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Vixen Sphinx vs SXD

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#1 sam32

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Posted 06 May 2008 - 01:05 PM

I know that the SXD is the beefier mount and can handle more weight, but I have been reading posts and am somewhat alarmed by people receiving SXDs that seem to have major problems and have to be shipped back. I do not seem to see this occur as frequently with the Sphinx. Is the Sphinx easier to build correctly or is it that it has been out a bit longer and the bugs have been worked out of it. I have also heard that the Sphinx is quieter than the SXD. Any truth to this ? I have seen the Sphinx at Skies Unlimited but have never seen one in action so am not sure if it runs quiet or not. I figured since the SXD can handle more weight and it already comes with the polar scope, it would be the mount to get for my use but I need to know if my concerns are warranted or not before I spend close to $3k. And lacking a polar scope, can you still align the Sphinx with whatever built-in alignment procedure it has or is that just for visual use only ?

Thanks,

Sam

#2 amys

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Posted 06 May 2008 - 01:46 PM

I have the Sphinx SXW, which I just got last April before the SXD came out. There is some noise while tracking but it's not very loud. I participate in the Sphinx Yahoo Users' group and many people who have the SXD complain that it is much louder than the SXW. Also, many more people are reporting problems with the SXD.

I find the mount very easy to use, with accurate go-tos and tracking. I do have the polar axis scope. I find that if I just pretty much center Polaris in the PAS, the go-tos are accurate enough for me.

A few things I don't like: slow speed slewing is pretty jerky. I suspect that this may be due to the DEC and RA axes being too tight (it is really impossible to determine if the mount is balanced). I may send it back to Vixen Optics to have them loosened.

The fastest slew speeds are pretty slow, at least compared to the NexStar I had, which also tracked silently.

Some people, me included, like the Starbook, but not everybody likes it. I find it very easy to use, except that the screen is too bright even with neutral density film over it.

While i really like the mount, I'm not sure I'd get it again if I had to do it all over again. I've communicated with several people who have the Atlas and they are all very impressed with the accurate go-to, tracking and how quiet it is. The problem for me would be the weight.

I'm sending you a p.m.

#3 skyler

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Posted 06 May 2008 - 03:52 PM

I am an owner of all three mounts that Amy mentioned. My SXD is louder that then SXW but it can carry a heavier load. I like the Starbook and PAS much much better than the Atlas but my Atlas tracks very well with a guide cam at 2350mm FL. It tracks as well as the SXD and maybe even slightly better? My SXD is in the Vixen shop right now for a supercharge/tune and I will see how it works after I get it back.

If I did not have to worry about the load, the SXW is probably right up there with the Atlas. I use it for quick smaller refractor setups. The Atlas is great for the heavier SCTs and if the tuned SXD can surpass the Atlas, I would maybe consider paring down the herd. Sure enjoy the fast accurate alignments on the Sphinx.

Did I mention that this is my fourth Atlas and second SXD?
1st Atlas had problems guiding and so it was returned. The next one was damaged (maybe in transit but was never sure) and the replacement was average. I decided that maybe with all the publicity from the recent Atlas owners, that I would give it another try. So fourth one was a charm and tracks very very well.

My first SXD had a bad shaft casting so it was sent back to Japan and Vixen Optics replaced it with a brand new one so I am impressed with the support.

So if I had to just choose only one if I only had a 15-20lb load limit? Make that an SXW for me.


S

#4 Bowmoreman

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Posted 06 May 2008 - 04:01 PM

Like Amy, I too have (had) the Sphinx SXW. I found it to be plenty quiet enough... Slewing was a tad slow for my preference, but sufficient. Accuracy of the Gotos was never an issue (especially since I had an almost perfect - they never are totally perfect) polar alignment on my pier.

The Polar scope certainly gets you close enough.

I just (yesterday!) sold my Sphinx SXW, because I needed a LOT MORE capacity. Replaced with a CGE. If I hadn't gotten a fair price, I would have kept it as I used it literally all the time with NO PROBLEMS for over 18 months.

Couple of things I will miss A LOT:

1) I really liked the Starbook; once you get used to it (takes about 30 minutes maybe?) it really does make setup and finding things VERY easy and you can forgo skycharts for some objects

2) it was very compact, not too heavy (yet solid), and "clean lined" - no protrusions to catch cables like other mounts.

