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iOptron Mini Tower

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#26 Kirkup

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Posted 31 October 2008 - 09:18 AM

I am new to the hobby. How would the Mini Tower work with a 34 inch 10 lb refractor? Would the scope hit the tripod when pointed straight up? How tall is the mount W/the tripod extended? Thanks for the help/advice.

#27 Covey32

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Posted 31 October 2008 - 02:12 PM

With the tripod legs fully extended, the center point of the dovetail mount is around 54 inches above the ground, so it should be just fine.

#28 Kirkup

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Posted 31 October 2008 - 07:54 PM

Thanks Hank. I don't want to make a very expensive mistake.

#29 Emanuele

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Posted 03 November 2008 - 07:50 PM

Do you guys think that this mount can handle a Takahashi CN212? the OTA weighs 18.7lbs and it is 33.7" long.
Probably with the clamshell and diagonal it is going to weigh 25lbs.

Anyone can help me on this?

#30 Great Red Spot

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Posted 04 November 2008 - 10:35 AM

Terry

This is a minor known issue with the MiniTower caused when shipping the units from over-seas, and is easily repaired. Remove the square cover at the top of the unit to reveal the GPS antenna PCB. Make sure that the connectors are tight. There are two of them. One is a four pin connector and the other is a mini-coaxial connctor. Use a pair of needle nose pliers to tighten but not over tighten the coxial connector. Firmly push down on the other connector to seat it in the socket. That will fix the issue 90% of the time.

If that does not fix the problem, then you may need to reseat the conector on the controller PCB inside the tower. First unscrew the Alt locking knob all of the way. Remove the screws holding the cover over, which will reveal the controller PCB. Trace the wiring harness down the side from the GPS antenna PCB to the connector on the controller PCB. Reseat that connector being carful not to disturb the opical encoders for the ALT drive gears. That will fix the problem 99% of the time.

I have seen a few units with the problem you describe and by following these steps I was able to repair each one in under 20 minutes. Once done, the GPS synched in about 90 seconds for each unit. If that does not work, give me a call and I will see if there is anything more I can do to help.

Jeff

#31 Great Red Spot

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Posted 04 November 2008 - 12:45 PM

Terry

This is really a simple fix. The GPS connectors sometimes get loose during shipment. First remove the square top cover. You will see the GPS board. Make sure the four pin connector is firmly seated in the socket. With a pair of needle-nose pliers, make sure the mini-coax connector for the antenna is tight, but not over tight. Once you complete this, start up the MiniTower again. GPS should sync and go to GPS OK in no more than three minutes, usually less than 90 seconds.

If that does not work, then fully unscrew the ALT knob. Then remove the screws holding the cover, to expose the controller PCB. Then tracing the wiring harness from the GPS board down to the controller board, locate the end of the GPS wiring harness on the controller board. Being careful not to move the ALT encoder, make sure the wiring harness from the GPS board is fully seated on the controller PCB.

99% of the time this will fix the issue and you will be up and running. If this does not work, give me a call and I will try to help you further.

Jeff Hineline

#32 Terry - W6LMJ

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Posted 05 November 2008 - 08:12 AM

The Mini Tower is working fine now. I have had it out twice since the fix, and the GPS is quick and accurate.

I mounted a C8 on it last night. This is my oldest scope. It started life on a wooden tripod with no electric drive. I use to use it in Panama for star parties. Indeed, Carl Sagan had his first view of Halley's Comet through this C8. Anyway, I attached a Vixen mounting plate, and mounted the scope on the close in mounting point on the Mini Tower, on the opposite side from the counter weight. This scope is very easy to balance. I did the one star simple alignment and used a 25 mm Plossel. After the initial alignment I was able to goto every selected object with no problem at all.

A very nice experience.

Terry - W6LMJ

#33 Dan Duriscoe

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Posted 07 November 2008 - 02:21 PM

Have experimented with this mount over the last two days and have the following comments:

This is a very good mechanical design. The altitude bearing is smooth and heavy duty. The azimuth bearing appears to work very well also, tolerating a bit of off balance, allowing small telescopes to be used without a counterweight. For a mass produced instrument this is one of the best mechanically.

The levelling screws are a good idea, reasonably well implemented. Anyone who has used a surveyor's transit or total station knows, however, that FOUR screws are far better than THREE, allowing you to level in two directions at right angles to each other, making the task far easier. Still, it is nice to see a company finally making the effort to provide a levelling feature.

