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Tripod/mount advice for 90mm Mak-Cas

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#1 John Kuraoka

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Posted 04 March 2013 - 10:09 AM

I have an Orion 90mm Mak-Cas, which came on a very nice tabletop dobsonian-style mount. I've been using it mounted on my old Bogen 3221 photo tripod. That combo is bulky, but has been working fine.

But it occurred to me that the whole outfit could pack down a lot smaller for camping if I replaced the tabletop-mount-on-a-photo-tripod setup with a standard telescope tripod and mount.

I tried using my old Bogen heavy-duty pan/tilt as an alt/az, but didn't like the way it worked. Plus, I noticed that the "real" astronomy mounts and tripods had some nice features like slow-motion controls and eyepiece trays.

The Mak-Cas has a dovetail mount on it, so I think it's compatible with most mounts.

I went shopping and found tons of mounts that look like they'd do the job. Many look like clones.

Given the trade-off between portability and stability (my scope offers fairly narrow views), and a maximum budget of maybe $150, what would you recommend? Are there things I should avoid? Things I should look for?

Thanks!

#2 kenrenard

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Posted 04 March 2013 - 10:13 AM

I love my Universal Astronomics Dwarf Star. I don't think a smaller better designed mount exists. Its $149.00 and fits on a standard tripod. Here is a picture of my AT72 mounted on it. I have it mounted to a Slik 700 DX tripod.

http://www.universalastronomics.com/

Ken

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#3 CosmoSat

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Posted 04 March 2013 - 11:04 AM

http://agenaastro.co...orta-mount.html

#4 Jon Isaacs

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Posted 04 March 2013 - 11:51 AM

http://agenaastro.co...orta-mount.html


I have never seen a mini-Portamount but the price is certainly right. I really like my Portamount, with a short scope like the 90mm Mak, the slow motion controls are very useful. About the only reservation I would have with the Mini-Portamount is that I am not sure how much more portable it is than the standard Portamount and the standard Portamount will handle a larger scope should such a thing happen in the future.

Also OPT sells the Portamount II mount without the tripod, it has a standard 3/8"-16 threaded hole so it would mount directly to a Bogen tripod.

Portamount Head

Jon

#5 John Kuraoka

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Posted 04 March 2013 - 12:30 PM

That Vixen Mini-Porta Mount looks like the ticket for about $150 complete, or about half the price of the full-size Porta Mount II with a tripod.

So another question is whether or not I gain anything with the dedicated tripod that comes with the Mini-Porta over mounting a head on my Bogen tube-leg 3221? I sometimes feel as if I may be under-supported with my current setup, although that bulky Dobsonian tabletop mount probably isn't helping when stuck atop a tripod.

#6 Paco_Grande

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Posted 04 March 2013 - 12:39 PM

Mr Star Guy has a demo Porta II on sale. I bought one of his demos a couple of months ago, it was in excellent condition. think I paid $199.

The current one he's selling is only $179. Someone should snag it. I have two Porta II mounts, I don't need a third. :D

http://www.mrstarguy...p?idproduct=434

He's in San Clemente, you guys in San Diego could drive right on up and pick it up this morning. lol


#7 kenrenard

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Posted 04 March 2013 - 12:54 PM

That Vixen Mini-Porta Mount looks like the ticket for about $150 complete, or about half the price of the full-size Porta Mount II with a tripod.

So another question is whether or not I gain anything with the dedicated tripod that comes with the Mini-Porta over mounting a head on my Bogen tube-leg 3221? I sometimes feel as if I may be under-supported with my current setup, although that bulky Dobsonian tabletop mount probably isn't helping when stuck atop a tripod.


I can tell you from experience a good mount on a sturdy tripod is the ticket. I have a Sky Scanner 100 and mounted it directly on my Slik tripod and it was no where near as stable as the Dwarf Star. I can't comment on the Mini Porta heads. But, Larry's handmade mounts are very well made, and he is a pleasure to work with. He spend quite a bit of time making sure I had the easy grab and go solution I wanted. I wouldn't hesitate to contact him directly and ask his advice.


Ken

#8 Jon Isaacs

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Posted 04 March 2013 - 01:45 PM

That Vixen Mini-Porta Mount looks like the ticket for about $150 complete, or about half the price of the full-size Porta Mount II with a tripod.

So another question is whether or not I gain anything with the dedicated tripod that comes with the Mini-Porta over mounting a head on my Bogen tube-leg 3221? I sometimes feel as if I may be under-supported with my current setup, although that bulky Dobsonian tabletop mount probably isn't helping when stuck atop a tripod.


