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Do Yourself a Favor - Start with a Quality Mount

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#1 MarkMittlesteadt

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Posted 26 August 2020 - 05:15 PM

I know there will be many who think getting the highest quality scope one can afford as the most important consideration when starting out (or heck, even upgrading), whether it is for visual or photography. But, in my opinion I think the mount is more important. When I started out so long ago I had no one to turn to for help. There was no internet, no local astronomy groups or even anyone I knew to ask. All I had were a few issues of Sky and Telescope for information. I went through a lot of scopes always wanting something better. The problem I always had (regardless of the quality of scope) was jittery, unstable views due to shaky, wobbly mounts sitting on top of wiggly, weak tripod legs.

 

Over the years of buying a lot of astronomy gear, one thing became increasingly apparent to me; The more solid the mount/tripod I had, the more enjoyable the experience was (no matter how good/bad the scope itself was). Even to this day, I'd take a rock solid platform (i.e. - mount/tripod) and a cheap scope, over an expensive apo sitting on some lousy, wobbly, shaky platform that leaves one feeling like they are viewing through a handheld scope on a fault line during an earthquake. Things like focusing, touching the scope or even a slight wind can leave the view almost impossible to enjoy, even with a high quality telescope. I wish someone had told me years ago to invest in a solid mount/tripod and worry about the scope later. It would have saved me years of aggravation and attempts at making bad mounts better. Although it did give me the benefit of honing my DIY skills. smirk.gif  

 

Most online retailers put together package deals with some fairly nice scopes (and these days even inexpensive scopes have fairly good optics) sitting on the most woefully inadequate mounting platforms. Though it has gotten better since my early years of catalog shopping, the practice is still quite prevalent with the retailer making the incredible sales pitch about the scope itself, and "oh yeah, it comes with a mount too!" as if it really mattered.

 

Personally I think it does matter, A LOT. Maybe it's just me but knowing what I know now, I will always recommend a solid mounting platform over this or that type of scope. It all changed for me the day I got a brand new Meade 8" LX50 SCT from Astronomics many years ago. I spent all my money on the fork mounted scope, so I had no money leftover for a tripod. I built my own solid wooden structure to set it on (ala tabletop essentially), but it was solid and I spent at least a year in my backyard without any tripod at all. But it was solid.

 

But then one day I got lucky and came across a Meade Giant Field Tripod used and very cheap. Don't get me started on how heavy that beast was. It was rusty, pitted and really beat up, but that monolith was solid as a rock. I've long since moved on from my solid wood box or that beast of a tripod but I will never forget how much more I enjoyed my observing experience having such a stable platform. Damping time? What's that? grin.gif I've gotten a few questionable mounts since that I've been able to mod to my liking, but one thing has stuck with me that I will always pass on to others...

 

If you are just starting out, do yourself a favor a get a solid mount first above all other considerations. The scope and any accessories are essentially useless without a stable platform to put them on. Any scope will suffice if you are just beginning. You can always upgrade. But don't be led by the hype about scopes (justified or not) until you understand that whatever you put that scope on can either keep you in this hobby for a long time or make you want to quit before you've even begun.

 

Those guys who do astrophotography who tell you to get a small scope and put your money into the mount have it right. But I think it's valid for visual observing as well.

 

Just my opinion. Take it for what it's worth. Thoughts?


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#2 skookum

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Posted 26 August 2020 - 05:22 PM

Outstanding advice.

I envy those who are free to pour an observatory pier on their property to support a permanent telescope mount.

But remember, a solid mount need not be expensive too. It just needs to be well designed and properly built.

With good judgement, or some initiative and elbow grease, a good solid mount/tripod combination is easy to find or make.

On the used market, occasionally some good soul releases a great mount for a price low enough to attract newcomers who have been saving their money for a while. Or you will find a surprisingly efficient contraption some ATM came up with and now wants to sell.

As for ATM, CloudyNight's forums are full of great mount ideas. Astronomy rewards the Engineer and the Journeyman equally.

Edited by skookum, 26 August 2020 - 05:56 PM.

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#3 wrnchhead

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Posted 26 August 2020 - 05:41 PM

Absolutely agree. I think it was Starman1 who said that comfort is better than two magnitudes of light grasp and I definitely agree.

Edited by wrnchhead, 26 August 2020 - 06:09 PM.

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#4 PirateMike

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Posted 26 August 2020 - 05:55 PM

When I started out so long ago I had no one to turn to for help. There was no internet, no local astronomy groups or even anyone I knew to ask. All I had were a few issues of Sky and Telescope for information.

