After finally deciding to invest in a star tracker, I began the tedious job of deciding which one I would buy. From my research, I knew there are several options on the market today, so I just had to compare their specifications and features. My main priority was looking for a compact and lightweight tracker which I could use whilst travelling. After almost settling for a Vixen Polarie, I came across the Sifo rotator, produced by a company called Move-Shoot-Move. The Sifo rotator is not just a star tracker, but it also has a time-lapse function, it is small, light and had some good reviews, so I went ahead and ordered it! The older model had an automatic panorama rotating function, but I ordered the newer version which doesn’t support this function.
The unit itself weighs just 450 grams and is rated to carry a payload of up to 3kg. This is much lighter than the Vixen Polarie and Sky Watcher Star Adventurer, which weight roughly 700 grams and 1200 grams respectively. The relatively low payload for the Sifo means that it is not suited for deep sky shots with telephoto lenses, however it has had absolutely no issues with my Sunwayfoto XB-28II ball head, my Nikon D810 and the Nikon 24-70mm Lens, collectively weighing over 2.2 Kg.
Why use a tracker?
As we all know, the earth is constantly rotating. Anyone who has tried to shoot a long exposure photo at night can see trails in the stars, caused by the earth rotating along its axis. A tracker is used to effectively' ‘cancel out’ the earth’s rotation, it achieves this by rotating at the same speed as the earth, but in the opposite directions. The advantage to Astro photographers is that they can therefore shoot much longer exposures, meaning much lower ISO and therefore less noise and better overall image quality. Below you can see a 100% crop of a 4 minute exposure which is tracked Vs untracked.
What’s in the box?
The SIFO Rotator unit
Hot shoe cable for time-lapse
USB C charging cable
2 threaded studs
An Allen key / Wrench
To help ensure I could achieve accurate polar alignment, I also ordered the MSM laser star pointer and the MSM Polar Scope, you can read more about these 2 accessories below.
Using the rotator
The SIFO rotator is a very simple device, it has just 2 buttons, one to choose the direction of rotation (For Northern or Southern Hemisphere), and the other to choose the function you would like to use (Side Reel, ½ Side Reel, 0.05 Degrees, 0.2 Degrees, 0.5 Degrees and 1.0 degree). The rotator charges quickly using the included USB C cable, mine took less than an hour to charge fully. I haven’t yet managed to drain the battery, and I have used it for several hours whilst testing it. The unit sits between the tripod and the camera, and if aligned correctly, it will rotate in a direction opposite to that of the earth’s rotation, effectively cancelling out the earth’s rotation.
The SIFO rotator simply rotates around its axis. The different ‘ Functions’ are pretty much divided in two groups, the star tracker functions and the time-lapse functions, which effectively are just different speeds of rotation. These are:
Side Reel (Star tracking speed – Blurry Foreground)
½ Side Reel (Half star tracking speed – Less blurry foreground and shorter exposures)
0.05 Degrees after each exposure
0.2 Degrees after each exposure
0.5 Degrees after each exposure
1.0 degree after each exposure
Like with any other star tracker, your shots will only be as good as your polar alignment is. Through testing, I have found that once the Sifo rotator has been correctly aligned correctly, it is accurate enough for decent long exposures whilst shooting wide field astro photography. Using the laser pointer to find Polaris, then accurately aligning Polaris with the NCP has enabled me to shoot an exposure of 8 minutes with no star trails at all when viewing at 100% crop, that’s pretty impressive for a tracker which can fit in my trouser pocket!
Below is a 100% crop of the raw file of a 2 minutes exposure (121 Seconds) at F 2.0 and an ISO of 400. You can see how clean the image is, with almost no noise whatsoever. You can also see that there is no trailing in the stars. Without the tracker, I would have been limited to an exposure of about 10 seconds. To get the same result though, I would have needed to increase my ISO to 3200, which would have meant a lot more noise!
Advantages of the Sifo Rotator
The device is extremely lightweight and compact, meaning I can always have it with me when travelling.
The battery life so far is very impressive. I have not been able to deplete the battery yet, and I have used it for over 8 hours on a single charge. If battery life is a concern, you could connect it to a power bank to enable you to charge whilst using it.
Once accurately aligned, you can get some fantastic results. I have managed to shoot an 8 minute exposure at 24mm with no star trails, this is more than a 5 stop increase in shutter speed compared to shooting without the tracker, enabling me to use a much lower ISO and therefore getting a much cleaner (Less Noise) image as a result.
With the laser alone (Rough polar alignment), I have managed to get exposure of about 1 minute without visible trails, this is also a huge advantage for when setting up in a rush!
The device is also designed to rotate whilst shooting time-lapse sequences, this is very handy as it means you don’t need a separate device for time-lapse.
Disadvantages of the Sifo Rotator
The mounting bracket for the Laser pointer and polar scope is not built into the tracker and is therefore easy to lose / misplace.
The threaded studs do not stop at any point and you need to tighten the ball head pretty well to ensure it does not get lose during operation, this happened o me whilst testing, I have since used a drop of thread lock on the stud to solve this problem and have not had any issues since then.
Having Moon and sun tracking speed would make the SIFO a great tool for tracking eclipses and the like.
The Move-shoot-move Sifo Rotator is a great little device which can open up a new world of opportunity to shoot better astro photos when using it as a star tracker and more dynamic time-lapse footage when using it to rotate your camera throughout a sequence.
It can’t carry the payload that some other star trackers can carry, but it is also significantly cheaper, lighter and more portable than other trackers on the market, which in my book makes it the right tool for my needs.
When used to track stars, the SIFO is very accurate once you have done proper polar alignment (This can be quite tricky until you get used to it). The best selling point for this tracker is its ultra-portability and relatively cheap cost compared to other tracker on the market.
Where to buy
If you’re interested in purchasing the Sifo Rotator – You can Click Here to view the Sifo Rotator on MSM’s website and use the discount code ‘SAMUEL’ to get a discount on your order! (Note: This is an affiliate link!).
In the future I will also be publishing a guide to polar alignment, as it can be quite tricky till you understand exactly how to get it done accurately!
Note: This is not a sponsored review. I have purchased the SIFO rotator with my own money and genuinely find it to be a great tool.