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Nova Hitch Initial Impression: Remarkable

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#1 astrophile

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Posted 30 June 2013 - 06:16 PM

I have recently received and started to use a ‘basic’ version of Charles Riddel/Half Hitch Telescope’s Nova Hitch mount. My heartfelt congratulations and thanks go to Mr. Riddel: With this product, he has ended a years-long quest for the ideal alt-az mount under a 130-140mm APO.

I liked my G-11. I liked my DM-6. But the Nova Hitch takes the visual observing experience to a level I had not previously imagined. The mount conveyed this to me within the first five minutes of use…but it took additional observing sessions to convince myself that its brilliant combination of attributes and performance was for real. With further time and exploration I will feel more qualified to offer an actual review of the mount (and pictures!)…but a handful of evenings under the moon, planets and (double) stars, through an AP130EDFS, gives me confidence to report initial impressions and performance.

• This is the smoothest alt-az I’ve ever used, and with zero perceptible stiction or backlash. At the same time, as long as telescope balance is halfway close, it immediately stays put when stopped. The bearings deliver a perfect combination of silkiness and “weight,” producing a movement that is hard to describe and must be experienced—not “light”…but just right.

• The Nova Hitch is stable, damping a rap on the 130’s diagonal in one second (G-11 tripod).

• The Nova’s perfectly-tuned movement and unique accommodation for vertical balance make it easy to work with a broad range of eyepieces without ever having to touch the rings or saddle. In my case, this means Nagler Zoom+equalizer, up to Ethos 17; I can drop in a Nagler 31 with little drama—simply move to target, lock the alt axis, and track the wide field with the slo-mo knobs.

• In the above event, or an eyepiece changeout, or public outreach, it is a 2-second motion to positively lock the altitude axis. And then to unlock it.

• The slow-motion controls are a joy. Smooth, positive, precise, zero appreciable backlash. Easy to reach seated or standing, behind or beside. I have never appreciated the advantage of slo-mo controls, until now. Tracking Saturn at 260X with axes locked is a revelation.

• Compared to any previous mount, it now takes me half the time to attach the telescope—thanks to the cam-lock axis brakes and the “upside down” saddle clamp that looks wrong but works great.

• Zenith reach is a pleasant surprise. Nova Hitch enables my 130mm to swing very close to 90deg altitude before bumping against the G-11’s 6” diameter column. On a tripod with a smaller top plate, it would reach full zenith no question.

In short, the initial verdict: Nova Hitch is the highest-performance utterly usable mount I have ever owned or tried. As I experience and learn more about it, further reporting to follow…

(For context: In nine years of amateur astronomy, in addition to a 10” Starmaster dob, I’ve owned & used an NP-101, TEC 140, Antares 127mm, SV90, and currently an AP130EDFS; with TV Gibraltar, UA Unistar, Helix Hercules, Losmandy G-11 and GM 8, DM-6, SV M1, and Super Half Hitch mounts. My sole affiliation/interest in Half Hitch Telescope is having purchased a Super Half Hitch and now a Nova Hitch mount, and engaging in associated communications with the proprietor.)

#2 M83 fan

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Posted 02 July 2013 - 08:14 AM

Wow, that sounds like an amazing mount.

#3 astrophile

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Posted 03 July 2013 - 04:40 PM

Yes, it really is.

Weather has been very lousy in the mid-Atlantic for several days and does not look to improve soon, so holiday observing looks bleak. However, I'll try to get some photos up. Someone also asked about a video of the mount handling during eyepiece change, if I can figure out a public forum to post such a thing I'll give that a go also.

#4 la200o

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Posted 04 July 2013 - 12:57 PM

Sounds like a real improvement over the HH Mark III, which is itself a pretty good mount.

Congrats!

Bill

#5 astrophile

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Posted 04 July 2013 - 02:40 PM

Thanks Bill. For a larger scope it certainly is (assuming the characteristics of my Super Half Hitch are comparable to your Mark III, scaled up a bit). For something smaller/shorter like your TV 76, I'm guessing the Mark III remains an excellent match. (My NP101 and SV90 are long gone...I'd love to see what they'd be like on the Super.)

#6 Mark9473

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Posted 04 July 2013 - 04:27 PM

I liked my DM-6. But the Nova Hitch takes the visual observing experience to a level I had not previously imagined.

I'm not about to ditch my DM-6, but I would be interested if you could offer some comparative impressions between the two.

#7 mistyridge

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Posted 04 July 2013 - 04:53 PM

The DM-6 costs less but lacks the slow motion. I would love to see a comparison by someone who has both mounts. I could use a second heavy duty Alt Az but will wait awhile to see how the Nova works out.

#8 KJL

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Posted 05 July 2013 - 08:50 AM

The DM-6 costs less but lacks the slow motion. I would love to see a comparison by someone who has both mounts. I could use a second heavy duty Alt Az but will wait awhile to see how the Nova works out.


I would also be interested in that comparison! In my case (<= 4" refractors) I'd also like to see how the forthcoming Mini Hitch II compares with the DM-4, but all in good time.

