Standard Tracker Gear


Standard Gear List

Here's the basic gear you need for astrophotography with the Move Shoot Move (MSM) Star Tracker.

Tripod

The MSM Star Tracker is meant to be an inexpensive travel tracker for astro-landscape. Small and lightweight; something you can carry in a backpack. Therefore the tripod needs to meet the same criteria and yet be sturdy.

  • Benro Slim Aluminum. They also have a carbon fiber version of this tripod, the Slim Carbon, that is only $40 more.

  • Vanguard VEO 2 235AB. They also have a carbon fiber version of this tripod, the 235CB, that is only $60 more.

  • I would recommend the Manfrotto Befree but their proprietary quick release should be avoided at all costs.

  • Whatever. Really, if you're just shooting wide angle and it's not windy, you can use just about anything. I always carry this ESDDI tripod around in my trunk.

  • I'm Made of Money. Then either a Gitzo or a 3 Legged Thing. I'm going to recommend the Leo.

Lower Mount

The first mount you need goes between the tripod and the tracker. It will be used for polar alignment which requires the ability to make small precise changes.

  • MSM Wedge. It comes in many of the kits or may be purchased separately. Based on standard tracker wedge design it is optimized to meet the design goals of the MSM of being small, lightweight, and inexpensive.

  • V-Mount. Not as precise but definitely a contender as the smallest and lightest option. Perfect for wide angle shooting when backpacking.

  • Whatever. Yes for wide angle astro-landscape photography whatever ball head you have laying around will work.

  • I'm Made of Money. William Optics Wedge. Top of the line in tracker wedges. Heavy.

MSM Star Tracker

  • Pro Kit B gets you the Tracker, Wedge, Laser, and Head Lamp in one package. Although they do sell a polar scope, for wide angle lenses you will not need it.
    You will want to do a one time alignment of the laser for the best accuracy.

  • Tracker Only and buy the Phone Mount separately. If you are in the southern hemisphere or a country that does not allow lasers

  • 5% off if you use the code: MrRat

Upper Mount

The second mount you need goes between the tracker and your camera. It will be used to aim your camera at the target you intend to shoot.

  • 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 astrophotography.

  • Z-Mount. or as mount 1½. This small device can be used by itself or in combination with a ball head to provide more flexibility in positioning your camera.

  • Whatever. I cannot recommend the whatever ball head you have laying around option. Cheap ball heads lack the strength to hold position and the tension adjustment lacks the precision to allow you to make fine adjustments.

  • I'm Made of Money. Acratech GPSS Travel Ball-Head. Works as good as it looks.

Camera

If you are looking to buy a new camera for astrophotography then get a new mirrorless, not a used DSLR off ebay. The newer the camera the better the low light performance. Mirrorless cameras, as a bonus, having a shorter distance from lens mount to sensor can use adapters to replicate the distance and mount type of older DSLRs and so use your existing lenses.

  • Sony a7 III. At one time they were making the only mirrorless cameras worth using. In my opinion they still make the best sensors.

  • Canon R6 II . They are playing catch up to Sony, but are a huge company that is trying hard. Their second generation mirrorless are worth looking at.

  • Nikon Z6 II. Their second generation mirrorless are worth looking at.

  • Whatever. Does your existing DSLR shoot raw and have a manual mode? If so then you can use it.

  • I'm Made of Money. Then proceed to the Advanced Gear List where I show you how to burn through that pile of dough.

Lenses

You're going to want fast prime lenses. Lenses recommended for astrophotography are going to have low comatic aberrations. Not all lenses are built with that in mind.

Wide

  • Rokinon 14mm f/2.8. a.k.a. Samyang. THE standard in astrophotography. Canon EF - Canon R - Sony E - Nikon F - Nikon Z

  • Irix 15mm f/2.4 Firefly. A less established lens maker but supportive of the astrophotography community. Canon EF - Nikon F - Sony is not yet released.

  • Whatever. Feel free to shoot with every lens you own. Especially prime lenses at 50mm or below.

  • I'm Made of Money. Sigma Art 14mm f/1.8. Canon EF - Sony E - Nikon F. The 24mm Art is also a good choice.

Telephoto

  • Rokinon 135mm f/2. a.k.a. Samyang. My standard for DSO astrophotography. Canon EF - Sony E - Nikon F

  • IRIX 150mm f/2.8 Dragonfly. A good lens but being a macro lens makes it harder to focus at infinity. Canon EF - Nikon F

  • Whatever. Feel free to shoot with every lens you own. Especially fast lenses under the physical limit of 305mm long (it's a torque thing).

  • I'm Made of Money. Sigma Art 135mm f/1.8. Canon EF - Sony E - Nikon F

Miscellaneous

You can never have enough stuff.

  • 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.

  • 2A Power Bank . Needed to power the dew heater. I own several cheaper power banks but this is the only one powerful enough to run a dew heater.

  • Phone Mount. This holds your phone in place away from the tracker so that you can use an app to get a polar alignment that works well for wide angle photography.

  • Red Headlamp. If you didn't buy the Pro Kit it you will need to buy this separately. The last thing you want to do after polar aligning is to bump into the tripod.

  • Hoya Starscape Filter. Not only blocks light pollution but it is a red enhancing filter which will make interstellar gases (h-alpha) more apparent. I always buy my camera filters at 77mm then use step up rings for any smaller lenses I own.

  • Intervalometer. A remote timer that is needed for long exposures. Even if your camera says it has this built in you are still going to want to buy one of these. Any third party intervalometer will do as they all appear to use the same electronics. The one linked just includes cables for all different cameras.