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Choosing a GoTo mount


Daniele
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Hi all,

I'm a newbie looking for a mount mainly for planetary photography.

The options I've found so far for a relatively low budget are the EQ5-Pro SynScan GoTo, EQM-35 PRO SynScan GoTo and I've found some "kits" (both telescope and mount) that include a EQ3 Pro SynScan GoTo and an EXOS-2 GoTo.

Exept for the kits I've heard that the EQM has some issues since it doesn't use ball bearings, but nothing about the others so any feedback is greatly appreciated. Also if anyone has any suggestions on other mounts that I haven't listed I'm all ears.

Thanks in advance

 

Edit: I've also found the iOptron GEM28 which doesn't seem bad at all and has a price in between the HEQ5 and the others I've listed

Edited by Daniele
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Hi Daniele, 

It all depends on the weight of the scope and all its ancillaries. You should also be aware that the weight limit for doing astrophotography is usually lower by about 30% than that for visual observation.

However, if you're mostly going to be doing planetary imaging, that's probably not such a critical concern. 

I'd expect a package of telescope and mount to be reasonably well matched for visual observing and planetary imaging but if you want to upgrade to a bigger scope, you'll probably also need a better mount. Buying separately enables you to have some "top cover" in the mount. 

Hope that helps, good luck in your search 🤞

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11 minutes ago, Stickey said:

Hi Daniele, 

It all depends on the weight of the scope and all its ancillaries. You should also be aware that the weight limit for doing astrophotography is usually lower by about 30% than that for visual observation.

However, if you're mostly going to be doing planetary imaging, that's probably not such a critical concern. 

I'd expect a package of telescope and mount to be reasonably well matched for visual observing and planetary imaging but if you want to upgrade to a bigger scope, you'll probably also need a better mount. Buying separately enables you to have some "top cover" in the mount. 

Hope that helps, good luck in your search 🤞

Sure does help, I currently have a skymax 127 that a friend lent me so it's not that heavy and performs pretty well. The "kits" had a 127/1500 and a 127/1900, but I'm more worried about the mounts in those kits since they're not too recent

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The choice of mount and scope will be a personal one, and dependent on lots of variables, such as portability, location, and budget.  When it comes to any imaging set up, the mount is key.  You want a mount that will make the optical tube as stable as possible.  To a degree a stable mount is important for visual too, but doubly so for imaging.  Often you might see what looks to be a silly combination of a small 80mm reflector on an HEQ5 / EQ6 mount, but the reason is that that combination gives a very sturdy and stable platform.

As for suitable mounts, well that is some legwork you are going to have to put in.  Trawl through this forum, there are hundreds of similar threads asking for recommendations for a setup within a certain budget.  Astro imaging also ranges from hanging a mobile phone in front of an eyepiece, through to dedicated cooled astro CCD cameras and filter wheels controlled through software running on dedicated computers.  It can be a simple snap of the Moon, through to a large mosaic of images taken over months to show a wide field nebula.  And each will require different level of equipment.

Part of the problem is the cost.  Astronomy isn't cheap.  The subject of cheap (sub £100) telescopes has been covered in Astrobiscuits latest video on youtube, and yes the final refractor performed well and outclassed the others FLO had sent him to "review", but only when it was placed on a £150 tripod / mount.  I would say that anyone with £1000 or less will struggle to get an imaging rig.  You'll spend £200 on a camera, either CCD or second hand DSLR.  The mount will be 50% or more of that budget, so you're left with £200-£300 for the optics.  The choice of optics will depend on what you want to image.  Long focal length scopes are more suited for planetary work, short focal  for DSO's.  There is an overlap to a degree, and you can image bright DSO's through an f10 scope and take images of large planets and the moon with f5 reflectors, but often it involves additional items to make it work well.   

There are lots of threads on the forum where people have produced stunning images on budget gear - a 150P on an EQ3 for example, but equally these threads are often littered with 1001 issues that needed to be overcome to get those results.  Having a more capable bit of kit often makes the task easier, but not always.

