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Hutech Motorized Alt/AZ Mount AZM-100

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First of all, let me say that I have no financial interest in any of the manufacturers or distributors of the equipment described in this review.

I love my 8” SCT and 4” APO refractor, but they take time to set up and don’t travel very well. Like many amateur astronomers, I felt I really needed a light, easy to set up “grab & go” scope. I spent quite a bit of time evaluating various alternatives, and finally decided on a Lomo Astele 95 Maksutov-Cassegrain, and a lightweight alt-az mount.

I had owned several manual alt-az mounts in the past, including a Tele Vue Telepod, Panoramic, and Vixen Custom D. I didn’t like the “push & nudge” Tele Vue mounts because of the annoying vibration every time I touched the scope. The Custom D was much better in that regard, but you still had to interrupt observing to reposition the mount when you reached the end of the travel of the altitude or azimuth worm gears. I knew that Hutech made a small motorized alt-az mount, the AZM-100, and I felt that it might just be the answer. I ordered one and at the same time, ordered a Bogen 3021BN tripod from a discount retailer.

The mount arrived well-packed, with warranty card and instructions in English. The mount is made in Japan, and the quality of construction is very good. Although the mount’s motor housings and other external casings are plastic, it is heavy gauge and finished nicely. The alt and azimuth gears appear to be nylon, and well-lubricated. Power is 12V DC, and the mount comes with a cheap plastic battery pack, which holds 8 user-supplied AA batteries. Since I already had a rechargeable 12V power pack, I use it instead of batteries. The mount is rated for a 3 Kg (6.6 lb.) load. It handles the Lomo Astele 95 with absolutely no problem. The tripod, mount, and scope together weigh less than 15 lb.

I keep the AZM-100 permanently attached to the tripod in a padded case, and I can set up and be out the back door in less than 5 minutes. The collapsed tripod and mount together are about 34” long, easy to transport in a car, but a little too big for airline travel. With the mount detached, the collapsed tripod is only 24” long, and getting the mount, tripod, scope, and eyepieces in an airline-legal sized bag shouldn’t be a problem, although I admit I haven’t tried it yet.

The hand control is small, but well-designed, and comfortable. The mount has two slew speeds, 1 degree/sec, and 0.2 degree/sec. The instructions state that the actual slew speeds depend on load. The controller cord is substantial, and plugs into the mount securely. It is about 4’ long. There is no controller holder, so I used some of the amateur astronomer’s best friend, Velcro, to attach the controller to the mount.

To use the mount, you loosen the azimuth knob on the bottom of the mount and the altitude handle, move the mount much the same as you would a tilt & pan camera mount, center the target, then tighten the azimuth knob and altitude handle. From that point, you track the object using the buttons on the hand controller. The buttons are easy to locate by feel, and very intuitive to use.

The mount is very quiet when slewing at “high” speed, and almost inaudible at low speed. You won’t disturb your star party neighbors with this mount! Most importantly, no more vibration when tracking! Tracking quickly becomes almost subconscious, and your attention stays where it should, on the object being observed, not on manipulating the mount.

I am very pleased with the quality and ease of use of the Hutech Motorized Alt-Az mount, and I recommend it.

J.D. Metzger

Update – 5/20/04

After a few additional weeks using the mount, I have a couple of tips:

  1. The base plate of the mount appears to be made of relatively soft aluminum. It works fine as long as you don't screw the mount onto the tripod too hard. If you're like me, and always try to get it "just a little bit tighter", you run the risk of stripping the threads. I finally had a local machinist fabricate a new base plate from stainless steel.
  2. I learned that you need to pay attention to the advertised weight limit. When I overloaded the mount by a couple pounds, the Altitude gears would slip. It didn't seem to do the mount any permanent harm, because it worked fine again when I reduced the weight, but it was a little scary. Probably best not to tempt fate.
  3. If you intend to use your scope at high magnifications (175x+), you are probably better off with a tracking mount. The Hutech is still better than trying to keep an object in the FOV manually, but in my opinion, a tracking mount would be much better for high-mag observing.

Update - July 23, 2004

Since I wrote the last update, I learned that the “gear slip” I thought I had experienced was actually slippage in the altitude clutch simply because I had not tightened the handle sufficiently. This revelation, and a couple of questions I got about how much weight the mount would handle, caused me to rethink my earlier recommendations. I decided to conduct a weight test.

I had sold my Lomo Astele 95 and acquired a Borg 76ED since my original review. The Borg, with rings, 1.25” diagonal, and TeleVue 8-24mm zoom, weighed in at 5.5 lbs. I also have three small counterweights I use for my SCT, one weighs 2.5 lbs, and the other two weigh 1 lb each. So with the scope and various combinations of weights, I was able to test the mount at loads of 5.5, 6.5, 7.5, 8, 9, and 10 lbs. I tested in balanced and slightly unbalanced configurations. I did not test a severely unbalanced configuration.

To make a long story short, the mount performed normally in all of the configurations.

I want to make it clear that I am not recommending that anyone exceed the manufacturer’s guidelines for maximum load on the mount. But based on my experience, the mount is easily able to handle the maximum recommended weight.


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