Otherwise know as "Back in the day". I remember it well, but not very fondly as far as information availability is concerned, but it certainly did have it's pluses, many that are now long gone.

 

 

Miguel   8-)

 

.


Edited by PirateMike, 26 August 2020 - 05:56 PM.

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#5 LyraCygnus

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Posted 26 August 2020 - 06:01 PM

I got my first telescope a few days ago and am a complete beginner but can relate to what the OP has said about having a stable mount.  I had watched a number of videos before getting my telescope and in some of them the object being observed would wobble around a lot.  I didn't understand why at first until I read various comments here and elsewhere about the mounts on a telescope. When I had set up my Skywatcher 4 inch refractor  I was immediately impressed by the solid feel of the mount and the steadiness of the tripod.  No wobbling or bouncing around of anything,  just a very stable feel to the action and the scope stays where it's pointed.  I think if I was to go to another scope with a less stable mount it would be a frustrating experience so I totally agree with the OPs advice.


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#6 Codbear

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Posted 26 August 2020 - 06:33 PM

The best advice I read when I first started reading CN forums 6 years or so ago was, "Buy once, cry once."

 

The first time I came across this phrase it was in a thread about what mount the OP should get; the astronomer who posted it was recommending to the OP to get a more expensive mount over a significantly less reliable imported mount, even though it was over the OP's budget. The OP ended up getting the better quality and more reliable mount and was extremely pleased with his decision.

 

Nothing can be more distracting than an object in the FOV that constantly bounces around or takes several seconds 

to settle after focusing. 


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#7 MarkMittlesteadt

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Posted 26 August 2020 - 07:01 PM

It was only a few years ago that I bought an EXOS2-GT mount/tripod.

The tripod has 2" steel legs and when I sold the mount, I kept the tripod.

I've been using this tripod with every mount since, including my recent M2C manual Alt-Az mount.

While the grab'n'go crowd has been seeking lighter and lighter gear, I will not let my tripod go despite it not being lightweight. It's the foundation of everything that I use.

I am still enjoying the benefit of zero damping time. laugh.gif  Anyone with a manual Alt-Az mount observing at high magnification knows how precious time is. ;)


Edited by MarkMittlesteadt, 26 August 2020 - 07:22 PM.

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#8 Jethro7

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Posted 26 August 2020 - 07:15 PM

Hello, Mark,

I followed that advice when I out grew my AVX and bought a G11G and I am confident that this mount will handle every thing that I ever want this mount to do for me.  For many this advice seems to just go by unnoticed, or it is misunderstood.

 

HAPPY SKIES AND KEEP LOOKING UP Jethro


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#9 MarkMittlesteadt

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Posted 26 August 2020 - 07:37 PM

Outstanding advice.

I envy those who are free to pour an observatory pier on their property to support a permanent telescope mount.

But remember, a solid mount need not be expensive too. It just needs to be well designed and properly built.

With good judgement, or some initiative and elbow grease, a good solid mount/tripod combination is easy to find or make.

On the used market, occasionally some good soul releases a great mount for a price low enough to attract newcomers who have been saving their money for a while. Or you will find a surprisingly efficient contraption some ATM came up with and now wants to sell.

As for ATM, CloudyNight's forums are full of great mount ideas. Astronomy rewards the Engineer and the Journeyman equally.

The internet is littered with DIY ideas on how to solidify mounts and tripods. I've probably tried most of them myself over the years. laugh.gif Sometimes I've purchased a combo package because it was actually cheaper to buy the package just for the scope, than buying the scope alone. I typically tried to solve any vibration issues with the mount or tripod before selling it, but there is only so much one can do with some of them. Sometimes the mount itself isn't that bad but the tripod legs are the culprit and one can build some solid wooden legs for it. If there's a fix for it, I've probably attempted it. Some end up being nice camera tripods if nothing else. 

My hope is that someone starting out understands how important the foundation is. Get that right, and most any scope will provide a lot of great experiences under the stars. 


Edited by MarkMittlesteadt, 26 August 2020 - 07:39 PM.

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#10 dustyc

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Posted 26 August 2020 - 07:40 PM

Can't afford an upgrade right now? I bought one of those tripod 3 rod stabilizer sets and some pucks to put under the leg points. Huge difference! My mount (CGEM) was now settling out after being bumped in under a second. Focus adjustments have no jiggles.


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#11 MarkMittlesteadt

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Posted 26 August 2020 - 07:43 PM

Otherwise know as "Back in the day". I remember it well, but not very fondly as far as information availability is concerned, but it certainly did have it's pluses, many that are now long gone.

