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Heritage 130P Flextube - travel-friendly tripod required!


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I want to take my 130P Flextube away on holiday (travelling by plane) - I can easily take the OTA in hand luggage but whilst the mini-dob base is lovely to use, it's just too cumbersome to pack.

I thought it was possible to dismantle it to flat-pack in a suitcase, and on the face of it it ought to be (once the circular base's halves are separated, the 3 screws that hold the upright are exposed), but when beginning to un-screw one, the stress/pressure of releasing seemed to begin to split/fracture the outer lacquer/chipboard on the underside and I didn't dare take the screw out any more than a half-turn or so since it just seemed like it would split further.

So, I would love to find some way of mounting it that could fit in a suitcase (with everything else, so ought not to take up much room).

There's a 1/4" screw in the dovetail right at one end furthest from the mirror and I tried mounting it on my small, light Hama camera tripod with the ball head slung over at 90 deg. but it was just too weedy to hold it securely without drooping.

The challenge is the balance/weight, but I'm sure there are ball-heads/tripods that can easily hold ~3.5kg and also pack down relatively well, but I have no idea on which one to try - there are so many out there!

I could of course just take my ST80 and be done with it, but I know it's going to be lovely and dark and the big 130mm aperture is just crying out to me!

Can anyone help?

Edited by rodhull
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You've probably got a few problems their..

firstly I don't like securing a scope with one 1/4" screw, that is more than likely not fully engaged due tot he shape of the dovetail on the 130P, which no doubt with the weight causes it to unwind or "droop" as you refer to.

secondly because of the mirror position the balance point is going to be forward, past the 1/4" screw point, so you can't balance the scope.

thirdly you're going to be for ever loosening and tightening the ball head in order to move the scope and entering in to vibration city with any kind of light weight mount option.

 

This airplane portability is something lots of us have thought about, as weight and space are at such a premium..  My solution was this..

It works very well on the ST80 and now a 72mm Ed with an approx. weight of 3.5kg including diagonal, finder and EP but its a compact scope..  I think in order for this to work with the 130p you may have to start by exchanging the mounting plate for the long one shown in the thread as the one attached to the scope doesn't work with the pan plate.. then at least you have 2 fixing points.

I'd also worry about the vibrations, I have long eye relief EP's but if you had to sink your eye, and be in contact with the scope then I would think the experience would be frustrating. 

Personally I'd take the ST80 for pure robustness, space saving, and ease of use.. (I've a youngster, no way I could get enough space in the luggage for a 130p) the ST80 is cracking scope under dark sky's, and with a astrozap solar filter in the mix gives you all day and night capabilities..

please do let us know what solution you settle with, hope that helps somewhat..

Ta

Fozzie

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I'd suggest a sturdy tripod and a giro mini - the flextube is quite light so should be fine (I think I tested it once and seem to recall it working fine, but I don't have the scope now).  They come up secondhand.  Leaving the dovetail on gives you flexibility for balance :smile:

Helen

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Thanks for the advice so far!

How about the Celestron Astromaster Tripod? Here's a picture I found on another forum of a Bushnell Ares 5 (an equivalent of the 130p available in the US): 20120125_023007.jpg

It looks to be mounted directly via the dovetail bar (the tripod looks like it might have the right sized clamp already?) It's mounted on the opposite side to when it's on its mini-dob mount, hence the RDF is in a slightly odd position, but this could be a cheap solution. Has anyone used one of these cheap Celestron tripods?

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Found another pic of the same mount/tripod used with an even heavier scope  (~1Kg more than the 130P) - a C6:

gallery_244398_5143_33751.jpg

I notice that the legs only extend to bring the mount up to ~41" high which would mean a bit of crouching with the 130P depending on the angle but I don't see why it wouldn't work as a travel option if pushed for space (like when flying). 

I'd also like to look at standalone tripods with a separate head but I simply don't know where to start - any recommended combos (that won't break the bank!) - the mini giros seem to be super pricey (more than the scope itself without a tripod in the mix), and I guess I'd need a bracket/clamp to fit to the dovetail bar on the 130P in addition?

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22 hours ago, rodhull said:

the mini giros seem to be super pricey (more than the scope itself without a tripod in the mix), and I guess I'd need a bracket/clamp to fit to the dovetail bar on the 130P in addition?

Yup, I couldn't justify the cost to myself when considering 95% of the time I use the skytee2 mount, hence why I looked at alternate options.. don't get me wrong would love one but not at that price and you also need the clamp which is a bit more on top..

