Astrotrac 360

Started Oct 15, 2020 | Discussions
Pogo65 Regular Member • Posts: 376
Astrotrac 360
8

Hi all,

after quite an extensive waiting period, I finally took delivery of a brand new Astrotrac 360. For those of you who don’t know what it is, Astrotrac 360 is a new high end tracker and German equatorial in one, highly accurate through friction drives with encoders. It can be used in different configurations through its modular design, which makes it highly portable and travelfriendly. It is beautifully made and very high quality.

I can’t wait to test it out under the stars, which for now has to wait awhile due to our horrible autumn weather here, but as soon as I do I will report it hear.

I shot some pictures while unpacking it, so you can get a good idea of its size. I als took some snapshots of all the different configurations it can be used in.

If you are in the market for a new toy, be sure to take a look!

Cheers,

Peter

The shipping boxes, camera added in the frame for relative size.

Everything unpacked, again my camera in the frame for relative size.

Beautiful detail visible through transparent covers.

Simple tracker configuration.

Camera can be slid along the tracker for perfect balance.

Polar scope sits tightly in the unit and gets internal light from the tracker unit.

Dual axis configuration for a camera and lens, no counterweight needed. Possible to guide both axis.

Finally, the full equatorial setup with counterweight, for heavier scope and camera setups.

DMcGarvey
DMcGarvey Regular Member • Posts: 263
Re: Astrotrac 360
1

Looks like a high quality unit.  Anxious to know what the performance is like.  I'm an AstroTrac user (classic model) and still very pleased with it.  Always been curious about what the 360 would perform like, especially with longer focal length lenses/scopes.

Astrophotographer 10 Forum Pro • Posts: 13,907
Re: Astrotrac 360

Congrats on your new mount. It looks terrific.

I look forward to your review of it later on.

Greg.

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1llusive
1llusive Veteran Member • Posts: 3,559
Re: Astrotrac 360

What were your reasons for choosing this over others?

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ChrisBeere
ChrisBeere Regular Member • Posts: 236
Re: Astrotrac 360
1

I considered upgrading from my Fornax to the 360 but held fire. After talking to Richard I discovered that it only connects to the wedge natively and does not support a 3/8 Arca plate so I could not use my D4 to polar align. It is of course possible to machine an adaptor but I don't have access to the necessary equipment.

It looks like an awesome bit of kit and I've no doubt I will upgrade at some point in the not too distant future, simply wont be able to resist 

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OP Pogo65 Regular Member • Posts: 376
Re: Astrotrac 360

ChrisBeere wrote:

I considered upgrading from my Fornax to the 360 but held fire. After talking to Richard I discovered that it only connects to the wedge natively and does not support a 3/8 Arca plate so I could not use my D4 to polar align. It is of course possible to machine an adaptor but I don't have access to the necessary equipment.

It looks like an awesome bit of kit and I've no doubt I will upgrade at some point in the not too distant future, simply wont be able to resist

I don’t want to be the one tush you over the edge, but it would be easy to either connect a vixen dovetail to the bottom of your camera or attach a saddle to the mount. Plenty of ways to attach just about anything to the mount as well. No machining needed.

any more excuses?😀

OP Pogo65 Regular Member • Posts: 376
Re: Astrotrac 360

1llusive wrote:

What were your reasons for choosing this over others?

Hi,

Well I owned the Fornax ( which I have now sold). I have been in this game for a while and always had to travel to dark sites. I have always been looking for capable but portable German equatorial setup without to many compromises. For my larger scopes I have an Astrophysics Mach1 mount. When working with it it always just sort of disappears into the background; it quietly and reliably does what it is supposed to do, something I never experienced with cheaper material.

The Fornax was/is awesome. Maybe a bit flimsy, but the biggest problem I have with it is that it is just a tracker. When working with longer lenses or a small scope it becomes a bit of a pain to use I think. No fault of Fornax, because it simply wasn’t designed to really do that, but it happens to track very well so everybody tries, including me.

Now the Astrotrac is much more than just a portable tracker ( which it certainly also is). Modular, lightweight, travelfriendly and in its full setup a full German equatorial with motors on both axis and GoTo ( although not yet available with the early software). It can be guided on both axis, if needed. You run it of your phone’s browser or a tablet or computer. And if your power of your phone runs out, it still tracks in standalone mode, just like the Fornax. 
I think this will be the mount that I always wanted for travel. With friction drives and encoders it should also be very accurate. One user already reported stopping his autoguiding, because it was just as good without.

I haven’t had mine outside yet, but when I do I will report here.

