Advanced Tracker Gear


Advanced Gear List

Here's what you need to take your astrophotography to the next level with the Move Shoot Move (MSM) Star Tracker.

The Complete Kit gets you everything you need except for a tripod and ball head. You do want both the laser and the polar scope; for me at least the laser is sufficient for targets to the north but targets overhead or to the south require the higher precision of the polar scope. There are a few other options you may want to consider also:

  • Benro Geared Head. A geared head trades the compactness and portability of the Wedge for more precision. If you travel with the MSM you want the wedge; if you shoot from your backyard, as I do, I recommend the geared head.

  • Z-Mount. This small device allows you more flexibility in moving the ball head away from the tracker and tripod to easier position your camera.

  • Dew Heater. By slightly heating your lens it keeps dew from forming and blurring your shot. I've forgotten to turn mine on before and actually had the lens frost over.

  • Red Headlamp. The last thing you want to do after polar aligning is to bump into the tripod.

  • 5% off if you use the code: MrRat

Not wanting to spend time fighting my photos I wanted a camera that was capable of usable one shot color images. For me this set the list of requirements;

  • Sony Back-illuminated CMOS. Having experience with back-illuminated sensors in cameras I knew that they are a game changer for low light. High light sensitivity + wide dynamic range = Sony.

  • APS-C sensor. Surprising how much people will argue in favor of a full frame DSLR for astro and then when they switch to a dedicated camera they are fine with a one inch sensor. My requirement was 4/3 or higher, preferably APS-C.

  • Around 24 megapixels. This one really gets technical but suffice it to say at the time of my purchase this was the correct number.
    (A 26mp Sony APS-C sensor gives you a 3.76um pixel size with a 50ke well depth.)

  • Color. This was the hardest decision. Three factors pushed me to the purchase I made; the perfect camera was not yet available in mono, the cost of filters and wheel was high, and I notice people never seem to have enough time to properly finish their set of images so end up compromising.

  • Cooled. No question about it. This is what makes a dedicated astro camera better than a modified DSLR. Cooling the sensor reduces noise.

Welcome to dedicated astro cameras; they're stupid. The ASI2600 pretty much consists of a sensor, an air conditioner, and a dew heater, that's it, no brains. You can use a laptop and freely available software (linked to at ZWO site) or you can buy one of these dedicated astro computers and control the camera over WiFi with an app on your cellphone. This Pro version also includes USB and 5v power ports for accessories.

When using both the ASIAir and the Z-Mount you can do polar alignment using plate solving which is extremely accurate.

A portable telescope that can work with the MSM.

  • APO Triplet Refractor - trust me this is good. This is the type telescope you want for astrophotography when you are transitioning from lenses.

  • 180mm focal length is ultra wide in telescopes.

  • f/4.5 is considered fast for telescopes.

  • 395g and 145mm make it smaller and lighter than most lenses.

Miscellaneous

You can never have enough stuff:

  • Manfrotto 055 XPRO 3 - a beast of a tripod. Not for traveling with, for stability.

  • Benro IB2 Ball Head - the perfect blend of cost and strength. I own several cheaper heads but this is the only one I trust for astro.

  • ZWO Holder Ring - like a lens collar for the ASI2600MC camera. Since the telescope weighs less than the camera i want to support the camera.

  • 150mm Arca-Swiss Plate - replace the plate on the ZWO Holder Ring to allow you to balance the weight better over the MSM.

  • ZWO Adapter with Filter Drawer for EOS - lets you attach standard Canon lenses to the ZWO camera, with holder for 2" filters.

  • T-Ring Adapter for Canon EOS - lets you connect a Canon DSLR to a telescope. Can also be used to connect the EOS Filter Drawer to a telescope.

  • ZWO Duo-Band 2" Filter - dual narrowband filters out that pesky light pollution. Also removes moonlight!

  • Baader UV-IR Cut Filter - this filter cuts star bloat when using a dedicated astro camera.

  • 330 Watt Power Station - big ol battery. Should be able to run all your equipment all night on this.

  • DC 5.5x2.1 Power Cable - to provide power to ASIAir from big ol battery. This is the cable you want. The ASIAir can pull 10 amps, the battery cigarette port can put out 10 amps, all other ports and cables are rated at 5 amps. This is a 10 amp cable. You're welcome.

  • Tripod Hammock - put the big ol battery in it. Holds the battery where you can get to it and the added weight stabilizes the tripod.

  • TP-Link WiFi Extender - the WiFi range on the ASIAir at 5ghz is very small, so I use this device to extend the signal to my couch :)

  • ZWO Advanced EAF - electronic auto focuser with temperature sensor. Let the ASIAir control the focus of the telescope throughout the session.

  • Askar 180mm EAF Kit - the ZWO EAF doesn't work with the telescope by default so a third party kit has to be used.