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My iOptron 'little gem' GEM28 Report


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I’ve had my iOptron GEM28 (non-EC) mount since late October 2021 and due to the British weather have had only a few chances to get out under starry conditions but had plenty of time to look into controlling the mount by USB and Wireless connection indoors. I hope over time to add to this report as I get more experience using the various features of the mount to serve as general advice to other prospective purchasers and perhaps a focus around the iOptron GEM28 mount for others to contribute.

When a shipment of iOptron mounts arrived at FLO after a delay due to shipping logistics I bought the GEM28 as a bundle with the 1.75” LiteRock tripod, iPolar and case. This did not include either the GPS unit and proprietary iGuider unit. My reasons for choosing the GEM28 were several and included wanting a replacement for my large and heavy (and feeling heavier now) Celestron CG-5 AS Go-To mount that has seen good service since 2005. Some technology in the hobby has come a long way in the intervening time and I wanted a mount that was compatible with modern protocols. This included the ability to explore using USB and Wi-Fi control something I had been unable to achieve with the ageing CG-5. I was also taken with the relatively lighter weight of the GEM28 weighing in at 4.5kg for the mount head plus counterweight arm, counterweight (4.7kg) and tripod (7.5kg) making the whole assembly portable rather than requiring to be set up in several loads, as the CG-5 previously required, at the imaging pad in the garden. As I intend to use lightweight payloads for astro-imaging with wide-field equipment in the future the entire assembly with payload will be very portable.

Unboxing

The mount was delivered in two well packaged boxes by courier from FLO, the longer box containing the tripod the other the protective metal case with the mount head and accessories.

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Opening the longer (tripod) package revealed the tripod, this came well packaged in its box with the legs covered by a protective large plastic bag. However in the daylight two of the legs were seen to be scuffed and I considered returning them for replacement. As the tripod was well package for delivery the scuffing must have originated at the assembly factory with poor, rough handling causing the scuffing. I thought it ironic that this new mount came with  far from pristine scuffed legs while the tripod for my 16 year old Celestron CG-5 tripod after all its years of use are still perfect. Tthe tripod legs came ready attached with anti-vibration pads which I thought was a neat and unexpected touch.

One of the scuffed legs-

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The other box contained the metal carrying case which held the other items-

  • GEM28 mount head with  iPort for an optional GPS accessory.
  • Go2Nova 8409 hand controller and cable (for CEM26 and GEM28 mounts).  
  • Mains power supply unit.
  • 1 x 4.7kg counterweight.
  • Counterweight bar (comes stored inside mount head).
  • Short extension piece to the counterweight bar.
  • USB 2.0 cable to connect hand controller to PC.
  • Mini USB cable to connect the iPolar to the mount.
  • A short RJ11 cable connecting DEC control unit to the DEC port on the RA main control unit.
  • Tripod spreader and eyepiece tray.

Quick start up guide.

well written 49 page manual was download from iOptron’s site.

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Set Up

I removed the Az alignment peg from its location between two tripod legs to above one of the legs which wil be the north facing leg. The alignment peg has a useful hole drilled through it to allow a thin screwdriver blade to be used as a tommy bar to secure the peg firmly in place.

Having previously read the product manual online I took time to read the quick start guide instructions. The GEM28 has gear switches which swing freely if disengaged and care needs to be taken when taking the mount head from the box and when performing adjustments in RA and DEC balance so not to damage the worm/drive system.

I took care to ensure the mount head sat flat onto the top of the tripod. Unlike my CG-5 mount which secures the mount head using a long bolt the GEM28 has a central locating peg in the top of the tripod and the Az alignment peg, the mount head is secured by two hex bolts that can be tightened with a 4 mm hex key. These two hex bolts also play a role in polar alignment when they need to be slightly slackened off to allow adjustment of the mount head by the Az adjustment screws in the mount head.

The size of the mount head was dinky compared to my CG-5 but the whole assembly is rated to hold 12.7kg (28 lbs) of payload. The main counterweight bar comes tucked away inside the mount head, a neat storage feature.

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Once all fitted together my overall first impression was of a very well designed and constructed product.

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Balancing

When I came to trial balancing the mount the complete difference between the responsiveness of the GEM28 to the coarseness of my CG-5 mount could not have been more different. No longer do I need to imbalance the mount ‘East Heavy’ to keep gears meshed under load.

