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My time with the Avalon Linear Fast Reverse.

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#1 Whichwayisnorth

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Posted 07 February 2015 - 08:24 PM

Product tested:  Avalon Fast Reverse mount  with StarGo and Geoptik HERCULES  tripod.

I've had this mount in my possession for testing and evaluation for a few months now.  I've been testing beta firmware mostly and imaging with several different optical tubes from my light weight 80mm refractor to a 8” imaging Newtonian from Explore Scientific.

unbox1.jpg     unbox2.jpg

 

unbox3.jpg     unbox4.jpg

 

The tripod is simply beautiful.  Solid, strong, and designed so well that I couldn't find anything that I didn't love about it.   The attention to detail was amazing!  Very easy to level, the levers that are used to tighten the tops of the legs can be repositioned to prevent cable snags.  The 2” and 1.25” holes cut out of each leg are a nice touch for visual astronomers as it presents a really nice place for eyepieces.  The center tray has 3 2” holes and 5 1.25” holes for eyepieces and a little triangle for throwing filters or a battery.  Stainless brackets and bolts hold everything together and the whole thing doesn't weigh as much as I thought it would at only 14.3 pounds.   A very nice soft carrying case makes it easy to carry to your dark sky location or for storage.

 

assembled1.jpg

 

Well I couldn't stand there admiring the tripod forever so I went ahead and set up the mount and then installed my refractor and got it balanced.  Reading the manual and looking online I saw that there were no gears in this system.  Belts and pulleys only!!  No worm, no spur gears, no loud coffee grinder sounds!  
I am not sure what I'll do at 3am when I don't have to cringe because I am slewing to a new target.  Even in the dead of night, with my very quiet neighborhood, I can barely hear this thing whir along at full speed.

 

belts.jpg

 

With no gears  and only using toothed belts and pulleys, there is no backlash at all.  There is no reason to ever open up the mount and re-lube or adjust anything. They use very high quality belts which claim there will be no stretching or deforming.  If you, for whatever reason, decide you want to play with the belt tension you can do so from outside the mount. Each axis has a small screw with a locking nut that allows you to adjust tighter or looser.  I have no idea why you'd want to do that but I suppose under extreme environmental conditions you may want to adjust it.

This mount comes with an illuminated polar scope which I put to immediate use.  I love polar scopes and when they work, they work really well.  Polaris is easily observable in my back yard which looks North so in a few minutes I had Polaris correctly positioned.  I will say I am not a fan of this type of polar scope. This is the kind where you rotate the RA until the big dipper is in the same position in the polar scope as it is in the night sky, then you put Polaris in the little circle.  I prefer the way that iOptron has their polar scopes in the CEM60 I tested and the ZEQ25 that I own.  Makes things a lot easier on me.  After setting the pole alignment I verified it using PEMPRO 2.8 and did 10 minutes of drift alignment in each axis.  After 10 minutes I was pleased to see I managed to get the alignment under an arc/minute of drift.  Typically I find that Celestron's ASPA gets my mounts at about 2-4 arc/minutes on the first try and I tested the LX850 from Meade and I would get anywhere from 30 arc/seconds to 1.5 arc/minutes with its built in drift alignment routine.  My ZEQ25, when using the polar scope only, I would get it at about an arc/minute as well. 

Because I typically shoot in narrowband I am often interested in long exposures of upwards of 20 minutes.  Polar alignment is always something that I pay extra attention to but I was pleased with where it was so I left it alone.

The next thing I did was re-checked balance and then I lined up the home position marks that are etched on the mount then powered on the mount.  Worth noting that there is no home sensor on these mounts.  You are required to line up the etched marks.

One thing I will have to get used to is the hand controller.  Maybe I should say lack of hand controller.  This mount is designed to be run with a computer of some type. Either a laptop or a tablet will work fine.  The mount has built in blue tooth so you can connect your tablet and use it for go-tos and alignments.


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#2 Whichwayisnorth

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Posted 07 February 2015 - 08:26 PM

stargo1.jpg

 

peaking of alignments they couldn't be more simple.  I am so impressed with the accuracy of this mount that I am shaking my head with admiration every time I use it.   First I set up the mount and balance the system. Then I make sure everything is level in the bubble levels and lastly I use the polar scope to set the polar alignment.  The Star-go software is also its ASCOM driver and I can create profiles for various things like slew speed, home and park position, guide rates, RA and DEC slew limits and also control things like Blue-tooth, DSLR imaging, and focusing.  I enter my GPS coordinates and save the profile so now I can load it up each time I turn on the mount.  I then can select an alignment star and do a go-to.  Taking into consideration that my various OTA's will have different cone error, I am always amazed when the first alignment star falls towards the center of the field of view.  Below is a screen shot taken through my 8” EdgeHD with my CCD camera.   Please note that I am not using a pointing model here.  I simply leveled the mount, polar aligned using the polar scope, selected a star as my first alignment/sync star and told it to GO.

