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Perfect Azimuth Base for IOptron SkyTracker

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#1 JMW

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Posted 23 February 2013 - 05:42 PM

I just got the FEISOL PB-70 Panning Base for making azimuth adjustments on my IOptron SkyTracker. It works great and the size is a perfect match. I got it from B&H Photo for $39 shipped. The SkyTracker already has an altitude adjustment but didn't include an azimuth adjuster. The PB-70 is a superior solution to moving the tripod legs when doing polar alignment. It is very rigid, much more than my Manfroto 3 way geared head. It has fits a 3/8 inch threaded tripod post and provides a 3/8 inch threaded post for the SkyTracker.

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#2 Mark9473

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Posted 24 February 2013 - 06:26 AM

Thanks for the tip, Jeff. Which ball head are you using?

#3 PGW Steve

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Posted 24 February 2013 - 08:00 AM

Great info. Is it a manually turn and lock type thing, or is the knob a fine adjust type slow motion control?

#4 JMW

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Posted 24 February 2013 - 01:51 PM

PB-70: Loosen to turn and tighten to lock. No wobble when lose for adjusting polar alignment.

The ball head is a Manfrotto 498RC2. I am also playing with Manfrotto 460MG head. I like how I can loosen one axis at a time with the 460MG. The 460MG clears the SkyTracker with the polar scope attached. Would be better with a small 1/4 inch thread pan head on the top of it. My camera, 400mm lens and mount head are just under 6 pounds so it is with load limits of the SkyTracker.

I had a blast light night just playing with the Sky Tracker and Canon 6D. I was controlling it via wifi using an iPad. Made focusing and framing very easy. I had the mount and camera plugged into a 35 amp-hour 12 volt battery so I didn't care about battery life on the camera. I have a lot of trees on my property. I would pick up and move the mount, camera and battery in one trip. Only takes about a minute to polar align via the SkyTracker alignment scope. It would make it easy to find a clear view for the part of the sky I wanted to shoot. I had to stick to the 400mm f/5.6 lens because of the bright moon. I can't wait until next weekend to take some wider field shots before the moon rise.

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#5 Mark9473

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Posted 24 February 2013 - 04:17 PM

Wow that's quite a set-up. Any link to some of the results you've had with the SkyTracker?

#6 JMW

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Posted 24 February 2013 - 08:56 PM

None yet. I only had it out last night for the first time. Here is one from12 x 10 second exposures at ISO 1600, 400mm at f/5.6. At 30 seconds the sky was washed out from the moon. With the full frame 6D, even 400mm is pretty wide.

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#7 JMW

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Posted 24 February 2013 - 11:24 PM

I added a Rigel Quick Finder to the Canon 6D for easy camera pointing. I like Telrads better but sometimes it's the right tool for the right job.

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#8 JMW

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Posted 24 February 2013 - 11:39 PM

Here's a demo of tracking at 400mm. This is a 120 second exposure at ISO800 of M45. Bright moon is not helpful for seeing nebulosity around the stars. I am pretty happy with the tracking. I only used the IOptron polar alignment IOS app to determine the position of polaris on the polar scope.

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#9 Mark9473

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Posted 25 February 2013 - 07:10 AM

Amazing images; thanks Jeff.

#10 Patrick

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Posted 25 February 2013 - 11:21 AM

I added a Rigel Quick Finder to the Canon 6D for easy camera pointing.



Hi Jeff,

Thanks for the info on what you're doing with the Sky Tracker. I picked one up at WSP this year and think they're great. As you noted, the one drawback was the azimuth adjustment, so I was interested to see your low-cost solution. Nice!

Regarding the Rigel finder, how did you adapt it to fit the hot shoe on the camera? That would be a very welcome addition to the setup as well. Guessing where the camera is pointing just doesn't cut it.

I also like the looks of the Manfrotto 460MG head. That's sweet! At present I was just planning on using a 50mm f/1.4 lense, but the mount can obviously hold more than that.

Well done!

Patrick

#11 lakeorion

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Posted 25 February 2013 - 01:07 PM

Nice news. I had the Feisol PB-70 panning base picked out as an Az adjuster for adapting my Smarteq Pro to a surveyor's tripod and/or Benro fold-flat photo tripod for traveling.

