A new low-cost sky tracker promises to simplify not only tracking the sky but also taking time-lapses panning along the horizon. It works but …
If you are an active nightscape photographer chances are your social media feeds have been punctuated with ads for this new low-cost tracker from MoveShootMove.com.
For $200, much less than popular trackers from Sky-Watcher and iOptron, the SiFo unit (as it is labelled) offers the ability track the sky, avoiding any star trails. That alone would make it a bargain, and useful for nightscape and deep-sky photographers.
But it also has a function for panning horizontally, moving incrementally between exposures, thus the Move-Shoot-Move designation. The result is a time-lapse movie that pans along the horizon, but with each frame with the ground sharp, as the camera moves only between exposures, not during them.
Again, for $200 this is an excellent feature lacking in trackers like the Sky-Watcher Star Adventurer or iOptron SkyTracker. The Sky-Watcher Star Adventurer Mini does, however, offer both tracking and “move-shoot-move” time-lapse functions, but at a cost of $300 to $400 U.S., depending on accessories.
All these functions are provided in a unit that is light (weighing 700 grams with a tripod plate and the laser) and compact (taking up less space in your camera bag than most lenses). By comparison, the Star Adventurer Mini weighs 900 grams with the polar scope, while the original larger Star Adventurer is 1.4 kg, double the MSM’s weight.
Note, that the MSM’s advertised weight of 445 grams does not include the laser or a tripod plate, two items you need to use it. So 700 grams is a more realistic figure, still light, but not lighter than the competition by as much as you might be led to believe.
Nevertheless, the MSM’s small size and weight make it attractive for travel, especially for flights to remote sites. Construction is solid and all-metal. This is not a cheap plastic toy.
But does it work? Yes, but with several important caveats that might be a concern for some buyers.
What I Tested
I purchased the Basic Kit B package for $220 U.S., which includes a small case, a laser pointer and bracket for polar alignment (and with a small charger for the laser’s single 3.7-volt battery), and with the camera sync cable needed for time-lapse shooting.
I also purchased the new “button” model, not the older version that used a knob to set various tracking rates.
The ball head needed to go on top of the tracker is something you supply. The kit does come with two 3/8-inch stud bolts and a 3/8-to1/4-inch bushing adapter, for placing the tracker on tripods in the various mounting configurations I show below.
The first units were labelled as ‘SiFo,” but current units now carry the Gauda brand name. I’ll just call it the MSM.
I purchased the gear from the MSM website, and had my order fulfilled and shipped to me in Canada from China with no problems.
Tracking the Sky in Nightscapes
The attraction is its tracking function, allowing a camera to follow the sky and take exposures longer than any dictated by “500” or “NPF” Rules to avoid any star trailing.
Exposures can be a minute or more to record much more depth and detail in the Milky Way, though the ground will blur. But blending tracked sky exposures with untracked ground exposures gets around that, and with the MSM it’s easy to turn on and off the tracking motor, something not possible with the low-cost wind-up Mini Track from Omegon.
The illustrations and instructions (in a PDF well-hidden off the MSM Buy page) show the MSM mounted using the 1/4-20 bolt hole on the side of the unit opposite the LED-illuminated control panel. While this seems to be the preferred method, in the first unit I tested I found it produced serious mis-tracking problems.
With a Canon 6D MkII and 50mm f/1.4 lens (not a particularly heavy combination), the MSM’s gears would not engage and start tracking until after about 5 minutes. The first exposures were useless. This was also the case whenever I moved the camera to a new position to re-frame the scene or sky. Again, the first few minutes produced no or poor tracking until the gears finally engaged.
This would be a problem when taking tracked/untracked sets for nightscapes, as images need to be taken in quick succession. It’s also just plain annoying.
However, see the UPDATE at the end for the performance of a new Gauda-branded unit that was sent to me.
The solution was to mount the MSM using the 3/8-inch bolt hole on the back plate of the tracker, using the 1/4-20 adapter ring to allow it to attach to my tripod head. This still allowed me to tip the unit up to polar align it.
Tracking was now much more consistent, with only the first exposure usually badly trailed. But subsequent exposures all tracked, but with varying degrees of accuracy as I show below.
