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Anyone using Vixen EQ mounts?

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#26 Nippon

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Posted 16 August 2013 - 06:37 PM

I have a Vixen GP2 and I am very pleased with it. I have the dual axis drive and that is the way I wanted it. I use the mount with an ED 103 refractor and a VMC 200 L cat. It handles both well. It is stable and very smooth. I had a CG4 and the GP2 is a far better mount. If I wanted to switch to a goto mount I would buy the Celestron VX mount because I have a NexStar 8 SE and really like the system. Plus I can buy the VX cheaper than the Starbook upgrade for my GP2. I believe that the Vixen mounts are better made than the Chinese clones and I bought mine on sale.

#27 g__day

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Posted 17 August 2013 - 12:04 AM

I have a Vixen Atlux with a SkySensor2000-PC V2.10 that slews 3 OTAs on Losmandy bars - a C9.25 + OAG + Meade Motorfocuser + DSI II Mono Pro and DSLR modded, WO 110FLT + Moonlight focuser + DSLR modded and WO 88 Doublet with (according to The Sky6 + Tpoint) +/- 15 arc seconds all sky pointing precision. Tracking is real time pointing; I regularly do 20 - 30 minute shots at F/10 2350mm focal length (guided) and have done 10 minute shots unguided with no star trails. PEMPro shows my PE corrected is around +/- 2.5 arc seconds and about 4.8 arc seconds raw.

That is quite a bit of weight to balance - requires about 25KGs to counterbalance, but the Atlux does it beautifully. Being able to PC control it and having it on a permanent pier in an astrolab helps. I often control the gear remotely (local PC in astrolab - running VNC to a LAN). So setup for me can be 5-10 minutes from openning the lab to imaging.

The second generation Vixen Atlux paired to the SS2K-PC is an incredibly capable platform. The ability to track accurately - even if you are up to 20 degrees off the celestial pole - is brilliant. The wake on re-power on and
retain brilliant pointing and tracking is a delight. The ability to track satellites and to account for both latitude and elevation based altering diffraction rates is sweet!

Alas I think the Starbook is a total joke compared to capability and reliability of the SS2K. Starbook looks like the pretty but dumb cousin of the SS2K-PC. It only has a fraction of the capability of the SS2K and none of its reliability.


#28 orlyandico

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Posted 17 August 2013 - 12:45 AM

.. this is why the Atlux with SS2K is highly sought after, but the Atlux with Starbook is not.

The Starbook was indeed a downgrade from the SS2K. I believe the DEC jumps were a badly-implemented version of the SS2K's declination correction to compensate for polar alignment error.

#29 a_adam

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Posted 17 August 2013 - 01:44 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.


Hi Rod,

have you seen the "The Making" episode, where Vixen proudly shows its Japanese factory? Including all steps in mount production, from molding the metal to final assembly. The lettering in that factory is Japanese.

Vixen created quite a bit of confusion when they started to source certain scopes and parts from Synta and other Chinese sources. While the difference in designation ("f"-Series being Chinese) is clearly stated on the Japanese homepage, their American distributor is less up front with these facts. This also applies to the dreaded problem with the mount ratings, which in Japan are clearly marked as capacity WITHOUT counterweights, where Vixen US is stating the capacity INCLUDING the counterweights (which is just misleading).

IMO Vixen US could do a lot better in clear communication, following its Japanese parent company, this way settling these recurring discussions for good.

My Vixen GPD2 says Made in Japan, my Vixen tripod as well as my Porta 2 say Made in China. All are very good quality.

-André

#30 mayidunk

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Posted 17 August 2013 - 02:20 AM

What does Vixen Japan say the load rating of the Sphinx SXW is without counterweights? And, why the heck is there so much misinformation, and obtuseness with Vixen, anyway? It's like they actually go out of their way to bite their nose in order to spite their face!

I love my Sphinx mount, and was fortunate to get a good price on it. Until the StarBook froze, I was happy with it, though not ecstatically so. Vixen has done such good work over the years. I have a 102M achro that is amazing! Coupled with the GP mount, it is a superb performer! Yet they now seem to pride themselves by how far they have regressed, coupled with the seemingly willful manner in which they ignore their customers, and almost gleefully hide or obfuscate basic specs for their mounts! Rather than to be on a par with Takahashi, and other high-end companies, they instead seem to be willfully forcing themselves into becoming a mere shadow of their former selves!

