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Quick Look at the Vixen Polarie

Paul Kohlmiller


A few years ago I started to make some star trail photos. These photos are easy to make: you point the camera up at the sky and leave the shutter open as the sky goes through its nightly rotation leaving trails on the film or electronic detector. There were two problems that I ran into. First, if you are using film you would like to have the old mechanical shutters because the electronic shutter kills your battery after a couple 30 minute exposures. Second, it’s boring! I mean once you have done this a few times (and I do encourage you to try) it’s a little dull unless you can go to some interesting site.

To increase the fun factor, I started to take pictures of the night sky with my Canon T2i just getting pictures of constellations or large items like the Pleides. The problem is that if I used a telescopic lens or an exposure larger than 30 seconds I was back to making star trail pictures again. Enter the Vixen Polarie, a motorized mount that goes on your tripod and that you mount your camera to. The effect of using this mount is shown below. Both pictures are 210 seconds long and the setups are the same. In the picture on the left the Polarie motor was turned off. On the right, the same part of the sky with the motor turned on. The difference is obvious. Note Andromeda in the upper left in both images.

The Polarie drive costs $429. But this might not be the last of your expenditures. First, you need to put this drive on a tripod. Of course, you have a tripod already but hopefully it is solid enough. Second, you need a ball mount that connects your camera to the drive. You may have a ball mount but does it really hold your camera? You can get on Amazon and look at the reviews of ball mounts and everyone says their ball mount doesn’t hold as much weight as they hoped. This is critical if you are going to take long exposures. You can purchase the Polarie and a tripod and the ball mounts (one to connect the drive to the tripod and the other between the drive and your camera) for $649. That sounds like a deal particularly if your tripod is a little sketchy. Third, you might want a polar scope to make it easier to align the drive. That’s another $249 and I think it’s unnecessary but your mileage may differ.


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