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thoughts on a high quality portable mount?


buzz
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I'm looking to buy a sub 8 kg mount for imaging with short refractors (600mm or less FL) under a £2000 budget.  My permanent mount is a PMX. On my shortlist are:

  • iEQ30pro
  • NEQ5
  • Vixen SX2
  • Tak EM11 (used)
  • GM8 (bit heavy)
  • Avalon Linear (used)

I have a sturdy Berlebach tripod which I will modify to suit and will do extended imaging runs (which is why the Astrotrac is not on the list). Good tracking and guiding performance is essential, as is ASCOM control so I can use SGP or TSX to image with.- (I will use a Polemaster for alignment).  

I would be interested in others experiences or suggestions 

many thanks

 

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Hi Buzz

I have used my Avalon Linear Fast for over two years and it has very accurate and responsive guiding being all belt driven, good goto with the target invariably landing on my chip straight from a slew (one iteration with SGP and I'd be within 10 pixels); zero backlash and high build quality.  I have the older Skywatcher NEQ6 control board so it integrated with eqmod.  It's quiet and relatively light with a carry handle (also good to tie cables to).  I have used my FSQ85 and WO 132FLT with this mount without issue and it is a joy to use.  If you only want to use a short refractor there is the M Uno too . . .

I have just bought a 10 Micron GM1000HPS in preparation for going remote at some point and it has slightly higher imaging load than the Linear.  Otherwise I felt there was no need to change as it gives such good guiding and goto (with an accurate PA) and integrates with SGP superbly.

Not sure that you'll find a second hand one for under £2k though (but good luck nevertheless) - if I decide to sell mine I would advertsie for more than this price.

BW

Barry

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thanks Barry - I had a GM1000 a few years ago but it was not a happy experience and I paid a few hundred more and got the PMX. I'm using SGP and a FLT132 too. How is the Linear in a light breeze? I was always a little concerned with the belt elasticity possibility. The new price is a little high but sometimes trying to be too thrifty is false economy. edit (it is also 12Kg without the extension bar, so I bit higher than budget)

Edited by buzz
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I've only ever used mine in my observatory so I've not experienced a breeze on the whole OTA, only the end of the dew shield on the WO as it pokes above the side walls.  This has never caused an issue with my guiding but isn't a real test I realise.  Olly Penrice uses his with a TEC140, so similar with a high moment due to the heavy glass at each end of the OTA, although I'm not sure how much exposure his mount has to the breeze.  Maybe he'll chime in.  I am saving my Linear for the occasional trip up to dartmoor and a dark site . . . but you might be able to persuade me to part with it if you decide on an Avalon.

If you have the budget, I agree with the "too thrifty" principle.  Having read of some iOptron ascom driver issues on the SGP forum, are these now resolved for SGP automation?

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Don't know about the iOptron Barry. My Kent-based dealer who sold me the PMX is pushing the iEQ30 as being well-received. There is always the problem with that kind of recommendation on the variability of customer expectations, knowledge or discrimination. I'll post a note on the SGP forum. As for polar alignment, those PoleMaster cameras look perfect for a fast accurate setup of a portable rig.

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18 hours ago, Barry-Wilson said:

Not sure that you'll find a second hand one for under £2k though (but good luck nevertheless) - if I decide to sell mine I would advertsie for more than this price.

I really rated the Linear and sold mine for bang on £2k, so I don't see why you wouldn't get one for that price :)

It served me well and was a reliable mount night after night. I am observatory based as well, but in a rather exposed place. When I had the big scope on there, the guiding did suffer with the wind I found and there were many nights when it was a little breezy when I didn't even bother opening up. I would definitely recommend it though as a mount that does exactly as it says on the tin. Utterly dependable and a joy to use as you never knew you were using it :D

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I wouldn't touch either the GM8 or the Tak 11 with a barge pole. Both are a decade past their sell by dates and the Losmandy is a very poor design anyway. The Tak is under-specified, absurdly expensive and spares prices are utterly outrageous. I'm suspicious of iOptron because of their habit of rushing into production with new models which then need sorting out. I don't know the Vixen SX2 at all. The NEQ5 is based on a well known and very decent budget mount which handles small scopes well.

