In recent years, star trackers have become more accessible to the public, however, deciding which one to buy can be exhausting. There are a lot of different specifications, brands, models, etc., which can make the process of buying the best star tracker harder than it should be.
I’m a professional astrophotographer and I’ve been using different star trackers for many years. I’ve created this complete buying guide in which I’ve put the best star tracker brand and models to the test and compared them to help you decide which one adapts the best to your needs.
In summary, these are the best star trackers in 2022:
Using a star tracker will set a before and after in your astrophotography by allowing you to capture longer exposures of the night sky and will provide you more flexibility in your settings. If you are looking for a way to shoot better Milky Way photographs or to take the next step in your astrophotography journey, this is the best investment you can make.
Below, you’ll see the complete list of the best star trackers as well as a section with key things to consider when buying a star tracker for astrophotography.
The iOptron SkyGuider Pro is the best overall star tracker in 2022. If you are looking to shoot quality astrophotography images with your DSLR or mirrorless camera, this star tracker won’t disappoint you.
Thanks to its 11lbs (5kg) payload capacity, the Skyguider is capable of supporting bigger lenses and even small telescopes, allowing you to capture up to 5-6-minute exposures even on a short telephoto lens without any issues.
This star tracker has a great polar alignment system. The built-in polar scope is illuminated; thus, making it very easy and simple to align the tracker. Additionally, you can get the iPolar version of this tracker, which comes with a little camera that makes the polar alignment process even easier.
When it comes to design, this tracker is compact and robust, and it feels like it will last you a lifetime. However, the equatorial base feels flimsy and not on par with the rest of the design quality, being the main downside of this tracker.
If you get the full package, which I recommend, you’ll get a counterweight with the tracker that will help balance the whole set-up if necessary. Battery life isn’t an issue, lasting up to 20 hours and being easily charged using a Micro-USB cable.
|After using all the most popular star trackers over the last few years, the iOptron SkyGuider Pro is my go-to star tracker in most situations and my first recommendation if you are looking for a reliable and compact mount.|
2. MSM ROTATOR
This little star tracker has quickly become one of the favorites of amateur astrophotographers. MSM (Move Shoot Move) has done a great job at delivering impressive results with simple controls and at a reasonable price. All these attributes make the MSM Rotator the best budget star tracker in 2022.
If you mainly shoot with wide-angle and mid-range lenses (up to 50mm), this tracker will cover all your needs, allowing you to capture up to 3-minute exposures with a good polar alignment. Be aware that if you are planning on mounting a heavier set-up, you will find some difficulties due to its relatively low 6.6lbs (3kg) payload limit. It’s also the only unit on this 2022 best trackers list that doesn’t support any counterweight system.
Polar alignment is very easy with this astrophotography mount. The basic kit comes with a laser, which you just have to point at Polaris or the south celestial pole. If lasers are banned in your country, you can get the kit with the polar scope instead (Basic Kit A). Some other useful accessories are the V and Z mounts and the equatorial base, which will make polar alignment even easier.
The build quality of this star tracker is good considering the price. The body is made of aluminum alloy and feels very durable. The battery lasts around 5 hours, but you can use an external battery to charge it via USB-C. Something you should know is that the quality control on these devices isn’t the best, and some units have been reported to cause mounting issues. MSM is very quick to replace with a new unit free of charge if your tracker doesn’t work as expected.
The Sky-Watcher Star Adventurer Pro 2i is one of the best standard camera star trackers in the market. This tracking mount can effectively capture long exposure images of the night sky up to 5 or 6 minutes without issues even with longer focal lengths.
The equatorial base that ships with this tracker is one of the best I’ve tested. It’s sturdy, precise, and reliable. Most materials in this model are very high-quality, but consider that it’s a bulky and heavy tracker, so it’s not ideal for long hikes and trips.
However, the biggest downside of this star tracker is the polar scope illuminator, which is an external flimsy piece of plastic easy to break and lose. I hope this gets improved in a future version.
Another downside is the battery system, which runs on four AA batteries. The main problem is that there isn’t a traditional on and off button; it uses a wheel that can be accidentally turned while sitting in the backpack. This has happened to me a few times and I’ve only noticed my battery was drained after arriving at the location.
Regardless of its flaws, the Sky-Watcher Star Adventurer Pro 2i is still one of the best star trackers in the market in 2022 because when it comes down to tracking, it does an outstanding job. There are three kits available: the Pro package, the Astro package, and the Photo package. I’d recommend going for the Pro package because it offers the best value for money.
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The iOptron SkyTracker Pro is the latest addition to iOptron’s family of portable astrophotography mounts. This star tracker is small, but its robust design will allow you to track with precision even when using longer focal lengths, such as 100mm. At this focal length, you can get up to 1-minute exposures with no issues.
