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Mount for a new SkyMax-127?


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In my (yet another) "telescope for a new starter" thread -

 - after much going round in circles, I'm pretty much decided on a SkyMax-127. Various packages are within my budget of around £500, but I'm undecided as to the best mount to get. I'm looking at primarily visual observation of planets. Eventually I might move  on/up perhaps to doubles and the brighter DSO's, but possibly trying out some very basic astrophotography, just to get a taster

The mounts offered as a package at the moment all have pros and cons -

AZ-GTi - Looks like a nice ready to go set-up, but would have to budget for a tablet and battery pack/powertank. The 127 is approaching the mount's maximum payload and appears to be a different spec to the bare OTA.

AZ5 - Basic Alt/Az mount. Could perhaps add an AZ-GTi in the future - is this a 3/8"? I think the OTA with this can take a wider range of extras? Can't find the reference for this at the moment.

EQ3-2 - Budget Equatorial mount. Could add a RA drive but the tripod might be a bit weak. So additional budget for tripod at some point?

The SkyMax/AZ5 combination looks the most straightforward in terms of not needing any extras to start with, but does anyone have any thoughts on this?

Edited by Paul_Sussex
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5 hours ago, Paul_Sussex said:

appears to be a different spec to the bare OTA

There are a couple of variants for left- or right-hand mounting, but I thought the only difference was the position of the finder shoe?  The AZ-GTi software can be flashed to work either way.

All of those mounts are 5kg capacity. Bear in mind that it's the OTA length as well as the weight that is significant, because it increases the moment of inertia. It's not that the whole thing is in danger of collapsing, the main problem will be excessive settling times when you have to touch the scope. The Mak is very short for its weight, so it settles quite quickly.

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The Skymax 127 is fine on either the AZGTI or AZ5 (I use both those mounts plus the 127 see below). The bare OTA's dovetail bar is on the bottom of the tube in relation to the focuser and finder. Whereas the telescope bundled with those mounts has the dovetail to the right. That is the only difference. The former does however make a red dot style finder a little difficult to use. A RACI finderscope on a long stork does work out, or as some people do, attach a Telrad finder. I did own a Skymax 102 with the dovetail on the bottom config and stuck with the RACI finder.

I've no experience of the eq 3-2 however I suspect the mount should cope OK with the Skymax.

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Edited by ScouseSpaceCadet
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I have the Skymax 127, currently on the AZ GTi but it was on an AZ5 before this.

Considering the need to invest in power and controller (handset or app), the AZ5 is a beautifully made and stable mount. Very smooth on the fine tuning controls, enough control to hand-track a Ryanair 737 at 60x 🤔. Dampens vibrations reasonably quickly, though the weakness is the tripod (you'll get a lot of focus-induced vibration on this scope). Very simple and a joy to use when you get familiar with the position of the knobs so you don't have to look away from your EP. 

It took me a couple weeks to learn the mount, but eventually got my head round the AZ GTI. Very good goto performance and tracking, certainly sufficient for visual use. Vibrations dampen quicker than the AZ5 and feels a lot sturdier. Power wise I use the 7Ah skywatcher power pack which I got for £54 from Wex. Tablets can be had for cheap at places like CEX. You said you're interested in very basic AP - You'll manage some decent afocal images with a phone. I manage to max my phones exposure of 10s with minimal trailing. Here's a few... No masterpiece but great fun when you're out observing! 

20220227_085129.thumb.jpg.e8b788ff5db2d5f141ce5be04e7c2405.jpg20220314_210249.thumb.jpg.51352103740426353a3bcbcc9da2323d.jpg20220322_215911.thumb.jpg.01a7eff6f5ac79d49026e796a712b8b5.jpg

 

The AZ GTi can be used for AP when you download the firmware to allow you use it in an EQ platform. Check out the AZ GTi owners thread on this forum - I've learned loads from there. 

If it were me I'd make the investment and get the AZ GTi. 

