2019 Star Tracker Buying Guide
- Sky-Watcher Star Adventurer Photo Package: $259.00 at Adorama
- Sky-Watcher Star Adventurer Astro Package: $269.00 at Adorama
- Sky-Watcher Star Adventurer Pro Package: $369.00 at Adorama
- Astro time-lapse, which tracks stars for the duration of the exposure and then repositions back to the start and repeats the process
- Regular time-lapse, which can be used to add a panning motion to daytime time-lapses
- Long exposure time-lapse, which can be used during the day (with ND filters) or at night. The Mini stays put during the duration of the exposure, and then pans to take another exposure.
- Sky-Watcher Star Adventurer Mini: $249.00 at Adorama
- Sky-Watcher Star Adventurer Mini Pro Package: $349.00 at Adorama
- iOptron SkyGuider Pro: $428.00 at Adorama
- iOptron SkyTracker Pro: $299.99 at Adorama
photo by KiskaMedia via iStock
What's so great about taking on astrophotography these days is that there is no lack of selection when it comes to star trackers.
The benefit of having a star tracker is that you can take night sky photos without worry of star trails. Instead, since the tracker, well, tracks the stars, you can get clear, pinpoint photos of stars and the night sky.
Of course with such a wide selection of star trackers, it can be tough to know which one is best for you.
That's where this 2019 star tracker buying guide comes in...
Below, I overview a variety of star trackers and explore their pros and cons so you can make a more informed decision.
2019 Star Tracker Buying Guide: Sky-Watcher Star Adventurer
What makes the Sky-Watcher Star Adventurer a top choice for astrophotography is its robust payload.
This rig can accommodate up to 11 pounds of gear and has a clutch mechanism to lock it in place, so it's an ideal star tracker for DSLR setups with a long lens.
The Star Adventurer has an Alt-Az base, which makes polar alignment easy (and fast!) thanks to the separate azimuth adjustment and altitude adjustment knobs. There's also a built-in polar scope that makes polar alignment a breeze.
You can undertake various types of tracking with the Star Adventurer as well - solar, lunar, and sidereal - each of which has automatic DSLR shutter release control. You can even make time-lapse videos if you so choose.
The Star Adventurer has a rotary dial on the body that allows you to select the tracking speed. Likewise, its basic shooting speeds are easy to set up and literally takes just a few moments to dial in.
The unit has RA slew buttons and a hemisphere switch, too. The result of all this is ease of use that's off the charts. You can have the Star Adventurer set up and dialed in in a matter of moments.
It's worth noting that getting the Star Adventurer set up for time-lapses is a more involved process, but it's not complicated at all - just a bit more time-consuming.
What many Star Adventurer users also appreciate is the build of the Star Adventurer.
It weighs in at 3.63 pounds (with a declination bracket attached) and when you hold it in your hands, you get a sense that it's built like a tank. This heavy-duty construction is obviously a benefit given that it'll be toted around and subjected to cold nighttime temperatures.
Yet despite its rather bulky weight, the Star Adventurer is small and extremely portable. You can carry it in virtually any camera bag without feeling like you're loaded down with gear.
The fact that the Star Adventurer uses just four AA batteries for power (which gets you approximately 72 hours of runtime) means you don't have to carry a bunch of heavy batteries around, either. And if you have a power source closeby, you can power the unit via mini-USB.
Best Features: Big payload, excellent battery life
Best For: Experienced astrophotographers with DSLR and long lens
Sky-Watcher Star Adventurer Price
2019 Star Tracker Buying Guide: Sky-Watcher Star Adventurer Mini
If you don't need the payload capacity of the original Star Adventurer, you might consider the Star Adventurer Mini as an ideal solution.
Designed for smaller camera setups like APS-C and mirrorless bodies paired with a short lens, this Star Adventurer Mini can accommodate a payload of up to 6.6 pounds.
Given the smaller payload, the Star Adventurer Mini does not have a clutch system like its big brother. However, it does have an easy-to-use dual-screw system that gives you the friction you need to keep the camera secure and prevent the mount from rotating.
Like the original Star Adventurer, the Mini uses AA batteries for power (just two, though). That's enough juice to give you 24 hours of operation. You can also power it via a micro-USB cable for ease of use.
