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#AskPS: Should I get a sky tracker or a telescope mount?

B asked:

I really enjoy your website. As someone getting back into astronomy in general after many many years, and a long time general photography enthusiast, I am looking towards exploring astrophotography in some detail. I found your site most valuable and enjoyable.. I am initially going to start with just my Nikn 850 and existing prime lenses, but expect to add a full telescope once I make some decisions on what I want exactly. In the meantime, I am wondering whether there is any advantage (aside from portability and cost) to starting just with a tracker (such as the iOptron SkyGuide) vs obtaining a quality full mount (something along the lines of the Celestron AVX or Orion Atlas EQ-G.) that I can use when I add a telescope.  Is a full mount going to be frustratingly complex overkill for my simple initial dslr w/ lens setup….or am I going to quickly regret spending the $$ on a tracker and not just getting the full mount to start with?

Thanks for your website, and any suggestions/insights you can offer on my questions above!


The short answer to your question is: No. 🙂
The long answer is that I personally find a lot of value in a small portable wide-field tracker. Just because the best astrophotography gear is the stuff you use the most. The small trackers take hardly any time to set up, are highly portable, and work great for general lens work. If you are the type of person who hikes or camps  and just wants something you can take along, the trackers are amazing for that. The proper AP telescope mounts are far too unportable to bring along unless you plan to take trips specifically to shoot AP.
That being said, the only major differences between proper telescope mounts and small trackers is size/capacity and DEC motor/goto capability. For just a quick lens shoot, you’ll find uses for the tracker all the time, whereas getting out the proper mount for a quick shoot just isn’t very fun. 
The one mistake you do not want to make is buying a proper telescope mount and then realizing you need to upgrade it right away, whereas you’ll rarely “upgrade” a tracker, rather keep it in your arsenal for what it’s used for.
Hope that helps, and clear skies!

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About the author

Cory Schmitz

Co-founder of PhotographingSpace.com, co-owner of several telescopes and mounts, too many cameras, and not enough hard drives, Cory is an American expat living in South Africa with his wife, Tanja Schmitz.

An avid astrophotographer for timelapse, deep-space imaging, lunar, planetary, and star trail imagery, he is an all-around jack-of-most-trades for night-sky photography.

He is also an internationally published and commissioned astrophotographer, where his photos have been used in multiple online and print publications.

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