Polar finding

My mount came with a preinstalled iPolar camera which was tightly fastened in the polar hole of the mount head. I have previously used an iPolar on my CG-5 mount and was well versed in its operation but did update the software to v2.6 to stop reported stuttering of the polar axis position during the alignment process. It is useful to check that the preinstalled iPolar device was factory installed in line with the mount such that adjustments of the mount’s pointing position on screen are made in line with the Az and Alt adjustment mechanisms and not at some acute angle which would make alignment frustrating. The iPolar should be periodically checked to ensure it is secure in the polar opening and not able to rotate. The screw cover over the iPolar has a fine thread and tricky to replace at night so I use a rubber bath plug to cover the hole once the screwed cover is removed each session. As part of the iPolar routine I now replace the plug over the camera hole before confirming position 1 in the iPolar software, this prevents the iPolar taking its second image and plate solve before the mount head has been rotated 90 degrees to position 2. At the end of each session I replace the plug with the proper screw cover.

I have found the iPolar process quick and simple to perform and the Az and Alt adjustments on the mount very responsive. My CG-5 was modified with Teflon pads to allow easier polar adjustment but the GEM28’s adjustment process is even slicker.

Firmware upgrades

I updated the firmware to the hand controller, RA and DEC motors using the online Firmware Upgrade manual which worked very well taking me through each step of the process.

Mount control

I intend to mainly employ the hand controller to control the mount and perform star alignment and Go-To since having to set up each session already requires me to be at the mount. I did not buy the optional GPS accessory with the mount and have found that the hand controller maintains the current time and position. The hand controller provides a number of alignment options including one star alignment and three star alignment. I have found no problems performing alignment with the mount slewing close to the target stars for fine correction. The mount also has the ability to synchronise the mount to a target object to improve the modelling of the night sky. My methods for obtaining precise alignment either involve centering stars in the ‘Live View’ screen of my modified Canon 700D DSLR which has an overlay with the precise centre of the screen marked out or for imaging with an astro-camera using my tablet and ASICAP software with red dot reticule. As regards Go-To noise the mount is whisper quiet in operation, no more coffee grinder levels of noise at night when slewing with the CG-5.

I have also spent time indoors resolving mount control problems using both USB and Wi-Fi and installed iOptron’s proprietary iCommander software as well as having the mount run stably both over USB cable and by Wi-Fi under Stellarium. I have read of issues with other users trying to control the mount with Sky Safari. I have documented the mount cotrol processes for future reference.

Photo below showing controlling the mount under Stellarium.

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The GEM28 is one of iOptron’s mounts which comes pre-fitted with a 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi unit and which seems identical to the iStarFi unit available to retro-fit other modern iOptron mounts. The paperwork and guidance surrounding the control of the mount via third party planetarium software was neither complete or up to date when I last checked on the iOptron site and has given some users of other mount models connection issues particularly with SkySafari and which is the only third party control software mentioned directly in paperwork. Users can access the inner workings of their Wi-fi unit to change passwords, alter channel number and update firmware. This is all well documented and users are led step by step through the update process. I have obtained a 'WiFi Analyser' App for use on my tablet which has helped check on the number and channels used by neighbours allowing me to change the channel used by the mount and help avoid interference.

iGuider.

One accessory that can be fitted to the GEM28 mount is the proprietory iGuider unit but if I perform guiding I prefer to use PHD2 and either a 30mm miniguider + ASI120MM-S or 50 mm + ASI120MM-S.

Own Modifications

I have made a few modifications to the set up-I have secured the power unit to a tripod leg using a Velcro strap, reused the hand control holster from the CG-5 to take the GEM28M hand controller, use a bath plug with the iPolar as previously mentioned and added a plastic cover screen to my DSLR to help centering alignment stars. A friend kindly bored out a compatible 2kg counterweight for me to use with the mount for lower weight payloads.

And finally-

I'm looking forward to using the GEM28 more as British weather allows. The mount will allow me to set up more quickly each session and take down more quickly, two processes that can tire when done often. As different targets present themselves over the seasons I hope to make use of the better guiding ability of the mount and dithering while exploring the other capabilities of the mount such as USB and Wi-Fi control. I hope then to add more of a review to this report as I get more experience using the various features of the mount.

