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Equipment Discussions >> Mounts

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buckeyestargazer
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Reged: 01/12/08

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Travel Mount Options for CCD/widefield lens Photog
      #5661860 - 02/04/13 02:06 PM

I will have the opportunity to travel to some dark sky sites this summer, and I'd like to do some widefield imaging using my Atik 383L CCD and an old 50mm SLR lens that I've adapted to the camera. You can see the camera configuration on my website (scroll to the bottom of the link).

I would like to find a portable, light, and inexpensive (less than $500?) "tracker" mount to capture widefield images. Basically I want a mount that can hold my camera/filterwheel/lens combo (about 3.5 lbs) and reasonably accurately track in RA after a polar alignment. I'm not looking for perfection, but ease of setup and portability.

Does anyone have recommendations for such a portable mount?

I'm looking at the Ioptron SkyTracker or Vixen Polarie. Anyone use those trackers and have any images or opinions to share?

Any other mounts/trackers I should consider?

Thanks in advance!


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Raginar
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Re: Travel Mount Options for CCD/widefield lens Photog new [Re: buckeyestargazer]
      #5662449 - 02/04/13 08:32 PM

I'm looking at getting a SmartEQ Pro. Still want to see some results before I pull the trigger. Goal is a portable mount that can handle a small scope/CCD/filterwheel. The SmartEQ Pro says it can hold about 15#... that's my ST-10 and a 80mm refractor.

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Hikari
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Re: Travel Mount Options for CCD/widefield lens Photog new [Re: buckeyestargazer]
      #5662454 - 02/04/13 08:36 PM

And do you have the tripod? And what heads? Both those are going to add to the cost.

The Polarie with polar scope is going to set you back about $650-700 without a tripod or the two heads needed. The iOptron will be closer to your budget with only needing the tripod and one head. An AstroTrac will come in more but also be more stable. I a not sure how the cables play into all this. These three are really great to travel with.


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buckeyestargazer
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Re: Travel Mount Options for CCD/widefield lens Photog new [Re: Raginar]
      #5662495 - 02/04/13 09:14 PM

Quote:

I'm looking at getting a SmartEQ Pro. Still want to see some results before I pull the trigger. Goal is a portable mount that can handle a small scope/CCD/filterwheel. The SmartEQ Pro says it can hold about 15#... that's my ST-10 and a 80mm refractor.




Wow, I wasn't aware that there was a goto EQ mount for $500 out there. I'll have to look into that one more. Pair that with an Orion mini guide scope and not only could I have sidereel tracking, but autoguiding as well. Thanks for the suggestion.


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JMW
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Reged: 02/11/07

Loc: Nevada
Re: Travel Mount Options for CCD/widefield lens Photog new [Re: buckeyestargazer]
      #5662544 - 02/04/13 09:44 PM

Heck, I sold my Atlas for $600 and you can buy used CG5s for a lot less than $500. At 200mm or less focal length and a very light package you should be able to get away with a light setup.

Used Astrotrac mounts are an option. I just bought an iOptron SkyTracker for $350 with the polar scope. I will be using a Canon 6D with moderate focal length Canon lenses. I already have a Gitzo 5541LS carbon fiber tripod and a Manfroto ball head.

I figure if you are traveling, you may already be carrying a tripod with ball head for a DSLR. The Skytracker would only add a couple of pounds to that setup.


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buckeyestargazer
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Re: Travel Mount Options for CCD/widefield lens Photog new [Re: JMW]
      #5662725 - 02/04/13 11:56 PM

Well, now I'm rethinking this whole thing. It appears as though I could get a CG-5 or LXD75 or similar for less than $500. This would allow me to use other existing equipment I have to autoguide, plate solve and auto meridian flip, and the tracking doesn't have to be all that great to image with a 50mm lens. It wouldn't be quite as compact or portable as a Polarie or similar, but the extra advantages are worth the trade off.

Opinions?


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dickbill
scholastic sledgehammer


Reged: 09/30/08

Re: Travel Mount Options for CCD/widefield lens Photog new [Re: buckeyestargazer]
      #5663169 - 02/05/13 09:42 AM

yes a cg5 with a single counterweight is very portable.
You remove the triangular spreader plate, the counterweight, fold the tripod, with the head mount still attached to the tripod, and you can move this on a cart or on your shoulders. We are talking around 40-50 pounds here (from memory). The next heaviest component is probably the battery if you use one, otherwise the 7 pound counterweight.
I don't think you can move the entire mount fully loaded. I could not with a c925 and 2 counterweights. But anyways, since you have to fold the tripod during transportation, it doesn't make sense to set the mount first and move it fully loaded to the observation spot.