When used as a tracker, you need to control the camera’s exposure time with an external intervalometer you supply, to allow setting exposures over 30 seconds long.
The MSM offers a N and S setting, the latter for use in the Southern Hemisphere. A 1/2-speed setting turns the tracker at half the normal sidereal rate, useful for nightscapes as a compromise speed to provide some tracking while minimizing ground blurring.
For any tracker to track, its rotation axis has to be aimed at the Celestial Pole, near Polaris in the Northern Hemisphere, and near Sigma Octantis in the Southern Hemisphere.
I chose the laser pointer option for this, rather than the polar alignment scope. The laser attaches to the side of the MSM using a small screw-on metal bracket so that it points up along the axis of rotation, the polar axis.
The laser is labeled as a 1mw unit, but it is far brighter than any 1mw I’ve used. This does make it bright, allowing the beam to show up even when the sky is not dark. The battery is rechargeable and a small charger comes with the laser. Considering the laser is just a $15 option, it’s a bargain. But ….
UPDATE ADDED SEPTEMBER 1
Since I published the review, I have had the laser professionally tested, and it measured as having an output of 45 milliwatts. Yet it is labeled as being under 1 milliwatt. This is serious misrepresentation of the specs, done I can only assume to circumvent import restrictions. In Canada it is now illegal to import, own, or use any green laser over 5 milliwatts, a power level that would be sufficient for the intended use of polar aligning. 45mw is outright illegal.
So be warned, use of this laser will be illegal in some areas. And use of any green laser will be illegal close to airports, and outlawed entirely in some jurisdictions such as Australia, a fact the MSM website mentions.
The legal alternative is the optical polar alignment scope. I already have several of those, but my expectation that I could use one I had with the same bracket supplied with the laser were dashed by the fact that the bracket’s hole is too narrow to accept any of the other polar alignment scopes I have, which are all standard items. I you want a polar scope, buy theirs for $70.
However, if you can use it where you live, the laser works well enough, allowing you to aim the tracker at the Pole just by eye. For the wide lenses the tracker is intended to be used with, eyeball alignment proved good enough.
Just be very, very careful not to accidentally look down the beam. Seriously. It is far too easy to do by mistake, but doing so could damage your eye in moments.
Tracking the Sky in Deep-Sky Images
How well does the MSM actually track? In tests of the original SiFo unit I bought, and in sets of exposures with 35mm, 50mm, and 135mm lenses, and with the tracker mounted on the back, I found that 25% to 50% of the images showed mis-tracking. Gear errors still produced slightly trailed stars. This gear error shows itself more as you shoot with longer focal lengths.
The MSM is best for what it is advertised as — as a tracker for nightscapes with forgiving wide-angle lenses in the 14mm to 24mm range. With longer lenses, expect to throw away a good number of exposures as unusable. Take twice as many as you think you might need.
With a 135mm lens taking Milky Way closeups, more than half the shots were badly trailed. Really badly trailed. This is not from poor polar alignment, which produces a gradual drift of the frame, but from errors in the drive gears, and random errors at that, not periodic errors.
To be fair, this is often the case with other trackers as well. People always want to weight them down with heavy and demanding telephotos for deep-sky portraits, but that’s rarely a good idea with any tracker. They are best with wide lenses.
That said, I found the MSM’s error rate and amount to be much worse than with other trackers. With the Star Adventurer models and a 135mm lens for example, I can expect only 20% to 25% of the images to be trailed, and even then rarely as badly as what the MSM exhibited.
See the UPDATE at the end for the performance of the replacement Gauda-branded unit sent to me with the promise of much improved tracking accuracy.
Yes, enough shots worked to be usable, but it took using a fast f/2 lens to keep exposure times down to a minute to provide that yield. Users of slow f/5.6 kit-zoom lenses will struggle trying to take deep-sky images with the MSM.
In short, this is a low-cost tracker and it shows. It does work, but not as well as the higher-cost competitors. But restrict it to wide-angle lenses and you’ll be fine.
Panning the Ground
The other mode the MSM can be used in is as a time-lapse motion controller. Here you mount the MSM horizontally so the camera turns parallel to the horizon (or it can be mounted vertically for vertical panning, a mode I rarely use and did not test).
