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Jkulin

iOptron CEM60-EC First thoughts

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Firstly, I am not as well versed as many on here technically but am learning fast.

My first mount was a SW HEQ5Pro with a Rowan belt mod, that was fine but I was pushing the weight limits when I started to load it up.

I then bought an ex-demo SW AZ-EQ6-GT, which was fine except I just didn't rate the workmanship and the DEC adjustment control rod drove me barmy as it always protruded sometimes preventing rotation and always open to catching cables no matter how hard your tried. I also wasn't happy about the amount of backlash that SW seems to deem acceptable.

So, I began looking in earnest as something that wasn’t going to break the piggy bank but had demonstrated its guiding development.

I have a permanent pier in the middle of the garden with a custom-made pier and an Altair Astro pier plate bolted in.

I have a triple prolapse of my lower discs, so lifting really heavy stuff was out of the question.

I can't see my lifting more than about 25kgs onto the mount, so whatever I went for had to be able to accommodate that comfortably, the Avalon M-Uno was crossed off, The Avalon M-Zero was reported to be excellent as long as your guiding was spot on, but if it wasn't then it could suffer.

On the shortlist were: -

iOptron CEM60-EC

10 Micron GM 1000 HOS

JTW's New Mount OGEM

SW EQ8

Avalon M-Zero

Avalon M-Uno

Anything else was either out of my budget of too heavy.

I am not averse to buying second-hand and that would have had to have been the case with the 10 Micron, but none came up.

The EQ8 was just too heavy.

JTW still have not to this day replied to my emails, which to my mind just demonstrates the likely expected customer service.

So, all things pointed towards the iOptron.

image.thumb.png.c27a9bae3fe1b56ae46a89a69c59e215.png

iOptron_CEM60EC.jpg.5d6ab2237687ab312420fd81754c2c5a.jpg

  • A new design, center-balanced equatorial mount (CEM) for maximum payload and minimum mount weight
  • Specialized astrophotography mount ideal for both visual and Astro-photographers
  • Patent pending non-contact magnetically loaded gear system
  • Payload of 60 lbs (27.2 kg) with the mount-only weight of 27 lbs (12.3 kg)
  • Gear switches on both R.A. and DEC axes for easy balancing when disengaged
  • Adjustable counterweight shaft for 0º latitude operation
  • Screw/worm type latitude adjuster for precision adjustments
  • Milling machine tooling vise type latitude bearing and locks system for rock solid positioning
  • User side azimuth fine adjusters for easy azimuth adjustment
  • Precision stepper motor with 0.06 arcsec accuracy for precise GOTO and accurate tracking
  • iOptron AccuAligningTM calibrated polar scope with dark-field illumination and easy polar alignment procedure, allowing for fast and accurate polar alignment
  • Polar alignment routine for those who can't see the Pole Star
  • Go2Nova® 8407+ controller with Advanced GOTONOVA® GOTO Technology with built in heater
  • Realtime periodic error correction (RPEC)
  • Integrated ST-4 autoguiding port
  • Built-in 32-channel Global Positioning System (GPS)
  • Built-in or customized cable management system
  • Spring loaded Vixen/Losmandy dual saddle
  • 150mm base size to match optional 2 inch heavy-duty stainless steel tripod (8kg)
  • Included aluminum hard carrying case
  • Optional Tri-Pier (#8034), 42 inch pier (#8033) or 48 inch pier (#8030)
  • Optional 2-inch tripod available (#8021ACC)
  • Optional Mini Pier (#8032) for extending height also available
  • Optional PowerWeightTM rechargeable battery pack

I liked the fact that I wouldn’t have to make any modifications to my pier plate as Ian at Altair had accommodated the 130mm bolt spacing into it.

Although the non-encoder version was about £1800, I felt it worthwhile to spend the extra on the encoder version at £2800

I also negotiated with Ian to include an extra weight and the polemaster adapter, as I really do like to use my polemaster.

There were a few hiccups with the delivery, that were easily resolved and my correspondence with Ian and indeed iOptron in the USA were fantastic.

