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Paramount MX vs Astro-Physics AP900

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#1 Peter in Reno

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Posted 19 March 2011 - 02:10 PM

Which do you prefer: Paramount MX or Astro-Physics AP900?

Paramount MX:

Weight: 50lbs
Carrying Capacity: 90lbs
Counter weights: Two 20lbs
Paddle or Hand Controller: Redesigned version of ME???
Ports: Two USB ports
Saddle: Versa-Plate. Will adapt just about anything including dovetails and tube rings.
Software: Complete package of Sky X Pro, T-Point Add on, Camera Add on
Web Site: http://www.bisque.co...aramountMX.aspx
Price: $8500

AP900:

Weight: 54lbs
Carrying Capacity: 70lbs
Counter weights: None
Paddle or Hand Controller: Yes
Ports: Old style RS232
Saddle: None
Software: Pulse Guide and PEMPro
Web Site: http://www.astro-physics.com
Price: $8750

Seems like Paramount is a better buy. They even offer tripod but it looks wimpy and pricey at $2000. It's not clear if the carrying capacity for MX is for imaging or visual. MX web site says it comes with redesigned version of ME paddle but no pictures.

For those who have experience with Paramount ME and AP900, please give us pros and cons for both mounts.

Thanks,
Peter

#2 jmiele

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Posted 19 March 2011 - 02:34 PM

AP support and performance are well documented.

1) if I can get parts in 15 years for an ME
2) will the MX perform as well as an AP900

Those 2 questions remain unanswered. While both are possible with SB, I'd like to see. That said, I did just purchase an AP so I'm bias. :)

Over the years I have found, for the most part, people love what they have purchased. So I'd like to see what the independent reviewers (i.e. didn't pay for it) have to say. But yeah, looks real nice.

Joe

#3 skybsd

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Posted 19 March 2011 - 02:49 PM

Hi Peter,
I just concluded my own quandry over these two, and chose AP.

I had experiences with both AP1200GTOs, AP900GTOs and a Paramount ME - no experience with the MX - they're not shipping as yet anyways ;)

Having a computer is a necessity for using a Paramount
The "native remote Internet connectivity" turned out to be "need a local computer connected to the Paramount, that you then connect to via the network"
Computer dies = no Paramount

Regards,

skybsd

#4 Alph

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Posted 19 March 2011 - 03:13 PM

1) if I can get parts in 15 years for an ME


The business owners of SB are much younger than the business owner of A-P

#5 jmiele

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Posted 19 March 2011 - 04:10 PM


1) if I can get parts in 15 years for an ME


The business owners of SB are much younger than the business owner of A-P


While I know there have been discussions about age and the ability for some companies to continue producing quality optics based on your statement, it does not apply to mounts. AP has many folks involved in mount making. While mount quality control does still focus on one individual (not entirely but to some extend) that person is not Roland. I was discussing and am know addressing mounts. Not optics. Since SB does not involve themselves in that business, it should not be fodder for the conversation. Joe

For the record - I don't agree your statement applies, or should be a consideration with regard to optics either. Age is not at issues here IMO. We could both get struck by lightening tomorrow, then who would continue this thread! ? Oh thats right, there are plenty of opinions to go around :)



#6 Alph

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Posted 19 March 2011 - 04:26 PM

We could both get struck by lightening tomorrow


Both unlikely, one of us - possible. Another argument for the Bisque brothers. If you spend $10,000 (that's a nice car!), you better factor in expected longevity of the business.

#7 BlueGrass

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Posted 19 March 2011 - 05:29 PM

By that argument, you can apply the same logic to any vendor of astro gear. The recent sale of SBIG gave a number of people pause. There are a ton of AP mounts out there, world-wide. Even if the current owners were to sell the business, I don't think the company's mount business would languish. Their optics production may be another story. There is a market and will continue to be a market for excellent astronomical equipment. Besides, the longevity of these class of mounts may outlast most of the current owners .... :grin:

#8 skybsd

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Posted 19 March 2011 - 05:34 PM

Folks.., We're already starting off on a tangent here - and drifting..,

Peter, I neglected to request that you perhaps try to clarify what usage parameters you had in mind as far as assessing each mount is concerned.

To that end, I should have mentioned that I am a visual-only observer - with no interest in photography.

Regards,

skybsd

#9 David Pavlich

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Posted 19 March 2011 - 05:54 PM

I'm experienced with neither, but empirical evidence tells us that the AP900 is a top flite mount. I haven't read a single review of the MX yet. No doubt it will also be a top flite mount, but if you can wait, I'd hold off until there's some press on the MX beyond the beta testing.

David

#10 jmiele

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Posted 19 March 2011 - 06:02 PM

Besides, the longevity of these class of mounts may outlast most of the current owners .... :grin:


Can't disagree with that.

