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Star Circle Academy Message Board General Discussions › Equipment (EQ Mount) Assessment

Equipment (EQ Mount) Assessment

Lynne P.
Mitymous
Madison, WI
Post #: 2
This mount package Milapse Mount Package caught my eye while looking at motion solutions for timelapse; price seems "too good to be true" so was curious as to your thoughts on its suitability for astrophotos. A single solution (timelapse AND astrophotog) would be great!

Thanks,
Lynne
Steven C.
NightSkyGuy
Group Organizer
San Jose, CA
Post #: 676
This mount package Milapse Mount Package caught my eye while looking at motion solutions for timelapse; price seems "too good to be true" so was curious as to your thoughts on its suitability for astrophotos.

Good question, Lynne. The link is to an "Alt-Az" (Altitude and Azimuth) mount. IMHO it is NOT suitable for astrophotography. For a technical explanation see THIS. To "fix" this problem you would need what is called an "equatorial wedge". However, getting an alt-az with a wedge aligned is harder than using a true Equatorial mount with a built in polar scope.

In the Astrophotography 101 course I sometimes stress this point, but I don't always, though I do stress that you should go for an EQUATORIAL mount (see - I shouted it right there).

As for using it for timelapse any equatorial mount that can be set to 0 or 90 degrees will serve a similar purpose (many cannot, by the way).


Review of Orion's Astrophotography Bundle


I recently had my hands on the Astrophotography Bundle from Orion. I *do NOT* (shouting again) recommend this mount. EVentually my review will appear on the site, but here it is.


(Photo captured from Orion's site without permission)

First, I don't OWN this unit - however the mount and I spent an evening together.

This review is based on the assumption that the intended use for this product is astrophotography since it is called an "Astrophotography Bundle". More specifically the target user will be using a camera on the mount rather than a telescope. And I'm going to make one more assumption - that the camera will be a modest sized DSLR with a modestly sized telephoto lens weighing perhaps 4-5 pounds in total.

I have begun helping others get started in Astrophotography (I'm a beginner myself, really). I bought my first mount, the Orion Astroview EQ mount with optional dual axis motors and a rated 12 lb capacity. I chose the AstroView because it seemed to be the lightest mount that I would trust to carry my photo gear. Below the Astroview is the EQ-2 rated at 9lbs total load and the lightweight is this astrophotography bundle using the EQ-1 at 7lbs load. The mount seems to be the same as that found on the table-top model.

Here are the problems I noticed with the unit.


  • There is no polar scope, and the polar axis is not hollow so the best you can really do for easy alignment is to "eyeball" it. But alignment is needed for all but the most rudimentary photos.
  • The tiny markings on the axes and imprecise "pointers" for those markings are approximations that don't confer the feeling of accuracy.
  • The RA motor sticks out quite far. Putting a modestly sized DSLR on the mount I noticed that it was impossible to properly balance the RA axis (the only driven axis) because once the motor is installed and a camera is attached using the supplied hardware the counterweight strikes the motor when the camera is swung eastward. Swinging the camera westward produced a similar problem this time the camera may strike the motor. And this problem was observed at a 37 degree latitude. There will be even less clearance if used at lower latitudes.
  • Because of the motor strike noted above, this mount cannot be used near the meridian (straight up) - in fact it can't be used within about 30 degrees of the meridian where the holy grail of cleanest atmosphere is found.
  • The thumbscrews for locking the DECL and RA axis are flat and imprecise and harsh on the fingers. They are also painted black they are difficult to find in the dark.
  • The worm gear and drive gear are exposed. These components are subject to grit, dirt, dust.
  • The lightweight hollow legged tripod exhibited binding when extending or retracting the legs. Has an overall flimsy and unstable feel to it.
  • Once the drive motor is installed, the slow motion control knob for the Right Ascension is unusable as there is not a simple way to quickly and easily disengage the motor. The solution is to unlock the RA and move the scope or camera by hand. The maneuver is not unusual for a mount like this.
  • Because of the low load capacity, it is improbable that this mount could ever be used with both a telescope AND a camera, except perhaps a very light telescope and perhaps a webcam.


Getting good polar alignment without a polar scope is going to prove difficult for the average beginning user - especially with the crude and tiny markings and pointers on the declination and right ascension axes. I cheated and held a green laser pointer along the RA axis - and that method might work well if only there were a flat surface parallel to the RA axis - but there isn't one. This leaves drift alignment as the only possible method but the manuals do not provide a method / discussion on how to drift align.

On the plus side, the drive motor cable is substantial and seems to have a secure plug. The drive uses D-cell batteries. I imagine it will run for a long time on those - but be careful not to let it run attended due to the motor-strike noted in items 2 and 3 above.

Because my student didn't have a suitable way to take long exposures, we couldn't test the tracking accuracy of the mount, but a 30 second exposure at 100mm focal length was acceptably sharp.

SUMMARY:
This product is quite light and portable, but it will likely disappoint more people than it will delight. I would advise people to spend twice as much and get the Astroview with it's included polarscope and beefier capacity. If there is any thought about using a telescope for astrophotography, the minimum solution I'd recommend is a Sirius or Atlas mount.

Pros: cheap, lightweight
Cons: counterweight doesn't clear motor, tiny setting circles, no polar scope, exposed worm and drive gear, not usable at meridian
Lynne P.
Mitymous
Madison, WI
Post #: 3

Good question, Lynne. The link is to an "Alt-Az" (Altitude and Azimuth) mount. IMHO it is NOT suitable for astrophotography. For a technical explanation see THIS. To "fix" this problem you would need what is called an "equatorial wedge". However, getting an alt-az with a wedge aligned is harder than using a true Equatorial mount with a built in polar scope.

