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Help with good mount for camera lens that might do telescope later

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#1 Linwood

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Posted 09 July 2020 - 06:50 PM

For context, I had a 10" LX200 years ago with CCD camera and dark skies so have some idea how important tracking is.  But then I moved to too-bright florida and got rid of it.  I also learned how un-portable a large scope, even an SCT, is, and down here I will likely want to travel with whatever I have.  Now 15 years later and getting the itch again.

 

But the quirk is I am not even sure I want a telescope.  I have great camera gear for night sports, including a 400/2.8 which works great with a TC at 800/5.6.  I was astounded how good of a single-image shot of Jupiter and Saturn I could get a couple nights ago, but anything faint will not work at all without tracking.  Beautiful glass but heavy (compared to camera lenses most people mount on telescopes or camera-mounts). I also have a 300/2.8 on order, and lots of shorter fast glass. 

 

A lot of the camera-only mounts are very light duty, and I just can't see them tracking well (talking those that sit on a camera tripod or ballhead).   And besides... I may want a smallish telescope one day, one small enough to pack up and haul to the everglades for dark skies. 

 

So my question is this: Can I buy a decent quality equatorial telescope mount that I can use with a camera lens(s) today, but that also later could handle a real telescope, say something never larger than a 8" SCT.    I don't really mind investing in a good mount even if I never use it for anything but the camera.  I see a lot of what appear to be well reviewed mounts in the $1500 range for example.  Then later I assume I can buy a telescope only, say if I want longer focal length of an SCT. 

 

Or will I have too much trouble with the mechanical attachments, alignment, etc. if I try to use a telescope GEM with a long camera lens (much less short ones where I would need to mount the camera vs. the lens).  

 

In reading I can find a lot of info on specific mounts but not a whole lot on the attachment mechanics and how they work and play with "alternative" setups.  In particular I don't want to attach it and then not be able to align it.   Most of what I see for "real" telescope mounts expect a camera to be on the telescope or piggy-backed. 

 

Any advice?  Am I crazy trying to find something that could do both?


Edited by Linwood, 09 July 2020 - 06:54 PM.


#2 SkipW

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Posted 09 July 2020 - 07:39 PM

This sounds like a great approach! Yes, you can mount a camera or lens directly to pretty much any modern general-purpose GEM because almost all of them come with a dovetail saddle in one of two popular sizes, and some of them include both. Dovetail bars that fasten to equipment using 1/4-20 cap screws are plentiful and cheap (even the expensive ones are cheap compared to good 300 and 400 mm f/2.8 lenses). As long as you have an appropriate shoe for the lens, you can attach either the camera body or the lens shoe to the bar as appropriate. If the attachment point is well well away from the balance point (like a heavy lens but the attachment is to the camera body), get a dovetail long enough so that the camera and lens assembly can be slid fore and aft far enough to be at least fairly well balanced. The "universal" bars have mounting slots, so the payload can be adjusted fore and aft on the bar and the bar adjusted fore and aft in the saddle, giving a good amount of range in many cases.

 

Something like this (Vixen, or "V" size): 

ADMACCESSORIES_VDUP11_1.jpg?w=1000&ssl=1

 

 

Or this (Losmandy, "D" size):

ADMACCESSORIES_DUP11M_1.jpg?resize=768%2

 

Both of these are examples from ADM, which makes excellent accessories. Their stuff is at the higher end of the price range for equipment like this, but these are only $60 to $70 or so each. There are plenty of similar products from other manufacturers at varying prices. This is not a problem at all.

 

Welcome to the Cloudy Nights Forum, Linwood!


Edited by SkipW, 09 July 2020 - 07:49 PM.


#3 scadvice

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Posted 09 July 2020 - 07:53 PM

Look at a iOptron CEM25P with a 2 inch tripod. 


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#4 Linwood

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Posted 09 July 2020 - 08:00 PM

Thank you @Skipw.  The balance point of my 400 with camera is pretty close to the foot, so that should be easy.  I'm not going to have any kind of attachments other than a camera.  For single digit minute exposures can I get away without guiding at 800mm?   That may depend on mount, any recommendation on one that could also guide a 8" SCT if I end up there? 

