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iOptron MiniTower Mini Review.

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#1 ragebot

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Posted 13 February 2009 - 05:30 PM

I have only had my MiniTower for a short while so there are several things a normal review would address that I simply can not comment on; especially topics about durability.

Never the less I hope this review will help others assess this rather new mount.

First off the mount itself comes in a nice padded metal case that can be locked. As with many newer products the manual is on a mini CD instead of a small printed manual. I was pleased that the mount could run on AA batteries, off a 12v cigarette lighter, or the included 120v system included in the case. The tripod was in a separate cardboard box.

It was fairly straight forward to attach the mount to the tripod. I then plugged in the power supply and tested basic scope functionality, and could not find any obvious problems.

Because I have several other OTAs and mounts my reasons for getting the iOptron were rather specialized. I am a solar observer and have two HA OTAs, a CaK OTA, and several OTAs I can use white light filters on. My idea was to attach a ED80 with DS SM40 HA filters on one side and a Lunt 60 CaK on the other side so I could easily observe the sun in two different wave lengths.

Keep in mind most solar observers use rather small and light OTAs compared to night time observers, in my case a 600mm ED80 and 500mm Lunt 60mm CaK.

Both of my OTAs were well within the weight limit of this mount and were easily mounted. My first test was with the DS SM40 ED80 alone. Because the manual was on a CD I ignored it and tried to set it up by the seat of my pants.

It is a little confusing to try and align an OTA in daylight by turning the mount so the arrow on it points South, especially if you are use to a GEM with a polar finder. Never the less I pointed the arrow South, turned it on, and stumbled thru the menu system and set up the sun as a user defined object and synced to it.

Despite my best effort to screw things up this thing tracked like a dream. And despite clouds and tree limbs I was able to see proms and solar structure.

I finally read the manual; to make a long story short there is a much easier way to do things. I have now started using slew to park and park and putting the tripod in close to the same place on my porch. Not to mention following the manuals directions about tracking the sun.

Bottom line I now store the assembled tripod and mount with two OTAs attached close to patio door. I can open the door, carry the whole mess outside, plug it in, select slew to object, select sun and in 30 seconds the sun is in the FOV. When I am finished I slew to park, park the scope, turn it off and carry the mess back inside. It works for me.

Keep in mind I also have an Atlas mount for my Newt and 5in refractor. No question the Atlas is more stable and probably tracks better for long exposure photography. I have not tired it yet but Ill bet I could pick up the iOptron and my small OTAs with one hand; try that with an Atlas.

Overall my first impressions of the iOptron MiniTower are very positive. I have also used it at an outreach event with my ED80 for lunar observing. Setting up at a local park with less than perfect point the arrow to South and no leveling I was easily able to track the moon, slew to M42 with a 40mm EP, and slew back to the moon with no problems.

I still need to test this mount for harder to find objects; but for me the iOptron is a keeper. :jump:

#2 JimP

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Posted 13 February 2009 - 06:10 PM

Very interesting. I just received a Coronado Solarmax 90 ds and decided to use my (until this point unused) MiniTower to hold the scope. Although it is only 90mm aperture the OTA is heavy weighing just over 20 lbs. As I awaited the arival of the scope I e-mailed Stephen Forbes, from whom I had purchased the Ioptron and asked him how to align the Sun (being too lazy to read the manual for myself!). He e-mailed back simple, straightforward instructions. The scope arrived and although the sky was mostly cloudy I decided to give it a try. Everything worked well, very well in fact. The mount had no trouble handling the Coronado Solarmax 90 and the hand held controller let me vary the slewing speed to that which worked best for me (16X). I am VERY pleased with my Ioptron mount. It is perfect for my solar observing. Very easy to set up and take down and it works as it is supposed to! I have not done any imaging up to this point as I want to conncentrate on visual observing first, so I cannot say if it will work well for that but, I believe it probably will work just fine. Great review and I agree with your assesment completely.

best,

JimP

#3 Mogster

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Posted 14 February 2009 - 06:02 AM

Thanks for the review, quite tempted ;)

#4 Telescopeman54

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Posted 14 February 2009 - 10:03 AM

I am glad to hear that everyone is happy with their Mini Tower. It is indeed a great mount for a fair price. You can see some great AP work that was done by John Bozeman. It is posted on our BLOG. So far, only DSOs. How about if you Solar guys get crackin' and show us some nice images of the Sun? LOL

Again, thank you for the reports and clear skies.

