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Equipment Discussions >> Mounts

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*skyguy*
Carpal Tunnel
*****

Reged: 12/31/08

Loc: Western New York
iOptron SkyTracker
      #5587339 - 12/24/12 02:41 PM

It looks like the Vixen Polarie Star Tracker is going to have some stiff competition from the iOptron Sky Tracker. At $349... including the polar scope ... makes it awfully tempting!

iOptron SkyTracker


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Hikari
scholastic sledgehammer
*****

Reged: 01/05/11

Loc: Maine, USA
Re: iOptron SkyTracker new [Re: *skyguy*]
      #5587355 - 12/24/12 02:56 PM

It looks really nice. I was looking at one when I was looking for a tracker. I still went with the Polarie as it was smaller and lighter by a large amount. The Vixen is also Japanese engineering--the reviews of the iOptron mounts were not very encouraging.

Anyway, it would be nice to see some results. The price is certainly right and the polar scope is illuminated.


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munchmeister
sage
*****

Reged: 04/04/12

Loc: Fort Collins, Colorado, USA
Re: iOptron SkyTracker new [Re: Hikari]
      #5613995 - 01/09/13 04:13 PM

Looks like this is the only thread for the iOptron Skytracker. I am about to buy one, think it might be a better value since it includes the polar alignment scope for $348 and is still a very compact 6" x 4" x 2.5 inch unit. It is also equipped with the bottom mount so it can be directly mounted on to a photo tripod and has a latitude adjustment there. The Polarie has a moon and sun tracking speed, which the Skytracker does not but my application for it would not be moon or sun photos. It will be nice to pack on a trip or something since my camera is always with me and this would allow some "astronomy" while on a trip or out of the country. I was recently at a wedding in Jamaica and it would have been fun to get some wide field shots of a more southerly sky.

An Italian video is on youtube. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GCEZQPsBWtQ

Edited by munchmeister (01/09/13 04:51 PM)


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munchmeister
sage
*****

Reged: 04/04/12

Loc: Fort Collins, Colorado, USA
Re: iOptron SkyTracker new [Re: munchmeister]
      #5614234 - 01/09/13 06:28 PM

Couple more things I have noticed. The Skytracker has a geared knob to make the adjustment for the latitude scale. I think this has large advantage over the sort of "plumb bob" approach of the Polarie, as it lets you incrementally "dial in" the latitude adjustment and this could pretty much be locked in, rather than having to redo it each time. This would allow you to just pop it onto your photo tripod and start the azimuth adjustment for polar alignment. And, this latitude adjustment joint also effectively eliminates the need for two ball heads, since the latitude adjustment joint would work with your tripod to get the latitude set. Just thought I'd add those points for anybody else searching for info on this. I will try to update this after I take delivery and have a chance to try it out.

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MikeML
professor emeritus
*****

Reged: 10/09/04

Loc: NJ
Re: iOptron SkyTracker new [Re: munchmeister]
      #5618938 - 01/12/13 12:04 PM

Just picked up mine at the post office. Got it at the introductory price. Unfortunately the weather forecast is for cloudy skies into the foreseeable future

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Urban Observer
member


Reged: 04/06/08

Re: iOptron SkyTracker new [Re: MikeML]
      #5625420 - 01/15/13 11:07 PM

Really looking forward to the first reports!
Oh, and for those of you who watched that short YouTube vid: You didn't miss anything, he was saying exactly what you think he was saying - Just the basics, "here's where the on/off controls are...here's where the 4 batteries go...etc. Very basic stuff.

-Al


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REC
Post Laureate
*****

Reged: 10/20/10

Loc: NC
Re: iOptron SkyTracker new [Re: Urban Observer]
      #5628290 - 01/17/13 03:20 PM

So, does this $348 price include the scope? I see on their site it is $399 w/scope and $348 without?

Looks really interesting and look forward to some hands on reviews and some pic's. Perfect timing to shoot Orion now!

Bob


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munchmeister
sage
*****

Reged: 04/04/12

Loc: Fort Collins, Colorado, USA
Re: iOptron SkyTracker new [Re: REC]
      #5628475 - 01/17/13 05:04 PM

Here is a quick report. Got mine last night and wonder of wonders, had clear skies. Nifty unit for sure. Ordered direct from iOptron and delivery was pretty fast. I wanted to take advantage of a clear sky so I just got things going as quickly as possible and, ya know what... that is what I like about it. It is simple and fast to set up. I have not used a Polarie or Astrotrac, but I was shooting photos in minutes and not only felt none of the usual frustration but was so anxious to see the results I almost dug out some SD cards so I could change it out, then plug the other SD card into the computer to do stacking and post processing while the ST was shooting another series.

