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Goto or Not to Goto - Losmandy G11

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#1 mloffland



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Posted 03 September 2009 - 11:27 AM

Goto or Not to Goto - Losmandy G11 Equatorial Mount with the Gemini Go-To System

#2 lightfever



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Posted 03 September 2009 - 12:14 PM

Nice article. :waytogo:

Have been looking at those for a while. It will most likely be my next mount.

#3 7331Peg


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Posted 03 September 2009 - 01:21 PM

Very nice article. I went through the same debate with myself, and made the same decision. I don't need GOTO these days, the setting circles and star hopping work just fine, and the additional cost of the Gemini GOTO system was difficult for me to justify. KISS makes it easy to concentrate on observing instead of spending time or money on other complications. It's great to park a small 12 volt battery under the mount, plug it in, and go.
By the way, the polar scope has now been modified so that the battery is incorporated within the knurled switch. It's still rather bright, but not so bright you can't work with it.


#4 David Knisely

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Posted 03 September 2009 - 01:34 PM

My main complaint is with the Gemini system. The manual and instructions on alignment are rather poorly written, and it took a lot longer to get it up and running than it does my old NexStar 9.25SCT. I tried to help an amateur at the Nebraska Star Party to get his Gemini working, but it was an exercise in frustration. The people who wrote that manual really need to sit down and re-think things. They need to get someone who has *never* used the system before, try and talk him through it, and write down every single question he asks while doing it. Then, they need to re-write that manual and put all the alignment procedures and terms in one section, rather than spreading things out (even if it means a little duplication now and then). Despite how bad the Celestron manuals are, on the Go-To system, they are better written than the Gemini's was. Clear skies to you.

#5 quantumac


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Posted 03 September 2009 - 02:28 PM

I find there are enough challenges in DSO astrophotography without adding a requirement to star hop. Consider problems like maintaining collimation, keeping the scope focused as the scope changes orientation, drift aligning the scope for proper polar alignment, choosing a suitable guide star, finding said guide star, keeping the guide star centered during a long imaging run, keeping an eye on the clouds, blocking the wind, avoiding the dew, and monitoring the image quality. Last but not least, I try to stay awake so I can do all of the above.

I will never again choose a mount for astrophotography which does not have go-to. Go-to doesn't take anything away from the experience of being out under the stars. If I want to star hop, I always have my trusty Celestron binoculars.

Similarly, while I learned to program computers at a teletype, and I use command-line tools daily as a software developer for a Linux/Mac OS X based shop, I wouldn't want to give up a windowing environment in order to feel closer to the machine.

So put me in the automatic transmission category. :)

#6 dymo



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Posted 03 September 2009 - 05:30 PM

I am also fairly new to this hobby, about 6 months into it. But I got into it for different reasons/goals. Mainly I wanted to focus on photography. I wanted a hobby that required a fair ammount of learning, a fair ammount outside in the fresh air, and something that let me use my computer skills. So I went for astrophotography.

I spent a fair ammount of time outside/on the balcony with binoculars, and using stellarium as a star chart to locate objects. I found it very time consuming to locate an object. I also spent time semisharing a 12inch lightbridge. After watching the time consumed star hopping and then trying to locate objects. I decided the time "used/wasted" trying to locate and center an object, was time that could have been used imaging.

So i went with a low range goto mount. Mainly as there is more than enough accessories still needed for imaging, that there really just wasnt enough money

And I have to say, with the ammount of learning still required and time required while imaging. The time need to really acheive great focus, assuming one doesnt have an expensive auto/motorfocus focuser. The time refocusing when changing filters, unless one has expensive parafocal filters, and a filter wheel.

Theres also a fair ammount of time needed to setup all the additional equipment required while imaging, camera, laptop, additional power requirements.

On top of that, comes the ammount of learning still required to be able to produce decent images, decent of course being relative to the person taking the image. for imaging you need to learn so many things, focusing becomes almost an art form in itself. Tracking, and later guiding, arent just plug and play. once you do have images, either color or LRGB you still need to process those images, and learning to really use photoshop (btw not cheap at all) or Gimp. Processing is a fairly steep learning curve, and is also time consuming, I have spent 2-3 times more time stacking processing images, than it actually took to take the images.

So for me personally, I think theres enough time still invested in getting images, and more than enough to learn about getting to the point of being able to image well, and then processing them. So needing to still learn star charts, star hopping, and locating objects with a non goto mount, just adds one more peice of complexity thats really note needed, esp for beginners in the hobby.

A final thought, although with a goto you dont have to know the sky all that well, doesnt stop you from still learning they sky thru the goto system. You learn the major stars while aligning. With my high precesion setting, before locating an object, it requires you to located a star on the way, so you can learn the locations of several stars along the way, as well the controller listing in which constilation its located in. I also use Stellarium as a secondary goto system connected to my mount, so I can browse the area I am imaging thru the program, while I am imaging.

and a really final thought, Imaging is BORING..... having another scope, like a dobson, is something I really still want to get, then I can view the object while I image it. Some of the magic of being out under the stars get lost in translation while looking at it thru laptop. But even if I wasnt imaging, I would still prefer a goto to a non-goto, I prefer to spend more time on the object, then looking for the object.

my two cents

#7 John Miele

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Posted 03 September 2009 - 09:15 PM


Nice write-up but I am afraid you will soon regret not having goto. Frankly, I can't believe your fellow club members who image did not steer you into a goto mount with fierce determination! As you gain experience imaging, it will become very clear to you why. Good luck and clear skies!

