About a month has passed since Skywatcher officially announced the Star Adventurer GTi, the smallest and lightest purpose-built GoTo astrophotography mount. But is it actually any good? Like a lot of newly introduced electronics of late, this mount has been incredibly hard to get a hold of, and outside of a few favorable initial reviews from prominent influencers, in-depth evaluations have been seriously lacking. In this video, Teagan from High Point Scientific shares a comprehensive review of the Star Adventurer GTi, including a couple of performance tests on the mount's tracking abilities.
At first glance the GTi looks very different from previous small tracking mounts, and it is, sort of. Skywatcher seems to have combined elements from the Star Adventurer 2i series, with the functionality of the AZ-GTi series. But I think it's really just an official equatorial version of the AZ-GTi. Regardless of its pedigree, how does it perform for a sub-$1,000 mount? According to the field tests done in the video, performed with two different common focal lengths, the results were stunning to say the least. Teagan was able to get round stars after an impressive 15 minute (guided) single exposure, at both 250mm and 430mm. Unguided, using only proper balance, polar alignment, and the software included with the mount, he was able to achieve round stars with up to 5 minutes at 250mm.
These results are impressive to say the least. This mount opens up so many doors for enthusiasts up and down the astrophotography spectrum. For amateurs with star trackers, tired of manually searching for suitable targets to shoot, this mount is capable of doing that automatically, unguided, with nearly the same amount of setup. For serious hobbyists looking for a smaller mount with equally capable GoTo, this mount can support the peripherals of their larger backyard setup. As someone who enjoys the experience of star tracker and GoTo mount alike, I am particularly excited about this mount. If you are even remotely interested in astronomy or astrophotography, you should be excited too, as innovative products like these are becoming more common and are helping to democratize the world of astrophotography.
A couple things to consider before anyone goes tossing their money at this:
-High Point is a (reputable) dealer, but given their financial incentive to sell product their testing can’t really be considered objective.
-5 minutes unguided at 250mm isn’t very good tracking actually
-This mount’s max payload is only 11 lbs, conventional wisdom is that you should keep your payload to 60-80% of max when imaging.
-To get decent tracking accuracy you need a guide scope, a guide camera, and either an onboard computer like an ASIair, or a laptop, and a sufficient power supply for all that gear. Or a standalone autoguider and power source. All of that pushes the cost of a useable system waaay up, increases the weight, and increases the bulk. That counteracts the value proposition and the “portability” and there’s no way it’s fitting in checked luggage at that point.
This is, essentially, just a go-to star adventurer with a built in wedge. The max payload is so low that you shouldn’t even really need a counterweight, if it wasn’t for the fact that the drive gear is so small.
Some alternative advice: If you’re going to be working in your back garden or out of a vehicle, you might want to consider buying a proper light duty go-to mount from any of the relevant players. Skywatcher/Celestron both make them, iOptron used to have good smaller options, I think Orion probably does. They’re more capable, aren’t going to be much heavier, you aren’t going to hit a ridiculously low weight cap, and you won’t have to spend as much money kitting it out with auto guiding to make up for the insufficient tracking accuracy.
If you’re doing wide field and need portability, get a regular Star Adventurer. They’re usually readily available second hand: people hit the usability ceiling and dump them on AstroMart when they upgrade to the mount they should’ve bought in the first place.
If you need portability and accuracy with longer lenses skip the tiny-gear trackers and go for one of the more expensive portable tracker options that have proper low periodic errors.
If you just want a go-to star adventurer that doesn’t seem to perform any better than a regular star adventurer then get this new one I guess.
"-5 minutes unguided at 250mm isn’t very good tracking actually"
You can't be serious. I'm lucky I got 25 seconds with a AT60ED and an Olympus E-M10 Mk II on a SkyGuider Pro. Five minutes unguided is incredible.
It's designed as a portable mount, and that payload capacity is quite standard. While you should d keep it light, you can bring it up to it's max, especially with autoguiding.
While autoguiding is also better, 5 minutes unguided is more than enough time for a sub. I never shoot more than 3 minutes because any number of variables can ruin a sub, and you've lost all that time if a sub is compromised.
ALWAYS use a counterweight and properly balance your rig. It's a sloppy mindset not to.
People buy something this size for it's portability, if you're gonna set up in your back yard you could go for some monster mount, but this is all about portability and ease of use.
The Star Adventurer is a single axis mount and requires you to manually aim at your target, and if you're not rigged up with a plate solver to guide you, that's work, and lots of it. Especially so if you're shooting in light polluted skies. If you're going to shoot wide as in 85mm or wider, a Star Adventurer Mini or Star Tracker is all you need.
Again, the accuracy of this mount exceeds practical sub times for scopes up to 72mm, and probably higher. Shooting long subs is detrimental, even in Bortle 1 skies, 3-5 minutes subs guided on this thing will probably average under .5 arcsecond.
This thing blows the Star Adventurer out of the water. That's why it's out of stock everywhere. ;-)
Sad could not get for the lunar eclipse!! Only Preorder!
I have both an iOptron HEM27 and ZWO AM5 on preorder. The HEM27 is only 8lb and very airline portable and can supposedly carry a C11 for visual… o.O
Did a little research, the Star Adventurer GTi should track better than both the SkyGuider Pro and original Star Adventurer- those have 144 teeth in the RA gear vs 180 in the new GTi. If running closer to max payload, perfect balance and polar alignment will be key. Would also recommend running around 13.5-13.8v if you have an adjustable power supply
I just can wait to get my hands on one. As someone who has been perfecting the use of the AZ-GTi in equatorial mode for over two years, this new purpose-built astrophoto mount really has me giddy.