 

Oh... one other construction question.  If I looked at some, e.g. an EQ6-R, it says it ways 77 pounds.  That's too heavy to be portable, but is that one big piece?    But I think that includes 22 pounds in counterweight?  ANd the head, does it remove?    I'm asking less about that specific model than in general -- is there an easy way to tell how much the largest easily assembled piece weighs, to know how portable it is?    (I picked that simply because it came up on top of a search at B&H, not from any real research). 

 

I recall my LCX200 I could easily separate the scope from the equatorial wedge, and it from the tripod, but not so easily the OTA from the forks; OTA and forks were pretty heavy which is why I'm thinking nothing that large.  Let's say it would be nice to keep each component under 40 pounds.  Maybe a bit less. Any specific advice how to get a good tracking GEM thus constrained? 



#5 Linwood

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Posted 09 July 2020 - 08:24 PM

@scadvice, thank you, specific ideas are most helpful.  Though that one is not terribly available, can't find anyone who stocks it online at the big places.

 

That actually brings up a question though -- with the computerized goto in (some/most) of these mounts, how much do I need to be wary of age?   That doesn't look that old, maybe 2016 release?  But not new.  For optics they last forever, but computer compatibility is ephemeral; should I try to get something newly released, to try to ensure it keeps compatible for the longest time?  Or do these things tend to stay compatible longer than most electronic accessories?

 

Also, in general, will I need some kind of alignment scope or other accessory to get them polar aligned (or can I use the camera/lens I mount)?



#6 SkipW

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Posted 09 July 2020 - 08:37 PM

Unguided tracking with that focal length should be possible. One of the developments in digital astrophotography is the use of stacked shorter-exposure frames instead of single long-exposure images, so even if you can't get the exposure length you hope, you can probably take an hour's worth of 1-minute exposures, stack the best of them (the software can pick those), and get much of the benefit of the long exposure time without a lot of the hassles.

 

It looks like the specs for the mount on the manufacturer's website look like has the answers those other questions. This will likely be true for most mounts you will look at; if the mfgr. doesn't explicitly say, other vendors' websites might.

https://www.skywatch...ducts/eq6-r-pro

 

Payload Capacity (lbs) 44
Mount Head Weight (lbs) 38
Tripod Weight (lbs) 16.5
Fully Assembled Weight (w/ weights) 76.5

Tripod Leg Diameter 2"
Mounting Saddle Type D/V
Power Type 12V (4 amp minimum)
Clutch Locking Lever
Polar Scope Built In
Latitude Range (degrees) May-65

  

It also accommodates both D & V dovetail sizes, and takes 12V power, which is very common. These are good things. It comes with two 11-lb counterweights; with a lighter lens you might (or might not) need a smaller counterweight to get it to balance. 

 

I had to laugh at the latitude range, which must be 5-65 degrees, but some dumb formatting software changed that into a date.

 

Please consider looking at our forum sponsor, Astronomics, as well as other vendors of your choosing. Of course, pick whichever fits your needs, but at least please give them a shot.



#7 Linwood

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Posted 09 July 2020 - 08:50 PM

@Skipw, thanks, I was looking at some retailer site specs, I should have dug deeper. 

 

I'll look at Astronomics, though everything I clicked on so far said "more on the way"  :) 



#8 scadvice

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Posted 09 July 2020 - 10:08 PM

I believe the iOptron CEM25P has been around for about 4 or 5 years however I'm guessing. I had one and upgraded it to the CEM60, it's big brother when I bought my 130mm scope. Both have been very good to me and solid mounts. The CEM25P and it's competitor the Sky Watcher HEQ5-Pro are both well respected mounts In the 1100 dollar price range. The Sky Watcher HQ6 R-Pro is the next step up at $1600 and sometimes on sale at $1450 but it is a beast weighting in at 38lbs and it's tripod 16lbs.

 

Most everything else with good reputations exceed your 1500 dollar limit. 

 

I wish I had kept the cem25P when I bought the CEM60. It would make a very nice grab and go setup for my 80mm scope..


Edited by scadvice, 09 July 2020 - 10:10 PM.


#9 Linwood

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Posted 10 July 2020 - 07:39 AM

Thanks, @scadvice, I plan to spend some time today reading reviews, forums, etc., and this gives me a good starting point.

 

 

Most everything else with good reputations exceed your 1500 dollar limit. 