I originally went with the Sphinx over the Atlas due to portability; now, almost 2 years later, I went CGE over Atlas due to capacity. So, you can see my needs changed.

I won't miss:

1) 25 pound weight limit (and despite what you read there is NO WAY that you can put a OTA/Camera load of 50# on the SXD - no way. Vixen Japan (www.vixen.co.jp) rate it at 15Kg, versus rating the SXW at 12Kg - those are more believable (note these limits I'm stating are for photo uses!)

2) "stiffness" in RA/DEC that made balancing quite challenging - there are instructions on Peter Enzerink's Site but I never got up the nerve to try loosening things up.

I too followed the Vixen Sphinx Yahoo group; there is an inordinate number of issues/complaints about the SXD from what I could see.

I'm going to posit a GUESS on the SXD noise reports: I'm guessing that some people may just be loading their SXDs too heavily (being encouraged by that rather awkward claim of 50# total capacity), and, perhaps not getting the balance right (due to stiffness), and hence leading to a lot of motor strain (which would definitely make a lot of noise).

I still think the Sphinx (in SXW trim, I can't say firsthand for SXD) is the best all around combination of portability/ease of setup and use, coupled with 25# capacity, coupled with under $2K.

The Atlas is, in many respects, a "better mount", certainly has more capacity. But its BIG and HEAVY. That was an issue with me when I was first selecting (no observatory, wanted easy/quick setup/teardown, etc.)

The CGE (from what I can tell about my new one) is in most respects a much better mount, way more capacity, much easier to balance; but it is noisier by far than the Sphinx, and is not at all portable. Of course, it is $1K more than Sphinx SXW...

I would say to carefully balance your TRUE needs; and try to go "hands on" sometime if at all possible.

Clear enough skies

#5 amys

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Posted 06 May 2008 - 04:04 PM

That new iOptron GEM looks pretty interesting. I wonder how much it's gonna cost. Anybody know?

I wish the SXW could carry a heavy load. I'd like to be able to put a 9.25 SCT on it. Then again, it's a good thing that the 9.25 would exceed the Sphinx's load limit or I'd wind up buying one. :grin:

#6 skyler

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Posted 06 May 2008 - 06:40 PM

I was told by VO that you could use the C925 on the SXW (25lbs max). I certainly believe that for visual but not completely sure for imaging. That was my reason for the SXD purchase so I could image with the SXD which runs about 33-35 lbs.

Funny thing Bowerman, I went the opposite direction from CGE to SXD/Atlas. I won't be using anything bigger than a 10" SCT so that was an easy decision for me. Set up and take down of the CGE night after night got really old so I sold it for something smaller. Would have been good for a permanent setup but just was not in the cards this time.

The polar adjustments on my CGE sample were not very good and I do know there are mods instructions out there but it was the weight of the mount that did me in. Maybe again, someday, with a permanent location, that could change.

The SXD is noisy regardless of the load. Sounds the same even when there is no scope on it at all. That was the story for my sample anyway.


S

#7 Tim

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Posted 06 May 2008 - 07:36 PM

I have only used the sxd. I was concerned about the noise when I first purchased it. (enough to call Vixen while at the dealers and play live over the phone)

I was told that its normal for the sxd. Different motors are used on the sxd as well.

I am not sure if the noise is less now that I have had the mount out a few times, but it really doesnt bother me.

I like the mount its light and portable quick to set up and take down and well built in my opinion.

The other night I was out imaging with it and after a 3 or 4 star alignment I was slewing from object to object and the items were showing up on the DSLR chip everytime. Not allways in the centre of the chip but they were on it.


I find the more I use sxd the more I like it. Start to notice the little things that make it a great mount.

I was a little nervous in purchasing the mount because its a fair bit of money and didnt want to get a poorly made one.

In the end I went for it because Vixen has a reputation of providing good service if you have a problem.



#8 amys

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Posted 06 May 2008 - 07:55 PM

Skyler: Did you have any problems with jerky slow speed slewing with either of your Sphinxes? I'm wondering if I should send mine out for a check-up and maybe have them looses the axes. Go-to and tracking are fine so I don't want to screw that up.

#9 Paul WB

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Posted 06 May 2008 - 08:51 PM

I am planning on purchasing a SXD, and am wondering what type of tripod I could use with it. I was thinking about one of these tripods with the 2 inch stainless steel legs that are used by Atlas/EQ6 etc. mounts. Thanks.

