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Celestron AVX or Ioptron ZEQ25?


Chris
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Hi, I've just sold my obsy based NEQ6 as we've decided to move soon. I'm looking at portable imaging mount options with an 800 pound ish budget, and apart from something like an EQ5 or HEQ5 pro synscan, I've been reading about the Celestron AVX and the Ioptron ZEQ25.

I'm pretty much settled on either the Celestron or the Ioptron but I'm finding it tricky to decide having read good and bad things about both.

From what I can tell the AVX is a bit more substantial, its a bit cheaper, has PPEC, and to me looks more aesthetically pleasing and the build quality looks good.

The negatives are no polar scope, if you buy one and fit it the alt knob is in the way so its a struggle to use it. The allignment process takes a number of iterations to get spot on which is time consuming (Probably good for folks who can't see the pole star though) and finally it doesn't have a proper bearing on the dec axis. 

The Ioptron looks very strange at first although with an engineering hat on it makes a lot of sense. The force is centred down the centre of the tripod which has allowed a more light weight mount design. It has a factory fitted and alligned polar scope and the handset dispays the orbit of Polaris so you can simply match the polar scope to the view on the handset. The polar scope is never obscured by the dec axis also. It has large bearings on both axis.

The worm mesh is spring loaded so there isn't any backlash which is a positive, but some worry about the spring losing force which would be a negative. I have read that the spring is adjustable but I haven't gone deeply into it. Some seem to like the spring clutch mechanism and some don't from what I can tell.

The negatives are no PPEC, it might need a bit more tweaking out the box, slighty more expensive, and it looks quite strange.

The telescopes I plan on using are my WO66 and 130pds for DSO imaging and my C8 for visual, planetary imaging, and the odd bit of ambitious DSO imaging with my .7 reducer.

I'm struggling to come down on one side of the fence with these mounts! so please can someone talk me into one or the other please :) 

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Hi,since I've had one 6 months or so I can comment on the Ioptron Z. I have had problems with mind caused by being totally new at mounts and having nobody near to advise me, and attempting to run with a 2# payload. This mount is made to operate at high percentage of rated capacity and a featherweight load just doesn't work. The factory alignment of polar scope is often off, but with and hour or so in an afternoon, that can be sorted and makes PA a real dream (if that's possible). I believe the stock springs are sub optimal, and I ordered a dual spring kit from Paul Chasse at V 5 Astro Products www.v5astro.com , about $10 plus shipping. Paul's an expert on Ioptron stuff and is very helpful. I put the spring kit in last night. I'm waiting for a C extension to get guiding going so thought I'd try unguided. The spring tension adjustment can be used to tune star shapes. After a bit of tuning I popped off a 7 minute unguided that was only spoiled by some slack in DEC caused by user damage (replacement coming this week). Ioptron is exchanging the motor/planetary for free. I recommend the 2" leg tripod. A case where more is better. I like having the onboard GPS, it connects in 4-5 minutes. The mount does have PEC, but doesn't store the solution. Not sure if that can be stored in PHD2, Meta Guide, or whatever. I do like how quiet the mount is. When tracking it's difficult to tell if it's running without putting your ear next to it. Even when slewing, it's very subdued.

Yes the springs eliminate backlash between worm and ring gear, but I recommend following Paul Chasse's video to hyper tune the mount, as the check of the final assembly by the factory is essential from the start. After that zero backlash.

Sorry if I ramble, but that's me ;-)   Clear Skies!-Jack

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I can only comment on the AVX. Had one for about 4 months now, like it overall although it's not without its quirks. A 2-star alignment takes no more than 5 mins, but to get the best out of the goto I usually do a 4 star calibration too, which takes another 5 mins or so. Handset remembers time, date and location, which is a time saver. At first the goto always left objects in the eyepiece a bit off centre, but now is fine (and I'm not entirely sure why, but hey ho). Solar system alignment is good. Synched on the moon and it tracked it beautifully for about half an hour. Handles my 100ED plus camera/finder guider absolutely fine. Have had 15min exposures with no trailing. It does look nice! Two big knobs for securing the dovetail and two big knobs for adjusting the head position.

Quirks...I found the handset polar alignment facility to be inaccurate, but perhaps that's just me. Every now and then my initial alignment seems well off, but if I switch off and on again (lol) everything is fine. I realise that both of these are probably software issues rather than mechanical. I do wish the mount had a USB connection instead of the serial connection via the handset.

Overall I really like it and have no intention of replacing it anytime soon.

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@ Kalasinman - ok a few more worries than I initially had. My WO66 and 130pds are quite light even with the camera and other bits and bobs, so they might not work as well with the mount as say my C8 if the mount is designed to be pushed. I had heard Ioptron were optimistic with payload so the opposite of this. In a way its a good thing if it can take quite a weight. 