 

pointing1.jpg

 

I am reasonably sure that was Altair from a few nights ago.  

So a few nudges to bring the star into the center and then I click on the sync button.  From there I can go all over that side of the meridian without being off very much at all.  Next you will see how well M51 lined up.

 

m51pointing.jpg

 

The linear can also add a second synced star and remember both.  So once you sync on the first star on one side of the meridian, you can go over to the other side and sync on that side too.  The system remembers both and your pointing will be wonderful on both sides. 

I have been trying to push this mount to see how far I can go with exposures and at what focal lengths.  I did a test guiding my 80mm at F/5 and did 1x 33.333minute Ha 1x 33.333 minute O3 and 1x 33.333minute N2  and was happy with the results but then again at that focal length and being guided, that is what I should expect to be honest.  I then put on my 8” EdgeHD and using an OAG at native F/10.   Guiding with PHD was always smooth and I dabbled with Metaguide a few times.  I had camera issues with tearing and lost frames so I went back to PHD.

 

guiding1.png

 

This is a guide only mount and we must understand that when you are guiding, especially if you are using an off axis guider, you should expect that you will always have keepers.  Having said that, I still like to see what a mount can do when you push it to very long exposures.  Here is a 3000 second exposure I took while guiding with PHD.

 

 


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#3 Whichwayisnorth

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Posted 07 February 2015 - 08:28 PM

random3000sec.jpg

 

Here is a close up of an inverted image at 3600. Cropped center stars

 

inverted3600.jpg

 

 

 

Finally, this image of M27 was created by doing 3x10 minute  images at F/10 in RGB using my 8” EdgeHD without reducer and guiding using PHD.  I took these via MaximDL5 and all I did was assign

colors to each filter and then align them.  Obviously no darks or flats were subtracted.

 

m27tricolor1.jpg

 

 

 

 


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#4 Whichwayisnorth

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Posted 07 February 2015 - 08:30 PM

The mount has a 44 pound capacity for imaging which means it should have been able to handle my 11” EdgeHD but I did not have enough counterweights for it so I had to keep it light.

 

meade1.jpg  edge1.jpg  newt1.jpg

 

Overall my experience with this mount has been positive.  This mount is very high quality and very well designed.  The troubles I had while imaging were user error.  Getting guide rates and aggression settings in PHD and StarGO to work together took a lot of trial and error mainly because I am not knowledgeable about PHD.  Also I had some cables dragging a few times and my soft grass allowed the tripod to sink into the soil which made things interesting.  Once I had everything working though, it worked really great!

One of the features that I wanted to try out that I never could is the Blue-tooth control using a tablet and Sky Safari.  During the time of my testing there wasn't an iPad compatible blue-tooth connection but I was told it was on their short to-do list.  I can't recall the reason they gave as to why it was not currently available.  So while the mount has blue-tooth built in, I was not able to test it.

In conclusion I would say that what we all want is to have a system where we have less headaches and more beautiful images.  If you can set up and be ready to image in very little time and have excellent tracking and guiding results during long exposures then you are living the dream.  For a mount in this capacity range where it is portable, easy to carry, easy to set up, guides like a dream and doesn't present problems, Avalon has a winner here.  I am now spoiled with how quiet and smooth the mount is.  The precision in which it points to my target and the giddy feeling when I watch the guide graph is something that I will now use to measure all other mounts. 

If you are looking for a mount in this capacity range and plan to guide, this is a mount you should add to your list and very carefully consider. 

I would give this mount 4 out of 5 stars.

 

The good:

Excellent quality and finish.  Beautiful color.
Everything oozes quality and attention to detail.
Tracks very very smooth and is very easy to guide out PE.
StarGO is compatible with just about everything.  I commonly used TSX Pro to model the sky and find targets while I guided with PHD and Metaguide.
Slews very quiet at high speeds.  While a 12v mount, the fastest slew speed requires up to 19volts.
Software is very very easy to use and Avalon listens to their customers.  I got them to add custom tracking speeds after simply asking for the feature to be considered.

 

The bad:
No home switches is a let down but not a deal breaker simply because I am not a remote imager so I am always around to reset things if the mount gets lost.  For some people this would be an issue though.