The Avalon is in a class apart, though. The original has the advantage of using readily available EQ6 motors, motherboard and handset, making spares a non-problem and the quality of the engineering on the mount is as good as it gets. It does have the issue of elasticity in the belt drives but, as Barry said, I use mine with a TEC 140, heavy flattener and full frame CCD camera with electric filterwheel and it copes with that. It handles physically short scopes with ease and, while the guide trace you can expect from it is not quite in the Mesu class, it is very good and very predictable. One thing I very particularly like about the Avalon is its potential for a long service life with minimal maintenance. The belt drives self tension and run dry, meaning you don't have to worry about meshing the worm wheel. Bearings are massive and the machining accurate. Avalon are also extremely responsive as a firm. Mine is reasonably well protected from wind but with smaller refractors I very much doubt that this would be a concern in the field. Because of the construction and the spares I think the Avalon would be an excellent second hand choice.

For me it would be either the NEQ5 (budget choice and new) or the used Avalon. If I were only going to use short refractors then I'd love the flip-free Avalon single arm alternative.

Olly

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thanks folks - yes Olly - I did some Google searches over the weekend on GM8 and  Tak and came away with some worrying concerns relating to poor mechanical assembly tolerances and worn plastic gears respectively - Not what I was expecting but certainly backs up your view that these mounts are good but resting on their laurels whilst the competition moves on.

I'll look more closely at the Avalon - it is slightly over budget (weight and cost) but if that is what it takes...

I might also see if I can loan an iOptron and check it out.

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Francis, fwm891, has just sold his Avalon FR, and was waiting for an iOptron iEQ45, don't know if he's got it yet, you could PM him.

I don't think I'd put the 132mm on an iEQ30,  I have a WO110FLT on an older version of the iEQ45 and it copes fine, they're not happy with long refractors as they seem to start an uncontrollable zig zag in the dec guide graph.

The new version of the iEQ45 pro has several improvements but not had any experience of it, it is very light though compared to other mounts, I take mine to star parties and you can carry the head in one hand.

Dave

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Dave - you are right - I wouldn't dream of using the 132mm anyway - the idea is to be portable. I'm not intending to do air travel but just want something that is reliable and doesn't make my hernia any worse and which doesn't take over the boot space on holidays- The 132 was just mentioned by Barry to demonstrate the capabilities of the Avalon.

I had an NEQ6 at one point and the backlash was annoying and could not be adjusted out - I assume the GT version is better.  Olly sums up well- he probably sees more mounts in use than the rest of us too - the shortlist is AZ EQ5 GT / Avalon and potentially the iEQ30 (I asked my dealer about the CEM30 and apparently it is no more. I think the same is true of the ZEQ25 too)  Just saw a EQ5 GT in gloss red. It looks like a different mount!

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hi

you may consider the avalon m-zero as a 'very' portable option if pay load is enough for you (and i think a number of users have reported much higher payload than avalon mention). i have a m-uno, not the m-zero, and i cannot be more pleased. it is not a permanent set up and when exposed to slight breeze, the guiding trace can look a bit jumpy but the image always great (on 10 min exposures for hours, i typically get 0.5 to 0.8 arc sec rms, fhwm of 3,5 to 4 and according to pixinsight, image eccentricity of anywhere 0.40 to 0.48 which makes me more than happy. it is handling well my c8 or my wogt81 (need extension to get balanced with wogt81 -but no need to reposition the arms when switching scope-). i let it run over night and i sleep well: no worry in the morning to get all my subs ok -and no meridian flip to think of-(i only got 1 sub to discard due to a sudden and unexplained big dec jump over maybe about 50 hours using it so far).

-no meridian flip, 

-no backlash,

-no maintenace ,

- less cable management issues which is important for a non permanet set up -for getting all set up quickly and also to let it run (i run it through bluetooth from my portable computer, and never with handset -it is still in its box-: only 1 power cable to the mount, 1 usb computer to my sx694/filter wheel/lodestar -all through the usb hub of the sx-+ 1 power to the camera and 1 for dew heater, really simple!

