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  1. Hello, I am a photographer with over forty years experience (now retired) BUT very little knowledge in astrophotography! So I am looking for some advice from you please. I am using an Olympus OMD EM1x & EM1Mkll with a 300mm f4 mounted to the Sky-Watcher Star Adventure 2i. I have now realised I need a guide scope to allow longer exposures so are looking at a 30mm f4 (120mmFl) or should I go up to a 50mm (180/200mmFl)? Is it worth the extra for the ZWO ASI 120mm mini-S which is USB3.0 and twice the fps over the 120mm mini USB 2.0 or would I not notice any benefits with my setup? Any advice & constructive criticism welcomed. I have attached a copy of my first attempt which has inspired me greatly! Single image processed in LR & PS. 300mmf4, 1600 ISO, 120sec.
  2. Hi, just received this mount today and mounted my scope and accessories, as i was trying to get everything balanced i immediately noticed the RA and DEC aren't smooth at all even at almost full load (see pic) , not handy for balancing i would say. Other than that everything seems Ok, the motors do make a short cracking sound wen start and stop slewing, but that's normal i guess, it's not belt driven so.. Got it running via EQMOD too so HC remains in its package. Maybe a little point of criticism, SW should have made the motor cables more flexible. Also strange that the counterweight shaft of this tiny mount is 20mm and the shaft on my EQ6R is 18mm. I need to check if my EQ6 polemaster adapter fits this mount, let's hope so. If anyone has this mount to i'd like too hear if RA and DEC are also not smooth and if a fix is possible. Thanks
  3. AlastairW

    Melotte 15

    From the album: Messier and NGC Objects

    Melotte 15 Skwatcher 130pds ASI1600mm-c (-15) 7nm Baader Ha 10x5min lights No darks, flats or bias
  4. From the album: Messier and NGC Objects

    IC1805 Skwatcher 130pds ASI1600mm-c (-15) 7nm Baader Ha 10x5min lights No darks, flats or bias
  5. I've ordered at sky-watcher 200pds. I see several threads about collimation of the 200pds in this forum. Is the collimation set properly from factory, or should I get a tool for doing this right away?
  6. My HEQ5 and 200pds has arrived. Woohoo! Haven't had a proper clear sky yet. So trying to prepare everything and understanding polar alignment. Please have a look at attached image. So my latitude in Norway is about 63.25 degrees, but setting this degrees with the t-bolts (1 + 2 on the image) on the HEQ5 mount is rather tricky, as the bolt in the back/south (2) is crashing in the polar scope cover (4), or the polar scope itself if I remove the cap/cover. By crashing I mean that I will not be able to rotate/adjust the bolt further because the "handle" will not have room enough to rotate. The two t-bolts have different length, but if I use the shorter one in the back (2), I'm not able to get even close to 60 deg (3). So I will have to use the longest one. The only way of achiving this that I've found is to leave the front/north t-bolt (1) out. Then tilt the declination/latitude forward to a "low" degree. Then adjust the bolt in the back (2) approximately right. Then I tilt the declination back again until it stops, to see if I have the correct degree. If not correct, I have to tilt forward again, adjust again, then tilt back. Is this really how I have to do this? Is there something here that I've completely missed out on?
  7. I've been using a Quark chromosphere now since May and just wanted to share what an absolute delight this piece of equipment is (albeit I never seem to have enough cloud free sky to get it right on band). I had been using a ST80 but felt this was lacking and not a great match for the Quark in terms of focal length. I've since moved to a 120mm refractor and hope the images show how capable the Quark is.