They should be leading the way, but instead are becoming a laughing stock! Who, or what, is behind all this? It's like they've become a parody of the movie "Idiocracy!"

:confused:

#31 rmollise

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Posted 17 August 2013 - 07:31 AM

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


As per Andre's post, it sounds like they are doing some/all of their mount manufacture in Japan, still. But they ain't doing a very good job of it. Scanning the Vixen Yahoogroups you don't see just problems with Starbooks, but mounts with problems like sticky declination axes, etc. Problems bad enough to prevent proper operation in some cases.

If Vixen doesn't make its mounts in China, may they ought to. This ain't getting it. ;)

#32 rmollise

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Posted 17 August 2013 - 07:37 AM

What does Vixen Japan say the load rating of the Sphinx SXW is without counterweights? And, why the heck is there so much misinformation, and obtuseness with Vixen, anyway? It's like they actually go out of their way to bite their nose in order to spite their face!


That's what I don't understand. They were the darlings of amateur astronomy in the 90s. Good quality, and very reasonable prices. They at least seemed to pay attention to their customers. Now? Not so much. Change of management? I don't know.

#33 BoldAxis1967

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Posted 17 August 2013 - 10:22 AM

That's what I don't understand. They were the darlings of amateur astronomy in the 90s. Good quality, and very reasonable prices. They at least seemed to pay attention to their customers. Now? Not so much. Change of management? I don't know.

Uncle Rod



Perhaps an important component of the problem is with Vixen's princple distributor in the USA, Mr. StarGuy? If so, then Vixen is asleep at the wheel. If Mr. StarGuy has any integrity they would be responsive to customer concerns and in the case of chronic or inherent problems they would be relating these weaknesses to Vixen's engineers and/or management for the purpose of improving their product and/or QC.

As many have commented here they do seem to produce some things of such a quality that people like to use their product. On the other hand, there seems to be significant inconsistency and frustration. Reminds me of General Motors in the late 1980s and early 1990's, you never knew if you were going to get something good or something terrible, and the cost was frequently not commensurate with the quality of the product.

I do not have the experience nor the expertise, but I would like to see one or more people with the expertise, time, resources and reputation get together to make a really exhaustive comparison of say for example the GPD2, AVX and GM-8. Everything from these mounts being used for visual and AP as well as an assestment of "bang for the buck". Perhaps this is just wishfull thinking, quilty as charged. It just seems that something like this in a prominent magazine or journal or even here in CN would be useful. Hint, hint. The only reason I bring this up is that I doubt if Mr. StarGuy and Vixen are listening; but, maybe they would if they saw an article in a journal that has a large viewership.



LB

#34 rmollise

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Posted 17 August 2013 - 03:29 PM

The Sphinx came out during the time of the previous Vixen distributor, TeleVue. They (Vixen) were no more responsive them, alas.

#35 mayidunk

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Posted 17 August 2013 - 10:56 PM

Unfortunately, when I sent my Sphinx SXW back I actually had to play "Catcher in the Rye." I was one of the fortunate ones who got one whose axes were adjusted correctly, so I had to specifically instruct them to not adjust the bearing pre-load on either axis bearing, out of fear that they would just go through it, and adjust stuff just as a matter of course!

In any event it came back in good order, and after installing the NexSXD board, it's now an excellent lightweight mount, one that is truly unsung (perhaps, even a future classic?) for what it could have been apart from the unfortunate StarBook boondoggle.

#36 ericsolo

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Posted 18 August 2013 - 11:26 AM

Sadly, after 2 years of trying to make it work, I traded my New Atlux back to the vendor I bought it from just a short time the NexAtlux became available. I reckon I was out of pocket $4,000. It was replaced with a Mach One, the best astronomy investment that I have made.

Eric

#37 Gord

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Posted 19 August 2013 - 12:26 PM

Hi again Everyone,

Thanks for all the great replies and sharing of experience! I especially appreciate hearing the bad and ugly too as it gives a sense of the scale and nature of problems.

It seems my impressions match pretty well with what others are experiencing. The mechanical side is very good (although not without a few warts...). The computer side, not so good. And crazy expensive in some cases.

