Updated: Oct 28, 2019
Getting a good picture of the Milky Way is easy! All you have to do is aim your camera at the galaxy's band and take a long exposure shot. You can achieve better quality images stacking the many frames using a software like PixInsight, Deep Sky Stacker, or even Photoshop.
To achieve the best results, you will need to track the sky to allow for longer exposures and reduce the appearance of star trails. This can be tiresome, as you may need a heavy motorized mount, or a small tracking device that runs on batteries. In this review, we are excited to share that you may not need either of those devices to track the sky!
We sometimes use our Atlas EQ-G motorized mount as a tracker to image the Milky Way, as well as capturing some wider deep sky Astrophotography with a camera lens. You can see the entire process in Episode 8 of Galactic Hunter, where we image Barnard's Loop using our Canon 7D Mk II camera which we attached to our Atlas EQ-G Mount.
Our DSLR camera doing wide field imaging during Episode 8
Although this option works really well and yields beautiful results, it has its downside.
A motorized mount like the Atlas EQ-G is bulky, it's heavy, takes a while to setup, needs a power supply, and transporting it with you to photograph the Milky Way is difficult. Lugging this equipment around may be a true test of your love for this hobby.
We spoke to OPT about small trackers, and they introduced us to this Omegon mechanical tracker. We are gracious that they let us borrow one to try out and review! At first glance, it is a lightweight device, does not require an app to polar align, and does not need batteries to operate! Is it too good to be true? Let's test it out!
You can find our full video review if you scroll down below, as well as images taken using this tracker at the bottom of this page!
You can purchase this device from our official partner, Oceanside Photo & Telescope.
The Omegon Mini Track LX2 in front of the Las Vegas Skyline during our first test
WHAT IS IT & WHO IS IT FOR?
The Omegon Mini Track LX2 was created by Cristian Fattinnanzi, an Italian astronomer that partnered with Omegon to distribute his invention all over the world.
The Mini Track LX2 is a camera mount that attaches to any tripod and tracks stars with great accuracy. It is perfect for anyone who enjoys wide field imaging of the night sky, time-lapses, and nighttime nature photography. As of now, it is what we consider the easiest product to get amazing photographs of the Milky Way, large constellations (like Orion), or deep sky objects like the Andromeda Galaxy and Rho Ophiuchi.
The Mini Track LX2 is capable of tracking the sky for one full hour before needing to be reset without the use of a battery!
How is it possible? The mount is 100% mechanical and works like a clock. To start the timer, you must wind-up the device using the knob, then launch your series of photos! Once a full hour has passed, the timer will ring letting you know that the mount is about to stop tracking. If you would like to keep imaging, all you have to do is to wind-up the mount again. You will also have to make sure to reframe your target.
Speaking of targets, the Omegon Mini Track LX2 is great for lots of deep sky objects, but excels most at Milky Way photography. We kept our main DSLR camera, the Canon 7D Mark II to record this review because of its nice low light capabilities, and were lent a cheaper Canon camera, the Canon 70D, by a friend of ours.
Despite it not being as great as the 7D Mk II, the tests we've done were all impressive! Below is our very first shot of the Milky Way band, 1 minute of exposure at 24mm. We could have taken several of these and stack them later to get a much cleaner and more detailed result, but we actually focused on a different target that night, which we'll show you later in this video.
We then wanted to attach our 50mm lens and do a comparison between a 30 second photo with and without the tracker. As you can see below, 30 seconds at 50mm shows lots of star trailing without using the tracker. Click on the arrow to see the version with the tracker, where you can see that all the stars appear pinpoint and crisp.
Click on the arrow again to see an image of two single shots of 1 minute each stacked together. We did not calibrate it with any dark or bias frames. You can see that Deep sky objects within the Milky Way band like the Lagoon (M8) or Trifid Nebula (M20) start to become much more noticeable.
We could have stacked a full hour of exposure time after that night, but we once again decided to focus on a different target to fully test this product.
WHAT'S IN THE BOX?
Before we talk about what comes in the box, note that the Mini Track LX2 mount is offered in a few different versions:
Omegon Mini Track LX2 (Tracks the Northern Hemisphere sky only) - $129
Omegon Mini Track LX2 NS (Tracks the Northern and Southern Hemisphere skies) $159
Omegon Mini Track LX2 NS, SET (Tracks the Northern Hemisphere, the Southern Hemisphere, and comes with a camera Ball Head) - $189
We are using the 3rd one listed and it is the one we recommend to purchase, as it makes the most sense in our opinion.
The first two may be slightly cheaper, and although we have never imaged from the Southern part of the globe, we like to have the option to track from anywhere. The only difference between #2 (NS) and #3 (NS, SET) is that the third one comes as a set with a camera ball head. This component is crucial because it will allow you to freely point your camera to any part of the sky and at any angle.
In the box, we received:
The Mini Track Mount
1 x Polar Finder Tube
The components for Southern sky tracking
A 1/4" to 3/8" adapter and 1/4" to 1/4" adapter
1 x OM8 Pro Ball Head
While opening the box, our first thought was that there were a lot of small pieces and it will take a long time to put together. However, that wasn't the case, as the product was ready to be attached to our tripod in just 3 minutes.
What is deceiving when opening the box is the parts for the Southern hemisphere tracking capabilities, that you need to attach in a specific way with the included screws in order to "reverse" the tracking of the mount. There are also another piece, the polar finder, that actually simply attaches to the side of the Mini Track in seconds.
The open box that contains the Omegon Mini Track LX2
Included is a note explaining how to obtain the PDF manual online and other resources. We suggest taking a look at the manual before handling the device to avoid damage, as it should be considered delicate due to its mechanized innards.
