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iOptron SmartStar goto

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#1 drewp

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Posted 12 November 2007 - 09:33 PM

just saw this ad in the latest issue of skywatch mag. heres there webpage. iOptron
anythoughts consideration or actual experiance with them? looked like it would make a nice grab n go with goto for my wo zs80mm scope.

#2 john D

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Posted 12 November 2007 - 10:02 PM

many people have talked about it

here is someone's review

sale ends this month! :cool:

#3 drewp

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Posted 12 November 2007 - 10:30 PM

thanks john.

that review was very informative. think ill steer clear of this one ;)

#4 allan

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Posted 13 November 2007 - 12:02 AM

Well I was pleasantly surprised . I ordered the new alt/az mount from ioptron in China. On Friday the money cleared to their bank and at 3:00pm the mount and tripod arrived Monday morning in Australia. Now thats service for you.
It was double boxed and everything was in place. No damage whatsoever.
Eager to see what it would do I inserted 8 AA batteries in the mount, switched it on and it came up with the opening screen. Filled in location etc and then did an alignment. No stars as it was clouded over as usual so I just accepted where ever it was pointing.
Then set up several landmarks and asked the mount to go to them and it was spot on every time. There appeared to be no problems at all with the reproducability of the goto, just couldn't do it with the stars.
The goto is done at max speed (1200x) which gives the typical coffee grinder noise but the other speeds, 2x, 8x, 64x, 256x are all quiet and appear without jerkyness. The play in the mount which had been mentioned was not present in my mount. Don't know how typical this is. Even at high mag focussing was easy and no problem.
I tried 4 scopes on the mount. A 90mm MAK, a 102mm widefield refractor, a 80mm WO Megrez and an 8" SCT.
I tried the latter as it was claimed to be able to use this scope on the mount - forget it. It did take the weight but would overload it in time. A 6" SCT would be do-able.
Only the alt axis has a slippage pad, the Az is geared therefore you cant just point the scope to where you want but must use the motors.
I'm running on 8 AA batteries but will try a portable battery and some other things when the skies clear.
So far I,m more than happy. I was going to use my Manfrotto tripod with this but it has an 8M thread in the base of the cube and so I was forced to use the tripod it came with. It isnt absolutely immovable but with care is quite servicable.
In short I'm happier and found my unit far better than the other reviewer noted. Perhaps better quality control.
I got 91US$/1AUD exchange rate and so I'm laughing as it cost $200 for the unit and $68 postage. So I hav a Alt/Az mount with goto for about $300 - not bad.
I'm going through the handset parameters at the moment and its very easy to use but I need to figure out mow many DSOs it carries and how many user objects.
I'll give another review with more usage on the stars.

#5 gordianknot

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Posted 13 November 2007 - 02:58 AM

Hi, I co-authored the long review. Here are a few questions:
1. If you give a telescope a gentle tap once it has been installed, does it move in Azimuth. Ours had extremely noticable movement even if you just looked at the mount. Ours also had some play in the Alt axis, though not as severe. Also, our definitions of "high power" may differ. I was referring to 150x and above.
2. Did you get the AC adapter in the package?
3. Let us know about nighttime goto? Ours is very inaccurate.
4. Did you hear odd chirping noises at lower speeds? I assume it's the result of motor speed controls. It seems to come from both axes.
5. Did yours actually ship from China? Did you order through iOptron.com? Ours shipped from right here in California, though it's clearly Chinese built and the company is headquarted in Massachusetts.

#6 jonnyastro

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Posted 13 November 2007 - 10:52 AM

Yeah i don"t think you can post a true asssessment until you get it under the stars.

#7 Talstarone

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Posted 13 November 2007 - 11:08 AM

I would like to issue you a Warm Welcome to Cloudy Nights allan.I appreciate the post you left on this topic.Perhaps once you use this mount a time or 2 under the stars you can give us a good idea of its potential and performance.And Again I would like to say Welcome.

#8 allan

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Posted 13 November 2007 - 11:12 PM

