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Grab and Go Mount - Really

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#1 kohudson

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Posted 14 May 2010 - 10:05 AM

Hi all,

I'm interested in getting a grab-and-go mount for imaging. I don't want to spend a huge amount of money - let's say $2000 or less. I've seen people ask about mounts in this category (e.g., the Sirius or GM 8) and people always recommend they consider the "next one up" (e.g., Atlas or G-11) because "it's not that much more money". And that's fine and appropriate if you're using the mount in your backyard. However, if you want something to take out to dark sites on the weekend, etc you don't necessarily want that much weight. At least I don't. So - what do you think would be the "best" true grab-n-go mount for less than $2000? (I'm not expecting something that competes with $5000 mounts - just something that competes well in this category.) I'm kind of leaning towards the Vixen SXW but I'm open minded at this point.

Thanks, Ken

#2 skybsd

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Posted 14 May 2010 - 12:54 PM

Hello,
Although I am a visual-only observer, I can advise you that most of the folks that do take photos will want to get an idea as to the payload weight and FL you wish to use on any prospective options they may wish to put forward.

Best of luck!

Regards,

skybsd

#3 John Noble

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Posted 14 May 2010 - 01:12 PM

Super grab'n'go: Vixen SP/GP/GP2 with polar scope and a MT-1 RA drive/DD-1 controller on a HAL-130 tripod. Guide with an OAG (by eyeball/hand or autoguider). I've seen some very nice images taken with a setup like this.

#4 kohudson

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Posted 14 May 2010 - 09:15 PM

Hello,
Although I am a visual-only observer, I can advise you that most of the folks that do take photos will want to get an idea as to the payload weight and FL you wish to use on any prospective options they may wish to put forward.

Best of luck!

Regards,

skybsd


Well at first just the Stellarvue 80mm. Later on I might want something bigger but I would resist the temptation to go very big in the interest of having a smaller, easier to manage mount.

Thanks

#5 Samir Kharusi

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Posted 14 May 2010 - 09:42 PM

Autoguiding or not? IMHO once one includes autoguiding one has committed a 100kg in luggage. Not grab and go. So, to me grab and go implies subs short enough for unguided imaging. That means a fast focal ratio OTA. On the camera side one would go for a DSLR. Now we can finally talk grab and go. You can then do decent imaging well out in the boonies with your TOTAL luggage, camera, OTA(camera lens), mount, tripod, batteries under 15kg. You can also take the whole lot in an airline cabin bag. I review the Kenko Skymemo here.

And a sample image from the < 15kg package:
Posted Image

#6 RodgerHouTex

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Posted 15 May 2010 - 08:20 AM

I would recommend a Losmandy GM-8. It can be easily carried around and tracks very well.

#7 kohudson

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Posted 15 May 2010 - 01:35 PM

Autoguiding or not? IMHO once one includes autoguiding one has committed a 100kg in luggage. Not grab and go. So, to me grab and go implies subs short enough for unguided imaging. That means a fast focal ratio OTA. On the camera side one would go for a DSLR. Now we can finally talk grab and go. You can then do decent imaging well out in the boonies with your TOTAL luggage, camera, OTA(camera lens), mount, tripod, batteries under 15kg. You can also take the whole lot in an airline cabin bag. I review the Kenko Skymemo here.

And a sample image from the < 15kg package:
Posted Image


Yes to all - I'm thinking unguided and a DSLR. My home setup can/will be more elaborate and extensive. I'm just looking for a good setup for star parties, etc. Thank you!

#8 kohudson

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Posted 16 May 2010 - 01:06 PM

I would recommend a Losmandy GM-8. It can be easily carried around and tracks very well.


Thank you for the suggestion. Unfortunately, it exceeds my budget ($2000) by quite a bit. It does look like a great mount, though...

Thanks

#9 GShaffer

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Posted 16 May 2010 - 02:17 PM

Actually its $500 less than your budget....Unless you are adding the Gemini goto which definately isnt neccesary.

If you arent locked into brand new and still want goto then GM8's with Gemini and all or most of the good upgrades regularly sell for well under $2000. There is one on AM right now offered at $1800.

#10 kohudson

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Posted 16 May 2010 - 03:21 PM

Actually its $500 less than your budget....Unless you are adding the Gemini goto which definately isnt neccesary.

If you arent locked into brand new and still want goto then GM8's with Gemini and all or most of the good upgrades regularly sell for well under $2000. There is one on AM right now offered at $1800.


Well, I was thinking that I wanted the Gemini. Thanks for the referral to AM and the used mount, though. I'll definitely check it out.

