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Roy Challen

Sky Watcher EQ3-2 Pro Mount

9 posts in this topic

Hello Everyone,

I've been a member here for a while now, I've enjoyed reading all the views, opinions, and advice that people here have to offer and now I wish to make some real contributions myself. So, here is my first review, aimed at beginners as we all were at some point.

Sky-Watcher EQ 3-2 Pro Mount    (6/2/2014)

This review is mainly intended for first time buyers of a computerised equatorial mount (as I myself was).

The first thing one should try to be aware of is the physical size of the mount. In astronomy magazine advertising pictures, all the mounts appear to be roughly the same size. This is not the case- they can vary considerably, especially in weight! The EQ3-2 Pro is much heavier than it looks on paper. It measures around a metre in height (to the dovetail clamp) with the tripod legs fully retracted. So, if you have never owned or used an equatorial mount before, I would suggest going along to a shop and ‘trying it out for size’. This is without a telescope mounted on it.

Upon arriving back home with my new purchase, I began to unpack. The packaging itself is very good, so if you do order online, then there is no need to worry about damage. Mine had already been unpacked at the showroom as I had requested to look at it beforehand. If you are at all technologically minded then assembly won’t take very long. However, the supplied instructions are clear and easy to understand.

Construction of the mount itself is very good, there is no play or wobble evident on either axis, and rotations for both axes are smooth. Using the slow motion controls (I fitted them because they were supplied- there are slight burrs inside their locating holes, easy enough to remove), there is very slight backlash, and some stiffness. The stiffness could be due to the mount being new and will hopefully disappear after time. The tripod is aluminium. At full retraction (shortest height) it is stable and certainly up to the job, although I suspect its effectiveness will be markedly less at further extensions. A weak point would be the clamps that ‘squeeze’ the legs to hold them at the required height. They are made of plastic, and although they will do the job, I can’t help thinking that this was a fairly unnecessary cost-cutting measure. Another minor point is that the motor drive gears are visible. Although I don’t see that as a major problem (I don’t intend to immerse the mount in sand!), would it have been so hard to extend the motor casings sufficiently to provide protection for the whole drivetrain?

Before using the mount, the polar scope needs to be aligned to the mount. The procedure detailed in the manual is easy to follow, although you will need to read appendix A to find it! I would have placed it before the Polar Alignment procedure. However, the small Allen key needed to adjust the three grub screws was missing – not a big problem as I have plenty of tools at home. All other tools necessary to assemble the mount are supplied.  The procedure for Polar alignment is equally easy to follow.

It was some time before I had the chance to use the mount- I also needed a power supply and tube rings- but when I first set everything up, I found that the Declination motor gears didn't engage with each other. This was remedied by adjusting the said motor until they meshed.

Out at my observing site, I had no problem setting up, and carrying out the polar alignment was straightforward (I practised a couple of times at home first). I used the 3-star alignment procedure, following the prompts on the handset. It is better to spend the time to make sure that the mount is properly polar aligned in the first place, rather than to let the handset do the work- the pointing will be more accurate in the long run. With my Meade ETX 70 OTA on the mount I found the target dead centre in the field of view, using a 25mm eyepiece, each time and it remained in the field of view for as long as I wished to view the target, even using a 10mm eyepiece.

To end this review, I would like to add that the service I received from Tring Astronomy Centre was second to none. Both Jane and Neil were extremely helpful in explaining the mount to me. They offered my wife and I coffee while we were talking. In addition, they gave us a lift to the train station (about a mile away) which was fantastic because the packaged mount weighed 19kgs and would have been very difficult to carry to the station on my shoulders!

For many astronomers, this is all the mount they will ever need, and is a good choice for the first time EQ mount buyer- highly recommended.

Update February 2015

Having owned the Sky Watcher EQ3-2 Pro for a year, I have become accustomed to its strengths and weaknesses to a good degree. The first thing I will discuss is the tripod itself. At first I thought it was sufficient, however it became apparent that it was susceptible to vibration as its construction is of fairly light duty aluminium. To remedy this I filled the lower sections with concrete and the upper sections with silicone sealer (radio controlled aircraft modellers apparently use it because of its vibration reduction characteristics) and obtained a 35% reduction in vibration damp-down time. Another weakness with the tripod are the clamps that fix the height. These are plastic, with brass inserts and recently one of the bolts has stripped the thread and will need to be repaired. I will probably replace the plastic clamps with something more substantial, as well as increase the size of the fixing bolts.

Another thing I wish to mention is that the SynScan GOTO system occasionally crashes, or may need to run through the alignment procedure more than once. I think this could be due to an inadequate supply voltage, although it has happened during initial set-up. I use a Sky Watcher power tank (7Ah), this may need upgrading at some time.

Once in operation the mount behaves faultlessly. Using the 3-Star alignment results in very accurate pointing, with the target usually dead centre in my field of view using a 420mm focal length and 24 mm eyepiece. Sometimes it’s even better, placing the target within the field of a 16mm eyepiece. Tracking for astrophotography is good for a mount in this class. With a 420mm f/l scope, 1 minute exposures are obtainable without star trailing, provided that the polar alignment is good. With a 100mm camera lens, 2 mins is easily achievable. Visually, the target will remain in the field of view of an 8mm eyepiece for longer than I care to measure!