Well last night I got out under the stars and gave the mount a tryout. The starGPS unit I have doesn't work with the unit but thats no loss.
Firstly the handpaddle has a small light at the back (red) which is very usefull for finding dropped things. It and the screen go dark after about a minute of non-use which is very handy. The mount has a few requirements to be accurate for gotos. Like all dumb beasts this one has to have a particular side pointed due South and the scope oriented in a totally vertical position. Easily done with good compass and level. Then just turn the beast on and do a two star alignment. The mount has a small bubble level which was accurate and used to level the cube (mount). Actually I was quite surprised, as if you go through this routine then it placed the object usually within the field of view of a 20mm eyepiece of my 80mm refractor.
I was pleasantly surprised and it hummed and whistled its way all night long on a 12v battery with +ve pin connections. Tracking was very good. Had no problems focussing at high magnification as I was gently using a 10:1 focusser to good effect. Good old WO machining makes life great. If you have too big a momentum of arm at the mount it makes it more difficult to focus but a short scope, absolutely no problem.
I had said earlier that you can't use it in a straight Alt/Az form. I was wrong. The way you do it is to slightly loosen the mount bolt for az and adjust the Alt tension with the large knob on the side. Very easy to use in that configuration. Just swing it around to where you want to view then tighten the knobs for tracking.
I must say that for the money, I'm stoked that I have a very, very portable Alt/Az goto mount for my widefield refractor that will work on batteries (8xAA) or mains or 12v battery. The tripod can breakdown even further for easy transport. So next time I go to my brothers farm and its dark skies thanks to this mount that I can easily take in hand luggage with my scope. If I want to seriously upgrade the database it then I just purchase another handset for ~$100 but I don't think I will. Just keep it simple. If you add objects to the handset ie comets asteroids or user objects, then they are retained in memory when the handset is switched off as is the time and location, so you dont have to re-enter it all again.
I'll answer a few questions from another post, see below:-
Hi, I co-authored the long review. Here are a few questions:
1. If you give a telescope a gentle tap once it has been installed, does it move in Azimuth. Ours had extremely noticable movement even if you just looked at the mount. Ours also had some play in the Alt axis, though not as severe. Also, our definitions of "high power" may differ. I was referring to 150x and above.
Answer:- If a rapped the scope there was no movement in the axis of Alt or Az ie it came back to where it was pointed. When focussing I used the 10:1 reducer on my WO Megrez and this made focussing at 100-150x easier. It wobbled because this has a long movement arm but did not shift position and if done gently was easy to get sharp focus. If I was using the 90mm Mak then easy focus without tremours annoyingly apparent.
2. Did you get the AC adapter in the package?
Answer:-No was shipped without it as this would have been for 110volts and not 240 here in Aussie. I used 8AA batteries (fresh) and noticed no dimming of hanset and it ran on a partially charged 12v battery all night with NO problems.
3. Let us know about nighttime goto? Ours is very inaccurate.
Answer:- Gotos were in a 20mm eyepiece 90-95% time. But I paid carefull attention to south orientation as well as vertcal scope placement on startup.
4. Did you hear odd chirping noises at lower speeds? I assume it's the result of motor speed controls. It seems to come from both axes.
Answer:- Yes but they remind me of the cicadas here in Australia. Low noise but there.
5. Did yours actually ship from China? Did you order through iOptron.com? Ours shipped from right here in California, though it's clearly Chinese built and the company is headquarted in Massachusetts.
Answer:- Ordered direct from China and shipped from there. Money cleared to their bank Friday afternoon and the mount and tripod arrived in Australia, Brisbane 3:00pm Monday afternoon. Had an excellent english speaking/writing contact in China that answered all my questions.

#9 Sky Captain

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Posted 14 November 2007 - 12:26 AM

Welcome to CN Allan!

Nice review\report, thanks. :)

#10 allan

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Posted 14 November 2007 - 08:10 AM

Took a few quick shots with the mount using a Watec 120N+ video camera and 3 sec exposures just to see what it could do.

Attached Files



#11 john D

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Posted 14 November 2007 - 08:39 AM

nice report allan! :cool: and welcome to CN! :jump:

#12 Mick Simon

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Posted 14 November 2007 - 08:46 AM

Hi Allan. I'm a newbie to this forum, as well. I'm glad you're happy with the performance you're getting from the iOptron mount. I did not have the same experience. My experience was identical to gordianknot's. I found the mount extremely unstable, to the point that I wouldn't risk anything more valuable than a dept store scope on it. As you track the scope around in azimuth you can watch the bubble level follow along out of level. I also found the controller to be very unintuitive.

I think the concept is great, but the execution poor. I'm currently awaiting my refund.

#13 ngc6475

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Posted 14 November 2007 - 08:47 AM

Excellent review, Allen! And welcome to Cloudy Nights, too! :waytogo:

#14 john D

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Posted 14 November 2007 - 10:40 AM

welcome to CN Mick! :cool:

#15 Mick Simon

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Posted 14 November 2007 - 10:59 AM

Thanks, John. I been lurkin' for some time now. I've got a lot to (re)learn having been out of the hobby for some years. Wow. Can't believe how much has changed in 8 or so years.

#16 jonnyastro

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Posted 14 November 2007 - 11:12 AM

I'm trying to figure out how 2 different reports can be so very different in conclusion....Especially the stability matter.

#17 jason_milani

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Posted 14 November 2007 - 11:14 AM

I'm trying to figure out how 2 different reports can be so very different in conclusion....Especially the stability matter.


I agree. Mine is coming today so i hope i get the good one ;)

#18 jonnyastro

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Posted 14 November 2007 - 11:58 AM

Looking forward to your report Jason. The 1 ich legs of the tripod alone are an indication of a probable stability issue.

