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Skyguider Pro fun topic, info, pics you name it

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#1 dciobota

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Posted 07 March 2018 - 01:56 PM

So, I was encouraged by a user on here, leveye (Chris) to start a general topic pertaining to this little gem of a mount.  This is by no means a unique mount in the world of grab and go mounts, but it does offer I think a unique combination of features, some of them not found in other mounts in this size and price range.

 

So, some fun info I gathered on the mount.

First, one of the threads I posted some info on it:

https://www.cloudyni...uminator-issue/

 

Some of the features I think are worthy of note:

- Size/weight.  About the size of a large grapefruit, and weighing not much more in the basic configuration (3lb)

- Belt driven RA gear.  The advantage of a belt driven design is reduced backlash and gear "chatter", as well as eliminating issues such as binding.  This is a feature normally found in the more expensive mounts.  I was really surprised to find it here.

- Servo motors instead of steppers.  Using servo motors with encoders (also known as closed loop) allows for greater precision in controlling motor speed.  The encoder provides feedback to the servo motor driver.  This is something that was actually new to me.  This is also a feature found in higher end mounts as well.

- guide port.  While probably overkill for something that is supposed to do very basic AP, it is an excellent mount to learn to do guiding, or to start delving into the long exposure world of narrowband imaging.  See the phd screen shot I have included here:

https://www.cloudyni...ssue/?p=8423318

- Access to timer control and configuration via handbox.  Aside from the basic configuration settings, which are nice to have but not must have, you also get a polar position feature and timer control. These are very useful to have without having to fumble for your phone or tack on an external interval timer.  What's even nicer is that the handbox works equally well with the latest of iOptron's offerings, as it is completely interchangeable. 

 

My own personal experience so far:

- I was able to do unguided shots of up to 4min at 200mm (3.72micron pixel size).  This was with a fairly heavy lens, the Canon 70-200 f2.8 zoom (3.6lb).  Unbalanced, this is probably the most weight I would try.  With the optional dec kit and counterweight, you could probably push it to about 5lb, although I haven't tried it.  But that kit adds more bulk and weight, so keep that in mind.

- Guided you will be only limited by your polar alignment.  As I mentioned before and in the screen shot, you can get pretty close to 1 arcsec guiding accuracy in RA, which approaches the performance of much bigger and more expensive mounts.

- Very easy to set up.  Screw the wedge onto the tripod, basic polar align, put a ball head (or in my case, another wedge) on it and you are ready to rock.

- Just from my own experience, a ball head will be fine for most widefield shots (I would say 100mm or less), but for tighter shots, or heavy lenses, I found it difficult to aim accurately.  So I resorted to using a second wedge as a "dec substitute".  In this way I use the wedge to adjust declination, and rotate the RA axis to achieve the correct RA.  To me that is a more natural thing.  I do lose that third axis or rotation of the camera for framing though.

- Only one negative.  My polar scope came misadjusted.  Hence my original illuminator thread.  I have partially fixed the issue, but my advice is if you do have a misaligned polar scope to go ahead and return it to iOptron for adjustment. 

 

Here is where I posted a couple of pics of my setup:

https://www.cloudyni...ssue/?p=8423498

https://www.cloudyni...ssue/?p=8423500

 

  It has changed a little bit since then, but it gives you an idea.  Consider mine the "overkill" option, as I was using that setup to test guiding.  Read the thread as to what all the bits and bobs are.

 

Some other info, for all you interested in the weights:

https://www.cloudyni...ssue/?p=8423560

 

For reviews of the mount, there are several on youtube, all very good ones.

 

Also look in the topic I linked to for some pics taken by Chris.  Excellent work imo.  Me, only boring test shots from my back yard so far.

 

Any other pics with this mount, or pics of your setup, highly encouraged.

 

Hope this helps.


Edited by dciobota, 07 March 2018 - 09:04 PM.

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#2 dciobota

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Posted 16 March 2018 - 06:01 PM

Must not be a popular mount I guess.  I was hoping others would share experiences, tips, whatever, to benefit others looking at this mount.

 

Anyways, more fun stuff about the mount.