The day arrived and the mount arrived securely fitted inside an aluminium case with everything included to connect and get yourself up and running. I had also ordered a tripod in case I wanted to use it out in the field as the mount is light enough to carry around.

The technical spec was: -

Mount                  Centre-balanced Equatorial Mount (CEM)

Payload                60 lb (27.2kg), exclude counterweight*

Mount weight    27 lb (12.3kg)

Payload/Mount weight ratio        2.22:1

Material               All metal (except GPS cover)

Latitude adjustment range           0°~ 70°

Azimuth adjustment range           ± 8°

Right Ascension worm wheel      Φ146mm, 288 tooth aluminium

Declination worm wheel               Φ146mm, 288 tooth aluminium

PEC                        Real Time PEC

PE                           < 0.5 arcsec rms for 5 min (< 0.3 arcsec for 2nd GEN)

Counterweight shaft       Φ28x 450 mm Stainless Steel

Counterweight 21 lb (9.5 kg)

Mount base size Φ150 mm

Motor drive        Stepper motor

Resolution           0.06 arc seconds

Slew speed         1×,2×,8×,16×,64×,128×,256×,512×,MAX(~3.75°/sec)

Power consumption        0.6A(Tracking),1.1A(GOTO)

Power requirement        12V DC 2A

AC adapter          100V ~ 240V (included)

Polar Scope         AccuAlign TM dark field illuminated, 2 arc min

Level indicator Level bubble

Dovetail saddle 8” Losmandy/Vixen dual saddle

Hand Controller Go2Nova® 8407+ 359,000 objects database, star recognition

Meridian treatment        Stop (0-15° pass), auto flip

GPS                        Internal 32-channel GPS

Autoguide port ST-4

Communication port       Serial port

PC computer control       Yes (ASCOM)

Cable management 4X USB, 2X DC12V (MAX 5A), 6P6C

Operation temperature -20°C ~ +45°C

Tripod   Optional 2 "tripod Stainless Steel(8kg)/Pier (10kg)

Warranty             Two year limited

The latest firmware had been installed and the ASCOM drivers were easily setup, I use SGP and APT and the mount worked perfectly in each. Their commander software was a cinch to use as well.

There comes a warning with each mount saying to be careful when releasing the clutches as they really do float like there is nothing attached, see the video and for that reason balancing is critical. Ian at Altair had warned me to lock the clutch up after balancing and then turn it back a quarter of a turn.

My first and only scope that I have used it on so far is my RC8", it took a lot more weight to balance than my previous mounts, probably because there is no friction, it truly is beautifully made and machined. Once my Moravian OAG and FW arrive then it will need balancing again. Naturally I will need to balance differently with my Esprit 80 and 100.

My Polemaster adapter is not a push fit but is a metal screw in fit so no more accidentally knocking it out of alignment.

There is a 4-port hub that isn't powered, which would have been nice if it had been, but it is no big deal as I use my own USB3.0 hub anyway.

Everything about the mount screams quality and there doesn't appear to be any compromises in that regards.

You are provided a graph of how the mount performed before leaving the factory which I have attached and I have also captured the PHD2 screen from its first light.

iOptron CEM60EC Graph.pdf

iOptron claim zero backlash and I have no reason to question that.

The Built in GPS worked quickly and perfectly.

First light saw me guiding on IC5146 the Cocoon nebula, it was a good test as the clouds kept coming over, but even when that happened the guide graph didn't flinch and just kept moving without any deviation.

Guiding_150718_pixel.thumb.PNG.f8df1444e2e9bda7c9e0036e3ab5829f.PNG

My only small gripe is that iOpton insist on supplying a lead to plug into an RS232 converter, which I find bulky, I have been working with them to resolve this so that you can use a lead similar to the EQMOD of the Skywatcher, but I have exhausted every conceivable FTDI chipset and prolific version I am no nearer to resolving, however their technical department are working with the manufacturers to make a lead with just a USB to RJ9 for the future, in between time Ian at Altair is doing a similar thing.