  8. Why crave for long eye relief, and then restrict it with a raised eyecup? Why conceive wide fields optics only to make them narrow with same raised eyecup? My Myriads and Nirvana/TS/William clones have a rotating eyecup that resists turning firmly, they never spin unless I want them to. The Meade/Maxvision 18mm/82° and 34mm/68°, on the other hand, possess a rubber eyecup that also serves as a grippy external frame. These oversize grips offered so much leverage to the turning mechanism, they triggered it often with no will on my part. Almost each time I handled them, the integral cup spun, reducing the eye relief and field, plus it made me doubt if I had fully seated and locked them in the diagonal. The 34mm was the worst offender, its mechanism had almost no resistance at all. That was very annoying, when you observe you want quietness, your gear shouldn't be doing irritating things of its own. Having had enough of that, I lifted the rubber with a handy little tool I always carry in my back pocket: the Dunlop Ultex guitar pick. Ultex is plastic, but it's the glassiest pick material, dump it on something hard and its sounds almost like glass foil or stone foil, if such a thing was possible (Dunlop's more rubbery Tortex was great but it's outdated, just compare). Still Ultex is flexible, a mandatory quality of guitar and bass picks. And it won't scratch anodized aluminum. A 1mm thick pick did the job after a 0.73mm colleague broke; not tough enough. 0.60mm's give out the most harmonics but they were too thin at first sight for this. I don't play 1mm's anymore, they mute too much harmonics, however this one got a nice alternate occupation. Experience from many other little jobs similar to this one made me keep the broken pick when most folks would dump it right away. Never trash something until the work is over. This piece of scrap plastic proved the ideal tool, with the right curvature and bite, to remove the crystalline superglue that remained on the metal cylinder. The mechanism is simply a stud that moves inside a curved slot. I wiped the now-useless grease, and filled the slot with a short piece of electric wire to block the stud. Sorry for the blurry shot. No need to glue the wire, the tight-fitting rubber housing keeps it in place. I did put three drops of glue to attach the rubber to the inside metal housing. I kept the caps on, but I should have taped them to better protect the lenses against tools and glue, big sin here! I didn't use superglue, I'll wait and see if that all-purpose Pattex sticks hard enough to both metal and rubber. If it doesn't, superglue it will be. The "tire" fits the "wheel" tight enough that even no glue could do temporarily. Did the same with the 34mm: Interesting how the crown's edge has some green anodizing that was destined to match the green deco of the eyepiece, had it been sold under the Meade brand. It was impossible to lift that massive rubber housing with a pick, I had to do it with a screwdriver, but it inevitably scratched the black barrel, which I patched up with a black marker. These are the black smears under the wire. There is some risk in opening a high-grade eyepiece, so don't try before you have praticed on cheap or damaged ones. It also voids the warranty, be careful. Waterproof eyepieces are obviously a no-no for that mod! Assuming one could unscrew the sealed parts, humid air would enter through the thinnest opening, and ruin the anti-fogging protection. I hope this is interesting even if you don't get to use the tip. I didn't know what I would find in there, nor did I know how I would fix the sloppy eyecup. Simply opening a bits drawer made me notice that piece of wire, bulb switched on inside my head. I had considered drilling the frame to insert a locking screw but what an awful lot more work and risk it would be! Somehow it escaped my mind that I also own a 24/82 Meade/Maxvision ocular that has a turning integral rubber frame and eyecup, but much firmer fortunately; I might do the same mod for it or not. And a 7mm Panorama, if a preliminary, partial takedown shows it can be done safely. I'll keep you posted.
  9. Hi, I've just ordered a Sky-Watcher Skymax 150 PRO from FLO. It will replace my wonderful 250px which is simply taking up too much room amongst my kids' growing population of Peppa Pig and friends! Will I miss the wider field of view and the light gathering capabilities of the big(ish) dob in my little backyard in averagely light polluted Bedford? I've read good things about the MAK but I'm nervous! Part of my motivation was that I want to be able to share the joy of the night skies with my young kids (6 & 3). The dob is fabulous but it's not that easy for them to see through the eyepiece without knocking it off target. I have an HEQ5 Pro mount (which I've never used). I'm hoping that, along with the MAK, the kids might have a better chance of seeing things and being inspired rather than frustrated. I'll almost certainly sell the 250px asap and free-up the space for 'Peppa Pig land'. I hope I'm not making a grave (and expensive) mistake! Best wishes, Jason
  10. My first night imaging Saturn. After going through all the AVI's this is my best result from the lot Sky-Watcher Skyliner 200p + 2x Celestron Barlow + QHY5L-IIC. 250 frames stacked in AS2! De-Noise in Registax. Wavelets & tweaks in Astra Image 4.0 24/05/16 UT 00:30:46 Lytham, Lancashire, NW UK.