 

Below is a pic of PM2 (Poor Man's PoleMaster).  Ok, maybe not so poor, but if you have a fairly light guidescope setup already (with a Windows PC), this is one way you can use it with Sharpcap (I use version 2.9, which was free) to do a quick and fairly accurate polar alignment:

IMG_0354small.jpg

 

The pieces:

- 30mm guidescope

- asi290mm mini (had previously a Toupcam ar0130 based camera, see my other posts in the links above)

- intel pc stick (the one pictured is CS325)

- ball head

 

Procedure:

- Use the polar scope to get a rough initial polar alignment.  Since my polar scope is a bit off kilter, I just center Polaris in it.  Works as initial alignment.

- Mount the ball head and the guidescope on the mount, orienting it by eye parallel with the RA axis.  The way I do it is make sure the saddle is square with the base of the ball head and tilted back all the way in the notch.  It gets it pretty close.

- Turn on Sharpcap, and fine tune the guidescope orientation so Polaris is centered.  This is an optional step, Sharpcap is a bit forgiving about scope alignment.  But beware, it doesn't take too much to make Sharpcap lose plate solving, I think 5deg max and that includes the initial polar offset as well.  Sharpcap Pro may be better, I dunno.

- Use the sharpcap polar alignment tool to get it close.  In my case, once I get to 1 arcmin I call it good.  Ymmv.

 

The RA guiding from a couple nights ago:

2018-03-14 phdguide sgp asi290mm 30mmguider.jpg

 

Note my polar alignment was still off for some reason.  Not sure exactly why, I was within 1 arcmin according to Sharpcap.  I believe this is the best guiding I can do with this mount which I consider pretty good.

 

Hope this helps.

 


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#3 AstroMatt85

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Posted 09 April 2018 - 05:32 PM

@dciobota thank you for starting this thread and all of the information you provided. I really like the setup you have going! I'm new to astrophotography (and this site) and I'm looking forward to learning this. I'm surprised nobody else has added to it I thought it would have been more popular. I recently purchased the SkyGuider Pro a few weeks ago, I haven't taken it out yet unfortunately but plan on taking it out tonight to test things out. My setup is pretty basic so far. I have a Canon T7i with a 75-300mm zoom lens. Currently I'm waiting for the Zenithstar 61 to get back in stock to start out my telescope collection smile.gif  I tried posting a picture of what I do have but I haven't quite figured out how to post pictures yet. All of the pics are over 500kb. It's all good though I'll figure it out when I have pictures worth posting. In the meantime I'm going to study all the info that you gave. I've learned more from that than anything else I've read about the SkyGuider online so thank you for that. 

I'm looking forward to seeing how this thread progresses and learning more about this new equipment I have waytogo.gif  


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#4 leveye

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Posted 09 April 2018 - 06:49 PM

I'll be adding some images to the thread very soon. It's been a really bad winter here. Rain rain rain.


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#5 dciobota

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Posted 09 April 2018 - 11:20 PM

Thanks for the kind words AstroMatt, glad you found the post useful.  Btw, one maybe useful trick for reducing image size without reducing quality or dimensions.  If you have windows, open your image (this applies to jpegs) in microsoft Paint.  Save it as a different name, same format (jpeg).  When you compare the new saved image with the old one you'll notice they look pretty much identical but the new image has a smaller size.  This is because Paint will save the image as a palletized jpeg, with just the colors in the image.  For astro images, this palette is usually pretty small, so the size becomes much smaller.  The reduction will vary, but hopefully you will be able to see enough reduction to fit under the 500k limit.  The only other option is to reduce the dimensions of the image.  Hope this helps.

 

Chris, I'm with you my man, although I would gladly trade you our snow for your rain.  Ok, flurries, but still.  Same here, hadn't had a chance to do anything since my last testing with any of my gear.  Kinda burned out fighting the lp in my back yard, I was really looking forward to going camping this weekend.  No dice though.  Probably May before I image again lol.

 

I changed my plans to visit my place during two weeks starting June 10, so hopefully I'll be able to take some images from there as well.  Can't wait.  I still look at your last Milky Way pic from time to time, that's what I'm aiming for.


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#6 Msmst25

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Posted 09 April 2018 - 11:21 PM

I just purchased mine about a month ago.  It’s my first mount of any type.  I’ve been doing Milky Way photography for several years, but wanted to try something new.  Immediately after trying it in mediocre conditions (my driveway), I was hooked.  I shot some images of the Orion Nebula with a Fuji XT-2 and the 50-140 mm 2.8 lens.  It’s a very rough start, but I was excited.  You can see my first attempt here.  https://www.cloudyni...d-orion’s-belt/

since then, I have bought a Wilson Optics ZenithStar 73 and I’m waiting for my Vixen Sx2 mount.  I plan to take the Skyguider Pro to Haleakala next month and to the Big Island in August.  I think it will be great for travel and I plan to use the bigger gear closer to home.

i tried the Skyguider with the ZenithStar 73 and a Canon 6d, but it’s too heavy (which I expected).


