonder why there's no drilled hole in the mount to make sure the mounting plate cant skid. Both units have the same little problem.

#9 Bluejay08

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Posted 07 March 2013 - 07:28 PM

Good question. I guess if I want to mount an adapting plates using that four mounting holes on the plate instead of a ball head, I will lost the freedom to adjust the plate position if the screws are fixed. But if there are drilled holes there, it definitely will help in most of the case.

Jay

#10 Traveler

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Posted 08 March 2013 - 04:18 AM

Luis/Patrick and others:

What tripod do you guys use?

#11 JMW

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Posted 08 March 2013 - 07:11 AM

Gitzo 5541LS. Rock solid but not cheap. I also use this tripod as a travel solution for holding my Discmount DM4 head. I can use my SV115T on the tripod without any instability.

I did some test 2 minute exposures with round stars using the Canon 400mm f/5.6 lens on my Canon 6D. That setup is at the weight limits of the SkyTracker. This Saturday I will be using it all night at our club's Messier Marathon. If the clouds stay away as forecast I will be able to do some nice dark site work.

#12 Traveler

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Posted 08 March 2013 - 07:33 AM

Thanks Jeff and good luck with your marathon!

#13 luigis

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Posted 08 March 2013 - 11:30 AM

Luis/Patrick and others:
What tripod do you guys use?


Manfrotto 055 in my case.
This small tracking units go very well in almost any good tripod.
A leveling base or bubble level is needed to level the tripod legs.

With the polarie I use a Manfrotto 410 geared head below the mount and a ballhead on top.

With the Sky-tracker I use the feisol panning base below the mount and a ballhead on top.

The acratech ultimate ballhead is perfect for these units because it is light-weight and it allows ample movements in almost all directions much better than ballheads with a restricted range of movements and slots for bigger angles.

#14 Patrick

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Posted 09 March 2013 - 02:21 AM

I use a Manfrotto 475B.

#15 munchmeister

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Posted 10 March 2013 - 12:56 AM

I have my SkyTracker on a Slik Pro 814CF II, Manfrotto 488RC2 ballhead, which pans, but the 488RC2 ballhead portion isn't really necessary for altitude adjustment, it's just part of my DSLR kit. Small Manfrotto 484RC2 head atop the SkyTracker for mounting the Nikon D90 DSLR. That Feisol panning base looks like a good idea if you don't have one and is probably the least expensive way to add that to a simpler tripod.

#16 luigis

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Posted 11 March 2013 - 02:45 PM

Well it's not about "simpler tripods" many good tripods can't rotate the central column and even worst many great tripods don't even have a central column. That's why it was a horrible design error by Ioptron to leave the unit without azimuth control.
Anyone that has aligned a mount knows that moving the tripod legs is really not an option.

#17 munchmeister

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Posted 11 March 2013 - 09:34 PM

Chill, Lou. Didn't mean to bad mouth your tripods. Some have rotation, some don't. Buy what works for ya. For $39 you can get the Feisol base to use with the SkyTracker. That still puts the SkyTracker cheaper than the Polarie. But the Polarie is a fine, fine unit. As is the Astrotrac. It is not a contest, it's about options. I had a rotating head tripod just like many photographers will. That makes that "horrible design" just fine for my use and I prefer the off axis polar scope that does not have to be removed when the camera is mounted. I might be able to get longer subs that way. That was important for me, as well, in choosing the SkyTracker. This lets me make sure my polar alignment can be checked AFTER I mount the camera and get my objects framed in the field of view. You cannot do that with the Polarie. Some might call that a "horrible design error." I just call it differences that distinguish one product from another in a marketplace of choices. Pick one. Both are good, useful trackers. But I think it is a disservice to those who use this site to assist with their purchase decisions to lambaste one design as a "horrible design error." Just my two cents. And I am quite happy with the SkyTracker.

#18 luigis

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Posted 11 March 2013 - 11:01 PM

Both units are nice. My rant about the sky-tracker is that they included altitude control but not azimuth.

I also understand the scope works for you in the North Hemisphere.

I went out last saturday with some friends (south hemisphere). There was 1 astrotract, 2 polaries and 1 sky-tracker.

The astrotrac was doing 10 minutes exposures, no problems.
The polarie managed 8 minutes with perfect tracking.
The sky-tracker managed 3 minutes.

It was a windy night, the polarie and sky-tracker needded periodic re-alignment. The astrotrac didn't.