Steve

#5 ragebot

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Posted 14 February 2009 - 01:14 PM

I am glad to hear that everyone is happy with their Mini Tower. It is indeed a great mount for a fair price. You can see some great AP work that was done by John Bozeman. It is posted on our BLOG. So far, only DSOs. How about if you Solar guys get crackin' and show us some nice images of the Sun? LOL

Again, thank you for the reports and clear skies.

Steve


Part of the problem with solar imaging is that we are in a solar minimum. DSOs are always up there, and there is a yearly DSO season we are getting into. But the current lack of sun spots and general solar activity has not been seen since the 1930s.

Here is the NASA link including a pix of a blank sun.

#6 marktownley

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Posted 15 February 2009 - 04:57 AM

Great review Ragebot! My HEQ6 is definitely too big to properly fit into our Mazda MX5 when we're holiday-ing in the UK (Well, if I want to take things like clothes etc with us too) - however this is a different proposition. The only dilemma I have now is do I go for this or the Astrotrac mount?

#7 BobH

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Posted 15 February 2009 - 07:23 AM

Thanks for the review.

I've been thinking about getting one, so this was helpful.

Only problem is, now you've got me interested in solar observing which probably means ANOTHER scope :foreheadslap:

#8 jasonj998

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Posted 15 February 2009 - 10:33 AM

Nice review, very helpful, thanks!
One question. Since the tracking path is not linear, and when the scope is pointing near the zenith (noon), will tracking become a problem due to the singularity? Have you ever observed any strange behavior when the scope passing through the zenith? the Minitower or other mounts?
Jason

#9 ragebot

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Posted 15 February 2009 - 12:04 PM

Nice review, very helpful, thanks!
One question. Since the tracking path is not linear, and when the scope is pointing near the zenith (noon), will tracking become a problem due to the singularity? Have you ever observed any strange behavior when the scope passing through the zenith? the Minitower or other mounts?
Jason


Hi Jason,

In the OP I noted that I have only had this mount for a short time and that was the reason for a mini review instead of a full review.

That said I can comment on previous experience with both the sun and the moon. Unless you are on the equator these objects don't really reach true zenith; and at this time of year they are much lower in the sky. Also keep in mind that most solar observers tend to favor viewing the sun early in the day, to a great extent because seeing tends to get worse as the atmosphere warms up and the air becomes more unstable. If you check out the solar forum there is currently a thread about turbulence.

I have viewed some objects very close to the zenith; seems like both Jupiter and Saturn are the ones I remember and it has always been more of a problem with a GEM than an AA mount.

Still your question is a good one and I will definitely check out how this mount performs when viewing objects close to the zenith.

#10 jasonj998

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Posted 15 February 2009 - 04:50 PM

Thanks, Ragebot!
I am personally wondering whether it is doable due to the mathematical singularity.

#11 Telescopeman54

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Posted 15 February 2009 - 10:29 PM

I have had no problems with targeting or tracking anywhere near the zenith with my Mini Towers.

Steve

#12 Bob Moore

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Posted 15 February 2009 - 10:32 PM

My daughter Caroline just got a Mini Tower from iOptron, and tonight she got the first chance to use it. We set it up on the back deck with the AT 80mm ED & a AT 66mm ED side by side. Set up was fast, from the time she opened the door to go out to the deck till we had the first target was less then 4 min.. she did what iOptron calls "easy alignment " we used a 18mm 50deg. ProOptic EP and Venus as the alignment target. I changed to a 12.5mm 50deg. and started to move the scope's to targets, after about 20 objects (all were in the FoV if not dead center of then 80mm ,so we switched to a 3mm 50deg. EP and started going for stars. We hit 15 or so stars and again they were all in the FoV so now it's sitting on Mizar for a 2-3 hr tracking test after 45min's it has not moved ... I think I like this mount.

For full disclosure, Caroline is iOptron's Young Astronomer of the Year for the IYA 2009 for her discovery of supernova SN2008ha ( Caroline is 14 )

Bob

#13 Telescopeman54

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Posted 15 February 2009 - 10:38 PM

Bob:

Congratulations to you and your daughter. She has proven that the younger folks can still be interested in astronomy and that they can be of significant value to the science.

I am happy to hear that you are enjoying the Mini Tower, too. Now you know why I am so thrilled with mine!

CS

Steve

#14 Bob Moore

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Posted 15 February 2009 - 10:55 PM

Hi Steve, Thanks, i'll pass your good wishes on to Caroline, Now all we need is a maxi Tower to support her 10' F4.5 Newt ... LOL. If you want to read about her discovery here's a link SN2008ha

BOb

#15 Telescopeman54

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Posted 16 February 2009 - 08:41 AM

Bob:

Don't think that we have not discussed such and item!! So far, it's only a concept, a joke, or both.