One other thing.. if you can, plan ahead.  If you want to run an guided imaging rig, even with "entry" level cameras then save up and get a mount that can easily take a decent payload.  Often you buy on a tight budget then realise the kit you have just can't cope with the payload and you need to upgrade the mount, losing money in the proceeds.  I'm talking form personal experience.  I purchased a 200P / EQ5 pro goto package, and within a year had sold the mount and purchased a second hand HEQ5 (a lovely mount)  to take the 200P and ST80 guidescope.  The EQ5 probably would have coped well if I had an 130/150P  (these are normally bundled with an EQ3-5 mount), but I went for that extra aperture.

Make a post saying you have a budget of £xxxx I want a scope to do X/Y/Z and you'll get dozens of different suggestions.  What appeals to me or suits my needs will be different to someone else's.  Not all of us have experience of every scope or mount on the market, unless you work for FLO or RVO - maybe a visit and call to them could narrow down your choices. 

Hope that helps

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38 minutes ago, malc-c said:

The choice of mount and scope will be a personal one, and dependent on lots of variables, such as portability, location, and budget.  When it comes to any imaging set up, the mount is key.  You want a mount that will make the optical tube as stable as possible.  To a degree a stable mount is important for visual too, but doubly so for imaging.  Often you might see what looks to be a silly combination of a small 80mm reflector on an HEQ5 / EQ6 mount, but the reason is that that combination gives a very sturdy and stable platform.

As for suitable mounts, well that is some legwork you are going to have to put in.  Trawl through this forum, there are hundreds of similar threads asking for recommendations for a setup within a certain budget.  Astro imaging also ranges from hanging a mobile phone in front of an eyepiece, through to dedicated cooled astro CCD cameras and filter wheels controlled through software running on dedicated computers.  It can be a simple snap of the Moon, through to a large mosaic of images taken over months to show a wide field nebula.  And each will require different level of equipment.

Part of the problem is the cost.  Astronomy isn't cheap.  The subject of cheap (sub £100) telescopes has been covered in Astrobiscuits latest video on youtube, and yes the final refractor performed well and outclassed the others FLO had sent him to "review", but only when it was placed on a £150 tripod / mount.  I would say that anyone with £1000 or less will struggle to get an imaging rig.  You'll spend £200 on a camera, either CCD or second hand DSLR.  The mount will be 50% or more of that budget, so you're left with £200-£300 for the optics.  The choice of optics will depend on what you want to image.  Long focal length scopes are more suited for planetary work, short focal  for DSO's.  There is an overlap to a degree, and you can image bright DSO's through an f10 scope and take images of large planets and the moon with f5 reflectors, but often it involves additional items to make it work well.   

There are lots of threads on the forum where people have produced stunning images on budget gear - a 150P on an EQ3 for example, but equally these threads are often littered with 1001 issues that needed to be overcome to get those results.  Having a more capable bit of kit often makes the task easier, but not always.

One other thing.. if you can, plan ahead.  If you want to run an guided imaging rig, even with "entry" level cameras then save up and get a mount that can easily take a decent payload.  Often you buy on a tight budget then realise the kit you have just can't cope with the payload and you need to upgrade the mount, losing money in the proceeds.  I'm talking form personal experience.  I purchased a 200P / EQ5 pro goto package, and within a year had sold the mount and purchased a second hand HEQ5 (a lovely mount)  to take the 200P and ST80 guidescope.  The EQ5 probably would have coped well if I had an 130/150P  (these are normally bundled with an EQ3-5 mount), but I went for that extra aperture.

Make a post saying you have a budget of £xxxx I want a scope to do X/Y/Z and you'll get dozens of different suggestions.  What appeals to me or suits my needs will be different to someone else's.  Not all of us have experience of every scope or mount on the market, unless you work for FLO or RVO - maybe a visit and call to them could narrow down your choices. 

Hope that helps

Sure does help.