No worm gear means no peroidic error correction.  Is this a problem?  Not really because that was intentional.  This mount was designed NOT to have a worm gear.  However this means that you can not train out periodic error and take unguided images.  You are always required to have a computer and auto guide.  I was able to get 90 second unguided images a few times but not consistently. 

Electronics in the RA assembly.  This is really the only issue I actively complained about when I used this mount.  All of the electronics are inside the RA assembly so all cables connect to a moving part.  As the mount slews and tracks, it has the potential to unplug cables or drag them across things.  Careful cable management is necessary and it took me a few nights to get it sorted to a point where I could put it out of my mind.   Those of you that are used to mounts without internal cable routing probably are experts with cable management so this may be a non-issue for you. 

Not a big fan of this type of Polar scope.  Having to properly align Polaris and/or Cassiopeia while kneeling in the grass is a pain in the neck.  I like the way iOptron has their app and clock type polar scope.


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#5 Goofi

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Posted 07 February 2015 - 09:31 PM

Great review, Mike ... thanks!



#6 torsinadoc

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Posted 07 February 2015 - 09:46 PM

Great review.  



#7 schmeah

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Posted 07 February 2015 - 11:09 PM

Excellent review! 



#8 yzhzhang

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Posted 08 February 2015 - 03:20 AM

Excellent review. Thanks! Will be interesting to see a comparison between this guy vs. MyT, but they are probably designed with quite different conception so maybe not a fair/easy comparison :grin:



#9 bjgiii

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Posted 08 February 2015 - 01:32 PM

Nice review. I have not found my M-zero to be that accurate after a one star alignment and a polar alignment using a polar scope. I still have quite a bit slewing to get it on the chip. Its close but not as good as you have done. It would be great if they introduced a better pointing model. The software is getting better but, still a work in progress. Its a little finicky with SN7 so people need to mindful of that. The build quality is awesome. The Stargo software is so-so. After you factor in the additional cost of good software to run the mount ( tsx, add-ons) your more than a MyT.



#10 Whichwayisnorth

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Posted 08 February 2015 - 03:12 PM

Nice review. I have not found my M-zero to be that accurate after a one star alignment and a polar alignment using a polar scope. I still have quite a bit slewing to get it on the chip. Its close but not as good as you have done. It would be great if they introduced a better pointing model. The software is getting better but, still a work in progress. Its a little finicky with SN7 so people need to mindful of that. The build quality is awesome. The Stargo software is so-so. After you factor in the additional cost of good software to run the mount ( tsx, add-ons) your more than a MyT.

 

The pointing is only as good as my attention to setting up the mount.  I make sure the polar alignment is very good and my computers time is accurate.    I also spent a little time shimming my OTA to reduce cone error.  StarGo doesn't "model" the sky it only provides sync to star.  When I wanted my pointing to be better I moved to TSX Pro and used T-Point.  Compared to other mounts I've used where the first alignment star is several arc/min out of FOV, the Linear usually puts it well towards the center of the FOV.    StarGo is just a ASCOM driver with a nice user interface and lots of selections built in.  I think of it as something like EQMOD.  


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#11 Hilmi

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Posted 08 February 2015 - 03:17 PM

While I do agree that if you add SkyX, Tpoint etc.... the price does go up. But who said you have to have those to operate the mount? There are many aleternatives out there and the only big loss is the pointing model. Very nice feature to have, even I want one, but honestly most people don't believe in it and they feel it's enough to just do a plate solve and sync.



#12 Whichwayisnorth

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Posted 08 February 2015 - 03:21 PM

Sequence Generator Pro would probably rock with this setup.  Unfortunately I have not used SGP yet.  



#13 Goofi

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Posted 08 February 2015 - 03:30 PM

Mike, bring it down my way ... I'll use your mount with SGP and let you know how it is  :grin:



#14 Whichwayisnorth

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Posted 08 February 2015 - 03:50 PM

Tempting...  

 

Mike, bring it down my way ... I'll use your mount with SGP and let you know how it is  :grin:

 

Tempting... :) 

 

I need to start playing around with SGP.  I bought it months ago to replace MaximDL but never made the switch.  



#15 bjgiii

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Posted 08 February 2015 - 04:04 PM

Mike,

 

If you already have TSX and Tpoint, why wouldn't you just use them instead of SGP? I'm wanting to add software to image and control my mount with and haven't decided what programs to buy.



#16 Whichwayisnorth

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Posted 08 February 2015 - 05:02 PM

Mike,

 

If you already have TSX and Tpoint, why wouldn't you just use them instead of SGP? I'm wanting to add software to image and control my mount with and haven't decided what programs to buy.