So, things I like. Fast and simple to set up. For example, it has a geared altitude hinge. Fasten this on to your tripod, set up the tripod legs, use the compass on top of the unit to get North, then use this geared knob to set your latitude scale. Then, with the very nice polar alignment scope installed in the receiving hole, look for Polaris and use the geared knob to center Polaris and use the tripod's knob for horizontal, azimuth adjustment. This makes polar alignment a breeze and that is one of the reasons I got this thing. I was pretty darned close in very short order. Lock it down then go to the next step, putting your camera on.

This too is pretty easy. I used a spare smaller Manfrotto ball head from my photo gear and screwed it onto the ST mounting ring. I use the Manfrotto quick release plates on my camera and ball heads so clicking in my Nikon D90 was easy to do. This does introduce some extra metal, i.e., the QR lever, which could get in the way so consider that for your own use.

But I got my D90 with grip mounted then was careful to tighten down the screws on the ST mounting ring. With a heavy camera, lens & battery grip, you want to make sure these are tightened down as much as possible. Some slippage occurred to me but I was in a hurry, like I said.

Once your camera is mounted, point it in the direction of your target(s). I had a lightweight 35mm f/1.8 Nikon prime on the D90. I first set my sights for the Andromeda Galaxy as Cassiopeia was high in the northwest. I was in my backyard, with streetlights around, neighborhood lights and the general glow of Fort Collins, CO, pretty much red zone.

I use an external intervalometer, set to shoot 12 sub frames, 60 second exposures. I wanted to see what it would do with 1 minute subs. I had to fiddle with ISO a bit and live view and focused the camera before locking it down, then turned manual focus on, with manual settings. I took the ISO down to 800 since it was really blowing out at 1600 with all my sky glow. As it was, my exposure histograms were pretty far to the right of the scale, but it was a work night and I was just testing things so I was not too concerned about the exposure. Mostly I just wanted to try it out and see if my stars were pinpoint or oblong.

The result of the Andromeda attempt can be found here:
http://www.astrobin.com/30065/

I am very pleased with the unit. When it was time to go in for the evening, it was amazing how lightweight it all seemed compared to taking out my DSV-2 Alt Az mount on an Oberwerk tripod. I used a carbon fiber Manfrotto tripod which is, of course, super light and with just that and the Skytracker, it was just sooo light and easy to take back into the house.

So, its a keeper for my purposes. I'm a rank beginner at AP but love photography and take week and two week long motorcycle trips with my photo gear along, to get photos along the way of places I've always wanted to see. Now, I will take the Skytracker along with the D90, lenses and CF tripod to take advantage of the evenings as well as the days, to shoot photos and astro photos.

It seems to be a well built unit, comes with a nylon case. The polar alignment scope uses the concentric ring approach to place Polaris correctly in comparison to the celestial pole and it has a notch to allow a small red LED to light the markings in the PAS. Nice touch, clever design. I got the ST unit with PAS for $348 plus shipping. I think some dealers sell the unit with the PAS and have free shipping. So it is a much cheaper alternative to the Polarie or the Astrotrac, etc.

Hope this is helpful for you Skytracker researchers !!

--munch


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REC
Post Laureate
*****

Reged: 10/20/10

Loc: NC
Re: iOptron SkyTracker new [Re: munchmeister]
      #5629629 - 01/18/13 10:24 AM

That was a GREAT report and it sounds really nice! Your first image came out really well!

Have to put this on my wish list for sure. Hope you do another shot of Orion next:)

Thanks for posting!

Bob


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oldgazer_rt
journeyman


Reged: 01/20/13

Re: iOptron SkyTracker new [Re: munchmeister]
      #5633990 - 01/20/13 09:53 PM

Hello Munchmeister -

I agree w/ your assessment. Last night, I conducted a more severe test. I used a 200-mm Canon lens and my target was the region around Orion. The Orion area was selected because of its declination being near 0 deg. So, with a longer focal length and a target much lower than Andromeda, my test confirms your results. Please note that my exposure time was 30 sec. I shot subs for a total of 18 minutes.

