With most astronomy mount manufacturers now offering a portable star tracker option, Bresser’s new StarTracker Astronomical Photo Mount Kit joins a busy field. The kit includes a StarTracker Astronomical Photo Mount PM-100, a TP-100 DX tripod, an equatorial wedge, a ball head and a polarscope.
If you don’t need the full kit – for example, if you already own a good tripod, – the PM-100 mount can be bought separately, but we would definitely recommend the polarscope for alignment purposes.
With a weight capacity of 2kg in equatorial mode and a total weight, including tripod and accessories, of just 3.6kg, this mount is aimed at the wide-field photography market and would not be stable enough to take the weight of a small telescope.
The photo mount head itself is just 8.6cm x 8.6cm and can fit into a coat pocket for easy transport.
The kit arrived as separate parts, so a small amount of initial assembly was required, but nothing that required any tools, so it only took a few minutes.
Instructions were included for each individual part, but the main manual also covers the entire setting up process. The instructions are very thorough and give suggested camera settings for both astrophotography use and time-lapse mode in enough detail to get even a beginner up and running in no time; we were ready to go within five minutes.
We had some initial concerns around the extendable centre column of the tripod – these can sometimes rotate unexpectedly while adjusting a camera and can throw off polar alignment – but the column tightened well and everything felt very solid.
Even with the tripod legs extended to their maximum the whole setup felt stable.
Bresser gives approximate maximum exposure lengths in the manual, which covers lenses from 15mm to 100mm, but these will be dependent on polar alignment accuracy.
For this review we used a 14mm f/2.8 lens and a 50mm f/2.8 lens, weighing 1.38kg and 1.1kg respectively with our camera.
Indeed, when coupled with our DSLR, a modified Canon 70D with a cropped sensor, we found that each was well within the safe weight range.
We also tried out a 150mm lens that gave a combined weight of 1.6kg; despite it being within the suggested weight capacity it felt unstable on the ball head due to the length of the lens.
We put the PM-100 through its paces over a few damp autumn nights while the Milky Way was still visible in the early evening sky. Once set up, we performed a quick polar alignment, which proved easy with the illuminated Bresser polarscope.
We started with the 14mm lens attached to our DSLR, testing 30-second exposures and building up to three minutes. Each gave us perfect stars (apart from the usual distortion from this lens).
Deciding that our field of view was still not wide enough, we opted to capture a mosaic, which was relatively easy thanks to the supplied ball head adaptor. We were able to move the camera with ease, without any risk of knocking the mount out of its polar alignment.
After capturing the Milky Way we switched the lens for a 50mm one and aimed at the constellation of Cygnus, the Swan. At this focal length Bresser claims that 120-second images are possible.
After ensuring our polar alignment was accurate, we discovered we could easily track for 80 seconds without any trailing. It was only when we went higher than this length of exposure that trailing started to become visible.
We loved the compact nature of this kit and found we could pick it up and move it to different locations with ease. If you are needing to hike to a dark and remote site you definitely won’t be hindered by the weight.
Indeed, the tripod comes with a bag for this very purpose, but even without this the PM-100 mount easily fits in a camera bag alongside your camera and lenses.
As a lightweight tracker that is aimed at wide-field Milky Way photography, this little mount punches well above its weight. The Bresser PM-100 will be a welcome addition to any astrophotographer’s kit.
Bresser’s StarTracker PM-100 is impressive; lightweight and portable, it runs on four AA batteries (not supplied) or can be powered via a Micro-USB cable, which allows the use of a small power pack such as those designed to charge smartphones.
An easy to control mount
We found that all the mount settings are controlled by a single control button and easy-to-read LCD screen that is simple to navigate, even in the dark.
It enabled us to capture wide, long exposure shots of the Milky Way; with our three-minute exposures proving how capable it was compared with the recommended two-minute exposures.
It also performed brilliantly at medium focal lengths (50–100mm), allowing us to capture larger deep-sky objects. We were most impressed by the consistency of its tracking over an imaging session; we left it tracking the constellation of Cygnus for two hours
– with exposures of two minutes per shot at 50mm under slightly breezy conditions – and we were able to include every shot when stacking.
Bresser StarTracker Astronomical Photo Mount Kit: outstanding features
The tracker comes with an attachable polarscope that is positioned to allow use when the camera is attached. Polar alignment was simple due to the illuminated reticule; this shows the locations of the Plough and Cassiopeia, allowing us to easily align
the polarscope and position Polaris.
The polar wedge is small and light, but solid. The initial angle is set by loosening the main adjuster. There are no angle markers, which would have been useful. Fine adjustments are then made with spring-loaded, large thumbscrews that make it easy to centre Polaris.
The ball head is smooth and easy to adjust while maintaining resistance to stop the camera flopping around. The camera plate attaches by a screw, which gives a reassuringly solid connection. The only risk is that the screw feels very similar to the angle-adjuster, so care in the dark is required.
An aluminium photo tripod is included; its telescopic legs have large clamps and there is an extendable centre column. The tripod is reassuringly weighty, so it shouldn’t blow or be knocked over. It is easy to carry in the included bag, which has room for the whole tracking mount as well.
The Bresser PM-100 includes an illuminated LCD screen that displays the mount settings. The screen is basic and low resolution, but clearly displays the settings you need. The screen lights up at the press of a button
and turns off after a few seconds of inactivity.
- Price £439
- Mount Bresser StarTracker Astronomical Photo Mount PM-100
- Tripod Bresser TP-100 DX aluminium tripod with carry bag
- Payload capacity 2kg equatorial mode; 5kg altazimuth mode
- Tracking rates Star, Sun, Moon, half-speed and time-lapse
- Power requirements 4x AA batteries or micro-USB connector
- Extras Ball head, polar wedge and polarscope
- Weight 3.6kg total kit; 0.6kg tracker only
- Supplier Telescope House
- Tel 01342 837098
This review originally appeared in the January 2021 issue of BBC Sky at Night Magazine.