AstroTrac 360?

Started Mar 21, 2018 | Discussions thread
rnclark Veteran Member • Posts: 3,957
Re: AstroTrac 360?
4

swimswithtrout wrote:

RudyPohl wrote:

Pogo65 wrote:

I have to agree about the price, however you are looking at a highly capable (claimed) german equatorial here that is also very portable and modular as it can be taken apart and used as two camera trackers if the need arises. If not, you have a german equatorial mount that has a 5 arcsec accuracy and with goto capability as well from what I understand( even though I don't find that last capability so important, it can certainly help to put small objects in your field of view whith longer focal lengths, which this mount is supposed to be able to handle as they claim.

Considering all that, I think the price is high but reasonable.

I have been watching for the unveiling of this new tracking mount from Astrotrac for almost 3 months now and I must say that I am so disappointed at the price point. Here in Canada this item will be $4350 plus taxes (13%), plus shipping ($100) for a total approximating $5000! There's only one word for that - "insane!"

There are a few reasons why I have serious doubts that this product will succeed in the marketplace and why we might be witnessing the end of Astrotrac as a viable company, if in fact it still is one at the present time.

1. The price. Like I said, it's an insane price for what you get that will ensure only those with the highest discretionary funds available for hobbies will buy one of these trackers. This will be a unguided portable tracker for the exceedingly well off of which there are not all that many.

2. This is a totally unproven product. We're not even being shown a real, live working prototype complete with videos and sample astro-images. Who has ever heard of a serious product launch without a working prototype and samples? All that we're being presented with here are some great-looking drawings and a whole lot of claims and promises.

3. Astrotrac has had a terrible record, especially in recent years, for product and customer support - "abandonment" is the operative word. They could be the poster child in the astro-imaging world for the category of "most unresponsive company". So given this abysmal track record are you willing to lay down this huge amount of cash on the hopes that this product lives up to it's claims, and that if there are design and/or other problems, that you will have them addressed and remedied in a timely fashion? Not me.

Given the fact that Astrotrac is known around the globe for the world's poorest polar scope and polar alignment solution ever, which after many years of complaints from frustrated users they apparently did not even try to address and remedy, what has changed in their ownership or board of directors or company philosophy to assure us that a similar major flaw does not exist in the 360 model and if so, that users won't once again get stuck holding the bag?

4. Finally, I would not be surprised to learn that Astrotrac is in serious financial difficulty and may never even complete and bring to market this new model. Why do I say this? For two reasons. One, as mentioned above, they do not even have a working, tested and reviewed prototype, even after all this time. And two, they are asking for huge order reservation deposits and yet do not expect to be shipping till some time in the third quarter. Why would they need a thousand pounds from each person other than they don't have the cash flow to complete the project? Everything may very well be in good shape, financially sound, and on track production-wise behind the scenes; I hope for everyone's sake that is the case, especially for Astrotrac as I really would like them to succeed. However, I personally would not take that risk.

Summary:

Given these serious potential downsides to purchasing one of these units, which presently consists of only claims, promises and diagrams, and given Astrotrac's less than stellar history when it comes to product and customer support, my stance is, "Astrotrac, the ball is in your court and you need to earn back the trust and the confidence of the astro-imaging community."

my 2 cents,
Rudy

I finally got to their web page and if I didn't know better, I'd have thought it an April Fools joke.....

An 11lb mount that can carry 22lbs, an 8" f7 RC, and image with "only" 5" of error ???
I don't even like shooting my little AT 65 mm (fl 420mm) at more than 1.5" error, which only happens in the worst of seeing conditions

Even a moderate GEM, with autoguiding , is going to struggle shooting with an 8" RC at native FL. Using a NIkon D5300, I'd need accuracy in the sub 0.5" range to feel comfortable !! The "lightest weight" GEM that is just barely able to handle an 8" RC is the Orion Atlas/ SW EQ6 and they think an 11lb mount can beat that ?

Before I respond you your post, Swims, let me say I agree with all of Rudy's points.

Regarding the above, the new astrotrac is aimed at a completely different market: those who want extreme portability. I could not do my recent trips (24,000 miles in about 6 weeks) with a gem or any other big heavy equatorial mount.

But the original astrotrac is only 1 kg mount (2.2 pounds) with a claimed 15 kg (33 pound) capacity. I would have to weigh what I put on it, but it is on the order of 5 kg (11 pounds) (Canon 7D2, 300 f/2.8 + TC, gimbal head, or 1D mark 4 and add another pound). The tracking accuracy is also around 5-arc-seconds.  With short exposures, I get tracking accuracy in a single exposure of about an arc-second.

So what does the new astrotrac 360 get me? At some 4+ times the price and 5 times the weight for similar tracking accuracy, just to go more than 2 hours? No thanks.

Even their claim of using a 100mm APO is ludicrous at 5" error. I'd want want well under 1" accuracy.

Their price point puts it on par with a "super premium" GEM, that can actually shoot at 1-2" accuracy without autoguiding, and well below 0.5" with guiding, and carry 40-60 lbs. without blinking an eye.

Not that I'm even looking for another mount, but this thing sounds like nothing but a marketing pipe dream, and terrible on all accounts.

For this price, and new technology, I too would expect much better tracking accuracy. Maybe they a going for an even smaller niche market: extreme portability with autoguiding, as that is the only way to get better than 5 arc-sec with this device.

But I believe there is a hidden problem that buyers may not be aware of unless they have loaded a astrotrac type device: that is the problem of wind. As one pushes up focal length and resolution to the sub 3-arc-seconds per pixel, stability is more important, not just tracking accuracy. With a big optical tube on a very light mount, the flexing in wind destroys stability, and tracking, even with autoguiding, is crap.

In my recent trip to Tanzania, I tried for 2 nights to image the Eta Carina nebula at 300 mm f/2.8 on my astrotrac.  Wind destroyed most of my exposures, often shaking so much the star images are amazing patterns 30 to 60 arc-seconds across.

It is not worth trying to get images with my 300 f/2.8 on my astrotrac if there is even a moderate breeze. The only solutions are: 1) only work on clear calm nights, 2) make a wind break. I'm working on #2 but do not yet have a good solution. 3) Use a heavier mount. I have a Losmandy G11 and autoguider, but it is hard to pack onto an airplane--costs go way up.

So the new astrotrac does not seem like a solution. Maybe the reviews will show these problems have been solved, but I'm skeptical.

Also disturbing is the astrotrac pages for the existing astrotrac have been removed:

https://www.astrotrac.com/product-page/tt320x-ag no longer exists.

So it appears they have stopped making the 320 model.  Most manufacturers leave such pages up and say discontinued, so people will know their legacy products, e.g. for the used market.  This makes me wonder if they even have any stock in parts for repairs.

Looks like the Fornax lighttrack II is the future for the more reasonably priced portable market with longer lenses.

Roger

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