I hope this serves as general advice to other prospective purchasers of the little gem that is the GEM28. I would be pleased if other users may wish to place their reports and questions to act as a future resource for this mount going on into the future.

Cheers,
Steve

Edited by SteveNickolls
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Not long after first getting the GEM28 mount I spent time going over the various mount control options and made notes on the procedures for future reference. I attach below an excerpt which goes through the steps for mount control that may prove helpful to others-

Using the Hand controller and USB cable provided with the mount. iOptronCommander/Stellarium control.

Using iStarFi Wi-fi and iOptron Commander/Stellarium.

Changing Wi-fi settings on the Internet-alter channel, change password, enable encryption.

Cheers,
Steve

iOptron Gem28 SGL Excerpt.docx

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30 minutes ago, Toaster05 said:

As a prospective buyer of this very mount your thoughts and detailed write up are an invaluable resource.

You have my thanks!

Thanks Toaster05, I hope it all helps you with your decision making. Apart from the scuffed tripod legs I'm very happy with the mount. I hope to post more once I've used the gear more but that hangs on the weather. I think iOptron need to do a little more on the software aspect of their products as many users will want to control their mounts by USB or wi-fi and face a little struggle on the way. I'm just pleased it is so lightweight and portable saving set up and take down time.

Cheers,

Steve

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  • 1 month later...

A little thing to add I didn't know until recently the iStarFi wi-fi adapter on the GEM28 is located in the hand controller not the mount head. Probably everyone else knew this already. 😆

I have also begun testing mount control using SharpCap Pro and have sucessfully had iCommander and Stellarium running over 20 m active USB 2.0 cables. When SharpCap attempts to control the mount iCommander automatically configures everything so you can use either iCommander and/or Stellarium to control slews etc. rather than the small control panel in SharpCap Pro. Indeed iCommander and Stellarium are interchangeable.

Cheers,
Steve

Edited by SteveNickolls
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Update-Remote Slewing and Plate Solving with the GEM28

It’s been just over three months now since I received the GEM28 mount from FLO and I have now had several nights to learn more about how the mount performs. I have mainly controlled the mount using the hand controller since I have to manually set up the mount each session.

The imaging set ups I have used so far are (1) the combination of Samyang 135 mm lens and modified Canon 700D DSLR with Ha clip in filter and (2) William Optics RedCat and ASI178MC. Neither optics places any great strain on the mount either in terms of weight or tracking but my interests mainly lie towards wide field nebulae and I deliberately purchased the mount due to its lightness and portability with a lightweight set up. At such short focal lengths (135 mm and 250 mm respectively there is the virtuous spiral that means guiding is generally not needed, cutting down on set up time.

I have found the integral iPolar to work precisely giving good alignment for subsequent imaging but have twice had the iPolar not detected by the laptop and which I think comes down to a slightly loose USB connection at the iPolar end. Both cable or iPolar port requires more investigation. I do try not to disassemble cables between sessions to reduce the natural tendency for connections to wear/work loose over time. The iPolar is running v 2.6.05 software and I have found it is best to cover the polar opening between the first and second position plate solving otherwise the software runs the second plate solve too early while you are rotating the mount head to the second position. I use an inexpensive bath plug placed over the polar opening to shield light from entering between plate solves. I have found the finely threaded iPolar cover is awkward to screw back in the dark/cold.

I do not have the GPS accessory for the mount and always check the current time on the hand controller each session. Between sessions that are several days apart the hand controller time will vary from the precise time (I refer to an atomic clock on the Internet) but if using on successive nights the time can be precise. iOptron do state that the hand controller does not keep accurate time between sessions.

Three star alignment routine has worked very well, I use either my laptop or tablet with SharpCap Pro/ASICAP to help centre, focus stars and frame a target. The stars always appear in the screen FOV, with the ASI178MC the FOV being around 1.7° x 1.1.

I then usually slew to a star close to the imaging target and use the Sync to option in the hand control software before slewing onto the target. Having the sensory feedback from the laptop screen or tablet allows for any precise focus or framing needed. My imaging is controlled from indoors by removing the laptop into the kitchen and controlling imaging over 20 m USB 2.0 Active cable connected into the mount's hand controller and using either BYEOS or SharpCap Pro to image. This arrangement works very well and is robust despite requiring time to lay and take up cabling each session.