Edited by dickbill (02/05/13 09:42 AM)


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Raginar
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Re: Travel Mount Options for CCD/widefield lens Photog new [Re: Hikari]
      #5663236 - 02/05/13 10:09 AM

Quote:

And do you have the tripod? And what heads? Both those are going to add to the cost.

The Polarie with polar scope is going to set you back about $650-700 without a tripod or the two heads needed. The iOptron will be closer to your budget with only needing the tripod and one head. An AstroTrac will come in more but also be more stable. I a not sure how the cables play into all this. These three are really great to travel with.




The IOptron SmartEQ comes with a tripod. Basically just a cheap, little mount designed to be portable and for AP. The "Pro" edition includes more metal components internally so it's supposed to be a bit more 'solid'.

It's got a Vixen bar so you can use your equipment you already have too. I was planning on guiding via OAG, but yes, you could through a small finder-guider on there too and it would probably be functional.

I think a CG5 would be OK; not quite as portable as the SmartEQ looks.



Edited by Raginar (02/05/13 10:11 AM)


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orlyandico
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Re: Travel Mount Options for CCD/widefield lens Photog new [Re: Raginar]
      #5663255 - 02/05/13 10:17 AM

40-50 lb is still way too much for airline use. you wouldn't have much luggage allowance left for stuff-you-need-to-live

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buckeyestargazer
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Re: Travel Mount Options for CCD/widefield lens Photog new [Re: orlyandico]
      #5663464 - 02/05/13 11:59 AM

Quote:

40-50 lb is still way too much for airline use. you wouldn't have much luggage allowance left for stuff-you-need-to-live




Thanks for the replies everyone.
I should have mentioned that I will not be flying with any of this equipment, so lugging around the CG-5 or similar won't be a problem. I'm more concerned with ease of setup and quick polar alignment that is good enough for very wide-field imaging with up to perhaps 10min subs.


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buckeyestargazer
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Re: Travel Mount Options for CCD/widefield lens Photog new [Re: Raginar]
      #5663470 - 02/05/13 12:03 PM

Quote:

I was planning on guiding via OAG, but yes, you could through a small finder-guider on there too and it would probably be functional.

I think a CG5 would be OK; not quite as portable as the SmartEQ looks.






I wish I could guide with OAG too, but the backfocus of the SLR lens will only allow my filter wheel and camera behind it. At $100, the Orion mini guidescope should work well with my Lodestar for guiding and is relatively inexpensive.

The next concern I have is powering all these things in the field...I have an OBS and AC power at home so I'm not used to lugging batteries etc around.


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dickbill
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Reged: 09/30/08

Re: Travel Mount Options for CCD/widefield lens Photog new [Re: buckeyestargazer]
      #5663518 - 02/05/13 12:29 PM

"The next concern I have is powering all these things in the field..."

Yes, big problem. A cg5-class mount can be powered on a single 7 amps battery, but the computer and cameras are way more hungry. I used to power a laptop + DSI pro(draw 0.5 amp from the laptop USB) on the big 17 amp celestron power tank, which drawned the tank to its knees in about 3 hours only.
So my advice is to get something bigger and stronger than the 17 amp power tank for the computer and cameras if you have no access to ac on the field.
The mount itself will be fine with a dedicated 12V starter or the smaller power tank from C/Orion all night long.


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lakeorion
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Reged: 08/03/10

Loc: Lake Orion MI
Re: Travel Mount Options for CCD/widefield lens Photog new [Re: dickbill]
      #5737840 - 03/17/13 12:51 AM

Unfortunately, this is one of the scenarios where a DSLR, with an appropriate mount can shine. The SmartEQ Pro, with a DSLR is limited by the camera's battery. I've been researching and working towards a laptopless solution and have ended up with (so far) the SmarrEQ Pro and a DSLR. It powers off of 8 AA batteries and the DSLR Li-Ion. From testing I can get 8000 **edit** seconds not minutes **edit** before switching DSLR batteries.

Edited by lakeorion (03/17/13 01:01 PM)


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Hikari
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Reged: 01/05/11

Loc: Maine, USA
Re: Travel Mount Options for CCD/widefield lens Photog new [Re: lakeorion]
      #5738532 - 03/17/13 12:38 PM

I use a DSLR and Polarie. That is the DSLR battery and two sets of two AA batteries.

