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G11 as portable astrophotography platform

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#1 JSeay86

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Posted 15 April 2011 - 10:44 AM

I'm considering upgrading my Atlas to a Losmandy G11 w/Gemini 2 in the next month or two. I was curious as to how portable this setup would be for astrophotography, considering I do most of this at my astronomy club's local site, away from home and severe light pollution.

I don't really have much trouble hauling the Atlas to and fro, but the Losmandy's components are a little heavier. I couldn't find the dimensions of the equatorial head on Losmandy's site. Does anyone know the rough dimensions of the equatorial head, so that I could look at possible cases for a total weight on that part.

I have been pleased with the Atlas, but I want to upgrade to a little bulkier setup with a larger capacity and lower PE. Basically, I'm wondering if this is feasible as a portable setup, or if I should wait a while longer and consider a used Tak EM 200 or Mach 1.

I realize also that Gemini 2 is in its beta version right now, but I really like the future capabilities that will be implemented into the Gemini 2 system. I've been perusing the Gemini 2 and Losmandy Yahoo Groups.

Thanks for the input.

#2 drksky

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Posted 15 April 2011 - 11:01 AM

I would certainly consider it portable. I lugged my CGE around and it's heavier than the G-11. Size-wise, you'd be looking at a pelican 1650 case, which has wheels making the mount even easier to move around.

#3 nemo129

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Posted 15 April 2011 - 11:47 AM

For better portability you could get the Folding HD tripod for the G11, but it carries a $500 premium. It also carries more weight! 425lbs. versus the standard HD tripod at 300lbs., not sure if that is really necessary, but the ability to fold up the tripod is nice. I needed to stay on a budget so I just got the standard HD tripod. Once the legs are removed (via clamps, no tools needed), it is easy to carry and store in your vehicle.

#4 saadabbasi

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Posted 16 April 2011 - 12:17 AM

I lug my G11 over to dark sites and even when shooting from home, I have to set it up as I have no observatory... yet. It can take sometime, depending on how meticulous you want to get with polar alignment and such. Polar alignment is definitely the most time consuming aspect. Even though it does ship with a good polar scope, I try to get more accurate results with PoleAlignMax - which usually takes me 15 to 20 minutes.

The second thing I do is align the GoTo using at least three coordinates. I sync on a bright star, plate solve, and then sync on the center of that plate-solve. I then move the scope in RA by 1 hour and then expose for 20s. Once that is done, I plate-solve again and additional align on those coordinates. I keep repeating this for as many coordinate I feel like - generally, three is the minimum. This is usually finished in 5 to 10 minutes.

At this point I'm ready for imaging - I focus quickly with FocusMax and then slew over to target. Make sure composition looks good and I start exposing!

Should you wait longer for a EM-200 or a Mach1? Of course. If you can, go for the Mach1/EM200 and skip the G11. They will last you longer and they have a higher photographic load.

I understand that Gemini2 looks good but usually when you have something like a planetarium program controlling the mount anyway, why bother with Gemini? Don't get me wrong, I like Gemini but I don't like it enough to skip a Mach1 or a EM200! I guess my point is, even if Mach1's and EM200's GoTo software isn't good, the mechanical excellence more than makes up for it. You won't have to fiddle with it but with the G11, you might have to. I've never had to, for what its worth - especially once I shifted to OAG.

#5 skybsd

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Posted 16 April 2011 - 05:26 AM

Hello Jared,
Good to hear from you..,

I'm considering upgrading my Atlas to a Losmandy G11 w/Gemini 2 in the next month or two. I was curious as to how portable this setup would be for astrophotography, considering I do most of this at my astronomy club's local site, away from home and severe light pollution.

I don't really have much trouble hauling the Atlas to and fro, but the Losmandy's components are a little heavier. I couldn't find the dimensions of the equatorial head on Losmandy's site. Does anyone know the rough dimensions of the equatorial head, so that I could look at possible cases for a total weight on that part.


Having taken my fmr G11-Gemini from the UK to such places as the Caribbean and the US, I can confirm - the Pelican-1650 is a great case for the G11-Gemini head and quite a bit of the accessories.., The only fiddly components are the tripod legs - but a hard cased golf case is ideal for this.


I have been pleased with the Atlas, but I want to upgrade to a little bulkier setup with a larger capacity and lower PE. Basically, I'm wondering if this is feasible as a portable setup, or if I should wait a while longer and consider a used Tak EM 200 or Mach 1.

