Will Barton

The first part of my lightweight re-think of my astrophotography setup has to be my mount. I’ve been using an Orion SkyView Pro GoTo. It’s been a good little, reasonably lightweight (as decent goto mounts go), and has done the job well — I haven’t felt it incapable of what I needed. The mount, counterweight, and tripod weigh around 17kg total when set up, and have a maximum capacity of 15kg. 17kg is… not insignificant.

Original setup Weight Capacity
Orion SkyView Pro GoTo and tripod 17kg 15kg

I’m also a photographer, and to be sure there’s a lot more innovation in the photographic tripod space in terms of materials and features. And I have tripods and accessories. So, I thought I’d see what I could come up with.

I picked up a nice, beefy Leofoto carbon fiber tripod, leveling base (which, coming from a telescope tripod, is revolutionary), and a two-way pan head to make it easy to set-and-forget my home latitude. I already have a Vixen Polarie tracking mount for a number of years that can sit on top of this and track the rotation of the Earth. I have not used it for much more than quick-and-dirty throw-a-camera-on-it efforts up until now though. On that I’ll put the ball head that came with the tripod.

So, what is the weight and capacity of all of this?

Lightweight setup Weight Capacity
Leofoto LS-364C tripod 1.77kg 25kg
Leofoto LB-60N leveling base 28g 15kg
Leofoto VH-30R two-way panning head 422g 15kg
Vixen Polarie 953g 3.2kg
Leofoto LH-40 ball head 496g 20kg

This gives me a total weight of 3.67kg with a maximum capacity of 3.2kg (the limitation of the Polarie). About 500g of that is taken by the ball head.

Listed out, like above, , this looks more complicated than the previous setup, but I can keep certain bits assembled. More importantly, with the leveling base, I can assemble everything from the ground the Polarie inside, well before I go out a cold night. Then, when I carry it out, all I have to do is level the base, align the Polarie, attach the ball head and camera and start capturing. In theory.

I’d like to eventually replace the Polarie with an iOptron SkyGuider Pro, which weighs 4.6kg (and would therefore add 3.6kg of weight), but has a 5kg capacity. The big features it adds will be a counterweight and autoguider support (more on that later). 5kg is still only a third of the 15kg capacity of the telescope mount, but I haven’t needed anywhere close to that 15kg capacity for my telescope and imaging setup.

But the imaging setup will be another post!