Jump to content

  •  

CNers have asked about a donation box for Cloudy Nights over the years, so here you go. Donation is not required by any means, so please enjoy your stay.

Photo

Fornax LighTrack II vs. Astrotrac?

  • Please log in to reply
23 replies to this topic

#1 NeoCzar

NeoCzar

    Lift Off

  • -----
  • topic starter
  • Posts: 13
  • Joined: 01 Apr 2016

Posted 17 April 2016 - 05:29 PM

Greetings forum :)

 

Has anyone tried the Fornax LighTrack II? I've got my mind set on the Astrotrac for transportability and unguided accuracy (when properly aligned, for which I'm getting the PoleMaster) and it has a lively community of users, but the fact that it's 42.4 cms long (as opposed to the Fornax's 27cm) and the touted accuracy of the fornax (+-1 arc over 8min) on the very few reviews done online, makes me want to inquire more about it.

 

My gear is  

Nikon D5200 unmodified
Nikkor 180mm f/2.8 AiS
Nikkor 35mm f/1.8
Tokina 11-20 f/2.8
TC14A teleconverter for the 180mm

MeFoto Roadtrip Aluminum. 

I'll be scouting for a clean 300mm f/2.8 AiS in the coming year, all of which would not exceed the 6kg max capacity of the Fornax. Do you think the tripod is sufficient? I've read other people's accounts of using it satisfyingly with the Astrotrac, although heavier tripods are always recommended.

 

I travel to New Zealand several times a year, and there's a spot near Mt. John observatory that I aim to frequent for the purpose of astrophotography for a few days every visit. Because of that my main consideration is that everything fit into cabin luggage such as the Manfrotto Pro 50. Accuracy is more important than the 9 extra kg capacity of the Astrotrac, because I won't upgrade to an OTA of any kind until I'm based in New Zealand in a few years, at which point I plan a hefty GEM.


Edited by NeoCzar, 17 April 2016 - 05:31 PM.

  • sparrowhawk likes this

#2 skullpin

skullpin

    Messenger

  • *****
  • Posts: 476
  • Joined: 13 Mar 2009
  • Loc: Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

Posted 18 April 2016 - 03:18 PM

Will bump this thread up as I too am curious. That Fornax tracker is pretty neat looking, with inherently low PE. Unfortunately it is a new kid on the block nobody seems to know. No?

 

Keith


  • NeoCzar likes this

#3 NeoCzar

NeoCzar

    Lift Off

  • -----
  • topic starter
  • Posts: 13
  • Joined: 01 Apr 2016

Posted 18 April 2016 - 07:59 PM

Will bump this thread up as I too am curious. That Fornax tracker is pretty neat looking, with inherently low PE. Unfortunately it is a new kid on the block nobody seems to know. No?

 

Keith

 

All I could find online is an article on 365telescopes where they assert it's better tracking than the Astrotrac, and admit they're buddies with the Fornax people and want to give it exposure (doesn't mean they're not genuine of course). The longest FL image on that page is 600mm @129 seconds unguided, not too shabby.

 

http://www.365telesc...tracking-mount/

 

They reference a review done by Steve Richards (apparently a well-known name in the astro community) for SkyAtNight magazine Sep2015 issue:

 

http://www.fornaxmou...rnax review.pdf

 

Apart from these two links there's nothing on it online besides a couple of vague posts by owners on CloudyNights and Stargazers lounge.

 

Thing is, it's supposed to be a budget alternative to the AT but it's around the same price nowadays. I've decided on the Star adventurer wedge. It's a fraction of the price of the AT optional wedge and has great reviews.


Edited by NeoCzar, 18 April 2016 - 08:01 PM.


