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iOptron SmartStar/Cube Revisited

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#1 PAW

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Posted 13 September 2009 - 05:35 PM

I have been considering picking up an iOptron Smartstar G (with GPS). I know the iOptron's received mixed reviews particularly when they first came to market - but that was a year or more ago. Maybe the bugs have been worked out?

I found this video on YouTube that some might find interesting - it seems the Cube can hold 11 lbs.

http://www.youtube.c...h?v=_in7SqLaGTg

I also looked at the Orion GoTO A-A but that mount only has a 9lb. capacity.

#2 bobfowler

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Posted 13 September 2009 - 10:02 PM

I (occasionally) use an iOptron Cube E with my SV66ED. While it works OK with that scope, it's nothing to write home about. I wouldn't put much more weight than that on it, or a longer OTA.

#3 PAW

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Posted 13 September 2009 - 11:36 PM

The Cube seems really appealing (portable, etc...) - I wanted to use it with my 80mm refractor and 127mm Mak.

In the youtube video the Cube seems to handle the Mak and ST80 with no problems at all.

#4 PAW

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Posted 16 September 2009 - 09:05 PM

Anyone have experience with the CubePro?

#5 pawinemaker

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Posted 16 September 2009 - 09:50 PM

I have a CubePro with an Astro Telescopes f7 102mm refractor and a 4.5" Starblast reflector. Until recently, I had trouble with jumping/slewing, similar to problems reported by people who have the mini tower. A firmware upgrade seems to have corrected the problem, but it also changed the menu flow for lining up and syncing to a target.

Some people complain about the bubble on the tripod not being level. Maybe I just got lucky, or maybe they improved their quality. I didn't even bother to use the bubble level at first, I just grabbed a carpenter's level and after a few nights I noticed that the bubble level matched.

The CubePro has a knob that you tighten to keep the altitude from slipping. I turned mine by hand as hard as I could, and it still slipped. I sent email to iOptron, and they got back to me in a few hours and said that there is a teflon washer in there that is used as a sort of clutch to prevent damage to the gears in case too much weight is present, and that it was impossible to overtighten. They even included a photo of a jar wrench as a suggested tool for tightening the altitude knob. When I looked at my teflon washer, it had some grease on it. I took it off with a q-tip, and then I just used a rubber pad to help my grip and cranked on it as hard as I could. It has not been a problem since.

The 102mm astro telescopes is a bit too long for the mount when the focuser is out. I moved the rings a bit on the tube to make it less of a problem, but it is still a problem.

The plastic knob on the bolt for the dovetail has started to slip a little on mine, probably from me turning it too tight, but this is an easy fix.

The firmware has a setup routine for an equatorial mount, and it would be interesting to see if it would work if you had a wedge. I've turned on the setting, and it seems to function correctly, although I've not tested it out with a real scope and a wedge. It also comes with a counterweight shaft (to go where the altitude knob goes), and a counterweight, so obviously someone in the design department was thinking equatorial mount at some point. Too bad there's not a cheap wedge for this :).

I was not able to get the controller to work with the stellarium goto mod, but that might be just user error. It works ok with Cartes Du Ciel, but there is at least one way to get the mount pointing in the wrong direction (clicking sync target after a goto, before clicking update scope location). Of course, this too might be user error.

I just put a Starblast 4.5 OTA on it, and this combination is a lot more stable than the 102mm refractor, probably a combination of shorter tube and less than half the weight. The 102mm weighs around 8 lbs. The tripod seems stable enough, and vibrations tend to dampen within a second or two. With a high power eyepiece and a barlow, it is a bit more noticeable. I don't see any vibrations at all with the Starblast.

I have not done a 2 star align since the firmware upgrade, but when the mount is level, the gotos seem to be pretty good. There are times when I don't have a good eastern star to align to, and I've gotten into the lazy habit of just star hopping to the targets. I'll do a goto Alpheratz or Schedar and sync, and then goto M31 as an example, and it's usually right on.

The goto menu seems a bit clunky at times. There are a lot of key presses to get to a single item. There's no way to do a quick alpha search, so I'm getting to the point where I know all the numbers of my favorite stars. The named star list is around 190, so having to scroll through them one at a time would be painful. But it's not hard to use. Once I've got some close alignment stars done, I put my 8 year old in charge, and let him punch up his favorite Messier objects, and he lines them up and syncs the targets.

I bought a cheap plucked foam case for it, and didn't do a good job in selecting where to put things, but it works for now. The tripod does not fit in that case. There is a case from iOptron that looks like it also holds the tripod and the mount.

The power plugs into the part that rotates in azimuth, so you have to be careful about not getting all wrapped up. The firmware does not seem to pay attention to this, and you can easily work up a set of goto targets that wraps the plug up nice and tight. It came with both a 12v DC auto adapter and an AC adapter, which was nice. It has a battery pack, which is for 8 AA batteries. I've never used the batteries, and I can't imagine that AA batteries would last very long at all, although it might be handy to save the alignment if you trip on the power cord or if you wrap it enough to pop it loose.

Overall, I like the mount. I got it $100 off list on clearance, and at that price, I'm not sure there is anything else that is as small or as quick to setup. I picked the CubePro over the SmartStar A/E models mostly because of the higher weight rating, and the minitower was just way more than I wanted to spend on a non eq mount.

Roland

#6 94bamf

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Posted 16 September 2009 - 10:19 PM

I have this mount also, pawinemaker, man you covered it all. On mine the bubble level was off. I run a 80mm Onyx refractor on mine every once in awhile. This scope seems to be at the limit of what this mount can hold. The stock tripod is way to short. Just the extra weight of heavier eyepieces seem to throw the goto accuracy off a bit..

Overall I seriously doubt I would ever recomend this mount to anybody. On the other hand I don't think there is anything else out there for this price that does Goto..

Ken

#7 chboss

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Posted 17 September 2009 - 06:25 AM

I second Bob's view.
The original cube holds only small and short telescope, it is just not stable enough. The controller works well with the latest firmware.

If you really want one get the newer Pro version.

Cheers
Chris

#8 PAW

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Posted 17 September 2009 - 10:47 PM

I also considered the Orion Teletrack, I ended up calling Orion to get more info and they steered me to the iOptron.

I would like to at least be able to mount the following:

6" Newt Reflector
102mm APO Refractor
127mm Mak

It sounds like the CubePro will handle these OTA's

#9 pawinemaker

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Posted 18 September 2009 - 08:10 AM

Might want to check the length on the first two, if the newt is long, it might hit the tripod. My 102mm f/7 also hits the tripod if the focuser is out at all at the park position.

#10 PAW

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Posted 18 September 2009 - 04:59 PM

I think I may have learned a valuable lesson here - the classic you can't have your cake and eat it to.

I wanted a stable portable goto mount that would handle most of my OTA's the smallest of which is a 80mm Refractor up to a 6" Newt.

It's just a matter of physics I guess, you simply need mass (among other things) and size for a mount to really work well. And generally a good GT mount just can't be ultra portable.

In some ways, what good is a GT mount that can only handle a 66mm Refractor - that really isn't enough aperture to really even justify a GT mount IMO.

Am I wrong here?






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