This is where the Move-Shoot-Move function comes in.
The supplied Sync cable goes from the camera’s flash hot shoe to the MSM’s camera jack. What happens is that when the camera finishes an exposure it sends a pulse to the MSM, which then quickly moves while the shutter is closed by the increment you set.
There is a choice of 4 speeds, marked in degrees-per-move: 0.05°, 0.2°, 0.5°, and 1.0°. For example, as the movie below shows, taking 360 frames at the 1° speed results in a complete 360° turn.
The MSM does the moving, but all the shutter speed control and intervals must be set using a separate intervalometer, either one built into the camera, or an outboard hardware unit. The MSM does not control the camera shutter. In fact, the camera controls the MSM.
Intervals should be set to be about 2 seconds longer than the shutter speed, to allow the MSM to perform its move and settle.
This connection between the MSM and camera worked very well. It is unconventional, but simple and effective.
Too Slow or Too Fast
The issue is the limited choice of move speeds. I found the 0.5° and 1° speeds much too fast for night use, except perhaps for special effects in urban cityscapes. Even in daytime use, when exposure times are very short, the results are dizzying, as I show below.
Even the 0.2°-per-move speed I feel is too fast for most nightscape work. Over the 300 exposures one typically takes for a time-lapse movie, that speed will turn the MSM (300 x 0.2°) = 60 degrees. That’s a lot of motion for 300 shots, which will usually be rendered out at 24 or 30 frames per second for a clip that lasts 10 to 12 seconds. The scene will turn a lot in that time.
On the other hand, the 0.05°-per-move setting is rather slow, producing a turn of (300 x 0.05°) = 15° during the 300 shots.
That works, but with all the motion controllers I’ve used — units that can run at whatever speed they need to get from the start point to the end point you set — I find a rate of about 0.1° per move is what works best for a movie that provides the right amount of motion. Not too slow. Not too fast. Just right.
UPDATE ADDED DECEMBER 21, 2019
From product photos on the MoveShootMove.com website now it appears that the tracker is now labeled MSM, as it should have been all along.
Most critically, perhaps in response to this review and my comments here, the time-lapse speeds have been changed to 0.05, 0.075, 0.1 and 0.125 degrees per move, adding the 0.1°/move speed I requested below and deleting the overly fast 0.5° and 1.0° speeds.
Plus it appears the new units have the panel labels printed the other way around so they are not upside down for most mounting situations.
I have not tested this new version, but these speeds sound much more usable for panning time-lapses. Bravo to MSM for listening!
Following the Sky in a Time-Lapse
The additional complication is trying to get the MSM to also turn at the right rate to follow the sky — for example, to keep the galaxy core in frame during the time-lapse clip. I think doing so produces one of the most effective time-lapse sequences.
But to do that with any device requires turning at a rate of 15° per hour, the rate the sky moves from east to west.
Because the MSM provides only set fixed speeds, the only way you have of controlling how much it moves over a given amount of time, such as an hour, is to vary the shutter speed.
I found that to get the MSM to follow the Milky Way in a time-lapse using the 0.05° rate and shooting 300 frames required shooting at a shutter speed of 12 seconds. No more, no less.
Do the Math
Where does that number come from?
At its rate of 0.05°/move, the MSM will turn 15° over 300 shots. The sky moves 15° in one hour, or 3600 seconds. So to fit 300 shots into 3600 seconds means each shot has to be no longer than (3600/300) = 12 seconds long.
The result works, as I show in the sampler movie.
But 12 seconds is a rather short shutter speed on a dark, moonless night with the Milky Way.
For properly exposed images you would need to shoot at very fast apertures (f/1.4 to f/2) and/or high and noisy ISO speeds. Neither are optimal. But they are forced upon you by the MSM’s restricted rates.
Using the faster 0.2° rate (of the original model) yields a turn of 60° over 300 shots. That’s four hours of sky motion. So each exposure now has to be 48 seconds long for the camera to follow the sky, four times longer because the drive rate is now four times faster.
A shutter speed of 48 seconds is a little too long in my opinion. Stars in each frame will trail. Plus a turn of 60° over 300 shots is quite a lot, producing a movie that turns too quickly.