Given their history I'm sure the MX will be an excellent mount both visually and from an AP standpoint. The AP 900 "is" excellent. :) Either one can do the job so buy an MX and tell us all about it :) It will cost less given some of the additional weights you don't need to purchase. One question is can you live with the difference in load capacity. I know for me the TOA-150 with finder and TAK rings flirts with 50 lbs.... So a could never go with an MX.

Joe

#11 Peter in Reno

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Posted 19 March 2011 - 07:41 PM

My interest is astro-photography. If my CPC mount ever fails for good beyond repair or I get tired of poor tracking and huge Dec backlash, I am looking for high end GEM mount that will last my lifetime. I have seen fantastic images taken with AP and larger Paramount ME and I would also like the best bang for the buck as well. For comparison purpose between AP and MX, I was basically asking owners of Paramount ME to compare to AP900 because MX is not yet ready for delivery and MX is very close if not identical to ME.

I didn't realize that Paramount mounts cannot work without a computer. What is the purpose of MX "paddle"? Can the "paddle" work without a computer?

Portability is also important to me.

Peter

#12 frolinmod

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Posted 19 March 2011 - 08:03 PM

Computer dies = no Paramount

The Paramount is primarily a rock solid imaging platform, hence the need for a computer is not usually any sort of problem. Since a computer is needed for imaging, if you lose the computer you're not going to be doing any imaging anyway, so it's usually a moot point.

Note that I myself would not want to operate a Paramount without at least some sort of supported imager for doing the polar alignment and some minimal data collection and modeling for improved pointing accuracy. Sure you can do it by eye, but it goes much faster and easier when automated.

Anyone purchasing a Paramount MX for field use had best remember to save a little money for a small laptop computer to run it. Not an old laptop computer either. A modern laptop computer, at least a Core I5 with non-Intel graphics, is required to run TheSkyX well. The older less cpu and graphics intensive TheSky6 software cannot be used to run a Paramount MX. Or you can use a MAC, but alas I'm not familiar with MAC hardware. Shame on me.

I'd advise anyone looking to purchase Software Bisque's new $2000 tripod to at least take a look at Rob Miller's excellent series of tripods at about half that price (see his ads in the tripods classifieds area on Astromart) before making a final decision.

Past performance may not be an indicator of future performance, but when it comes to support, the Bisque brothers have gone above and beyond for me on numerous occasions over the last two decades. They have never let me down. Those guys deserve a medal for outstanding support. I'm not sure if or why anyone would be thinking negatively about them in that regard.

#13 frolinmod

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Posted 19 March 2011 - 08:10 PM

What is the purpose of MX "paddle"? Can the "paddle" work without a computer?

The paddle on the ME is just a simple resistive joystick. A little too simple if you ask me. The internals rust too easily and it's an expensive part to replace. The ME joystick can be used to home the mount and to manually slew the mount. It also has a little red LED on it and a switch to turn the LED on and off. I very rarely use it. In my experience, the ME is best used without its joystick because if the joystick isn't centered or gets out of calibration, it'll cause you headaches. (It's easy to calibrate though.)

I've read that the MX paddle is redesigned, perhaps it uses a hall effect joystick and maybe it's better weather sealed. I don't know.


Portability is also important to me.

The MX is highly portable. Heck, the ME is portable. The MX is just even more portable.


#14 Peter in Reno

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Posted 19 March 2011 - 08:25 PM

What does the joystick do? Do you have images of the paddle? What does the paddle do? Does it have buttons and display in addition to joystick? Does it still require a computer?

Thanks,
Peter

#15 skybsd

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Posted 19 March 2011 - 08:27 PM

Hi Peter,
Good to hear from you..,

My interest is astro-photography.



Excellent - thanks for clarifying this.., much appreciated..,


If my CPC mount ever fails for good beyond repair or I get tired of poor tracking and huge Dec backlash, I am looking for high end GEM mount that will last my lifetime. I have seen fantastic images taken with AP and larger Paramount ME and I would also like the best bang for the buck as well.



Well., the "forever mount quest" is a path that we tend to set off on at some point in this hobby.

What I found absolutely important for mine, is to focus solely on my requirements, rather than product - awful hard to do, I know - but I found that once I drew up a prioritized list of requirements, it became very easy to just let the numbers do the talking - without sentiment and emotion., if that makes sense.

If you haven't done so, as yet - you'd want to establish first of all THE BUDGET - it helps prevent the inevitable wishful dreaming that really only inhibits and delays your impartially arriving at a decision :)


For comparison purpose between AP and MX, I was basically asking owners of Paramount ME to compare to AP900 because MX is not yet ready for delivery and MX is very close if not identical to ME.

I didn't realize that Paramount mounts cannot work without a computer. What is the purpose of MX "paddle"? Can the "paddle" work without a computer?

Portability is also important to me.