No idea about the celestron astromaster mount, the EQ version is not great, that I do know! they are however as cheap as the contraption I cobbled together so it could be worth a punt..

Ta

Fozzie

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  • 2 months later...

So, after a few weeks of trying different things I think I have a solution!

I tried the Celestron tripod and whilst very stable for the Heritage 130P and my ST80, it is much too large for airline travel. I couldn't even get it in my suitcase even when fully folded! I'd recommend it as a good alt-az for a lightweight scope though if you're not bothered about size. It moves smoothly and has minimal vibration due to the heavy duty head and sturdy legs.

Instead I started looking for something else and came back to photo tripods. I came across a recent question about a suitable photographic tripod for an ST80 where a Zomei tripod was recommended. This Chinese range appear to copy many of the designs/features of much more expensive Manfrotto or Gitzo models at a fraction of the price. I ended up trying 2 different models (Z669 and Z888, both aluminium alloy, there are CF versions available at a higher price) and I settled on the Z888 for stability (the Z669 has more leg sections and is smaller overall). It's £99.99 at the moment at Amazon.

I have mounted the 130P side-saddle (there's a notch in the head and the scope can easily point to the zenith). I found one of these which I thought I'd try and it does it extremely effectively, screwing onto the 1/4" bolt on the quick-release plate to hold the OTA's dovetail, allowing it to be mounted anywhere along the length to balance. The ST80 can go straight onto the plate since it's so light. Balance isn't an issue at all, the head is VERY solid indeed, with a great range of friction/tension adjustment.

The tripod is light (1.7kg) and folds down to <50cm. I only need to extend the first 2 sections of the legs and adjust the central column a tad to bring the eyepiece to a comfortable level when standing. It you prefer to sit, you can lower the central column right down, and retract the legs even more.

The head is really great, holds either scope extremely steadily and if balanced correctly you have a very serviceable, relatively cheap and lightweight mount. It is rated to 18kg of load apparently and whilst I've put nowhere near that on it, it handles either scope with eyepieces/barlow etc with complete ease.

There is of course a bit of vibration at high magnifications. With the 130P and my 8-24 zoom at 8mm plus a Baader 2.25x barlow (183x), vibrations following focussing/movement are still dampened within a couple of seconds which for me is more than adequate.

All pics of the scope attached are with the head's tension knobs loose - it's completely balanced! Used as a photographic tripod it's also extremely versatile: a good range of leg angles, heights and it even converts to a monopod by unscrewing one of the legs and attaching the head which is removeable. Well chuffed to be honest.
 

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The question of dismantling the Heritage 130p Dob base for air travel has come up before. I cant remember the outcome exactly, but it did include a permanent modification which involved fitting a standard door hinge type thing to attach the upright panel (lets call it the dovetail) to the base. 

Ive also seen a Heritage 130P mounted on a AZ3 tripod/mount (includes Go-To or tracking). Not sure how that AZ3 would suit for packing to go on a plane.

I have to say though that by the look/sound of it and the images above you seem to have found a fine solution. 

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1 hour ago, happy-kat said:

AZ3 is suitcase only legs are long even fully collapsed.

I probably meant AZ4...........not sure of any difference. Either way.........i' sure it may be suit case.

Edited by LukeSkywatcher
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I dont know if being in a wheelchair has ANY bearing on the situation of luggage weight and hand luggage, but last year when i flew from Dublin to Gatwick (Aer Lingus)..........i was about 15kg over weight on the suitcases to be stored in the cargo hold. I should have been charged about 150 quid extra.....(10 euro per kilo). They said to me "forge about it".....

Very nice of them to do this. I did pay about 3 times the cost of a return ticket then you'd pay with a budget airline.

Theo ne thing i have noticed, being a disabled traveller is that anywhere in the world (certainly within Europe) you travel............you are treated as a VIP. You are whisked through all queues from check-in to security and even boarding the aircraft.

I dont ask for or expect VIP treatment.........but it happens wherever i go. OK i dont have access to the VIP lounge and mingle with movie stars and rock stars...........i dont expect that.

On a return flight from Lanzarote many yrs ago, the flight was over booked and myself and a friend were asked at the airport if we would mind being upgraded to 1st class.

They didnt need to ask twice. We got the full champagne treatment and the leg room on the seats............you could have fit a small family.

Edited by LukeSkywatcher
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  • 2 months later...

