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Anyone using Vixen EQ mounts?

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#1 Gord

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Posted 13 August 2013 - 09:33 AM

Hi All,

Are there many here using Vixen mounts? You never hear a lot about them.

I've been toying with the idea of a new mount (or I should say additional mount...) for visual on lighter loads. I have an old GP-DX that was pretty neglected when I got it and I've been working on cleaning up over time. But even still, it's a very nice mount in terms of the smoothness and the little finish and design details.

I've had 4 different Chinese clones (the EQ5's) from the Celestron and Meade sources. They have all been very good value and one even a really nice performer, but they vary a lot in quality and seem to lack the "polish" of the Vixen. Little things such as the latitude adjusters on the Vixen with smooth edges or the more tight feeling of the axis locks. Or the light yet solid HAL130 tripod that folds and adjusts so easily as compared to the legs that get bent out of round if you tighten to much on the clones.

Do the Vixens all generally have a more consistent polished feel?

The down side that I'm playing with is the cost. How do people feel about the value in the Vixens?

For example, the GPD2 and HAL130 combo is more (a lot more...) than a Losmandy G8 when you add in motors. I'd say the Vixen has the portability advantage, but the G8 is a nice mount too. And then there are the nicer clones, like the HEQ5 (Sirius) and such. Or what about just the GP2? Don't really want GOTO myself (but do want tracking) and am not into astrophotography.

I'd like to hear people's thoughts.

Thanks!

#2 orlyandico

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Posted 13 August 2013 - 09:36 AM

I had a Vixen Polaris and Great Polaris.

As you noted, the fit and finish is nice, but the add-ons are expensive.

Have you checked the prices of the new Vixen GoTo mounts like the SXP and SXD2? For example:

http://www.optcorp.c...and-tripod.html

$3200 for a mount that's rated 33lb - so probably a bit heavier-duty than the AVX, at more than 3X the price)

(http://www.vixen.co..../spec/sxd2.html)

In my opinion Vixen mounts are a good buy used. New, not so much (or not at all).

#3 rmollise

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Posted 13 August 2013 - 10:08 AM

The Vixen mounts are better than the Chinese clones, but not by as much as they used to be, that's for sure. These days, it's "a little better" mechanically. Electronically? The Chinese gear is superior.

The current Vixen go-to systems are expensive and have had numerous problems since their introduction about seven years ago.

Reading the Vixen forums, it does not seem that the company is very responsive to its U.S. customers. I'd like for that to be wrong, of course. ;)

#4 jrcrilly

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Posted 13 August 2013 - 12:21 PM

Hi All,

Are there many here using Vixen mounts? You never hear a lot about them.


I'm a believer. I've owned the SP, GP, and GP-DX models (all with Sky Sensor 2000) and still have the GP-DX. Also have the obsolete and relatively unknown Sensor mount (in line for an SS2K retrofit). I've owned a couple of Sphinx SXW as well, but never learned to love the Starbook.

As might be expected, build quality and tracking are far superior to any of the clones. It can only be the price difference that keeps the GP series from being more popular.

#5 faltered

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Posted 13 August 2013 - 12:45 PM

i have a Vixen SX Sphinx EQ mount. It is absolutely gorgeous to look at. for visual use, i love it. Its useless for AP. it got me so frustrated trying AP that I bought a CGEM. But i like the Sphinx enough to have kept if for visual use.

#6 mayidunk

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Posted 13 August 2013 - 01:06 PM

I have a GP from the days when Orion was selling them with the 102mm achro. It has the old hammer tone green finish, and is excellent!

I also have a Sphinx SXW that I have replaced the StarBook with the NexSXD motor control board and the Celestron NexStar+ controller. I bought it new 3 years ago for much less than they are going for these days, so the investment in the NesSXD was, for me, cost effective. As a result of the NexSXD, my Sphinx has basically become a whole new mount! It is now much quieter (no more feedback whine when tracking), and has become much easier to align and use, with the NexStar+ HC having software that is more mature, and stable than the StarBook's.

#7 SteveG

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Posted 13 August 2013 - 01:45 PM

Fan here as well. I have a Polaris, Super Polaris and Great Polaris. These are all lightweight mounts for small or medium scopes, but the finish work and precision is very good. I think they're a great buy on the used market, but make sure you are getting the drive unit & controller, as many are discontinued and they're outrageously expensive new. Mount one on a surveyors tripod and the weight capacity will go way up. I'm using a GP for my 120mm ED refractor (18 lbs with rings, diagonal & eyepiece). The scope is rock solid and damps in less than 1 second.

