VIXEN SXD 2
Posted 21 April 2013 - 05:39 PM
I was talking to the nice Vixen lady yesterday at NEAF and as I do every year, I'm playing with the Starbook Ten while we were chatting. So I said (as I do every year,) "So is this thing still ten grand, or what?" So she says, "No, it's three now." So without looking up, I said, "No, I mean with the Starbook Ten." So she goes on to explain that this new mount which is absolutely purring like a perfectly quiet kitten is just $3,000. She goes on to show me the tag that is hanging from it. I'm like, No way! I took a good look at the Starbook and to my knowledge, it is the same one that was too expensive all previous years.
I asked her why there was no marketing being done because they will sell like hotcakes for this new price. If you have never held and used the Starbook Ten, it is nothing like the cheesy model that comes with the Sphinx. It's REALLY nice. -I don't know how they are swinging this, but apparently Vixen finally realized that the Starbook, at ten grand, was out of reach for most of us.
I for one am getting rid of some stuff this month to make room for it.
Good luck in your decision, Chris
Posted 21 April 2013 - 10:23 PM
Posted 22 April 2013 - 02:52 AM
The Vixen SXD2 and SXP use the "Starbook ten" (and so will all new Vixen mounts) which is a STEPPER DRIVER base instead of a servo motor as on the previous "blue" Starbook.
Yes, so they went back to good ol' stepper motors and stepper driver electronics like in the days of the GP's! - Back to the future.
Information here in Japan indicates that guiding issues, everybody experienced with the old Starbook, are resolved with this new design.
For me personally the "Starbook ten" controller, although working correctly, is still too big for field use... but that's maybe just me.
Posted 22 April 2013 - 05:15 PM
With regards to serious use, I have kept it for the simple reasons stated above and with an eye toward equipping it with a NexSXD chip from Spain. I believe the other's claims that this new board will change the mount into a fine imaging instrument and that it will make up for the (old) StarBook's extremely limited database and its annoying declination bounce. I add the graphic following this post to demonstrate to the non-believers out there that I know that of which I speak.
Allow me to summarize my viewpoints about this new $3000 dollar offering from Vixen with a pro and con comparison/contrast.
If this new mount (SXP) does use different motors it is a good thing. The older mounts were prone to a "cogging" action that was obviously part of the noise and dec problems. I always felt as if the current was being supplied to the motors as AC rather than DC because of the buzzing sound heard as the mount tracked.
This family of mounts is light, yet stable. I have never had any problems attributable to lack of stability or vibration with my light weight Sphinx.
The polar scope is second to none. It takes a bit of reading and practice to use correctly, but it gets you VERY close to the optimum polar alignment. Nice that it is now included with the purchase of the mount. Good job, Vixen!
Did I read or hear that this mount/controller has permanent PEC? That would be a vast improvement for those of us who like to get out in the boonies with a lighter (than a G-11 or Atlas) mount and run it for hours, shooting with a minimalistic set-up, sans computer. With good PEC one could shoot at least 1-2 minute subs without too much fuss, eh?
Autoguiding port integral to the mount, with an option for some type of add-on rig to use the StarBook Ten with a guide camera to provide closed-loop guiding corrections W/O PHD! This has got to be something someone must investigate and report back to the CL brain trust with a review. It won't be me, at least not until I win the lottery.
This new StarBook Ten actually has built-in database support for 275,000 objects? Now we're getting somewhere! After all, we are all mostly running down Messiers, NGC's and IC's mostly. I really am not too hung up on getting deeper than that for go-to's. I can check the REALLY faint fuzzies out on Sky Safari when I get home or on the iPhone.
WHY don't other manufacturers offer ethernet support for laptops? I love this capability on my Sphinx and it works like a dream. I can even set up a router under the scope and do wireless stuff CHEAP! I also like having the ability to operate the StarBook Ten without the actual mount so that I can do updates and play a bit. Of course, it will (says the info) integrate with ASCOM if necessary.
The weight quoted for ASTROPHOTOGRAPHY is 30 pounds (without counterweights). I wonder what type of "ring around the rosie" we will play this time with weight ratings? Are the specs fact or fiction? If we take them as fact then this is a very nice weight range - keep in mind the mass of the mount is waaay less than other offerings in this price range. One should also keep in mind that this is probably not the best choice for a stationary observatory mount, but a nice choice for someone desiring a lighter package that offers precision and portability.
Next post will have the cons...
Here's the annoying SXW dec bounce-
Posted 22 April 2013 - 06:06 PM
Unless Home Depot or some other really savvy customer service oriented outfit recently bought or infiltrated Vixen, their support can be characterized as "lukewarm" at best. Be prepared to deal with the vendor exclusively - to be fair, sometimes this works out really well. But there is not even a prayer of getting the type of instant response and superb support (even online) that is common from Southern Stars or Astrophysics. You can forget about calling and talking to a real human at the factory ala Scott Losmandy. Ain't gonna happen and there would probably be a language barrier anyway. Some parts will need to be flown from Japan or you can wait for the slow boat to arrive in three months. Ask me how I know...