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Posted (edited)

Many thanks for all the replies. I am tempted by the AZ-GTi - currently only £20 more than the AZ5 bundle at FLO, although I'd have to budget for a tablet as well as a power pack? Or maybe I should go for the AZ5 to start with and save for a better mount later? Decisions, decisions...!

@ScouseSpaceCadet - what tripods are those. I keep reading that's the weak point on a lot of "budget" mounts.

Edited by Paul_Sussex
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I have the 127mm Celestron Mak SLT - a variant of some of the outfits you have been considering.  The 127 Mak is at the upper limit of what this mount will handle, and with the tripod supplied is only fit for visual use. The SLT mount does a bit better when custom fitted to a home-made wood tripod. Contrary to what some people claim, the capabilities of entry level mounts with a max capacity of 5Kg will be limiting.

I now use a EQ5 Synscan for some of my attempts at imaging. It is neither cheap nor particularly easy to use, but does deliver a good stable imaging platform.  The EQ5, like the AZ4-2, has a 1.75" stainless steel tube tripod - a good solid tripod and like scaffolding compared with all the lighter weight tripods that come with the entry level kits. Similar tripods can usually be bought separately.

I have used both the Celestron Nexstar software (in allt-az form) and the Skywatcher Synscan (in EQ form) and find the Nexstar much more user-friendly.

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7 hours ago, Paul_Sussex said:

Many thanks for all the replies. I am tempted by the AZ-GTi - currently only £20 more than the AZ5 bundle at FLO, although I'd have to budget for a tablet as well as a power pack? Or maybe I should go for the AZ5 to start with and save for a better mount later? Decisions, decisions...!

@ScouseSpaceCadet - what tripods are those. I keep reading that's the weak point on a lot of "budget" mounts.

This is the battery I use:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/TalentCell-Rechargeable-6000mAh-12000mAh-Lithium/dp/B0713T4XT9 Although mine was bought quite a while ago on sale so only cost about £40...

Along with a decent Lynx Astro power cable and a molle bag you can add another £30. It may be more financially prudent nowadays to go for a dedicated small capacity astro dedicated lithium battery. 

If you have access to a mains socket, then a 12v 5a adapter and an extension cable is the cheapest option.

Both mounts will fit to just about any photographic tripod with a 3/8s bolt fitting or the usual astro tripods using a 3/8s adapter. The steel tripod in the pics is the Skywatcherl 3/8s fitting, 1.75" steel tripod released as an upgrade after these mounts came onto the market. 

https://www.firstlightoptics.com/sky-watcher-mount-accessories/sky-watcher-38-stainless-steel-tripod.html

Check out the dedicated AZGTI thread. They're an incredibly versatile & fun mount to use. Just don't expect immediately flawless gotos. Like any computerised mount they take some practice by the user to work well.

 

Regarding the AZ5, the only draw back when teamed with these Maksutovs is the narrow field of view can make star hopping difficult. A 9x50 finder scope would be complimentary.

 

Edited by ScouseSpaceCadet
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I use just a mobile phone to use the synscan mobile app in Android flavour, you don't have too use a tablet, if you are ios flavour user you'll probably want to check if you still need two devices if you want to pair with a planetarium as well.

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9 minutes ago, Paul_Sussex said:

I may get away with an old Kindle Fire, but if not a new tablet is a must - I don't think my existing mobile will be up to it...

 

temp.jpg

I use an old Samsung S6 android mobile phone as a dedicated handset. There's no need to purchase a tablet to run Synscan or a planetarium app.

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I can't believe I totally overlooked the SynScan AZ GOTO mount. Seems to have much of the functionality of the AZ-GTi, an included handset, a sturdier tripod and with a 127MAK less than an AZ5. I'd still have to add a PowerTank, but currently from FLO that would add up to £551, which I could push my budget to. Any thoughts on this mount?