Similar to its big brother (the SkyGuider Pro), the polar scope in the iOptron SkyTracker Pro is illuminated, and you can choose between different levels of light, which makes polar alignment a delight.
When it comes to weight, the iOptron SkyTracker Pro is a light tracker, weighing only 1.5lbs (0.68kg). It’s capable of supporting up to 6.6lbs (3kg) of payload, which can be further extended with additional counterweights.
In the design section, this tracker isn’t as compact as the MSM Rotator, but it will still fit easily in your backpack, and it’s also lightweight which makes it a great companion for hikes. The battery lasts up to 24 hours and can be charged via Micro-USB to extend the duration, so it’ll last you multiple sessions on a single charge.
The general build of the iOptron SkyTracker Pro is plastic, and it can feel cheap to the touch. The default equatorial base isn’t great. The screws used to adjust the azimuth are cumbersome and a little hard to get used to, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll be able to polar align with precision.
5. Sky-Watcher Star Adventurer GTi
Released on April 15th of this year, the Sky-Watcher Star Adventurer GTi is the newest member of this best star tracker list. It’s packing some unique features and great improvements over past Star Adventurer models.
Star Adventurer GTi Specs
- WEIGHT: 5.7lbs (2.6kg)
- MAX PAYLOAD: 11lbs (5kg)
- EXPOSURES: 5-6 minutes
- MAX FOCAL LENGTH: ~400mm
- RUN TIME: 36hrs
- BATTERY TYPE: 8x AA batteries – 12v DC
- BUILT-IN POLARSCOPE: Yes (illuminated)
- AUTOGUIDER INPUT: Yes
There’s one feature that sets this mount apart: the GoTo (GT) capability. With this option, you can select a target on your smartphone – which can be stars, nebulae, or constellations – and the Star Adventurer GTi will find and automatically point your lens or telescope to the subject. This makes deep-sky astrophotography much easier, especially for beginners.
Compared to other Skywatcher entry-level trackers, this unit includes a built-in illuminator in the polar scope. However, this tracker still uses standard batteries; requiring 8AA batteries to run it. You can also power it with an external power source plugged into its 12v DC port.
The 11lbs (5KG) payload capacity on this mount is on par with other high-end portable star trackers. This capacity can be further increased by using counterweights. Tracking time is also similar to the Star Adventurer Pro 2i, standing at 6 minutes depending on the focal length you use.
Sky-Watcher designed this camera star tracker to be as lightweight and portable as possible, and they definitely accomplished the mission. The Star Adventurer Mini (S.A.M for short) is a smaller version of the original Sky-Watcher Star Adventurer Pro, which makes it ideal for photographers on the move.
It’s got a 6.6lbs (3kg) payload capacity, which makes it ideal for smaller to mid-sized set-ups. You can get an optional counterweight with the Pro package, but don’t push this tracker to its weight limits. As for tracking times, you can get perfectly sharp stars with 4 to 5-minute exposures and around 1 minute with longer lenses.
Polar alignment in this tracker is very similar to the bigger Star Adventurer Pro 2i. It ships with a polar scope, which also uses an illuminator that needs improvement.
The battery duration on this tracker is great for its size, lasting up to 24 hours, and putting it on par with the iOptron SkyTracker Pro. However, the S.A.M uses 2 AA batteries instead of a built-in battery. It can also be charged via Mini-USB even when it’s in use which will extend the battery life.
This star tracker has built-in Wi-Fi and can only be operated through an app on your smartphone. The SAM Console app is used to set up the different tracking speeds and time-lapse mode. The issue is that the Wi-Fi signal is unstable and it’s hard to get the connection right the first time, which can make you lose valuable time.
|To summarize, the Sky-Watcher Star Adventurer Mini is a great light astrophotography mount; however, I would’ve preferred to have more buttons on the device instead of having to rely on the app for everything.|
The Vixen Optics Polarie was initially designed to be a star tracker for DSLR cameras, and even though times have changed since the launch of the first version, it is still a great astrophotography equatorial mount for newer and lighter cameras such as the mirrorless system.
It falls into the light star tracker category, and its payload is limited to 5.5lbs (2.5kgs), making it the lowest payload capacity on this list. You can get a counterweight as an additional accessory which allows the Polarie to bear up to 6kg, but this will increase the price considerably.
Polar alignment with this star tracker can be challenging, mostly in the Southern Hemisphere. It doesn’t come with a full-size polar scope and relies on a tiny hole through the Vixen Polarie body. That’s why Vixen Optics gives you the option to get the official Polarie PF-L II polar scope for this tracker, but the price may be a drawback.