By far the best speed for motion control time-lapses would be 0.1° per move. That would allow 24-second exposures to follow the sky, allowing a stop less in aperture or ISO speed. (DECEMBER 21 UPDATE: That speed seems to now be offered.)
Yes, having only a limited number of pre-wired speeds does make the MSM much easier to program than devices like the Star Adventurer Mini or SYRP Genie Mini that use wireless apps to set their functions. No question, the MSM is better suited to beginners who don’t want to fuss with lots of parameters.
As it is, getting a decent result requires some math and juggling of camera settings to make up for the MSM’s limited choices of speeds.
Time-Lapse Movie Examples
This compilation shows examples of daytime time-lapses taken at the fastest and dizzying 0.5° and 1.0° speeds, and night time-lapses taken at the slower speeds. The final clip is taken at 0.05°/move and with 12-second exposures, a combination that allowed the camera to nicely follow the Milky Way, albeit at a slow pace. Taking more than the 300 frames used here would have produced a clip that turned at the same rate, but lasted longer.
The MSM is powered off an internal rechargeable battery, which can be charged from any 5-volt charger you have from a mobile phone.
The MSM uses a USB-C jack for the power cable, but a USB-A to USB-C cord is supplied, handy as you might not have one if you don’t have other USB-C devices.
The battery lasted for half a dozen or more 300-shot time-lapses, enough to get you through at least 2 or 3 nights of shooting. However, my testing was done on warm summer nights. In winter battery life will be less.
While the built-in battery is handy, in the field should you find battery level low (the N and S switches blink as a warning) you can’t just swap in fresh batteries. Just remember to charge up before heading out. Alternatively, it can be charged from an external 5V battery pack such as used to prolong cell phone life.
The MSM does not offer, nor does it promise, any form of automated panorama shooting. This is where the device turns by, say, 15° to 45° between shots, to shoot the segments for a still-image panorama. More sophisticated motion controllers from SYRP and Edelkrone offer that function, including the ability to mate two devices for automated multi-tier panoramas.
Nor does the MSM offer the more advanced option of ramping speeds up and down at the start and end of a time-lapse. It moves at a constant rate throughout.
While some of the shortcomings could perhaps be fixed with a firmware update, there is no indication anywhere that its internal firmware can be updated through the USB-C port.
UPDATE ADDED OCTOBER 7, 2019
Since I published the review, MSM saw the initial test results and admitted that the earlier units like mine (ordered in June) exhibited large amounts of tracking error. They sent me a replacement unit, now branded with the Gauda label. According to MSM it contains a more powerful motor promised to improve tracking accuracy and making it possible to take images with lenses as long as 135mm.
I’m sorry to report it didn’t.
In tests with the 135mm lens the new, improved MSM still showed lots of tracking error, to the point that images taken with a lens as long as this were mostly unusable.
Tap or click on the images to download full-res versions.
The short movie above takes the full-frame images from the zenith set of 24 frames taken over 48 minutes and turns them into a little time-lapse. It shows how the mechanism of the MSM seems to be wobbling the camera around in a circle, creating the mis-tracking.
Comparison with the Star Adventurer
As a comparison, the next night I used a Sky-Watcher Star Adventurer (the full-size model not the Mini) to shoot the same fields in the northeast and overhead with the same 135mm lens and with the same ball-head, to ensure the ball-head was not at fault. Here are the results:
The Star Adventurer performed much better. Most images were well-tracked. Even on those frames that showed trailing, it was slight. The Star Adventurer is a unit you can use to take close-ups of deep-sky fields with telephoto lenses, if that’s your desire.
By contrast, the MSM is best used — indeed, I feel can only be used practically — with wide-angle lenses and with exposures under 2 minutes. Here’s a set taken with a 35mm lens, each for 2 minutes.
With the more forgiving 35mm lens, while more images worked, the success rate was still only 50%.
What I did not see with the new Gauda unit was the 5-minute delay before the gears meshed and tracking began. That issue has been resolved by the new, more powerful motor. The new Gauda model does start tracking right away.
But it is still prone to significant enough drive errors that stars are often trailed even with a 35mm lens (this was on a full-frame Canon 6D MkII).