I don't mind adjusting the polar scope if its fairly straight forward to do, its a bonus over the AVX which doesn't have one. I'm not too worried about the springs being on the week side as I know this would be quite easy to swap out, I didn't realise Paul Chase was selling kits now though :D This guy is single handedly responsible for me getting the Ioptron bug, I hope he's getting commission from Ioptron :D 

Wow! so let me get this straight, you have just done the spring mod and achieved a 7 minute unguided sub?! That's bonkers, it makes you wonder why Ioptron keep the spring tension so low if boosting it makes such a difference? I had heard that 3 minute unguided subs were routine with a standard mount which is very very good in itself, that's if you get a good one out the box, this is the gamble. The fact that you have got such long unguided subs suggest that the inherent periodic error on your mount at least is very low so PPEC wouldn't be so needed for unguided work, that's a big plus if this is typical for all these mounts :) 

I've looked at Altair Astro who supply the ZEQ25GT in the UK and they are 849 pounds. I can't see an option to upgrade the legs to 2" but I'll assume if will be at least another 50 pounds. They do a power counter weight if another one is needed but this is 159 pounds. although obviously it would be handy not to need a power tank. It kind of blows the initial budget. If I sold all my C8 Edge kit I could get the CEM60!! almost tempted but I do have a soft spot for the C8. 

Thanks for all the info, and as you can see you're not the only one that can waffle ;)

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@ orley- Doh! just managed to lose my whole reply to you so I'll try again :D

So we're looking at about 10 minutes to set up PA and goto with the AVX, It's probably only a few minutes longer than the Skywatcher Synscan's I've always used, but that sometimes feels like a pain. +1 for both the AVX and Ioptron remembering time and date :) The initial goto accuracy sounds similar to Skywatcher, 1 star will be out the view, 2 stars will be 2/3 out from center, and 3 stars with be close to the center.

I also really like the look of the AVX, it looks very 'cool' :) I take it it looks even better in the flesh? The price is very attractive also and 15mins guided is all you could ever expect so good to hear :)

Maybe they will bring out a firmware upgrade to improve the goto like they do with Synscan. I'm glad you're pleased with the mount and this seems to be the general consensus with the AVX so from where I'm standing it might be the safer bet. The only thing other than lack of polar scope and long winded routine is the lack of dec bearings, any issues with balancing or binding on the dec axis so far?

Edited by Chris Lock
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Reading this thread with interest as I had the same dilemma a while back (although I eventually ended up with a nearly new CG5-GT for a bonkers price of £200).

Just out of interest Chris what made you choose the AVX & ZEQ25 over the HEQ5?

Rob

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lol 200 quid! wow yeah, it would have been impossible to turn it down Rob :)

I've only ever owned skywatcher mounts Rob, EQ5, EQ3 Pro, mk1 HEQ5 and NEQ6 Pro's, I didn't have a good experience with my last NEQ6 and it took lots of work to get it running right as you know.

I wan't to give another brand a chance basically. I also feel the HEQ5 is starting to get a bit long in the tooth. I wouldn't be able to bring myself to spend 750 quid on a new one I don't think. Sounds like I'm knocking the HEQ5 but I'm not, it's been the default budget proper imaging mount for years and years with good reason :) However, there are some interesting new kids on the block (mounts, not the boy band :D ).

The new AZ eq5 GT might be worth a look, I've not done this yet as I might end up with yet another Skywatcher mount :D

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Chris, Don't rely on 7 sec subs. There is some PE on a 10 minute cycle. Unguided I try to stick to 240s even if I can do longer. The mount is sensitive to balance. I'm not running heavy. 150mm GSO, OAG, QHY5L-II and D5100, maybe 7.5K. Paul's run twice that.

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Re the polarscope, have never used one so don't miss it. What I did was to extend the tripod legs to max, then drill a hole in the patio where each leg end resides. All I do is plonk the tripod down in the same place each time and PA needs only a tweak (using PHD2). I initially drift aligned to get a good PA.

Looks great in the flesh! Happy with mine so far, but I don't know how it compares with the Ioptron

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lol 200 quid! wow yeah, it would have been impossible to turn it down Rob :)

I've only ever owned skywatcher mounts Rob, EQ5, EQ3 Pro, mk1 HEQ5 and NEQ6 Pro's, I didn't have a good experience with my last NEQ6 and it took lots of work to get it running right as you know.

I wan't to give another brand a chance basically. I also feel the HEQ5 is starting to get a bit long in the tooth. I wouldn't be able to bring myself to spend 750 quid on a new one I don't think. Sounds like I'm knocking the HEQ5 but I'm not, it's been the default budget proper imaging mount for years and years with good reason :) However, there are some interesting new kids on the block (mounts, not the boy band :D ).