#8 PAW


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Posted 03 September 2009 - 10:49 PM

In reference to the opening paragraph in the review, I am just getting into Solar System imaging with my SVP and getting ready to order the Dual Axis drives for that purpose. I thought for a beginner a SVP would be sufficient just to get started in AP, although based on the review this is apparently not true?

#9 Ian Robinson

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Posted 04 September 2009 - 12:56 AM

I've never used Goto , only the reason my new GEM has it is because I couldn't get the mount without Goto.

Nothing wrong with finding things in the sky the old fashioned way and learning the sky in the process.

#10 Bill Lee

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Posted 04 September 2009 - 02:06 AM

I have had a G11 since pre-Gemini days. This is a fine mount. The only thing that "got me" was that unlike my other autoguider (ST-237), the Orion autoguider doesn't need a relay box (opto- or electrical isolator). This is a good thing, just don't spend a whole night figuring it out like I did!

#11 SkyscraperJim


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Posted 04 September 2009 - 11:14 AM

Great article. I opted for the non-Gemini G11 because the price was right. I wanted an astro-imaging capable mount that I could grow into, since I had always been a visual observer and star hopper up until then.

I now do imaging maybe 20% of the time I have it out. When imagine I use the setting circles to get on target quickly. Its a shame many mounts these days don't even include setting circles. I guess with goto few people would actually use them.

If you get a G11 without Gemini, don't forget that it is always a later add-on.

When I feel the need for a more capable mount with goto, I will probably order a Mach1 and keep the G11 for visual-only use.

#12 PAW


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Posted 04 September 2009 - 09:42 PM

I still believe that a SVP mount can be successfully used for AP - even if for short exposure. I guess I will find out.

#13 Castor


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Posted 05 September 2009 - 12:18 AM

Very nice article and good title too!

I recently went through the same process and in the end made the same decision as the author for similar reasons.

The G-11 has been the mount of my dreams since 1993 when it was marketed by Celestron and adorned the back cover of Astronomy/Sky&Telescope magazines, but I could not afford it back then. A few weeks ago, when my economics allowed it and I could finally make my dream come true, I found myself in the middle of a dilemma: If I chose the non-Goto, I would probably not be able to afford the Gemini Goto later (it is much more expensive when purchased alone). If I chose the Goto version, and for any reason the complex electronics gave up too soon, I would not be able to buy the standard drive of the non-Goto G-11 to replace it (at least not as an off-the-shelf item from the regular dealers).

I am a visual observer and enjoy star-hopping, so although it would be nice to have the Gemini goto as an extra, most of the time I would use my mount manually. And also I was very concerned for the power hungry Gemini when used in the field. So as I said, in the end I went for the non-Goto G-11 and for the very brief time I've had the oportunity of using it, the Losmandy G-11 has turn out to be all I have ever dreamed of, and more.

I wonder why reviews of a mount as popular as the Losmandy G-11 are so rare? The author did a great service into bringing the subject to light. Thanks!

#14 bill w

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Posted 05 September 2009 - 07:40 AM

nice review
just thought i'd point out that there are go to systems other than the gemini that can be added to the G11
which may be more powerful and less problematic
e.g., PEC doesn't work correctly in the gemini system.

#15 dmilone


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Posted 06 September 2009 - 12:14 AM

The Orion SVP, I believe, is a good mount to use for solar system objects. Web-cam photography is quite a different process from DSLR or CCD Deep Sky Imaging. Since you are basically shooting a video, it’s ok if tracking isn’t perfect and the planet wobbles around a little bit. The Regi-stax program will align everything for you.

#16 dmilone


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Posted 06 September 2009 - 12:18 AM

I’d like to thank everyone for all of your feedback.
I don’t want to leave anyone the impression that I’m totally against go-to. I’m not knocking it. It was strictly my own personal decision to choose not to get it at this time. We all have different needs and preferences.

#17 John Wunderlin

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Posted 08 September 2009 - 05:14 PM

Just curious- does the non-gemini have an autoguider port? I ended up buying the Gemini because I wasn't sure if it had that or not. I agree the Gemini is pretty clunky to use- there just aren't enough buttons on the controller- navigating that menu system is not fun- especially when you can accidentally reverse the buttons on the controller and suddenly everything is backwards. Wow.

#18 jrcrilly


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Posted 08 September 2009 - 05:19 PM

Just curious- does the non-gemini have an autoguider port?

Yes. It's the handbox port; the handbox is wired the same as a guider. You can use both at the same time with a "Y" cable.

#19 John Wunderlin

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Posted 08 September 2009 - 05:25 PM

Thanks. There's $1k I'd like to get back... I do like the computer telling me where to go, but the push-to digital setting circles would have been fine with me. The G11's wonderful clutches make it a great push-to setup.

