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First light Review - Ioptron AZ Pro GoTo & Starwave 110 ED Frac


Pig

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I must be one of the luckiest UK astro enthusiasts around because not only did I purchase a new mount but I also purchased a new scope and managed to get first light almost immediately :happy7: 

The experience with the retailer " Altair Astro" was flawless, from enquiry through to using the kit.... A big thank you. The packaging was great and the contents were complete & gleaming.

I used my range of Pentax XW's for the whole of the review, 3.5through to 20mm but mainly 10mm and below as I was splitting double stars for most of the night. I went to our astro clubs dark site and was there from 9:30pm through to 2:30am. The conditions were not too bad but the seeing was a little soft and the wind present but it was not much of a factor.  

Please forgive the formatting style of the review as I find the new forum style kind of frustrating to use at times.... IE huge spacing, text being wiped out etc....I am sure this is most likely down to me and my ever increasing lack of understanding of computer software advancement.

The scope first ..... I have found a passion refractors of late because of their great looks, their excellent FOV and their delivery of pinpoint stars and to this end the performance of the Starwave 110ED was no exception. I had read about the effects of CA and how it can be quite noticeable as aperture increases and indeed I noticed a very tiny amount with the 110 when I first looked at Jupiter, what surprised me is that as the sky got increasingly darker it completely disappeared and did not resurface on any target throughout the night. I am sure the Moon will be a different story.

The Scope is an F7 doublet and performed excellently on Saturn, Mars and Jupiter right down to a 3.5mm eyepiece. The Cassini division, the banding on Jupiter's surface and pinpoint moons were a joy to view. Mars was a bit mushy with a few dark patches on display but that was about it :happy7:. Because of the GoTo capabilities of the mount and the catalogue of hundreds of doubles stars I was able to find loads of them and on each occasion the scope coped with splitting them admirably even down to 2.4" separation (I am sure the dark site conditions helped this even though the conditions were not as good as they have been in the past so this can only improve) 

Now the Mount ..... Of late I have longed for a return to GoTo capability so after much searching I decided on The Ioptron AZ Pro. Now on paper the spec detailed everything I wanted, great resolving of 0.1 arc seconds, excellent payloads with dual mount capability, Wifi for PC and smartphone, sidereal Lunar Solar and king tracking ( I don't know what king is !!! ) and something very appealing for me a 10 hour lithium battery... what a joy.... no annoying cables to get snagged and trapped around the tripod legs etc.. aaaaahhhhhhhhhhhh that Condor moment :hello: There are also a multitude of other features that I am sure will come in handy but now was not the time for them.

Ok the important bits.... Scope set up and Balancing .... I attached the primary scope via the supplied mounting plate undid the clutch wheel and centred the scope, I then re-tightened the clutch wheel....... Secondary Mount, I extended the built in counter weight bar and attached the supplied mounting bracket and centred the scope, I loosened the clutch wheel again and balanced both scopes as a single unit....... Simples... (some tinkering and easy calculations are needed as with all dual mounts to get them set up to an acceptable level and I only balanced the scopes enough as not to affect the alignment performance of the mount especially as I am reviewing it.) I did not bother getting the target exactly in both scope centres. However, it wasn't that far out...... Please also note I am very experienced at aligning dual mounts as I have had one for some considerable time, you may not find this so simple if you are new to it.......  Alignment, I let the mount do its own alignment with no interaction from me apart from a single press of the handset, It did exactly as the description said and when looking through the eyepiece all targets were bang smack in the middle of the FOV all the way down to a 7mm eyepiece (I did need to adjust it slightly with the 3.5mm eyepiece) My intensions were to try the other tracking options IE 3 star - 2 star etc.... but I didn't see any point TBH. These additional options are supposed to give better accuracy !!!!! I can see no reason on earth why you would need to do this as it is fantastic straight out of the box....... Tracking, All targets remained bang in the centre of the FOV for the duration of looking at them. In all honesty I did not view any single target for more than 20 minutes. However, I have no reason to suspect any different will happen when looking at a single target for longer than this as no targets moved off centre whatsoever, I will confirm if this changes once I have had the mount for a longer time....... Noise during slewing ,What noise !!!!!!! there isn't any, it is almost silent and the difference is a world apart in comparison to any of the other GoTo mounts I have used in the past...... Vibrations when observing, The mount  slews at quite a fast rate and considering this and that the scopes dew shield was fully extended the vibrations stop after a second or two and most impressively they stay settled. Don't get me wrong I didn't flick the eyepiece or kick the tripod when checking for this but on the whole it was fine.......  Battery power consumption, I charged the battery fully before using it and I used it for around 4.5 hours on the night, I saw no negative affects on alignment, tracking and slewing noise changes throughout the duration of the session. So all is good.