Last night I was able to test out for the first time the remote control of slewing after star alignment and returning the mount to the zero position by means of an additional 20 m Active USB cable run into the kitchen. On the laptop I opened up iCommander, Stellarium and SharpCap Pro. I used iCommander to slew to the first target M81 and had SharpCap Pro perform a plate solve and sync command. The mount then adjusted to place the target in the centre of the screen. I collected about an hour’s worth of data to test data collection then used iCommander to slew to a target around 60 degrees away (M65) and plate solve in SharpCap Pro. I next used Stellarium to slew to a nearby galaxy NGC3628 and then to M66, plate solving each time. With targets so close to one another the slew paced the new objects in the centre of the screen each time. During a imaging session iCommander and Stellarium are interchangeable in function with Stellarium having the graphical interface and iCommander the return to Zero position command ability. Near the end of the session iCommander was used to return the mount to the Zero position for dark frames to be taken.

So all in all I'm really pleaed how the GEM28 mount has performed-polar aligning-star aligning-slewing-control with hand controller and remotely via USB and plate solving compatibility utilising ASCOM. The mount has shown multiple ways of being controlled with iCommander and Stellarium being interchangeable during a session and works fine with SharpCap Pro.

I hope next to explore mount control over wi-fi and see if the SharpCap Pro 'dither witout guiding' capabiity works with the mount.

Further updates to follow. 👍

Cheers,

Steve

Edited by SteveNickolls
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  • 1 month later...
Posted (edited)

iPolar woes

During February there was only a limited number of clear nights for imaging due to a succession of storms affecting the UK but on the two occasions I could image there was trouble with the integrity of the iPolar connection with the laptop when performing the polar routine. I mentioned the connection issue in an earlier post. I was finding the supplied USB 2.0 cable for the iPolar was becoming loosened at the iPolar’s mini B USB port as the mount head was rotated.

The supplied USB type A to mini B cable has never fully been able to be secured into the iPolar USB port as can be seen in an earlier photo, reproduced again here and circled-

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The supplied cable has been the only USB cable I’ve ever owned that the USB icon faced the wrong way when in use, I understand this does not meet the USB specification.  I have seen a review by another iPolar user on the Internet concerning the quality of the supplied cable.

After looking closely at the cable connection into the iPolar I took a short video showing the play in the connection.

 

A new better quality USB cable was ordered from FLO and while waiting for delivery I took a photo of the port on the iPolar only to discover part of the internal plastic was missing and revealing five connectors in the iPolar port.

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I was able to find the missing plastic part on the carpet (very fortunate this had not dropped off outside on the imaging pad).

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One end of the plastic seems to have broken away out of the iPolar.

After contacting FLO I took apart the iPolar from the polar hole in the mount so the iPolar could be sent back to them for examination. I took several photos to document the disassembly process and which may be of value to others.

First the red flange at the base of the polar opening has to be screwed off revealing two tiny grub screws (circled) holding the iPolar in the polar opening. 20220304_134719_circled.thumb.jpg.37c541990cd835a31ca963c71c73411c.jpg

The grub screws require a 1.5 mm Allen key to be removed but I found one grub screw very difficult to remove but finally it released itself. Next the iPolar had to be rotated out of the very tight polar opening to reveal the external of the device to be covered in lubricant.

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I took the opportunity to take photos of the polar opening from both ends.

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Great Service

The iPolar, loose plastic piece and original USB cable were all returned to FLO and after examination FLO issued a new iPolar to me within a few days, very prompt service and a credit to them.

The new iPolar had the USB port at the edge of the unit rather than the centre as previously, this type is similar to the iPolar I used on my CG-5 mount.

I decided to try fitting the new iPolar into the top of the mount’s polar opening to avoid the very tight fit of iPolar into the lower opening and the messing with the tiny grub screws.

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The Lindy cable fits very snugly into the iPolar USB port as does the new USB cable supplied with the new iPolar.

I cannot thank FLO enough for their handling of the problem throughout and the extremely fast posting and delivery of the new iPolar unit, extremely good service.

Edited by SteveNickolls
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  • 2 weeks later...
Posted (edited)

Update iOptron GEM28 March 2022

iPolar

I’ve now had opportunity to try out the new iPolar device and am pleased to report that it works just fine mounted on the top of the polar opening.

