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Imaging Mount: CGEM or Atlas?

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#1 RichNY

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Posted 11 March 2011 - 01:40 AM

I am looking for a mount that I will use for imaging with either a TV-101 or 8-9.25" SCT and could not find any reviews comparing these mounts.

What are the pros and cons of each? Is GPS an option with the Atlas? This will be my first equatorial and I'm not sure which way to go.

I thought the Losmandy was going to be my choice but I've had several people suggest going with something lighter and with a better system than the Gemini for my needs. Ease of use and setup, reliability, and stability are my main concerns- I'm open to spending more if it will give me a much better experience.

#2 BlueGrass

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Posted 11 March 2011 - 02:57 AM

Rich,
Your question is one that comes up often here and there is no definitive answer. Both mounts are pretty much equal but there are a few things each offer that may sway you.

The Atlas is an older design but has a better track record for reliability and is quieter overall.

The CGEM is a newer design and has had some quality control problems, mainly in binding or stiction in the RA or DEC axis.

The CGEM has better hand control software and with its All Star polar alignment routine allows you to get a fairly decent polar alignment.

The Atlas coupled with the EQMOD software package gives it enhanced capability not found in the shipped hand controller firmware.

Many folks have and use both mounts for visual and AP with neither a hands-down choice over the other. Many base their buying decision on what the current discounts are, free shipping, etc. or whether they're going to be mostly visual or mostly AP.

From my personal experience, if I had to decide on an Atlas or CGEM again, I'd purchase the Atlas. This is based on the problems I had with my CGEM and its axis problems. Other folks have had no problems with their CGEMs and while my experience was not unique, it should give you something to consider.

If your budget and payload needs are in the Atlas / CGEM price range, your choices seem to be basically these two mounts. Moving up to a G11 if you can absorb the cost may not really be out of the question. You get a better designed mount, a significant increase in payload and a mount that has a large user base and availability of spare parts.

Good luck with your decision. One thing you might want to do before making a decision is join some of the groups on Yahoo such as the EQMOD and CGEM groups. Lots of excellent info there.

#3 nemo129

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Posted 11 March 2011 - 09:51 AM

Hi Rich,
I can confirm everything George said regarding the CGEM, as my experience with axis stricture issues was very similar. Don't get me wrong, some folks get a completely problem free CGEM and are very happy campers and maybe Celestron is getting better at producing specimens with fewer issues, only time and experience will tell. They do have nice software and utilities which can make using a GEM much easier on someone new to that mount format. If you are going to go with that class mount, I agree with George and would probably go with the Atlas and use a laptop with EQMOD to control it. Most Atlas users agree that it is the best thing since sliced bread! I finally got sick of the issues and have recently purchased a G11 G with Gemini II (as yet not delivered). Yes there is no All Star Polar Alignment (ASPA), but the polar scope for the Losmandy mounts is reputed to be excellent and will get you really close, so drift aligning is much simpler. Even with ASPA on my CGEM, I found I still needed to drift align to do long exposure astrophotography, so I do not think I am losing much there. If you are just into lunar and planetary, it is not an issue at all. The G11 G is also twice the price, so the decision becomes tougher although I think long term it is a wiser investment if you can swing the extra money. I am sure you have a lot to consider and as George advised, you might want to join the appropriate Yahoo groups. I believe it is the EQ6 group for the Atlas, CGEM and the EQMOD group as well. There is a lot of info out there on the two mounts you are looking at so you can make a better informed decision.

Clear Skies!

#4 gdd

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Posted 11 March 2011 - 11:39 AM

I thought the Losmandy was going to be my choice but I've had several people suggest going with something lighter and with a better system than the Gemini for my needs. Ease of use and setup, reliability, and stability are my main concerns- I'm open to spending more if it will give me a much better experience.



Actually the G11 has the lightest head of the 3 mounts. The tripod weighs more but is supposed to be much more solid for imaging.

Gale

#5 dawziecat

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Posted 11 March 2011 - 12:28 PM

I came to this question about 8 months ago when the drive controller on my venerable C-11 fork went kaput.

I danced about and, after much reading here, saw there were many brickbats for the CGEM . . . poor QC and even worse service when things went wrong. The Atlas seems better in both regards, according to users here . . . not that I would know, but, holy moly, look at that flimsy altitude adjustment bolt!! Is that thing gonn'a bend under the weight of lifting a C-11 OTA and 40lbs of CWs when aligning or what? :mad: :mad:

I had no intention, none at all, in spending $3200 for a mount . . . but I am now cutting my teeth on a Losmondy G-11 with Gemini 2 and feel, for me, it was the right move. Mind the AP Mach 1 and even the AP900 still sing their siren song . . . luring me towards the financial rocks . . . but I have no regrets in not going the Atlas/CGEM route.

Best of luck with your choice, whatever it may be.

#6 RichNY

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Posted 11 March 2011 - 01:07 PM

I am appreciating everyone's comments and it is giving me lots to consider. This truly is an overwhelming hobby to get started enjoying at pretty much every step along the way.