That is a nice article. I am very impressed by Caroline's dedication. She is a shining example of what can be accomplished when you believe!

CS

Steve

#16 jasonj998

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Posted 16 February 2009 - 11:51 AM

Bob, you have a wonderful daughter! Congratulations to you and Caroline! And thanks for sharing with us your review.
Jason

#17 Astrobuddy

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Posted 16 February 2009 - 08:44 PM

Very nice review. I can add on the durability; I have been using the tower for a few months flawlessly. Very durable. :jump:

#18 pearlstar

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Posted 18 February 2009 - 09:37 AM

I am an astronomical novice; never touched telescope before I bought the IOPTRON Minitower for my husband as Christmas present last year. Now I am familiar using the telescope system for stargazing, because of the easiness of Minitower and my husband’s encouragement. Best of all, IOPTRON tech support is always friendly whenever and whatever question you ask, they give you reply and solution almost right away. This also spoiled me too asking every tiny or obvious question.

#19 johnpd

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Posted 19 February 2009 - 05:39 AM

My only issue with the MiniTower is trying to level it. I find it difficult to level, especially if you have a decent size scope on it. I am using the mount basically for solar viewing and mount a Vixen ED103 with a H-alpha filter. The filter is heavy, but I think the combination is within the mount's capacity. Once you level without the scope, then add the scope or tighten the tripod connecting rod, the level changes and I go crazy trying to re-level it. I will keep trying.

#20 ragebot

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Posted 19 February 2009 - 10:32 AM

My only issue with the MiniTower is trying to level it. I find it difficult to level, especially if you have a decent size scope on it. I am using the mount basically for solar viewing and mount a Vixen ED103 with a H-alpha filter. The filter is heavy, but I think the combination is within the mount's capacity. Once you level without the scope, then add the scope or tighten the tripod connecting rod, the level changes and I go crazy trying to re-level it. I will keep trying.


Wow, your post forced me to go back and read the manual and I discovered I had been doing things wrong. I put the mount together and put my scopes on it, a DS SM40 HA filter system on a ED80 and a Lunt 60 CaK. Then I take it outside and once it is on the patio and the arrow is pointing South I try and level it; I never did any leveling before that.

You did not mention putting the counter weight on; or if you adjusted the counter weight. That might a start to make leveling easier.

#21 Dr Benway

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Posted 19 February 2009 - 01:40 PM

I think there must be an art to leveling the Mini Tower. I start by running the leveling screws out about 3/8". I loosen the big mount bolt and level it. I keep adjusting the leveling screws as I tighten the mounting bolt. Next, I add my telescope and counterweight. Back the mounting bolt off slightly and go through the same motions again. Usually this works pretty well, unless I am trying to do this in the dark, cold, or after a few drinks. Sometimes I have just shortened legs to get level in the above-mentioned conditions.

John

#22 ragebot

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Posted 19 February 2009 - 03:18 PM

One note on leveling.

I have a concrete patio that I am leveling my mount on. When I go to an outreach event I always try and find a sidewalk or like base to put my tripod and mount on. At my clubs dark site I also look for one of the poured concrete slabs to put my stuff on.

At times when I am forced to set up on grass, dirt, or other surfaces issues about leveling are more pronounced.

Maybe it is just my history; but I have always had a much harder time leveling my Atlas than my iOptron.

#23 therocksal

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Posted 19 February 2009 - 07:16 PM

Thinking about bagging the CGEM till next year and getting one of these for pure visual.

I know it's been said that a 9.25 works on this mount...does it work WELL...or is there strain on the motors..don't want to ruin my new mount. I could get a C8 instead but I really want that 9.25.

Thanks...James.

#24 Fred1

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Posted 19 February 2009 - 10:17 PM

There are 2 magazine reviews I've found on the MiniTower. One by Dennis Di Cicco in S&T 12/08 issue and another by none other than Tom Trusock in the 2/09 issue of Astronomy. DiCicco noticed a jiggle in the image at magnifications of 100x in certain parts of the sky as if a bit of turbulance had passed. Trusock notices settle down times of more than 5 seconds after rapping slightly on the scope (a 20 lb load). Any owners have similar experiences?

#25 jasonj998

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Posted 19 February 2009 - 10:55 PM

I am one of the first group minitower users. Quite a few people reported the same jiggling problem as Dennis observed at that time. iOptron released a firmware upgrade late of last summer and then the problem was solved. As of the damping time, 5 seconds was high. Mine was about 2 sec for 21 lbs with proper CW, balance rules.






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