 

SGP allows for automation and is much cheaper than CCDAP.  Eventually I want to be able to set up imaging for the night and actually go to bed at a reasonable hour.  TSX, for all its power,still lacks in automation with the exception of complicated scripting which has  very steep learning curve.  SGP looks like the best route I can take.  I know that Madratter has had some SGP + TSX glitches come up and I hear they are being addressed very soon.  Once that happens I'll start using SGP.

 

Edit:  Just to be clear, when using a Bisque mount you need to have TSXPro as the control software and SGP as the automation software that communicates through TSX.  With a mount like the Avalon, you do not need TSX at all and can do everything directly from SGP.


Edited by Whichwayisnorth, 08 February 2015 - 05:08 PM.


#17 Goofi

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Posted 09 February 2015 - 08:29 AM

Mike, there's a tutorial on the SGP website that takes you through getting started with it. It's written by a guy active here at CN; when I switched to a CCD I also switched to SGP and that tutorial got me going.  I don't setup a sequence and go to bed, but I could with it. Our coastal fog makes all night imaging a fantasy, so I stay up and let things go until the fog rolls in.  I've had it do automatic meridian flips, and change targets as part of the sequence - all without my being out at the mount.  It's worth learning!

 

I'm following Madratter's experiences with his new MyT as well as the few who have Avalon mounts - I'm planning to upgrade at the end of this year.  I think the TSX-SGP glitches will be sorted out by then.



#18 Nile

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Posted 09 February 2015 - 02:54 PM

I also spent a little time shimming my OTA to reduce cone error.

 

Nice review, Mike. Thanks.

Can you please elaborate on this? (I mean, I know what the cone error is, but wondering how you calculated the cone error, I am guessing the shims will be sloped etc.)


Edited by Nile, 09 February 2015 - 02:56 PM.


#19 Whichwayisnorth

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Posted 09 February 2015 - 03:42 PM

 

I also spent a little time shimming my OTA to reduce cone error.

 

Nice review, Mike. Thanks.

Can you please elaborate on this? (I mean, I know what the cone error is, but wondering how you calculated the cone error, I am guessing the shims will be sloped etc.)

 

 

We are getting off topic here but I followed a  youtube video that made it very easy to visualize cone error and adjust for it.  https://www.youtube....h?v=WatdQlPp22Y   For shims I made my own using sections of a tin can folded and hammered flat to make different thicknesses.     This process is totally unnecessary but it does help if your cone error is really bad.



#20 WesC

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Posted 09 February 2015 - 07:08 PM

Nice review, Mike... very thoughtful and I think you got some great results. :waytogo:



#21 Hilmi

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Posted 10 February 2015 - 04:48 AM

I can confirm from my use of the Avalon M-Uno that the Avalon mounts are mechanically amazing. Software is under development and needs some spit and shine, that's pretty normal for a new controller and as Mike mentioned, Luciano is very responsive to client concerns. Considering how new the StarGo controller is, they are already up to version 4.4.1 in firmware, that gives you a good indication of the speed of development. After a quick polar alignment via polar scope last night I was already getting better images than the ones Mike posted above. Keep in mind that this was only my second night using the mount.


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#22 strutsinaction

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Posted 10 February 2015 - 06:32 AM

Hi Mike

 

I have the same Avalon Linear Fast Reverse mount and Geoptik Hercules tripod but with the Synscan internals rather than StarGo which I use with EQMOD/SGPro/PHD2.

 

So far I've been very impressed with the performance of the mount. It works really well with my Tak FSQ85 + QSI690-WSG8 setup.

 

Regards

John



#23 vdb

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Posted 10 February 2015 - 08:13 AM

Sequence Generator Pro would probably rock with this setup.  Unfortunately I have not used SGP yet.  

 

 

It does,

I have the Linear synscan version, SGP + PHD and plate solving, this is the best mobile setup I have,

no backlash, no gear errors lots of capacity etc ...

runs fully automated after setup, 

Could also run remote ... with plate solve and webcam, you are backup after power dip in minutes ...

 

/Yves



#24 Jarno

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Posted 07 November 2015 - 02:44 PM

The Star-go software is also its ASCOM driver and I can create profiles for various things like slew speed, home and park position, guide rates, RA and DEC slew limits and also control things like Blue-tooth, DSLR imaging, and focusing.

 

I recently became another proud owner of a Linear mount but I haven't found a way to set custom slew limits. Could you tell me how to do that?

 

Jarno



#25 Starhawk

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Posted 07 November 2015 - 02:56 PM

Quite an illuminating write up. 

 

Any potential for going mobile and just using a tablet?  How much power does it need?

 

-Rich




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