Plate solve

During the last clear night I was also able to try out a fresh approach to setting up the mount and after polar alignment by-passed the usual three star alignment with the hand controller and instead had the mount slew to the target (M81) and then in SharpCap Pro do a plate solve and resync thorough Sharp Cap Pro. This saved many minutes slewing and centering stars in the dark for a process that can now be done from indoors in around a minute.

Dither without guiding

I was also able to try out the Sharpcap Pro ‘dither without guiding’ capability with the mount and I’m also pleased to say SharpCap sent the necessary dither commands to the mount just fine.

I hope all this gives encouragement to other GEM28 owners over what can be achieved with the mount and SharpCap Pro.

Edited by SteveNickolls
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Posted (edited)

Second March 2022 Update

StarTech 4-Port USB over Ethernet control solution

Earlier this week I took delivery of a StarTech 4-Port USB over Ethernet system from Ballicom.co.uk to provide a means of controlling imaging on my GEM28 which when in use is located at the bottom of the garden but from the Living Room rather than the usual Kitchen basically so I can sit down in a warmer room with the laptop and make use of the main pc screen to extend software in use across two screens (Stellarium, iCommander windows and SharpCap Pro).

For a long time I have controlled imaging (Canon 700D DSLR/ASI178MC) using a 20 m active USB 2.0 cable by Lindy and after getting the GEM28 used a second such cable I had to control the mount too. The distance from the Living Room to the imaging pad stretches to around 30m and I intend to enclose the Cat6 Ethernet cable in 20 mm plastic conduit. In the future I will have the Ethernet cable ready to be connected to the StarTech 'remote' unit at the imaging pad and powered by the mains cable reel run out each night. Short USB cables will connect to the GEM28 hand controller and camera leaving two USB ports still free for possible future use. The 'local' unit gets power from the USB port on the laptop but can be augmented with a 5V 2A mains unit if required. Slowly I am reducing the set up/take down time for each session without having a permanent structure for the mount outside. I have also been able to free up a USB port on the laptop this way.

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The two units are tiny each fitting easily in the palm of the hand but feel very solid and weigh 154g and 174g (local and remote units respectively). 

I had worried if using the kit to connect to the GEM's hand controller port would create COM port issues on the laptop (phantom COM ports) but the system worked flawlessly with no issues and I was able to test mount control using iCommander and Stellarium and using SharpCap Pro to take test shots in the daytime. I can commend the solution to others wanting similar control with the GEM28 and imaging.

Cheers,
Steve

Edited by SteveNickolls
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Posted (edited)
On 24/03/2022 at 16:26, Dean Hale said:

Really helpful. Thank for these posts

Hi Dean thanks for your comment and likes. 👍

Yes I'm hoping by documenting my use of the GEM28 to gain it some publicity for others considering the mount. From my experience since late October last year the GEM28 has proved very capable for what I want to use it for, that is mostly wide field work with the RedCat 51 and Samyang 135 mm lens. It's allowed me to employ the benefits of being ASCOM compliant (particularly for mount control and plate solving), is compatible with my choices of software (iCommander, Stellarium amd Sharpcap Pro) and has recently shown it accommodates Sharpcap Pro's 'dither without guiding' ability to improve the quality of the stacked imaging. The most recent addition of the StarTech 4-port USB over Ethernet kit will eventualy enable me to have the Ethernet cable fixed outdoors reducing set up time. I did try the kit out last night and it just worked fine. I can't see me building a mini-observatory mostly for cosmetic reasons but this approach has meant set up and take down time is minimised while having the needed control at distance and not being reliant on wi-fi. The GEM28 of course is flexible and permits control by either the hand controller, the in-built iStarFi wi-fi or Ethenet cable to suit owner's needs and circumstances.

The GEM28 really has a lot going for it that really deserves better recognition, I particularly like the low weight design of the mount which means set up is very quick and I am able to carry out the mount/tripod/imaging gear as one unit something I could never do with the CG-5 even when I was much younger. I was a little disappointed over the scuffed tripod legs and the original iPolar unit's failure after only a few uses but think this may have been caused by a poorly fitting non-spec USB cable supplied with the unit-FLO were brilliant replacing the iPolar which I now have secured at the top of the polar opening. Since geting the replacement iPolar and using a quality Lindy USB cable polar alignment has worked without a hitch. The overall quality of the mount is very decent and there was the nice touch of having anti-vibration pads fitted as standard, usually that's an 'extra'.