  11. Friends, I am back with a tutorial video on how to modify your Sky Watcher HEQ5-PRO mount or its American twin, the Orion Sirius EQ-G into a belt driven mount. The benefits of converting to a belt drive is that you don't have to worry about Backlash. The procedure took me about an hour to complete. Link is below https://youtu.be/PjDZiXaN5KM
  12. Hello all, TL;DR: are there any cheap ways, including secondhand, of mounting a 130P-DS for not-completely-terrible results? I am looking to buy a telescope as a gift for a family member. I had in mind a budget of around £150-£200, and from looking at advice had almost settled on the Sky-Watcher Explorer 130P. But then I realised that there's a good chance that if they get into astronomy there's a good chance that my relative will want to do some photography, and would probably be interested in attaching their micro four thirds camera. I've learnt that the 130P is not great for this as you cannot get prime focus, so you need to look at the Sky-Watcher Explorer 130P-DS instead. Great, I thought! It's a bit cheaper, but it isn't available in a kit with any form of mount. OK, I'll need to get one of those too... Then I started looking at mounts. Oh my, those things crash through the top of my budget! Even the EQ2 mount on its own, when you can find it, is about £115. https://www.bristolcameras.co.uk/p-skywatcher-eq-2-equatorial-mount-aluminium-tripod.htm (Given that you can get the spherical version of the Sky-Watcher 130 on that mount for £155 from FLO, that seems to value the OTA part at somewhere around the £40 mark.) So, I'm after advice on whether there is an affordable way of doing this. I've read enough on this forum and other sites around the web to know that the main recommendation is that the heavier duty the better. Something like an EQ3 or upwards. And that for AP a lot of people seem to view an HEQ5 as a starting point. But since I can't stretch to that, I'm OK with leaving it as an upgrade path for my relative if that's the way they want to go (or option for future gifts!). I know that for next-to-no budget I'm not going to be able to give something that will get the best out of the telescope. I know that getting motors and whatnot to do the guiding that will make DSO photography possible is way out of the realms of possibility. What I'm hoping for is some sort of option that gives acceptable results. Usable rather than unusable. Limiting the results rather than destroying them! Getting this set up so that they can do reasonable observation at first, and maybe give a try at attaching their m4/3 camera to try photographing the moon. If that whets their appetite then mount upgrades can be possible later. Since I'm planning on a new OTA, I'd be happy with going secondhand for the mount. I've been trawling ebay, and see the odd thing like this come up: https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Telescope-On-Tripod-Stand-Model-900114-Spares-N-Repairs/124230022581?hash=item1cecafb5b5:g:Ay8AAOSwSz1e7OCu To my untrained eye, it looks like there's an EQ2 mount on that, so I'm wondering whether that would do the trick. (Working on the, possibly faulty, assumption that if EQ2 is viewed by Sky-Watcher as being sturdy enough to supply as the kit mount for the 130 and 130P, it's probably up to scratch for observing with the 130P-DS too.) Even that, at another £58 inc postage for the buy it now would be over my budget, but I'm wondering more generally whether trying to grab something like that to essentially discard the tube would even be feasible as an option if I can get one at the right price. Or, of course, I'm open to any other ideas and suggestions that the forum might have. Thanks in advance, and clear skies.