OK what more can I say other than a very impressive positive account of both the mount and scope. I did write a little review about build quality etc in an earlier post on Monday this week.

Another important point of note is that from the review you may have noticed I had everything needed to mount both scopes and I must add that everything was included in the box at no extra cost to me, this may be due to Altair Astros excellent service & experience so please check this out if you get one from somewhere else.

Ioptron have had some indifferent reviews over time and should the performance I have experienced deteriorate I will of course post an account of any such issues.

Oh yes....I will also get my friend to attach his camera to the mount in the near future to see how the mount tracks for AP purposes and maybe this is where the additional alignment and tracking features will come into their own.

Thanks for reading....Shaun :hello:

Just a quick update on the battery life, I used the scope for around 5 hours yesterday and another 5.5 hours today. Equating to just over 10 hours on a single charge. This is pretty much what the manual states (10 hours). I did a lot of slewing last night, probably more than one would normally do. However, today the mount was simply solar tracking so I guess this would even it out.

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Thanks for your positive review Shaun. I shall particularly look forward to seeing how you get on with imaging and the sort of exposure periods you can achieve without significant trailing (field rotation excepted, of course).

By the way, was your 110ED mounted closest to the mount, or was it the ED80? Could you comment about clearance between the 'scope and tripod legs please?

Cheers - Ian

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Yes Tich and right back at you man, I really enjoyed the evening and I will be back as soon as is possible.... I am just about to put the Quark in the new scope to see how it compares to the 80mm, but first things first..... I have to open the wine I took last night but didn't drink :drunken_smilie:

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Ian,

Thank you for your comments I hope the review was helpful to you :happy7:

  • The 110mm was indeed mounted closest to the mount as this is the primary side that can take more weight. There are a couple of factors that could cause a foul condition with the mount that are not to easy to explain by text, but here goes..... When the due shield is fully extended the shift in weight forces movement of the scope toward the zenith for balancing purposes. This aids a non fouling condition. However, with the addition of the weight from a camera this will counteract this condition and you will get a foul condition. Even without any other influences when the focuser is fully extended you will still get a foul condition. This is particularly relevant as the zero position of the scope is the zenith (Fortunately the software in the mount does allow you to set you own zero position so this can be avoided). So it would depend on how often you need to point at the Zenith during imaging.
  • I do not imagine this would be an issue on either side of the mount with the 80mm as it is quite short (600mm focal length I believe). It would definitely not be an issue on the counterweight side as you can extend the counterweight away from the tripod and even when fully retracted it is nowhere near the tripod legs.
  • The software in the mount is intelligent enough to take the best route when slewing, I slewed to many targets last night and on all occasions it chose the correct / shortest route.

I am more than happy to go and measure it for you when I strip it down later today. I can put my 80mm as close as possible if you want, simply ask me and I will be your Genie :happy7: 

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Thanks for your reply Shaun. The video showing its operation shows it pointing to the zenith when it goes about setting itself up. So can the mount be set to calibrate itself with the 'scope pointing to, say, 70 degrees altitude then?

Thanks for your offer of measuring things. I've got an Altair 102 which I use for astrophotography mounted on a Nexstar 6/8SE, but the length precludes me from going above about 58 degrees altitude otherwise the 'scope collides with the mount. Whilst I wouldn't need to go to the zenith, a bit higher than 58 degrees would useful. I haven't actually measured the back projection of my kit in all conditions of use, but it looks as though the distance from the mid-point of the saddle to the back of the camera could be 50cm. I was particularly concerned that if the mount had to point to the zenith during calibration then it most likely wouldn't work. Then again, would the 'scope need to be attached to the mount whilst it performs its initial ballet movements? (Ah, thinks! The 'scope would need to be balanced.) I would of course be mounting my 'scope on the primary side.

Any information you could give me would be extremely helpful, though I wouldn't want put you to a lot of trouble. I have downloaded the operations manual for reference.