FTDI in Glasgow have also offered to help sort out a chipset that will work.

iOptron received a bit of negative press when they launched this 4 years ago, I spent a good few days reading all the reviews and YouTube videos and in the last couple of years could find nothing but praise for their technical department and the quality of their manufacturing which is what swung it for me.

I’ve included a very quick image slammed together in under 3 mins, with no noise reduction or any treatment whatsoever, please bear in mind that I have some tilt to correct on the left hand side of the image on the RC, but these were 10 min subs in poor light pollution, The colours aren’t correct either, it was just a quick test to see how everything was working with the new Moravian G2-8300 MkII as well. I wouldn't normally post such a bad image, but I wanted to show how good the tracking is and towards the end the clouds were coming over thick and fast.

 

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Am I pleased with my purchase, yes indeed, it’s quiet, its goto is perfect, tracking is brilliant and I doubt if I had spent twice the amount that I would have got any better, just have a look at the guide graph from PHD2.

I must add, that contrary to all the reports, Ian at Altair was a perfect gentlemen to deal with and I can whole heartedly recommend him.

Once I start to do some serious imaging then I'll post up the results to show how good it can perform

Edited by Jkulin
typo and added pic
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Very useful info John, thanks for sharing!

I'm still waiting for my CEM60 to arrive (non-encoder version), but I'm reassured now that I've made a good choice.

I'll be interested to hear whether your good first impressions persist as you get more experience with the mount over time.

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Lars, I'm sure you are going to love it, the build quality is brilliant and it is just so smooth when slewing, I had to look twice at how good the tracking was.

I can't wait to do some proper imaging when we get some proper darkness.

Good luck and enjoy.

BTW for now I am using a Startech RS232V2 adapter, make sure its the V2 as the non V2 doesn't work with W10: -

https://www.startech.com/uk/Cards-Adapters/Serial-Cards-Adapters/USB-to-RS232-Serial-Adapter-Cable~ICUSB232V2

Alternatively these work superbly as well: -

https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Prolific-PL-2303-HXD-USB-to-RS-232-Serial-Adaptor-Compatible-Windows-10-Ten/123196888849

Once I have worked out which cable to use without the bulky 9pin D Sub then will post a report.

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Thanks John for this review - tracking is brilliant indeed! I also plan to purchase CEM60 non EC version. How do you estimate the payload capabilities? My 10" ACF with all gears attached is about 14kg, but it is short tube. Do you know more less what is the weight of your RC8" setup?

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Lucas, You'll be fine with that, I plan to move up to a 10".

Don't forget I am currently using a SW Guide mount that weighs about a Kg and the ST80, I have just weighed the lot at 31lbs/14.06Kgs, so just over 1/2 way of the 27Kg payload that the manufacturers claim and it handles that with ease.

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Well second chance to give the iOptron another challenge this evening and it just performs beautifully, this time on NGC 7023 the Iris Nebula, I just wish I had bought this in the first place, I'm so impressed with it.

SGP_Capture.thumb.JPG.3e192dd06ea2e7615c4aeb7c43b59eea.JPG

Edited by Jkulin
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Posted (edited)

I thought it time for a small update on how I am getting on with the CEM60EC.

Unfortunately clear nights have been a rarity over the last 3 months, but I did get to use it a number of times up until October, and my opinion and knowledge of it becomes better and better each time I use it.

I did have a small issue with the RA not releasing properly but this was collected and fixed by Ian at Altair in a couple of days and fortunately there were no clear nights during it's fix.

I had always had an issue with my polemaster software not creating a round Polaris and this was finally replaced by FLO and I'm happy to report that I have seen a significant difference in my polar alignment error.

I have only used it with my Esprit 80 and my 8" RC, preferring to master each scope on the pier with regards to marking up balance points as I have found balance to be supercritical and needs to be neutral in both axis and not weighted on one.

Some of this weighting issue was reduced with switching over to the Pegasus UPB as no longer did I have a box for focusing, power distribution and USB on each side of the mount, the other factor with the balance issue was as can be seen, the use of a Losmandy clamp with some spare SW weights held with a long bolt and washer.

image.png.191901e1adf7c9d0f1c645cf3e4e983b.pngimage.png.7e56bf252dafec5a2bf5cf7c356dc65d.png

As I use each OTA, I photograph and measure the positions of everything and mark it also up with a tippex pen, I've yet to use the Esprit 100 which should be straight forward, but I think the 10" RC Truss will prove a little challenge as it is so back heavy.