And that's my humble contribution to the general confusion :-)

#19 Patrick

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Posted 11 March 2013 - 11:18 PM

My rant about the sky-tracker is that they included altitude control but not azimuth.



I agree that iOptron missed the boat when they did not include azimuth control, especially after doing such a good job on the altitude control, but I think they were probably designing to a price point.

Patrick

#20 core

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Posted 12 March 2013 - 01:53 AM

The biggest problem is not the weight but the torque. If you use a long lens (long in length) then the weight will put a heavier torque on the two little screws that hold the mounting plate to the mount and then you have a problem.


From what I recall, one of the main strengths of the Polarie is the motor, which is suppose to be from one of Vixen's larger mounts - which may account for the heavier drain ofthe batteries. If you check out some of the Japan astro links, there are replacements for mounting the plate, replacement bolts, and pics of the mount carrying/tracking and taking pics with 60mm+ refractors. The setup pictured below carries a Benro arm, Borg 45ED with reducer, and capture via Galaxy Note II running DSLR Controller app. The main limitation was getting it polar aligned without Polaris being visible - if the app had the ability to overlay cross-hairs, it would have helped with drift alignment (eg, BackyardEOS - but this setup was for extreme portability ;)). I hope to pick up a Sky Tracker later this year to give it a go for sure.

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#21 luigis

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Posted 12 March 2013 - 11:13 AM

Peter I will accept the motor can carry the weight but the two little screws can't do it. How is that gimbal head attached to the mount? I'm sure there's some trick or modding otherwise the screws will not handle it.

#22 core

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Posted 12 March 2013 - 10:48 PM

No trick, just lock it down really tight (use pliers if needed ;)) - replacement thumb screws would help; the Benro arm off-sets the weight of the setup as well.

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#23 alliumfamily

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Posted 25 May 2013 - 11:30 PM

Will someone give who has tried both give me there opinion? Can we quantify this a little better.

From what I gather: Both units seem to track well. However, some people have had better luck with long exposures using the Polarie (referencing
luigis).

In addition, the Polarie has both azimuth and altitude controls, while the SkyTracker only has an altitude control.?

The SkyTracker requires a Feisol panning base? Does this allow it to be controlled in azimuth? If not, then why does it need this?

Do they both have the same speed options (sidereal, 1/2x, whatever, etc)?

The final question: If you were starting from scratch, (i.e. owned a nice astro DSLR, but no tripod or other small mount gear), which one would you buy? Which tripod would you buy? Which type of base(s)?

I know people said its about options, could someone clarify what those options are, perhaps pros/cons of each (not really looking at the astrotrack due to its price.

Thanks! I really appreciate it! This is my first post.

#24 Spacetravelerx

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Posted 25 May 2013 - 11:38 PM

Will someone give who has tried both give me there opinion? Can we quantify this a little better.

From what I gather: Both units seem to track well. However, some people have had better luck with long exposures using the Polarie (referencing
luigis).

In addition, the Polarie has both azimuth and altitude controls, while the SkyTracker only has an altitude control.?

The SkyTracker requires a Feisol panning base? Does this allow it to be controlled in azimuth? If not, then why does it need this?

Do they both have the same speed options (sidereal, 1/2x, whatever, etc)?

The final question: If you were starting from scratch, (i.e. owned a nice astro DSLR, but no tripod or other small mount gear), which one would you buy? Which tripod would you buy? Which type of base(s)?

I know people said its about options, could someone clarify what those options are, perhaps pros/cons of each (not really looking at the astrotrack due to its price.

Thanks! I really appreciate it! This is my first post.


Hello alliumfamily!

Here is what I have on my Amazon Wish list for next month's purchase based on my research, comments, experience, blah, blah, blah...

-- Canon 60Da (already have)
-- Canon TC80N3 Timer Remote Control
-- Manfrotto 055XPROB Pro Tripod Legs (Black)
-- Manfrotto 460MG Magnesium Camera Head
-- Feisol PB-70 Panning Base
-- iOptron Skytracker. Reviews are good for it, plus I like the Polar Scope attachment better.

This setup will also hold my Coronado PST.

I hope this helps!

#25 alliumfamily

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Posted 25 May 2013 - 11:40 PM

Cool! Thank you I appreciate it! I already have the Canon 60Da and the remote. Can I ask why you chose the SkyTracker over the Polarie? Because of the polar scope, I see. But, what did the reviews say about the SkyTracker that made it seem more appealing to you?

Thanks!






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