 

That was a number picked at random.  I don't want to waste money, but I know from doing low light sports photography that trying to to err too far on the cheap side means you end up throwing it away and starting over, or you get crappy results.  That's mostly about glass and sensor but I'm sure it applies to tracking as well.  I'd rather spend more once than less two or three times.

 

I miss brick and mortar stores, I remember buying my LX200 at Hands On Optics long, long ago, where you could go and sit and look at stuff, talk to an expert.  Now even if you find a real store you can't go there without risking your life.  So I certainly appreciate the feedback you folks have given!


Edited by Linwood, 10 July 2020 - 07:39 AM.


#10 Linwood

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Posted 10 July 2020 - 08:20 AM

Or I could just get another toy for lockdown-time, and buy a telescope with a mount.  grin.gif

 

How do the CGX mounts compare, I could get an 8" SCT with a mount that presumably I can take off and use for the camera lens as well. 

 

Or meade's packaged eq mounts?  

 

Yes, I need to read more about individual scopes, but I figure then I would have (lenses) 400/2.8, 800/5.6 and around (SCT) 2000/f10-11 all prime focus for photography, plus an optical scope.  It occurred to me none of the camera lenses are going to provide decent viewing by eye (my cameras are electronic view finders, so great for focus and light amplification but poor for quality at low light). 

 

I feel like (but could be wrong?) the 400/2.8 is a decent replacement (photographically) for a small refractor, but for small objects there's no substitute for more focal length of an SCT? 



#11 Sandy Swede

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Posted 10 July 2020 - 08:44 AM

I am in a somewhat similar situation to yours.  Currently have the SW Adventurer Pro for DSLR & lenses or the Red Cat 51.  However, when I move to heavier scopes for AP such as my 70mm SV and Tak 100mm, I will need a beefier mount.  Especially when I plan to add a SW 180 Mak (20 lbs).  So, right now, I am looking at the iOptron GEM45 GoTo Equatorial Mount w/ iPolar & Hard Case for $2,188.  It has a 45 lbs capacity, weighs 34 lbs without 11 lb counterweight, but including the  1.75” LiteRoc tripod (may upgrade the tripod).  Like you, I want to buy a mount only once, even though it may be overkill in terms of capacity.  I think it is not prudent to exceed 70% or manuf'r rated capacity for AP. 

 

Before I put my 8" LZ200 on a scope buggy, I got tired of dragging that weight outside and it spent more and more time inside.  The weight of the mounts SkipW was identifying in #6 is something to be heeded ("it's a beast').


Edited by Sandy Swede, 10 July 2020 - 08:50 AM.


#12 Linwood

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Posted 10 July 2020 - 10:23 AM

Hmmm... I could just get a Celestron CGX 800 Edge HD, it looks like it has a well respected mount as well, and then I have an optical scope as well as a long focal length if I want to try imaging long.  2" tripod legs, lots of weight capacity.  44 pounds is kind of weighty for hauling around but not intolerable I think, as it is relatively small. 

 

I mean why kill when you can over-kill?   shocked.gif

 

Still reading, but some places (including here) have it in stock.  Which is relevant as this is mostly a toy during lockdown, hate to wait a month for backorder -- boredom looms. 



#13 scadvice

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Posted 10 July 2020 - 12:01 PM

Look at the mount I now have. It's a iOptron CEM60. Not the EC version as I personally do not think they are worth the extra cost for 99% of us. The mount head weights in at 27 lbs. and has a payload of 60 lbs. With tripod I've seen them sell for about $2400. It's a very nice mount solid, and tracking has been excellent. Here is mine with the optional TriPier and some other goodies I've added. It has a Stellarvue SVA130mm Triplet. These setup is around 25 lbs and the mount hardly notices it.

 

Slightly smaller is the iOptron CEM40 I think someone above mentioned also worth considering. $2100 to $2200 

 

Losmandy and some mid range priced Celestron mounts are popular but I know nothing about the good bad or ugly.

 

However having said all above and based on your post saying maybe a small refractor someday (which to me is up to 102mm) the iOptron CEM40 is likely your best choice with the iOptron CEM25P (If your willing to backorder one) and the Sky Watcher HEQ5 - Pro as the second choices. 