The Polarie has one of the best designs, which resembles a compact camera both in shape and size. It also feels robust, and uses two AA batteries which will run this star tracker for 2 hours approximately.
|The Vixen Optics Polarie falls in a strange spot between being a light tracker but with the price of a standard tracker. It’s targeted towards those photographers who need a compact and reliable astrophotography mount.|
The Fornax LighTrack II is radically different from any other star tracker you’ll see. Most star trackers have a cylindrical or rectangular design, but in the Fornax, the motor is a few inches away from the mounting point and uses a friction lock system to ensure precise tracking.
This tracker can support up to 13lbs (6kg), which puts it ahead of its competitors by a big stretch. This payload increases to 26.5lbs (12kg) when you pair it with the FMC 100 counterweight. With this payload, you can even mount a medium-sized telescope or a large telephoto lens. At 1000mm you can get perfectly sharp exposures up to 6 minutes.
Polar alignment is another great aspect of this tracker. The polar scope is internally illuminated which makes everything easier. Unfortunately, this design isn’t perfect. Tracking time is limited to 107 minutes, and after that, you need to reset the tracker’s position, which is far from ideal.
Another big downside is the lack of an internal battery. The Fornax LighTrack II requires an external power source connected to its center-positive DC plug to be able to function, which reduces the portability.
|So, who is the Fornax LighTrack II for? This star tracker will satisfy the needs of more advanced astrophotographers looking to shoot deep-sky images with a telescope or a large telephoto lens.|
What makes a Good star tracker for astrophotography?
If you are in the market to get a new star tracker, there are a few elements you need to consider first. Save this list and use it as a star tracker buying guide:
One of the first aspects you need to consider is portability. The heavier the equatorial mount, the less portable it’ll be. If you are the kind of photographer that likes to take night photos from your backyard or just a few feet away from your car, then weight might not be an issue and you can easily go for heavier star trackers like the Fornax LighTrack II, the iOptron SkyGuider Pro or the Sky-Watcher Star Adventurer Pro 2i.
On the other hand, if you are planning on doing astrophotography in remote places only accessible by hiking, consider the MSM Rotator, iOptron SkyTracker Pro, Sky-Watcher Star Adventurer Mini, or the Vixen Optics Polarie instead.
You’ll also need to measure how heavy your set-up is, and what kind of subject you’d like to photograph. Higher payload capacity allows heavier cameras such as DSLRs, long telephoto lenses, tracked panorama setups and even small telescopes.
This will directly affect the kind of subjects you’ll be able to photograph. With higher payloads, you can track more precisely even with longer focal lengths allowing you to do deep-sky astrophotography. However, if you are mostly interested in photographing wide angle subjects like the Milky Way, you can choose a lighter astrophotography mount with a lower payload capacity.
Generally speaking, the longer the focal length of your lens or telescope, the more difficult it will be to take longer exposure times. To be able to shoot longer exposures, choose a standard star tracker such as the iOptron SkyGuider Pro, the Fornax LighTrack II, or the Sky-Watcher Star Adventurer 2i.
If, on the other hand, you are using wider focal lengths, the MSM Rotator, Sky-Watcher Star Adventurer Mini, iOptron SkyTracker Pro, or the Vixen Optics Polarie, (all reviewed above) will do a great job at tracking.
The most advanced star trackers use declination brackets and counterweights to compensate heavy set-ups and help make the tracking smoother for the device. If you are planning on mounting a heavy set-up, consider purchasing a package that includes a declination bracket and counterweight.
The polar alignment process is something that will set some trackers apart from others. Correct polar alignment is crucial to obtain tack-sharp images, but it can become frustrating if your polar scope isn’t easy to use.
For wide angle images and beginners, the easiest method is the laser such as the one that ships with the MSM Rotator. Laser pointers are banned in some countries like Australia and Switzerland, so check your local laws before buying one.
For longer focal lengths which require a more precise alignment, use a polar scope with internal illumination, this will make the process a lot easier.
The power source of a star tracker will play an important part in its ease of use and portability. For maximum portability, I find that an internal lithium polymer battery, such as the one you’ll find in iOptron or MSM trackers, is the best option. These batteries are also reliable and safe.
The models by Sky-Watcher that we’ve reviewed in this article use AA batteries, which other photographers and myself have experienced issues such as finding one of the batteries leaking after sitting in the tracker for a few days, so consider that you might have to end up using an external power bank via Mini-USB to run these trackers.
Also, you should consider if USB charging is possible. Being able to charge your star tracker on the spot with a power bank is a huge benefit.
Design is another important factor when buying an astrophotography mount. As you’ve probably seen through this article, there is no such thing as a perfect star tracker.
Every single model has points of improvement. The Sky-Watcher Star Adventurer Pro 2i could use a better polar sc