 

all above made me choising it (i am fine with guiding -oag, the little time to set this up does not bother me, i feel no need of a unguided long exposure type of high class mount with my light scopes). works great with ascom.

 

My only regret in a way is not to have taken a m-zero: the m-uno is still quite big and only moving mount on tripod (no scope) over a few meter from inhouse to the garden is just ok for me. i only heard good things of the m-zero. Looking ahead, i am thinking setting permanently the m-uno... and going for m-zero as portable one...

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Thanks Erquy , I will take a look at the M-uno/zero.  I had not considered them before as they looked a bit like a springboard and might topple over in EQ mode. I am trying to keep within the budget (weight and cost). I am writing the second edition of the The Astrophotography Manual,  and I'm in danger of being too up-market. I want to include some more affordable and lower-end acquisition projects using dSLR's, rather than everything with expensive mounts and CCD's etc. The Avalons are tempting but start getting out of that territory and back to the point that I would just buy a MyT to match the PMX.

I did a little more research on the EQ5 GT/iEQ30pro. There is very little on the web about their real performance but note the EQ5 GT has 0.25" step size, which is a little coarse. One the SGP users says his iEQ30 works fine with SGP and I have asked him for his typical tracking figures, so I think if it was just a choice of the two, I would try the iEQ.

 

Edited by buzz
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11 minutes ago, buzz said:

Thanks Erquy , I will take a look at the M-uno/zero.  I had not considered them before as they looked a bit like a springboard. I am trying to keep within the budget (weight and cost). I am writing the second edition of the The Astrophotography Manual,  and I'm in danger of being too up-market. I want to include some more affordable and lower-end acquisition projects using dSLR's, rather than everything with expensive mounts and CCD's etc. The Avalons are tempting but start getting out of that territory and back to the point that I would just buy a MyT to match the PMX.

The first edition was a breath of fresh air to me. An excellent book for the more serious imager. Written by an imager with similar trials, tribulations and successes as myself. In fact, at times, it's as if it was written just for me.

 

Steve

Edited by sloz1664
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Cheers Steve - it will be a few years yet before it comes out. It takes a long time to research things thoroughly and test it for oneself, rather than write about things in a superficial manner (which seems to be the norm).

Just seen the price of an M-Zero - ouch! that is too expensive for these purposes and more than the linear. Nice concept but almost 4K.  I'm planning to run this with photographic kit at first, rather than telescopes . I have found some really nice Carl Zeiss lenses (18-300mm) that fit the Canon - from the old Contax days. Very affordable, good performance wide open and solid. The C/Y adaptor is really robust, much better than the normal crop of T-adaptors. I'm working on a DIY AF rig for the lenses.  I used these lenses in the slide film days and the results were excellent - most importantly over the entire field, rather than concentrated in the middle.

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17 hours ago, buzz said:

Just seen the price of an M-Zero - ouch! that is too expensive for these purposes and more than the linear. Nice concept but almost 4K.  I'm planning to run this with photographic kit at first, rather than telescopes . 

You sure you're not thinking of the M Uno which is about $1000 US more than the Linear? The M Zero is about $1000 less than the Linear. But yes, if you are just planning on mounting a photographic kit, then any of these are way overkill.

 

Derek

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I have bought an iEQ30 in the end, along with a QHY Polemaster. So far it is leaving a favourable impression with better build quality / design than my 2013 NEQ6. It is a shade under 8Kg for the head and nice and quiet, working with TSX or ASCOM. I'll put a WO FLT98 on it and measure PE before and after PEC and then try and guide it. I'll share the results here. If it can cope with this, it will cope with the intended use of a bunch of Carl Zeiss (Contax) optics on a EOS 60Da. It will be very interesting to see how well it goes. In fact, the counterweight is too heavy and I'm going to have to find a lighter one to balance the camera/guider system.

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Some initial feedback. The iEQ30 pro is very nicely built. Stainless steel rather than chrome plated steel. The Polemaster from QHY is brilliant.  I mounted the FLT98 with a FFIV reducer and the Lodestar. Using PHD2, I measured the PE near the meridian/horizon and then computed the PEC using the mount's internal process, following up with a guiding performance check.