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#7 dciobota

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Posted 09 April 2018 - 11:30 PM

Definitely a good start there, you will definitely enjoy it once you hit some really dark skies.  I don't know much about Haleakala, and as you probably know conditions in Hawaii vary greatly on which island and also which part of the island you are on, but if you are somewhere near the beach you should be ok.  On the Big Island, there is a community on one of the former plantations.  My boss' brother used to live there, very eclectic type of place but very friendly people, and since they are very green oriented, they tend to have very few lights around the place.  I'm sure they would not only welcome an astronomer, but you'd probably be the talk of the place as well.  :-)

 

Yeah, the limit on that mount (as least as far as balancing) seems to be an aps-c size dslr and something in the 60mm range.  I could make the at65edq and my Canon mirrorless to work, although the setup was unbalanced with the one weight.  Luckily I had another weight from a cube pro mount, but still, I think I was really pushing it.  I've heard others have made it work though.


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#8 KVK67

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Posted 10 April 2018 - 01:41 PM

I just purchased mine about a month ago.  It’s my first mount of any type.  I’ve been doing Milky Way photography for several years, but wanted to try something new.  Immediately after trying it in mediocre conditions (my driveway), I was hooked.  I shot some images of the Orion Nebula with a Fuji XT-2 and the 50-140 mm 2.8 lens.  It’s a very rough start, but I was excited.  You can see my first attempt here.  https://www.cloudyni...d-orion’s-belt/

since then, I have bought a Wilson Optics ZenithStar 73 and I’m waiting for my Vixen Sx2 mount.  I plan to take the Skyguider Pro to Haleakala next month and to the Big Island in August.  I think it will be great for travel and I plan to use the bigger gear closer to home.

i tried the Skyguider with the ZenithStar 73 and a Canon 6d, but it’s too heavy (which I expected).

Thanks for the info Msmst25. I received mine  for Christmas and  have only been out a couple of times. 

 These 50 year old knees don't like getting so low for polar alignment.  Has anyone tried using the D.A.R.V method

 

 Also, kind of disappointed to hear that the ZS 73 didn't work out.   were you using counterweights ? 

 

 Thanks. 


Edited by KVK67, 10 April 2018 - 02:58 PM.


#9 leveye

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Posted 10 April 2018 - 02:35 PM

Meade and AstroTech are both offering very small imaging refractors now that would work well. Give them a look.


Edited by leveye, 10 April 2018 - 02:35 PM.


#10 dciobota

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Posted 10 April 2018 - 05:15 PM

Thanks for the info Msmst25. I received mine  for Christmas and  have only been out a couple of times. 

 These 50 year old knees don't like getting so low for polar alignment.  Has anyone tried using the D.A.R.V method

 

 Also, kind of disappointed to hear that the ZS 73 didn't work out.   were you using counterweights ? 

 

 Thanks. 

The DARV method is pretty interesting, I've heard of it but never tried it.  Might be worth trying though, seems simple enough, although at 2 min an exposure seems like it could take a fairly long time.

One other way to do it if you have a laptop/pc and a guidecam is to use it in conjunction with Sharpcap's polar alignment routine.  Seems to work quite well.  I posted a little writeup in one of the links in my original post.

 

As far as the smaller refractors they might work.  Just a warning, the at65edq, although a very well corrected scope, is pretty heavy for its size.  I used to have a William Optic zs66sd, which was much lighter, although not as well corrected.  So something along those lines may work fairly well on this mount.

 

Btw, if you need extra counterweights, the ones for the iOptron Cube Pro work very well:

https://www.ioptron....duct-p/8606.htm

 

For some reason it shows discontinued, but maybe iOptron still has some left.  It's a little heavier than the skyguider counterweight, but the same price. 

 

Here's the skyguider one:

https://www.ioptron....duct-p/8605.htm


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#11 leveye

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Posted 10 April 2018 - 05:26 PM

https://www.astronom...let_p20522.aspx

 

https://williamoptic...nithstar-61-apo


Edited by leveye, 10 April 2018 - 05:30 PM.

