Are you going away on holiday or to some dark sky site?
Are you taking your DSLR with you and you want to take wide field images of the night sky?
Do you not feel like taking bulky or heavy equipment with you (or maybe don’t have space in your luggage)?
Baader Planetarium’s NanoTracker ultra portable travel tracking mount could be the ultra-portable mount for you to be able to capture the night sky!
The Baader NanoTracker comes in “two halves”.
- The motorised tracking mount (Tracking Unit): On the front/top of the mount there is a mounting plate with a standard 1/4″ male screw to allow you to attach a camera ball head. On the rear there is a female 1/4″ threaded mounting hole to allow the tracking unit to be attached to a tripod or another ball head. A socket port on the “flat” end of the unit allows the control unit (see below) to be attached. Next to the socket there is a sighting hole for polar alignment.
- The Control Unit: This hand control unit attaches to the tracking unit. On the front of the handset, there are two sliding switches – one to allow the tracking unit to track at sidereal or half-sidereal rate, and the other to allow the mount to be operated in the Northern or Southern hemisphere. There is also an On/Off power switch with a power status LED. On the rear of the unit there is a sliding cover that allows 3 x AA batteries to be inserted for powering the NanoTracker. A mini USB2.0 port is located on the side to allow the tracker to be powered from an external power supply such as a power bank.
The device is very lightweight at only ~480g (in total) without batteries. You will need to supply batteries (or external power) and add a ball & socket head to allow you to point your camera to different areas of the sky but such items don’t add much weight to the overall “package”. A remote control for your DSLR can also come in useful too. The NanoTracker is quite compact – being only 60x98x44 mm for the tracking unit and 50x105x22mm (without cable) for the hand control. This means that you can easily store it in your travel baggage if you are going away/abroad and also set it up quickly and easily and use it at home.
Although the tracking unit is compact and lightweight, it is capable of carrying a DSLR and lens up to ~2kg in total weight. This could be a DSLR and a wide angle lens (e.g. 14mm) or a standard 18-55mm type standard zoom lens. The NanoTracker is designed for use with wide to standard focal length (up to ~50mm) lenses so it is ideal for capturing wide swathes of the sky such as the area around our Galactic centre, the region around Orion or the Milky Way running through Cygnus. The mount will track at sidereal rate by default but can also track at Lunar, Solar and at 50x sidereal too (which can be useful for time-lapse photography).
Some example set-ups of the Baader NanoTracker are shown below. You may already have a full sized tripod for your daytime shots with you and the NanoTracker simply attaches to the tiltable tripod head which would be adjusted and set for your latitude after polar aligning using the polar sighting hole.
However you may want to keep everything small and compact and use a mini tripod like the one below. These often use ball heads for adjustment of the camera position – and in this case the polar alignment of the NanoTracker. The small size and low weight of the NanoTracker makes mini tripods an ideal mounting companion if space is tight in your luggage!
If you want to read a review of the NanoTracker, check out the one on Sky at Night’s website where it received 4 out of 5 stars! You can read it here.