#7 JadeSmith

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Posted 12 March 2011 - 11:11 AM

Hey Rich-

I would recommend using the search function here on CN. There are literally hundreds of pages of info on these mounts, and dozens of threads "CGEM or Atlas?".

There is no clear winner. Both are good mounts. Both have limitations.

:)

#8 Vindes

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Posted 12 March 2011 - 06:45 PM

I just recently (late February) finally got off the fence and went with the CGEM. It really seemed like a tossup to me after agonizing for months.

Only thing that pushed me to the CGEM was total cost. The Atlas is generally listed $100 lower than the CGEM but a) I was able to get the CGEM for $1199 and b) would have had to replace the Atlas vixen-style plate with a losmandy D style (which the CGEM has). So the CGEM ended up costing me a couple hundred less than the Atlas would have and that was enough to make my decision for me.

I'm happy with my CGEM so far, but haven't had much chance to use it. It's been rain, wind, and clouds since it arrived.

#9 groz

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Posted 14 March 2011 - 10:11 AM

not that I would know, but, holy moly, look at that flimsy altitude adjustment bolt!!


That was my thought too, we have an eq6 (atlas) and heq5 (sirius), both have the same bolt for altitude. Then we were at a star party, and somebody showed me the _correct_ way to adjust altitude, suddenly it wasn't an issue anymore.

The correct way is so simple when you think about it, to raise the altitude, first lift on the counterwieght bar, take the load off the bolt, then turn the bolt with no load on it. Make your final adjustments by lowering, and the load on the bolt is not an issue.

Once we understood this bit, those bolts have never been an issue, and we've set both mounts up hundreds of times since then, without a problem.

#10 dawziecat

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Posted 14 March 2011 - 11:09 AM

not that I would know, but, holy moly, look at that flimsy altitude adjustment bolt!!


Once we understood this bit, those bolts have never been an issue, and we've set both mounts up hundreds of times since then, without a problem.


Agreed this is how to do it! Problem no more. :waytogo:

#11 hfjacinto

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Posted 14 March 2011 - 11:28 AM

At our dark site, all you see pretty much is CGEM and ATLAS. They both work well. I have the CGEM and its great, but it does have issues. If you buy either you will be happy.

#12 ch2co

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Posted 16 March 2011 - 01:29 PM

When you mention an Atlas or CGem in the same sentence as a Losmandy, you should be talking about the Losmandy G-8 not the G-11. I would recommend the Atlas or CGem over the G-8 any day, but the G-11 is in the next class up, performance wise and price wise. I'm an Atlas fan, but that's because I got a good deal on a used Atlas. If buying new today, I would still go with the Atlas due to CGem's early release track record. It's still a great (better even) mount if the bugs are worked out in the next year or so. Just MHO. You will be happy with either.

Dark Still and Clear Skies
Chuck H. the Grumpy Gator

#13 Tim C

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Posted 16 March 2011 - 08:01 PM

I owned an early CGEM and it drove me to spend $6K on a Tak EM200. I had a lot of difficulty getting it to guide well but it did alright after I learned to do rapid guide corrections (1/2 sec exposures) with a 730mm focal length. My sample had 35 arc sec PE. After a couple of years with the Tak, I had my fill of imaging for a while so I sold it (it was pretty much perfect... don't think I ever had to toss an exposure). When I went back to visual, I bought an Atlas and was very impressed with the quality of this mount for the price. It has smoother PE than my CGEM had (20 arc sec peak to peak) and the clutches seemed more solid. I just like the looks better too but maybe that's because it is a Tak clone. Of course this is a sample of one each so mileage will vary but that's my experience. I vote for the Atlas.

Also, using the illuminated polar scope in the Atlas is easier than the CGEM all star routine (if you can see Polaris). They are both similar accuracy wise but a polar scope is quicker. Another huge benefit for me was EQMOD and the ability to pick whatever alignment stars you want (my yard is largely obscured by trees). EQMOD will even spin the scope around to the correct position for polar alignment through the scope. It's also much quieter. Now, the CGEM does have a much better hand controller and super accurate go to's.

I hear less about CGEM issue lately so maybe things have improved with that particular mount.

#14 guyroch

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Posted 16 March 2011 - 08:21 PM

Rich,

I went through the same round robin last year... ended up buying the NEQ6 (Atlas twin) because of its support to EQMOD... I do not regret my decision, it was the right one for me!

Take a look at this thread... go about 2/3 in and look for a post by John J.

Hope this helps,

Guylain

#15 RichNY

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Posted 16 March 2011 - 08:47 PM

ch2co-I was considering the Losmandy G-11.

hfjacinto- what dark site do you goto? I'm not far from you and would like to see both mounts being setup and in operation.

Tim-If you were to go back to imaging again would you be satisfied with the Atlas or would you get another Tak EM200? Does the EM200 fit between the G11 and the Mach1?

