Weighing only 2.6 lbs, the second-generation iOptron SkyTracker portable equatorial camera tracking mount attaches to any standard camera tripod to form a highly portable DC drive equatorial mount for wide-field imaging.
The payload capacity of this second-generation iOptron SkyTracker has been increased to hold camera/lens combos weighing up to 7.7 lbs (3.5 kg) for serious constellation/Milky Way star field astrophotography. A reviewer in Sky & Telescope magazine called the first-generation version "the hands-down best value I know of in a camera-tracking platform."
The black-finished cast aluminum body SkyTracker is simple to use. Just attach the SkyTracker to your own standard camera tripod legs, using the 3/8” hole in the underside of the SkyTracker. You can unthread your tripod’s pan head to expose the 3/8” bolt on the top of most tripod legs. The SkyTracker has an adjustable azimuth base so you can adjust the mount in azimuth during polar alignment, without having to move the tripod.
You can also mount the SkyTracker on your tripod’s pan head, instead of your tripod’s legs. However, you will need an optional adapter bushing (available at most camera stores) to go from your pan head’s 1/4”-20 thread camera mounting bolt to the SkyTracker’s 3/8” mounting hole. Mounting the SkyTracker on your tripod’s pan head will add some possible instability to the system, so direct mounting to your tripod’s legs is highly recommended.
Thread an optional ball head mount onto the SkyTracker (the iOptron #3305 is a good one), then mount your digital camera on the ball head. Align the SkyTracker on Polaris, using the built-in peep sight and the included dark field illuminated 6° field of view polar scope (which is "exceptionally accurate and extremely easy to use," according to the Sky & Telescope review).
A built in compass and precision worm-drive latitude adjustment make it easy to do a fairly accurate polar alignment. iOptron also has an app available for the iPhone and iPad at (https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/ioptronpolarscope/id564078961?mt=8) that will make polar aligning very accurate.
Turn on the SkyTracker DC drive and it keeps your camera following the motion of the stars in right ascension at the same speed the earth rotates to avoid star trails during your long exposures for beautiful wide-field images of the night sky. The lightweight SkyTracker runs on four user-supplied AA batteries for portability at any location, and can track for up to 20 hours on one set of batteries in mild weather (12 hours in very cold weather).
The DC servo motor drive system uses an 80mm 156-tooth worm wheel, an 11mm brass worm gear, four ball bearings (two on the worm wheel and two on the worm gear), and a speed-regulating optical encoder for smooth and accurate tracking. The 6” x 4” x 2.3” SkyTracker will operate over a 14° to 104° Fahrenheit temperature range and can be used over a 0° to 70° latitude range in both northern and southern hemispheres.
The Sky & Telescope reviewer tested the original SkyTracker with telephoto lenses up to 180mm in focal length and concluded, "I was highly impressed with its performance . . . with the SkyTracker carefully aligned, the tracking was the match of many small equatorial mounts I have used for telescopes . . . extremely simple to use . . . construction quality that I would have expected in a unit costing much more . . . the best value I know of for a camera tracker."