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I have a similar package with the 127mm Celestron SLT Mak.  Basically the same mount and OTA but with the Celestron brand and the Nexstar software, which IMHO is more user friendly than the Synscan.  The OTA is great but the mount & tripod are  a bit cut price - but very portable.  The tripod is too wobbly for anything but visual use, though I have done some imaging with the mount custom fitted to a wood tripod.

Overall it's a fine introduction to GoTo visual astronomy. The Celestron SLT is currently £599, a d*** sight more than I paid for mine. There is an Astro-fi version at £499 (no handset).

4 hours ago, Paul_Sussex said:

I can't believe I totally overlooked the SynScan AZ GOTO mount. Seems to have much of the functionality of the AZ-GTi, an included handset, a sturdier tripod and with a 127MAK less than an AZ5. I'd still have to add a PowerTank, but currently from FLO that would add up to £551, which I could push my budget to. Any thoughts on this mount?

 

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5 hours ago, Paul_Sussex said:

I can't believe I totally overlooked the SynScan AZ GOTO mount. Seems to have much of the functionality of the AZ-GTi, an included handset, a sturdier tripod and with a 127MAK less than an AZ5. I'd still have to add a PowerTank, but currently from FLO that would add up to £551, which I could push my budget to. Any thoughts on this mount?

My first scope (bought last May from FLO) was the Skymax 127 / SynScan AZ GOTO combination and I've been very happy with it.

I prefer the SynScan handset because real chunky buttons are much easier to use when you're wearing gloves out in the cold, and the two line red display doesn't destroy my dark eye adaption which I think a tablet might. The SynScan AZ GOTO mount is also cheaper, comes with a sturdier steel tripod, and I think the mount itself seems more robust. I use a Celestron 6.1Ah Powertank to power the mount which is expensive but very reliable. It will power the mount for several sessions (10+ hours) before needing a recharge.

The focus control on the Skymax 127 is VERY sensitive and you will need to "invest" in a clothes peg to achieve fine focusing, particularly at higher magnifications. Initially I scoffed at the clothes peg idea but after much research it really is the best option.

Personally I would struggle without a GOTO mount, partly for the relative ease of finding objects (it's hard enough to see a faint object without also wandering whether you're even pointing at it) and partly for the tracking (I can check what I'm supposed to be seeing on Stellarium and the scope is still pointing at the object when I return).

The 5kg payload limit of both these GOTO mounts and the AZ5 manual mount can be an issue. I have been limited by this when choosing my second and now my third scope! But going beyond the 5kg limit and keeping GOTO is MUCH more expensive.

 

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Posted (edited)

By the look of it, the downside of the SynScan AZ would seem to be that you can't change out the tripod. But I wouldn't be too worried initially by the payload limit on either that or the AZ5. If I wanted to attach a camera, for instance, at a later date I could sell on the tripod and mount and look out for something like a secondhand EQ35 or EQ5 Pro Go-To mount. But that's for the future.

Based on current prices (and hoping they don't go up too much over the next four months) I could stretch to a 127 AZ GOTO and a powertank. This would get me going and I could look at further options at a later date. So that's looking like a favourite. And I have a clothes peg ready and waiting! 😀

Edited by Paul_Sussex
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I liked the Skymax 127, with Synscan handset, that I bought a second one for my holiday home, in France.

1833125388_Skymax127MCTinFrance(R).jpg.907d28ff3e5fbe312c4120c9b00b5bf1.jpg

The optional local red wine vewing aid complements the webcam and laptop for planetary viewing. Also a plus for portability:-

1035782412_SkymaxBackpack-Annotated(R).jpg.8f1be2b6c58824aeeab3dda362a5db52.jpg

All up, about 11kg, with batteries and eyepieces.

The mount is fairly frugal on power:-

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This is a selection of power sources (the 6V packs are borrowed from radio controlled sailing yachts).

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As noted previously, when looking through an eyepiece, "Real" buttons on a handset are much easier to use than "Virtual" ones on a touch-screen.

Geoff

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