Thanks

#11 Patrick

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Posted 16 May 2010 - 09:08 PM

Super grab'n'go: Vixen SP/GP/GP2 with polar scope and a MT-1 RA drive/DD-1 controller on a HAL-130 tripod.



I'll second this setup. My GP2 has an average PE of about +/- 7 arc seconds. That's good enough for at least a 300mm focal length OTA unguided for 60-90 seconds...depending on the f/ratio of the OTA of course, and the pixel size of the camera. Smaller pixels put more demand on the mount's tracking.

Patrick

#12 dvb

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Posted 16 May 2010 - 09:51 PM

For GrabNGo, try the EQ5 Pro (CG5), with an appropriate scope, like an ED80 (i.e., light, short). And, take short exposures and stack them.

I also have an EQ6/ Atlas, but I'm very impressed with the EQ5 Pro.

No, I haven't tried imaging with set up yet (just go it), but I intend to.
These mounts are sold with C9.25 and C11 mounts for visual use. While I would recommend imaging on it with a C11, and ED80 should be fine.

#13 Samir Kharusi

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Posted 16 May 2010 - 11:03 PM

For GrabNGo, try the EQ5 Pro (CG5), with an appropriate scope, like an ED80 (i.e., light, short). And, take short exposures and stack them.

Just a word of warning. We need portability for imaging in the beautifully dark boonies. For good stacking efficiency your subs need to be considerably longer than in light-polluted suburbia. Plan for a minimum of 1 minute at f2.8, 2 minutes at f4, 4 minutes at f5.6, 8 minutes at f8, etc. Otherwise the improvement that you end up with will not be commensurate with what would otherwise be possible at that pristinely dark site. In brief, short subs require a fast OTA. Period. IMHO camera lenses is the way to go, if you can otherwise justify them (daytime birding? :roflmao:). If looking at a premium astro APO and portable use in the boonies then look at the mirror scopes with very fast focal ratios e.g. Tak 180ED - 500mm focal length at f2.8 - 1minute subs, or C11 Hyperstar - 560mm focal length at f2.0 - 30sec subs. Unfortunately such scopes do not go with a tiny grab-and-go mount. I am not aware of any semiAPO refractors that are anywhere fast enough, consequently one ends up with camera lenses as the perfect grab-and-go tools. Excellent, still reasonably-priced OTAs guaranteeing relaxed imaging and facilitating superb results would be the Canon 300mm/4.0 (2minute subs), Canon 200mm/2.8(1minute subs), etc. More on minimal sub-lengths and focal ratios here. Camera lenses are absolute bargains when it comes to unguided imaging. IMHO autoguiding is definitely a No-no for GrabNGo away from mains power. Choose the focal ratio wisely.

#14 kohudson

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Posted 17 May 2010 - 09:28 AM

Patrick - Thanks for the suggestion. The Vixen mounts are tempting as I mentioned in my original post. Although, I was looking at the SXW - not the GP2. Maybe I should rethink that and look at the GP2 more closely. I could probably save some money.

dvb - The CG5 does seem like a true option. People generally speak highly of it except for the noise. I'll admit the coffee grinder noise does turn me off some - I don't want to annoy sleeping neighbors at star parties. The price is right though and people seem to like them.

Samir - Thanks for the word of warning. Thanks also for the suggestion of camera lenses. You don't often see people making that recommendation. Why is that? Your suggestion is definitely worth considering although I already have a scope I'd like to use (the SV80S).

Thanks!

#15 kohudson

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Posted 17 May 2010 - 11:37 AM

After giving this some more thought, I think I'm going to buy a Sirius (HEQ5-Pro) mount. It's the right price, seems to be very popular with its' owners, comes from a company with good customer service, I can use EQMOD down the road if I want, etc. I'm sure the other options would have been good ones, too. Let's face it - everything has pros and cons and nothing is perfect.

I really appreciate everyone's help - Cloudy Nights has GREAT members!!

FYI, I'm going to post a new thread asking about the wisdom (or lack thereof) of upgrading the tripod... Should be interesting! ;)

Thanks,

#16 dvb

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Posted 17 May 2010 - 12:39 PM

The Sirius is a great choice - I had an HEQ5 Pro before I sold it to get the EQ6/ Atlas - It was very sweet, and excellent for imaging (I used with the ED100 and ED80 scopes).

In fact, my reason for getting the EQ5-Pro was to get back to something like the HEQ5 - but I decided to take the extra jump and get something lighter.

BTW, my EQ5-Pro, altho it looks outwardly similar to the CG5, does not make the coffee-grinder noise. I makes a slighter louder whine when slewing in the RA than the HEQ5 and EQ6 Pros, but I don't find it objectionable. Maybe they've done something with the internals.