My plan was to get a ASI120 as camera and use it on the 127 maksutov I already have, I don't have plans on upgrading soon the equipment so for now and HEQ5 is too much, not really out of budget but I don't want to spend too much on it. 

Mainly my doubt was on the reliability of the mounts that I listed, those kits that i wrote about look nice but I don't know if the included mounts are reliable or stable enough. Also reading on other posts I've seen many users suggest the EQ5 for it higher stability compared to the EQM-35. Again in regard to the EQM, I'm not a big fan of it since it doesn't use ball bearings. 

For now I'll wait for more feedback and decide later

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How about one of the old version black HEQ5 mounts?

It is pretty heavy, so you future-proof a bit, and when one day a photo of a planet isn't enough it'll take most refractors for a decent deep-sky rig. If you put a bit of effort in (e.g. Onstep it) you get the full goto for very little additional cost, or just stump up for an upgrade kit, if and when, you are ready. You don't need the goto for planetary.

If you can find one of those, I think they are spectacular bang for buck. 

 

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3 minutes ago, yuklop said:

How about one of the old version black HEQ5 mounts?

It is pretty heavy, so you future-proof a bit, and when one day a photo of a planet isn't enough it'll take most refractors for a decent deep-sky rig. If you put a bit of effort in (e.g. Onstep it) you get the full goto for very little additional cost, or just stump up for an upgrade kit, if and when, you are ready. You don't need the goto for planetary.

If you can find one of those, I think they are spectacular bang for buck. 

 

I think that the problem is exactly finding one of those, I'll try to look around for a used white HEQ5 too

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The main reason for the sturdier mount for astro -imaging is the need for a rock-steady image during long exposures. This is even more so with long focal length telescopes like Daniele's Skymax 127.

Tbh, that scope isn't a great one for DSOs. It's much better suited to Moon and planetary work. The targets are much brighter and exposures shorter, which means the excellent HEQ5 @ £700-800 2nd hand is probably a bit ott atm.

Undoubtedl, it's a great investment if the OP intends to get into deeper and fainter targets in the not too distant future, but for now, is it really necessary?

I've tried to find the weight of the Skymax 127 without success, but given the entry level mounts it's bundled with,  I can't imagine it's too heavy. However, none of the bundled mounts are much good for a heavy scope or imaging of DSOs.

PeterCPC suggested an ordinary Alt/Az for Moon and planets or for future- proofing, maybe an EQ5 or the hybrid AzEq version would suffice for now?

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Well having owned an EQ5 (goto) they are indeed a nice capable mount.  It worked well with my Celestron 127 MAK, but wasn't that stable with the 200P on board when it came to imaging. The 200p acted like a sail and caught anything but the lightest of breeze.

As I said in my other post, we will all have differing opinions, and for me the suggestion of an ALT/AZ mount for imaging, even planetary is something I would avoid as field rotation is a real issue.  In fact have a look at the new Astrobiscuit video which has an animated image of Jupiter in which the bands make a complete arc making the planet appear to rotate around its centre.  IMO ALT/AZ are fine for widefield where images are not going to be stacked or animated, other than that an EQ mount makes the task of imaging easier.. 

As for the HEQ5.  The white pro goto mounts have been the bread and butter entry level imaging mount for decades.  It's not advisable to opt for one of the old black versions (if you could still find them) as they lack the precision the newer versions have.  But they are not light.  They can still be portable if the site has the facility of parking the car next to where you want to set up, but if you were having to lug it half a mile form the carpark that could be another thing altogether.  For me as I was looking at a permanent set up in an observatory, portability wasn't a consideration.  

 

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15 minutes ago, Stickey said:

The main reason for the sturdier mount for astro -imaging is the need for a rock-steady image during long exposures. This is even more so with long focal length telescopes like Daniele's Skymax 127.

Tbh, that scope isn't a great one for DSOs. It's much better suited to Moon and planetary work. The targets are much brighter and exposures shorter, which means the excellent HEQ5 @ £700-800 2nd hand is probably a bit ott atm.

