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Product Review: The QHY PoleMaster

Posted by Matt Dahl on

The QHY PoleMaster - The Best Astronomy Accessory I’ve Ever Purchased

I love astrophotography. It is one of my favorite parts of this hobby. Despite the long hours of imaging and processing time, I find it cathartic and relaxing. There is an element, however, of astrophotography that I absolutely don’t like…polar aligning. Like most astronomers, I don’t like bending down to look through the polar scope (an action made less comfortable by the fact that I’m tall), dealing with illuminators (or, worse yet, using my red flashlight to illuminate the reticle), or all the estimating I have to do with the rotation of the reticle. I’ve tried different things (chair that gets me lower to the ground, taller tripod to alleviate neck strain, phone apps to help with reticle rotation), but none of them ever really improved the experience. So I was pretty interested when QHY introduced the PoleMaster.

Admittedly, I was skeptical at first. My polar alignments (though aggravatingly uncomfortable) seemed relatively accurate and, though I had never really measured the accuracy, I felt as though I had mastered the use of the polar alignment scope. I wasn’t sure I saw a use case for an electronic polar finder. But, something was telling me I should give it a try, so I went ahead and bought one. Out of the box, I was impressed.

Set up was quick and simple. There is an adapter available for pretty much any mount on the market. It includes a quick release flange that mounts to the back of the PoleMaster and the corresponding receptacle portion that stays permanently attached to your mount. Simply place the adapter into the mount’s polar bore sight hole and tighten the set screws to secure it. Then, the PoleMaster can just dovetail into the adapter for quick attachment and quick release, which makes it excellent for mobile setups.

After installing the software and drivers, a single USB cable connects the PoleMaster to the computer. The software is excellent, providing instructions at each step of the alignment routine. After a few clicks, the software walks you through computing the rotational center of your mount, identifies the North Celestial Pole, and has you line the two up. “Could it really be that simple?” I asked myself. The answer was a resounding “yes.” The process took 5 quick minutes the first time out.

To find out how accurate the PoleMaster really is, I opted to perform a drift measurement through PHD to calculate the polar alignment error. The results were astounding. I was getting an alignment error of .56 arc minutes (33.5 arc seconds)! QHY claims the PoleMaster can achieve 30 arc second accuracy, but I certainly didn’t expect that on my first try using it.  But, sure enough, right out of the box, I was able to achieve an accuracy that gives me nice, round stars, even when imaging near 70 degrees declination.

The PoleMaster has made polar aligning incredibly simple. It is fast, reliable, and, most importantly, accurate…the three things I’ve always desired from a polar alignment routine. From my experience, it is an absolute must for any astrophotographer. Between the time it saves and the angst it prevents, it helps make your imaging sessions more productive and more enjoyable.

I’ve acquired a lot of accessories for my telescope in all the years I’ve been imaging. But, quite honestly, I believe none have been as valuable a tool as the PoleMaster. I truly believe it is one of the best astro add-ons I’ve ever purchased.

You can learn more about the PoleMaster on our product page

Clear Skies,
Matt

Measured Polar Alignment Error:

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4 comments

  • I purchased the pole master in the not to distant past, and have been quite happy and relived In the ease and speed in which the device works, it has already saved me several hours of time in acquiring polar alignment, and I can see it will save me countless more in the future, I can say that it has performed just as good as any drift alignment I’ve done, in mere minutes.

    Kurt Herrod on
  • I, too, purchased one about a month ago, but it took this long to have clear skies! It was a snap to use, and so easy. I was impressed. It probably saved me a minimum of an hour of messing around with drift aligning and then fine tuning with PHD. Extremely happy!

    Steve Mills on
  • I’ve noticed that I can get it to work during twilight if I turn the exposure and gain to their lowest settings, but I do sometimes have to wait until it’s a little darker than when Polaris first appears. We will forward your excellent suggestion to QHY and see if they can accommodate the request for better exposure control in a future release of the software :-)

    Cloud Break Optics on
  • I have one also. I agree with the ease of operation, and accuracy. The only complaint I have is that the Camera need a better Gain/Exp interface. The camera is seems too sensitive in the since that when I can visually see polaris, the camera is still over-exposing the sky. I need a way to turn down the gain. I’m going to play with some neutral density filters this weekend to try and dumb it down a bit.

    Michael Blaylock on

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