#4 Peteram

Peteram

    Lift Off

  • -----
  • Posts: 3
  • Joined: 03 Sep 2016

Posted 11 September 2016 - 04:35 AM

Hi,

 

I own a Lightrack 2 Fornax mount. I can tell you it is at least as good as they claim. I did 3 minute exposures at 600mm with a full frame camera with no problem whatsoever, however problem with it was that with just a ballhead on top this combination was not ideal with a heavy lens. It could really use a declination set, like the one that is available for the Astrotrac. But again performance and built are in a league of their own. Very lightweight too. I too use the pole master for alignment, because it deserves very accurate alignment with that kind of tracking. The polar scope that they sell with it just doesn't cut it.


Edited by Peteram, 11 September 2016 - 03:02 PM.

  • t-ara-fan likes this

#5 austin.grant

austin.grant

    Vendor - Modified DSLR Cameras

  • *****
  • Vendors
  • Posts: 1394
  • Joined: 18 Oct 2010
  • Loc: Albuquerque, New Mexico

Posted 11 September 2016 - 10:29 AM

I've had both, and I'd choose the Fornax all day. 



#6 calypsob

calypsob

    Skylab

  • *****
  • Posts: 4480
  • Joined: 20 Apr 2013
  • Loc: Lynchburg, Virginia

Posted 27 September 2016 - 12:18 PM

Ive heard great things about the light track, as an astrotrac owner I considered ordering the fornax v 1 from overseas initially.  The astrotrac guides on a screw while fornax is friction drive.  The main weakness of the astrotrac is the polar scope.  Do not buy the polar scope if you get an astrotrac it is unbelievably awful in comparison to the excellent build quality of the astrotrac itself.  I had a friend machine an adapter to use the ioptron polar scope with mine and it tracks great.   I do not think that you would notice a difference between the two when imaging side by side, both need to be rewound after two hours and track excellent.  If I could go back I would actually buy the Losmandy star lapse because it uses a worm drive and does not need to be re-wound.  

 

My favorite thing about the astrotrac is its portability, I would leave it setup in my basement and I could setup in the yard under 10 minutes and shoot DSLR Ha from my light polluted yard on any clear night, even a work night.  This was were I regretted having to rewind the unit after 2 hours, I could have acquired over 9 hours of data in one night had I gone with the losmandy.  

 

Also, do not use a ballhead to compensate for an alt az head, this will never give a reliable polar alignment, instead order the alt az head designed for the Skywatcher star adventurer.  A ballhead is an acceptable device to use on top of the tracker to connect your camera.  I have found that stacking two ballheads on top of each other gives me greater flexibility when trying to frame objects, especially at zenith.  


Edited by calypsob, 27 September 2016 - 12:19 PM.


#7 JohnWatty

JohnWatty

    Explorer 1

  • -----
  • Posts: 75
  • Joined: 04 Mar 2014

Posted 12 December 2016 - 04:09 PM

Could I just bump this thread as I've just bought a Fornax Lightrack II.  I'm interested in how the Polemaster works with it.  In the youtube videos I've seen of the Polemaster, they move and rotate the camera via the mount by remote control cables to a pc in order to nail the alignment  I don't understand how this would work with a tripod and a lightrack on top?   Thanks



#8 StuartJPP

StuartJPP

    Mariner 2

  • -----
  • Posts: 270
  • Joined: 16 Oct 2015
  • Loc: Leeds, United Kingdom

Posted 13 December 2016 - 07:29 AM

Hi,

 

I own a Lightrack 2 Fornax mount. I can tell you it is at least as good as they claim. I did 3 minute exposures at 600mm with a full frame camera with no problem whatsoever, however problem with it was that with just a ballhead on top this combination was not ideal with a heavy lens. It could really use a declination set, like the one that is available for the Astrotrac. But again performance and built are in a league of their own. Very lightweight too. I too use the pole master for alignment, because it deserves very accurate alignment with that kind of tracking. The polar scope that they sell with it just doesn't cut it.

I love these types of claims..."600mm, no problems whatsoever".....but no evidence. Might as well not have posted the message.

 

It would be nice for a change to get some evidence of these bold claims... perhaps it is better than the AstroTrac...it should be it is newer tech.