#20 Bowmoreman


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Posted 08 September 2009 - 05:37 PM

I very much enjoyed reading the article... but I have to question the assertion that Gemini isn't happy unless it has 15vDC or more...??? This is just simply not the case in my first hand experience.

I've been using my Gemini (in this case on my MI-250, a much more "robust" mount than a G11) for 4 months now with nary a hicup, feeding it at first from a 3A 13.8V RadioShack AC/DC converter, and now off my 12V Battery power supply (basically one of those car jump-starter gizmos)...

In both cases the measured voltage was around 13.5 - 13.8Volts...

I've had extremely accurate tracking and guiding with no hiccups... not once.

So, "complications around getting 12vDC" is NOT a reason to avoid Gemini.

Other observation (in response to another response above) in re: Gemini itself.

Is it "Arcane" (in comparison to, say NextStar)?


Does it matter? It might (to some). Not me, though.

I - at first - found the manual a tough slog (yes it could be more "organized" to make a "better read"... (it is rather oriented more as a "technical manual" than a Users Guide after all!).

But, after re-reading it a couple of times, my initial experience with Gemini was pleasurable (well, once I realized that I'm 4 hours from UTC instead of 5 hours from UTC during daylight savings time that is!)...

My second and subsequent uses were a doddle - I haven't referred to the manual but one subsequent time - the night I setup to do my first autoguiding... Since then, it's been gathering cobwebs.

Gemini is a precision designed system that truly rewards (frequent/constant) use; with familiarity comes the ability to quite literally run ALL the controls - in the dark - without even LOOKING at the hand control...

Try that with NextStar or AutoStar or whatever else out there... ;)

It is complex precisely because it is so feature rich, and because it was clearly designed for the "power use" (not a beginner). In that sense, I find it rather reminds me of my old Teco/EMACS days (in contrast to the "easier/friendlier" command line editors that were the alternative). It rewarded learning with Power, Speed, and precision.

Those of you of THAT computer era will immediately understand whereof I speak!

I've used all 3 "main types" of HC controllers:

Celestron and Meade - which are *roughly* equivalent
Vixen StarBook - the "full on video game"

I'll take Gemini.

I've not more than pushed 3-4 buttons on my neighbors AP1200 - so can't comment there...

The G11 is a great mount, well made, and Gemini takes it to that next level for AP (IMO). Don't fear adding it later!

When I have a good 10-15 (or more) pointing model built up (takes very little time and only must be done if/when I physically move the moount) - the ability to literally land small targets virtually dead center on-chip for AP is a God Send! (especially when I can't see them in my 80mm Triplet or the Finders!

It means I can LEAVE my camera; precisely focused, on the OTA - and saves having to constantly re-do flats, etc...

GoTo is the only way (for me) for AP - huge time-saver.

Again, great article, and I really like how the pros/cons were "Weighed" and balanced...

clear enough skies

#21 roystarman


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Posted 11 September 2009 - 08:54 PM

Get Digital Setting Circles? NGC max or SKY Commander. This is kind of an inbetween the manual and a goto mount.

#22 Restricted



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Posted 12 September 2009 - 10:17 AM

New to the site, trying to learn as much as possible, your review was helpful and informative. Thanks for taking the time to do so.

#23 Zotty


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Posted 29 September 2009 - 04:31 PM

Finally got a powersupply to give my G11 a spin. Can't comment yet on details, but I do feel the need to add a note about the Gemini handcontroller. The quote "deluxe handcontroller" just feels extremely cheap compared to the mount itself. Cheap plastic housing and cheap - click click - buttons.

That's my only beef with it after playing with it for 1 hour. The menu structure settles quickly into your mind and I love the look of the display.

One other thing that new users should keep in mind is that an additional lighter counterweight could come in handy. Not having a main OTA yet - only a 72mm guidescope - I can tell you it's impossible to achieve balance with the included 21lbs weight... wish I had bought a lighter weight right from the start.

#24 Sarkikos



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Posted 03 October 2009 - 11:27 PM


I've never used Goto , only the reason my new GEM has it is because I couldn't get the mount without Goto.

Nothing wrong with finding things in the sky the old fashioned way and learning the sky in the process.

Here, here. I second that. None of my scopes have goto or pushto and I do fine, thank you very much. Most anything I can't find would not be worth seeing once you do find it, because it'd be so faint and fuzzy. Though if I ever get a bigger scope - which probably won't be for at least a few more years - I'll probably get one with pushto, i.e., DSCs. But I don't think I would ever get goto. Sorry, but that still seems like a gimmick to me. Just tell me where the object is. I don't need the scope to move itself there! :lol: And I don't take pictures. I want to look at the object, not at a picture of the object. :smirk:

Clear Skies,

#25 Alen K

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Posted 04 December 2009 - 12:45 PM

"The Atlas is by far the least expensive mount. I really like the Orion Company. However, I already own a lot of equipment with the Orion brand name and felt like trying something different."

The G11 is a fine choice, no doubt about it, but I'm taken aback by this statement. A product is ruled out simply because you own too much from the same manufacturer? That only makes sense to me if you are disappointed by what you already own.

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