UPDATED CONCLUSIONS (December 21, 2019)
The MSM tracker is low-cost, well-built, and compact for easy packing and travel. It performs its advertised functions well enough to allow users to get results, either tracked images of the Milky Way and constellations, or simple motion-control time-lapses.
But it is best used — indeed I would suggest can only be used — with wide-angle lenses for tracked Milky Way nightscapes. Even then, take more shots than you think you need to be sure enough are well-tracked and usable.
It can also be used for simple motion-control time-lapses, provided you do to the math to get it to turn by the amount you want, working around the too-slow or too-fast speeds. The new 0.1° per move speed (added in models as of December 2019) seems a reasonable rate for most time-lapses.
However, I think aspiring time-lapse photographers will soon outgrow the MSM’s limitations for motion-control sequences. But it can get you started.
If you really value its compactness and your budget is tight, the MSM will serve you well enough for tracked nightscape shooting with wide-angle lenses.
But if you wish to take close-ups of starfields and deep-sky objects with longer lenses, consider a unit like the Sky-Watcher Star Adventurer for its lower tracking errors. Or the Star Adventurer Mini for its better motion-control time-lapse functions.
— Alan Dyer / August 22, 2019 / UPDATED October 7, 2019 / © 2019 AmazingSky.com
34 Replies to “Testing the MSM Tracker”
Not as my findings. 6 min track with round stars using a 17mm lens on Olympus OM1. Nearly all keepers. Are you sure you set the equipment up properly in terms of levelling and PA.
A 17mm lens is pretty forgiving. I tested 3 MSM units, two sent by the company. All tracked unreliably. Some frames fine, many not and some where it just stalled entirely. But with longer lenses. I’ve been doing Astrophotography for 40 years. I know how to polar align. And precise leveling isn’t critical as long as you are polar aligned. Levelling is a myth. Doesn’t hurt but isn’t essential.
I have been doing it for about the same time. As Ive got older I have downscaled and now have the equip shown. I must admit the asiair+ is the best thing Ive owned for astrophotography. I also have a SW 72ed that compliments that shown having sold my tv-85. I realise that the MSM is mainly for wide angled Astro work. On top if that its meant to be a portable unit. I find that it fits the bill perfectly for that purpose. MSM, lightweight tripod and DSLR set ups for wide Astro. Of course it doesn’t compare with larger less portable units when using longer focal length lenses but then its not meant to. Ive also used a SW eq5 pro, star adventurer, az-gti and Ioptron sky guider pro and none of these were any better at tracking for wide Astrophtography. I also know others who get good results from MSM for wide Astro work. I dont think the MSM has been updated so wouldnt expect newer versions to be any better than those of a few years ago so perhaps you were just unlucky in what you used.
Sent from Outlook for iOShttps://aka.ms/o0ukef ________________________________
With three units I was not unlucky. It just performs unreliably. And the second unit was claimed by MSM to have a more powerful motor. It worked no better. I show the results to prove it, as does the review I did for Sky&Telescope of the third most recent 2021 unit sent by MSM. I was barely lucky to get enough sub-frames tracked well enough for a usable set at most shoots. Tracking ability varies a lot with load and aim angle. That’s not nearly so much the case with other trackers like the SA Mini which is almost as compact and not much more money by the time you trick out the MSM with all the add-ons options that are really necessary. People like the MSM and are happy with it. I was not. Not when other trackers like the Mini work much more reliably. Yours works and you are happy with it — great have fun with it. Two of mine collect dust and the 2021 unit I gave away as a door prize.
34mm on my camera system
Great Article Alan!
Alan, I’m just becoming interested in photographing the Milky Way (no deep space) and purchased the latest version of the MSM device. Their instructions and website leave a lot to be desired for a newbie like me. I was VERY frustrated trying to figure everything out. I stumbled upon this review you wrote and the proverbial light went on and I now understand the MSM and how to use it. I can’t thank you enough for taking the time to help educate us out here.
Good to hear. The MSM offers too many options which have only increased since I wrote that review. Rather than be simple to use it’s actually the most complex tracker to use. Don’t use the Z or V plates unless you have to for panoramas. They bounce and can slip under unbalanced loads. Another source of mistracking.
