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Vixen Mini-Porta and Reviews

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#1 DoctorNoodle

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Posted 04 December 2012 - 08:33 PM

I've been looking at the Vixen Mini-Porta as a grab-n-go mount for my 3 pound Orion 90mm Mak. There are several vendors selling them really cheap and recently, "really cheap" fits my budget. My only concern is that the reviews I've read have not been very good. General consensus is that the Mini-Porta is cheaply made and is so light that it's unstable.

Is this mount really as bad as the reviews I've read and am I better off saving my pennies for something better?

#2 Midnight Dan

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Posted 04 December 2012 - 09:28 PM

Hi Doc:

>> Is this mount really as bad as the reviews I've read ...

Yes and no. I wrote one of those bad reviews!

One of the great things about this mount is that it is small and lightweight. Smaller and less weight than almost any other alt/az mount that's worth using. If you take it for what it's worth, it can be a nice grab and go.

It really should not be used with more than 5 pounds in my opinion. An ST-80 is a good match for it, but no more. An ED 60 or 70mm would be ok too. An 80mm ED would probably be too heavy. Your 90mm Mak should be fine in terms of weight.

The place where I might be concerned is the Mak's long focal length and resulting high magnification. I think you should consider this mount as limited to around 100x to 120x so don't look for your Mak to perform to it's maximum magnification without excessive jiggles. Anti-vibration pads DO help with this.

The eyepiece tray is pretty much a joke, and the overall fit and finish of the mount is nothing to write home about. The slow-mo controls fall off very easily so you may want to replace them. But again, it's really hard to find something this light that is even usable. According to my digital scale, it weighs just over 6 pounds without the EP tray, but with replacement slo-mo handles.

-Dan

#3 DoctorNoodle

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Posted 07 December 2012 - 09:05 AM

Thanks, Dan and greetings from the opposite corner of the state. Good review and useful info.

I was hoping for a few more replies to get some kind of consensus. I guess that the size and weight limitations keep this from being a popular mount and there just aren't that many Mini-Porta owners out there. I also noticed that it's only carried by a few select vendors.

I noticed that the next up from the Mini-Porta, something like the Porta II or equivalent is nearly double the price, quite a jump. Looks like maybe more research and definitely more money are needed.

#4 Midnight Dan

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Posted 07 December 2012 - 02:38 PM

I'm also weighing my options for a better alt/az mount, but I'm trying to get a good combination of lightweight and quality construction. The common candidates are the Vixen Porta II, the Astronomics Voyager, and more recently the Explore Scientific Twilight I (and clones).

These all would be a big step up from the Mini Porta in carrying capacity and quality, but are also larger and heavier. There just doesn't seem to be anything in a sub-10-pound mount/tripod that's a notch up from the Mini Porta's quality.

Since these mounts are all in the $300 price range, with weights in the 14-18 pound range, I figured if I have to move up to that class mount, I'd like to see if I can get something a bit better than the mass-produced ones. I've been looking at the DSV-1 which, when purchased with their lightweight contractor tripod, goes for $320 and weighs 14 pounds. It sure looks like a much better quality mount than the others, and I can't find anything but glowing reviews on it.

DSV-1: http://www.desertsky....com/DSV-1.html
Tripod: http://www.desertsky...om/Tripods.html

It's rated for use with a 102mm f/7 refractor, 8" SCT, or 6" Mak. That's the setup I've got my eye on!

The only downside for me is that it doesn't have slo-mo controls. From what users have said, the panning handle starts to get difficult to use to aim the scope at mags greater than 150-175x or so. I'd love to have slo-mo controls, but I'm not willing to pay the extra cost for the DSV-2.

-Dan

#5 Ducky62

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Posted 08 December 2012 - 11:17 AM

A quick search shows you can find a new Vixen Porta II for $215 shipped in the US.I have one and it works great. I did put aftermarket slo-mo cable/knobs on it because the supplied ones are junk.

#6 careysub

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Posted 09 December 2012 - 01:50 AM

The lowest I see is $279, shipping extra.

#7 DoctorNoodle

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Posted 09 December 2012 - 11:45 AM

Smartastronomy.com sells the Porta II on eBay for $220 + $25 shipping. A great deal but more than I'd like to spend on something that I only want and don't really need.

#8 Ducky62

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Posted 09 December 2012 - 11:55 AM

That's internet pricing these days. I think it is based on cookies, tracking, and where you enter the shopping site.

I could find the whole mount(with tripod) from Amazon yesterday at $215. Now I'm seeing $216.51 for the head alone.

(Best I can find today from an authorized dealer is $245 shipped)

#9 core

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Posted 09 December 2012 - 05:59 PM

fyi price tracking for the past couple of months, direct purchase prices from Amazon - fun like tracking the stock market ;)

Porta Mount:

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#10 core

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Posted 09 December 2012 - 06:02 PM

... and one for the Mini-Porta Mount. I'd posted here (CN) back in Oct for a deal alert when the Mini Porta dipped below a $99 for a couple of days; almost picked one up myself but I already have a forest of mounts and tripods ;)

Back to OP's question; I've used a friend's C90+mini-porta for an evening and it's actually quite usable. I have a Porta and it's way more than enough of a mount for the C90. The nice thing about using it with your Orion Mak is that the Orion version (iirc) prefers a mount with Right-Side mounting arm like the Vixen for the finder to be positioned nicely at the 10 o'clock position, so it'll work well. How about looks for a 2nd hand unit, should be in the ~$180 range.

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#11 Ducky62

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Posted 09 December 2012 - 10:51 PM

Maybe I was looking at the mount head w/o the tripod! :lol:
It is $245 shipped from an authorized Vixen dealer on Ebay.
That outdoor furniture store with the telescopes domain name has a 15% off coupon code for tomorrow but I don't know what they are asking. Price aside, I highly recommend the Porta II once you replace the slo-mo cables. The aluminum tripod works fine for me but I'm using scopes under 6 lbs and sticking the feet in the ground, not setting it up on concrete. I carry it outside with a scope mounted with 1 hand, set it up and observe as soon as things reach ambient temperature. Focuser vibration damps out almost immediately and I can track with the slo-mos even at high power with no difficulty. Makes a nice camera tripod, bino mount and accepts 'scopes with tripod mounting blocks on the L-bracket from Orion. I think the Vixen mounting plate costs 3 times as much (or more) if they still even sell it.

I never used the mini-porta but it looked ridiculously flimsy when I saw one in the camera/telescope store.






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