Boy, that sounded a lot more negative than I intended! But manufacturer support may be a huge reason why Vixen has had such a difficult time taking market share in the US.
The dovetail saddle on these mounts is a bit less robust than I would like. Hopefully if you purchase one there will be a replacement from ADM (in some alternate universe) that you could order, but I wouldn't count on it. I am always worried about the main screw loosening over the course of an entire night's worth of temperature changes.
How much control of the screen illumination is there? The preceding StarBook had a major design flaw in this regard that involved taping neutral density filters over the screen. It stunk. Doesn't seem like that big of a deal but it really was. Did this improve? The red mode will help.
Did they improve the power jack so that the plug wouldn't fall out in the middle of a session? Makes a person want to throw the entire rig into the nearest body of water.
The StarBook (original) was a bit difficult to feel your way around in the dark. I understand this newer "Ten" version has illuminated buttons. Great! But there's so many! It will be an aggravating learning curve to become proficient operating this in the dark. Hopefully there are ridges or bumps on the buttons for some type of braille-like efficiency. In short, trying to teach my wife how to operate the old StarBook at night was (ahem!) challenging to say the least. This doesn't look like it's going to be any easier.
I have probably got to still run Windows to update the StarBook Ten on my Mac. No biggie, Parallels to the rescue. Can I update with XP?
You know what extreme cold does to LCD's, right? Have you ever dropped the controller and had the crystals break? It is weird, but mine was okay after it warmed up - but ended the session early nonetheless. Strap a hand warmer to it. Or possibly several hand warmers? This new StarBook Ten is BIG.
Scopes with long tubes - I think everyone calls it some technical sounding mumbo-jumbo, like "moment-arm" - suffer from lack of support due to the relatively short contact that the dovetail makes in the saddle. At least this seems to be my experience with my SXW. Doubtless the new mount will be more stable overall, but I still have some nagging suspicions. So don't plan on mounting your favorite f/12 six foot long refractor.
How long until this mount gets supported by Sky Safari, PHD, The Sky, etc.? Are the most common programs paying attention to Vixen anymore? I don't know...
Until this mount and new StarBook gets into the hands of more people willing to testify to the CL crowd just how great it is, the asking price is still too high for me to take a chance on. Time will tell.
Thanks for reading this. I had fun writing it. Hope the SXP turns heads and changes the fortunes for Vixen. They make some fine instruments and their fit and finish is really quite good. Go buy one and report back : )
Posted 23 April 2013 - 05:01 AM
I own an SXD and after years fighting for AP I reached the peace of senses adding the NexSXD board.
Posted 23 April 2013 - 06:52 AM
Posted 23 April 2013 - 11:14 AM
Posted 23 April 2013 - 11:31 AM
Posted 23 April 2013 - 11:42 AM
Posted 23 April 2013 - 11:48 AM
My New Atlux is a great mount. NexAtlux board works like a charm. Funny thing is the identity problem my mount believes it's a CGE PRO now
I'm sure it does, and I reckon that is a good thing.
Posted 23 April 2013 - 09:28 PM
Posted 24 April 2013 - 08:41 AM
Sorry. SXD2, SXP, AXD, yikes! I personally have no plans to purchase any of these products, but have a marginal interest in how the new ones perform with the new controller.
Me too. I loved the idea of the Sphinx controller, and if they've got everything worked out now, I could be interested. Gotta say, though, that now that you can control your scope with SkySafari on your iPhone, the bloom is a little off the rose for hand controllers like the Sphinx. They need to bring something more to the table to get anywhere.
Posted 20 May 2013 - 05:35 PM
Here are some pictures of the unit arriving. I haven't taken it out yet, but I wanted to give some thoughts on it as the dealers are about to list it on their sites, so I wanted to share some things with prospective buyers beforehand, so that maybe I can be of some help in your decision. As you can see, typical Japanese quality in their shipping. Here are just a few points to consider. Good or bad? You be the judge:
1-No pictures on most of the objects you will slew to. Reasonable, I guess, because for example, there are almost 8 thousand NGC objects alone.
3-No back button on menu, so you have to clear all the pages and start again. This kind of gets old.
4-Very small characters. The reading glasses you will use will have to be strong, and will not be usable for something else as you move your eyes away. For example, on my CGEM, I just look at the controller, then up at the mount without removing glasses, even though I don't need them to see the mount.
5- Very elegant mount and Starbook.
6-Mount is very light and manageable at 20 pounds.
7- Strong torque. Try to stop the mount while it's moving the scope, and it doesn't even groan.
8-Very quiet, about the same as the Sirius.
10-At a certain zoom setting, the screen is actually in proportion to a laptop's. The Sky 6 Pro frames the same information as the Starbook.
11-Great (electronic) night vision screen. Although the white light set at low can be used instead, thereby retaining the nice colors of the different objects and info.
13-Beautiful polar scope.
14-You can align up to 20 stars.
15-You can input orbital elements of comets and satellites, and update each at any time as they change.
I have about 20 more points, let me know if you have any questions.
Good luck on your decision, Chris