Whichever mount you do decide on in the future Dean I wish you the very best with it. 😀

Cheers,
Steve

Edited by SteveNickolls
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Posted (edited)

Yesterday I laid out Ethernet cable inside the 20 mm plastic conduit and had a trial run in the evening to check the cable was working properly. Today I have some glueing of conduit joints to do and bury a length of pipework under the garden/slabs. Near to the the imaging pad I will use a waterproof electrical box to hold a short coil of a meter of cable to roll out and connect to the remore StarTech device each session.

It was a pleasure and very social to be able to sit in the Living Room controlling the imaging last night and having Stellarium, iCommander and SharpCap Pro spread across two screens. 👍 The tiny StarTech 'local' device can be seen on the desk connected to the laptop.

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Cheers,
Steve

Edited by SteveNickolls
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  • 4 weeks later...

April 2022 Update

Or-to be sure, to be sure

Since receiving the new iPolar I have used v2.5 of the iPolar software on my GEM28 with only mixed results, sometines working and at other times the plate solved stars/NCP/Camera centre were jumping about the laptop screen. This is a 'known issue' and iOptron made an earlier version of software available (v2.21) to use to overcome this effect. However when I tried this software fix the iPolar wasn't recognised. I therefore jumped forward to using v2.6.05 and the new manual...

The v2.6.05 software has introduced a number of changes requiring modification to my set up procedure. The move is fraught by the difficult to interpret new manual so I have gone to the extent of re-writing my own interprettation of some parts which may well be subject to future changes as experience grows and practice is better honed. I need to add photos too.

iOptron iPolar Manual.docx

iOptron have helped prospective users of the new software version check if their computers meet the requirements to run the iPolar and the pre-requisites for the software to run-

The v2.6 software needs the 64-bit version of Win 7,8.1, 10 or 11 with .NET Frameworks 3.5 and 4.8 or later installed on the controlling computer to work.

For v2.6 iOptron have produced their downloadable ‘EnvironmentCheck.exe’ software allowing potential users to check their computer has the necessary components to allow the iPolar to work. This software will check that the computer has-

·         A 64-bit architecture installed.

·         Either Windows 7, 8.1, 10 or 11 installed.

·         .NET frameworks are installed.

·         ASCOM platform 6.5 or later is installed.

·         iOptron commander installed (presently v6.5).

Some confusion still exists for me with the manual around the taking of dark frames. One interprettation of the v2.6 manaul (January 2022) leads me to expect to take a new dark frame on each nightly session rather than re-using a dark frame from a past night. This has sense as you then have a dark frame which more likely reflects the temperature that evening. However I have been unable initially to take a new dark frame unless I first try to load a previous dark frame (when I then get the option released to take a new dark frame). This doesn't follow the manual. The manual also mentions that an automatic dark frame is taken after some twenty seconds count down period and perhaps needs making more clear.

I have used different iPolars and seen a number of iterations of advice over the polar allignment process over just a few short years. It seems that over time the process of rotating the mount head is being simplified, perhaps as the software ability improves. At one time you needed to move the mount head and take images from three positions, then to two and nowadays you may be fortunate to set up close enough but not too close to nearly align the camera's centre and the NCP from Position 1 and finish off with a few tweaks on the mount's Az and Alt knobs. I hope to compare how accurate this is against SharpCap Pro's polar alignment routine. I have nonetheless found the iPolar to provide decent alignment for my purposes.

The new manual contains a 'Troubleshooting' section to again help users, this gives advice when-

Troubleshooting

1.    iPolar software does not run.

·         Check whether anti-virus software is blocking the software from running.

·         Run ‘EnvironmentCheck.exe from the iOptron online support page. This will report if the computer system meets the following requirements-

64-bit architecture.

Windows 7, 8.1, 10 or 11 installed.

Necessary .NET frameworks installed (.NET 3.5 and 4.8).

ASCOM platform 6.5 or later installed.

2.    iPolar camera does not connect.

·         Check USB cable and ports on iPolar and Computer. Try different cable.

·         Confirm iPolar detected by Device Manager.

·         If the iPolar is detected but fails to connect first contact FLO over the matter for advice.