 

But reading a post like that just makes me very sceptical.



#9 nwcs

nwcs

    Viking 1

  • -----
  • Posts: 500
  • Joined: 12 Nov 2013
  • Loc: Tennessee

Posted 13 December 2016 - 08:07 AM

Could I just bump this thread as I've just bought a Fornax Lightrack II.  I'm interested in how the Polemaster works with it.  In the youtube videos I've seen of the Polemaster, they move and rotate the camera via the mount by remote control cables to a pc in order to nail the alignment  I don't understand how this would work with a tripod and a lightrack on top?   Thanks

I wonder that, too. Cyclops Optics also has an adapter for the iOptron SkyTracker and such but no description of how it would work. I posted in another forum here that same question and got no replies. On another site I saw someone had to do a modification to get the polemaster to really work with their AstroTrac. They custom mounted it on the RA axis where it connects to the wedge/ballhead. That makes sense to me although probably a pain.

 

I've thought about the Fornax, too. I wonder how it would compare against the new SkyTracker Pro. It looks like in the US your only choice is imported, though, and even then I don't see many places selling it. When you get the Fornax, would you write up a little bit about it? And where did you order it from?



#10 JohnWatty

JohnWatty

    Explorer 1

  • -----
  • Posts: 75
  • Joined: 04 Mar 2014

Posted 13 December 2016 - 04:09 PM

 

Could I just bump this thread as I've just bought a Fornax Lightrack II.  I'm interested in how the Polemaster works with it.  In the youtube videos I've seen of the Polemaster, they move and rotate the camera via the mount by remote control cables to a pc in order to nail the alignment  I don't understand how this would work with a tripod and a lightrack on top?   Thanks

I wonder that, too. Cyclops Optics also has an adapter for the iOptron SkyTracker and such but no description of how it would work. I posted in another forum here that same question and got no replies. On another site I saw someone had to do a modification to get the polemaster to really work with their AstroTrac. They custom mounted it on the RA axis where it connects to the wedge/ballhead. That makes sense to me although probably a pain.

 

I've thought about the Fornax, too. I wonder how it would compare against the new SkyTracker Pro. It looks like in the US your only choice is imported, though, and even then I don't see many places selling it. When you get the Fornax, would you write up a little bit about it? And where did you order it from?

 

I emailed Fornax who said you can use the Polemaster on your Lightrack alignment by adjusting the fine tuning controls on the wedge. They sell an adapter mount for that purpose.   I guess that makes sense.  I thought I'd seen something about rotating stars but will have to do more research.  I've heard the Fornax has great accuracy so I'm tempted to get the Polemaster to make it as good as it can be.

 

I've bought the Lightrack II for myself for Christmas and now it's packed away but I'm probably not missing much because there seems to be total cloud forecast for the next 2 weeks!  However I did test it to make sure I understood how to set it up and to check I had all the bits I would need.  I use it with a video tripod, star adventurer wedge, Celestron polar scope, ball head and Celestron Lithium cell that attaches to the tripod leg.  I bought the lot as a package from Tring Astronomy Centre who were very helpful in advising on the phone. 

 

I'd be pleased to review it at some point but I am very much a beginner so someone with more experience will probably give a more enlightened view.  I was very pleased after it's first light.  I now realise I was aligning it wrong by using Sky Safari to find NCP position to Polaris, but forgot the alignment scope is upside down, so I aligned top left when it should have been bottom right. 

 

With that said, I managed to get this 95 second shot at 400mm of the stars with Jupiter in shot...

 

LG7B5940.jpg

 

And this one, 124 seconds at 100mm of Orion's Belt...

 

LG7B5967.jpg

 

I don't think I had the camera focused properly, which I realise is going to take a bit of patience and skill at higher focal lengths, but I'm quite happy with the tracking bearing in mind the alignment wasn't quite right.

 

I'm really looking forward to getting some clear skies after Christmas and testing her properly.  I think aiming the camera is also going to be tricky so I've ordered a hot shoe red dot finder.