#8 bilgebay

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Posted 13 August 2013 - 02:15 PM

I own and love a Vixen New Atlux mount.

It is a masterpiece mechanically.

Starbook was the only shortcoming but this was quickly cured when I replaced the control board with a NexAtlux board. Now I am using a Celestron handcontroller and the mount is convinced that it is a Celestron CGE Pro :)

#9 Ballyshannon

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Posted 13 August 2013 - 03:47 PM

I'm still using a Vixen Super Polaris from the '80s and it's excellent. I beefed up the legs using red oak and it's very solid with my C8 and finders, camera, etc.

#10 mayidunk

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Posted 13 August 2013 - 04:21 PM

More on the Sphinx...

It is also a lightweight mount that will carry a good sized load. I regularly mount an ES AR152 on it, which is over 26 pounds when you add the finder scope, 2" star diagonal, and Ethos eyepiece to it! When properly balanced, using an additional 10 pound counterweight, it slews without the least sign of stress on the motors, hits every target in the FOV on GOTOs, and tracks beautifully! I did have the backlash on both axes adjusted by Vixen, when I had to return it for warranty work due to the StarBook contoller suddenly malfunctioning. However, they were able to get the StarBook working again, though at a cost to me (while the warranty on the mount itself is 5 years, electronics are only warranted for a year!) So, after getting it back, I decided to stash the StarBook, and its motor control board, and replace them with the NexSXD and NexStar+ HC.

At this point, I don't foresee myself replacing this mount anytime soon, as it is doing everything I expect of it, will easily carry every OTA I currently have, and if anything ever happens to the HC, I can easily, and relatively inexpensively replace it! On the other hand, had Vixen not been able to get my StarBook working (it had a loose/oxidized connection inside, so them disassembling and reassembling it fixed it), it would have cost $800 for them to replace it!

Be aware that Vixen will be phasing out the servo motor versions of the Sphinx mounts, replacing them with stepper motor versions, and a new generation of StarBook controllers. In fact, I was told that spare parts for my StarBook may not even be available when I sent it in for service! Fortunately, they were able to get it working without sending it to Japan, as they had first told me they wanted to do! If they had sent it to Japan, it might have possibly cost much more to fix, and definitely would have taken much, much longer to get it back!

One other thing, if you decide to get the SXW, be sure that the thrust bearings on each axis are not too tight. Many people received mounts from the factory with axes that were so tight, they were unable to accurately balance them! So that, and improperly adjusted backlash on the worm gears, are really the only mechanical gremlins I can think to warn you about. Also, do a lot of research on their new GP series of mounts, as I have read that they are not as good as the earlier ones they used to sell. While QC on the Sphinx mounts seems to be better, and they're still being made in Japan (as far as I know, anyway), from what I understand, QC on their GP series mounts isn't as good. I've also heard that the GP mounts are now being made in China, though I cannot vouch for that 100%.

In any case, do your homework, and if a GP or GP/DX is what you're ultimately looking for, try to get an earlier model on the used market. And if you plan to get a Sphinx SXW or SXD, try to find one used, and spend the extra money replacing the StarBook with the NexSXD/NextStar+ combination. Also, if you get the Sphinx, make sure that you're getting the HAL130 tripod, as Vixen has been selling them with the HAL110 tripod, and the 110 isn't anywhere near as robust as the 130. If I had the HAL110 tripod, it probably wouldn't be able to carry my AR152 as well is it does with the Hal130!

Good luck!

#11 BoldAxis1967

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Posted 13 August 2013 - 05:07 PM

I have a GPD2 with the HAL130 tripod. I am a newbie with a little over 1 year of experience. My only other experience with EQ mounts is with the CG-4 which I use with my Omni 150 XLT Reflector.

I purchased the GPD2-HAL130 to go with my 127 ED triplet from Explore Scientific. I have the carbon fiber version which I believe weighs 17.5 lbs.

I shall relate the good and not so good. First the good.

The reason I selected the GPD2 was because Terence Dickinson wrote a very positive review of the 127 triplet and he mounted this refractor on a GPD2. Also, there was a review of the GPD2 that pointed out that this mount has slow motion handles while others in its weight class such as the GM-8 and I guess you could include Celestron’s AVX do not. (At least to the best of my knowledge the AVX does not.) For me this was a significant plus because I did not want to be dependent upon motors and having to charge batteries. I do not mind turning a knob. Also, as you mentioned the cost is substantial and I have opted to spend my money on EPs rather than motors. There is a recent review (about 2-3 months ago?) of this mount in I believe Astronomy. Another review is by Chuck Hawks, who sometimes falls a little short and seems little ???, but on this review I think he does a pretty good job.

