Astrotracer is a mode available in some Pentax cameras that is described as a celestial-tracking function that, in its first two iterations, used a combination of the camera’s built-in “Shake Reduction” (SR) mechanism in conjunction with GPS data. In order to get that GPS data, Pentax photographers would also need to purchase the company’s GPS module, so it was not only an additional cost but also more of a hassle to manage a second piece of equipment.
Atrotracer Type 1 and Type 2 need both pieces of hardware in order to function with the main difference between the two being that Type 2 shifts the camera’s image sensor at half the speed of Type 1 in order to accommodate landscapes or foreground elements.
Type 3 is a more dramatic technological advancement. Launched in March 2022 for the K-3 Mark III, this third option allows for the use of the astrotracing feature without the need for global positioning.
Ricoh describes the feature as a simplified equatorial function that allows the camera to track and capture celestial bodies without GPS data.
“Before actual shooting, a preliminary shot is captured automatically, enabling celestial body tracking from star movements. This feature eliminates GPS positioning wait time and able to shoot in locations subject to previously troublesome magnetic fields,” Ricoh explains.
“As the star movements are being captured on an image, Astrotracer’s auto-tracking function may fail when objects other than stars, such as clouds, enter the image field. In such situations, it is recommended that users select the Type 1 or Type 2 mode. When used with interval shooting, it is possible to perform multiple main exposures with a single preliminary shot.”
Astrotracer Type 3 will only work with zoom lenses at either the wide or telephoto end (nothing in between) with the exception of three specific lenses where the feature works at any zoom position: the 55-300mm f/4.5-6.3 ED PLM WR RE, the 11-18mm f/2.8 ED DC AW, and the 16-50mm f/2.8 ED PLM AW.
As mentioned, Type 3 was introduced last year on the K3 Mark III, but until now the K1 Mark II was way behind — it only had access to Astrotracer Type 1. After firmware 2.40, all three are available on the full-frame camera that originally came to market in 2018.
The update can be downloaded directly from Ricoh’s website.
Image credits: Ricoh