Cheers,

Peter

1llusive
1llusive Veteran Member • Posts: 3,559
Re: Astrotrac 360

Pogo65 wrote:

1llusive wrote:

What were your reasons for choosing this over others?

Hi,

Well I owned the Fornax ( which I have now sold). I have been in this game for a while and always had to travel to dark sites. I have always been looking for capable but portable German equatorial setup without to many compromises. For my larger scopes I have an Astrophysics Mach1 mount. When working with it it always just sort of disappears into the background; it quietly and reliably does what it is supposed to do, something I never experienced with cheaper material.

The Fornax was/is awesome. Maybe a bit flimsy, but the biggest problem I have with it is that it is just a tracker. When working with longer lenses or a small scope it becomes a bit of a pain to use I think. No fault of Fornax, because it simply wasn’t designed to really do that, but it happens to track very well so everybody tries, including me.

Now the Astrotrac is much more than just a portable tracker ( which it certainly also is). Modular, lightweight, travelfriendly and in its full setup a full German equatorial with motors on both axis and GoTo ( although not yet available with the early software). It can be guided on both axis, if needed. You run it of your phone’s browser or a tablet or computer. And if your power of your phone runs out, it still tracks in standalone mode, just like the Fornax.
I think this will be the mount that I always wanted for travel. With friction drives and encoders it should also be very accurate. One user already reported stopping his autoguiding, because it was just as good without.

I haven’t had mine outside yet, but when I do I will report here.

Cheers,

Peter

Hmm. I'm seeing that guiding is claimed as an advantage, but the LighTrack doesn't need guiding.

So that leaves how it handles longer lenses.

It has been a challenge to use bigger optics but it's certainly not impossible, especially with the counterweight bar. Most of the struggle comes from figuring out what kinds of adapters to use for people's various equipment.

If the 360 does enable go-to functionality, that changes things. If you can dial in a target then fine-tune the composition with phone commands (acknowledging that you still need to physically rotate the camera as well) that could make life easier.

 1llusive's gear list:1llusive's gear list
Nikon Z6 II Sigma 100-400mm F5-6.3 Nikon Z 24-70mm F4 Nikon Z 85mm F1.8 +1 more
OP Pogo65 Regular Member • Posts: 376
Re: Astrotrac 360

1llusive wrote:

Pogo65 wrote:

1llusive wrote:

What were your reasons for choosing this over others?

Hi,

Well I owned the Fornax ( which I have now sold). I have been in this game for a while and always had to travel to dark sites. I have always been looking for capable but portable German equatorial setup without to many compromises. For my larger scopes I have an Astrophysics Mach1 mount. When working with it it always just sort of disappears into the background; it quietly and reliably does what it is supposed to do, something I never experienced with cheaper material.

The Fornax was/is awesome. Maybe a bit flimsy, but the biggest problem I have with it is that it is just a tracker. When working with longer lenses or a small scope it becomes a bit of a pain to use I think. No fault of Fornax, because it simply wasn’t designed to really do that, but it happens to track very well so everybody tries, including me.

Now the Astrotrac is much more than just a portable tracker ( which it certainly also is). Modular, lightweight, travelfriendly and in its full setup a full German equatorial with motors on both axis and GoTo ( although not yet available with the early software). It can be guided on both axis, if needed. You run it of your phone’s browser or a tablet or computer. And if your power of your phone runs out, it still tracks in standalone mode, just like the Fornax.
I think this will be the mount that I always wanted for travel. With friction drives and encoders it should also be very accurate. One user already reported stopping his autoguiding, because it was just as good without.

I haven’t had mine outside yet, but when I do I will report here.

Cheers,

Peter

Hmm. I'm seeing that guiding is claimed as an advantage, but the LighTrack doesn't need guiding.

So that leaves how it handles longer lenses.

It has been a challenge to use bigger optics but it's certainly not impossible, especially with the counterweight bar. Most of the struggle comes from figuring out what kinds of adapters to use for people's various equipment.

If the 360 does enable go-to functionality, that changes things. If you can dial in a target then fine-tune the composition with phone commands (acknowledging that you still need to physically rotate the camera as well) that could make life easier.

Lighttrack can be guided as well, be it on only one axis (the only one it has) . For best results at longer focal lengths even the best mounts need guiding due to non perfect polar alignment and other effects. Where the Lighttrack does not need guiding, this mount should not need it either. Not only does it have friction drives as does the Lighttrack, but it also has high resolution encoders as well. So, on paper at least it should outperform the Lighttrack. 
And don’t forget the limited tracking range of the lighttrack versus no limit on the Astrotrac.  Being able to precisely move both axis using a handcontroller/phone is a huge advantage for centering objects, especially at longer focal lengths, and will become even easier once GoTo becomes available and connectivity to SkySafari for example. Honestly I think the Lighttrack is great for what it is, but this is much more capable and is like apples and oranges to compare in my opinion.