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#14 Kevin Ross

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Posted 10 July 2020 - 02:43 PM

The OP mentions portable, and unguided. I think the iOptron CEM series of mounts, with encoders (the EC versions) are what he wants. The CEM mounts have a great payload to mount weight ratio, making them quite portable. The encoders help when not autoguiding.



#15 Linwood

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Posted 11 July 2020 - 11:57 AM

 

However having said all above and based on your post saying maybe a small refractor someday (which to me is up to 102mm) the iOptron CEM40 is likely your best choice with the iOptron CEM25P (If your willing to backorder one) and the Sky Watcher HEQ5 - Pro as the second choices. 

Thanks for the suggestions and photo.  Just one correction, what I said (or meant to say) was the camera lenses I have can act as a refractor, and my most likely telescope for the mount (now or later) would be something like an SCT for longer focal lengths.

 

@Kevin Ross, thank you.  I'm reading now about that.  When I first saw the EC models I had the impression they were simply made to higher tolerances, but I appreciate the comment on encoders, reading now about that aspect.  

 

Note the reason I suggested unguided is that if I try using my camera lenses, it is unclear how hard or easy it would be to attach some kind of guide scope and guide.  I am not saying it is hard, I am saying that whole area of issues using a camera lens vs telescope are unknown to me.  I just hate to waste all that good glass, already built precisely for a full frame sensor. 

 

But even if I can guide without technical issues, needing to do it less cannot be a bad thing.  :) 

 

Aside: I've decided Astronomers are patient people.  Every time I think I'm on track of something I can get, they are back ordered, out of stock, coming soon.  I was about ready to buy the 8" edge above from Astronomics as it was in stock -- except when contacted they said it wasn't, and running a month or two behind.  Sure... a telescope can be a for-life thing, but I want something now to work against the boredom while there's so little to photograph (I shoot sports, you know, that thing that used to be). 



#16 scadvice

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Posted 11 July 2020 - 12:48 PM

Aside: I've decided Astronomers are patient people.  Every time I think I'm on track of something I can get, they are back ordered, out of stock, coming soon.  I was about ready to buy the 8" edge above from Astronomics as it was in stock -- except when contacted they said it wasn't, and running a month or two behind.  Sure... a telescope can be a for-life thing, but I want something now to work against the boredom while there's so little to photograph (I shoot sports, you know, that thing that used to be).

 

If the 8" EDGE is in your future at 16lbs without the attachments you will be later adding I suggest though the CEM25P and the HEQ5 will work, you will end up at their maximum carrying capacity which is fine for visual but not the best situation for imaging. That leaves the iOptron CEM40 as the idea mount with it's portability and carrying capacity.

 

Note the reason I suggested unguided is that if I try using my camera lenses, it is unclear how hard or easy it would be to attach some kind of guide scope and guide.  I am not saying it is hard, I am saying that whole area of issues using a camera lens vs telescope are unknown to me.  I just hate to waste all that good glass, already built precisely for a full frame sensor.

 

Setting up a guide scope and small guide camera is and easy task. Look at a ZWOASI120MM mini and the ZWO Mini guide scope. That is the smallest setup and for most people does the job. Here is an example of a minimalist setup with guiding. The same can be done with a larger mount.

 

 

https://www.youtube....GD7LgSrY&t=371s

 

Of course you can go bigger on them but not really necessary when starting out.


Edited by scadvice, 11 July 2020 - 01:04 PM.


#17 Linwood

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Posted 11 July 2020 - 01:14 PM

If the 8" EDGE is in your future at 16lbs without the attachments you will be later adding I suggest though the CEM25P and the HEQ5 will work, you will end up at their maximum carrying capacity which is fine for visual but not the best situation for imaging. That leaves the iOptron CEM40 as the idea mount with it's portability and carrying capacity.

I think so.  This all started with trying to shoot a few things through the camera lens on a (fixed) tripod.  I simultaneous realized I could image things I never thought really possible, and also that tracking was required.  Like this.  This was purely a spur of the moment thing while I was trying to do Neowise.  It's a single shot with the 400 + 2xTC .  It's awful by amateur telescope standards but it really surprised me I could get it with a camera lens, and made me wonder how other things, like brighter nebulae might look if I could do long enough exposures, especially with stacking.