@rodhull i really like your suggestion and i am thinking to buy the same. I have heritage 130p and celestron travelscope 70. I need a compact but stable tripod your looks like a good one. I have a few questions

  • were you able to move the scope easily, didn't you miss slow motion controls?
  • Did the scope stay steady when pointed at zenith
  • To be honest i concerned how one screw on the tripod was able to keep the big heritage 130p because all the weight it on the side
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Movement is extremely fluid, yes - it takes a little experimentation with the tripod head's tension control and of course choosing where along the rail you clamp the scope to achieve the best balance with your chosen eyepieces/accessories is paramount. Once you have that down however, you can nudge it very easily in a similar way to when using the dob base (you have to experiment with balancing/tension on that too of course). What's lacking i suppose is the rock-solid low-centre-of-gravity stability of the mini-dob base. Expect slight vibrations at high mags, but honestly, they never get in the way too much. The short focal length of the scope means that it's not the best choice for very high-mag work anyway...works great on the bright planets and moon.

Mounting it side-saddle on the tripod head with that Baader Vixen-style clamp using the cut-out notch is fine for zenithal viewing. The tripod can easily go up high/low enough for a range of eye-heights so that you can get a decent view through the eyepiece without having to bend or twist.

Again - the tripod's head is way more solid than you might think - and I think the key to all of this is that Baader clamp, really - without it (trying to mount the scope straight onto the head's plate with one of the screw holes in the rail) would definitely be a no-go. You can position the clamp anywhere along the rail, and it really offers a sold grip (there are actually 2 screws  as you can see in my last picture - one very large knurled one that does the main gripping and a smaller additional screw for extra safety).

The price of the clamp might seem high, but I couldn't find anything else that would realistically work - combined with the tripod it's a really serviceable solution.

I'd certainly recommend buying this stuff from wherever that has a bullet-proof returns policy to at least try out.

I will probably use this setup instead of the dob-base for any travel occasion now - I can get everything into the small bag that came included with my ST80 (tabletop mount version). For travelling, I just take all the ST80 stuff out and can then fit the 130P in the main section, a few accessories bubble-wrapped around the scope and in the front pocket, with the tripod in its own bag clipped onto to the main bag:

Startravel-80 Tabletop 80mm (3.1") F/5 Refractor 

I actually took the ST80 and the 130P with me onto the plane on the last trip by putting the ST80 in the bag that came with the tripod, clipped to the front of the main bag that had the 130P etc. in and put the folded tripod (bag-less) in my suitcase with clothes stuffed round it for protection...

Edited by rodhull
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this sounds great, actually i am thinking to buy the ST80 with tabletop tripod as well because i get the bag, red dot finder and a diagonal (ofcourse the scope as well) at a good price. I didn't realize that the bag is big enough to fit Hertiage 130p. thats a huge plus. 

Allow me to be silly and annoying. Were you able to get 'slow' motions when the hertiage was fixed on a certain angle. I really don't want to unscrew and screw all the time, i will never be able to focus on anything if i had to do that. 

Do you place ST80 on the dovetail mount as well? does the scope has (i dont know what it is called) that 'bracket' that can go in to dovetail mount?

Edited by rizwanahmed24
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Well, it's not really "slow motion" levels of control, but "nudging" and gentle pushing is fine! I find having one hand lightly on the lower extension rail of the scope near the front-most opening and the other towards the rear of the tube itself allows me to move it pretty smoothly - again, it's all about the balance!

Once set you shouldn't have to unscrew/screw  the tripod's tension control unless you dramatically alter the position of the scope or swap out radically different weighted eyepieces I wouldn't have thought.

I put the ST80 straight onto the tripod head's quick-release plate (don't use the Baader clamp) with the plate's single screw. The travel version of the ST80 that I have at least has a "block" that's pre-attached - it's not like the rail on the 130P which is a Vixen-style. It looks like this on mine (imagine the block is attached to the underside of the scope with the wider side of the block against the OTA) - I screw the tripod head's plate into one of the exposed threads:

FLO Skywatcher ST80 Dovetail

The ST80 OTA is so light that it holds it absolutely fine at all angles with that single plate.

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

@rodhull so i continued my search for the desired tripod basically around your solution. i saw this tripod head, it has friction control which gives me a impression that it will be easier to achieve slow motions on horizontal and vertical axis. What do you think about that. I dont understand how do you achieve smooth vertical slow motion on zomei tripod with baader clamp as there is no friction control you will be moving the ball which is either fixed or loose and there is no long handle to get help from

Secondly i see this cheaper Zomei Q555 , did you try this?