 

PS, I was going to buy a sky tracker pro.  It's a great package, even including a built in usb rechargeable battery pack.  The ultimate dslr astro mount on the go.  But I felt I would want the chance to photograph at greater than 100-200mm so after a bit of research it came down to the astrotrack or the fornax and I picked the fornax as it seems more portable and from the stats promises to be more accurate.


Edited by JohnWatty, 13 December 2016 - 05:57 PM.


#11 nwcs

nwcs

    Viking 1

  • -----
  • Posts: 500
  • Joined: 12 Nov 2013
  • Loc: Tennessee

Posted 13 December 2016 - 05:59 PM

I saw that you could use the PoleMaster on the polar arm but I'm not sure how you'd rotate it. I found a distributor in the US so I may try it. I emailed Fornax and the distributor but I haven't heard from either. I'm really curious how you'd use it on a polar arm. As a side note I did get some info for using the Polemaster on the SkyTracker Pro. You have to mount it on the RA axis by putting it on the mounting plate. That makes it a bit difficult since you'll be taking it off to put on something else throwing off the alignment.

 

Don't worry about being a beginner to do a review! A lot of us are curious even what the experience is like in setting it up and usability. It's all cloudy here, too, where I am so I won't be doing anything either. 

 

As an aside, one trick I tried for aiming is using a trigger trap smartphone holder for the dslr flash bracket. Then I use SkySafari and set the display to emulate the field of view for the lens and then navigate around. It works pretty well overall. Not perfect but pretty helpful.



#12 JohnWatty

JohnWatty

    Explorer 1

  • -----
  • Posts: 75
  • Joined: 04 Mar 2014

Posted 13 December 2016 - 06:48 PM

As an aside, one trick I tried for aiming is using a trigger trap smartphone holder for the dslr flash bracket. Then I use SkySafari and set the display to emulate the field of view for the lens and then navigate around. It works pretty well overall. Not perfect but pretty helpful.

Thank you, I'll try that.



#13 JohnWatty

JohnWatty

    Explorer 1

  • -----
  • Posts: 75
  • Joined: 04 Mar 2014

Posted 26 December 2016 - 04:17 PM

Hi Folks,

 

I thought I'd post this pic after my first try with the Fornax Lightrack II.  I realise to anyone who knows what they're doing this photo will be pretty bad - but for me, my first attempt at astrophotography, I am thrilled.

 

Having received the Lightrack II for Christmas, I'm lucky enough to have a relatively clear night on Boxing day so have taken the opportunity to try it out.  I'm using a Canon 5d3 with the old 100-400 5.6 lens.

 

I took 10 x 5 minute exposures at 400mm and stacked them, with a 10 minute exposure and a 60 seconds and a 2 minutes (just trying everything, really)  The ISO was mostly 3200 but the 10 minute exposure was at 800 I think.

 

I have also bought a CLS LP filter so the results were quite blue.  I stacked the images in Nebulosity 4 and adjusted curves in Photoshop and tried to colour correct for the blue.  I have used photoshop for landscape photography but this was a total first for astro.  First time using Nebulosity, too.  

 

I'd be very pleased to hear any advice.  I think I pushed the tracking a bit too far (the stars are elongated) but hopefully I can fine tune my polar alignment.  

 

I am buzzing after my first pic - thrilled that I can use a DSLR and highly portable setup to get at least half reasonable pics.  Astrophotography is bloody great!  Now I just need to get better - much better! :)  :)

Attached Thumbnails

  • PL-stacked-PS-lo-res.jpg

Edited by JohnWatty, 26 December 2016 - 05:57 PM.


#14 JohnWatty

JohnWatty

    Explorer 1

  • -----
  • Posts: 75
  • Joined: 04 Mar 2014

Posted 26 December 2016 - 07:50 PM

Here's a quick shot of Orion...  this is 10 x 2 min exposures...