#17 Patrick

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Posted 17 May 2010 - 01:18 PM

Excellent, still reasonably-priced OTAs guaranteeing relaxed imaging and facilitating superb results would be the Canon 300mm/4.0 (2minute subs)




The AT66ED with 0.8x focal reducer comes out to 320mm f/l and f/4.8, not too bad and much less expensive than a Canon 300mm lense...poor man's version of the Canon lense, I guess. :smirk:

Patrick

#18 hfjacinto

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Posted 17 May 2010 - 03:32 PM

This is my grab and go set-up.

An LXD 75 mount, 80MM Eon, 7 AMP Hour Battery and 3 eyepieces. I can bring everything put and set-up in less than 3 minutes. I just started taking pictures, but moon shots come out very nice and I did M44 which came out pretty nice also. The LXD 75 is an inexpensive mount but once tightened it tracks pretty nice and 40sec to 1 minute unguided exposures are possible.

Note: Please disregard the 23MM Axiom EP, as that weighs as much as the whole set-up. The EP Grab and Go set includes a 15MM Axiom, 8.8 MM Meade UWA and 3.5 MM Nagler.

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#19 sctchun

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Posted 17 May 2010 - 03:39 PM

Hi Ken,

I use the Vixen SWX and I really like it. Especially since the design requires less CW than most other mounts due to the placement of the motors on the mount (they act like CW). With my Meade 80mm scope on it's original dovetail, all I need to do is to extend the CW shaft. With a vixen dovetail and rings plus guider and camera I only need the 4lb CW place all the way up the CW shaft.

I'm currently loading 23lbs of equipment using the 4lb and 1 8 lb CW and my images look pretty good. Here's an image I took 2 weeks ago of M51 (3 10 min subs guided on a 8" AT Newt w/ a Canon T1i)

Steven

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#20 Oldfield

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Posted 17 May 2010 - 07:13 PM

Go for Takahashi, their excellent polar scope will ease your effort about drift polar alignment for short exposure, this is important for short imaging session.

#21 doctordub

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Posted 18 May 2010 - 12:43 PM

I give another vote for the Vixen SXW. With a crossover LAN cable, a Netbook, a lumicon off axis guider And Phd for autoguiding you are set.
CS

#22 kohudson

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Posted 18 May 2010 - 01:08 PM

Hmmm... Well, this is interesting. Two votes for the Vixen SXW since I "decided" to buy the Sirius. I guess it's a good thing that I haven't actually ordered the Sirius yet! Steven and Jonathan - I appreciate your input. Like I said in the original post, I was leaning towards the Vixen and now you have me thinking about it again. I do like it - I just started getting a little concerned about the Starbook. There are definitely some concerns that have been raised in other threads. Since I haven't ordered anything I'm still open-minded, though. Steven, I thought your image was beautiful, by the way.

Oldfield, I appreciate your Takahashi suggestion but I think it's beyond my price point unless I can find one used for a steal...

hfjacinto - thanks for the LXD 75 suggestion, too.

I still think it's going go come down to the Sirius vs the SXW...

Thanks :) :)

#23 sctchun

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Posted 18 May 2010 - 01:23 PM

Hi Ken,

Thanks! A couple of things I would suggest you purchase if you do get the SXW is to get the Polar Alignment Scope and the StarBook screen filters. The PAS really helps you get setup a lot faster and the filters helps mitigate the Starbook brightness problem.

Steven

#24 doctordub

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Posted 18 May 2010 - 03:30 PM

I have had my Sphinx since 2004. i have used it with my TV102 and Meade 8" SCT. It is light, rigid and stable. I have imaged with it for 2min unguided when it is polar aligned. with the updated sofware I have not had any problems with it. The screen is a bit on the bright side, but mine came with two screen shields that I found useful.
CS

#25 Samir Kharusi

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Posted 18 May 2010 - 07:32 PM

Samir - Thanks for the word of warning. Thanks also for the suggestion of camera lenses. You don't often see people making that recommendation. Why is that? Your suggestion is definitely worth considering although I already have a scope I'd like to use (the SV80S).

Thanks!

I think we all start off with the old adages against camera lenses, but when I did head-to-head comparos between decent camera lenses and a couple of top-of-the-heap premium, top $ imaging APOs (not semi-APOs, but top $ TV imaging scopes) I was surprised at how well camera lenses did. I have the reviews on my website below. Anyway, a fairly absurd application of a camera lens is when one uses it with stacked tele-extenders, a 1.4x and a 2x. Believe it or not, this Venus Transit came through 29 (yes!!!) lens elements:
Posted Image
Larger version here.






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