I realize also that Gemini 2 is in its beta version right now, but I really like the future capabilities that will be implemented into the Gemini 2 system. I've been perusing the Gemini 2 and Losmandy Yahoo Groups.


Well.., this is a separate question, really - and probably deserving of its own thread.

If you can afford a used Mach-1 GTO or Tak, I don't see any reason why you shouldn't just get one, really.

I owned my G11-Gemini for just over two years before moving onto another option - I'm a visual-only DSO observer with absolutely no interest whatsoever in photography.

I see a few folks here on CN taking the leap of faith in buying G11-Gemini-II even though its software is still being developed. PERSONALLY..., I'd be cautious in advising anyone to drop cash on the G11-Gemini-II at this time. Instead, I'd suggest that they hold off until the code is GA'd and sincere, OBJECTIVE and UNBIASED reviews are available, upon which they may then want to base a purchase decision.

Best of luck - whichever way you go..,

Regards,

skybsd

#6 lightyear44

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Posted 16 April 2011 - 08:56 PM

Like skybsd, I'd say wait a bit. But I lug my G-11 all over. I just keep it in it's original box. Which is stil in great shape. No need for a case. Spend the money modding that Canon 50D of yours. -David.

#7 tidroplane

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Posted 17 April 2011 - 12:41 AM

I haul my G-11 everywhere and consider it very portable, the mount head weighs 35 pounds and fits perfectly in a Pelican 1620 case.

#8 kbastro

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Posted 17 April 2011 - 01:09 AM

Hello Jared;
The G11 is a great portable mount and I have dragged one around for 14 years,, and last year I upgraded the G11 to a Titan mount which again I drag every where too...

kb

#9 JSeay86

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Posted 18 April 2011 - 07:20 PM

Thanks for the input everyone. I think i'll save up some more cash over the next couple months and see how the Gemini 2 system progresses. For those of you with the G11, did you order the mount with the one piece worm block, or replace the originals with the Ovision worm replacements? It seems like the best option would be to just have them install the OPWB at Losmandy. From what I've read, there is a significant improvement with respect to a 76 sec periodic error that is alleviated with the OPWB and Ovision worm. Would you consider this a worthwhile improvement from the start, or would the money be better spent elsewhere such as getting the DSLR modded as David mentioned.

If I've saved enough cash before the Gemini 2 system is more polished, i'll consider the Tak EM 200, or Mach 1. But it seems like the G11 is an incredible value for the price.

#10 lightyear44

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Posted 18 April 2011 - 09:39 PM

Tak & AP make great mounts. No one can argue that. And the G-11 has been called the imaging work-horse for a reason.
I may be lucky, but I can guide on PHD with my stock-worm, and nearly flat-line the graph for hours at a time, with just a careful polar allign, & 4-5 star orientation. I consistently get amazing graphs. My friend has a 8-9 year old G-11, but doesn't get the same flatness I do. Mine is 3 years old. -David.

#11 lightyear44

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Posted 18 April 2011 - 09:44 PM

....oh yes. And for some reason, I've never seen ANY evidence of the 76 sec error in my mount. Strange? Anyone else out there who doesn't seem to have it? -David.

#12 gdd

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Posted 18 April 2011 - 11:19 PM

....oh yes. And for some reason, I've never seen ANY evidence of the 76 sec error in my mount. Strange? Anyone else out there who doesn't seem to have it? -David.



Some like you are lucky or maybe more nimble fingered at getting the worm blocks to line up, or the machining on your mount was more accurate. Others spent hours upon hours and never got rid of the error. I decided I wanted to take luck out of the picture and ordered my mount with the OPWB pre-installed and make future worm adjustments easy for the mechanically challenged.

Gale

#13 saadabbasi

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Posted 19 April 2011 - 08:31 AM

Thanks for the input everyone. I think i'll save up some more cash over the next couple months and see how the Gemini 2 system progresses. For those of you with the G11, did you order the mount with the one piece worm block, or replace the originals with the Ovision worm replacements? It seems like the best option would be to just have them install the OPWB at Losmandy. From what I've read, there is a significant improvement with respect to a 76 sec periodic error that is alleviated with the OPWB and Ovision worm. Would you consider this a worthwhile improvement from the start, or would the money be better spent elsewhere such as getting the DSLR modded as David mentioned.