#10 skyler

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Posted 06 May 2008 - 09:45 PM

I am planning on purchasing a SXD, and am wondering what type of tripod I could use with it. I was thinking about one of these tripods with the 2 inch stainless steel legs that are used by Atlas/EQ6 etc. mounts. Thanks.


I still think that is a ver stable option but I was also told by OPT that it was not as stable as the HAL130. The idea is that the overall leg diameter is the key to stability (and materials used). Maybe I should some time try putting the SXD head on the Atlas tripod...

S

#11 skyler

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Posted 06 May 2008 - 10:00 PM

Hi Amy -

I did not have that problem with any of the SXDs or the SXW from the start or current so that does not sound right.

So have all your adjustments to backlash been unsucessful to this point?

That was the only way I had jerky movement was if the BL was set a bit too high.

I did notice on the first mount that it was a bit jerkier that the current one when slewing at 2 steps before max magnification. The backlash was higher on that scope and plus it had the bad casting on one of the axis so it may have been related to that but not sure.

I am guessing you don't use it for imaging but if you did, you could see the level of backlash when using PHD calibration process.


S

#12 amys

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Posted 07 May 2008 - 06:08 AM

I am having difficulty finding the right backlash setting, especially for DEC. Right now, it's near 0 and takes forever to start moving at really slow speed. I tried higher figures but it was more jerky at higher settings. I think I need to contact Vixen Optics again.

#13 Bowmoreman

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Posted 07 May 2008 - 07:45 AM

I was told by VO that you could use the C925 on the SXW (25lbs max). I certainly believe that for visual but not completely sure for imaging. That was my reason for the SXD purchase so I could image with the SXD which runs about 33-35 lbs.

I agree, in my experience with my SXW, I would think a 9.25 would be FINE for visual. No way for AP (mostly because you'd have to add more stuff to do AP - guidescope, heavy camera(s), guide rings - all of which would take the weight way over 25#). I had NO issues with about a 23-24 pound load (4" refractor and 66mm guidescope, rings, plates, cameras, etc.) - so more of a moment arm than a C9.25 would place... and that was for AP uses...


Funny thing Bowerman, I went the opposite direction from CGE to SXD/Atlas. I won't be using anything bigger than a 10" SCT so that was an easy decision for me. Set up and take down of the CGE night after night got really old so I sold it for something smaller. Would have been good for a permanent setup but just was not in the cards this time.

The polar adjustments on my CGE sample were not very good and I do know there are mods instructions out there but it was the weight of the mount that did me in. Maybe again, someday, with a permanent location, that could change.

Sounds like the right call for your uses; in my case, I'm pier mounted, permanent polar with drift align, etc... So, no matter how hard/fiddly, I eventually get there and then just stay there! And I wanted/needed the capacity (eventually want a C11 tandem mounted with 80mm Triplet).

The SXD is noisy regardless of the load. Sounds the same even when there is no scope on it at all. That was the story for my sample anyway.


S


Unfortunate that it's noisy, but probably a function of slightly stronger (different) motors, maybe?

Amy, if you've played all around with backlash, I would seriously consider having it "tuned up" by the VO folks; it really shouldn't be Jerky at all.

clear enough skies

#14 Fred1

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Posted 07 May 2008 - 09:34 AM

If anyone does a search in "Mounts" for my username you'll find a number of posts in the thread started by Pollux titled "My Sphinx SXD Has Arrived." I outlined a number of my SXD problems there. I haven't updated my posts there yet but I've no problems with Vixen's customer service. They are excellent and have worked with me as if I'm their only customer. After I finish my testing with an AC adaptor, I'll update it. At this point, if there was a Vixen product that I was interested in purchasing, I'd put it on my short list and wouldn't hesitate to buy if it met my needs.

#15 skyler

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Posted 07 May 2008 - 03:52 PM

Just an update to the noise issue for Bowmoreman.

I noticed that someone on the Yahoo groups is possibly reporting less noise with the new 2.0 firmware. It is no where to be seen that I know of but is apparently shipped on some mounts.

The motors are supposed to be different on the SXD vs SXW. I really like the quieter fluttery noise of my SXW versus my
barber's razor noise that comes from my SXD.

