I'd like to dabble in photographing the milky way in wide-angle, say 10mm, with long exposure times/time lapse, and maybe some longer photography lenses, but not mounted to a telescope. To avoid startrails I'll have to use a tracking motor, but those I found seem to be far too accurate for my needs and thus too expensive, i.e. various motors that can be attached to non-motorized telescope mounts, very conservatively constructed Kenko SkyMemo ($950), Losmandy StarLapse ($575) was the kind of design I had in mind, but too expensive. AstroTrac ($500) only tracks for 2 hours. And then there are, in order of apparent flimsyness, Vixen Polarie ($400), iOptron SkyTracker ($350) and Kenko NanoTracker ($200). The last one is actually in my price range and might even turn out to be less flimsy than the other two low-end models since it doesn't use its own tilt mechanism.

Did I miss one? Am I misjudging the price/performance here and even my limited requirements would need something over $300? (It's just a stepper motor, a timer and a worm gear, I don't really see how it could be over $100 to be honest)

I also thought about the possibility of long-exposure time lapse series that sees the stars passing through the frame but without trails, i.e. 15min exposures with tracking, resetting to the original position and repeating. But none of the devices I've seen seem to support this mode.

Edit: seemingly exclusively in Japan (like the NanoTracker) there are also Unitec SWAT-200 and TOAST, CD-1 and PanHead and MusicBox, all for around $600, with a similar design to Polarie/SkyTracker but sturdier. They look like different iterations from the same manufacturer?


1 Answer 1


You want to build a barn door tracker. This is a simple device made from parts around the basement and for really crude ones you don't even need a motor, just turn a crack every minute or so. 10mm is so wide that a manual crank just might be good enough.

Astronaut Don Pettit even built on on the ISS.

Just googling around will show a whole host of plans. Have fun, take some shots, and let us see them!

  • \$\begingroup\$ second that comment, if you search flickr you'll find groups that specialise in this and help with motor/gearing selection for the drive but manual can be very effective. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tony
    Commented May 13, 2013 at 15:30

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.