iOptron 3302B SkyTracker Camera Mount - Black
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- Auto-tracking for smooth camera motion perfect for long-term exposures
- Includes AccuAligning dark-field illuminated polar scope
- New features include: increased payload of 7.7 lbs. and an adjustable AZ base for polar aligning.
- Attaches to virtually any camera tripod.
- Other features include: Cast-aluminum solid body, integrated compass, and geared latitude adjustment wedge for easy polar alignment
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|Item Dimensions||8 x 4 x 8 inches|
|Item Weight||3.6 pounds|
|Shipping Weight||3.6 pounds|
We are excited to introduce the new iOptron SkyTracker camera mount for astrophotography. This all-metal camera mount includes these new features: increased payload of 7.7 lbs. and an adjustable AZ base. This portable mount makes it easy to take long exposures of the night sky without streaking or star trailing. The SkyTracker is simple to set up. Just attach the unit to a camera tripod. Then slide and lock your digital camera into the saddle. Align SkyTracker to Polaris, the North Star, using the included dark field illuminated polar scope. Then turn on the motor and it keeps your camera tracking at the same speed the earth rotates! The unique DC servo motor keeps your camera in motion to avoid star trails and allows you to take long exposures for beautiful images of the night sky. SkyTracker runs on 4 AA batteries for portability at any location.
Top Customer Reviews
- The tracker is fairly compact, albeit heavy for its size. It is metal after all. Easily can be thrown into luggage. Don't forget a tripod and head.
- 4xAA batteries have lasted a long time.
- Offset polar scope. This was important to me. Positioning the camera can subtly bump your alignment, or just having clumsy feet around the tripod legs. Unless your camera blocks the view, you can iteratively reposition the tracker and camera until happy with both.
- Have gotten pinpoint results with a t3i and 200mm (320mm effective focal length) when tracking for 2 minutes. This is beyond the recommended specs for focal length. Will be attempting a longer lens.
- Supports a canon 6D with 70-200 2.8 IS. Make sure the tripod head and plate are screwed on well.
- Tripod screw supports either 1/4-20 or 3/8 threads (reversible)
- This version is updated with azimuth control (it rotates around the base). Initially thought this was a great idea; however, this added some flex in the tracker itself.
- Battery case is extremely hard to get in and out. The battery cover doesn't stay well if not properly seated and may get lost.
- The thumb screws can't apply enough tension to keep the unit completely stable.
- Mounting thread can retract when adding head, making it seem well attached when it is not.
- Compass is almost completely useless.
- I'd definitely still recommend the startracker over the alternatives due to the size, cost, and offset scope.
- Check your alignment after each change to the camera orientation.
- Use the most sturdy tripod you have.
- Only trails I have gotten so far have been because the alignment moved from making other adjustments.
- Put your camera on the tracker before finishing alignment (but prior to orienting your shot). The weight will affect the alignment.
- Typically do 30 second captures @ 200mm and stack.
- Haven't tried the suggested app. Putting Polaris near the center of the scope has been enough. Longer exposures require more accuracy.
- If you only want wide Milky Way shots, try with just a tripod before purchasing this. Star trails will be invisible with short (5-15s) wide-angle captures if you are filling the frame.
- Remember that the motion of the tracker will make terrestrial objects blur. You cannot stack images with terrestrial objects.
Tiny, low-quality jpegs in images section.
Before purchasing anything specific to Astrophotography, I had dabbled in taking short exposures of deep sky objects using the rule of 500 (500 / focal length = max exposure time) then move the camera to follow the object after every few shots. I would then take up to 1000 images and stack them using Deep Sky Stacker (DSS). I was successful to a point but felt it was a lot of work for little payoff as the results were less than mediocre in my opinion.
I then started looking online for an Astrophotography setup. Originally, I had planned to purchase a Meade lx70 equatorial mount and scope with just a motor drive. I posted it on the astronomy forum and got a lot of feed back saying that I would most likely end up being very frustrated with that setup and in the end be a waste of money. They pointed me towards the Celestron Advanced VX with a small scope but that was a little bit out of my price range.
