The SkyWatcher Star Adventurer Mini is one of the most compact star trackers on the market as it can almost fit in the palm of your hand. As a professional astrophotographer, I’ve been using this star tracker for the past few years and in this SkyWatcher Star Adventurer Mini review, I want to share my experience with you.
The SkyWatcher Star Adventurer Mini was designed to be the portable version of its older brother, the Star Adventurer Pro, and it delivers in that aspect. However, in this review, we’ll cover more than its portability.
If you want to learn more about the SkyWatcher Star Adventurer Mini’s tracking capabilities, build and features, polar alignment process, and all the pros and cons, keep reading!
- SkyWatcher Star Adventurer Mini – Overview
- SkyWatcher Star Adventurer Mini – Features and Build
- SkyWatcher Star Adventurer Mini Wi-Fi
- SkyWatcher Star Adventurer Mini Polar alignment
- SkyWatcher Star Adventurer Mini Setup
- SkyWatcher Star Adventurer Mini Kits & Prices
- SkyWatcher Star Adventurer Mini vs. MSM Star Tracker
- SkyWatcher Star Adventurer Mini vs. iOptron SkyTracker Pro
- SkyWatcher Star Adventurer Mini vs. SkyWatcher Star Adventurer 2i
SkyWatcher Star Adventurer Mini – Overview
|The SkyWatcher Star Adventurer Mini is one of the best portable star trackers on the market. Its compact and lightweight body makes it perfect to travel with, and its tracking capabilities make it reliable enough to take long exposure photos at night. However, the battery system and the WiFi requirement to control this star tracker are points of improvement.|
*Note: During this SkyWatcher Star Adventurer Mini Review, I’ll also refer to this tracker as “SAM”.
One of the best parts of the SkyWatcher Star Adventurer Mini is that it comes with the same equatorial wedge as the Star Adventurer Pro. This equatorial wedge is one of the best in the market, and it helps achieve a more precise polar alignment.
What I love about the SkyWatcher Star Adventurer Mini is how portable yet powerful it is. It’s portable enough to take on long hikes with a light setup; but if you needed to mount a slightly heavier camera and lens combo, it is also possible because it allows a counterweight system.
On the other hand, there are a couple of features to be improved in this small tracker. The SkyWatcher Star Adventurer Mini can only be controlled via Wi-Fi, which I consider inconvenient because it requires a smartphone app at all times.
Also, the other main cons is that the Wi-Fi signal can sometimes be unstable.
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SkyWatcher Star Adventurer Mini Features and Build
The SkyWatcher Star Adventurer Mini’s features were designed with two concepts in mind: portability and ease of use. It’s one of the lightest star trackers in the market, but without sacrificing build quality.
Below, I’ll cover the main aspects that make the star adventurer mini worthwhile, but I’ll also mention some downsides to have in mind if you are considering to purchase this tracker.
Let’s find out more!
The SkyWatcher Star Adventurer Mini weighs only 1.4lbs (0.65 kg). This doesn’t include the equatorial wedge and declination bracket provided with the Pro Pack. This makes it the lightest star tracker with this set of specifications; there are no other star trackers that can hold a counterweight and are also lighter than the SAM.
The payload capacity of the SkyWatcher Star Adventurer Mini is 6.6lbs (3kg). This puts it right on par with its competitors; however, the added benefit of the SAM is that you can attach a counterweight to it, which gives it an edge when you mount heavier loads.
If you use a heavier camera and lens combo, such as a DSLR body or a medium-range lens, the Star Adventurer Mini is a great portable option to consider.
The SkyWatcher Star Adventurer Mini uses 2 AA batteries and has a run time of roughly 24 hours. The battery duration for this star tracker is outstanding, only second to the Star Adventurer Pro. However, the fact that it uses 2 AA batteries is a downside. An internal battery would be much more convenient, and I hope SkyWatcher will add this to their future models.
The SkyWatcher Star Adventurer Mini comes with a polar scope included in the box. This polar scope is easy to use and it gets the job done, but the illuminator, the same as the Skywatcher pro, is a poorly designed piece of plastic that is easy to break or lose.
