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Vixen Porta Mount

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Recently, amateur astronomers have seen a massive revival of the refractor telescope. The refractor has been a part of astronomy since 1609 when Galileo whipped one together from Hans Lippershey’s description. Since then, the refractor has had it’s ups and downs as technology has evolved and changed. The problem has always been chromatic aberration or the inability to simultaneously focus all visible wavelengths of light to the same point. Newer designs of 2 element refractor objectives using ED glass and three element Apochromatic lenses have become much more affordable and as a result short focal length, virtually color free, unobstructed refractors have become affordable to amateur astronomers and have filled a niche for someone seeking a quality “grab and go” system.

To complete the “grab and go” concept, in addition to a short tube APO refractor, one needs a good portable mount to hold the tube. Typically, equatorial mounts are heavy and unless you’re contemplating Astrophotography with your setup, you’ll probably opt for a nice Alt-Az mount on a light but sturdy tripod. There are many wonderful and beautifully crafted offerings available with a wide range of prices. For me, price is a definite driver. One of these mounts has impressed me as being the Volkswagen Beatle of the current variety of mounts. This is the Vixen Porta Mount.

The Vixen comes in what seems to be three models. First is the Mini Porta Mount which weighs 6 pounds and is rated at 8 pounds of load capacity, and sells for around $199.00. Next is the standard Vixen Porta Mount which weighs about 8 pounds and will handle a 10 pound load selling for $299.00. Finally, there’s the Vixen Porta II Mount which weighs 12 pounds and is currently selling for $319.00.

Again, being of Scotch decent and raised by parents who survived the “Great Depression” my frugal nature led me to order the Mini Porta from the vendor ( who shall remain unnamed). After placing the order, I had second thoughts and contacted the vendor asking about load capacity, since I envisioned using it for both my 80mm f7 and my TeleVue Genesis, which weighs considerably more. I was advised to get the Porta Mount rather than the Mini Porta. So I shelled out an additional “C” note and I am thankful that I did. Only after receiving the Porta Mount did I hear of the release of the Porta II Mount. If I had waited until then, I would have paid the extra $20.00 for the upgrade.

Nevertheless, I am quite happy with my purchase. The Porta Mount moves in altitude and azimuth with just a push of the optical tube. The tensioning of the clutch mechanism can be adjusted with an allen wrench, which is provided with the mount. Also really neat is the “James Bond” storage area for the adjustment tools (allen wrenches) under the rubber cover on the fork arm base. They also have a magnet inside the storage compartment to keep the tools from falling out. When I ordered the mount, the ad stated that it came with two stubby handles for attaching to the Alt-Az slow motion controls, but that longer flexible slo-mo handles could be ordered as an accessory. Yessir, there’s slo-mo control in addition to the smooth clutch action. When the mount arrived, the flex handles were included as a stock item. What a deal!

Now that I have had some time to use the mount, what do I think?

It is a very good mount. It’s easy to use. It has a standard Vixen Dovetail, so it is very versatile. It’s lightweight and really supports the “grab and go” system I keep working on.

What could be improved?

The tripod legs are the common square extruded aluminum extendable legs found on some of the cheaper mounts and as a result, vibration is an issue. Several folks have replaced the stock tripod legs with wooden ones and I believe this may be a good upgrade that I may make as well.

The flex handles for the slo-mo are rather flimsy and the set screw that holds the altitude handle to the shaft bumps into the fork arm when the scope is pointing near the zenith preventing slow-motion adjustment in that range without removing the handle and attaching to the other shaft that’s on the other side of the altitude housing. Also, the screw works itself loose, and the handle falls off occasionally. I have addressed this by wrapping Teflon tape around the screw threads and this tightened up the screw so that it no longer works it’s way loose.

Other than those minor problems, the mount has given a good account of itself. If you’re looking for a fairly inexpensive alt-az for your short tube (or medium length) refractor or Maksutov, one of the Porta Mounts may be what you’re looking for.

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