In the Astrophotography 101 course I sometimes stress this point, but I don't always, though I do stress that you should go for an EQUATORIAL mount (see - I shouted it right there).


You do indeed stress the EQ mount!


As for using it for timelapse any equatorial mount that can be set to 0 or 90 degrees will serve a similar purpose (many cannot, by the way).

Way more answer than I hoped for! Thanks a bunch for taking the extra time to include the review and explanation - glad I asked, both for the knowledge and to save the $$ on a mistake!
Enrico
user 13025968
Fremont, CA
Post #: 73
I have a Celestron CG5 GoTo mount which costs less than the Orion Atlas and Sirus (they are all made in China anyway).
You can get the here now with free shipping for $614.95 + $42.95 for Polar Finderscope:
http://www.highpoints...­
Steven C.
NightSkyGuy
Group Organizer
San Jose, CA
Post #: 679
Enrico also posted this link for a Celestron deal at Oceanside Photo and Telescopes (OPT) - seemed redundant to create another discussion, so I've posted it here.

they are all made in China anyway
It's a specious argument. Made in China doesn't mean by the same manufacturer or with the same quality or features... though I believe Meade and Orion ARE made by the same manufacturer(s).

The only negatives I've read about the Celestron CG5 are:
1. may have improper grease in the gearbox that makes it track poorly in cold weather (<40 degrees F), and 2. is rather loud - especially when slewing.

But given the $660 (including polar scope) to $1200 price differential with the Sirius mount, it's seems to be a better deal - especially since I'm not getting great tracking accuracy out of my Sirius mount.
Lynne P.
Mitymous
Madison, WI
Post #: 4
But given the $660 (including polar scope) to $1200 price differential with the Sirius mount, it's seems to be a better deal - especially since I'm not getting great tracking accuracy out of my Sirius mount.

Hey Steven,

Could you elaborate on "not great tracking accuracy?" Curious; I have threatened to build a "barn door tracker" but have seen enough commentary that they are MUCH too inaccurate to do long exposures without star pilling (hmm, pillage? LOL). Is that the issue you're getting with your Sirius, or is it something else?

Thanks,
Lynne
Steven C.
NightSkyGuy
Group Organizer
San Jose, CA
Post #: 680
My stars are streaking. That means the rate of rotation isn't correct - but it's intermittent. Once it was clearly because I didn't lock the clutch. Once it was because the tripod leg was not tightened securely and it slowly sank. By comparison, usually when I get my Astroview aligned it works pretty darn well!

I thought about building a Barn Door tracker... but my work area (the garage) is a complete mess and I figured the hours I'd spend on the project were better spent on the Astroview. Your mileage may vary.

By the way, I just found what Jerry Lodriguss has to say about the EQ-1 mount... http://www.astropix.c...­ I quote:

"There are some really bad mounts out there that are so inexpensive you may be tempted to consider them for astrophotography if you are on a really tight budget, such as Orion EQ-1 Equatorial Mount for $100. ... Do yourself a favor and stay away from any mount for astrophotography that looks anything like this one."

He does recommend the CG-5 or the Sirius as "Starter" mounts. Indeed, he re-recommends the Sirius mount... along with the Atlas (it's heavier, beefier cousin).

Lynne P.
Mitymous
Madison, WI
Post #: 5
My stars are streaking. That means the rate of rotation isn't correct - but it's intermittent. Once it was clearly because I didn't lock the clutch. Once it was because the tripod leg was not tightened securely and it slowly sank. By comparison, usually when I get my Astroview aligned it works pretty darn well!


That's frustrating!



I thought about building a Barn Door tracker... but my work area (the garage) is a complete mess and I figured the hours I'd spend on the project were better spent on the Astroview. Your mileage may vary.


Similar boat here; time and talent and tools are probably not up to the task, so I've decided the investment here would more wisely be dollars than hours. Just a bit paralyzed by options!


By the way, I just found what Jerry Lodriguss has to say about the EQ-1 mount... http://www.astropix.c...­ I quote:

"There are some really bad mounts out there that are so inexpensive you may be tempted to consider them for astrophotography if you are on a really tight budget, such as Orion EQ-1 Equatorial Mount for $100. ... Do yourself a favor and stay away from any mount for astrophotography that looks anything like this one."

He does recommend the CG-5 or the Sirius as "Starter" mounts. Indeed, he re-recommends the Sirius mount... along with the Atlas (it's heavier, beefier cousin).


Thanks, Steven!
Enrico
user 13025968
Fremont, CA
Post #: 76
The Celestron CG5 is indeed loud during slewing (moving to an object). The improper grease is not as bad as with the first models (severals years ago) but may still need improvement for very cold conditions.
So far I haven't done any long exposures (longer than one minute) at less than 40 or 45 degrees with my CG5 mount. However I used it during the Moon eclipse at below 20 but didn't notice any tracking error but I also exposed not very long (several seconds the most) and the moon is much closer and brighter than distand stars.


Steven C.
NightSkyGuy
Group Organizer
San Jose, CA
Post #: 689
Enrico send me this link: http://www.cloudynigh...­ which talks about tracking problems on the CGEM mount.

CloudyNights.com is a good place to learn a lot of things.
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