The mount arrives in one double-boxed package. Inside were five boxes of various sizes, designed to fill the full space. This did mean that two of the boxes were significantly over sized for their contents, but these were protected with padding. There are good unboxing videos already available such as the one below so I did not take photographs.
There are two large boxes, for the tripod (including eyepiece tray) and the mount (including hand controller in a neat little insert pocket in the polystyrene). A third box holds the counterweight and the two remaining boxes have various accessories (azimuth bolts, counterweight bar, power cord, etc).
Warning: I'd noticed in the unboxing video that the counterweight can easily fall out of its box so when I picked it up I made sure I held both sides of the box!
My first impressions of the mount were:
- the tripod has the same sturdy 2" legs as my Evolution but because the mounting plate was much smaller and the eyepiece tray is designed to be removed between uses, it takes up much less space. I'd estimate it takes about half the volume as the Evolution tripod. This will make transporting it much easier. It will lie much flatter in the boot of the car leaving much more space for the mount and scope.
- there are many more pieces than the Evolution. Setting up the Evolution simply means taking out the tripod, tightening the tray and then lowering the mount onto the plate. The mount is rotated so that three screws under the plate can be tightened to lock the mount in place. Done! This time, it looks like the set up will be much more involved.
- the mount design (small base with a downward protruding altitude knob) means it is not as stable when being stored. The Evolution mount has a large, flat base so it sits solidly on a shelf when not in use. This mount will need some thoughts for storing it securely.
I'd read the manual in advance (downloading the PDF from the Celestron website (http://www.celestron.com/media/796147/Advanced_VX-Manual-F.pdf) but I took the time to go through the printed manual included in the box. The initial set up was relatively easy.
- I took out the tripod, leaving the legs at their shortest (it helps me keep the scope inside the shadow of my garden fence) and tried to roughly align it north using the compass on my phone. I also tested how level the mount plate was. Though not needed to be level, it does simplify adjustments to alt and az during polar alignment. The plate was within 1 degree of level which was good enough for me.
- I attached the azimuth bolts to the mount, screwing them in just far enough so they were secure but the didn't impede the area where the alignment peg would sit. I assume they are removed during transit to make it easier to box the mount.
- I tightened the RA and dec clutches on the mount (which were left loose during transit).
- I sat the mount onto the tripod. It fits nicely. Putting the Evolution mount onto the tripod takes a little jiggling for it to seat itself. The AVX drops in with little effort.
- I pushed the central mounting knob under the mount plate upwards to connect with the mount and then screwed it in so the mount was held firmly in place. I then unscrewed it a little, so that there was some play, which is needed during polar alignment.
- I attached the accessory tray, which helps tension the tripod legs. I did not like that the v shaped spurs of the tray looked like they could mark the tripod legs when tightened. I will have to see if this is an issue over time. The spurs on the Evolution were more rounded and fit the legs smoothly so this never concerned me before.
- I attached the counterweight bar then removed the safety screw and slid the counterweight about halfway up the bar before reinserting the safety screw (with one had firmly holding the weight) before tightening the weight itself.
- I snapped on the hand controller holder onto one of the legs. Note: at this point the manual goes through the process of attaching and balancing the scope. It is not until the very end that the manual mentions that you need to connect the dec motor to the RA motor using the supplied short cable. Without this cable, the mount cannot drive in RA! I would have thought this step should go much earlier in the manual.
- With great trepidation, I then attached the scope to the mount. Even though I knew this would be secure it still feels so wrong to have so much weight being held by two lateral screws!
- I then proceeded to try my first balancing of the scope. I loosened the clutches and rotated the scope so counterweight bar was horizontal and the scope was parallel to the ground, locking the clutches once finished. I then loosened the RA clutch, holding onto the scope for dear life. I slowly released my hold (waiting to catch the scope as it moved) to see which way the scope rolled. Nothing. Mild panic. I tested that the scope could move in RA. Yes, there was a little resistance but it moved freely and easily. I guess I was just very lucky and I'd already put the counterweight in the right place. I tested this by sliding the weight further down the bar and tested again. This time it did roll, so I returned the weight to its original position and marked this with some tape on the bar so it would be easy to balance in the future.
- I then tested dec. The scope did roll this time and I needed to push the scope a little forward. I will probably have to move it further forward once I add the OAG and guide camera, and have the StarSense attached.
- The next step would be to connect all the electronics and testing motor control from within SGPro and via Stellarium. I had many cloudy days and nights ahead so I decided to dismantle the set up and see how a more normal set up would be.
My initial impression of set up confirmed my worries that this would take longer than setting up the Evolution. There are a number of additional steps that I need to take which might add 5 more minutes at the start of a session. However, as I would normally set up in the afternoon, this shouldn't be an issue. However, it would take a similar time to take down, when I'd also be more tired, so I will need to practice.
The biggest set up differences will be:
- roughly aligning the tripod, hopefully to be speeded up once I've done my first PA and I can mark the paving slabs
- attaching/detaching the accessory tray each time, though this can be done indoors if I need to do a hasty take down
- balancing the scope, which will be quicker now I've marked the bar and will (once I have the full imaging train attached) mark the dovetail.
I now need to test the motor control and then attempt my first alignment. As it stands:
- My confidence set up will be easy in comparison to alt/az: 4/10
- My confidence extra effort will result in improved images: 8/10