Just a note on the SXW, it has a really high backlash setting for RA and Dec (80, 30) and there is no jerkiness at all even with such high settings. It amazes me. If I did that with the SXD, it would be a bucking bronco as I have tested it with the same settings on the SXW. My SXW is an older model from VNA and it is using build 31. I won't update the software since it works and track so very well. When using PHD, backlash reported during the calibration sequence is 0-2 steps maximum. The best thing is that when the calibration is at its completion, the target star returns very close to the dead center crosshairs. The only other mount I have that beats that is the Atlas EQG. It may be meaningless but I have noted that whatever mount I have that can recenter the target star at the end of the PHD calibration sequence, seems to track/guide especially well since it can make effective corrections in both axis w/o backlash.


S

#16 Bowmoreman

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Posted 07 May 2008 - 04:02 PM

My SXW was also a slightly older one through VNA (I bought it in November 2006 literally weeks before VO took over from VNA).

Had no issues with it whatsoever; and were it not that I just can't justify having that much money tied up in something I'd use maybe 1-2x per year now, I'd keep it.

Quiet. Solid. Virtually perfect gotos (as long as I was careful in alignment!). Tracked well. LOVE the UI. Decent capacity. Reliable.

I was running at build 35, after following the Yahoo groups, made the decision to NOT upgrade the FW past that level. VO (Mike Fowler) is highly responsive in my experience.

Plus, lets face it, the mount is just plain pretty!

The ONLY "flaw" I was ever able to discover is that the hand controller would get a tad flaky at below around -10C or colder. Easily remedied by either kendricks heater strip and/or a ToeWarmer pad...

I shall miss mine. IMO best combination of portable, quality, easy to setup, and decent price in a tracking EQ mount out there. :penny: :penny:

clear enough skies

#17 JerryK

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Posted 08 May 2008 - 09:59 AM

I've got the SXW and like it alot. I use a computer LCD privacy filter from 3M and the Vixen suppiled neutral density filters to kill the LCD glare. Each one is on velcro so I can adjust the amount of light for sky conditions. The SXW is ok for a 9.25 visually ONLY though.

the biggest scope I put on mine is a 6" Newtonian.

Once Vixen gets the firmware right, this mount IMHO would be a killer mount because the hardware is just excellent. Mine is also very quiet for a GoTo. The SXD is probably somewhat louder because it has stronger motors I imagine.

Since I'm visual, I usually don't bother with the polar scope. I just sight through the dovetail slot and almost always have accurate GoTo slews.

Jerry

#18 starfield

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Posted 18 May 2008 - 09:18 AM

Read in the web that the max load for SXD is 50lbs while the Atlas is rated at 40lbs. If this is correct, SXD is a beefier mount than Atlas. However reading from this thread i get a feeling that it is not. Could anyone clarify?

#19 amys

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Posted 18 May 2008 - 10:23 AM

That 50lb figure for the SXD includes counterweights.

#20 Telescopeman54

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Posted 18 May 2008 - 10:12 PM

Amy:

The price for the iOptron SmartStarTM-PR is $678.00. It comes with a very nice 2" OD legged tripod, a polar scope and the GOTONOVA system. It is very quiet compared to many other mounts and is quite well built.

CS

Steve

#21 starbob1

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Posted 19 May 2008 - 06:19 AM

How much weight can the Optron hold.Thanks

#22 Fred1

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Posted 19 May 2008 - 09:50 AM

Go here for the full line of specs on iOptron mounts:
iOptron

#23 Telescopeman54

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Posted 19 May 2008 - 05:00 PM

The iOptron is listed for a payload of 35 pounds. I've played with it and I suspect it could handle 40 pound. However, until I actuall have one here to test that theory I cannnot say that is a fact.

CS

Steve

#24 Bowmoreman

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Posted 20 May 2008 - 09:57 AM

Hi Steve...

I guess I'm quite confused by this new IOPTRON... from their website, it looks like this is another CG5 clone.. .check out the wording on their web-site, it seems to be cut/pasted from CG5 specs from somewhere else.

SmartStar Mount Link

Can a CG5 really handle 35-40#? (I suppose a 2" solid tripod might help a bit...???)

Or is there some other IOPTRON that's being talked about here?

Cause there is no way their cube, or mini, could handle 35# or more (they spec them much lower).

Oh what a tangled web re-marketers weave... ;)

clear enough skies

#25 mike50

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Posted 17 March 2009 - 09:12 AM

Amy,

Did you ever get your DEC backlash issue resolved? I have a brand new SXD and am having a similar problem.

Mike






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