 

 

Miguel   8-)

 

.

I kind of miss those days. Anytime the newest issue of S&T came out I was like a kid at Christmas again. Looking at all those ads and articles, dreaming of owning one of those really nice scopes. At the time, I don't recall ever drooling over any ads for mounts. Now I do, but "back in the day"? Nah, it was all about the scopes themselves. But what did I know? 


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#12 MarkMittlesteadt

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Posted 26 August 2020 - 07:49 PM

Can't afford an upgrade right now? I bought one of those tripod 3 rod stabilizer sets and some pucks to put under the leg points. Huge difference! My mount (CGEM) was now settling out after being bumped in under a second. Focus adjustments have no jiggles.

As solid as my tripod is, I still make mods to improve things. I added the folding tripod spreader (made it out of another tripod and some clamps). I also made my own pier extension out of threaded galvanized pipe...

6f106c_1247076d84dc4fc2b52cba375982b884~


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#13 JMW

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Posted 26 August 2020 - 08:31 PM

One of the reasons we recommend Dobs for beginners is it comes with a reasonably steady mount. Most beginner scopes on tripods have mounts and tripods that are not steady enough for a good user experience.

 

A problem in the beginning is the desire to have good stuff but it is difficult for most to buy the best available when you need a little bit of everything to start. 

 

I spent about 15 years building up my eyepiece collection. There's no way I would have bought it all in the same year. 

 

As far as GEMs, I started with a CG5 which is all I could afford at the time. I bought an Atlas later which was much better and I was able to sell it easily when I bought the Astro-Physics 900GTO as my 3rd GEM.

 

I fell in love with alt/az mounts for visual astronomy and have owned or still own a Voyager (barely adequate), DM4 (Wonderful), DM6 (Wonderful for larger scopes), FTQ (Fantastic light mount for my SVR90T or Lunt solar scope), and two FTX (Excellent machining and great experience with a little more learning curve). The DM6 is a wonderful mount which can handle a great variety of scopes up to about a 10 inch Newtonian or 11 inch SCT with the appropriate tripod. It mostly carries our TEC 140. We have encoders on all our alt/az mounts for use with the Nexus DSC.

 

Tripods are as important as the mount for stability. Tripods that I still use: Planet (very good damping and mass), Losmandy HD folding (rock steady but a pain to carry and setup), and a pair of TPOD-130 tripods (Very functional but slightly more damping time than the Planet).

 

I was fortunate when I bought my AP900GTO that I could buy a Rob Miller custom tripod for it. It was only available for a couple of years and is a masterpiece. I use it when I take my AP900GTO to multi-night star parties. At home the mount is on a concrete pier.

 

I bought this stuff over about 15 years. I will be keeping most of this stuff until I am too old to use it.


Edited by JMW, 27 August 2020 - 05:51 PM.

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#14 Dirtydrywaller

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Posted 26 August 2020 - 09:11 PM

This pretty much goes for every type of hobby, buy junk and youll get bad results or breakdowns.

 

 

how about some of you guys put up some useful information like what is a good mount.

i can guarantee you that i can buy a brand new junk 5k mount out there somewhere.

 

whats a good 1k mount,2k,3k,4k now that would be some useful information.

 

you guys have a wealth of information that could make a great sticky here that newbs like myself could just roll up to and get things done correctly the first time.

 

whenever you look at a mount on a website its always described as the best thing since sliced bread and you cant go wrong purchasing it. we all know thats a load of bologna.


Edited by Dirtydrywaller, 26 August 2020 - 09:27 PM.

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#15 Jethro7

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Posted 26 August 2020 - 09:32 PM

The internet is littered with DIY ideas on how to solidify mounts and tripods. I've probably tried most of them myself over the years. laugh.gif Sometimes I've purchased a combo package because it was actually cheaper to buy the package just for the scope, than buying the scope alone. I typically tried to solve any vibration issues with the mount or tripod before selling it, but there is only so much one can do with some of them. Sometimes the mount itself isn't that bad but the tripod legs are the culprit and one can build some solid wooden legs for it. If there's a fix for it, I've probably attempted it. Some end up being nice camera tripods if nothing else. 

My hope is that someone starting out understands how important the foundation is. Get that right, and most any scope will provide a lot of great experiences under the stars. 

