If you click a link on this page, then go on to make a purchase, we may receive a commission but at no extra cost to you. Learn More

Vixen Polarie Star Tracker Review

The Vixen Polarie is a star tracker in disguise. Shaped like a compact camera, this ultra-portable tracker is not afraid to follow you in your adventures under the stars.

But with so many great trackers out there, is the Vixen Polarie worth considering? Let’s find out in this review.

Vixen Optics 35505 Polarie Star Tracker

The Vixen Polarie

Overview

The Vixen Polarie falls in the category of ultra-portable star trackers, same as the Omegon Minitrack LX2/LX3, the Skywatcher Star Adventurer Mini and the iOptron SkyTracker, etc.

These trackers are mostly designed for shooting starry landscapes and wide star fields, but they can often be pushed to get a taste of what deep sky astrophotography is.

milky way landscape shot with a Polarie
Image Credit: Michael-Schluender via Astroshop.eu

Astrobin.com is my goto site to visit when I need to see sample images taken with specific gear. Here you can see many images taken with the Polarie.

Tech Specs

Here are the main characteristics of the Vixen Polarie

  • 4 different tracking speeds: Sidereal, solar, lunar and ½ of sidereal speed
  • Hemispheres: Can track in both Northern and Southern Hemispheres
  • Polar Sight Hole: About 8.9 deg field of view
  • Built-in: Tilt Meter (illuminated)
  • Includes: Detachable compass supplied as a standard accessory
  • Power: 2 AA Batteries
  • Maximum Payload: 2.0kg
  • Battery life: About 2 hours
  • Size: 3.7 x 5.9x 2.3 inches
  • Weight: 26 oz (without batteries)
  • Optional Accessories: Polarie Polar Scope PF-L, Polar Meter, Time Lapse adapter, Step up Kit, Tripod, Ball Head

Pros

  • Slick and compact design
  • Lightweight
  • Built-in tilt indicator, Compass, and Polar Sight Hole
  • Tracking for both hemispheres
  • Different tracking speeds available
  • Good range of accessories

Cons

  • Very overpriced respect the competitors
  • No wedge and no ball head included
  • Battery life seems to be quite limited
  • Max. Payload limited to 2kg
  • Can’t do time-lapse without buying the Time Lapse accessory

What’s In The Box?

What’s Included

In the box, you will find the Polarie unit and nothing more. This is because most of what you need is built-in or stored in the unit body.

What’s Not Included (But Would Be Useful)

The Polarie has a wide range of accessories, from the compass to mount on the hot-shoe for daytime polar alignment to the Counterweight Upgrade Kit, which includes:

  • The Dovetail Slide Bar DD
  • The Polarie Dovetail Mounting Block
  • The Polarie Polar Scope PF-L
  • The Polar Fine Adjustment Unit

All those parts can be purchased separately. You can also have a shaft with a range of counterweights and an accessory for time-lapses.

The main benefit of the Counterweight Upgrade Kit is that it increases the maximum payload from 2kg to 6.5kg. 

And you have the polar scope and a solid wedge.

Vixen Polar Fine Adjustment Unit
The Vixen Polar Fine Adjustment Unit and the Polar Scope PF-L.

While the number and quality of the accessories are impressive, they do not come for free.

Things to consider before buying

The Mount

The mount is very portable, and the design is somewhat unique, with its compact rectangular shape resembling a compact camera.

Here you can see a detailed view of the Vixen Polarie.

detailed view of the Vixen Polarie
A detailed view of the Vixen Polarie. Image from the Polarie User Manual.

As you can see from the diagram above, everything you need is integrated into the body of the mount:

  • The Tilt Meter, to know the attitude your mount is pointing at, is illuminated with a red light and dominates one side of the Polarie
  • The Polar Sight Hole works as a compact camera viewfinder
  • A Compass is included, and it fits neatly in the unit body when not in use
  • The Camera Mounting Block is not bulky so that it is easy to slide the unit inside a pouch or camera bag compartment
  • The battery compartment, the N-S tracking switch and the mini-USB port for the external power are on the opposite side of the Tilt Meter
  • A single Mode Dial is found at the top of the unit, together with the accessory hot-shoe

A photographic ¼” threaded screw is found at the bottom, to allow you to mount the tracker on a photographic head or on the accessory wedge.

Ease Of Use

The Vixen Polarie has its strength in the ease of use:

  1. Mount the unit on a tripod
  2. Roughly polar align by using the compass and the built-in tilt meter
  3. Mount the camera
  4. Refine the polar alignment by centering Polaris (or σ-Octans) in the field of view of the Polar Sight Hole
  5. Turn the Polarie on by selecting the proper tracking mode (check you are tracking for the right Hemisphere)

There are a couple of things to consider though. 

First, you need to use two photographic heads, one for mounting the Polarie on the tripod and one for mounting the camera on the tracker.

polarie ball head

Polarie mounted with two ball heads

For my experience, a 3-way tilt and pan head or a geared head is better than a ball head to mount the Polarie on the tripod, as you will have more control when polar aligning the mount. For the camera, a ball head is great.