I believe that I could have used a considerably longer exposure time, but I arbitrarily chose 30 sec. I'll continue to experiment.

I used a Gitzo mount, Manfrotto ball head. The camera w/ lens was almost 5#, well under the advertised weight limit of 6.6#.


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REC
Post Laureate
*****

Reged: 10/20/10

Loc: NC
Re: iOptron SkyTracker new [Re: oldgazer_rt]
      #5634744 - 01/21/13 11:17 AM

Hello oldgazer, can you post a picture of your Orion shot?

Thanks,

Bob


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oldgazer_rt
journeyman


Reged: 01/20/13

Re: iOptron SkyTracker new [Re: REC]
      #5637364 - 01/22/13 05:13 PM Attachment (2090 downloads)

Here is an image compressed to meet the site requirements.

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REC
Post Laureate
*****

Reged: 10/20/10

Loc: NC
Re: iOptron SkyTracker new [Re: oldgazer_rt]
      #5638511 - 01/23/13 09:35 AM

Wow, that pretty darn good from a 200mm lens, really nice black sky's. That was 18 30sec subs?

Bob


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oldgazer_rt
journeyman


Reged: 01/20/13

Re: iOptron SkyTracker new [Re: REC]
      #5638624 - 01/23/13 10:39 AM

Hi Bob,

Yes; I shot 18 30-sec subs and 6 darks. I did final processing in PhotoShop. The uncompressed image shows the Flame and Horsehead nebulae much better, but the compressed image shows nice round stars which was the point of the exercise.

I calculated that a 200-mm lens shooting at a dec = 0 could be used for 5 sec w/o excessive trailing. A 35-mm lens at dec = 40 could be used for about 37 sec w/o significant trailing. As mentioned previously, w/ good polar alignment, one could shoot longer subs at dec = 0 w/ the 200-mm lens. I am actually considering repeating the excercise using the Canon 2x teleconverter w/ the 200-mm lens to push the unit further.


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munchmeister
sage
*****

Reged: 04/04/12

Loc: Fort Collins, Colorado, USA
Re: iOptron SkyTracker new [Re: oldgazer_rt]
      #5638746 - 01/23/13 11:37 AM

oldgazer: very nice image and very encouraging for me, the other Skytracker owner. I just have not had time to get out there! I have a Nikon 80-200 ED glass lens that I would like to try, although it is pretty big and heavy.

Do you use the iPhone app for doing polar alignment with the included polar alignment scope? I need to update my iOS on my iPod touch to be able to use it.

Thanks again. Keep those images coming !


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oldgazer_rt
journeyman


Reged: 01/20/13

Re: iOptron SkyTracker new [Re: munchmeister]
      #5639361 - 01/23/13 06:16 PM

Hello Munchmeister -
Thanks for the kind words. I did not use the iphone method described in the tracker manual. I use the so-called Kochab clock method to get close enough to the NCP. I really like the polar alignment scope. The beauty of the little tracker is the ease of use.

Your Nikon lens should be OK, but weigh it to be sure. My setup was slightly over 5#.


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rjweng
member


Reged: 06/10/09

Loc: OP, NY
Re: iOptron SkyTracker new [Re: oldgazer_rt]
      #5647761 - 01/28/13 10:33 AM

So can this tracker take 4 to 5 min subs say with a 200mm lens? If you can only get 60 sec subs might as well make a barndoor tracker and save yourself the money.

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Traveler
Pooh-Bah


Reged: 08/19/07

Loc: The Netherlands
Re: iOptron SkyTracker new [Re: munchmeister]
      #5647978 - 01/28/13 12:08 PM

Thanks Munch for the report.

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Keith_H
journeyman


Reged: 06/12/12

Re: iOptron SkyTracker [Re: Traveler]
      #5648512 - 01/28/13 03:34 PM

Handy bit of gear but not worth the $550 price tag for us Europeans !

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Mihai
member


Reged: 08/11/05

Loc: Romania
Re: iOptron SkyTracker [Re: Keith_H]
      #5648518 - 01/28/13 03:38 PM

The Vixen Polarie look a lot like this,but is much more expensive...why?...any extra features compared with Ioptron Sky Tracker?...also the polar scope for Vixen is very expensive and is not even illuminated

Edited by Mihai (01/28/13 03:41 PM)


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