Cheers, Ian

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5 minutes ago, The Admiral said:

Thanks for your reply Shaun. The video showing its operation shows it pointing to the zenith when it goes about setting itself up. So can the mount be set to calibrate itself with the 'scope pointing to, say, 70 degrees altitude then?

Thanks for your offer of measuring things. I've got an Altair 102 which I use for astrophotography mounted on a Nexstar 6/8SE, but the length precludes me from going above about 58 degrees altitude otherwise the 'scope collides with the mount. Whilst I wouldn't need to go to the zenith, a bit higher than 58 degrees would useful. I haven't actually measured the back projection of my kit in all conditions of use, but it looks as though the distance from the mid-point of the saddle to the back of the camera could be 50cm. I was particularly concerned that if the mount had to point to the zenith during calibration then it most likely wouldn't work. Then again, would the 'scope need to be attached to the mount whilst it performs its initial ballet movements? I would of course be mounting my 'scope on the primary side.

Any information you could give me would be extremely helpful, though I wouldn't want put you to a lot of trouble. I have downloaded the operations manual for reference.

Cheers, Ian

Ian, I believe you can set you own calibration reference point for exactly this reason.

I will do some experimenting for you and also as you are not that far from Northants, and as long as you are not a serial killer :happy7: you are more than welcome to bring your scope along and try it out.  

Shaun

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Hi Shaun, that's very kind of you to offer. I'll leave it a while before deciding whether to take you up on it if I may, as I'm not yet ready to commit to a new mount, certainly not one that expensive :icon_biggrin:.

Looking in the manual, I see this:

"5.7.1. Goto Zero Position
This moves your telescope to its Zero Position. The mount memorizes its Zero Position. The
power on position is not necessary the zero position."

That last sentence I've emphasised is what worries me a bit! :unsure:. Does that mean that the position it's in when you power on does not become the zero position, or that what you set as the zero position is ignored for the switch-on performance?

Cheers, Ian

PS. Oh, by the way, I'm not a serial killer. No, really I'm not :evil6:

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You can by pass the zero position request and simply perfrom your own alignment, the settings are new to me also and when you release the clutch everything moves so the mount must somehow return to its datum " IE Zero" I guess. I have contacted Ioptron a couple of times already via e-mail regarding info that is not in the user manual, they have been very helpful and answered almost immediately:-)

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5 minutes ago, SteveNickolls said:

Thanks for all of this Shaun, really pleased it is proving a great mount in practice. 

Best Regards,
Steve

Your most welcome Steve and I thank you also, clearly the greatest significance with all new kit is longevity :happy7: I sincerely hope for the cost I get to realise this.

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20 minutes ago, Chris Lock said:

Enjoyable review Shaun, sounds like you're very happy with everything which is great to hear :) 

 

 

Thank you Chris... so far so good... the scope and mount are proving to be very good for solar observing too :-)

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Nice setup Shaun. I'm glad you are pleased with it, a 110ED should be fabulous so I'm sure the views will be great.

I confess I've only ever had poor experiences with Altair Astro so I'm pleased to hear that they have upped their game and have provided you with excellent service. Their product line-up seems excellent so it's good if they have got the service side sorted.

As I think I've mentioned elsewhere, the iOptron mount is a potential future purchase for me so I'll be very interested to hear how you get on with it over a period of time.

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3 minutes ago, Stu said:

Nice setup Shaun. I'm glad you are pleased with it, a 110ED should be fabulous so I'm sure the views will be great.

I confess I've only ever had poor experiences with Altair Astro so I'm pleased to hear that they have upped their game and have provided you with excellent service. Their product line-up seems excellent so it's good if they have got the service side sorted.

As I think I've mentioned elsewhere, the iOptron mount is a potential future purchase for me so I'll be very interested to hear how you get on with it over a period of time.

Thank you Stu,

I will keep you informed of any niggles should they materialise. It is early days but I have to say all the features are pretty intuitive which is indicative of a good thought process. Lets hope so.

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6 hours ago, fireballxl5 said:

Nice review Shaun of a very interesting (i.e. tempting mount!). Do you know if it can be used to track satellites, e.g. ISS?

Andy

 

Andy,

Thank you, I must admit I am very pleased with both the mount and the scope. I would not of thought it is programmed to track the ISS and satellites mainly because of the speed they travel at :happy7: One false move and you could give yourself a nasty poke in the eye with the eyepiece. However, there are options to set custom tracking although I have not investigated this as yet.