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*skyguy*
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Loc: Western New York
Re: Travel Mount Options for CCD/widefield lens Photog new [Re: buckeyestargazer]
      #5738571 - 03/17/13 01:05 PM

Quote:

Quote:

I'm looking at getting a SmartEQ Pro. Still want to see some results before I pull the trigger. Goal is a portable mount that can handle a small scope/CCD/filterwheel. The SmartEQ Pro says it can hold about 15#... that's my ST-10 and a 80mm refractor.




Wow, I wasn't aware that there was a goto EQ mount for $500 out there. I'll have to look into that one more. Pair that with an Orion mini guide scope and not only could I have sidereel tracking, but autoguiding as well. Thanks for the suggestion.




I have 11 pounds of equipment on my iOptron Smart EQ mount ... and it's pretty shaky. It also needed an additional counterweight for proper balance. My guess would be the total equipment weight would have to be around 8 pounds or less for this mount to be used successfully for astrophotography.

However for visual use, the mount does have very accurate GOTO's and very smooth tracking. I do plan on trying some unguided imaging this spring using a DSLR camera and lens.


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buckeyestargazer
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Re: Travel Mount Options for CCD/widefield lens Photog new [Re: buckeyestargazer]
      #5740674 - 03/18/13 01:01 PM Attachment (8 downloads)

Just to update this thread I've decided to go with a CG-5 ASGT mount. I custom built a side by side dovetail bar and modified a 8x50 finderscope to act as a guidescope.

If you'd like to see how I made the guidescope out of a finderscope, take a look here: finder guider info .

I've decided that I'm just going to have to travel to places that have AC power available. I don't want to invest in mobile power options, and there are enough places (campgrounds/astronomy clubs) in darker sky locations within a few hours of my home that have nice facilities.

See below for 2 pics of my travel setup.

Thanks for all the advice!


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buckeyestargazer
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Re: Travel Mount Options for CCD/widefield lens Photog new [Re: buckeyestargazer]
      #5740678 - 03/18/13 01:01 PM Attachment (12 downloads)

And the other side of the setup:

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Tom and Beth
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Reged: 01/08/07

Loc: Tucson, AZ
Re: Travel Mount Options for CCD/widefield lens Photog new [Re: buckeyestargazer]
      #5741789 - 03/18/13 09:20 PM

Thanks for your Finder conversion web page. My circa 1975 Meade finder has a new life now!

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buckeyestargazer
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Re: Travel Mount Options for CCD/widefield lens Photog new [Re: Tom and Beth]
      #5741811 - 03/18/13 09:36 PM

Quote:

Thanks for your Finder conversion web page. My circa 1975 Meade finder has a new life now!




Your welcome. But just to be clear I've not had a chance to actually test it out under the stars yet so...I'm not responsible for damage to your equipment!

Let me know how it goes.


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Tom and Beth
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Re: Travel Mount Options for CCD/widefield lens Photog new [Re: buckeyestargazer]
      #5742178 - 03/19/13 01:54 AM

I used a 2 - 1.25 inch adapter, 1.25 inch diagonal and a 13MM T6 Nagler, which all reached star focus tonight. As I use this setup to pre-focus a DSI, I now have a 50MM F6 or 7 finder or tracker. I would have to drill the tube like you did in order for everything to be "solid". Likely I would drill and tap the 2 inch adapter as well

The WO finders, IIRC, use Borg parts to make up the tube back and helical focuser. I went by Hutech's site tonight and found the focuser and perhaps the tube back. I mention this as the back end of my WO finder screws right into the old Meade finder.


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paul
sage
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Re: Travel Mount Options for CCD/widefield lens Photog new [Re: Tom and Beth]
      #5742203 - 03/19/13 02:33 AM

Have you looked at the astrotrac system.
they go used for under 500.
It's a great setup ,easy to use and lightweight.


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Patrick
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Re: Travel Mount Options for CCD/widefield lens Photog new [Re: buckeyestargazer]
      #5742419 - 03/19/13 08:24 AM

Quote:

Just to update this thread I've decided to go with a CG-5 ASGT mount. I custom built a side by side dovetail bar and modified a 8x50 finderscope to act as a guidescope.





There are a number of advantages in your choice, but of course there are also always tradeoffs. The advantages are that you have a goto mount and you can autoguide so if you decide to go with longer lens then you should still have tracking that is accurage enough for that. It's nice to have goto so that you can just punch in your target and know it's there. That's especially important for regions of the sky that you may not be able to see with your naked eye, like the North American nebula for instance.