There is no doubt that the GPD2 feels more substantial with better craftsmanship than the CG-4. The gears seem to move with a feel and precision that is impressive. The mount is fairly light in weight, not difficult to carry and setup at all. I have not attached the polar scope yet but I have read that it is a joy to use. The tightness of the clutches and other aspects of the mount do seem to be a step-up in quality from the CG-4 and I love using this mount. With the 127 triplet (approximate total weight with accessories 23-24 lbs) almost no vibration at 100 X and very, very little vibration at 200X on earth and on concrete with vibration dampening pads, vibration is minimal, a 1 sec or less. Whenever I place my Omni 150 reflector (approximate maximum weight with accessories 17 pounds) on the GPD2 there is no or minimal vibration on earth at least up to about 150X and on concrete with vibration pads again no or very minimal vibration at about 150X. Overall, very, very impressive!

I have also placed an 8 inch Newtonian that weighs about 17 pounds on the GPD2. I estimate that with all accessories including a 1.5 lb EP the maximum weight is 27.0 to 27.5 pounds. The focuser here is the stock, a very cheap one speed. With this set-up I taped a 5 pound weight onto the tripod braces that connect the legs. The counter weights are 22 pounds. My experience with this set-up is very limited (n=2). On earth there is a small amount of vibration during focusing that quickly disappears (1 sec at most) at about 100X. I suspect that with higher magnification more vibration will be present but probably manageable. (Depends on one’s tolerances I guess.) What it is like at high magnification (250 and above) I do not know. I have not used this setup on concrete. I have the feeling that this 8 inch Newtonian is pushing the GPD2 close to its limit. I do not know if motors could handle this load on a long-term basis since I do not use them. I have seen where Vixen states that this mount has a 35 pound limit; I would not want to test this limit. Other sites state a 30 pound or 14 kg (31 pound) limit). This seems more realistic.

The not so good:

I purchased the GPD2 and HAL130 from Mr. StarGuy. The first time I placed a scope using this mount on Jupiter, it (Jupiter) was bouncing like it was a basketball under the control of Pistol Pete Maravich. To make a long story short I found that there were two screws loose on the tripod that connects the legs to the base plate. This was easily corrected but I do have to check these screws from time to time to make sure they are secure. I also noticed that one screw of the four that attaches each foot to a leg of the tripod was loose. The screw hole was not tapped correctly and at the factory they tried to re-tap through the same hole again to fit an entirely different type of screw. The screw apparently was never secure and was dangling. I took the tripod to a hardware store and they said that it was so botched that the best thing to do was nothing and just rely on the other three screws that were secure. I e-mailed Mr. StarGuy several times during my ordeal but they never responded. However, they do send me e-mails wanting me to buy more stuff. Also, I returned their tripod tray, it is below acceptable. I ordered the tray from a different vendor so there was no problem here. (I am going to use a plastic tray from a desk organizer, drill a few holes in it, and secure this to the tripod braces.)

When I was first inquiring about this mount I talked on the phone with this vendor and they said everything was made in Japan. I have news for Mr. StarGuy: The tripod is made in China, it is stamped on the tripod as such. I suspect that some of the components of the mount itself are also from China as they seem very, very similar to those on the CG-4 (e.g. counterweight bar). I was going to ask on CN if anyone had any problems with Mr. StarGuy but there was a lot of vendor bashing on CN and I think CN wanted things toned down a bit so I did not post my experience.

Thankfully, everything turned out OK and the mount really does work well, and it does come with a substantial warranty which is I believe is 5 years if you sent in the paper work. But, I would not order from Mr. StarGuy and hope you never have to test the warranty which may only cover the mount but not the tripod. I think all Vixen warranties are through Mr. StrarGuy.

Well, there you have it. Sorry for being so long-winded. Hope this helps.

LB

#12 a_adam

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Posted 14 August 2013 - 12:24 AM

I tend to believe Vixen that the mount itself is made in Japan. The GP mounts have been very precisely copied by competing companies, that is where the similarity in parts might originate from.

-André

#13 hottr6

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Posted 14 August 2013 - 08:45 AM

Are there many here using Vixen mounts? You never hear a lot about them.