Additionally, the Star Adventurer Mini has a polar finder that can help do a rough polar alignment. If you are using a wide-angle lens, this might be enough; otherwise, you’ll have to refine it.
Read our article about how to get started in astrophotography with a star tracker to learn about polar alignment and more!
Declination Bracket & Counterweight
The SkyWatcher Star Adventurer Mini ships with a declination bracket if you get the Pro Pack; however, it doesn’t come with a counterweight, you’ll have to purchase that separately.
The declination bracket is made of metal and is solid. For heavier setups, I recommend using the declination bracket since it’ll give more stability even without the counterweight.
The SkyWatcher Star Adventurer Mini is built almost entirely of metal. There are a few plastic bits, but overall, the built quality is excellent. Regardless of how light it is, it feels sturdy.
The internal components are also very well built; the gearings are all metal. This shows in the tracking precision, which is one of the best in its category.
From a design standpoint, SkyWatcher needs to implement internal batteries on their star trackers instead of using small AA batteries, which are unreliable and not as convenient as an internal battery.
SkyWatcher Star Adventurer Mini Wi-Fi
The SkyWatcher Star Adventurer Mini works through a Wi-Fi network; this means, you need a smartphone and a phone app with you to be able to operate this unit.
The Star Adventurer Console app (which is free to download both on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store) allows you to do everything from polar alignment to setting up a time-lapse. The app itself gets the job done, and the interface is simple.
However, the Wi-Fi on the Star Adventurer Mini could be improved. My experience working with it hasn’t been smooth, and I’ve found it hard to connect to the unit, and even after connecting, the connection drops every now and then.
SkyWatcher Star Adventurer Mini Polar Alignment
Polar alignment with the SAM is straightforward and similar to the process in other portable star trackers.
The SkyWatcher Star Adventurer Mini uses the same polar scope and equatorial wedge as its bigger brother, the Star Adventurer 2i. With these two accessories, it’s easy to achieve a precise polar alignment.
The SkyWatcher Star Adventurer Mini can do 1-2-minute exposures with a precise polar alignment, using a wide angle or medium focal range lens. This is on par with its direct competitors, the iOptron SkyTracker Pro and the MSM Rotator.
Tracking performance on the Star Adventurer Mini is great, mostly when you use light setups, such as a mirrorless camera and a wide-angle lens. However, this tracker is not meant for deep sky astrophotography; take a look at our best star tracker list to find out different models more capable of deep sky astrophotography.
For a complete step-by-step guide on how to use your star tracker, check out the article I wrote on how to do astrophotography with a star tracker.
SkyWatcher Star Adventurer Mini Setup
In this SkyWatcher Star Adventurer Mini review, I want to quickly go over the steps you need to follow to set up your SAM. The process can seem complicated if you’ve never done it before, but by following these simple steps, I guarantee that you’ll have your Star Adventurer Mini tracking in no time!
- Place your tripod and make sure it’s leveled.
- Mount the equatorial wedge
- Attach the Star Adventurer Mini to the EQ wedge
- For heavy payloads, mount the declination bracket and counterweight. Otherwise, use a ball head instead.
- Turn the Star Adventurer Mini on
- Connect your smartphone to the Star Adventurer Mini
- Do the polar alignment.
- Mount the camera with its accessories
- Choose your composition and star tracking!
Read our astrophotography with a star tracker article for a more in-depth breakdown of every step to set up a star tracker.
SkyWatcher Star Adventurer Mini Kits & Prices
If you are considering the SkyWatcher Star Adventurer Mini as your new star tracker, you should know that there are two main packages available: the Pro Pack and the standalone Star Adventurer Mini (which is only the star tracker).
SkyWatcher Star Adventurer Mini Pro Pack
The SkyWatcher Star Adventurer Mini Pro Pack retails at $399, but sometimes you can find it on sale for a bit less. This is the package I recommend since it offers the best value for money.
This kit will allow you to take stunning Astro images such as Milky Way panoramas, mosaics, and more. Also, it ships with a declination bracket, so you can attach a counterweight in the future if you need to mount a heavier setup.