I too have questioned the whole starbook thing. Seemed like a neat idea when it first came out a long time ago. There was nothing of this nature available, but there seemed to be issues with it and it doesn't sound to have been extensively improved. And as someone else pointed out, in this day when there are tablets and such available so plentifully, there doesn't seem a need for something so specialized.

And I had never even *heard* of this NexStar conversion! This would certainly give me more thoughts around a used Vixen based around the starbook if this is an option. But it would have to be priced right.

And speaking of which, what's with the crazy pricing for accessories??!!! A simple case for the mount is $460! In fact, it seems hard to find any options less than $250. That and I'm sure too that not all of their stuff is fully sourced in Japan. Nothing wrong with that as long as the quality is good (and we see lots of good quality from China these days), but I would expect the price to better reflect things.

But I had already decided to avoid the starbook related mounts and was more looking for just a good quality tracking mount. I was kind of thinking for a solar application so the white color is appealing.

There is currently a promotion running from them with a GP2/HAL130 combo for only $499. I was thinking of adding the Chinese motors like the ones I have from Orion for my other EQ5's since they're only $150 or so for the setup instead of like $700 for the Vixens.

How do people find the GP2 compares against the GPD2 (new name for the GP-DX)? I like the GP-DX, although I do find that with light loads I see more high-frequency vibration than bounce that takes more time to settle down. I'm guessing it's due to the light tripod. But it just makes the whole thing so simple to setup/move.

It would be unfortunate if they ended up going away like some brands historically have, but I could see it happening if they didn't keep in touch with the market.

Thanks,

#38 orlyandico

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Posted 19 August 2013 - 12:50 PM

The GP2 is just a white GP. So it has a much lower weight capacity than the GPDX, or its (white) incarnation, the GPD2.

The Nexstar conversion board is about $240 inclusive of shipping (157 Euro + 18 Euro shipping).

http://www.nexsxd.co.../NexSXD_eng.htm

Then you buy a Nexstar hand controller ($130) and you've got a CGE Pro!

#39 rmollise

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Posted 19 August 2013 - 03:03 PM

But I had already decided to avoid the starbook related mounts and was more looking for just a good quality tracking mount. I was kind of thinking for a solar application so the white color is appealing.

There is currently a promotion running from them with a GP2/HAL130 combo for only $499. I was thinking of adding the Chinese motors like the ones I have from Orion for my other EQ5's since they're only $150 or so for the setup instead of like $700 for the Vixens.


The catch is that right now you can get a ready to go computerized CG5 mount that will probably make you a lot happier for about the same price. ;)

#40 mayidunk

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Posted 19 August 2013 - 03:15 PM

IMO, the mechanical qualities of the Sphinx, and the straightforward, sturdy design of the NexSXD motor controller board, coupled with the excellent software in the very affordable NexStar+ HC, makes for a pretty unbeatable combination of form, and function!

I was able to get the Vixen case at a more reasonable price at the time. The internal construction has proven dependable in holding everything in place so far, but the exterior aluminum skin is very prone to dings and dents. I wish the industry hadn't gone in that direction, and had instead stayed with roto-molded exteriors. In fact, every time I see an old roto-molded Orion eyepiece case for sale, I grab it! Best case ever!!!

#41 rmollise

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Posted 19 August 2013 - 03:24 PM

IMO, the mechanical qualities of the Sphinx, and the straightforward, sturdy design of the NexSXD motor controller board, coupled with the excellent software in the very affordable NexStar+ HC, makes for a pretty unbeatable combination of form, and function!

I was able to get the Vixen case at a more reasonable price at the time. The internal construction has proven dependable in holding everything in place so far, but the exterior aluminum skin is very prone to dings and dents. I wish the industry hadn't gone in that direction, and had instead stayed with roto-molded exteriors. In fact, every time I see an old roto-molded Orion eyepiece case for sale, I grab it! Best case ever!!!