3.    Recalibrating the iPolar Camera Centre can be achieved by clicking in ‘Settings’ then click ‘Clear Camera Centre’.

4.    If the software rushes to plate solve Position 2 immediately after confirming Position 1 and does not allow confirmation of Position 2 you may find that the camera centre/RA position (red cross) is close already to the NCP (red dot) and that the software found the Camera Centre ok. If you find the subsequent polar alignment unsatisfactory the polar alignment should be repeated after first moving the mount RA slightly and clearing the Camera centre. This can happen with the GEM28 since it is placed in the right position each session.

The italics in 4 above are my own emphasis. I have so far found the polar alignment following the processquite fine for my use so have not needed to re-do an alignment

I hope this little journey into using the iPolar with the new software is of help rather than hindrance to any others also exploring these byways. Any comments for other users would be very welcome.

Cheers,
Steve

 

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Posted (edited)

I have begun to look into the polar alignment of the iPolar and happened across this instructional video online which repays viewing.

It is the only video I have found that uses the v2.6 software, so is quite modern.

From it I have gathered that the ability to take a dark frame occurs after a 20 second countdown following connecting the iPolar, the previously unavailable 'Take Dark Frame' button can then be used. At this time I remain uncertain over the adequacy of the subsequent process involving Position 1 and Position 2 since the plate solving is so rapid and can occur even if you haven't been able to rotate to position 2, again more investigation is needed. I hope this helps others.

Cheers,
Steve

Edited by SteveNickolls
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Posted (edited)

I had some success last night looking into the iPolar operation. On routine use of the iPolar and with the end of the camera covered if the 'connect' button is pressed a message pops up saying a new dark frame is needed. If you then press 'Settings' you will see that a timer is counting down the 20 seconds mentioned in the manual afterwhich you can take the dark frame. Last night after doing this procedure the iPolar immeaditaly took the first Position image and this showed both the camera's centre and the NCP. I was not instructed to take a second image from Position 2 so i just slightly adjusted the Alt and Az knobs on the mount to line up the camera centre and NCP. I subsequently monitored sucessive images taken in SharpCap Pro which showed little spread over time, indicating a good poalr alignment. I stil intend to check this process is robust and sometine will try checking the polar accuracy from the iPolar technique by checking using SharpCap Pro. Hope this helps others.👍

Cheers,
Steve

Edited by SteveNickolls
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  • 4 weeks later...

Others may be interested to know of an on-going development with the control of the iPolar software.

I recently emailed iOptron technical support over whether they will be developing an Android wi-fi solution to the control of the iPolar device. I was pleased this afternoon to receive their reply confirming that iOptron are currently working on a wi-fi solution. This will be a great, positive enabling step when produced.

Presently I take out my laptop into the garden to perform polar alignment by the mount. I then return the laptop indoors to control the following imaging session via the USB over Ethernet cable. Being able in the future to perform polar alignment with a tablet or mobile will be a very welcome development that can be incorporated into the overall control of tbe GEM28 and all other iOptron EQ mounts.

Cheers,

Steve

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Steve,

That is good to hear.  Hopefully it'll be something simple to get work and not an expensive adapter or a new version.

In an ideal world (for me) something I can plug into my mobile and do from Android by usb would be swell.

I've just ordered a cheap intel nuc so I can do all the computer gubbins on the mount and remote desktop connect to the nuc from the house/shed.

Thankfully it's the summer and we don't get any real night up here so I've got lots of time to experiment.

Also, I should thank you for the review.  It was very detailed and was a large contributor in convincing me a should have a look at one.  They are great mounts and very quiet.  Not like thebcoffe grinder that the sa-gti sounds like in the videos I've seen of it!

I'm currently getting everything setup with Nina and putting a workflow together for that. 

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58 minutes ago, SteveNickolls said:

I recently emailed iOptron technical support over whether they will be developing an Android wi-fi solution to the control of the iPolar device. I was pleased this afternoon to receive their reply confirming that iOptron are currently working on a wi-fi solution. This will be a great, positive enabling step when produced.

This is good news for their upcoming Skyhunter Goto Tracking Mount as it makes little sense to have a portable Goto mount that then requires a laptop or computer to run the iPolar functionality on it. I'm guessing they'll maybe be hoping to release the app to coincide with that new mount? Just a guess.

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Posted (edited)

I use an Asiair with mine as an AP setup, no need for a computer. The PA routine within asiair is excellent.