Undoubtedl, it's a great investment if the OP intends to get into deeper and fainter targets in the not too distant future, but for now, is it really necessary?

I've tried to find the weight of the Skymax 127 without success, but given the entry level mounts it's bundled with,  I can't imagine it's too heavy. However, none of the bundled mounts are much good for a heavy scope or imaging of DSOs.

PeterCPC suggested an ordinary Alt/Az for Moon and planets or for future- proofing, maybe an EQ5 or the hybrid AzEq version would suffice for now?

The Skymax 127 weights 3.6Kg or 7.9 Pounds, I know that it's best for planetary but I also have a newtonian from a Celestron 130EQ so maybe I could use that too.

Buying one of these powered mounts is for the obvious and really useful GoTo function and for the future since I'll eventually try to do DSO too. It's more of a "buy once and try to keep it working for the longest time possible" thing.

Also, where can I look for used mounts? I can't access the buy/sell section of this forum since I'm a new user and the other site I found had some archaic interface and was quite confusing tbh

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3 minutes ago, malc-c said:

Well having owned an EQ5 (goto) they are indeed a nice capable mount.  It worked well with my Celestron 127 MAK, but wasn't that stable with the 200P on board when it came to imaging. The 200p acted like a sail and caught anything but the lightest of breeze.

As I said in my other post, we will all have differing opinions, and for me the suggestion of an ALT/AZ mount for imaging, even planetary is something I would avoid as field rotation is a real issue.  In fact have a look at the new Astrobiscuit video which has an animated image of Jupiter in which the bands make a complete arc making the planet appear to rotate around its centre.  IMO ALT/AZ are fine for widefield where images are not going to be stacked or animated, other than that an EQ mount makes the task of imaging easier.. 

As for the HEQ5.  The white pro goto mounts have been the bread and butter entry level imaging mount for decades.  It's not advisable to opt for one of the old black versions (if you could still find them) as they lack the precision the newer versions have.  But they are not light.  They can still be portable if the site has the facility of parking the car next to where you want to set up, but if you were having to lug it half a mile form the carpark that could be another thing altogether.  For me as I was looking at a permanent set up in an observatory, portability wasn't a consideration.  

 

The main advantage of the HEQ5 is for sure the carrying capacity, the places I know I can go to that are far enough from light sources are easily accessible by car so portability is welcome but not the most important part.

My original plan was to get one of the mounts that I listed, but knowing which one is the most accurate, stable, etc is not that easy. I've seen arguments pro and con both so I'm quite lost. The only thing that I got right for sure is that the HEQ5 is the best at it's price range

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5 minutes ago, Daniele said:

 

Also, where can I look for used mounts? I can't access the buy/sell section of this forum since I'm a new user and the other site I found had some archaic interface and was quite confusing tbh

SGL recently updated its access policies to restrict access to the Classifieds section until users have submitted enough posts in the general fora. This happened to me too. 

Until then, most of the retailers have Used Equipment offerings and there's always the "other place" - AstroBuySell

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30 minutes ago, Daniele said:

The main advantage of the HEQ5 is for sure the carrying capacity, the places I know I can go to that are far enough from light sources are easily accessible by car so portability is welcome but not the most important part.

My original plan was to get one of the mounts that I listed, but knowing which one is the most accurate, stable, etc is not that easy. I've seen arguments pro and con both so I'm quite lost. The only thing that I got right for sure is that the HEQ5 is the best at it's price range

When I was looking at getting a scope I made arrangements to visit a local(ish) stockist and go and physically look at them.  I didn't realise just how large and impressive the eq5/200P was.  They also demonstrated the slewing of the mounts.  I originally was considering the Celestron 6" cassagrain on the GT5 mount, but when I heard the mount slew it just sounded too loud and course... The 200p/eq5 actually worked out a few quid cheaper, and so I placed my order.  Now with CV19 etc, some shops are not open to the public, or only by appointment, but its worth making that journey if the logistics are plausible.   If not then you are covered by the distance selling regulations, but its a lot of hassle to return something like an HEQ5 and 200P, and quite costly too.