Attached Thumbnails

  • Orion-Stacked-PS.jpg

  • Darrenlh likes this

#15 JohnWatty

JohnWatty

    Explorer 1

  • -----
  • Posts: 75
  • Joined: 04 Mar 2014

Posted 29 December 2016 - 03:09 PM

This is a very messy photo of Orion's belt and sword, consisting of

 

6 x 30 seconds

11 x 60 seconds

2 x 120 seconds

1 x 300 seconds

 

at 100mm f2.8

 

It was foggy and I think that shows.  Also, I'm such a newbie with PixInsight, I know I made a real mess of colour correcting (esp the CLS filter)

 

There's massive room for improvement but I just love being able to try and get these shots and I think all the shortcomings are with me rather the the equipment so far.  Anyone thinking of getting the Lightrack II, I would thoroughly recommend it.

 

Orion-ss-lo-res.jpg

 


  • zjc26138 and Darrenlh like this

#16 orlyandico

orlyandico

    Cosmos

  • *****
  • Moderators
  • Posts: 9317
  • Joined: 10 Aug 2009
  • Loc: Singapore

Posted 29 December 2016 - 03:46 PM

Yes the fog is pretty visible. The Horsehead can be made out (I've actually captured it with a 50mm lens!) so your results are better, but the fog detracts (the Flame is easier but is not very clear in your capture).



#17 JohnWatty

JohnWatty

    Explorer 1

  • -----
  • Posts: 75
  • Joined: 04 Mar 2014

Posted 29 December 2016 - 04:32 PM

I think I also had some dew on the lens (same thing is happening tonight)



#18 tcristy

tcristy

    Lift Off

  • -----
  • Posts: 2
  • Joined: 11 Dec 2014

Posted 04 April 2017 - 07:01 AM

I just got a Lightrack II and have a Polemaster. I have both the Fornax adapter and the Cyclops Optics portable mount one.  I was hoping the polar scope arm would move smoothly and easily enough that I could move it manually through the required rotations with the Polemaster in the arm with their adapter, but that is not the case. It requires a lot of force to move the scope arm. 

 

The Cyclops adapter has a tripod screw socket in the bottom. You could screw the Polemaster onto the mount in place of the ballhead, do the alignment and lock down the wedge, then carefully unscrew the Polemaster and add on the ballhead and camera.  QHY claims the Polemaster does not have to be precisely parallel to the RA axis (just approximately aligned), so I am going to try mounting the Polemaster with the Cyclops adapter onto a quick-release plate. That way I can start out with the ballhead installed on the mount and the plate with the Polemaster in its clamp. Once alignment is done, lock down the wedge and carefully swap the camera for the Polemaster using the quick-release.  Hopefully that can be done without moving things too much and you still end up at least as good as using the optical scope.

 

Unfortunately, April is looking to be quite rainy as far out as the forecast goes so I'm not sure when I will actually be able to go out and try this.

Tim



#19 Tomvictor

Tomvictor

    Viking 1

  • ***--
  • Posts: 563
  • Joined: 09 Aug 2004
  • Loc: N.59.24.48.

Posted 12 October 2017 - 12:37 PM

Bump for more user info on the Fornax Lightrack II.

 

Thanks.



#20 Chris W

Chris W

    Explorer 1

  • -----
  • Posts: 81
  • Joined: 05 Jul 2011
  • Loc: Essex, UK

Posted 03 April 2018 - 08:22 AM

Just bought a Fornax unit too to evaluate. The serialized PE test card that came with the mount declares 1" pk-pk . That is the same as my Paramount MX, after PEC!

The thing is smooth and I checked the squareness of the polar arm. It was within 1/10th degree but to be on the safe side, I mounted a polar scope into the arm and marked its rotational position. I then centered the scope, not by rotating the scope, but swinging the arm to 9, 12 and 3'oclock positions. This then accounts for any arm tolerances as well as the polar scope itself. I mounted it on a Manfrotto 110 geared head, re-assembled to make it just a pan and tilt head. Have yet to get first light but so far, it feels very well made and more substantial than the AstroTrac I borrowed off a mate.