Edited by rizwanahmed24
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But there is a friction control, by way of the main ball-head adjust knob. You can tighten/loosen it to varying degrees and it will create friction accordingly. If you want it rock-right with zero movement, then tighten it all the way, if you want it flapping loose, loosen all the way, if you want a degree of friction but still allowing free movement, partially tighten it until the desired level is achieved. As long as you have the scope balanced correctly on the head by positioning the clamp at the right place along the rail, you can indeed have it partially tightened to allow free movement without it moving/drooping by itself. I can't explain it any other way. If I get time I will see if I can make a video but don't hold out hope on that since I am pretty busy...

Again, all those pictures are with the knob pretty loose, you can still move the scope around freely, even in v. small movements and it stays put.

Ultimately, I'd just buy one, and give it a go - you can always return it if it's not what you're after. There's only so much info you can get from others without taking the plunge yourself...

 

 

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i know i know i have been asking way too much, but with no prior of experience of tripods, nearest shop being 400 Km away, and amazon delivery time of more than a week its not that simple to buy and return. Anyhow i have now ordered the tripod and clamp. I will share my experience soon. Thanks a lot, your help is much appreciated :) 

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  • 2 weeks later...

ok, so finally i got the tripod and the clamp. The first impression is really good, the tripod looks solid and smooth. I attached my heritage 130 using the dovetail clamp and i was surprised how well the tripod handled it. I got the balance right on first attempt by centring the dovetail clamp and it was very stable in almost all the angles. I didn't get the chance to try outside as it was cloudy but by the look and feel of it i think i got what i wanted. thanks 

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  • 4 months later...

@rodhull: I know that I'm resurrecting an old thread here, but I'm hoping posters here might be able to answer a question I have. I started this thread to get some recommendations for an inexpensive Alt-Az mount form my ST80-T and also my Bresser 70/700. In that thread, happy-kat suggested your Z888 and Baader 1/4"-20 to dovetail adapter. I'm unsure whether the tripod would be steady enough for my purposes and so I asked, "How steady is that tripod? Could you get away with it for prime focus lunar AP with the ST80 and a DSLR?" To be honest, I have an EQ5 that I'd use for AP, but knowing if this tripod is up to that task would give me confidence that it'll be up to everything I need it for. I know that my existing photo tripods aren't up to that (I've tried and ended up with loads of motion blurring). So I'd be grateful for your insight.

TIA, Geoff

Edited by Geoff_L
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Hi Geoff,

Difficult to answer with 100% confidence without having tried it! Certainly at long focal lengths/eyepieces there is a degree of wobble under high-mag which dampens down within a completely acceptable time for visual use. I could try with my Canon 1100D/T-ring on the ST80 on this mount and let you know - I suspect with this combo and a remote release it would be pretty stable for lunar only. When I'll get round to trying myself I really don't know though - I barely get any time for visual use nowadays let alone the extra effort for AP but I'll endeavour to have a go at some point - I'd suspect prime focus would be fine (the super heaviest of DSLRs would be an unknown quantity). My 1100D is pretty light, but with a larger full-frame model who knows! I dount it would all amount to the weight of a 130P though, and visual with this even under high mag is really not a problem. However visual and AP are totally different beasts.

I've successfully used an ST80 and 1100D on the flimsy EQ1 tabletop mount with surprisingly good results, so I'd have thought this should be OK but like I say, even more so if you have the legs as short as you can get them for what you're doing - no way to know for sure without trying! It's a relatively cheap purchase as long as you get all the kit from somewhere with a bullet-proof, no-quibble returns policy...

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@rodhull: Many thanks for that. I asked the question as I'm after something to replace my flimsy Bresser AltAz mount to use when travelling and as a "grab 'n go" mount. Your Z888 is compact and light, and from what you write, I guess it'll be up to the task. My remaining reservation is the lack of slow-motion controls, but I'm hoping to source an Orion Precision Slow-Motion Adapter or similar, which should turn the Z888 and ST80 combination into the best compromise for my purposes.

I don't know what happened with the original product link as I verified it worked before posting. However, if you go to the US Orion website (telescope.com) and from the menu near the top of the page go to Accessories -> Adapters & Cables, the Precision Slow-Motion Adapter is on the second row of the second page this morning, on offer for $42.99. Orion don't offer it to UK customers directly, but thankfully those nice guys at Bresser (telescopehouse.com) offer the same or something very similar for £36.76 (hopefully a working product link!)

Thanks again, and clear skies,

Geoff

Edited by Geoff_L
To remove incorrect link and replace with last paragraph
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