 

 i-HMGJpLF.jpg

 

I've had enough hobbies to know that your first go at something is not where you stop, often, so I do not JUST want to be thinking of the lenses I have.  But past experience wanting to haul around a 11" SCT made me know it is not much fun, plus most areas around me it is kind of wasted due to bright skies.   But (again, my possibly incorrect logic) with a lot of coverage up to 800mm in fast, good glass, if I expand it will likely be to longer focal lengths, which require steadier mounts and more accurate guidance.   That's why I said 8" SCT, I figure that's representative of longer focal lengths without getting too large.

 

Maybe what I should do is just spend more time on the Hubble site looking at photos instead of trying to take them.  smile.gif



#18 Kevin Ross

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Posted 11 July 2020 - 02:58 PM

Also, you mention your 2x TC a couple times. Keep in mind you won't want to use it for DSO photography. The loss of 2 stops of light is too huge. For planetary it's fine (and recommended). But don't worry, there are lots and lots of big beautiful targets that are perfect for 400mm FL.

 

As far as the actual logistics of mounting a guide scope along with a camera lens, you can go with a side-by-side setup, like this from ADM:

 

https://www.admacces...connecting-bar/

 

They have several models in different sizes. It does take more effort to balance everything in every direction, but it can be done.



#19 Linwood

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Posted 11 July 2020 - 03:29 PM

Also, you mention your 2x TC a couple times. Keep in mind you won't want to use it for DSO photography. The loss of 2 stops of light is too huge. For planetary it's fine (and recommended). But don't worry, there are lots and lots of big beautiful targets that are perfect for 400mm FL.

 

As far as the actual logistics of mounting a guide scope along with a camera lens, you can go with a side-by-side setup, like this from ADM:

 

https://www.admacces...connecting-bar/

 

They have several models in different sizes. It does take more effort to balance everything in every direction, but it can be done.

Thanks, Kevin.  I now need to start collecting such pointers.  In a lot of fields, knowing where to find the left handed widgets is where al lot of the magic really lies.  :)

 

I tend to collect nice fast glass, unfortunately I recently switched from Nikon to Sony and got rid of almost all.  I'm especially sorry I no longer have a 200/2 which I think would be interesting to try (though I buddy keeps threatening to buy one, so I'm keeping my Nikon/Sony adapter).  Now the only thing I have near 200 is a zoom, which while really good as zooms go, is nothing like a good prime.  But I do have a 85/1.4 that I'd love to try out and a nice APO 110m F2.5, though it's a macro and not sure how nicely it would work at infinity, but it's got near zero CA so might be interesting to try.  Lots of chances to experiment.

 

Back to reading and browsing sites.



#20 Linwood

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Posted 11 July 2020 - 10:26 PM

So I've been browsing lots of sites and reading, giving some preference to mounts readily available, and one thing I have been trying to understand is how they vary so very much in weight.

 

For example, the Celestron CGX head alone is 44 pounds, with a hefty 55 pound payload.  Hard to find accuracy but one site listed 5-10 arcseconds

 

But the iOptron CEM40 head comes in at only 16 pounds but claims to carry 40 pounds.   That's a huge difference in convenience.  It claims +/- 7 arcsecond accuracy on top of that. 

 

What am I missing?  Resistance to (say) wind vibration or such?  Or just technology differences? 

 

I'm also trying to understand tracking accuracy.  Am I thinking of this correctly?  Starting with a tracking error rate of 7 arcsecond over 400 seconds.   Ignoring diffraction for the moment, I get about 0.41 arcseconds/pixel if I had a 2000mm focal length, or  2 at 400mm.  (4um pixels).  So to understand how long it would take to cover 2 pixels (not much of an issue) at 400mm I could image for 200 seconds, or at 2000mm for maybe 40 seconds. 

 

Really, really rough estimates, obviously varying by all sorts of variables from alignment to me leaning on the tripod accidentally.  But just trying for a sanity check.

 

If I got an "EC" unit from iOptron, this number is a factor of 10 less if I understand right.

 

Or if I want longer exposures in either case I set up a mechanism to either manually or automatically guide.  But if I'm happy in those ranges of times (again, real rough estimates), then an unguided, non EC unit, saves me $1000 in iOptron? 

 

Or conversely spend $1000 and avoid tracking longer? 