John:

That's a good question... If it were a 3040/3046 or a 3035/3036/3050/3051 series I would say definitely they are plenty solid but I have never owned a 3021/3221..

I am still curious which Bogen tilt pan head you have and how you used it. I have had good success with my 3047 type head using them in the "side-saddle" configuration, that is with the top axis flipped on it's side the scope mounted alongside rather than on top of the mount.

Posted Image

Jon

#9 kenrenard

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Posted 04 March 2013 - 02:32 PM

Jon and John,
I would be curious myself. My issue with my Slik tripod was the Pan head mounted on top. I found it to wobble when moving it. I could never get it to settle down completely. Even when tilting sideways it wouldn't work. While it was OK for a camera or a telescope at low power the wobble caused issues when viewing at anything remotely high power.

I ended up removing the whole pan head and mounting my Dwarf Star on the 1/4 20 bolt coming right out of the legs. My assumption is any mount that would connect should work well for this.

I was suggesting the UA mount since it works on any tripod and weights 1 LBS. You could technically hike with this setup with your scope in a backpack. I am not sure if you are looking for something this ultra light.

One think I have noticed is many of today's refractors with 2 inch focusers tend to be very back heavy. I would get something pretty good since it could work for more than your current scope. I believe most of these will hold 10 lbs.

Since Jon is familiar with your scope and setup he should have some good suggestions.

I hope I am not overwhelming you with options. I just went through this last summer and spend tons of time trying to find something light and very usable. I end up taking my little refractor on every family trip and carry it around fully mounted through hotel lobbies and campgrounds.

Ken

#10 Jon Isaacs

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Posted 04 March 2013 - 05:24 PM

I would be curious myself. My issue with my Slik tripod was the Pan head mounted on top. I found it to wobble when moving it. I could never get it to settle down completely. Even when tilting sideways it wouldn't work. While it was OK for a camera or a telescope at low power the wobble caused issues when viewing at anything remotely high power.



When it comes to photo tripods and heads, I pretty much stick with Bogen/Manfrotto, they are professional quality and very nicely made. And expensive. But I keep an eye on Craigslist and when a heavy duty Bogen with a 3047 head shows up for $50 or $50, I buy it..

Jon

#11 Tony Flanders

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Posted 05 March 2013 - 05:32 AM

Another question is whether or not I gain anything with the dedicated tripod that comes with the Mini-Porta over mounting a head on my Bogen tube-leg 3221? I sometimes feel as if I may be under-supported with my current setup, although that bulky Dobsonian tabletop mount probably isn't helping when stuck atop a tripod.


Are you observing from a standing or seated position? That tripod/head combination should be fine for observing seated; retracting a tripod's legs adds hugely to its stability.

The MiniStar (predecessor of the Dwarf Star) is rock-solid on my 3021 legs for my 70-mm refractor, though the 3021 is distinctly underpowered for my 100-mm refractor. I think it should be fine for a 90-mm Mak.

#12 John Kuraoka

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Posted 05 March 2013 - 09:21 AM

I typically observe seated, although my chair can sit quite high if I'm looking at objects closer to the horizon.

My tripod usually has the largest leg section fully extended, and the next leg section about half extended. The third leg section and the center post remain fully retracted.

#13 Adeema

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Posted 05 March 2013 - 10:15 AM

I too came to own an Orion Starmax 90 recently and began looking for a portable mount. I was hoping for something that would allow me to stuff the telescope, the mount head, and the tripod in a backbag for easy transportation.

The Dwarfstar looks promising, I just need to find a sturdy enough and compact Manfrotto tripod to go with it.

#14 Paco_Grande

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Posted 05 March 2013 - 12:25 PM

Another possibility if you don't think micro controls are important for this mount. Manfrotto 055 tripod with the 701HDV fluid head. Fluid head is nice because it softens the movements. Plus, this mount is extremely good for photography and for video cameras. I use mine a lot.

http://www.bhphotovi...OB_055XPROB_...

http://www.bhphotovi..._701HDV_Pro_...

$150 for a bit of billet and huge knobs ain't for me. :D

#15 kenrenard

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Posted 05 March 2013 - 12:48 PM



$150 for a bit of billet and huge knobs ain't for me. :D


After visiting Larry's shop last summer. I saw how well the products were made. Larry's is a true machinist and makes some really great mounts all by hand. He is also great to do business with and spent quite a bit of time over a $150.00 sale. You just don't find that kind of customer service anymore. Although the Dwarf Star may look very simple it's a very effective mount.