As for guiding, I am just astounded with the latest session working at an average of 0.13rms error, which gobsmacked me, I knew it was good, but wasn't prepared for that good, especially as the seeing wasn't as good as I would have liked.

1385579082_Guiding030119withcrapseeing.thumb.PNG.2900801af026e5502ade1486d32a7ce8.PNG

As the seeing deteriorated, I expected the mount to struggle, but it still kept a very healthy 0.2rms error.

I tried for the first time the other night sharpcap for my polar alignment and initial views are that it is far superior than the Polemaster software, I can't remember what the error that was reported but it was certainly better than I had had previously.

Last year was a matter of spend spend spend, I changed to this mount, changed cameras, FW, OAG and finally to 3nm Chroma filters, so have not had the opportunity to finish any image captures with a complete set of each band and I have only just sorted out my focus points and G2V calculations for these new filters and imaging train.

Here was a quick 5 min Lum sub from my light polluted skies in rather poor seeing, but the guiding was excellent, I've done nothing to it apart from an stf and screen grab: -

image.png.356bb9bf861314dded9cf017c14bbb47.png

So would I stand by my purchase, absolutely, for the price I paid I doubt that there was anything anywhere near as good, the only thing for me now is to grab more data and improve my processing.

So with that, wishing you all a Happy New Year!

Edited by Jkulin
Typos
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That's an impressive PHD graph. I've been looking at replacing my eq6 with a CEM60. I want to set up a dual rig to double my imaging quantity. The eq6 was finding it all a bit heavy. How much weight have you had on your cem60?

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Posted (edited)

Hi Anne, iOptron state that it will handle a 27kg imaging load, currently, the 8" RC and cameras etc weigh 14Kgs, I imagine when the 10" RC comes out to play that it will weigh around 20Kg, which it should do that effortlessly.

Have a look on here: - https://www.ioptron.com/product-p/7201.htm

HTH

Edited by Jkulin

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I have just posted a reply to the fitment of my 10" RC Truss to the Mount, which might be useful on here as well as to how it handled it: -

 

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On 05/01/2019 at 17:44, Jkulin said:

As for guiding, I am just astounded with the latest session working at an average of 0.13rms error, which gobsmacked me, I knew it was good, but wasn't prepared for that good, especially as the seeing wasn't as good as I would have liked.

Still good guiding but your .13 is in pixels. It's .58 in arc secs....

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3 hours ago, newbie alert said:

Still good guiding but your .13 is in pixels. It's .58 in arc secs....

Yes, but I never said it was in anything other that pixels and if I have implied that then I apologise as I would not wish to mislead.

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Wasn't the intention.. like I said..still good guiding ..on a mount im intersted in so that's the reason Iooked..great kit you have there..good luck with it..

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2 hours ago, newbie alert said:

Wasn't the intention.. like I said..still good guiding ..on a mount im intersted in so that's the reason Iooked..great kit you have there..good luck with it..

No probs, as I have said to many, if you are ever up my way then you are welcome to have a play and see for your self 😎

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This mount is making friends and one can see why. 

On 05/01/2019 at 23:33, Anne S said:

That's an impressive PHD graph. I've been looking at replacing my eq6 with a CEM60. I want to set up a dual rig to double my imaging quantity. The eq6 was finding it all a bit heavy. How much weight have you had on your cem60?

Anne, just a thought, but dual rigs are very cable intensive and it can be difficult to keep the drag low and, above all, consistent around the sky. If the mount is very sensitive to balance this might be an issue. Would you be using one of these scope-top computers to reduce the number of mount-to-PC cables?

Olly

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There are some power and usb sockets under the Dec area. I also use a Hitecastro Mount a Hub Pro to reduce the number of cables running down the mount. The MHP is currently attached to the mount so the cables don't run very far.

