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John

Rowan Astronomy AZ100 Alt-Azimuth Mount – First Impressions

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Due to one thing and another I’ve not had time to do more than unpack the packages that this kit came in from First Light Optics and this evening bolt a few bits together. Lots of boxes = lots of FLO’s “May Contain Clouds” stickers and, my gosh, that has proved to be the case so I’ve not been able to actually use this handsome new mount, yet.

I must emphasise that the mount that I have been sent is a pre-production unit. The final item may vary in some details from the one that I picture and describe here and in my other reports.

My very early impressions of the pre-production AZ100 are:

- The AZ100 is significantly larger than both the Skytee II and the Giro Ercole. The pictures don’t really show how much difference there is but the whole mount is much more massive in all respects.

- A quick and crude weigh in using a spring balance showed the AZ100 at 8.5 kg with saddles and slow motion controls installed. My Skytee II was at 5.2 kg and the Giro Ercole at 4 kg.

- The fit and finish of the AZ100 is excellent. Everything fits together precisely and is machined to a really high standard. Both axes move very smoothly and are consistent in their feel. No sloppiness or jerkiness, just smooth progression around the axis. There are tension knobs on both axes which apply gradual and finely controllable tension. At full tension an axis is firmly locked but a quick twist of the knob and you have movement again.

- The slow motion movement is likewise very smooth indeed. I could not detact any obvious backlash when I reversed the direction of travel but I was not looking though the scope at high power of course ! The slow motion control cables and knobs are high quality units and fasten to the worm shaft with 2 grub screws. On this pre-production version of the mount the end of the worm housing opposite the slow motion cable is open but I wonder if a rubber or plastic cover (removable for adjustment) might be a good idea on the final version of the mount ?

- The Losmandy-type dovetail clamps incorporate 2 individually tensioned clamps on one side of the jaw with chamfered tips so that the dovetail bar is pressed back against the plate assembly as well as down into the fixed groove on the other side of the clamp jaw. Very secure, that seemed to me.

- The knobs on the dovetail clamps and those that control the axis tension are excellent quality with a 5 star shape to give grip. I do wonder if they might benefit from being a little larger though, to help positive operation with gloved hands ?

- I have unpacked the counterweight shaft and 5.2 kg counterweight and include a photo of those but I’ve not fitted them to the mount yet. The current design requires that one of the dovetail clamps is removed and the dovetail bar bolted on (4 bolts) in it’s place. The dovetail bar is 25mm in diameter, 28cm in length and it and the stainless steel counterweight are finished to the same high standard as the rest of the AZ100 mount.

- My 130mm F/9.2 triplet refractor fitted onto the AZ100 easily and seemed to be very securely held in place. This telescope is 1.35 metres in length and weighs 9.9kg including the tube rings, dovetail bar, diagonal and finder. The true test of the mount will be it’s ability to hold this scope steadily at high magnifications when viewing the night sky !

- First Light Optics have also supplied me with a Nexus DSC Digital Setting Circle unit and a suitable power pack but I’ve yet to fit that to the mount. The encoders for this are already installed in the mount body.

- Both the tripods pictured are the Berlebach Uni 28. Mine is the slightly darker coloured one with single leg clamps and an HEQ5 fitting. First Light Optics have provided an EQ6 compatible version of the tripod which is fitted with double clamps on each leg. The AZ100 mount fitted snugly and securely straight onto the EQ6 hub.

- The combined weight of the Berlebach Uni 28 tripod and the AZ100 mount head is around 18kg. It is a well balanced combination though so I can move the mount and tripod setup around without too much trouble. With the 130mm refractor on board, it becomes somewhat more of a challenge but I think moving the whole setup short, level distances (ie: a couple of metres) is likely to be feasible with care.

I apologise for the rather hastily taken photos that follow, taken in the rather messy setting of a dining room which is currently being re-wired and re-decorated completely. I’ve included the Skytee II and Ercole Giro in a couple of the photos to give an idea of the comparative sizes of these mount heads.

More to come in due course including experience under the stars, hopefully in the not too distant future !

