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FLO sent me this beast of a mount for review, and after a few months use I've finished said review. If you don't want to read, then scroll to the bottom to see the video. If not, let's go.
From the top, the dual type Vixen/Losemandy type puck, and at the back of mine it had 3 5521 type power ports for powering equipment, and 3 USB ports (2 powered) for connecting to the internal USB hub network. Whilst I didn't exactly use this network, it's still very handy to use, especially being on the puck - it means you don't have to worry about any slack on your cables and they won't pull. A handy feature. The power ports seem to be of a different type to 99% other astronomy hardware though, which means you'd need to get different connectors, a major inconvenience which still will make itself known later.
The mount includes an iPolar system, which is absolutely awesome. Sure the UI looks like it's straight out of Microsoft Paint but it's certainly function over form as it's quick and uses plate solving to align. This means you can polar align even with a semi-obstructed view to the pole. It's powered by a USB2-B port at the back of the mount with no need for external power. There is no manual polar scope on the mount so a computer is a must for polar alignment.
The carry capacity of 31.8kg is a hefty amount, though it's advised to not exceed 21kg for astrophotography. I never loaded it up with this much equipment however the sheer build quality and performance of this mount leads me to have no concerns whatsoever about using that much weight, or even all the weight. It's always advised to use underneath the stated maximum capacity anyway.
The altitude adjustment knob is a hefty coarse worm gear style affair. Embossed with the iOptron logo. It's a nice way of adjusting, especially when coming from GEM mounts where you have to undo/do up two individual bolts. However on my mount it was let down by an abhorrent squeak it made when raising it whilst the mount was loaded up. When going down in altitude sometimes the gear would jump a bit and let the mount down even further than I wanted. Azimuth adjustment was fluid and great.
The control panel includes its power port, power switch, hand controller port, ST-4 port and the USB port. The USB port can be used to control the mount via computers, and is also the other end of the internal USB network. It is USB2-B.
A major issue I found was the power port. It wasn't the standard type DC centre-positive tip style that all my other astro equipment used. IT's also a standard female type port, whereas I would've liked to have seen a screw type connector for this price point. But yes, the biggest gripe was the different style port, which meant I couldn't power it using my power box (without getting more cables), and had to use the supplied plug.
The carry case is a substantial and very sturdy box. It's foam cutout and very tight in holding the equipment. All but the counterweight goes into this box and I believe it could really survive quite a harsh fall. It's very well built.
Slewing with the CEM70 was quick and fluid, it was also quieter than I was anticipating for such a large bit of machinery. Using its own dedicated software through the laptop was intuitive and there was little to no learning curve. The axis clutches, whilst using a small switch, feel solid and substantial with a nice meaty clunk when engaged. One lock position is the EQ Home position which makes life a lot easier.
When guiding, I was regularly getting values of 0.4-0.6" total error. This enabled me to take extremely long exposures if I so desired, though I mainly did 5 minutes, I was able to do 10 under testing. Unguided (just sidereal tracking) I was only able to achieve 2 minutes before trailing was found with my Evostar 80ED (reduced to 510mm) and ASI 071mc Pro. Now in full admittance the mount was unbalanced as the Evostar package was too light for the mount.
The counterweight, if moved too high up the bar, will strike the body. So you would need to buy a lighter weight if you wanted to balance a lighter load on the CEM70.
Also when attaching it to a tripod or a tri-pier, you do need to bolt down 2 spring loaded bolts down with the supplied allen key. Now this is a bit fiddly and adds several minutes to the setup and tear down times. Though I suspect iOptron made this mount with a permanent setup in mind so if you're putting this into an observatory then this won't be a problem. For me, who setup and torn down the rig each night when using it, became a bit of a chore.
Overall I found the CEM70 to be an extremely capable mount with a lot of features. Whilst there are niggles that detracted from the user experience; the altitude gear squeak and the non standard power ports. Other features improved the quality of life and user experience enough to vastly outweigh the drawbacks. The iPolar system is particularly capable and excellent, the carry capacity, build quality also and guided performance, as well as the internal USB hub.
I think this would be a nice investment if you were looking to mount larger scopes on, or decking out an observatory. I can't afford one but if I was making my own permanent setup I would severely consider buying one.