Wish I’d come across this review before I bought my MSM. And especially before trying to use it with a 50mm to pan and stitch MW pix! I appreciate the tip about letting the MSM run for at least 5 min before making an exposure. And I’m switching to mounting the base flat to see if that helps. BTW, aligning the laser and the polar scope are both a pain.
Wow, I really wish I had come across your review before I bought my MSM, and especially before I started trying to stitch MW panos with it using a 50mm lens! I found your remarks about letting the MSM run for at least 5 min to get the gears to engage interesting. I’ll try that on my nest use. And I certainly agree with mounting the MSM flat instead of on end. Anything to lower the center of gravity and take strain off the gears!
how was your polar alignment process?
Did you try to use both laser pointer and polarscope on wedge mount?
Did you try to use the PS Align app to center polar star in the right place?
Hello, I used the laser only though the optical polar scope might be more accurate. But since both mount temporarily both are subject to misalignment. But for shooting with wide angle lenses either would be fine. The MSM is not designed to be used with the long telephotos people insist on burdening the little MSM with.
Do you turn off long exposure noise reduction when using the panning time-lapse setup? Because this increases the time in takes to be ready for another frame. I guess if you wanted to use it you would have the tracker move while during the noise reduction part?
No, it’s not a good idea to use LENR for any situations where the next frame has to be shot right away. Even in a motion control sequence the move usually only takes a couple of seconds at best plus a short delay for settle time. Your exposures and any LENR dark are likely to be more like 30 seconds. That’s too long a gap between frames for night time lapses. Stars will jump, not to mention it’ll take twice as long to gather a few hundred frames.
I’ve been reading online review of the MSM and it’s a mixed bag, similar to your results. Seems like the Adventure Mini is the way to go. The MSM polar scope option is $258 vs the Mini at $299. Not much of a difference when you think about it. For not that much more $ you get a superior product that you know will work well and don’t have to deal with returns to China.
The other issue I have with Chinese made products is they tend to use cheaper components, and only fix issues if their customers complain. Rather than getting it right from the get go, they fix problems afterthefact. There’s a big difference between an American company manufacturing in China (ie iphone) vs a Chinese company manufacturing in China – the quality control is just not there. I’m sure the MSM is a good product and maybe once they work out their kinks with future version I’ll have a look agian. For now, I’ll stick with something that works right out of the box!
Excellente review, Alan Dyer. It helped me a lot. Thank you!
Hi Alan, great review. I’m debating between the MSM and the Adventurer Mini. I’m just an aspiring photography… I have a sony a6500 and a 16mm f1.4 lens … so of course I’m going to be starting out with just Milky Way shots and stuff. Granted, I don’t live in a great area for noise pollution, so I won’t be able to be out there taking pictures a ton.
The MSM is so tempting because it seems much easier to use than the Mini, but I don’t want to cheap out / get lazy just for this reason. Therefore I’m leaning more toward learning the ins and outs of the Adventurer Mini, which I’d also be able to use down the road for more deep space stuff … do you think this reasoning is sound?
If you are interested in doing a lot of time lapses get the Mini. It is much more versatile and capable of tracking just as you want it to, and not just at some preset speed. If you primarily want a tracker for following the sky with wide angle lenses the MSM will do well. That’s probably the same advice I gave in the review so it’s likely not much more help! Clear skies!
Hi Alan, Comprehensive review. Bought one in late 2018. It malfunctioned and was replaced by the newer button model. Is it possible to power the unit with an external power bank. I asked this question of MSM in China and they said yes! adding that it would then give me more than 5 hours use. Your comments would be appreciated.
Give it a try and let us know how it works! I found battery life pretty good as is.
Thanks for your time and effort on this thorough equipment review
You ruined it for all of us! No offense, but you ruined it for the rest of us!
I ordered this based on old reviews and I thought I was getting the faster option. I wanted to get two uses, astro-photography as well as panos and timelapse photography.
Just to illustrate my point. With this new unit, I would need to take 2,880 shots to get a 360-degree view. Where I could do that with the old unit in only 360 shots. This is EIGHT TIMES LONGER! Thus this is a significantly different unit than what I thought I was getting!