  13. Hi, I'm relatively new to the whole telescope thing but have done my research and was fixed on getting the Orion skyquest XT8i or XT10i. By spending that much money, I didn't like the idea of purchasing it online from their website without seeing it in person (and not having the reassurance of being able to take it back) and looked for stores in the UK that would supply them. After plenty of research, it seems like they don't exist anymore and they are only in the US? Is this right or could anyone help me? (I've looked at the Sky-watcher 250PX/200PX flextube skyscan goto but it is significantly heavier and the noise of the goto mechanism sounds like a table saw so that's put me off of it...) Any help would be much appreciated, Thanks
  14. Hello I need your expert advise and opinions please. I currently have a Sky-watcher 114 telescope which has served me well for the few years I've had it, but I've always had trouble with balancing, aligning and generally finding the more difficult things in the night sky. So I feel now is the time to upgrade to a goto telescope as I am keen to take up astrophotography and image and share what I'm seeing. My theory is that if I have a computerised / goto telescope and mount, I would spend less time setting up and more time enjoying the night sky. I have between £400 - £650 to spend I've done some research and I have come up with a few options but also welcome any suggestions you all come up with which I haven't thought of already. Celestron Nexstar 5 SE Computerised Telescope https://www.amazon.co.uk/Celestron-NexStar-SE-Computerised-Telescope/dp/B000GUHOYE/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1479455548&sr=8-5&keywords=celestron+nexstar Sky-Watcher Skymax-127 SynScan Goto Telescope https://www.amazon.co.uk/Sky-Watcher-Skymax-127-SynScan-AZ-Telescope/product-reviews/B00A784RBS Celestron Nexstar 127 SLT MaK Telescope https://www.amazon.co.uk/Celestron-NexStar-127-Mak-Telescope/dp/B0038LX8XE/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1479455805&sr=8-1&keywords=celestron+nexstar+127 Meade ETX 90 Observer https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B01E53GQ78/ref=pd_sbs_421_40?ie=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=4PMZKN1FJBKW0Y2KBV8S Ive chosen various Maksutov-Cassegrain Style scopes as I'm a bit of a short-Bottom and found that when I tried out this type of telescope, it was easier to use rather than what I currently have. I await your wisdom
  15. Background The late Thomas M Back developed his planetary series of eyepieces working with Burgess Optical. Those who want to know more about Tom and his works might like to read this 2006 report: http://www.cloudynig...hp?item_id=1549 . Tom was enthusiastic about the eyepieces and wrote about the 4mm on 21 October 2005 as follows: "I first did a bench test with my Strehl .997 TMB 100mm f/8 SD apochromat, on the autocollimator. As you may know, I was very happy with the performance of the prototype of the 4mm. The production model is as good or better. The Airy disc was textbook, the off-axis aberrations were as low as any eyepiece I have tested in this field size and focal length, and the contrast and sharpness was superb."At the time these eyepieces were a radical departure, at $99 much cheaper than, but similar in specification to the Televue Radian and Pentax XL, which were market leaders. Tom set high standards for his eyepieces as in this claim: This is the first wide angle, long eye relief eyepiece that has the sharpness, contrast, and lack of scatter that the best orthos have...These are bold claims which I will attempt to address in this review. In the years since, there has been extensive discussion about their quality. Some changes have been made and some are now labelled Planetary II, but I am not a historian so will concentrate on the features and performance of these four currently available eyepieces. Eyepieces under test The four eyepieces that I have in front of me are all of 4mm, to the same optical design and I think they are representative of those currently on the market, as follows: TMB ® Optical Planetary II, hereinafter TMB ®, which is now only available from Astronomics in the US, though mine was bought in 2012 from High Point Scientific who were then also distributors. This is the only range authorised by the Estate of the late Thomas Back and on which royalties are returned. Astronomics will ship to the UK and these eyepieces were on sale at $40 at the time of writing, though only the 5mm, 6mm and 9mm were in stock. Clearly taxes and carriage would add significantly to that price. TMB Optical Planetary II SW, hereinafter TMB SW, is widely available including from a number of UK dealers, from one of whom mine was bought in 2011. I have four eyepiece in this series and for some time they formed the backbone of my eyepiece collection. At the time of writing this model is listed on the Burgess