That's what the SEARCH button is for. There are hundreds of threads on Vixen GEMs here at CN. E.g:

http://www.cloudynig...wflat.php/Cat/1,2,3,4,5,8/Number/5830520/Main/5698420

http://www.cloudynig...3245860/Main...

http://www.cloudynig...wflat.php/Cat/1,2,3,4,5,8/Number/5621012

Plus dozens more on just the Polaris.

#14 rmollise

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Posted 14 August 2013 - 08:55 AM

I tend to believe Vixen that the mount itself is made in Japan. The GP mounts have been very precisely copied by competing companies, that is where the similarity in parts might originate from.

-André


Maybe, maybe not. Because of costs, much Japanese astronomy and photo gear is at least assembled in China, often/usually with at least some Chinese components. There is nothing bad about that as long as the company having that done exercises normal quality control. Which I hope Vixen does.

#15 rmollise

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Posted 14 August 2013 - 08:59 AM

I own and love a Vixen New Atlux mount.

It is a masterpiece mechanically.

Starbook was the only shortcoming but this was quickly cured when I replaced the control board with a NexAtlux board. Now I am using a Celestron handcontroller and the mount is convinced that it is a Celestron CGE Pro :)


The shame is that if Vixen had just made a few changes to the Starbook--listened to their customers, that is--and had priced their gear competitively, they could have owned the U.S. amateur astronomy market. Even as recently as 2005-6 when the Sphinx began coming online, Vixen was much admired by U.S. amateurs. As is, not many people here want to pay their prices and then pay to convert the mounts to a Celestron computer system when there are plenty of alternatives. I keep hoping Vixen will awake and smell the java. :bawling:

#16 BoldAxis1967

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Posted 14 August 2013 - 11:10 AM

I also hope they awake and smell the java.


Now is a good time since they had a very good review in the June 2013 issue of Astronomy. The OP is correct, Vixen mounts are not discussed in this forum at anywhere near the frequency of the Celestron mounts. There are undoubtedly good reasons for this as discussed in this thread. They could probably even charge a little bit more if the quality is commiserate with the price and their customer service improves.

Hopefully Vixen is reading this thread.

LB

#17 BoldAxis1967

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Posted 14 August 2013 - 11:59 AM

Here in CN there is a very recent review of the Vixen SXD2 Equatorial Mount with Starbook Ten by Chris Thomasel.

LB

#18 rmollise

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Posted 14 August 2013 - 12:55 PM

Here in CN there is a very recent review of the Vixen SXD2 Equatorial Mount with Starbook Ten by Chris Thomasel.

LB


Yeah, I read that; it's on the Astromart, too. He liked it for visual use.

My problems would be that once you get the accessories you need to make it workable, it is at the price level of the arguably more capable Losmandy G11, and past other arguably more capable mounts like the Synta AZ-EQ-6.

Also, since he was visual only, I am not convinced that the many problems StarBook users have had when using the system for astrophotography have been eliminated.

Frankly, if you are visual only, an EQ-6 with a Netbook running your favorite astronomy program will work as well if not better. And, unless something has changed between StarBook and StarBook X, the EQ-6 will be far better for imaging. ;)

When Vixen brought out the StarBook, there was still a place for a fancy controller with a big color screen. In this days of iPads and Android Notes, and iPhones, and Netbooks, I believe the time for a controller like it has past. If they'd really got it right, it would be different. but they didn't with the original StarBook, and I am not convinced they have now.

Though I would love to be wrong about it. ;)

#19 mayidunk

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Posted 14 August 2013 - 04:15 PM

Here in CN there is a very recent review of the Vixen SXD2 Equatorial Mount with Starbook Ten by Chris Thomasel.

LB


Yeah, I read that; it's on the Astromart, too. He liked it for visual use.

My problems would be that once you get the accessories you need to make it workable, it is at the price level of the arguably more capable Losmandy G11, and past other arguably more capable mounts like the Synta AZ-EQ-6.

Also, since he was visual only, I am not convinced that the many problems StarBook users have had when using the system for astrophotography have been eliminated.

Frankly, if you are visual only, an EQ-6 with a Netbook running your favorite astronomy program will work as well if not better. And, unless something has changed between StarBook and StarBook X, the EQ-6 will be far better for imaging. ;)

When Vixen brought out the StarBook, there was still a place for a fancy controller with a big color screen. In this days of iPads and Android Notes, and iPhones, and Netbooks, I believe the time for a controller like it has past. If they'd really got it right, it would be different. but they didn't with the original StarBook, and I am not convinced they have now.