Many thanks to the folks at First Light Optics and Rowan Astronomy for allowing me to try this pre-production version of the AZ100. It seems to be a very impressive piece of kit with excellent attention to detail and a very high standard of fit and finish.

Meanwhile outside, the rain pours down tonight :clouds2::rolleyes2: so have a look at some pictures :)

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I have looked forward to your thoughts on this. It is quite serious in stature isn't it? It almost makes that Ercole look like a mini by comparison. 

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Posted (edited)

Does look the business.👍🏻👍🏻👍🏻

Certainly an impressively solid looking lump. See what you mean about it being massvely built. Makes the Skytee look a bit of a lightweight.Did they just ship the one weight. Have been thinking about weather to order one or two weights. 

Would like to see it sitting next to an AZ8.

Edited by johninderby
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Hi John.

Well your first impressions sound very promising.

I must say it looks like a substantial mount, more than capable to handling anything put on it.

Hopping you get clear skies very soon to give a detailed opinion on its capabilities. 

Paul 

 

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27 minutes ago, johninderby said:

...Did they just ship the one weight. Have been thinking about weather to order one or two weights....

 

This pre-production unit came with just one weight.

 

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Nice report John. That really does look a great piece of kit!.. I'm feeling sure this will do well.

Rob

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More rubbish weather this evening so I've removed one of the dovetail clamps and installed the counterweight shaft and counterweight to see how that fits together. Four M6 bolts fit the C/W shaft to the axis once the dovetail clamp is removed. The C/W shaft mounting plate perfectly matches the full diameter of the altitude axis of the mount. The shaft itself screws into mounting plate with an M12 screw thread and that end of the bar is also enclosed in a snugly fitting 15mm deep sleeve. Its much more solid than I thought it might be and handles the supplied 5.2kg counterweight as if there is nothing on there !

The dovetail clamp is Losmandy fitting and a really nicely executed unit in it's own right. It is drilled with holes that fit a number of mount types in M6 and M8 sizes. I was pleased to find that it bolts straight onto the 35mm spaced M6 holes provided the Giro Ercole and Skytee II mount arms.

With no scope to balance the counter weight the motion of the mount around both axes was just as smooth as it had been without the shaft and weight fitted.

I'll actually get out and use the mount as soon as the clouds and rain relent. I'm very optimistic about it's likely performance from what I've seen so far :)

Here are some photos of the mount with and without the counterweight shaft and weight fitted plus the rather lovely dovetail clamp:

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Posted (edited)

I really like what I’m seeing can’t wait to get my hands on one. 🙂

I will getting it with the counterweight system. Now think one weight will do for now. Have a little saddle on the TS- AZ5 that will be more at home on the AZ100. Bit big for the AZ5. 

 

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Edited by johninderby

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Looking good Jon, sounds very well executed so far.
Really be interested as to how it handles in the field.

Do you think it will handle a reasonable sized Newtonian?

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Will have to see how it handles a 10” newt. Tried the Bresser dob OTA on the TS-AZ5 and it wasn’t too bad.

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24 minutes ago, Alan White said:


Do you think it will handle a reasonable sized Newtonian?

I won't know for sure until I actually use the mount but I'd guess that it would handle a 200mm F/5 pretty easily, also maybe a 250mm F/5.  

 

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4 minutes ago, John said:

I won't know for sure until I actually use the mount but I'd guess that it would handle a 200mm F/5 pretty easily, also maybe a 250mm F/5.  

Just from looking at it and your scale comparison picture made me think it might.
This mount is far more than a one trick pony.

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Well, what do you know ? - the sky is clear !!!

So the AZ100 is outside, has the 130mm F/9.2 refractor on board and I'm letting the scope cool for a bit before giving it a go :)

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30 minutes ago, John said:

I won't know for sure until I actually use the mount but I'd guess that it would handle a 200mm F/5 pretty easily, also maybe a 250mm F/5.  

 

250 f/5 on the AZ-5 (Skytee) for size.

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I should be able to try the 8" f8 on it... I'm sure the mount will be fine, there may be a bit too much give in the tube and rings though for it to be stable enough at higher powers. We will see.

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So it cleared outside john.

Really looking forward to the first night field test report.

😁😁😁

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