The GOTO system with built in GPS works very well. Advertised pointing accurcy of 1 arc minute is a bit over-enthusiastic, but I would say this mount achieves 5 arc minute accuracy 100% of the time, which is quite good. If you level the mount accurately, the one star alignment works fine.

The GOTONOVA system has the advantage of a large display showing many lines of data at once. However, functionally it is not nearly as elegant as Celestron or Meade's on mounts of comparable price and quality. A lot of button pushing is required to go deep into the menu, with no "shortcut keys" available on the handpad.

The ASCOM driver for this sytem works OK with SkyMap Pro, but I have not been able to use it with ACP Observatory control software. I found some workarounds using the Astro-Physics ASCOM driver, which appears to have been cloned for the GOTONOVA system. Hopefully the driver will be revised in future.

Maximum slew rate is about 3.8 degrees per second, which, sadly, is becoming the standard for these types of mounts. I really miss the 6 degrees per second of the old Nexstar single arm mounts. A slew of 180 degrees in azimuth tries my patience somewhat, especially when there is no good reason for not making a faster speed available.

Balance in altitude is somewhat critical. I got an error message stating that the motor was "over current" with my telescope slightly off balance. Balance in azimuth does not appear to be nearly as critical. This may be an issue when switching eyepieces with heavy Naglers and very light short focus eyepieces on a refractor (or switching to a binoviewer).

While this mount works well as a GOTO system, the real tragedy of this design is that it COULD work equally well as a manual "just push it around" alt-azimuth, like the Stellarvue M7, but the encoders appear to be integral to the motors, so when you loosen the clutches and push alignment is lost. If the encoders were separated from the gears, this would be a nearly ideal digital setting circle manual mount at a bargain price. One of the great joys of visual observing for me is to sweep through the Milky Way, "discovering" objects visually, THEN looking them up. A simple glance to the computer screen with a planetarium software connected to a mount with digital setting circles is a great technological advance that, unfortunately, is not available with this mount UNLESS you use the motors only.

In summary, this mount represents a big step forward in a mass produced instrument, but is not perfect. Mechanically, though, for the price it is built like a brick outhouse.

#34 jimudon2

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Posted 21 November 2008 - 12:15 PM

Have you used binoviewers with it? I am trying to determine would this give me more stability than my nexstar 8se single arm mount? Your thoughts?

#35 tony_spina

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Posted 04 June 2009 - 06:27 PM

Thanks Jeff for your detail explanation. It now works for me

#36 mikester

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Posted 02 December 2009 - 10:24 AM

Purchased a mini-Tower from ADORAMA two weeks ago. Second time out using batteries it blew a fuse. Spoke with Steve Forbes today who was super supportive and said they would take care of the repairs/exchange at their cost. I intend to use it with my Vixen VMC 200L. It's nice to know that the folks at i-OPTRON are consumer concerned and vested in helping out folks who happend to get a lemmon.

Mike Anderer
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pulkovo123@yahoo.com :)

#37 Bob S.

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Posted 02 December 2009 - 11:39 AM

Mike, Good to hear that Steve Forbes is helping you out. He is very knowledgeable about MiniTowers. I am getting an almost new MiniTower that has Steve's Timken bearing upgrade. It should be very accurate and better yet, very smooth. He rescued a faulty MiniTower of a friend while visiting Florida for a starparty and Steve drove up from South Florida where he was visiting family and repaired my friend's mount that night! Can't get much better service than that<g>. Bob

#38 Ken Ross

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Posted 31 December 2009 - 01:56 PM

Guys, I'm a bit confused regarding using the iOptron Mini Tower in an imaging setup. Although I'm not currently doing any imaging, I was wondering why iOptron has stated this unit is not satisfactory for long exposure astrophotography.

Maybe it's my 'newbie' status in this area, but I would think if the GoTo is accurate and tracks the selected object well, why would it not be suitable for imaging? Is is accuracy or load capacity?

#39 Starman1

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Posted 31 December 2009 - 02:40 PM

The mini-tower is an alt-azimuth mount. Any imaging done with an alt-azimuth mount shows image rotation in shots longer than about 1 minute.
You could composite a dozen 1 minute shots to give a deep-sky shot, but in general alt-azimuth mounts are not used for astrophotography.
And so far, there is no wedge to convert the mount to an equatorial mount.