Optical website. The range includes 4.5mm and 7.5mm models, which were not part of the original set. They are quite widely available in the UK price for about £50 or slightly less. Teleskop-Service HR Planetary, hereinafter TS HR 60°, is available from Teleskop Service and a number of other dealers, some which are in the UK. Markus Ludes of TS has written that the design was supplied to him directly by Tom Back. The 9mm has a revised barlow arrangement and there are additional 15mm, 20mm and 25mm eyepieces to a similar design. My example was obtained second hand. The price in the UK from Modern Astronomy is £49. Sky-Watcher Planetary 58° UWA, hereinafter UWA, is widely available from Sky-Watcher dealers, but has no Sky-Watcher mark and the eyepiece appears to be identical to those sold under the BST and Olivon labels and formerly known as "TMB design". At the time of writing Sky-Watcher only offers the 2.5mm, 4mm and 5mm but other suppliers offer the same range as for the TS HR above. For some time I owned the 15mm and 25mm. The Sky-Watcher models are widely available and cost about £40. Overview These four eyepieces are very alike so I shall cover the similarities in design and performance first and differences afterwards. The optical design is quite novel but there is no patent that I can see. The the names TMB and TMB Optical are US trademarks. The design is certainly not a Plössl (four lenses arranged in two convex cemented achromatic pairs) despite the claims of a number of suppliers including, disappointingly, Sky-Watcher. The range originally had 2.5mm, 3.2mm, 4mm, 5mm, 6mm, 7mm, 8mm and 9mm models. I dismantled the UWA to show the construction. The bottom row of components consists of the housing, a singleton eye lens, a spacer and a thicker black coated cemented doublet lens, (so three lenses in total) and the retaining ring which incorporates the field stop. This main group is identical for all the focal lengths between 2.5mm and 9mm. They have a focal length of about 16.5mm and together are achromatic, but are not corrected for spherical aberration. Without the barlow they give a very blurred image in an F/6 telescope. The spacer is smooth anodised black in all models and while it is out of the proper optical path, its reflection may contribute to the sensitively of these eyepieces to ambient light. The negative Smyth (Barlow) lens in the barrel consists of a cemented pair which not only serves to shorten the focal length, but also corrects the spherical aberration in the main group. There are thus just five lenses in three groups in total, perhaps the minimum for an eyepiece range with constant eye relief and a reasonably wide field of view. The eyepieces under test are the same size and have a similar screw up eye guard. They weigh about 170g (6oz). The eye relief is about 15mm and is enough for me even when wearing spectacles. Despite some suppliers quoting an apparent field of 60° and others 58°, I found no significant difference in true field of view. The lenses are located directly in the aluminium housings. This construction means that lenses can come loose from time to time and the relevant retaining ring needs to be tightened to stop any rattling. I tested these eyepieces in my two refractors (70mm F/6 and 120mm F/7.5) and in my 200mm F/4.5 Newtonian with a coma corrector which extends to focal length by about 10%, to F/5. They all gave a good sharp colour-free image across the field with a clearly defined field stop. I have been unable to distinguish the image sharpness from one to the next, but testing has been limited due to the amount of recent cloud. I have rarely had truly dark skies, but all gave good views of Jupiter, Andromeda, the Great Orion nebula inluding the trapezium and other objects. The eyepieces are nice to use. The eye has to be kept quite precisely in position, otherwise the view is cut off sharply, though newcomers have little problem using them. Any tendency to kidney beaning can be controlled by screwing up the eye cup. I have owned planetary eyepieces of this type for some time and when I have directly compared a planetary against an ortho, the latter has never given a worse image and on occasion has delivered very slightly more contrast on fine detail. However I do not have a 4mm Ortho and was not able see any difference in sharpness, compared with either a 6mm ortho and 1.5x barlow or a 9mm ortho and 2x barlow. There are however issues and two are common to all the models on test. Firstly the large eye lens is pone reflecting any stray light, but this is a minor problem if you can shade it or stick to a dark site. The second problem is the annoying ghost image, seen particularly when viewing planets. This dances in front of your eyes and to me is a serious distraction. When viewing an extended object the ghost is not visible but surely will still be there filling the view and presumably reducing the contrast. I