As mentioned before, this tracker is mechanical and works like a clock so you do not want to mess with the gear system inside. If you watched our first video on this device, you can see that we have no problem making it work within several minutes after unboxing it!
SPECS & MOUNTING
The Omegon Mini Track LX2 is 8.2" (21cm) in length, 3" (7.8cm) in width, and 1.2" (3cm) in height. It is similar in size to other sky trackers and fits well in a backpack. It weighs 15 ounces (430g), which is nothing compared to a motorized mount, and is noticeably lighter than other small trackers.
Mounting is on a tripod and attaching the camera is simple.
Screw in the tracker to any tripod just like you would with a regular DSLR camera. It is best to have a sturdy tripod, especially if your camera and lens are heavy.
Attach the ball head to the tracker, followed by your camera
Slide the polar finder tube through the small hole dedicated to it.
Find Polaris through the tube, your polar alignment can be rough and just try to get the North star centered in your view.
Finally, make sure to lock your tripod on all axes, and don't move it or bump into it for the rest of the night or you will need to polar align again.
All you need to do now is to point your camera to the desired target and begin tracking!
Note that you will have to set the springs on the correct settings first, because they act as a counter weight, and their position depends on which direction your camera is pointed. We found this to be the only tricky part of the whole process, but Omegon has an easy to follow graph on their online manual explaining how to use the springs.
IMAGING SOMETHING ELSE THAN THE MILKY WAY?
Although the Omegon Mini Track LX2 is a fantastic tracker for Milky Way photography, it is also more than capable of tracking smaller targets. Although using a telephoto lens should be possible depending on its weight, we haven't had a chance to try and instead used our 50mm to target two other areas of the sky.
1) RHO OPHIUCHI
We spent 40 minutes on Rho Ophiuchi. The photo below was done using the Canon 70D lent to us and we did not expect to end up with such a beautiful image!
We usually spend 4 hours on any target, but we did not spend that much time here mostly because our first goal was to check for star trailing. As you can see below, the stars look round, crips, and have no sign of trailing at all! You can also see Jupiter (the brightest "star" in this image) photobombing our shot :)
We will definitely revisit this target with our main DSLR camera and spend a longer time on it. We'll update our Rho Ophiuchi page with a comparison image showing the results from both cameras!
Camera: Canon 70D
Mount: Omegon Mini Track LX2
Total Exposure Time: 40 minutes
Exposure Time per frame: 1 minute
40 lights, calibrated with Darks and Bias
We then turned our camera (using the included ball head) to one of our favorite constellations: Cygnus. We spent 30 minutes imaging this blanket of stars to, once again, see if there would be star trails in our shots. Once again, none of these thousands of stars show any sign of trailing. Impressive!
If you are having trouble seeing the shape of the Swan, click on the arrow to the right!
Camera: Canon 70D
Mount: Omegon Mini Track LX2
Total Exposure Time: 30 minutes
Exposure Time per frame: 1 minute
30 lights, calibrated with Darks and Bias
OUR FULL VIDEO REVIEW
Just like our other product reviews, we made a video about about the Omegon Mini Track LX2, which you can watch below.
Let us know what you think about it in the comments!
Would we recommend the Omegon Mini Track LX2? The answer is yes!
We consider the Mini Track LX2 to be a great asset for your imaging sessions. It can easily fit anywhere, it is light, and you never have to worry about keeping extra batteries ever! Even if you do not have an extra camera to use on the side while your primary one is imaging Deep Sky Objects, it is still a very useful product for impromptu outings or on hikes to photograph the Milky Way or constellations.
In short, we would definitely recommend this product whether you are a beginner or intermediate night sky photographer.
If you are interested in adding the Omegon Mini Track LX2 to your astrophotography setup, you can purchase one on our partner's website at Oceanside Photo & Telescope.
Antoine & Dalia Grelin
OUR OTHER PRODUCT REVIEWS
GALACTIC HUNTER BOOKS
Description: Discover 60 Deep Sky Objects that will considerably improve your Imaging and Processing skills! Whether you are a beginner, intermediate, or advanced astrophotographer, this detailed book of the best deep sky objects will serve as a personal guide for years to come! Discover which star clusters, nebulae, and galaxies are the easiest and most impressive to photograph for each season. Learn how to find each object in the night sky, and read our recommendations on imaging them in a quick and comprehensive way. Each target in this guide contains our advice on imaging, photos of expected results, and a useful information table. We've also included a few cool facts about each target, a map to find it in the night sky, and more!
Description: The Astrophotographer’s Journal is a portable notebook created for the purpose of recording observations, cataloguing photographs, and writing down the wonderful memories created by this hobby.
This book contains more than 200 pages to memorialize your stargazing and imaging sessions, as well as a useful chart on the last pages to index exciting or important notes.
Read back on the logs to see how much progress you have made through the months, the problems you overcame, and the notes taken to improve in the future. Just as the pioneers of astronomy did in their time, look up and take notes of your observations as you are the author of this star-filled journey.
Description: The Constellations Handbook is a logical guide to learning the 88 constellations.
Learning the constellations is difficult. Remembering them is even harder.
Have you ever wanted to look up to the night sky, name any pattern of stars and be able to tell their stories?
This book groups the constellations in a logical order, so that the reader can easily learn them by their origin, and see how their stories interact with one another as a group.
The last pages of this book include an index of all 88 constellations, each with a slot where you can write your own personal tips and tricks in order to memorize them with ease.
The Constellations Handbook is not just another guide listing all the constellations from A to Z and their location, it is the perfect companion for stargazing, and a learning journey through the ages.