The new AZ eq5 GT might be worth a look, I've not done this yet as I might end up with yet another Skywatcher mount :D

The AZ EQ5 does look like a really nice mount but i totally understand about wanting to try a different brand for a change. The i-optrons have some great features and i think they are more competitive on price these days. I shall watch your deliberations with interest!

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I have had my ZEQ25 for ~7 months now and I think it is a great mount.  Too me the best thing about it is how easy it is to transport and set-up.  Polar aligning is really simple, but without guiding, I find that I can get 90 second exposure okay, but longer than this I start getting some none round stars.  I often wonder if the polar scope is properly aligned, but I am not sure how you go about checking this?  Can not comment on the AVX, but the ZEQ25 is very nice :).

Having said that, today I went and placed an order for a CEM60, so when I pick it up (hopefully on Friday), I will see how it compares to the ZEQ25 :D

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Chris, Don't rely on 7 sec subs. There is some PE on a 10 minute cycle. Unguided I try to stick to 240s even if I can do longer. The mount is sensitive to balance. I'm not running heavy. 150mm GSO, OAG, QHY5L-II and D5100, maybe 7.5K. Paul's run twice that.

No worries, I assumed the 7 minute sub was a one off, still impressive though :) 240s is pretty incredible unguided if you ask me, and that's at 750mm focal length! 

I think we might have seen the same youtube vid, the one where Paul loads the ZEQ25 with a wacking great big 10" RC and it just works! :)  

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Re the polarscope, have never used one so don't miss it. What I did was to extend the tripod legs to max, then drill a hole in the patio where each leg end resides. All I do is plonk the tripod down in the same place each time and PA needs only a tweak (using PHD2). I initially drift aligned to get a good PA.

Looks great in the flesh! Happy with mine so far, but I don't know how it compares with the Ioptron

Well polar scopes can be a pain in the neck (literally), so in one way you're not missing out on anything. They are great for getting you very very close in no time at all, but It sounds like your holes in the patio are a good fix for this, and won't wear off like the marker pen I tried before building the obsy :)

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Forgot to add no issues with dec binding. My PHD graph last week was a thing of beauty - as flat as I've ever seen it :)

Good to hear, that must have been satisfying to see :) I don't think dec comes into play much with a spot on PA, which is the only reason I can think that they cut the corner of not having bearings on both axis.

I think it's half a dozen of one and six of the other with these two mounts! Some AVX's seem to have dec binding issues and some ZEQ25's seen to be shipped with the worm mesh not engaging properly and dud batteries in the handsets for storing date and time.

I might have to put the fear of getting another work in progress mount behind me and accept it as a risk with mounts in this price bracket. Still it's annoying that these companies don't seem to jump on these issues and sort them out, you would think it would make them more money in the long run. 

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I have had my ZEQ25 for ~7 months now and I think it is a great mount.  Too me the best thing about it is how easy it is to transport and set-up.  Polar aligning is really simple, but without guiding, I find that I can get 90 second exposure okay, but longer than this I start getting some none round stars.  I often wonder if the polar scope is properly aligned, but I am not sure how you go about checking this?  Can not comment on the AVX, but the ZEQ25 is very nice :).

Having said that, today I went and placed an order for a CEM60, so when I pick it up (hopefully on Friday), I will see how it compares to the ZEQ25 :D

This is all good info thanks :) I could only get 80 seconds at 330mm FL with my last NEQ6 so 90 seconds still doesn't sound bad to me. I've read quite a bit on these mounts now and folks do sometimes get several minutes with a nicely tuned one, so maybe you're right about the polar scope allignment. Have you looked around the web for any instructions on setting the polar scope? Hopefully there's some info out there somewhere :)

I have to say congrats on the CEM60 :) I've heard very good things I'm sure you'll love it! I have half a mind to blow my budget and get one myself! I think we're talking about 2.5k with a tripod? The little devil on my shoulder is saying "take a look at the mount weight? maybe it's portable enough? don't worry about money, just sell a kidney or the C8" :D

Please let us know how you get on :) I now x6gas uses one with great effect with a C11 Edge! 

Edited by Chris Lock
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I'm going to have to read back through this thread a couple of times and hope I come down on one side of the fence or the other. The good news seems to be that generally despite niggles people seem happy with either. I might end up pulling a name out of a hat! ;)

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Hi Chris, one great thing about the Z scope is that it's always visible. No blocking regardless of scopes position. Having the setting circles like a clock in the illuminated reticule and going right to the hand controller to get current polaris location on the circle is great too. I guess the GPS enables that. I had my first experience with guiding last night. It took a few tries with PHD2 and using an OAG first time...., but I believe I got a good set at M42. Once I got under 2" error, the stars looked great. My scale is 1.3" I believe, and a little oversampled with guider at 1.08".