You'll always be at a loss... for the reasons I mentioned.  I've owned two mounts, and I've voiced my opinions on both.  Others will give you the pros and cons on any mount they have owned too..   The guys that work with these bits of kit can give you the best advice as they have access to all the mounts in the range...

 

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15 minutes ago, malc-c said:

When I was looking at getting a scope I made arrangements to visit a local(ish) stockist and go and physically look at them.  I didn't realise just how large and impressive the eq5/200P was.  They also demonstrated the slewing of the mounts.  I originally was considering the Celestron 6" cassagrain on the GT5 mount, but when I heard the mount slew it just sounded too loud and course... The 200p/eq5 actually worked out a few quid cheaper, and so I placed my order.  Now with CV19 etc, some shops are not open to the public, or only by appointment, but its worth making that journey if the logistics are plausible.   If not then you are covered by the distance selling regulations, but its a lot of hassle to return something like an HEQ5 and 200P, and quite costly too.

You'll always be at a loss... for the reasons I mentioned.  I've owned two mounts, and I've voiced my opinions on both.  Others will give you the pros and cons on any mount they have owned too..   The guys that work with these bits of kit can give you the best advice as they have access to all the mounts in the range...

 

Unfortunately there are no local shop that sell this kind of stuff. I think that for now I'll try to stick to one of the slightly cheaper and portable options, it's just an hobby for now and hopefully I'll be able to get better gear in the future but for now I don't really need something too advanced.

Thanks for all the advice

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The GEM28/CEM26 are by far the most capable of the choices listed, but since you are doing planetary imaging their additional stability and guided precision don’t matter as much.

A second hand HEQ5 will have more capacity and probably will be better than all of those for futureproofing.

I had the EQ3 non Goto before. I liked it, and it managed my C5 relatively well, but I would not personally recommend the Goto version because how expensive it is. The Goto version is almost £500, the mount itself being £250… you are really only getting £250 worth of mount and Goto slapped on it. The EQ3-2 has its slate of problems: stiction, severe backlash (you can kinda feel it even with manual control), and being shaky if you put even just a 6” newt on it… all of that can be forgiven for how cheap it is and the fact that it’s the cheapest serviceable equatorial mount imo. But spending an extra 250 to upgrade it? I don’t think it’s worth.

The EQ5-PRO might be something you want to look at. It’s essentially the old CG-5, a Vixen GP clone, but better built. It’s not that much more expensive than the EQ3 Pro and should be more stable.

No idea about the Exos, but the cheaper one seems to have some bad rep.

 

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I had HEQ5 , replaced it with CEM70. Later bought GEM 28 (with encoders though) to have something portable. GEM 28 is far lighter , yet with reasonable payload. I am using it with my C8 SCT for planetary or for some small DSOs. Works perfect. So far , I saw no proofs for HEQ5 outperforming GEM 28 . (except small difference in payload). It is just my personal feeling that iOptron mounts are somehow better built , or should I say  more modern .  One could take the whole rig with tripod easily and carry it around, but it is still sturdy enough for long FLs 

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6 hours ago, Concordia000 said:

The GEM28/CEM26 are by far the most capable of the choices listed, but since you are doing planetary imaging their additional stability and guided precision don’t matter as much.

A second hand HEQ5 will have more capacity and probably will be better than all of those for futureproofing.

I had the EQ3 non Goto before. I liked it, and it managed my C5 relatively well, but I would not personally recommend the Goto version because how expensive it is. The Goto version is almost £500, the mount itself being £250… you are really only getting £250 worth of mount and Goto slapped on it. The EQ3-2 has its slate of problems: stiction, severe backlash (you can kinda feel it even with manual control), and being shaky if you put even just a 6” newt on it… all of that can be forgiven for how cheap it is and the fact that it’s the cheapest serviceable equatorial mount imo. But spending an extra 250 to upgrade it? I don’t think it’s worth.