The SB Paramount ME Documentation Resources provides a lot of information about the ME / MX and how it works - its important that you review these to ensure that you understand what the Paramount can do, the requirements for using a Paramount mount and what the Paramount can NOT do.

The joystick included with Paramount mounts is used only to home the mount and slew the mount - that's pretty much all it does - see The Paramount ME Users' Guide, Pages 35, 36 for more information - that's a 7.6MB download, by the way.

The paddle does not have a display that shows a list of available mount operations like a traditional hand-controller (like a G11, AP, or Celestron) and the joystick cannot be used to, for instance, "tell" the mount to execute a GoTo operation to a specified object, or anything like that..,

The software supplied to operate the Paramount are: -
TheSky6™ Professional Edition
CCDSoft™ CCD Astronomy Software (includes Direct Guide™)
TPoint™ Telescope Pointing Analysis Software (includes ProTrack™)
Orchestrate™ Scripting Software
IAClient™
IAServer™
MKS 4000 USB Driver Installer (Must join and sign in to the Software Bisque Web Site to access this resource.)

The above list requires the use of a computer.

But I don't want to give you the wrong impression here.., the Paramount ME is a top quality mount that is used in lots of facilities around the world - its just that it was not designed to primarily meet MY requirements.

The deal-breakers for me were: -

Computer is required for mount operation
Previously advertised native remote connectivity was in reality, not the case - Product documentation no now longer use this description, now its simply called a robotic mount

I see you mentioned portability as a factor for you - you therefore need to make sure to read up on the Paramount's power requirements, okay?

Hope that helps..,

Regards,

skybsd

#16 frolinmod

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Posted 19 March 2011 - 08:42 PM

make sure to read up on the Paramount's power requirements, okay?

Both the ME and the MX come with an AC to DC adapter which accepts 110/220VAC and outputs 48VDC. So you need a small inexpensive inverter to run it off a 12V battery. The actual wattage requirements are minimal. No big deal really.

Note that the MX comes with a totally different software suite than the ME comes with (or came with). You don't get the older "legacy" stuff with the MX.

#17 Peter in Reno

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Posted 19 March 2011 - 11:39 PM

48V is a very strange power requirement. If the power supply breaks, it costs a whopping $125 to replace.

http://www.bisque.co...wer-supply.aspx

Peter

#18 jmiele

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Posted 20 March 2011 - 12:46 AM

Just a note - the web site states 90 lbs capacity for the MX. I thought someone said it was 50 lbs earlier in the thread. So it would carry the TOA-150 and gear with easy. I stand corrected It says nothing about the hand control other than it's backwards compatible with the ME paddle.
Joe

#19 Peter in Reno

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Posted 20 March 2011 - 01:16 AM

Thanks for the clarification. The mount weighs 50lbs which is not too bad for portability.

I am curious. After the mount and scope is setup and ready, for an experienced Paramount mount user, what would be a typical time to take from polar alignment to star alignments/pointing model to start of imaging and autoguiding?

I currently own a CPC0800 and I have been fairly successful imaging (see my images in Gallery in my signature) despite pretty high light pollution in my area. After the scope/tripod is setup, it typically takes me up to 30 minutes from start of star alignments to polar alignment using Celestron's cool All Star Polar Alignment to start of imaging/autoguiding. Can I do this quickly with Paramount ME/MX assuming I am an expert with Paramount mount for portable setup?

Peter

#20 skybsd

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Posted 20 March 2011 - 05:04 AM

Hi,
Good to hear from you.,

make sure to read up on the Paramount's power requirements, okay?

Both the ME and the MX come with an AC to DC adapter which accepts 110/220VAC and outputs 48VDC. So you need a small inexpensive inverter to run it off a 12V battery. The actual wattage requirements are minimal. No big deal really.



I take your point that inverters are available, but my advise to the OP to make sure to be aware of the power requirements are based on the fact that portability is important to them.

Running power off a battery via an inverter always comes with a cost during conversion and this needs to be borne in mind when planning power capacity for use in the field. That's all..,


Note that the MX comes with a totally different software suite than the ME comes with (or came with). You don't get the older "legacy" stuff with the MX.


Ahh.., thanks for reminding me..,

Peter: SB Do intend for a different hand controller for the MX - the fact that they're calling it a "hand paddle" (rather than a joystick) is significant.

That said, I did try to get more details from SB about what this new hand paddle's capabilities are in relation to whether or not a computer will be necessary to full operate the PMX - and all I got back was "the supplied TheSkyX Professional Edition" will still be needed to operate the PMX".

frolinmod, perhaps you have more inside information?

Thanks.

Regards,

skybsd

#21 jmiele

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Posted 20 March 2011 - 10:06 AM

Sounds to me like it will operate in the same manner as the ME. If it was changing, they'd be sure to make it clear. Also, the fact that TheSkyXPro is still required kinda says it all. Still, it looks like a nice setup... Joe

#22 frolinmod

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Posted 20 March 2011 - 10:12 AM

48V is a very strange power requirement. If the power supply breaks, it costs a whopping $125 to replace.