BTW I've been considering the purchase of a larger scope (130mm+ APO or C9.25/11) and so have been researching a bigger alt-az mount. Looking carefully at pricing I confess I haven't seen much of a difference, if at all. Both the DM-6 and Nova Hitch cater to 130mm+ refractors. For those scopes, the DM-6 costs $1200; the required tilt-in saddle costs $150; the tripod extension for getting closer to zenith costs $225. The resulting combo doesn't have the Nova Hitch's built-in finder bracket, which would cost $40 more for the DM-6.

Assuming I did my math correctly (big if!), all-told an equivalent DM-6 setup would cost $1615 vs the Nova Hitch at $1595. You can certainly quibble over this or that accessory but I consider this sort of difference a wash at this price level. Even +/-$100 seems hardly a point of concern for scopes that cost $3k or more (though maybe that's just me).

Yet the Nova Hitch offers the same stunning slow-motion controls and wonderfully balanced operation of my Mini Hitch, with other new benefits (cam-locks, on-the-fly vertical adjustment, etc). The better balance in particular means I can probably safely mount a C11 with the Nova Hitch on my super lightweight Gitzo GT5562LTS tripod. That's a 6.5-lb set of legs! (Though with an 88-lb load capacity) Can you imagine a C11 mounted on a DM-6 on such a light tripod without a big counterweight to prevent it falling over? So at least the value proposition of the Nova Hitch appears to be bonkers.

In conclusion: more reviews please!

#9 astrophile

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Posted 06 July 2013 - 04:32 PM

I'm not about to ditch my DM-6, but I would be interested if you could offer some comparative impressions between the two.


Happy to. Please keep in mind these are just as you say, impressions, since I sold the DM-6 a couple years ago and so unfortunately cannot report a side-by-side comparison.

Motion/feel: The DM-6 was smooth, no question…but the Nova Hitch possesses a level of movement that goes beyond "smooth" and is hard to find words for. It is silky, immediately responsive, but with a perfect degree of “viscosity” to provide control. The DiscMount simply did not match this. Furthermore, I've come to appreciate more and more the slow-motion controls of the Nova Hitch. Yes, I could track at 300x with the DM-6...but doing so is easier and more enjoyable with well-executed slo-mo knobs.

Rigidity: DM-6 (without an extension) did slightly better here. I do not remember actually timing the DiscMount’s damping, but my clear recollection/impression is that it gave a bit less vibration at the eyepiece and a bit faster damping than the Nova Hitch’s ~1 sec (same 130mm APO, same tripod, mostly the same eyepieces).

Zenith operation: My DM-6 lacked an extension column, so the tripod legs tended to interfere with scope movement anywhere near zenith. This was exacerbated when I tried a DM handle to improve scope control. Nova Hitch out of the box reaches very close to zenith no matter what, it’s not anywhere the same issue. (I like to keep and carry my mount attached to the tripod, and did not want the extra expense or more importantly carrying weight/awkwardness added by an extension column. Comparison of DM-6 + extension w/Nova Hitch would result in a different discussion relative to multiple characteristics, and I have no experiential basis for that so will not speculate here.)

Eyepiece Handling: I had my DM-6 balanced/adjusted to hold steady with a Nagler zoom + TV equalizer up to a Nagler 31mm, and it worked fine. I have to say the DM’s ability to work across such a weight range with a single “set and forget” adjustment is remarkable. That said, the Nova Hitch’s approach is much different and personally I prefer it. As reported earlier, thanks to its bearings and vertical saddle balance the Nova is itself capable of “absorbing” a remarkable range of ep weights while maintaining stability and complete freedom of motion, with zero balancing aids or locking/addition of friction to the alt axis. On my 130mm APO, that equates to the Nagler Zoom + TV equalizer (17.3 oz together), up to an Ethos 17 (24.8 oz), for a 7.5 oz differential. With careful adjustment, an 8 oz differential might be possible, barely. With its friction clutches, camlocks, and independent slow-motion controls the Nova Hitch provides multiple good options for going beyond that, e.g. into Nag 31 or Ethos 21 territory. I’m still experimenting but pleased with the prospects.

Eyepiece changes: I never tried setting the DM-6 balance/friction for “nothing” up to the Terminagler, so I always had to steady the diagonal while changing eyepieces. Given that eps usually seem to catch on the way out, I’d have always ended up with a finger on the diagonal anyway, and tended to lose aimpoint anyway. I greatly prefer the quick & positive axis locking on the Nova Hitch that enables no-touching-the-scope, no-losing-the-target ep changeouts. Again, the separate friction clutches offer other possibilities, I just haven’t tried those yet.

To summarize this comparison of impressions: I fully understand the design simplicity of the DiscMount is intentional, and it is ingenious. Its performance is excellent. Nevertheless, in the end I’m finding the Nova Hitch to be a more enjoyable and versatile mount for a 130mm APO.

#10 Mark9473

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Posted 07 July 2013 - 04:43 PM

Thanks for that most useful comparison, John.

#11 astrophile

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Posted 19 July 2013 - 01:21 PM

Couple of photos

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#12 astrophile

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Posted 19 July 2013 - 01:22 PM

2nd one

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