If you're interested you can find more information at the links below (if you did buy through these links, I'd earn a few pennies to help support these reviews).
iOptron CEM70 w/o iGuider: https://bit.ly/CEM70
iOptron CEM70 w/ iGuider: https://bit.ly/CEM70iGuide
iOptron Tri-Pier: https://bit.ly/CEM-Tripier
Thanks for reading everyone. What are your thoughts about this mount? I hope my review has been helpful for you clear skies all, keep looking up and keep them cameras clicking.
Question, is my pier out of level if I'm trying to PA (with asiair pro) and both directions are moving when I adjust the alt bolts? I can't get the mount polar aligned.
Mount neq6 pro
Pier mounted on a concrete slab
OTA c8 with .63 reducer
Camera asi294mc pro
Thanks in advance
Beginner here who is really struggling! Apologies in advance if this is long! I only began pointing my camera up about two months ago. I have a Canon T7i. Last week my Star Adventurer Pro arrived and the frustration began. I’ve watched countless videos and know what I’m “supposed” to do - but it seems to all go out the window when I’m fumbling in the dark. I realize these questions are probably silly, but I can’t seem to find an answer online. I’ve only had three clear nights so far to practice and there’s been some improvement, but I’m way off! A pole master and/or guiding is not in the budget right now.
Polaris - tripod pointing north. Level it properly. Set altitude. Look through and see so many stars and they look almost equally bright. How do you know you’re on the correct star? Last night I went out at dusk (can’t see Polaris from my yard so I have to lug everything to a different location) and that helped tremendously, as it was the only star there. But that’s not practical long term... can’t always head out that early. Should I get a laser pointer? Any other tricks or tips?
PA - last night was the first time I had even marginal success. With 0 up and 6 down, I used an app to get the correct position of Polaris. I was not perfect, but close, which was a huge improvement in itself for me! I set up my camera with a Rokinon 135mm lens, balanced it, moved it to roughly the position I wanted to shoot, checked my PA and it was slightly off so I readjusted. Some time goes by and I’m noticing anything over 15 seconds has very noticeable trailing. Polaris is way off when I look in the scope. My axis is obviously turned to position the camera and I had no idea if I’m supposed to be repositioning Polaris to where it should be on a clock face - ignoring where the 0, 3, 6 and 9 are actually showing - or to realign to where it would be in relation to the numbers. I hope that makes sense! I ended up positioning Polaris where roughly 9 would be (as it was shown on the app by this time) and ignored that the number 9 was in a totally different position in the scope. Still could not get any images over 15 seconds without trailing. I’m sure my polar alignment wasn’t perfect when I started - before it all went totally to hell - but I really thought I was close and should’ve been able to get longer exposures. Any help or advice appreciated! It’s so frustrating when you go through your checklist and think everything was done correctly only to realize you screwed up bad somewhere.
Balance - thoroughly understand and am able to properly balance my camera and counterweight. But I am certain that I was throwing my balance totally off when I would loosen the clutch underneath and rotate the actual camera to point in a certain direction. How do you compensate for that? The idea of moving everything back to “home” position and starting over can’t be right! Lol
Anyone who stuck with me this long - thank you!!! This is completely new and overwhelming - yet very excited to learn. I don’t have the gear to get the amazing pics I see here, so trying to learn with what I do have before investing any more money. Have recently purchased the tracker, ordered a new tripod and bought two Rokinon lenses. Hubby has had enough! Lol
Equipment - canon T7i, Star Adventurer Pro, relatively inexpensive tripod until the Star Adventurer one arrives, have only tried using my Rokinon 135 lens. Need to master that before I attempt anything heavier. I also have an intervalometer.
Last suggestions needed - clip in filters? Which are a must? I have photoshop and Lightroom but see so many other programs. What should I consider getting down the road for post processing?
I have an HEQ5-Pro mount, which has had relatively few outings. I also have a problem with polar alignment. I've watched all the videos (slight exaggeration - but lots) and I totally get the idea. I have a practical mobility problem in that I struggle to get myself into a position where I can look through the polar scope with any degree of comfort. I've bought a right angle prism device but still struggle really hard. It's a massively frustrating problem which is stopping me enjoying my hobby and, effectively, precluding me from starting imaging. Any hints, tips or pointers that can help and don't involve getting on my knees would be gratefully received.