On the downside, you have more things to carry and setup so you lose some of the spontaneity of the moment. And you don't need autoguided tracking with a 50mm lens. A decent polar alignment should be sufficient for 5 minute exposures. But, since you're using a CCD camera, you're already tied to a computer, so it's just a short step to a full goto setup.

If you said you were using a DSLR, then the easy setup of a Polarie or Sky Tracker makes sense as you can go ultralight. A tripod, remote timer, and camera/lens combo are all that's needed for widefield shots. I'm in the process of putting together a Sky Tracker setup myself with a modded Canon 60D. I'm planning on adding a Rigel Quikfinder to the camera's flash holder which will greatly enhance it's pointing ability. It would be nice to have some clear skies to check it out!

Patrick


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buckeyestargazer
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Re: Travel Mount Options for CCD/widefield lens Photog new [Re: Patrick]
      #5742453 - 03/19/13 08:55 AM

Quote:

Have you looked at the astrotrac system.
they go used for under 500.
It's a great setup ,easy to use and lightweight.



I did briefly look into an Astrotrac, but felt like it was expensive and there are some other advantages that I want with a traditional GEM (see below).

Quote:

There are a number of advantages in your choice, but of course there are also always tradeoffs. The advantages are that you have a goto mount and you can autoguide so if you decide to go with longer lens then you should still have tracking that is accurage enough for that. It's nice to have goto so that you can just punch in your target and know it's there. That's especially important for regions of the sky that you may not be able to see with your naked eye, like the North American nebula for instance.

On the downside, you have more things to carry and setup so you lose some of the spontaneity of the moment. And you don't need autoguided tracking with a 50mm lens. A decent polar alignment should be sufficient for 5 minute exposures. But, since you're using a CCD camera, you're already tied to a computer, so it's just a short step to a full goto setup.

If you said you were using a DSLR, then the easy setup of a Polarie or Sky Tracker makes sense as you can go ultralight with that setup. A tripod, remote timer, and camera/lens combo are all that's needed for widefield shots. I'm in the process of putting together a Sky Tracker setup myself with a modded Canon 60D. I'm planning on adding a Rigel Quikfinder to the camera's flash holder which will greatly enhance it's pointing ability. It would be nice to have some clear skies to check it out!

Patrick




Yes Patrick, in addition to the 55mm lens I also have a 135mm f/2.8 lens that I'm planning to use. Having a goto mount gives me several advantages, and I don't mind carrying around the equipment. I'm not planning on hiking anywhere with the equipment; it will all just be out the the back of my car.

I use Sequence Generator Pro for image capture, and having a goto mount that is autoguiding allows me to plate solve, auto meridian flip etc with ease. So I can get everything set up and let it run all night with very little attention from me...while I sleep!


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Tom and Beth
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Reged: 01/08/07

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Re: Travel Mount Options for CCD/widefield lens Photog new [Re: buckeyestargazer]
      #5743031 - 03/19/13 01:55 PM

As a way of saying "Thank you" for the 50MM Finder conversion, I recently heard about this program in the DSLR group

Astro Tortilla

Perhaps it would supplement or simplify your setup procedure. The cost is right.

With the current Luna cycle, this would be a good time to check it out.


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Astronewb
scholastic sledgehammer
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Reged: 09/19/11

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Re: Travel Mount Options for CCD/widefield lens Photog new [Re: Raginar]
      #5743966 - 03/19/13 08:43 PM

Quote:

I'm looking at getting a SmartEQ Pro. Still want to see some results before I pull the trigger. Goal is a portable mount that can handle a small scope/CCD/filterwheel. The SmartEQ Pro says it can hold about 15#... that's my ST-10 and a 80mm refractor.




This might help you pull that trigger, it's a 10 minute sub of Orion taken with a 66mm/CCD setup:


Dave Woods M42 by Astronewb2011, on Flickr

And if that one doesn't do it for you, here's a better one taken by the same person (David Wood) and posted on another forum:

http://www.astronomyforum.net/attachments/astrophotography-forum/48874d136049...

That image was 12, 15 minute subs on the SmartEQ Pro.

Amazing what this mount can do in the hands of some people.
And this was accomplished with a $499 mount...sigh. And I was saving up for the Paramount MX...:(

Clear skies,

Paul

Edited by Astronewb (03/19/13 08:45 PM)


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