The native PE is +/- 30 arc seconds!  PEC is remarkably effective though, considering the task and gets it down to +/-2 arc seconds but the autoguiding struggles to remove it.  With PEC, the error changes 3.5 arc seconds in a minute and to avoid reacting the seeing, I had guider corrections every 5 seconds, up to 75% aggression. In that time, the error has changed 0.3 arc seconds and is always playing catch-up and you see a smaller amplitude ripple of the same period as the PE. DEC guiding was OK so long as you kept the aggression at about 30%, to avoid overshoot.

I'm in two minds - whether to ask for a refund or try for a replacement. There are some reports of PE in +/- single figures from this mount, in which case the autoguider would be fine.  In my searches I have also come across the Vixen SXD2 - which might be a contender. Failing that, I might have to dig deep and go red.

[update] - I'm going to persevere. The mount is otherwise nicely put together and will ask Altair if they can replace the worm. If I get really desperate, I'll just get a red spray-can out.

 

PE without PEC.jpg

PE with PEC.jpg

guiding with PEC.jpg

Edited by buzz
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just a thought -  I have been offered a used Avalon - with the EQ electronics. Is there any downside to this older design over the new StarGo system?

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In my opinion, the Synscan is better than the StarGo. I used both in my Linear (not many folks do) and I found that the StarGo was a little flaky. The Synscan is EQmod compatible of course, and is as reliable as hell..... If I had a choice, I'd get a synscan over the StarGo any day.

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thanks - Altair is sending me a new worm block for the iOptron - it would be good to get this diminutive mount to work. It is a perfect size and weight for holidays. I may buy the Avalon as well, for good measure.

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  • 1 month later...

iOpton IEQ30   -   I got the new worm gear from Altair - but took one look at the installation and decided to let Altair do the update. They turned it around in a few weeks. That is the good news. Got it back on Friday and checked the PE last night. PE peak to peak of ~80 arc seconds.  The PE was so bad that PHD2 threw a warning message during the calibration as the DEC axis moves went off at a 30 degree angle. Even at +/- 16 pixel scale, the PE was off the chart.

This is a real shame. A good sensible design marred by critical tolerances.

 

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Hi Buzz,

I have a 10 Micron so have never entered the field of guiding and am not familiar with PHD.  However, I am always keen to learn from those who understand these things: Can you take a moment to describe what those graph's are showing and the difference between them?

 

Very sorry to hear that the latest edition of the book is still some way off!  Thank you again for the advance sight on Collimation - I think I know what I am doing now.

 

Gus/John

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On 08/06/2016 at 08:31, buzz said:

just a thought -  I have been offered a used Avalon - with the EQ electronics. Is there any downside to this older design over the new StarGo system?

Like Sara I see nothing wrong with the SW-Avalon marriage on the older Avalons. I have one. I would buy another. It will be a while before I buy anything iOptron because I think they have a fundamental problem with prototype and Beta testing. The idea is that you get it right before selling it. A complex idea, I know, but it seems to be beyond them.

Olly

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 18 July 2016 at 17:30, Big Bang! said:

Hi Buzz,

Can you take a moment to describe what those graph's are showing and the difference between them?

The graphs are the tracking error report from PHD2 guiding program. The vertical axis is arc seconds and the horizontal is minutes. The error cycle repeats for each worm gear rotation. Your 10 micron would be hovering within a +/-1 arc second range!  The new worm gear I was supplied made things worse....wait for it....  +/- 60 arc seconds!!! The mount is being replaced. Third time lucky maybe.

On 18 July 2016 at 17:30, Big Bang! said:

 

Very sorry to hear that the latest edition of the book is still some way off!  Thank you again for the advance sight on Collimation - I think I know what I am doing now.

I'm working on it most evenings but it takes time to thoroughly research each topic, try and test the theories and acquire the data for the images. It will be worth the wait though :)

On 18 July 2016 at 17:30, Big Bang! said:

Gus/John

 

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