Though I would love to be wrong about it. ;)

Their move to stepper motors should have allowed them to replace the programming on the old StarBook. From what I understand, the non-stepper motor StarBook software contains an automatic DEC auto-correction routine that compensates for less than perfect polar alignment, hence the issues some have with DEC jumps, and AP. Because the person who wrote that software kind of fell off the face of the Earth, they weren't really able to fix that in the old software. Hopefully with the new software they will have, at least, allowed the user to turn that feature off when not desired.

#20 rmollise

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Posted 14 August 2013 - 06:31 PM

Hopefully with the new software they will have, at least, allowed the user to turn that feature off when not desired.


That would be great. THEN they need to knock about 1000 - 1500 bucks off the U.S. price of this rig and they would be moving again. Will they do it? I doubt it. ;)

#21 orlyandico

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Posted 15 August 2013 - 02:40 AM

I suspect with the cost of Japan labor, Vixen can't really undercut Takahashi that much.. the GP etc. were very well-priced, until the Chinese came along.

I think the issue isn't so much that Vixen is overpriced - it's that the Chinese products are really really cheap compared to what amateurs could get 20 years ago.

#22 Ranger Tim

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Posted 16 August 2013 - 08:19 AM

Rod is right: The day of an elaborate hand controller such as the StarBook are over. With the ability of wireless control from a smart phone or tablet with superior sw such as SkySafari, all we need is an electronic interface for control and an initial alignment model for go-to. What I like about the NexSX replacement hardware is its USB port and ability to function from computer/device sw or hand paddle for portability.

There are several things about the StarBook that are frustrating:
1) Screen brightness. This may not seem like a big deal but when you are not alone it is embarrassing.
2) Motor response lag. It takes the motors a moment to move when a button is pushed. For visual this gets tiring.
3) Inability to save the pointing model from one session to the next. Can you say "Start over?"
4) No permanent PEC.
5) Random dec jumps... Grrrrr!
6) It takes two hands to hold it. It is not convenient to set down or hang.
7) Sensitive to cold.
8) Inadequate number of objects and limited NGC/IC catalog.
9) Inability to correct the last alignment star. If you hit a wrong button during alignment, start over!

Yes, they could have hit the ball out of the park with this mount series, but fell flat because of software issues. The new StarBook Ten hopefully addresses these problems but I won't be interested because the basic premise is flawed.

Things I still like about my SXW?
1) It's light yet very stable.
2) The HAL tripod is excellent.
3) Fit and finish are nice. But I have paperweights that are finished well too.
4) Tracking is superb (until the dec jumps).
5) I can set up my own router under the mount, connect via ethernet and run it from any device.
6) Autoguiding is easy (except for dec jumps).
7) It is white and easy to see at night.

If the original StarBook had fixed ONE ISSUE (the random dec jumps) the SXW/SXD/Atlux would be in high demand as a portable AP mount, but Vixen evidently has cotton stuffed in their ears and doesn't read these forums for feedback. Shame on them for being so obtuse. It took a third party to develop a hardware/software replacement for less than $400 to fix the Sphinx series and make it usable for AP. And most of us spending that amount of money would like to have that functionality available, at least as a selling point later.

It is true we do not hear much about the SkySensor 2K controllers. I have always wondered about this set-up for the GPDX.

It is important for a manufacturer to follow market trends in order to maintain their competitiveness. It seems as though Vixen mostly marches to the beat of their own drummer. This is fine if their products are cutting edge and revolutionary, but when they are oblivious to obvious shortfalls and blind to customer feedback it will bite them in a bad way. This has even reduced the appeal of Vixen in other product catagories, which is a real shame. There is some good stuff available from them and it would be a shame to see them fade away. In particular, we as hobbyists need more companies that produce quality crafted gear to survive and enhance choice in the market place. I hope they can turn this trend around and make a comeback.

#23 rmollise

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Posted 16 August 2013 - 02:45 PM

I suspect with the cost of Japan labor, Vixen can't really undercut Takahashi that much.. the GP etc. were very well-priced, until the Chinese came along.


I am guessing very little Vixen gear is assembled in Japan. ;)

#24 rmollise

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Posted 16 August 2013 - 02:46 PM

If the original StarBook had fixed ONE ISSUE (the random dec jumps) the SXW/SXD/Atlux would be in high demand as a portable AP mount, but Vixen evidently has cotton stuffed in their ears and doesn't read these forums for feedback.


Bingo. Nor did they pay attention to the feedback from their customers. This is what killed the Sphinx. :bawling:

#25 orlyandico

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Posted 16 August 2013 - 06:11 PM

actually Vixen "sf" refractors are rebadged Synta, but "ss" are Japan-made. And the price reflects this...






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