It's a nice combination, no doubt about it, but also one that costs a lot of money compared to the competition. As for mechanical qualities, those I've used have been "OK," not "excellent" as I'd hoped for given the price. The Sphinxes I've tested have been comparable mechanically to most of the Synta gear on the market. That does not mean "bad," just "not much better, if any." ;)

#42 mayidunk

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Posted 19 August 2013 - 06:58 PM

IMO, the mechanical qualities of the Sphinx, and the straightforward, sturdy design of the NexSXD motor controller board, coupled with the excellent software in the very affordable NexStar+ HC, makes for a pretty unbeatable combination of form, and function!

I was able to get the Vixen case at a more reasonable price at the time. The internal construction has proven dependable in holding everything in place so far, but the exterior aluminum skin is very prone to dings and dents. I wish the industry hadn't gone in that direction, and had instead stayed with roto-molded exteriors. In fact, every time I see an old roto-molded Orion eyepiece case for sale, I grab it! Best case ever!!!


It's a nice combination, no doubt about it, but also one that costs a lot of money compared to the competition. As for mechanical qualities, those I've used have been "OK," not "excellent" as I'd hoped for given the price. The Sphinxes I've tested have been comparable mechanically to most of the Synta gear on the market. That does not mean "bad," just "not much better, if any." ;)

I guess I musta got lucky! :lol:

Aside from the backlash, and having to use Loctite Blue to hold down the nut on the saddle thrust bearing (not the DEC bearing, it's a ring nut that loads the roller bearing under the saddle, with no place for a grub screw) this mount has been excellent! The bearing preload on both axes is fine, and when carrying the AR152 there are no vibrations when tracking at any attitude, no stalling, or straining when slewing, no apparent flexure, and when the OTA is tapped, vibrations settle within a second or two! Now, this is using it for purely visual use. If I used it as an AP mount, it admittedly may not fare as well under the weight of the AR152. But, under the weight of the SVR80ED, I think it might do a pretty good job!

In any event, it may have been a bit spendy adding the NexSXD, and Celestron HC. However, given the price breaks I originally got on the mount, it still ended up being fairly cost effective for me, it works perfectly for my intended purposes, and I'm a happy camper! Heck, even before I replaced the StarBook, it still performed pretty admirably! I only finally decided to replace the StarBook with the NexSXD so I wouldn't get stuck holding the bag if the StarBook ever went South on me again. Especially as Vixen is now apparently going to be phasing it out, replacing it with the stepper-motor versions!

While the StarBook was a cool idea for its time, its time passed too quickly, and in the end Vixen's hidebound ways pretty much ensured that it would never amount to much. Replacing it with a stepper-motor version is kind of too little, too late in light of all the better control options that are now available.

However, despite all that I, too, think that the StarBook is still very cool, and I'm glad I have one! And what really matters in the end is that the OP comes away from this with a good sense of what's out there, be it Vixen, Synta, or whatever, that they may hopefully make a well informed decision.

For me? The Vixen is a keeper! For someone else? As in all things, YMMV...

Be well, "Unk!"

#43 Gord

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Posted 21 August 2013 - 08:44 PM


The catch is that right now you can get a ready to go computerized CG5 mount that will probably make you a lot happier for about the same price. ;)


Hi Rod,

You are correct. There is a lot going for these Celestron mounts. However, I have/had 2 of them! I kept the better performing one (mechanically speaking) and it happens to be a non-goto version. I just use the basic dual axis drives and don't need the computer part. And of course, I do realize just because you have the computer, doesn't mean you need to use it. They work fine for just tracking with the quick align.

But, it then all comes back to the whole quality thing. Compared to the Vixen, it seems like these ones are a step below in terms of the finish. Now that one is an older Vixen and a DX, so I'm not sure if the normal GP (or GP2 in this case) would be of similar quality in terms of feel. The DX has steel shafts and brass gears. I think the GP's are just aluminum.

I think someone else mentioned it earlier, there is a lot of competition when you get to the price point of the new GPD2 (since you need to add a lot of stuff). The Losmandy G8 is likely cheaper, but I would say higher quality. It looks a bit heavier than the Vixen though (22lbs for the head vs. 18 for the GPD2).

I also looked up the SkyWatchers and the EQ5 bare mount (non-goto) is $400. I think I'd lean to the Vixen at that price point. The SW EQ5 is likely a bit closer in terms of capacity to the GPD2 than the GP though (if it's the same as my CG5A).

I guess I'm still on the fence. Perhaps it's best to just keep waiting for a used one.

Clear skies,






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