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#12 dciobota

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Posted 10 April 2018 - 08:29 PM

Yup, those two look like excellent candidates Chris, they weigh around 3lb which is about the same weight as the canon 70-200 f2.8 I had (you can see it in my previous pics, the white one).  You can even use them without the dec adaptor, if you're really tight on carry space (you end up ditching the dec adaptor, shaft and counterweight).  That's what I did in my testing.  

 

Ok, as promised, if you really want to guide, I took some pics of my miniguide setup so you can see better.  But, tbh, the mount is really accurate enough if you limit your focal length to under say 400mm.  At 200mm I found that with good polar alignment I could get about 4 min unguided on an aps-c sensor.  And with the latest breeds of dslr's that is plenty of time really.  It used to be, with ccd's at least that the rule of thumb was shoot as long as you can, but now with basically iso-less cameras, you can shoot short(er) and high iso and still retain dynamic range and decent noise control.  Also keep in mind, the longer you expose the more thermal noise you end up with (presumably, I've seen the newer cameras don't exhibit this near as much).

 

Anyways, if you like overkill guiding, like me, the first pic shows how the cold shoe extension mounts to the dslr and the guider.  Both of them have 1/4" female threads, and the extension bar has two male thread locking knobs.  The adapter I use for my camera (M5) also has a tripod leg which I removed to show how the bar is mounted.  You can attach a short dovetail (tried to show it in the third pic) to either the tripod leg, if your lens or adaptor has one, or the extension bar knob, which has the female thread on the bottom as in the pic.  The whole thing is a lot less flimsy than it looks, that bar is pretty solid.

 

In the second and third pic I'm trying to show how it's all mounted on the skyguider pro, and also show my pc and wireless router setup.  As you can see the pc is on the left, velcrooed to the mount, and the wireless router on the right.  I have some more velcro on top, if I need to use my usb hub (which you might if you want to control your dslr via pc software like Backyard EOS/Nikon or APT say).

 

The velcro I used is a heavy duty type (says it can hold up to 2lb).  It's pretty handy for attaching things to the mount without making those permanent.

 

Hope this helps.

 

Ok oops, can't upload all three pics at once, tbc next post.

 

Attached Thumbnails

  • 20180410_194012small.jpg
  • 20180410_194317small.jpg

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#13 dciobota

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Posted 10 April 2018 - 08:31 PM

Ok, last pic, trying to show the short dovetail bar (I think it came with the skyguider pro) attached to the lens adaptor (or tripod leg, if your lens has one).

 

Attached Thumbnails

  • 20180410_194350small.jpg

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#14 Msmst25

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Posted 11 April 2018 - 10:57 AM

I was using the counterweight with my setup with the 6d.  I didn’t really expect it to work that well due to the weight, and I really purchased the mount expecting to use it with my Fuji XT-2 and smaller lenses.  



#15 dciobota

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Posted 11 April 2018 - 11:47 AM

Yup, that's what I think it's designed for, the smaller loads, even with the counterweight.  I do tend to push my equipment to the limit (and beyond) sometimes.  Gives me an idea of what I can and cannot do (comfortably) with what I have.

 

Btw, I did some reading on the Haleakala and the park there, sounds like that place is pretty much ideal as an imaging dark site.  Forget the beach.  ;-)



#16 timmbottoni

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Posted 12 April 2018 - 08:39 AM

I just purchased mine about a month ago.  It’s my first mount of any type.  I’ve been doing Milky Way photography for several years, but wanted to try something new.  Immediately after trying it in mediocre conditions (my driveway), I was hooked.  I shot some images of the Orion Nebula with a Fuji XT-2 and the 50-140 mm 2.8 lens.  It’s a very rough start, but I was excited.  You can see my first attempt here.  https://www.cloudyni...d-orion’s-belt/

since then, I have bought a Wilson Optics ZenithStar 73 and I’m waiting for my Vixen Sx2 mount.  I plan to take the Skyguider Pro to Haleakala next month and to the Big Island in August.  I think it will be great for travel and I plan to use the bigger gear closer to home.

i tried the Skyguider with the ZenithStar 73 and a Canon 6d, but it’s too heavy (which I expected).

I have the ZS61 and we are hoping to go to the Big Island again next summer so am thinking about this little mount to bring up to the Visitor Info Station, which I am guessing is what you are planning for.