One thing did occur - the Fornax unit gear system moves around in an arc, the AstroTrack separates the ends of the beams with a lead screw. I don't know if this is the case, but if the AstroTrac motor is going at a uniform speed, trigonometry says that it will be rotating ~3.4 % faster near the end of its movement than at the beginning. For a 5-minute exposure, this represents a drift of ~150 " near the limit. I asked their support line for confirmation.



#21 1DegreeN

1DegreeN

    Vostok 1

  • -----
  • Posts: 120
  • Joined: 26 Aug 2013
  • Loc: Prachinburi, Thailand

Posted 03 April 2018 - 06:54 PM

Just bought a Fornax unit too to evaluate. The serialized PE test card that came with the mount declares 1" pk-pk . That is the same as my Paramount MX, after PEC!

The thing is smooth and I checked the squareness of the polar arm. It was within 1/10th degree but to be on the safe side, I mounted a polar scope into the arm and marked its rotational position. I then centered the scope, not by rotating the scope, but swinging the arm to 9, 12 and 3'oclock positions. This then accounts for any arm tolerances as well as the polar scope itself. I mounted it on a Manfrotto 110 geared head, re-assembled to make it just a pan and tilt head. Have yet to get first light but so far, it feels very well made and more substantial than the AstroTrac I borrowed off a mate.

One thing did occur - the Fornax unit gear system moves around in an arc, the AstroTrack separates the ends of the beams with a lead screw. I don't know if this is the case, but if the AstroTrac motor is going at a uniform speed, trigonometry says that it will be rotating ~3.4 % faster near the end of its movement than at the beginning. For a 5-minute exposure, this represents a drift of ~150 " near the limit. I asked their support line for confirmation.

I believe the Astrotrac TT320X motor runs at 3 different speeds as it progresses along the arm.



#22 Chris W

Chris W

    Explorer 1

  • -----
  • Posts: 81
  • Joined: 05 Jul 2011
  • Loc: Essex, UK

Posted 04 April 2018 - 04:34 AM

Interes

 

I believe the Astrotrac TT320X motor runs at 3 different speeds as it progresses along the arm.

Interesting - just checking, are you referring to Sidereal, Lunar and Solar rates? Even if it changed the motor speed twice over the 2 hours, the drift would be quite noticeable near the full extent. Thinking about it, they have to be doing something clever, otherwise folks would notice.



#23 Darrenlh

Darrenlh

    Vostok 1

  • -----
  • Posts: 176
  • Joined: 08 Sep 2010
  • Loc: Alberta, Canada

Posted 04 April 2018 - 05:15 AM

Interes

 

Interesting - just checking, are you referring to Sidereal, Lunar and Solar rates? Even if it changed the motor speed twice over the 2 hours, the drift would be quite noticeable near the full extent. Thinking about it, they have to be doing something clever, otherwise folks would notice.

The frequency of the motor changes during the length of the tangent arm to correct for error. Each Astrotrac is calibrated.



#24 Chris W

Chris W

    Explorer 1

  • -----
  • Posts: 81
  • Joined: 05 Jul 2011
  • Loc: Essex, UK

Posted 05 April 2018 - 04:36 AM

The frequency of the motor changes during the length of the tangent arm to correct for error. Each Astrotrac is calibrated.

thanks - I just got the same message from AstroTrac too - it makes sense.

Funnily enough, reading the brief Fornax instructions, they suggest best tracking is achieved within the central 30% of movement. Not sure why though. I cannot think of a geometric reason that would make the tracking worse at the extremes of movement.




CNers have asked about a donation box for Cloudy Nights over the years, so here you go. Donation is not required by any means, so please enjoy your stay.


Recent Topics






Cloudy Nights LLC
Cloudy Nights Sponsor: Astronomics