X2 on asking about adapting a hot shoe to hold a finder. Adorama sells a shoe to 1/4-20 adapter, to which a ScopeStuff #RDPQ - Orion/Synta Type Finder Mounting Shoe might be mountable (don't know haven't tried it yet).

Nice pictures, I'm jealous. Last night was also the first clear night with my new Ioptron Smart EQ Pro - but I wasn't able to sort out how the thing worked to get to sample shots. Maybe simpler would have been the better solution.

#12 JMW

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Posted 25 February 2013 - 01:43 PM

Thanks for the nice comments. I hope to get the setup under dark skies out of town this weekend. I want to do some wide field stuff with my 17-40 f/4 zoom. I like width of the full frame sensor on the Canon 6D. I have an intervalometer for the camera that will automate a sequence once I frame and focus using wifi with my iPad. I like not needing to use the laptop on a light setup like this. I figure I can be using the 20 inch dob for visual at a dark site while the Sky Tracker and 6D are collecting photons.

I had a hot shoe adapter and screwed to the Rigel base to it. I had a Rigel Quick Finder laying around since I mostly use Telrads. It was about a 5 minute modification. I pointed the camera to the moon using live view and centered the moon in the frame. I then adjusted the knobs on the Quick Finder to match.

I just went on Amazon and searched for Canon hot shoe adapter. The HDE version is $2.25 + $2.99 shipped. It has a 1/4-20 bolt at the top that could be secured to the Rigel base with a nut and lock washer.

My only complaint regarding the Sky Tracker are the two lock knobs holding the 3/8 inch post adapter to the Sky Tracker. They can come a little loose and the camera can slip and rotate downward. Only happens if I don't crank them down hard. Only an issue with a heavy 6 pound camera and lens load. I would have preferred hex set screws. I may look at Lowes and see if I can find some set screws that match the knob threads.

#13 Bluejay08

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Posted 26 February 2013 - 11:28 PM

400mm for 2 minutes! The polar alignment must be very good.

#14 JMW

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Posted 26 February 2013 - 11:55 PM

I was pretty happy about that. I looked at the polar scope about 1 hour after doing the original alignment. Polaris was following the red circle and was exactly where the IOptron app showed that it would be.

I have an AT65EDQ scope with a 420 mm focal length that I use on my AP900GTO. I bought the Sky Tracker to image mostly at shorter focal lengths. However it is nice to know that the mount can track well unguided with my longest lens. The complete rig is small enough that I can bring it along for nights that are mostly going focused on observing. I can also fit it in on long car camping trips in the dark southwest.

#15 munchmeister

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Posted 26 March 2013 - 10:37 AM

Thank you JMW for the photos of your ST with a big load. Like the idea of doing AP while you observe thru a big Dob !!

I agree that the small screws could be replaced with something that you could get a small wrench or screwdriver on to, to lock the mount down, especially with a heavier load. I've just been using a Nikon 60mm f/2.8 but am thinking about the Nikon 180mm f/2.8 prime that has been around a while and seems to be used by a number of astrophotographers for its excellent ED glass and light weight.

For an alternative to a finder, I got one of the "advanced" red dot finders which came with a mounting apparatus including a hot shoe mount. It is pretty light weight and lets me frame the shot pretty easily, sitting atop my D90.

I found it at gadget dot brando dot com, a Tactical Four Reticle Sight.

#16 1983cowboy

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Posted 27 March 2013 - 07:18 PM

OK, this is encouraging! I've been shooting through a William Optics ZenithStar 80 piggybacked on a wedge-mounted Nexstar 11 GPS. (I just don't have the patience to shoot with the SCT. I also just like a wider field.) I'm kind of sick of lugging that beast on top of the wedge, and have been thinking about a light, portable set up, but also wondering what kind of load the SkyTracker or Vixen Polarie could handle. Is the ZS 80 much heavier than your 400mm? (I read that the ZS weighs in at 5.3 pounds) I'd also be using a 300mm lens on my Canon 350d.
Think I could make the switch?

#17 Spacetravelerx

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Posted 27 March 2013 - 08:23 PM

Ok, I just "wish listed" this configuration (I have the Canon 60Da and Lens so set there). This will be the May set of purchases...

Fun hobby!






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