This mount is not without its (minor) faults, but with a little internet research and some inventive DIY, most of the problems can be tweaked out and very satisfactory performance can be had. I shall be carrying out those improvements over the coming months (documented of course) and shall report in due course.

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Nice review, I would agree that any newcomer would find this mount quite large especially if your previous experiences are with camera tripods.

The standard tripod although stable does "ring" a bit but its not too bad provided you use it at its lowest setting (thank god for dslr`s with flip out screens).

The real plus point for me with this mount is that it is just about "portable" and can handle a bit more than just a camera and lens.

Alan

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I would agree with your views on the light aluminium construction of the tripod. It appears a little flimsy and susceptible to vibrations. There's only a certain amount of tightening up you can do in fear of stripping threads. I may over time fill the bottom section with concrete as you suggest but probably wait until I don't have to move the kit around too much.

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Thanks for your feedback, I agree it is a portable mount - still is even with the concrete legs. When I'm feeling particularly determined I load up my trolley and around 30kgs of stuff to the golf course near me (2.5 miles walk each way!). Doable, but tiring by the time I get home!

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Sorry if I'm opening an old thread but having just had an offer accepted on a s/h model of this mount I was delighted to read such positive comments from a live user rather than just a magazine review.  One of the great attributes of membership of SGL. Thanks.

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Good to see this thread bumped up.

I bought a EQ3-2 (actually a SkyScan 2001) late last year complete with a small 90mm Mak scope. After a bit of work and a steep learning curve I've taken on modding the mount for imaging. Some say it's not up to it, well I've managed to take my first photos of M42 and M45 and I'm chuffed with the results. I'm using a Skywatcher 130PDS with Nikon D5100 DSLR.

I've DIY fitted 2 stepper motors controlled with EQMod via the fantastic self assembled AstroEQ interface. I've just finished making a side-by-side bracket and fitted a Skywatcher ST80 for guiding. All I need now is clear skies to setup and test.

I've also added a DIY polar scope illuminator and DIY shutter control cable for the Nikon.

I'm probably at the limit of the mount's capabilities but it's been fun to push it. I've dismantled the DEC and part of the RA, cleaned, lubricated with lithium grease, reassembled and setup. I've improved on the slack and backlash which was very evident when I bought it. I may consider filling the legs to aid stability however it's fine for now....I just want to get out and use it!!

Orion M42 and Running Man.jpg

Pleiades flattened.jpg

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Pretty impressive pictures, I'd say.  I would be interested to know more about your DIY shutter control cable for the Nikon.  I have a long-term loan of the same model, I think, (the camera is in France and I'm in England at present so I can't check) and with my limited experience I have found the camera will not perform certain functions unless a Nikon lens is attached.  One of these non-working  functions is the remote wireless shutter control and everything I've ever taken has been with finger pressure so, inevitably, some vibration.  Your advice would be gratefully received.

Clear skies

Peter

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Thanks Peter it was my first time :-)

Check the model once you're back in France in the meantime here's my approach. I followed the route others had taken to get the camera's Bulb function working for DSLR Shutter (free) and Backyard Nikon. The D5100 needs a serial cable to control the shutter and can also be simulateously connected via USB for other functions. Other Nikon cameras work with just the USB.

Check Backyard Nikon Compatibility  to see if your camera needs a serial cable first. There's a couple of threads in the their forum for 2 versions of the cable.

I'm competent with a soldering iron so the Nikon cable was fairly straighforward for me. There's a couple of ways you can tackle it but both require a manual remote shutter release cable to start with. You only really need the plug that's inserted in the camera along with the cable and discard the pushbutton. This cost me £6 from Amazon SHOOT MC-DC2 Remote I also bought this FT232RL TTL to USB . Before I butchered the cable I tried it out on the camera first and noticed that as long as the cable was plugged in Bulb was available for longer than 30 secs and can be controlled manually by my wireless remote and no lense attached. The Pleaides picture was taken using this method at 60 sec exposure length. I kept the housing to fit the TTL to USB converter. You'll also need a USB cable USB A to mini USB a 4.7kOhm 1/8 watt resistor, 2 x Germanium 1N34 or 1N60 diodes (must be Germanium and I found them on eBay 5 for £1) and a PNP Epitaxial transistor - I used a BC556. Components cost approx £1.50. There's a post on Cloudy Nights forum with instructions - not sure if cross forum posting is allowed so I'll leave it to you to search but you'll find a link to in the Backyard Nikon forum on RTS cables. It all fitted neatly inside the remote pushbutton case. I've used a 10M Active USB Repeater Cable with a USB hub at the mount end. All working well so far I'm going to add another USB Repeater cable so the photo data is not transfered on the same USB cable as the controls, guide camera etc.

The other route is to buy a ready made USB Relay Controller (have seen these on ebay too) and fit in between the butchered remote cable and a USB cable - I think this needs a USB type B.  

Hope this helps

Clear skies

Roy

 

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Blimey, Roy, that's such a thorough description.  I would have to read that through a few times but am keen to give it a go when I'm in place.  Your Pleiades picture from a 60 second exposure really whets my appetite.

By the way, on another post another member did send a link to his own previous Cloudy Nights posting so don't be shy.  It's allowed.

Best wishes and many thanks.

Peter

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