5 hours ago, laudropb said:

Very informative review and a most enjoyable read. Looks like you are on to a winner there.

Thank you for your comments, I am looking forward to the views in the coming months of darks skies and our scorching sun :happy7:

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If I may add this for those following this thread, I emailed iOptron to query about whether the 'scope has to point to the zenith during set-up, which might be a problem for longish 'scopes (vis-a-vis collision with the tripod legs). Here's their (very prompt) reply:

"You have to set the scope vertical.  Even change the calibration procedure would not prevent the scope to it the tripod leg when it move to an object near the zenith.

 Yes, MiniPier will work with the 2” MTP tripod. If your scope is really long, you may consider Tri-pier with MiniPier."

The issue of looking at objects near the zenith is of course self-evident, but it does look as though the mount will point the 'scope at the zenith during set-up (though I'm confirming that with them*). So, for longish 'scopes, some additional height may be required if it is mounted in the 'primary' position.

Ian

* Edit. Now confirmed.

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On 05/06/2016 at 17:51, Stu said:

I confess I've only ever had poor experiences with Altair Astro so I'm pleased to hear that they have upped their game and have provided you with excellent service. Their product line-up seems excellent so it's good if they have got the service side sorted.

I'd like to think so, but a couple of requests for information from them over the last year has produced zero response!

I'm glad, Shaun, that your experience has been good.

Ian

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Ian,

Great information about the Zero position of the mount, keep in mind though the 110mm is by no stretch of the imagination a short scope and it does not foul with the mount under normal use.

I did buy an RACI finder from Altair 2 years ago without an issue and this is only my second experience with them and both have been fine. However, FLO aside, from my experiences all astro retailers need to up the anti, especially the big players.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Just a quick update on the tracking capability of the AZ Pro mount.

I have selected the solar tracking option this morning and for the past 200 minutes there has been zero drift, so all is starting to add up with this mount and it is looking like a decent package...lets see if it can keep this performance up over the next year or so.

Please note: As a precaution when I am taking a coffee (or wine) break and I am not viewing the sun I normally slew the scope out of the direct line of the sun. However, for this little test I have simply put the scopes steel cover over the objective. I do not see any benefit in leaving a scope pointed at the sun for hours on end, especially when you can simply press a button and be back on track.

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18 minutes ago, Pig said:

Just a quick update on the tracking capability of the AZ Pro mount.

I have selected the solar tracking option this morning and for the past 200 minutes there has been zero drift, so all is starting to add up with this mount and it is looking like a decent package...lets see if it can keep this performance up over the next year or so.

Please note: As a precaution when I am taking a coffee (or wine) break and I am not viewing the sun I normally slew the scope out of the direct line of the sun. However, for this little test I have simply put the scopes steel cover over the objective. I do not see any benefit in leaving a scope pointed at the sun for hours on end, especially when you can simply press a button and be back on track.

Thanks for the update :-) You have a number of us hanging on your every word.

Clear, dark skies,

Steve

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I have discovered a little niggle to do with solar alignment.... IE during the day it does not offer the sun as one of the alignment options :happy7: I chose Mercury as the alternative but as Mercury isn't visible during the day so I couldn't physically centre it and had to rely on the software knowing it was in the right place !!!! So I then I selected the sun from the select and slew menu and as expected it was a little out but close enough to find.... it then tracked without any drift as explained above.

I don't think suppliers are to keen on giving solar alignment as an option just in case Mr stupid buys one of their products and blinds himself. This is the 3rd mount I have had that does not give solar as one of the alignment options.... it only appears to be an goto option.

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I know that with my Nexstar mount the sun is not visible in the menu until it is enabled in the mount set-up options. Could the iOptron be the same?

Ian

Edit. I've just had a look at the user manual which I downloaded a while ago, and I see that under Menu - Select and Slew - Solar System, that the sun is shown. I wonder if Settings - Set Tracking Rate - Solar Rate has to be selected first? I guess if you can't find anything, an email to iOptron will bring a response.

Edit 2. On p16, sec 4.3, "Solar Observation", it says "Menu - Sync to Target", select "Solar System" and then select "Sun". Also, set Tracking rate to Solar. So it must be capable of doing solar alignment.

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