#40 Ken Ross

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Posted 31 December 2009 - 04:53 PM

Thanks Don, makes sense. Seems like a really nice mount other than for imaging.

#41 pmesquita

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Posted 22 January 2010 - 07:35 AM

Jeff, I appreciate your comments, and description of the GPS operation.

I received my MiniTower just the other day and had it out last night under perfectly clear skies here in West Palm Beach for nearly 11 hours. I had an observation plan, comparing a few cameras and wanted to use the iOptron's MiniTower first light with an older C8 - it is 25 years old.

However, I was never able to get the GPS to lock in. It showed "On" but never switched to "Ok".

I believe I set the hand controller up correctly. I did it about five times. I had another GPS running in the drive, connected to a KIWI OSD time insertion device that I use for location and time stamping video recorded occultations.

I wonder if the two could have interfered with each other? They were only five feet apart.

I love the size of the mount. It appears well made. I did use it to move a small refractor, Astro-Tech 66 mm APO, around the sky. But without the GPS lock (Ok), I was never able to use the tracking and GOTO features.

I will next try it with nothing else electrical turned on. Wish me luck.

Terry - W6LMJ


Hi

I'm planning on trading my Vixen Sphinx SXW EQ mount (the only EQ mount I like) for the NEW Mini Tower PRO that just came out. In the meantime I had a Cube G with me for a couple of days before a friend bought it from me. Anyway, this to say that with the GPS on the cube I had the same problem. GPS ON showed up but after 5 minutes the GPS OK message didn't show up yet. So I just punched in the Lat/long coordinates...and the GPS seemed to wake up and went on to GPS OK!!! It worked perfectly after that.

cheers.

#42 MikeM6

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Posted 01 October 2010 - 06:34 PM

I have an old Orion Astroview 90mm refractor and have been thinking about buying one of these. The gps would be nice, because I'm not a big fan of equitorial mounts. I'm not sure the Orion rings would work with this, but I intend to find out.

#43 Wes James

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Posted 02 October 2010 - 07:21 AM

Mike-
The iOptron M/T accepts a regular Vixen-style dovetail. It'd handle your 90mm without breaking a sweat.

#44 MikeM6

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Posted 02 October 2010 - 09:21 AM

Cool! Then I could buy a 6" Mak OTA for the other side. I like the idea of GPS, so the mount knows when and where it is - relative to my location. Is there any tweaking involved?

#45 Wes James

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Posted 02 October 2010 - 10:18 AM

Mike-
There's 2 MiniTowers... the Standard- and the Pro. The tripod on the standard is its achilles heel... it's flimsy, especially if you want to put a 2nd scope on the other side. The Pro tripod sells seperately for $150.00, and is a great investment if you go with the standard. Then there is the version turbocharged by Steve Forbes. I have one, (on a Berlebach tripod) and its superb. Others also very happy with theirs on the pro tripod. Steve uses his on an Atlas tripod. Requires a bit of a mod (milling off the leg brackets) to attach to other tripods other than the Pro.
Then there is the Pro. Comes with the good tripod, but there still remains a few software issues with it. Steve is also doing a turbo version of that.
If you're interested in a MiniTower, I would recommend you join the Yahoo iOptron Mini Tower group- Mini_Tower. You can read about the problems that people have had, solutions, and about those who are very happy with their mods. Probably the best mount is the standard, turbocharged by Steve, on the Pro tripod. Not an inexpensive setup, but worth it.
edit: BTW, I have the iOptron 152 Mak- a superb scope... I had it on the M/T with my 100mm f/13 Carton one night- would have definitely been an overload on the standard tripod.
The reasons I recommend Steve's going through the mount and his upgrades, is that besides lapping the gears, improved, very high quality bearings, he knows all the tweaks and problem areas. He runs the mounts for hours, targeting about 20 different objects- to ensure the mount performs as it should, and so when you get it, you have a much better shot at a great mount than you do with iOptron's sometimes-iffy Q/A.
Wes

#46 Ira

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Posted 02 October 2010 - 08:03 PM

Does anyone have experience using the MiniTower/Pro for public star parties, outreach, group instruction, etc.? I am thinking of using one with a C8 and WO 80 apo mounted in tandem. Any thoughts on that?

Also, I see no one seems to have had the same problems (except with loose GPS connections) that John Cameron did with his rather unfavorable review of the mount here on Cloudy Nights. Did he just have a lemon?

Thanks,
Ira






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