The Sky-Watcher Star Adventurer 2i is a lightweight astrophotography mount that has transformed the game for both beginners and advanced astrophotographers alike, who want a solution to DSLR imaging at a low cost and weight. The Star Adventurer 2i is a tiny equatorial tracking mount inspired by amateur/DIY tracking solutions but is a much more well-made.
The Star Adventurer 2i is a mount that many beginners use as their first, due to the extremely simple nature of the mount, low cost, and excellent tracking for the price. The mount is mainly intended for use with DSLR cameras, and has produced some excellent images over the years – the Star Adventurer 2i is here to stay.
What we like:
- Lightweight design with plenty of features
- Autoguiding capability
- Extremely good value for the money
What we don’t like:
- Needs a tripod (sold separately)
- Basically incapable of carrying a telescope
- No declination axis motors
For astrophotography, the Sky-Watcher Star Adventurer 2i is an excellent choice for DSLR and mirrorless cameras with lenses, and delivers excellent value for the price.
The Star Adventurer 2i is less of an equatorial mount and more of a DSLR tracker. What this means is that the Star Adventurer 2i is designed to handle DSLRs for wide-field, lightweight imaging and, as such, is not designed to hold the weight of a telescope.
You might think that that is a bit silly, but it is quite an excellent mount for its purpose, which is to be an ultra-portable, lightweight mount. The mount is tiny, at around 15x15x15 centimeters—a small form factor mount that you can grab and put in your backpack along with a DSLR. The Star Adventurer 2i takes some inspiration from its predecessors, DSLR trackers. What trackers are are very small “mounts” with one axis of control, with the one axis being the Right Ascension.
Trackers move in some way around the celestial pole to match the way the stars seem to move. They move the camera as closely as possible to the speed of the rotation of the stars while still being portable and relatively cheap. These types of mounts, unlike their bigger cousins such as the EQ6Ri Pro or CGX, are not computer controlled and usually only have one motorized axis.
While this mount may not be able to handle heavy telescopes, that means it is excellent for taking widefield images of the night sky. A widefield image is typically an image taken with a lens, of any region of the sky. Wide-field astrophotography, as the name implies, is less focused on individual objects in the sky like nebulae or galaxies that you would image with a telescope and instead includes large swaths of the sky that include things like dark nebulae, constellations, and even the Milky Way itself. These images always look great and require little experience, as the stars are very small and trailing is hard to achieve with a wide field of view.
There have been some cases where people do use the Star Adventurer 2i as a tracking mount for light telescopes for visual observing, but it’s not something we would recommend as this mount is far too lightweight for such purposes and any bump or wind gust would be noticed in the telescope’s field of view.
The Star Adventurer 2i is a very small, lightweight mount that is designed to be as simple as possible, which is a great thing for everyone. This mount is somewhere between a tracker and a fully-fledged computerized mount but still manages to be simple.
The mount has a stated weight capacity of 5 kilograms, or 11 lbs. This is standard for such a small tracking mount, as it is why the mount is so lightweight—if it had to handle more weight, the mount would have to be larger. In practice, however, the weight capacity is closer to 3 kg, or about 7 lbs. This is plenty enough to carry a decent DSLR and lens combo.
The mount accepts cameras via a ¼ or ⅜ inch style threaded plate. These are used, as they are pretty much standard across all camera models. At the bottom of standard DSLR/ Mirrorless cameras, you will find a threaded insert, which is typically used for a tripod, but in this case, it is where you mount the Star Adventurer 2i. The Star Adventurer 2i, in an unusual move from Sky-Watcher, can be autoguided; however, this, as you may guess, is not very practical. To begin with, the mount only auto-guides along the right ascension (RA) axis, not the declination axis. In a perfect world, the declination does not need guiding because it shouldn’t move, but any error in polar alignment will result in drift in both axes. Secondly, you have to be using a telescope on the mount, which in itself is not practical because of the low weight capacity, but we will admit it is a nice feature included by Sky-Watcher for the small group of people who will utilize guiding with this mount.
The mount weighs an amazingly light 1.64 kilograms without accessories—some amazing engineering on Skywatcher’s behalf. This allows you to use the mount incredibly easily, as pretty much anyone could lift it. You will probably want to watch out for strong wind gusts!
Using the Star Adventurer 2i for Deep-Sky Astrophotography
The Star Adventurer 2i’s main purpose is for astrophotography, so here are the features that you will find yourself using when taking images. The Star Adventurer also includes some handy accessories to improve your images.
The Star Adventurer includes features to change the tracking speed. On a standard tracker, you get one speed only, which is that of the stars. But luckily, the Star Adventurer can change its tracking rate. The rates other than sidereal include Lunar, for imaging the moon over long periods for things like lunar eclipses, Solar for things like solar eclipses, and many tracking speeds which give you the freedom to track faster or slower than the rate of the stars if you would like to
The Star Adventurer 2i does away with expensive, non-standard chargers/power ports and includes the option to power the mount with four AA batteries or direct power with a Mini USB port, which you could use, for example, with a power bank, making the mount rechargeable. The mount, along with many other Sky-Watcher mounts, includes an illuminated polar scope that works in both hemispheres to allow you to polar align the mount easily and quickly, with no external illumination needed. It is as simple as rotating the mount to the correct time, which is easily determined with an app, and then moving the mount to align either Octans or Polaris with the markings. A polar scope is plenty accurate enough for a widefield mount.
If you purchase the pro variant of the mount, you get many more accessories that make imaging easier. One of them is an EQ base for the mount that is very small and lightweight. It allows you to tweak the alt and azimuth of the mount easily to polar align the mount without problems, much like a larger equatorial mount. The Pro version also includes an L bracket and counterweight for the mount. An L bracket simply makes attaching and moving the mount easier, as you do not have to use a ball head mount to move the mount. The L bracket gives you a declination axis to position the mount, but unfortunately, it is not motorized, so you are not able to fully auto-guide. A counterweight and bar are included; the counterweight is used to reduce the stress on the mount as the weight of the camera with the L bracket is not centered on the RA axis.
You also can use the Star Adventurer 2i for time-lapses, as you have multiple tracking speeds available, the mount can become a timelapse platform if you set it vertically and rotate at a faster speed than the stars. You can track at 0.5 speed as well if you want to extend your exposure times to capture fainter sky details without smearing the landscape. There is a camera intervalometer port included in the mount as well, which you can trigger at certain intervals to take photos, without needing to purchase a separate intervalometer.
Should I buy a Used Sky-Watcher Star Adventurer 2i?
A used Star Adventurer 2i is an excellent choice for a star tracker, and it is fairly easy to test whether it works as there are relatively few moving parts.
The Star Adventurer 2i is an excellent star tracker. However, you may want to consider the iOptron SkyGuider Pro instead, which offers slightly more features at a similar price. A larger true equatorial mount is a better option if you want payload capacity to hold a telescope.