It's a standardized power supply that is available from many other suppliers for far lower cost. You can even get IP67 (waterproof) versions for less as well.

#23 frolinmod

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Posted 20 March 2011 - 11:03 AM

After the mount and scope is setup and ready, for an experienced Paramount mount user, what would be a typical time to take from polar alignment to star alignments/pointing model to start of imaging and autoguiding?

I have the ME, so I can only tell you about my experience with the ME. It should be about the same for the MX.

As you said, I assume you're talking about field use here because in an observatory setting it takes zero time once it's been done once. And of course in an observatory you want to spend lots of time on that initial polar alignment and modeling to get it as perfect as possible. In that environment you might spend the first whole night on just futzing around with that and nothing else.

In the field where you're repeatedly setting up and tearing down your site, how long it takes depends on what method you use, how well you want to be polar aligned and how good a pointing model you want to have.

Here is what I do in the field. I only have to do this the first night out so long as I leave the mount set up. On subsequent nights I then just have to connect to the mount, let it home itself and go.

1. Point the mount North, adjust the altitude knob to my latitude, turn the power on, connect to the mount.
2. Home the mount.
(Note that the latest version of TheSkyX has an "all sky image link" feature that lets you skip steps #3 through #6 and go directly to step #7 right off the bat.)
3. Use the computer to select and slew to a star near the Meridian (on the West side of the Meridian) near 0 DEC. It won't be centered.
4. Manually adjust the altitude and azimuth to center the star. Repeat #3 and #4 a few times.
5. Sync on the star and map it as the first t-point point.
6. Slew to a few more nearby stars (on the West side of the Meridian) using the hand paddle, center them using the hand paddle and map them. Once that's done the mount is close enough for plate solves to work.
7. Fire up a short automated t-point mapping run of 15-20 points.
8. After the sort mapping run, adjust altitude and azimuth as instructed by t-point.
9. Clear the t-point points, slew to a star, center it, sync on it, map it and repeat #7 and #8 until I'm happy with the polar alignment. About half an hour to 45-minutes has elapsed by the time I'm happy.
10. Fire up a large automated t-point run of maybe 120-180 points and go look through other people's scopes while it runs by itself. When complete I have better than 10-arc-second RMS all sky pointing.
11. Turn on ProTrack to get improved tracking that benefits from the pointing model.

I left out miscellaneous incidental stuff like focusing the camera. I use CCDsoft. My camera is a QSI-583wsg. During t-point mapping runs I have TheSkyX take 5-second exposures with a clear filter. If you don't use CCDsoft, then make sure TheSkyX supports your camera!


#24 Peter in Reno

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Posted 20 March 2011 - 12:44 PM

Thanks for the detailed information. I will worry about focusing later. My camera is SXVR-M25C and it's a great OSC camera. I can't find anywhere from SkyX web site about camera requirement. I looked up CCDSoft and it does not support my camera but I can't find support for your QSI camera either.

Currently I use Nebulosity and PHD. They work great with my camera and Lodestar autoguider. I should be able to start with what I have in addition to the software package supplied by MX mount. I will worry later about automation like Meridian flipping, plate solving, etc and Nebulosity/PHD will not support it. I will probably have to get Maxim DL, Pinpoint (plate solving) and CCDAutoPilot (manager).

Thanks again for the writeup.

Peter

#25 frolinmod

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Posted 20 March 2011 - 01:28 PM

My camera is SXVR-M25C and it's a great OSC camera. I can't find anywhere from SkyX web site about camera requirement. I looked up CCDSoft and it does not support my camera but I can't find support for your QSI camera either.

Starlight Xpress have a CCDsoft plug-in for their cameras (including the loadstar). I don't have an OSC camera myself, so I don't know how well they work with CCDsoft. Note well that the loadstar doesn't have square pixels and that CCDsoft/TheSkyX's plate solve functions require square pixels. So using the loadstar for automated t-point mapping runs might be problematic (I've not tried it). Fortunately, the M25C does have square pixels. That's one nice camera too. :cool:

I use the QSI supplied CCDsoft plug-in. I use the Camera Add On in TheSkyX. Then within the Camera Add On I select "use CCDsoft's camera" as the camera. QSI will soon release an X2 camera interface for direct support of QSI cameras in TheSkyX's Camera Add On eliminating the need to use CCDsoft. That'll be nifty.

If you're going to be purchasing a Paramount and using TheSkyX, then it would be good if you would pester your camera manufacturer to produce an X2 interface for their camera so that it will work directly with TheSkyX's Camera Add On, making your life that much easier. The Bisque's appear to be happy to work with anyone who wants to write an X2 interface.






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