Here are the instructions for aligning the polar scope 

  https://www.ioptron.com/images/up/ZEQ25_PolarScope_Installation.pdf

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Good to hear, that must have been satisfying to see :) I don't think dec comes into play much with a spot on PA, which is the only reason I can think that they cut the corner of not having bearings on both axis.

I think it's half a dozen of one and six of the other with these two mounts! Some AVX's seem to have dec binding issues and some ZEQ25's seen to be shipped with the worm mesh not engaging properly and dud batteries in the handsets for storing date and time.

I might have to put the fear of getting another work in progress mount behind me and accept it as a risk with mounts in this price bracket. Still it's annoying that these companies don't seem to jump on these issues and sort them out, you would think it would make them more money in the long run.

Chris, I have to say I find your positivity and enthusiasm a delight :)

I went for the AVX because 1) like you mentioned I felt the HEQ5 had been around for a while and I wondered what the newer kit was like, 2) I enjoyed using my CG-5 and the AVX seemed a natural progression and 3) I reasoned that if I didn't get on with it I could no doubt offload it again fairly easily and quickly.

The fear of making a mistake used to hold me back somewhat, these days mistakes are merely something to learn from and I just go for it. Good luck in whichever route you decide to go and hope you get a lot of pleasure out of your new kit :)

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Hi Chris, one great thing about the Z scope is that it's always visible. No blocking regardless of scopes position. Having the setting circles like a clock in the illuminated reticule and going right to the hand controller to get current polaris location on the circle is great too. I guess the GPS enables that. I had my first experience with guiding last night. It took a few tries with PHD2 and using an OAG first time...., but I believe I got a good set at M42. Once I got under 2" error, the stars looked great. My scale is 1.3" I believe, and a little oversampled with guider at 1.08".

Here are the instructions for aligning the polar scope 

  https://www.ioptron.com/images/up/ZEQ25_PolarScope_Installation.pdf

Hi kalasinman, I've been doing a bit more research, watching lots of youtube vids and reading reviews on both mounts, and have also started considering a few others mounts briefly.

I really like the Z mount for the polar allignment and polar scope, and for its super smooth as glass bearings on both axis. I've seen vids on balancing both mounts and the AVX is very stiff on dec to the point that you cannot balance the scope on dec fully without removing the setup from the mount and balancing it on a fulcrum on a bench, marking the balance point, and returning the setup to the mount. I guess you only need do this once mind, but I would happily have payed an extra 50 pounds for bearings on both axis! I'll check if there's an easy fix for the AVX?

Congrats on getting guiding, I've failed to do this the 2 times of tried so I know it can be a pain. It sounds like you're getting a very good result with this mount :) The Z-mount is quite expensive in the UK at 850 quid! But I've looked on the TS site in Germany and with the good exchange rate it works out to be 770 pounds with a 1-3 week wait, so if I do get the Z-mount I might get it from TS. 

I've also started to consider upping my budget to the CEM60, but then its starting to lean away from being portable at 12.7kg for the mount head. Still 4kg lighter than the NEQ6. The ZEQ25 is just 4.7kg for the mount head so I could carry the whole setup in one perhaps. 

Still not convinced that the Z mount will comfortably carry my C8 and imaging kit which is partly why the AVX is still on the table. I've seen Paul chase stick the 10" RC on one for a test but in the long run I might worry about stressing the mount. The AVX is still on the table for this reason plus its very well priced. I can get partly round the polar alignment how orley has by marking the ground. 

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Sounds like you are considering all the options, as would/did I. Running an SCT, I see many evolve to an OAG, which would be lighter than a separate guide scope, and eliminate problems with mirror flop and flexure as well. Based on signatures, I see RC8" on the Z is fairly common.

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Well, other than rambling on worse than me about the importance or the lack thereof of DEC bearings I see almost no new information or thought . This post is from 2005, so.....

Anyone with a mechanical background sees that as the price of a unit of any kind increases, that bushings are replaced with ball bearings at quite a low level.

Because of the design differences between a GEM and a CEM, 1:1 comparisons of design features are difficult.

If cable drag is an issue with tracking accuracy, that seems to imply that a mount that is stiff in DEC may not have as perfect tracking as one which isn't.

There is a tradeoff between sensitivity to balance and low rolling resistance in bearings. Increasing stiffness reduces sensitivity to balance. Cheaper mounts are more likely to use one or more bushings. I know of no mid or high range mount that uses them. This could be a clue?

Edited by kalasinman
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