 

To add to the complexity I assume with bright skies (which I'm mostly stuck with) shorter, stacked exposures may be better as well?


Edited by Linwood, 11 July 2020 - 10:30 PM.


#21 Linwood

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Posted 12 July 2020 - 10:37 AM

So the ones I can get reasonably quickly: 

 

Celestron CGX -- think I'm going to pass simply because of the weight, I think over time that would be an issue. 

 

Vixen SXD2 with Star Book One -- I think this is an older model (notably Star Book One) but it comes from Amazon with free returns, and the SXD2 seems well thought of, and it is very light.  The Star Book Ten is more current; I can find little info on the One in particular whether it can interface with other software.  Apparently the Ten did poorly on that for ages but is reportedly fixed; not sure about the one.  But this might be a way to get a fairly pricey mount more cheaply, I really don't care about the Ten's fancy displays so long as I can go to a specific location even if not a specific object.  I'll have to add a tripod but Adorama has one that normally ships with it.   I've read bad things about support from them, but great things about fit/finish/design.   The SX2 is available with the Star Book 10 and tripod for just a bit more but I gather the "D" version is a better mount.  The Vixen attachment mount is apparently a bit more trouble to work with.

 

Ioptron CM40.  The EC isn't readily available.  The more I read the more I think if I have an SCT I'll end up guiding it somehow anyway, but can probably get away in either case with short lenses including the 400, the extra $1000 or so would easily cover that even with some automated guiding, I think.  It's apparently widely used and generally respected, though it sounds like instance to instance variation will be greater than the vixen, and the one available was a 1.5" tripod.  It's unclear if I'll need a separate scope to align vs. my camera lens.  I think it is more friendly to 3rd party software. 

 

Yes, I realize my desire for immediate gratification is driving my choices.  Blame Covid. 

 

Anyone have thoughts on these two, notably how screwed I may be with the Star Book One? 



#22 scadvice

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Posted 12 July 2020 - 12:02 PM

Did you contact iOptron directly or go through dealers? My understanding the CEM40 are available in mid July which is only about a week away or so.

 

Astronomics shows them as in stock so you might give them a call. (they also give you free shipping). Calling direct you may be able to get a two inch tripod instead of the 1.75"


Edited by scadvice, 12 July 2020 - 12:04 PM.


#23 Linwood

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Posted 12 July 2020 - 12:10 PM

Did you contact iOptron directly or go through dealers? My understanding the CEM40 are available in mid July which is only about a week away or so.

 

Astronomics shows them as in stock so you might give them a call. (they also give you free shipping). Calling direct you may be able to get a two inch tripod instead of the 1.75"

I'm just looking at stock status on various sites.  B&H has the CEM40.  Adorama and Amazon have various Vixen.   There's quite a few places with CGX but I'm thinking I will regret the weight.   I've looked at a lot of sites, but tend to think Amazon (not marketplace) and B&H and Adorama's inventory is accurate and they ship reliably, and have generous return policies.  Especially after I checked Astronomics and their inventory online was wrong.  They they were great at answering email; other sites have warnings up they may take days to answer, much less ship.  I guess ironically Covid is good for the astronomy sales business.



#24 scadvice

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Posted 12 July 2020 - 01:22 PM

Adorama's inventory shows a CEM60 with tripod at $2388.00

 

They are becoming hard to get as the CEM70 seems to be replacing them. You might consider one. The mount weights in at 27lbs and carries 60lbs and comes with a tripod. It is the same  (accept for the tripier I have) as in the picture I posted in #13. A bit larger than you have been looking at but would easily carry any future OTA.



#25 Linwood

Linwood

    Mariner 2

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  • Joined: 09 Jul 2020

Posted 12 July 2020 - 01:29 PM

Adorama's inventory shows a CEM60 with tripod at $2388.00

 

They are becoming hard to get as the CEM70 seems to be replacing them. You might consider one. The mount weights in at 27lbs and carries 60lbs and comes with a tripod. It is the same  (accept for the tripier I have) as in the picture I posted in #13. A bit larger than you have been looking at but would easily carry any future OTA.

That's concerning, when I look I see CEM60 (at $2398) as ships-from-manufacturer.  That's a bit scary if it's showing different inventory. 




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