have seen such ghost images in other eyepieces, but it is particularly prominent in these. Differences There are some differences in detail in construction and performance as follows. The TMB ® comes with the same end caps as the HR and UWA eyepieces. The exterior, including barrel is in shiny black. Internally, it has the most effective anti-reflection treatment with a matt screw thread on the inside of the barrel and threading on the barlow lens retention ring. Flare from a bright object just outside the field of view was well suppressed. The TMB SW is entirely finished in an attractive matt black. The eye guard screw is loose and has no grease on it unlike the other three eyepieces tested here and indeed some of my other eyepieces in this range. It comes with different end caps from the other models, which all have the same ones. It has a deep, 0.6mm, shoulder on the barrel unlike the others, which have a similarly, ludicrously deep undercut. I like undercuts but only when they are minimal, perhaps 0.2mm deep, as on my Vixen and Antares Ortho eyepieces.The internal barrel is threaded, but has a bright finish which is not effective in controlling flare. There is also no threading on the barlow retaining ring and indeed this assembly is different from all the other models here. The arrangement is not effective in controlling flare from bright objects just out of view.In the past on one occasion with another eyepieces in the series (9mm), this flare was so bad that it effectively prevented the viewing faint galaxies signposted by Mars. My Antares ortho did not have a problem, so it was an issue with the eyepiece and not the telescope.The eye lens has a coating which shines mainly cyan (red) in colour while the other three eyepieces in this test have a coating which shines mainly magenta (green to blue). see the second photo below. I have three other eyepieces TMB SW eyepieces and one has this cyan coating while two have magenta coatings. Despite the different coating, I was not able to detect any difference in overall view, tendency to ghosting or sensitivity to external light.So far as I can tell, the HR and UWA physically differ only in the eye guard finish. They both have a semi-gloss barrel with a chromed nose, with the deep undercut discussed above. The internal barrel is smooth, but there is threading on the barlow lens retention ring. There is significant flaring and I noted that the previous owner of the HR had taken to the trouble to flock the inside of the barrel. The other difference between the HR and UWA may be something or nothing dependent on your point of view. The HR is clearly branded by Telescope Services, an organisation that surely has the technical expertise to check for faults in the event of problem. In contrast the Sky-Watcher is totally unbranded and the eyepiece appears identical to other unbranded UWA eyepieces. That Sky-Watcher describes the UWA as a Plössl, when it is clearly nothing of the sort, does not fill me with confidence that it knows anything about the eyepiece.Summary These are nice eyepieces to use, but I think that ghosting in all models and the flare in three models mean that they do not meet Tom Back's aim, that they should match the best orthos. They come in a wider range of short focal lengths that any other eyepiece range so are can be useful for filling gaps. There are certainly worse eyepieces available. The best of them is the Astronomics TMB ® in which flare is well controlled unlike in the others. Those interested in such things are assured that some revenue is going to Tom Back's Estate. I shall be retaining this eyepiece. I have real concern over the variability I have seen in the TMB WA, but it may be that familiarity breeds contempt. I also have concerns about the use of the TMB trademark particularly on those focal lengths, 4.5mm and 7.5mm, which have emerged since the death of Tom Back so presumably were not designed by him. Even if this does not concern you, it would not be practicable for most users to fix any flare that may arise from the lack of threading on the barlow assembly. That the shoulder is nicer than the undercut on other models is just about the only plus for this eyepiece. The TS HR is backed by a significant name in astronomy and Markus Ludes worked with Tom Back on a number of projects, but not this eyepiece. If you were to buy one, flocking the barrel would most likely remove flare. The Sky-Watcher Planetary is largely similar to the HR but has no marking to indicate the maker or to differentiate from other apparently identical eyepieces advertised under different names. If you are unconcerned by this and were to buy one, then flocking the barrel would most likely remove flare. Endnote I would welcome comments. I intend to retain the eyepieces test for a couple of months so I can properly answer any queries. If anybody would like to do their own tests, they should send me a PM.
