The Polarie Polar Scope
As discussed in the Setup section of this article, the polar scope allows for more precise alignment. You set your location (offset of the meridian) plus your time and date, then place the scope into the Polarie then look through the scope and the reticule will tell you where to center Polaris. The celestial pole actually changes as time goes on (relative to Polaris) and the scope compensates for this and provides a scale to accurately align up until the year 2025.
The Polarie Polar Meter
This is a brand new accessory for the Polarie. If you were wondering what that flash hotshoe mount was for on top of the Polarie, now you know. It essentially has 3 things on it – a bubble level, a compass and a latitude scale. The Polarie itself already has two of these but the compass is handheld. This is just meant to make it more convenient I suppose. It costs $59 but isn’t on any of the major shopping sites yet, it’s currently only available directly from Vixen.
The Polarie Kit
If you are interested in getting a Polarie but do not have a tripod, tripod head and ball head mount yet, then this kit may be for you. It includes everything you need to get going besides your camera of course. I don’t have any experience with the kit so I can’t speak to the quality of the tripod and head.
The Polarie in Action
The best thing about the Polarie is its portability. You don’t need a big clunky setup. You don’t have to be afraid of moving everything to get a different view – it’s light and quick to get going. Throw a spare pair of AA batteries in your pocket and you are set for the whole night.
When aligning it through the polar sight hole, you can reliably get shots of up to 5 minutes at 100mm focal length, and upwards of 15 minutes for wide-angle shots. Using the polar scope you could triple those numbers easily. The shot below was taken at 105mm for 5 minutes and is a close to 100% crop. The stars are still quite round and you can easily differentiate the very faint stars.
There is no way to monitor battery levels that I could find so I suggest replacing every 2-3 hours even if they will last longer. You don’t want the battery to start dying in the middle of a shot. When the battery is about to die the tracking accuracy will likely suffer.
The biggest downside to the Polarie is probably that it is only rated to hold 4.4 pounds (2 kilograms). You must take into account your ball head, camera, and lens and not exceed this weight. Using anything heavier could possibly damage the motor. A typical camera weighs 1-2 pounds, a quality ball-head can also weight up to 1 pound, leaving you with 1-2.5 pounds for your lens. This means any “kit lens” that comes with a DSLR will work, as well as other popular types like 70-300mm zooms. Heavy lenses that require their own tripod mount are not suited for the Polarie. In those cases you would be better suited to the more expensive Astrotrac which can carry a lot of weight.
Physically the Polarie is made of metal and feels heavy and well-built. When it’s tracking it is virtually silent. You need to put your ear right up to it to hear the gear turning.
Below is a selection of a few pictures taken with the Polarie.
- Lightweight, portable
- Competitively priced compared to competition like Astrotrac
- Runs with only 2 AA batteries
- It tracks beautifully
- Can only hold a 4.4 pound (2 kilogram) payload
- Would be nice if the tripod socket and ball head mount screw were 3/8″ instead of 1/4″ for more stability. Had to buy a 3/8″-to-1/4″ converter for my ball head
- Optional polar scope is expensive.
- No battery meter
The Polarie fills a niche – it’s truly the only device of its kind. An ultra-portable DSLR tracking platform. Others like the Astrotrac are not as portable and not as user-friendly. On the other hand if you want to expand in the future to more expensive and heavy lenses or even use short-tube telescopes, the Astrotrac is a better buy. If you just want to take star pictures with your DSLR and your regular lenses, I highly recommend the Polarie.
Bonus Unboxing Video