Edited by Elp
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Hi Ratlet, thanks for your message. Yes it would be nice if it was a free App to use with the iPolar, something along the lines of employing an OTG connection to a tablet or mobile. I'm pleased you have plumpt for a GEM28, they are very quiet in operation. I'd be pleased if you'd consider putting your workflow with NINA up on the thread as it would help others and encourage discussion of GEM28 owners.

Thanks tompato for the heads up over the Skyhunter Go-to tracking mount, it will be interesting to see what form the App comes out in though I'd most likely only need it for iPolar control.

 

Cheers,
Steve

 

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On 20/05/2022 at 20:33, SteveNickolls said:

Hi Ratlet, thanks for your message. Yes it would be nice if it was a free App to use with the iPolar, something along the lines of employing an OTG connection to a tablet or mobile. I'm pleased you have plumpt for a GEM28, they are very quiet in operation. I'd be pleased if you'd consider putting your workflow with NINA up on the thread as it would help others and encourage discussion of GEM28 owners.

Thanks tompato for the heads up over the Skyhunter Go-to tracking mount, it will be interesting to see what form the App comes out in though I'd most likely only need it for iPolar control.

 

Cheers,
Steve

 

Will do.  It's still a work in progress with Nina.  It seems a brilliant bit of kit and the mount responds very well to it.  I need to get a couple bits of kit and my next hitch out of the way (work a 2/2week rotation).

Ive always found checklists very useful in my job for making sure everything is setup correctly, so it'll probably take the form of that.  Most of the donkey work is in the initial configuration and setup.  Once that is done it's reasonably easy to get going, at least with my basic setup.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Decided to take my gem28 for a spin yesterday with my newly acquired SCT, then I found there was nowhere to mount a guidescope to the OTA using the usual mini dovetail types. A bit of analysis and found the gem28 luckily has a (M6?) hole in the side of the declination saddle, with a few dslr bracket bits I managed to attach my guidescope:

 

1679456803_DSC_25362.thumb.JPG.e7ee41ff735ef99c64d5332f1dd4cd76.JPG

With the guidescope being used as the main camera finding targets via plate solving via an Asiair was perfect, though the alignment between the short FL guidescope and the OTA was a bit off so I had to make adjustments to slew to target.

Looking to get an sct sized guidescope shoe so it can be attached to the OTA.

Meanwhile the gem28 tracked and stayed on target like a champ, didn't move from target even after 20 mins.

Wish the overall package was lighter though (case with mount and CWs is 15kg) so I'd use it more often.

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1 hour ago, Elp said:

Decided to take my gem28 for a spin yesterday with my newly acquired SCT, then I found there was nowhere to mount a guidescope to the OTA using the usual mini dovetail types. A bit of analysis and found the gem28 luckily has a (M6?) hole in the side of the declination saddle, with a few dslr bracket bits I managed to attach my guidescope:

 

1679456803_DSC_25362.thumb.JPG.e7ee41ff735ef99c64d5332f1dd4cd76.JPG

With the guidescope being used as the main camera finding targets via plate solving via an Asiair was perfect, though the alignment between the short FL guidescope and the OTA was a bit off so I had to make adjustments to slew to target.

Looking to get an sct sized guidescope shoe so it can be attached to the OTA.

Meanwhile the gem28 tracked and stayed on target like a champ, didn't move from target even after 20 mins.

Wish the overall package was lighter though (case with mount and CWs is 15kg) so I'd use it more often.

I didn't know about that hole on the Dec saddle!  I'll need to have a poke at that tonight and see about mounting my miniguider on it.  Possibly see if I can mount my mini pc on it.  Struggling for somewhere to put it as I'm using DSLR and lenses. 

I'm not sure there is much you can do for the weight.  I got mine second hand and it didn't come with the proper case.  Did come with a large Hobbycraft plastic box though.  I've shelved the 5kg weight cause my current setup doesn't need it and it is bloody heavy lugging it about.

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6 minutes ago, Ratlet said:

bloody heavy lugging it about.

It's the reason I tend to use my azgti more as it's quicker and easier to transport and setup. Maybe a harmonic drive is the way to go but the prices are high in comparison.

For mounting flexibility especially with a DSLR/multi lens setup I've found buying a few cheese plates helps a lot when you're chopping and changing setups. The small guidescope I put on the side of the gem28 saddle is attached via a small narrow cheese plate.

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