Speaking of easy, the Star Adventurer Mini was designed to be simple so even novices can get it set up in short order.
There is one button to turn the Mini on and off. When powered up, it uses Wi-Fi to connect to your smartphone where you can use the star tracker app (Android and iOS) to dial in settings and control the unit.
The star tracker app has tons of features that make creating astro photos a breeze.
You can control basic functions for star tracking, like the tracking speed and adjusting the hemisphere.
There is also a built-in polar finder, which is handy because the Mini does not have a built-in polar scope. Instead, you have to install it each time you shoot. There is a built-in intervalometer in the app so you can easily create time-lapses too.
In fact, the Star Adventurer Mini's app has multiple time-lapse modes built right in:
Best Features: Ease of use, star tracker app
Best For: New astrophotographers with a lightweight camera setup
Sky-Watcher Star Adventurer Mini Price
2019 Star Tracker Buying Guide: iOptron SkyGuider Pro
The iOptron SkyGuider Pro is a close competitor with the aforementioned Sky-Watcher Star Adventurer.
It has a payload of 11 pounds, just like the Star Adventurer, so it's another top choice for astrophotographers that have a bigger camera setup with long lenses.
The included dec mounting bracket offers stability for bigger cameras and lenses or even a small telescope if need be.
Yet, despite the big payload, the SkyGuider Pro is a compact unit that can fit in your hand. That makes transport and set up an easy task - just what you want when time is of the essence!
The SkyGuider Pro gets high marks for its silent tracking, precise controls, and a built-in rechargeable battery that gives you up to 20 hours of operation time (you can also power the unit via USB).
The built-in polar scope makes alignment an easy task, and it has a fine-engraved reticle with adjustable illumination so you can tailor its brightness to your liking.
What's more, iOptron has a companion app for iOS that makes for quick and accurate polar alignment.
When it comes to tracking the stars, you can choose from four different options: sidereal, solar, lunar, and 1/2X.
Each of these tracking options works in both the northern and southern hemispheres, and with a quick slew mode with forward and reverse options, you can quickly reframe the image without the need for changing the camera's position.
Speaking of positioning, the SkyGuider Pro has a removable alt-azimuth base that has degree markings for altitude, a built-in post for the azimuth control, and a bubble level, so you're sure to get the positioning of the camera just right.
As expected with bigger star tracker, the SkyGuider Pro is built to withstand some use and abuse.
All the mechanical components are metal for durability and the alt-azimuth bath is detachable for easier transport.
But don't think that because it's a heavy-duty mount that it's clunky or clumsy. This unit gets high marks from users for being incredibly easy to set up and use.
Best Features: Easy setup, excellent polar scope
Best For: Experienced astrophotographers
iOptron SkyGuider Pro Price
2019 Star Tracker Buying Guide: iOptron SkyTracker Pro
Another option from iOptron is the smaller, lighter-load SkyTracker Pro.
Like the Star Adventurer Mini, the SkyTracker Pro was designed for smaller gear setups weighing up to 6.6 pounds (with a counterweight kit).
As a result, the SkyTracker Pro is a light, portable star tracking option for photographers with an APS-C or mirrorless camera.
What's so great about this rig is the convenience it provides.
There's a built-in rechargeable battery with up to 24 hours of juice, an illuminated polar scope with eight different brightness levels, and four tracking rates - solar, lunar, sidereal, and 1/2X - to accommodate various needs.
Like the SkyGuider, the SkyTracker Pro can also be paired with the iOptron smartphone app to dial in the polar alignment both quickly and easily.
Also like the SkyGuider, the SkyTracker has a removable alt-azimuth base that has a bubble level, altitude degree markings, and a post for azimuth control.
Since the base is removable, you can attach the SkyTracker Pro head directly to any tripod with 1/4" or 3/8" threads. There's an included reversible mounting post for ball head mounting and a 1/4"-3/8" thread converter included.
This unit is made to last with an all-metal structure and ABS covers.
You'll get years of silent tracking, precise performance, and easy camera framing adjustment thanks to the quick slew mode.
In other words, this star tracker has everything you need to get started in astrophotography!
Best Features: Ease of use, lightweight
Best For: Beginner or enthusiast astrophotographers pursuing night sky images