WOULD YOU LIKE TO TAKE YOUR OWN sky photographs but don’t have a telescope? The new Vixen Polarie Star Tracker lets anyone with a digital SLR (and some digital compact cameras) take impressive wide-angle sky shots with ease.
To get the best sky shots, you need to take exposures that are much longer than the fraction of a second typically used for daylight terrestrial photographs. You might need anything from tens of seconds up to tens of minutes.
The problem is that the Earth is turning, and this makes everything in the sky seem to move through the field of view of your camera, resulting in stars that look like streaks of light instead of fine pinpoints.
What you need is a way to move your camera to track the movement of the sky. The traditional way to do this is to set up a telescope, carefully align it with the Earth’s rotation (ie. the angle up from the horizon and pointed directly south or north), and piggyback your camera on it.
But this can be a lot of hassle, and most people don’t cart their telescope around when they go on holidays.
Enter the Vixen Polarie Star Tracker, which is designed to be used without a telescope. The Polarie sits between your tripod and your camera. Simply angle it upwards according to your latitude (using the easy-to-read scale on the side), point it south (for the Southern Hemisphere) or north (N. Hemisphere) using the inbuilt compass, and you’re ready to go!
The battery-powered unit swivels your camera at the same rate as the Earth turns, tracking the moving sky and letting you take long-exposure images to bring out detail and colour.
The unit is compact and portable, and because it attaches to any standard tripod, you don’t need any extra gear…although Vixen does make a purpose-built tripod and handy carry bag to give you a complete system.
The Polarie already has received rave reviews—and here are some examples of shots taken using it:
This sort of tracking unit is ideally suited to producing those beautiful wide-angle shots of the sky we all admire so much, especially of the Milky Way. It’ll also be incredibly useful during the upcoming November 14 total solar eclipse.
Powered by two AA batteries or via USB, the Polarie can carry up to 2kg (camera or spotting scope).
You can also get a complete package of the Polarie plus a Velbon tripod and custom carry bag.
Story by Jonathan Nally. Photos courtesy Vixen.
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