The Star Adventurer
Mini- is it “quite possibly the most
compact and versatile camera tracking platform in the known universe.”
Star Adventurer Mini(SAM) on the left and Star Adventurer on the right. Cameras are both Canon 60Da with a Samyang 135mm lens.
Close up of Star Adventurer above
Close up of the SAM above
Dave was the first to tell me about the new SAM from Sky
Watcher. “Sam?” I queried. “Star Adventurer Mini”, he replied. Sure enough, Alan Dyer for Sky and Telescope
ran a review of the product in their December 2017 issue, and we read through his
wonderful article with anticipation. The
unit seemed complicated to me, and brought one big question to mind. Since Dave already has the Star Adventurer
(which I’ve used extensively), do we really need to get the Star Adventurer
Mini? Doesn’t it do the same thing but
in a smaller package? We were
undecided. Little did Dave know at the
time, but I ordered him one for Christmas after our conversation. It was popular and backordered, but it
arrived before the 25th. He
thanked me for the wonderful gift, and then laughingly said, “It only cost me
$150!” (Because David had to order the accessories to make it all work😀)
start with price. The unit itself
retails for $300, and includes the mount a ball head adapter, and a polar
alignment telescope. However the
optional accessories are important and make using it so much easier. You’ll want the latitude base ($65), and the
declination bracket ($40), and maybe the counterweight ($30). However,
the unit is useless without the DSLR control cable. And the price of that will vary with your
camera but typically anywhere from $15-$30. Also a power cord would be nice
although not critical if you go with the battery option (2- AA). Dave plans on using it on his deck which has
power, and had a power cable ($10) that would work so that wasn’t an issue. Now if you own the Star Adventurer already, then
you have all of those accessories and they will all fit the SAM unit- except for
the power cord, it is slightly different.
Dave wanted a set of accessories for both mounts because he may want to
use both of them at the same time. So if
you get the works it will cost you around $460-$475
SAM and Star Adventurer on their Pro-Am tripods.(Highly recommend these tripods.)
A few things to understand before we go any further. SAM will not put together a time lapse for you on your camera. It will take the images, but you will need to put the images together later using a program such as Cyberlink Power Director or Time-Lapse Tool. You need a smartphone with the SAM app which was easy to install. You will also need wifi, however SAM has its own system, and you connect through the app. As per the manual let’s go through this step by step. We ran into problems getting the unit to operate (and even emailed Star Adventurer for advice) so let’s save you some time. Here’s the procedure to get you up and running quickly.
A few things you need to do first. You need a smartphone with the SAM app which
was easy to install. You will also need
wifi, however SAM has its own system, and you connect through the app. As per the manual let’s go through this step
by step. We ran into problems getting
the unit to operate (and even emailed Star Adventurer for advice) so let’s save
you some time. Here’s the procedure to
get you up and running quickly.
Turn the power on the unit (small black
button). The light will be red, and then
start blinking green signaling it’s ready for the wifi setup.
On the Smartphone app, go to the “Settings > WiFi Network” and click “Find Devices”. Search
for “SynScanWiFi_xxxxxx”. A small box in the lower left will tell you
that you are connected. The power light
should now be a steady green.
Start simple and click on “Regular Exposure Time-lapse” on the app.
According to the manual you need to put a value
in for the “Video Time Span (Hr)”,
and “Video Length (sec)” then click “Run”. Except “Run” wasn’t an option. It was grayed out so you couldn’t select it. Then
I saw the answer looking at a screen shot later in the manual.
Click on “Swing
Range (deg)”. We didn’t want it to
swing for the initial test so we didn’t enable it. It must be enabled for the time-lapse to
work. If you don’t want it to swing then
enable it and put in a value of “0”.
Link: Static time lapse using SAM
REGULAR EXPOSURE TIME-LAPSE
smoothly did its magic as it took its first time lapse. One of the things I didn’t like about the
Star Adventurer is that when you did a time-lapse it would automatically move
to one side and then back to the middle and then the other side and
repeat. The amount of swing range was
preset. I found this process annoying. I didn’t like moving past my object of
interest back and forth. The SAM has a huge advantage in that you can
have it go in one direction to a set number of degrees. This gives you a lot of freedom and
creativity to set up the shot you really want.
Dave made some wonderful time-lapse videos that were smooth and impressive.
exposure time-lapse, Astro time lapse and astrophotography are next, but we
need some clear nights in this cloudy and soggy winter we’re having. Stay tuned.
When the weather gets better we’ll have more to share!
Long Exposure Time Lapse
The next step in the manual was to try a long exposure time lapse. The SAM app for this part of the article was basically the same as the regular time lapse above. The difference was in length of exposure. In the case of the links you will see below I used a 25 second exposure with a 1 second space between exposures. The swing range used was 150 degrees in the first link to 170 degrees in the second and the time picked was 9 hours in the first one and 10 hours for the second one. The swing rate was 1 which means the SAM module will move through the # of degrees picked and then will stop. If I had picked a swing rate of 2 the SAM would have moved through the # of degrees and then would have come back the other way to the starting point to finish. You can also pick whether you want it to go clockwise or counterclockwise as you will see in the links below. When you import those values the SAM app determines the number of photos taken and the # of degrees per hour. Once this is done you turn on the SAM, which creates it's own wifi, and change the wifi setting on your mobile device to access the SAM and connect. Once connected you push "Run" and SAM does the rest. The results can be seen in the links below.
Before going to the astrophotography part of the manual I decided to do one more long exposure of 11 hours and a 180 degree panning. Also, I decided to try my Astronomik CLS light pollution filter in the Canon T6i.
I have been remiss in showing the phone app screens and have included them for the video in the link below. They show that the exposure was 25 secs with a 1 sec delay between. The pan was 180 degrees with a 1 swing rate which means SAM will rotate in one direction from start to finish. The length of time chosen was 11 hours. Also, I chose SAM to move counterclockwise. SAM will then figure out the rest of the values based on what you imput.
Status can be checked at any time.
Red screen is the night mode screen. White will show in daylight.