The SkyWatcher Star Adventurer Mini Pro Pack includes the following:
SkyWatcher Star Adventurer Mini vs. MSM Star Tracker
The SkyWatcher Star Adventurer Mini and the MSM Star Tracker are direct competitors when it comes to portability. Both trackers feature a compact and light design, perfect for those photographers chasing original images in remote locations.
However, the Star Adventurer Mini and the MSM Star Tracker have some key differences worth noting.
I already wrote a detailed comparison in my MSM Star Tracker review article, but to sum it up, these are the scenarios where I would choose one star tracker over the other:
- For heavier loads, I would choose the Star Adventurer Mini. Both star trackers have the same maximum payload capacity; however, since the SAM supports counterweights, it will perform better with heavier setups.
- For ease of use and convenience I would choose the Move Shoot Move Star Tracker. It’s very simple to set up and start shooting. It is lightweight enough to take with you wherever you go.
SkyWatcher Star Adventurer Mini vs. iOptron SkyTracker Pro
The other direct competitor of the SkyWatcher Star Adventurer Mini is the iOptron SkyTracker Pro.
Both star trackers were designed to be very portable and light; however, when it comes to weight and portability, the SAM is slightly lighter than the model from iOptron and its shape also make it easier to transport.
When talking about the battery, this is a win for the Skytracker Pro. The star tracker by iOptron features an internal rechargeable battery that lasts up to 20 hours on one charge. The Star Adventurer Mini runs up to 24 hours on 2 AA batteries. The convenience of having an internal battery is hard to beat.
In terms of usability, this is another win for the iOptron Skytracker Pro. Its physical buttons make it easier to set up and operate, and the polar alignment process is easier thanks to the better polar scope. The Star Adventurer Mini has a great equatorial wedge, but the polar scope is not as good.
Finally, when it comes to tracking performance, the Star Adventurer Mini and the Skytracker Pro are tied. They both offer excellent tracking performance with wide angle and medium focal range lenses. Both star trackers are compatible with counterweights, which makes the tracking even more precise if you load a heavier setup.
SkyWatcher Star Adventurer Mini vs. SkyWatcher Star Adventurer 2i
Both the SkyWatcher Star Adventurer Mini and the Adventurer 2i are outstanding portable astrophotography mounts. However, the Star Adventurer 2i has the edge on all features, except for weight. The Star Adventurer Mini was designed to be the portable version of its bigger brother.
If you have a light camera and lens setup, and you just want to take simple, yet stunning, Milky Way images, I recommend the Star Adventurer Mini. However, if your camera and lens combo is heavier than 6.6lbs (3KG), I recommend the Adventurer 2i.
SkyWatcher Star Adventurer Mini FAQ
The SkyWatcher Star Adventurer Mini will run for up to 24 hours on 2 AA batteries. You can also charge this star tracker using an external power source such as a power bank.
The SkyWatcher Star Adventurer Mini has a maximum payload capacity of 6.6 lbs (3 KG). This makes it ideal for mirrorless cameras or DSLR with light lenses.
The SkyWatcher Star Adventurer Mini is an outstanding star tracker and is definitely worth it. If you are looking for a portable, yet powerful and reliable star tracker, the Star Adventurer Mini is a great fit. However, when it comes to ease of use, its competitors; such as the MSM Star Tracker or the iOptron SkyTracker Pro, are better options.
Conclusion – Is the SkyWatcher Star Adventurer Mini Worth it?
|The SkyWatcher Star Adventurer Mini is one of the best star trackers in the market. Its excellent tracking capabilities, build quality and features makes it a great star tracker for both beginners and professionals looking for a portable star tracker. However, having to rely on a Wi-Fi connection to operate the SAM is less than ideal, and some features like the battery system and the polar scope illuminator could be improved.|
If you are planning on purchasing the SkyWatcher Star Adventurer Mini, I recommend you get the Pro Pack, this is the best value for money. This package will allow you to take stunning and complex Milky Way images!
To see how this star tracker compares to others on the market, I suggest you take a look at our best star tracker list, where you’ll find everything you need to take the next step in your astrophotography journey.
If you have any questions related to the Star Adventurer Mini, leave them in the comments section below and I’ll be happy to help.