Cheers,

Peter

OP Pogo65 Regular Member • Posts: 376
Re: Astrotrac 360

No text.

Astrophotographer 10 Forum Pro • Posts: 13,907
Re: Astrotrac 360
1

ChrisBeere wrote:

I considered upgrading from my Fornax to the 360 but held fire. After talking to Richard I discovered that it only connects to the wedge natively and does not support a 3/8 Arca plate so I could not use my D4 to polar align. It is of course possible to machine an adaptor but I don't have access to the necessary equipment.

It looks like an awesome bit of kit and I've no doubt I will upgrade at some point in the not too distant future, simply wont be able to resist

How do you use your D4 to Polar Align? (Nikon D4 camera I am assuming).

Polar alignment is best done with the mount fully loaded not empty as it may flex once loaded up.

Greg.

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ChrisBeere
ChrisBeere Regular Member • Posts: 236
Re: Astrotrac 360
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OP Pogo65 Regular Member • Posts: 376
Re: Astrotrac 360

Hey Chris,

I misunderstood as well, sorry. Like that D 4 by the way.

What I still do not understand is why you would even want to put that on the Astrotrac, or even on your setup with that declination unit on the Fornax. Seems to me that without you can point at any point in the sky. Certainly with the Astrotrac. Still if you would really wat to, you can still easily attach an Arca saddle to the Atrotrac if you really want that.

Cheers,

Peter

OP Pogo65 Regular Member • Posts: 376
Re: Astrotrac 360

Ah, again I misunderstood! You wat to use that D4 in place of a wedge, now I get it. What makes you prefer that over the wedge that Astrotrac or Fornax can provide?

ChrisBeere
ChrisBeere Regular Member • Posts: 236
Re: Astrotrac 360

Ive used both the Astrotrac and Fornax wedges, all the Manfrotto geared heads and a few Benro geared heads over the years and while they all got the job done they were all underwhelming.

The geared heads all exhibited tons of backlash and the wedges were clunky at the best of times, especially in the southern hemisphere where aligning requires a lot more effort than up north (i do most of my imaging from Namibia).

This year i decided to take the plunge and invest in dual D4s (standard edition for polar alignment and the GP for the camera).

The D4s exhibits zero backlash and are just on a different level. The precision under load is remarkable.

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OP Pogo65 Regular Member • Posts: 376
Re: Astrotrac 360

Ah, I hear you. Those things can be quite frustrating indeed. So I guess you get what you pay for. Those are pricey!!

Astrophotographer 10 Forum Pro • Posts: 13,907
Re: Astrotrac 360
1

ChrisBeere wrote:

Arca Swiss D4.

Rig : https://www.astrobin.com/q0u7sn/?nc=user

Wow, that's quite a rig. I like it.

How do you find your polemaster? I have one as well but haven't used it yet as not that willing to setup a laptop.

But I have read Sharpcap works easily and well with the Polemaster and better than the QHY software.

Greg.

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ChrisBeere
ChrisBeere Regular Member • Posts: 236
Re: Astrotrac 360

Ive not used it yet !

Up until recently i have been ok with the polarscope and i can just about squeeze 2 minutes at 105mm but i want to go to 3 minutes at f/2.8 with the 105mm for a mosaic i have planned so need to improve the accuracy of the polar alignment.

Im heading to Namibia in January for an 11 night imaging run so it will get its first light out there.

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OP Pogo65 Regular Member • Posts: 376
Re: Astrotrac 360

I always used the Polemaster with the Fornax. I have even used it with an Android phone! No need for a laptop. Works fairly easy with the Fornax. Would be better if there was a way to mount it directly on the RA axis, but there is not enough room to move it through 60 degrees. I now use an ASIAIR and an IPad or phone to do the polar alignment platesolving and imaging, all from a phone. Easiest setup I have ever used.

Peter

1llusive
1llusive Veteran Member • Posts: 3,559
Re: Astrotrac 360

Pogo65 wrote:

I always used the Polemaster with the Fornax. I have even used it with an Android phone! No need for a laptop. Works fairly easy with the Fornax. Would be better if there was a way to mount it directly on the RA axis, but there is not enough room to move it through 60 degrees. I now use an ASIAIR and an IPad or phone to do the polar alignment platesolving and imaging, all from a phone. Easiest setup I have ever used.

Peter

I wish I could use it with my phone, but apparently LG phones don't support USB To Go so it will not connect. Tried two different adapters.

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