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Skywatcher Star Adventurer Mount Review

The Skywatcher Star Adventurer 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 costand weight. The Star Adventurer is a tiny equatorial tracking mount inspired by amateur/DIY tracking solutions but is a much more well made, polished, all in one easy to use solution.

The Star Adventurer 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 is here to stay. Why is this such a great mount? That is what I will be discussing today.

Choice!

4.9/5

What makes this Mount different?

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As hinted to earlier, the Star Adventurer is less of an equatorial mount and more a DSLR tracker. What this means is that the Star Adventurer is designed to handle DSLRs for widefield, lightweight imaging, and as such is not designed to hold the weight of a telescope.

Skywatcher Star Adventurer Mount

You might think that that is a bit silly, but it is quite an excellent mount for its purpose, which is being 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 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 rotate around the celestial pole in one way or another to match the apparent rotation of the stars. 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 like the EQ6-R 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. As the name implies, wide-field astrophotography is less focused on individual objects in the sky like nebulae or galaxies that you would use a telescope to image, and instead 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 this as a tracking mount for light telescopes for visual observing, but it’s not something I 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.

Specifications

The Star Adventurer is a very small, lightweight mount, and 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. Here are the tech specs of the Star Adventurer that you should know when considering your purchase.

  • The mount has a stated weight capacity of 5 kilograms. 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.
    • This number can be difficult to interpret though, as Skywatcher, along with other mount manufacturers are not very specific as to how much weight you should use for specific purposes and how it affects tracking accuracy. For this reason, I recommend using a maximum of ⅔ the stated weight capacity for astrophotography, but it is important to keep in mind this is a very general statement. It depends on many factors which I won’t discuss here. ~3kg 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.
  • The Star Adventurer, in an unusual move from Skywatcher, is autoguidable – however, this as you may guess is not very practical. First of all, the mount only auto guides in the RA axis, not declination. In a perfect world, the declination does not need guiding as it shouldn’t move, but any error polar aligning will result in drift in both axes. Secondly, you have to be using a telescope on the mount, which in itself is not practical either because of the low weight capacity, but I will admit it is a nice feature included by Skywatcher 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 incredible easily as pretty much anyone could lift it. You will probably want to watch out for strong wind gusts!

Accessories and Features

The Star Adventurer’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 as well 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 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 Skywatcher mounts includes an illuminated polar scope which 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 from the camera with the L bracket is not centered on the RA axis.

Using the Star Adventurer

The Star Adventurer is one of the easiest to use mounts when you break it down and look at the actual operation of the mount: it’s simple, polar align, turn the mount on and go. But how well does it perform, and can you use it for landscape images?

The Star Adventurer, being a very small mount is not the most accurate tracking mount out there by a long shot. The accuracy of the mount is reported to allow you to go pretty much forever with extremely wide fields of view, but if you want to take images at around 250-300mm your exposure times have to be shortened to around 30 sec – 1 minute. This is because at long focal lengths you push the limits of the mount’s tracking accuracy, as the Star Adventurer uses smaller gears which are less precise, and as such over time the errors can build up enough to streak images.

The Star Adventurer also does not include a tripod, which is one of the main downsides found with this mount as it means you may have to purchase one yourself, and it has to be fairly sturdy which can make it somewhat expensive. The Star Adventurer also does not include a ball mount to position the camera unless you buy the L bracket, which is also something excluded which would be nice to have.

You also can use the Star Adventurer 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.

Conclusion

To conclude my review of the Skywatcher Star Adventurer, one of the best DSLR and light telescopes out there, and it is an excellent mount for anyone who wishes to take widefield astrophotography, from beginners to advanced astrophotographers at a relatively cheap price point and with an easy to use and move the lightweight mount.

For those who want to use telescopes on this mount, while extremely light telescopes may work, heavier scopes are not ideal at all. The mount includes many accessories for you to use while imaging, and different tracking speeds for time lapses or landscape images. Overall, if you want to buy a lightweight mount for simple DSLR imaging, then this is one of the easiest and best mounts to use.

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