If I've saved enough cash before the Gemini 2 system is more polished, i'll consider the Tak EM 200, or Mach 1. But it seems like the G11 is an incredible value for the price.


I placed my order for the G11 in late summer 2009. I received it in November or so, of that year. So I've had it for a little more than a year. I didn't have the choice for the new worm, so I just have the stock one.

I was VERY worried about the 76s error. One of the first things I did was run PemPro on it and gather some PE data. Fortunately, I did not suffer from the 76s. My periodic error, out of the box, was about 7" pk-pk. I think this is typical of the G11 released in the past 2 to 3 years.

For the past year, I have imaged with a Takahashi FSQ-85ED. I used to sometimes lose subs, but that was due to guiding. Once I switched to OAG, I have managed upto 30 minute subs.

I now image at 1625mm focal length. I haven't done any extensive imaging yet, but so far I haven't really lost an exposure due to the mount. I've gone as far as 10 minutes.

#14 lightyear44

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Posted 19 April 2011 - 08:43 PM

Gale. I've never touched my worm-blocks. I'm just chalking it up to luck. -David.

#15 Startraffic

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Posted 21 April 2011 - 02:14 PM

Jared,
I've worked out my g11 setup (Separate boxes for Legs, Counterweights, tripod head, Mount, Electronics), down to 1 handtruck load, plus the OTA & eyepieces & camera. It's heavy, ~100lbs total, but 2 trips & everything is there.

StarT. :cool:

#16 nemo129

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Posted 21 April 2011 - 08:10 PM

Hi Startraffic,
What do you use to carry the G11 mount head in? I was thinking of picking up a Pelican 1650 as suggested by skybsd, but that might be overkill as I only will be putting it in my car and the point is to protect the head during a car trip not from airline luggage handlers. I might just bite the bullet on the 1650 if I see a good price.
Thanks,

#17 Startraffic

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Posted 22 April 2011 - 10:52 AM

Nemo,
I was fortunate, the previous owner made plywood boxes for the mount, legs & tripod head. They are HEAVY 3/4" plywood boxes, but if I lay the leg box with the CWs flat on the handtruck, then I stack then the mount, then tripod, the box I made (1/2" Plywood) for the electronics & guidescope & finally my stock Celestron eyepiece case. All of the boxes are well padded with foam. The electronics box I used camera pluck foam to fit. I use the UPS trick of a ratchet strap to the top rail on the HT 2-3 wraps & off the whole thing goes. (I use the boxes as a chair.) The OTAs I use are either a 10" SNT, a 8" R200SS or an AT6RC, all carriable.
I plan on rebuilding ALL of the boxes with 1/2" or 9/16" Plywood, biscuited, glued & screwed together. The 3/4" marine ply is overkill. The leg box weighs as much as the mount. If you do a HT then get a good one, not the tubular type. I staggered across an extruded aluminum one made by Grainger, lost in the weeds. Somebody was not happy. The base plate is 16"x12"x1/4" aluminum angle with a back 6" high. I've moved a 23CuFt freezer with it, very sturdy.
I've heard but not seem the Pelican case. It sounds like it should work & definitely lighter than mine.
HTH CS
StarT :cool:

#18 drksky

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Posted 22 April 2011 - 11:39 AM

I've see people using Pelican 1620's for the head.

#19 nemo129

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Posted 22 April 2011 - 12:10 PM

Thanks StarT for describing your solution. I am going to continue looking for a less expensive option than the Pelican's. It's not that I'm cheap, :grin: but it would be nice to find a solution for less than $200.

Tony, the 1650 and 1620 are pretty close in price and size. I may end up going the Pelican route. I was just hoping to find a less expensive solution for carrying the G11 mount head that is better than strapping it into a bucket seat, but not as overkill as a Pelican...at least for me.

Thanks,

#20 drksky

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Posted 22 April 2011 - 12:50 PM

I had a 1650 for my CGE, and I didn't consider it overkill at all. Yes, it is big and a bit heavy, but they are excellent protection for your investment. The wheels make it much easier to move around. It's lifting it into the car that was a pain :)

#21 nemo129

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Posted 22 April 2011 - 12:53 PM

Sigh...ok. I guess I will just have to bite the bullet and get the Pelican. Astronomy...the hobby that just keeps on taking! :foreheadslap: :lol:






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