The EQ5-PRO might be something you want to look at. It’s essentially the old CG-5, a Vixen GP clone, but better built. It’s not that much more expensive than the EQ3 Pro and should be more stable.

No idea about the Exos, but the cheaper one seems to have some bad rep.

 

Thanks for the infos. My gut feeling tells me that the EQ5-PRO is the most stable of the cheaper ones that I listed but I haven't found that much feedback about it. The GEM28 seems to be much more compact and modern looking and slightly cheaper than a HEQ5 but I have no idea how they compete. For now I'll keep collecting informations

Edited by Daniele
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1 hour ago, Stefek said:

I had HEQ5 , replaced it with CEM70. Later bought GEM 28 (with encoders though) to have something portable. GEM 28 is far lighter , yet with reasonable payload. I am using it with my C8 SCT for planetary or for some small DSOs. Works perfect. So far , I saw no proofs for HEQ5 outperforming GEM 28 . (except small difference in payload). It is just my personal feeling that iOptron mounts are somehow better built , or should I say  more modern .  One could take the whole rig with tripod easily and carry it around, but it is still sturdy enough for long FLs 

The GEM28 is definitely an interesting mount, can I ask if you know how compatible it is with different softwares? I know that Skywatcher mounts are usually suggested also because they're supported by most softwares but I don't know if it's the same with the GEM28

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1 hour ago, Daniele said:

The GEM28 is definitely an interesting mount, can I ask if you know how compatible it is with different softwares? I know that Skywatcher mounts are usually suggested also because they're supported by most softwares but I don't know if it's the same with the GEM28

A quick google search and I found this  - An ASCOM driver is available, looks like a stripped down EQMOD but with a more modern GUI.  The direct connection is via USB to the handset which shows up as a TTL Com port under windows.  I can't find any info on the handset pin outs to see if an EQDIR cable used for Skywatcher could be substituted, but as damage to the mount may result I would suggest sticking with USB via USB to the handset.

Being ASCOM compliant it should be possible to use most of the ASCOM supported applications such as NINA, CdC, Stellarium etc.

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GEM28 is ASCOM compliant mount. The ASCOM driver is called iOptron Commander, and so far , I found no problem with compliance. I normally have the following software  that need access to the mount NINA, Sharpcap, CdC , PHD2.  All 4 packages running at the same time can access the mount with no problems. I briefly also tried Stellarmate and it connects to the mount normally. iOptron Commander is in fact EQMOD with a bit different (better?) user interface 

I use USB cable to connect my PC to the hand controller of the mount. 

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1 hour ago, Stefek said:

 iOptron Commander is in fact EQMOD with a bit different (better?) user interface 

Do iOptron use the Skywatcher command protocol then...  EQMOD doesn't list iOptron as a supported mount on its compatibility table posted on the prerequisites web page

That would suggest that the iOptron Commander software could be used with Skywatcher mounts them

Edited by malc-c
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Do you intend to do any deep-space imaging? If you do, you need to choose the mount with that purpose in mind.

If you do not, be aware that the technique (lucky imaging with video) used for planetary imaging is highly tolerant of mount vibration, drift, etc, so the same kind of mount used for visual observation can be used. It does not even have to be an equatorial, as the individual exposures are very short. This could result in a significant economy...

I managed to obtain some satisfactory planetary images using a Celestron SLT light duty alt-azimuth GoTo mount and a Celestron 127mm Mak, similar to yours.

It is also perfectly possible to perform planetary imaging with a driven equatorial, non-GoTo mount.

Edited by Cosmic Geoff
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1 hour ago, malc-c said:

Do iOptron use the Skywatcher command protocol then...  EQMOD doesn't list iOptron as a supported mount on its compatibility table posted on the prerequisites web page

That would suggest that the iOptron Commander software could be used with Skywatcher mounts them

I do not know which protocol it uses really. Maybe I did not express myself 100% precise. What I wanted to say is that iOptron Commander offers most of EQMOD functionality , just I like the user interface a bit more than EQMOD. 

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