  16. Managed to get this Telescope as my first (second-hand for £40, hardly used). Just wondering best objects to aim to see (I got a cheap moon filter which is all I have really had a chance to spot in the night sky so far). Hoping as the hobby goes to invest in a more expensive one (any thoughts on next step up also welcome). I have only had a few goes with it so far and found the Azimuth mount to be easy to use, but there is a metal rod which you can turn to slightly alter (don't think this is moving across the equatorial) however you can only turn it so far before the thread at the top falls out (is that normal?). Any other random tips also welcome! https://www.astroshop.eu/telescopes/skywatcher-telescope-n-76-700-astrolux-az-1/p,5010#tab_bar_1_select
  17. Hi all, have just joined after spending the last week looking at forums trying to decide what equipment to buy as I’m looking to get my first “proper” telescope. I’ve been using some basic binoculars for getting to know my way around the sky and a basic telescope. As the title says I have around £400 to spend. I would like to do some astrophotography as that’s one of the main reasons on getting a telescope and also observation. I’ve seen the Sky-Watcher series tend to be the best for this. But confused in which to go for I have seen dobsonian telescopes that seem good bang for the buck but not ideal for imagery. I’m not looking for anything portable. I was looking from 130p-200p. Als I do I really need a mount with tracking for photography? ( still confused on what all the lenses do and which are the best) Any recommendations or advice would help a lot.
  18. ...is neat but can take some improvements. Here's how: Safety first! So, to prevent breakage I limit the bottom knob's range, or someone unaware of its lacking design can tighten it too hard, and break the plastic clamp. Nearly happened when a friend turned that knob real hard, thinking he was making the mount more stable for photo, but the clamp couldn't split thanks to the washers that stop the knob before it causes damage. An undersize O-ring keeps the washers in place in case you remove the knob, they won't get lost. Next fault in design, there's a 2mm gap on each side of the spreaders. I fill it with washers and/or O-rings. Two washers are tricky to insert, better superglue them together to form a single thick one. Next large play and ungainly fit: the central aluminum stud plays between the others: Filing the plastic inserts to bring the outside tubes close to the central one: And the result: The three tubes now clamp together over their whole length, better stability, better looks, and improved feel. These tripods are too lightweight even for my 80mm achro; to make the complete scope assembly heavier with a lower center of mass, filling the tubes with aquarium (clean) gravel is an easy and invisible solution: Some fill it with cement, which is even heavier because it leaves no empty space between the stones but I prefer reversible mods. Inside the clamp there is a rib that's supposed to guide or support the central tube but it doesn't even touch it, so I remove it with a file (masking tape protects the aluminum): Instead ot the useless rib I stick two felt pads that press hard against the tube, making its motion silent and way more controlled. Since it is now much heavier, sliding free and bumping against the clamp would cause noise and maybe damage. Note the piece of sponge that clogs the bottom of the hollow tube. Not indispensible with large gravel but it's needed when I use smaller grain sand. The steel ashtray has dangerous corners that a lens could hit, so I take segments of a junk guitar cable (degrades the tone), and pile them up between clamps so the top one is at at a convenient height and easy to split open: Like so, then I remove the cable's core: The ashtray itself is like a gong (steel is quite resonant), putting accessories on it always makes a nasty clunky sound that irritates me, and would annoy neighbors if the scope was in a backyard. So I put felt pads at the underside, around the screw holes, plus a large neoprene cushion in the middle. Besides making the thing look like a cool famous UFO, this dampens the noise that made me cringe every time. Finally, I slide the split guitar cable over the ashtray's edges, and add a sheet of the white material architects use to build models. I often moved my scopes around with accessories rolling aroung in the ashtray, simply because I forgot they were there for they are black on black. This happened even in the daytime during solar watching. However black on white is noticed even with the corner of the eye, no risk of that absent-mindedness again. The foamy white sheet holds thanks to a little strip of double-side tape, and helps dampen those irritating clunker noises in the still of the night. The difference in visual contrast is obvious, but even more so at night. I'll replace the foam with tougher vinyl when I come across a leftover piece, in the meantime it does a good enough job. There you have it, several mods even an astro gearhead might not notice, except the white ashtray, but they do give a better feel, a better look, and even a better sound to the setup. The joints between cable rubber are just acceptable, I'll rectify them later, but what matters now is a danger of scratching lenses is done away with. Hope you'll pick up a few ideas that can be useful to you.
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