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Equipment Discussions >> Mounts

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buckeyestargazer
Carpal Tunnel
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Reged: 01/12/08

Loc: IN, USA
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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Reged: 10/19/10

Loc: Rapid CIty, SD
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
scholastic sledgehammer
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Reged: 01/05/11

Loc: Maine, USA
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
Carpal Tunnel
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Reged: 01/12/08

Loc: IN, USA
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
Pooh-Bah


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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Reged: 01/12/08

Loc: IN, USA
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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Reged: 10/19/10

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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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Reged: 08/10/09

Loc: Singapore
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
Carpal Tunnel
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Reged: 01/12/08

Loc: IN, USA
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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Reged: 01/12/08

Loc: IN, USA
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
scholastic sledgehammer


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
professor emeritus


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
scholastic sledgehammer
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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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Reged: 12/31/08

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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Reged: 01/12/08

Loc: IN, USA
Re: Travel Mount Options for CCD/widefield lens Photog new [Re: buckeyestargazer]
      #5740674 - 03/18/13 01:01 PM Attachment (9 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
Carpal Tunnel
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Reged: 01/12/08

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

And the other side of the setup:

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Tom and Beth
Post Laureate


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
Carpal Tunnel
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Reged: 01/12/08

Loc: IN, USA
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
Post Laureate


Reged: 01/08/07

Loc: Tucson, AZ
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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