 

It's amazing at 9000 ft

 

Timm



#17 bobzeq25

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Posted 13 April 2018 - 11:43 PM

What would people think of this setup on a Skyguider Pro?

My SV70T OTA is 4.4 pounds, a little more than a pound more than the 60mm scopes. The very solid dovetail and rings are an additional 1.2 pounds.

I could rig something lighter and save maybe half a pound, can't see it being worth it.

D5500 is a pound. Add a pound for a miniguidescope system.

Say 8 pounds (likely just a bit less), It's 336mm, image scale is 2.4. F4.8.

The idea is to take it to dark skies, ideally I'd be doing maybe 5 minute exposures at ISO200, could cut those in half (and use twice as many subs) with ISO 400.

Why not use a GEM? Versatility. I'd use the Pro for other things like wide angle. This is just the long focal length setup.

Opinions?

Edited by bobzeq25, 13 April 2018 - 11:50 PM.

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#18 Msmst25

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Posted 14 April 2018 - 10:20 AM

I calculated the weight of the Canon 6d with battery grip and the Zenithstar 73 at about 8.5 pounds, and it didn't really work for me.  I couldn't get it to balance with the supplied counterweight, and I think adding more counterweights would overload the mount. If the weather ever cooperates, I may try it with my XT-2, which is significantly lighter.


Edited by Msmst25, 14 April 2018 - 10:21 AM.

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#19 George N

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Posted 15 April 2018 - 01:54 PM

What would people think of this setup on a Skyguider Pro?

My SV70T OTA is 4.4 pounds, ......

 

I think you need to try it..... and let us know if it works!  cool.gif



#20 SHFT

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Posted 18 April 2018 - 05:42 AM

Hi guys, after some years reading this forum I finally registered.

 

I bought the SGP couple of weeks ago and after the obligatory clouds and rain it has finally cleared up, it will be a very basic session with my current kit lens, I haven't decided whether to buy a small APO (Z61, TS Optics...) or a 300mm camera lens, the last one is more versatile in daily use but a small apo will result in better pictures.

 

Anyhow, I'll be pointing a camera to the sky tonight and I am very excited bow.gif 


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#21 dciobota

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Posted 18 April 2018 - 07:58 AM

Excellent, crossing fingers for you.  Looking forward to the pics. :)



#22 timmbottoni

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Posted 18 April 2018 - 08:49 AM

Has anyone used PHD or equivalent to measure the non-autoguided PE?

 

Just curious what sort of unguided PE one could expect.

 

Thanks,

 

Timm



#23 dciobota

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Posted 18 April 2018 - 11:48 AM

Good question.  I can partially answer the question as one of tracking in general.  On one testing run I was using a 200mm lens with a camera that has 3.72 micron pixels.  I varied the exposure from 60sec to 5min.  At 4 min it was not showing any trailing, so I am assuming that if the worm cycle is less than 4 min then PE is extremely low.  If it's longer, then it's possible I could have missed it in my images.  I'll look tonight.


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#24 KVK67

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Posted 18 April 2018 - 11:12 PM

I calculated the weight of the Canon 6d with battery grip and the Zenithstar 73 at about 8.5 pounds, and it didn't really work for me.  I couldn't get it to balance with the supplied counterweight, and I think adding more counterweights would overload the mount. If the weather ever cooperates, I may try it with my XT-2, which is significantly lighter.

Msmst25, 

   I’m still holding out hope on the ZS 73.  

I’m going to use a Canon 70D, no battery grip.. also not going to start with a flattened hoping that the cropped sensor work by default.  

 Have you tried the 6D without the grip and/or flattener?



#25 dciobota

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Posted 19 April 2018 - 10:40 AM

Msmst25, 

   I’m still holding out hope on the ZS 73.  

I’m going to use a Canon 70D, no battery grip.. also not going to start with a flattened hoping that the cropped sensor work by default.  

 Have you tried the 6D without the grip and/or flattener?

Looking at the zs73 specs (5.5lb weight) it's very close to the weight of the at65edq, which I have.  There is someone that has tried it with the sgp and said it works.  I could not get mine to balance with the one weight supplied, but it did balance with two weights (the other was from a cube pro).  The whole setup was pretty iffy, and I never tested it outside.  I may give it a shot and see how it behaves, but I'm not very optimistic.  It is definitely at the ragged edge of what the mount can handle.




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