Ken

#16 wcstarguy

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Posted 05 March 2013 - 12:56 PM

Here is a cheap and easy diy mount you can make for your photo tripod and fluid head...
http://www.homebuilt...odification.htm

#17 Paco_Grande

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Posted 05 March 2013 - 03:57 PM


After visiting Larry's shop last summer. I saw how well the products were made. Larry's is a true machinist and makes some really great mounts all by hand. He is also great to do business with and spent quite a bit of time over a $150.00 sale. You just don't find that kind of customer service anymore. Although the Dwarf Star may look very simple it's a very effective mount.

Ken


Ken, I have no doubt about that. We all have our own sense of aesthetics and designs we prefer. :sumo:

#18 John Kuraoka

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Posted 06 March 2013 - 10:09 AM

Thanks for the responses!

I love the simple elegance of that Dwarf Star. I could easily see getting it for backpacking, should I ever choose to take the Mak backpacking (I typically just take binocs, but if the Scout troop really gets interested I might just suffer the weight).

On the whole, I'd rather be somewhat overmounted than the tiniest bit undermounted, especially when using the 11mm. For what it's worth, I think my current setup is slightly undermounted, although I think the weak link in the chain is the tripod itself.

I've never had slow motion controls, but they sound very appealing, especially since we have four people sharing the scope. I'm thinking it would make it a lot easier for people to keep things in view. (Right now, there are only two of us who can track an object with the stock Dobsonian-style mount: my older son and me. That prompts a lot of hopping on and off the scope.)

That Portamount is tempting - I wonder if the Mini version would be really stable at a standalone (non-tabletop) viewing height at high magnification, or if I should be looking more at the standard Portamount II?

#19 Paco_Grande

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Posted 06 March 2013 - 12:37 PM

I'd go with the standard Porta II. The Mini just seems like a washed down unit intended to fit a low price point and doing so with so-so value. Here's a CN review on the Mini.

http://www.cloudynig...hp?item_id=2278

I'd sure as heck pick the Dwarf Star before the Mini. At least we know it's really good quality. For around $150, there is no comparing the Mini to the Dwarf, the latter being in a different class altogether. The Dwarf deserves a very nice tripod, so by the time you add it all up, you're at the normal $279 price of the Porta II, which makes that demo unit look pretty good. :)




#20 John Kuraoka

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Posted 06 March 2013 - 01:04 PM

... by the time you add it all up, you're at the normal $279 price of the Porta II, which makes that demo unit look pretty good. :)


Shhh! Keep your voice down! ;) I have my sights on it, but I'll be getting together later with Jon Isaacs, who has one, so I can make sure it'll really save me some size and weight over my current setup. Plus, he has a few other ideas I'd like to try out.

Seriously, if someone beats me to it, then it wasn't meant to be. :bawling: There's always the next deal. :)

#21 CosmoSat

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Posted 06 March 2013 - 02:33 PM

If you are considering a standard sized mount...have a look at these two too..

GSO SkyView Deluxe Alt-Az Mount

Explore Scientific TwiLight I Alt-Azimuth Mount and Tripod


Clear Skies!

#22 Paco_Grande

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Posted 06 March 2013 - 10:36 PM


Shhh! Keep your voice down! ;) I have my sights on it, but I'll be getting together later with Jon Isaacs, who has one, so I can make sure it'll really save me some size and weight over my current setup. Plus, he has a few other ideas I'd like to try out.

Seriously, if someone beats me to it, then it wasn't meant to be. :bawling: There's always the next deal. :)


:D

You're gonna like it. I'm supposed to hook up with Jon, too, but I've been too crazy busy to get down south. Hope to do that soon, I have a 1yr old grandson I'd like to see in San Diego. :)

#23 Paco_Grande

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Posted 06 March 2013 - 10:47 PM

This is the kind of product that slays me.

http://www.optcorp.c...px?pid=277-8054

Essentially $900 for a 5 lb limit alt/az mount. But hey, you'll look like someone special amongst the proletariat. :lol:

#24 Paco_Grande

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Posted 06 March 2013 - 10:52 PM

John, one other possible consideration is this:

AZ4 mount

http://www.optcorp.c...x?pid=277-16655

I have one of these and it works very well with my 6" Newt. But it does not have micro controls, and there is a fair amount of stiction in the joints and for a light scope I think the stiction would drive someone nuts. But, it works well for a heavier scope. The stiction is bad when it hasn't been used in a while and gets better during a session. Just another option.

#25 John Kuraoka

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Posted 07 March 2013 - 12:51 AM

I just got in from looking for some doubles and watching Jupiter through the 11mm, and am now pretty much convinced that micro controls will be a significant enhancement to usability. Man, the Earth spins fast! :)






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