#19 allan

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Posted 14 November 2007 - 07:00 PM

Well I had a go with the Ioptron mount and set it to go to M42 after 2 star alignment and it went into brain farts!!!!!
Seems the 12 volt battery was low so I changed it re-booted and all was well. Went to M42 and took a few 3 second shots of the trapezium and fish mouth. Stacked them and the result is in the post above. OK and so the tracking was not brilliant (ie up to my Losmandy standard, but what did I expect). I thought that I would make some comments on the stability of the mount. I see that Ioptron has another tripod which has 2 inch legs and would be a far better option. I realise that the 1" legs induce instability but I expected that and am very careful around the mount. Also the WO 80mm Megrez is a long scope and heavy. Thus I also treated this with kid gloves when focussing or it would wobble around, but it stayed pointing at the same stars or direction. There could be some slop in the axis couplings but if I was careful no worries. As far as the tracking went, for visual it would be OK but for imaging even 3 sec shots show some trailing as it slowly drifts off the object. Now I only did a rough alignment last night and immediately found that gotos were not brilliant and could be up to 1/2 degree off. I think the caveat to this is as follows. If the setup of the mount is correctly pointed south and the scope vertical AND the mount level, the gotos are reasonable. Also the battery power must be fresh or the handset can have problems - at one stage it locked into land mode and was really erratic and went in odd directions all by itself, but swithching to another 12 volt battery cured that ghost in the machine. I aslo made sure that the Az axis bolt was firmly screwed into the mount and this gave better stability and the Az axis knob properly tightened.
Look, the way I see it was that I wanted a highly portable alt/az mount to put a small scope onto for the odd time I was travelling. This does it fine for me. Its not a Losmandy but it gives me what I was after for the money and with goto. At least it will point in the general direction of what I want to see and I can star hop in a worse case senario. Better this than no scope and no mount when travelling. With care it does perform, but I can only talk about my mount and there may be a large amount of variation due to quality control. I am only reporting my experience, some others may want or expect more and so I guess you have to make your own minds up wether to purchase or not.
One final note: I noticed a lag (very slight) in operating the handset when I had low power but this disappeared when I changed the 12 volt battery. I suspect that a lot of problems could be the result of low voltage.

#20 Talstarone

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Posted 14 November 2007 - 08:06 PM

Thank You allan for the well writen and detailed observing reports.It looks like the Mount can work well if the observer knows how to work out a few computerized quirks(Thanks Also for taking the time to point the quirks and fixes out to us)

I think there will be a good number of Happy Observers who use this mount with a smaller sized scope(I wonder if my 3 foot long refractor would be too much of a load)?

And may I add a Warm Welcome to Cloudy Nights to a fellow North Carolinian.Welcome Mick,I hope you will find this forum to help you in the transition from 8 years ago to now.

#21 jason_milani

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Posted 14 November 2007 - 10:53 PM

3 foot long refractor? NO WAY ;)

#22 Mick Simon

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Posted 15 November 2007 - 03:46 AM

Thanks, Todd. I'm sure this will be a great source of information for me.

Not to beat a dead horse with this issue, but my experience with the iOptron mount indicated that it would require LOTS of patience, knowledge and work to get it to work for my purposes. I really, really wanted this gizmo to work out. I just didn't see any way. It's almost as if the azimuth is mounted on rubber bushings. With the mount powered on or off I could twist the entire head probably 15 to 20 degrees either way. The whole thing just wiggled at the slightest bump.

I may have received a bad specimen, but at the very least, I'll wait for reviews of the newer, beefier model that's to follow before trying it again.

#23 allan

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Posted 15 November 2007 - 06:44 AM

I must adnit that I have found the best balanced scope on the mount so far to be a 90mm MAK. It has a short moment of movement arount the Alt axis and thus makes it far more stable than my 80mm WO megrez triplet with 2" focuser

#24 Talstarone

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Posted 15 November 2007 - 10:41 AM

Perhaps one of the Vixen Modoified Cassegrains will work on this mount.

Thw VMC-95L: Vixen Cass

Or the Vixen VMC-110L: Vixen 110mm

These and some other smaller length Maks maybe the best choice in optical tubes for this mount.

#25 allan

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Posted 15 November 2007 - 05:36 PM

Thanks, Todd. I'm sure this will be a great source of information for me.

Not to beat a dead horse with this issue, but my experience with the iOptron mount indicated that it would require LOTS of patience, knowledge and work to get it to work for my purposes. I really, really wanted this gizmo to work out. I just didn't see any way. It's almost as if the azimuth is mounted on rubber bushings. With the mount powered on or off I could twist the entire head probably 15 to 20 degrees either way. The whole thing just wiggled at the slightest bump.

I may have received a bad specimen, but at the very least, I'll wait for reviews of the newer, beefier model that's to follow before trying it again.

I looked carefully at my mount last night and I do not have any play in the alt or dec axis at all. I fear that this must be your problem. Have you tightened the alt axis bolt as far as it will go? If its still there then I would ask for a replacement. Also lastnight using a good compass and bubble level I found the gotos good and I'm sure this greatly affects the pointing accuracy.
Hope this helps
Allan






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