A better alternative is to use an equatorial wedge to mount the Polarie on the tripod. This can be the rather expensive Polar Fine Adjustment Unit or the more affordable Omegon wedge for the Minitrack.

The other thing to consider is that with gloves, particularly when using a ball head with a large base, the thumbscrews to fix the camera mount on the Polarie are difficult to operate.

Battery Type And Battery Life

2 AA batteries will power the Polarie for a couple of hours, with a small payload on it. 

You will have enough power to have fun shooting a couple of starry landscapes, but if you want to get busy with star fields and deep sky, you’ll find the battery life is a limiting factor.

Luckily, the Polarie can be connected to an external USB power bank and powered through a mini-USB port. 

This is a neat solution, particularly if you already use a power bank to power an anti-dew heating strip to keep your lens from fogging in cold and humid environments.

Weight And Portability

The Vixen Polarie excels in portability. This is not only because it weighs less than 750gm but also because of its compact, rectangular shapes that allow you to easily slide the Polarie in a camera pouch or camera bag compartment.

holding a Vixen Polarie
The Vixen Polarie fits in the palm of your hand. Image Credit: Astrophotophils

Payload Capacity

2kg of maximum payload is enough for shooting with a small DSLR or Mirrorless cameras fitted with a wide-angle or medium telephoto lens.

For deep sky astrophotography, you have to pimp the Vixen Polarie with the Counterbalance Upgrade Kit plus counterweight.

Polar Alignment

To polar align, simply look through the Polar sight hole and try center Polaris in the 8.9º field of view.

If you are in the Southern Hemisphere, polar alignment is much more difficult due to the absence of bright stars near the celestial pole.

south celestial pole map
The south celestial pole is located near σ-Octans, a dim star in the dim Octans constellation. Image from the Polarie User Manual.

For a more precise polar alignment, you should consider getting the optional polar scope finder. 

Note that without the counterweight upgrade kit, though, you cannot have the polar scope mounted at the same time with your camera. 

Performances

Performances are pretty solid, with the limiting factor being the quality of the polar alignment using Polar Sight Hole.

For starry landscapes and wide star fields, though, you can still expect to expose for several minutes at a time.

With longer focal lengths and heavier payloads, you will need the optional Counterweight Upgrade Kit.

Alternatives

The Vixen Polarie is in a tough position on the market, as there are many competitors that are cheaper and have more to offer.

Omegon Minitrack LX2 N/S

Omegon Minitrack LX2
The Omegon Minitrack LX2.

Considering the hardware and performances, the closest tracker to the Polarie is the Omegon Minitrack LX2 N/S

In its basic configuration, this fully mechanical tracker is also sold without a wedge nor a ball head, has a simple tube as a polar scope and has the same max payload of 2kg.

Of course, the Minitrack has only sidereal tracking and can track for about 60 minutes before needing to be rewinded, but it also costs less than half the Polarie, and it is lighter.

For more info, have a look at our detailed review of the Omegon Minitrack LX2.

Skywatcher Star Adventurer Mini Pro

Star Adventurer Mini Pro alternative

The Skywatcher Star Adventurer Mini Pro bundle, with all the included accessories

The Skywatcher Star Adventurer Mini Pro costs a little less than the Polarie, but it offers much more:

  • 24hrs of tracking with 2 AA batteries
  • 3kg max. Payload
  • Can be controlled via Wi-Fi with your phone
  • Can control your camera for time-lapses
  • Can dither
  • It comes with a declination plate with micrometric movement for the camera, wedge, polar scope, and polar scope illuminator.

You can know more by reading our detailed review of the Skywatcher Star Adventurer Mini.

Skywatcher Star Adventurer Pro

sky watcher star adventurer close up
The Skywatcher Star Adventurer PRO with all included accessories.

For a little more than the price of the Vixen Polarie, you could get the Star Adventurer Pro, which includes:

  • The tracker with built-in polar scope, a maximum payload of 5kg and 7 tracking speeds, guiding port, and a dedicated port for camera connection
  • the polar illuminator
  • the wedge
  • the ball head adapter
  • the declination plate featuring micrometric adjustment for camera orientation
  • the shaft with 1kg counterweight

You can read our detailed review of the Star Adventurer Pro for more info.

To configure the Polarie in a similar way, you have to buy the Counterweight Upgrade Kit plus the extension bar and counterweight. This alone will cost you about 900 USD.

Here is a great video on how to use the Vixen Polarie.

Conclusion

The Vixen Polarie wants to be the perfect companion for your adventures under the stars. It has a lot to offer: it is extremely portable, it is easy to use and performs greatly. 

The bad news is its price. The Polarie is simply too expensive in comparison with trackers of similar or even better performances straight-out-of-the-box. 

To squeeze the best out of the Polarie, you have to spend about 1200 USD, roughly the cost of a full-grown, computerized equatorial mount for astrophotography. 

In short, while there is a lot to like in the Polarie, all considering there are better and more budget-friendly alternatives on the market.

About Andrea Minoia

Andrea Minoia works as a researcher in a Belgian university by day and is a keen amateur astrophotographer by night. He is most interested in deep sky photography with low budget equipment and in helping beginners along their journey under the stars.