I already had a camera and decent lenses, so I decided to see if I could find a cheaper solution for camera only Astrophotography. I found the Vixen Polarie and the IOptron SkyTracker. I went with the SkyTracker for 2 reasons. One, it was cheaper as you didn't have to purchase the polar scope by itself. Two, the offset polar scope meant being able to adjust your polar alignment after moving your camera.
I've now owned and used this product for quite some time and I've found that this mount does a fairly decent job. Here a few thoughts or things i've learned:
- The tripod I owned (Dolica 62-Inch Proline ~ $50) worked out almost perfectly for the IOptron SkyTracker. The only modification that I had to make was file down my ballhead hand screw so that it could be adjusted when on the SkyTracker (image below). Overall, I think that tripod is the best bang for your buck. So if you don't have a tripod or ballhead, then this may be the cheapest option for you! An image of the whole setup is attached below.
- Later on I did purchase a tripod specifically for Astronomy (Orion Paragon-Plus XHD ~$160). Very rigid and can handle a breeze or small ground vibration without it being noticeable in your images. It was not needed, but I planned on purchasing binoculars for observation and wanted something that could handle a decent weight and had a nice pan head (not shown in image). I attached an image with that setup as well
- I also did purchase the IOptron ballhead. However, I have not noticed a big enough difference that justify's $58. The ioptron ballhead is used in the image of the Orion Paragon tripod mentioned above.
- I had a Windows phone to start and it was very easy to find a nice polar scope alignment app for free. Since then, I was forced to switch to android and ended up buying one called "PolarFinder". IOptron has an app for IOS but I did find a free one when searching on my wifes IPod. It produced the same results that the windows and android versions gave. To be clear, all the app does is show you the position Polaris should be in your polar scope. This position changes with the time of night.
- Stellarium is a free program for your desktop computer. It is the most helpful piece of software when it comes to learning the night sky. Not having the GOTO option, you will need to get pretty good at identifying constellations and being able to find the deep sky objects on your own. There are also apps for your phone that can point you in the right direction, but nowhere near as in depth as Stellarium.
- I have used several different software packages for processing the images from the free DSS to Pix Insight. For final touches (contrast, highlights, etc), I use Adobe Lightroom. If you can afford it, Pix Insight I have to say is the all around best Astrophotography software package hands down, but it is not crucial to produce nice results. All deep sky objects but Andromeda below were done with DSS and Lightroom. Also, Pix Insight has a steep learning curve compared to DSS. DSS is not a bad place to start!
- DSS has a very nice drizzle option (I believe Pix Insight does as well). When using this option it will do a crop without the effects of losing resolution that you normally have when cropping. The Flame and Horse Head Nebula used 2X (1/2 size of original image) drizzle so it is the original resolution of 4000 X 6000 my camera produces. There is also a 3X (1/3 size of original image) option I use for smaller objects like the M13 star cluster.
- When using a 300mm lens (450mm full frame equivalent), the max exposure time you will want to do is 30 seconds. You can achieve higher but I found that it was not consistent enough at longer exposures and I would end up throwing away subs.
- When using a 11mm lens, I have not taken a long enough exposure to see star trails. The max I have tried was 3 minutes and it worked flawlessly. I would expect to easily get 5 min exposures. The milky way image attached was 3 minutes at 20mm.
- Windy clear nights are difficult with longer focal lengths. I have tried doing Astrophotography a few times when it was windy and I end up seeing my stars are not perfectly round do to the slight movement from wind. It has not been worth the effort. You really need a nice calm clear night! The wide angle lens does just fine with wind as the movements will not be noticeable.
- The batteries have never died on me but I use rechargeable batteries so every once in a while I will charge them just so I don't have to worry about the potential of it dying on me in the middle of the night.
I think this is a great product to gain some experience in Astrophotography. Even if you decide to upgrade later, you can always use this ultra portable solution when lugging around that scope and tracking mount is not an option.
Photo Update: The last image added is a panorama of the Milky Way center composed of 10 images using a 50mm f1.8 with a 30 second exposure. I've seen others stack each piece of the frame as well which will bring out more detail In the low light areas, but still decent without the extra work.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
For the price you pay, I would have hoped for a bit more quality.Read more
REAL EASY to align. But you HAVE to know where Polaris is on the dial.Read more