I tried piggybacking on my current mount but found the top scope couldn't be used when I was pointing too high up because of the dome shape. Next time I'm going to try a tandem setup. I hope I can mount the MHP on top of the one of the scopes. I only have one usb cable to the laptop.

My eq6 has belts fitted and is also affected by dragging cables so I've been routing cables upwards to minimise this. I'd love a scope-top computer to run things but I can't afford those Primaluce ones and I don't know what else to get! There's a limit to how many new toys I can ask Jim to fund, particularly given the constant cloud since the beginning of December. 

At least I saw most of the lunar eclipse. The Welsh weather usually plays up. 

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Quote

 

I would support John's findings.  I ordered my CEM60-EC from a visit to IAS last October.  I also ordered a polemaster and the starfi at the same time.  Again, after a delivery hitch, everything was sorted out OK and now I am really pleased with the purchase.  Ian at Altair Astro was very helpful.   The mounting operates superbly and feels rock solid.  I like the built-in electrics and the quality of the alt-az clamps are really good.  Well engineered.  I'll be using mine as a semi-portable rig, so I am taking it on & off my tri-pier from time to time.   If I do move it, polar alignment afterwards is straightforward, I do a single star alignment, and after that everything is centre field of view.  I haven't yet operated with guiding, Im currently having lots of fun with unguided visual work.  Imaging with multiple subs and perhaps autoguiding will follow once the clouds go away...

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Just a small update, although I was exceptionally pleased with the CEM60EC it developed the same fault for the second time and as agreed with Ian @ Altair if this happened then he would replace it for me, so I have taken advantage of this and will be upgrading to the 120EC, as my reasoning was that as I leave my mount out all year round having proved that it has no harming effect providing I ensure that it is covered properly (I use a Telegizmo 365 and a breathable cover from ENS), so I don't have an issue any more with lifting.

Ian has been brilliant at sorting this for me and has already collected the CEM60, I just have to wait for the Chinese to finish their celebrations and despatch a replacement for me.

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Welcome to the Cem 120 ec club John, enjoy.

   Bob.

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Jkulin, what was the fault you had with the Cem60?

i had issues with my IEQ30PRO Dec area some years ago. After it went wrong three times, I asked Ian if I could upgrade to the IEQ30pro. I've hd no issues with that mount.

I'm too far from Norfolk to have a temperamental Mount!

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Hi Anne, the clutch wasn't releasing fully and causing a screeching noise, so Ian took it back and thought he had fixed it, but it didn't fix it, so he tried again and still no joy, it had also gained a problem with the encoders, which would seem to be related. From what I could research this was a rare one off problem and I would have been just as happy with a new CEM60EC but took advantage to upgrade as I am truly amazed with how good the iOptrons are, it's crippling my piggy bank though.

Ian has been perfect with my dealings with him, so I just have to be patient now until the Chinese are fully back to work.

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I was very tempted by the cem120 as I have an observatory. The mount weight bothers me as I would struggle to mount it on my own. I have difficulties with the eq6. The 60 is more reasonable for me to handle on my own. Also the 60 will handle my dual rig fine and I don't intent to get anything much bigger. 

Good luck with your 120.

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The CEM60EC is excellent Anne and handled my 10" Truss without any difficulties what so ever with my full imaging train.

I am only changing as the opportunity arose to upgrade, not because I needed to but because I would have gone with the 120 originally if I had at that time decided to leave my mount outside all the time, if Ian had not been so accommodating then I would have been more than happy to stay with the CEM60EC.

I too will struggle lifting the mount onto my pier, but I will get my son to help, once it is up there then I shoudln't need to do anything more with it.

If you were local, then I would have been more than happy to pop round and help you lift it up, are there any SGL members local who could help?

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I've got a husband!

There are some SGLers in South Wales but I don't really know any of them. I've seen them posting in the clubs section. Don't know if any of them have been to our starparty, we've only started going the last few years.

I'm hoping to check mount weights out at the Practical Astronomy Show next month, so I'll decide then and maybe order one. I want to switch it over during the summer if possible.

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