#16 hfjacinto

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Posted 16 March 2011 - 08:55 PM

Rich,

I image at Jenny Jump in Hope, NJ.

www.uacnj.org

#17 Tim C

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Posted 16 March 2011 - 08:56 PM

I would try the Atlas unless I was flush with a lot of cash somehow. I did do a little sample imaging with it before I sold off my picture taking equipment and results were good at 730mm FL (F7 105mm refractor). The results were not as perfect and effortless as the Tak with its 7 arc sec peak to peak PE but the results were good after I tweaked the guide settings to be a little more aggressive. Guide settings didn't seem to matter with the Tak - just put PHD on default setting with 2 or 3 second exposures and it was perfect. I think the Atlas needed a little shorter guide exposures to do well. My particular CGEM was pretty unwieldy though even with short guide exposures. Again, mileage will vary and I know folks do have great success with the CGEM but I trust the Atlas track record more and my personal experience definitely favors the Atlas.

If I had bought the Atlas first I may have avoided a large expense! But, it was a joy using the Tak!

Yes, in my opinion, the Tak is in between the Losmandy and Mach 1 in terms of imaging performance. The AP mounts are the very best as their PE is even lower than the Tak's and plus you have periodic error correction. You can take a lot of great pictures at about 700mm FL and your average Atlas should handle that fine. Imaging with a longer focal length SCT? Even my Tak had a much harder time with that but that was probably due to the SCT mirror movement or something.

Tim-If you were to go back to imaging again would you be satisfied with the Atlas or would you get another Tak EM200? Does the EM200 fit between the G11 and the Mach1?



#18 hfjacinto

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Posted 16 March 2011 - 09:04 PM

I have to say sometimes the CGEM impresses. The below was with the 9.25 at 2300 MM Focal length and an 80MM Guide Scope. As soon as the wind picked up I had to stop but I got 36 images at 3 minutes each.

Attached Files



#19 Jason B

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Posted 16 March 2011 - 09:15 PM

My CGEM is a joy to use. I have had no issues for almost a year now and the All Star Polar Alignment is great. I can highly recommend it.

#20 RichNY

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Posted 17 March 2011 - 12:34 AM

Heider, It just dawned on me that you were the person I met and discussed this topic with when you presented at the Sheep Hill Astro Association in Boonton ten days ago. (Your presentation and images were excellent) When is the next time you are going out viewing? It will well be worth my time to take a ride out and see these mounts in use.

#21 rigel123

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Posted 17 March 2011 - 07:19 AM

Hi Rich, just another vote for the Atlas. I just moved from Alt/Az to GEM and went with the Atlas mainly on comments in CN. It has been very easy to set up and use and without drift alignment using just the polar scope included I was able to start out with 3 minute subs. My next step is to drift align and finally add a guide package to my set up.

I did notice that Orion has a GPS add on accessory for the Atlas but I haven't seen anyone discuss that in any forums.

Warren

#22 hfjacinto

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Posted 17 March 2011 - 07:38 AM

Heider, It just dawned on me that you were the person I met and discussed this topic with when you presented at the Sheep Hill Astro Association in Boonton ten days ago. (Your presentation and images were excellent) When is the next time you are going out viewing? It will well be worth my time to take a ride out and see these mounts in use.


Probably not for another 2 weeks, full moon is coming, no need to go to a dark site.

#23 guyroch

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Posted 17 March 2011 - 08:38 AM

Hi Rich, just another vote for the Atlas. I just moved from Alt/Az to GEM and went with the Atlas mainly on comments in CN. It has been very easy to set up and use and without drift alignment using just the polar scope included I was able to start out with 3 minute subs. My next step is to drift align and finally add a guide package to my set up.

I did notice that Orion has a GPS add on accessory for the Atlas but I haven't seen anyone discuss that in any forums.

Warren


I have the GPS unit with my NEQ6. I wish I had not purchased it as it's NOT reliable and fails to find the signal 80% of the time. Spend your extra $100 on something else more useful, like toward another filters or something.

Just my 2 cents based on my personal experience.

Guylain

#24 Kellogg

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Posted 17 March 2011 - 08:53 AM

Just wanted to chip in about my GPS for NEQ6Pro, never had a problem with it. Always finds location (it doesnt give errors, so I presume its correct!)

If you always observe in the same place I wouldn't say its worth buying but if you're often out away from home then perhaps.

I always unplug mine after its got the location and time so that I can plug in my laptop to control the mount with Cartes Du Ciel.

#25 nemo129

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Posted 17 March 2011 - 09:06 AM

So Mat is saying what I was thinking. A GPS is nice and can save you from having to re-enter Lat/Long data if you travel significant distances to observe or do AP. If you always image or observe from the same place or with a few miles of the same place, you would be better served spending the cash on other accessories. I have a GPS on my CGEM (someone gave it to me!) and that has been my experience. Your mileage may of course vary. :)






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