And, I thought I could really use it to do panos, it’s lighter and seems easier to use than other alternatives out there. With the old one-degree increments, I could get a 90-degree rotation in about 4.5 minutes if, I put three seconds between shots. that would be a total of 90 shots. That’s doable for a great pano.
With the new one, I would need 36 minutes, and it would take 720 shots! Way too much for what I want to do with it. :frowning_face:
Don’t get me wrong . . . it’s a great little unit. It does what it says it would do, and it’s easy enough to figure out how to do. It’s just that I can’t justify the cost if it would only do one thing for me.
Now the long, hard, arduous, painful process of trying to return it starts.
If you really want to do time lapses and panoramas with every degree of flexibility buy a unit like the SYRP Genie Mini that allows full programmability. It’s only $250. Likely every one of your lenses costs more, and you’re likely to buy another lens this year. The MSM is a low cost tracker, but as it was its preset speeds were poor for time lapses. You couldn’t follow the sky well. And 1 deg per move shoots was comically too fast and dizzying. 0.15 deg per move is about what every professional time lapse gear manufacturer recommends for most shoots. And the MSM isn’t for panos. It isn’t advertised as such. For $200 people expect this thing to do everything. It barely does tracking well. But the fact that MSM keeps changing their specs is annoying to be sure. That’s why you buy a unit like the Genie or even the Star Adventurer Mini that can be programmed to do move as you like. Devices with fixed presets sound like they will be so much easier to use but then you find they can’t do what you want. Sorry!
PS.: Your plan to shoot panos wasn’t going to work. Way, way too much overlap! Here are tips for how to do it. https://amazingsky.net/2019/06/25/how-to-shoot-and-stitch-nightscape-panoramas/ Keep the MSM and use it for what it’s intended for, tracking the sky.
This was a really useful review. I was figuring that a tracker for this price would have some limitations and you did indeed identify those limitations.
Finnaly someone who wrote as it is. I ordered, paid, and they didn’t want to send it to me with standard post, saying they can’t, that it is not safe. And I orderer alot from China, all with standard post free shippind. Then they said they will send it for free with DHL, 2 days later sending me email, that I live in remote and if I want it I need to pay another 36$$. I asked for refund which they did.
BTW this is on their website about shipping:
We send our products by using DHL Express and Standard Post. DHL Express takes 4 to 7 days to arrive and Standard Post takes 8 to 20 days to arrive.
If the shipping address is in the list of DHL’s remote area or the replacement battery is ordered, we will send by using Standard Post shipping.
Once your order has been processed for shipment, you will receive an automated shipping notification with tracking number one day later. The real-time tracking info will be available in the time for DHL shipping. But for Standard Post shipping, the tracking info won’t be available until the package has arrived in the destination country.
DHL and FedEx: $15/order, usually take 3-7 days to arrive, have import Tax in Canada and the European Zone.
DHL will charge a high surplus for remote area, we will switch to Standard Post by default for remote area.
Standard Post: FREE SHIPPING, usually takes around 8-20 days to arrive in the current holiday season.
And I live in Europe, not some country in 3rd world.
The Lithium battery and laser might complicate their shipping procedures. In Canada it is illegal for a company to ship lasers over 5 mw. My unit was shipped Parcel Post and took a while but did arrive fine.
Do you think the tracking accuracy would be better on a mirrorless camera like a fuji? would you still recommend this tracker or the star adventure mini?
Hi John. Using a mirrorless camera won’t make a difference even if it is slightly lighter. Many of the mirrorless lenses or adapted DSLR lenses are still quite hefty. The MSM is OK if you stick with wide lenses. But for more advanced shots of deep sky and for time-lapse I’d suggest the Mini. It tracks much better and has far more versatile and usable time-lapse functions. But it is more complex to program. So learn to do it! My ebook describes all the factors. Cheers!
Great review! Does it offer any kind of moon or sun tracking mode?
No it does not. But at the sort of focal lengths you are likely to use with it (up to 135mm only) the difference between sidereal, lunar and solar rates is insignificant. Lunar and solar rates matter only for shooting through long telescopes.
Alan, once again you go above and beyond other reviews to provide a complete product breakdown.
Your incredible experience in the field shows, and we appreciate it!