Hello mark,

You can only try to inform someone that buying a mount three or four times the cost of the one they want may save them money in the long run. It just does not sound Logical. Just as  trying to explaine to a beginner that a AT80 APO would be a better choice for learning AP than C11 package deal that they bought with the AVX mount. Most beginners want to fly before they crawl. This is a natural human condition.learning the basics can be boring.  this is what sets up the road to frustration and ultimately failure. You have seen the post where the topic starter wont listen to anybody, theve made up their mind before they even started the topic. The only thing you can do is wish them all the luck because you know they are going to need it.

Some people cant be helped. On the other hand there are many beginners  that join CloudyNights and genuinely are here for help and instruction and that is part of the reason we are here and at times we need help ourselves. 

 

HAPPY SKIES AND KEEP LOOKING UP Jethro


Edited by Jethro7, 26 August 2020 - 09:59 PM.

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#16 Dirtydrywaller

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Posted 26 August 2020 - 09:48 PM

The mount I showed in my post above is my Stellarvue M2C Alt-Az mount. It is all manual and very solid, yet smooth in operation. It is supposed to handle 25 lbs. and my Lunt 102ED refractor comes nowhere near that. The mount is so solid, stable and smooth it almost disappears in use. 

 

There are other manual Alt-Az mounts that are even better, albeit more expensive. I created a thread in this forum where others shared their manual Alt-Az mounts. 

 

Of course you also have GoTo ones, GEM's, both manual and tracking/GoTo mounts...and then there are tripods to consider as well. 

 

Perhaps you could start a thread asking for people to share what they feel are the most solid mounts they've owned. My most solid tripod was that old Meade Giant Field tripod I had years ago. But that was a beast of a tripod. Not exactly fun to just take out for a quick look, but that was ROCK SOLID.

 

Sometimes there are weight compromises to be made.

yes

ive been speaking to a few guys in my astronomy club and am trying to figure out long term what i want to achieve.

 

so i need to figure out what my scope type will be and the weight of my equipment before i get help on a mount that with fit my needs and has been used by people like you guys.

 

its kinda confusing sometimes because of all the factors like bearings,gears and motors, one post on a certain mount will be nothing but praise and then someone will chime in and bring up the bad nylon bearings that the model before it had and then everyone is wondering if they ar still using them lol.

 

its a hard decision to make especially if you have no idea what everyone is talking about, plenty of room for error in this hobby.



#17 Jethro7

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Posted 26 August 2020 - 10:34 PM

Hello, Mark,

I am planning to buy one of those SVM2C's mount heads for my third Gen. Grab and Go rig. I am really not sure myself about the tripod they supply them with. I am surmising that this mount would  be better served putting it on a Berlebach Uni tripod. This tripod would also serve my AZ8 mount as well. The tripod supplied from Losmandy is itself a little light for the task at hand. And I dont want to use a stone bags or hang a weight on it.

 

Hello Dirtydrywaller,

I understand the confusion about mounts and such, after a few issues with my G11G in the beginning I got worked out. (It was all me) I dont have to constantly fiddle with this mount as you read  here in threads I set it up and turn it on and I am off, the G11 fades into the background. I think that most of the confusion with G11's is these mounts have peculiarities that are their own, some are oddities and you have to learn these things. 

You have to take a educated look at the threads and decide what advice is worth pursuing and what to disgard.

 

HAPPY SKIES AND KEEP LOOKING UP Jethro


Edited by Jethro7, 27 August 2020 - 10:33 AM.

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#18 endless-sky

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Posted 27 August 2020 - 06:33 AM

When I started out so long ago I had no one to turn to for help. There was no internet, no local astronomy groups or even anyone I knew to ask.

Some twenty years ago I upgraded my telescope from a Newton 114mm. Back then there weren't many resources of information, I was still a teenager, I wasn't good with Internet and I didn't know anybody that could give me advice. All I had were pretty pictures of 8", 10", 12" and 16" SCTs on astronomy magazines and I had been brainwashed into "the bigger, the better" philosophy.

 

There weren't specialized stores for astronomy dedicated equipment, either. At least none that I knew of, around where I lived. So me and my dad looked in the yellow pages and found an optics store that was also an authorized seller of Meade and Celestron telescopes.

 

Obviously, selling mostly glasses, the knowledge of astronomy equipment the salesperson had was probably even less than mine, but I couldn't do much but trust his judgement and accept his advices. I told him I wanted a good telescope, on an equatorial mount, possibly not too expensive, and that I wanted to do some astrophotography (with a film SLR), by piggy-backing the camera on top of the telescope (and manually guiding through it) or even use the camera at direct focus of the telescope as well.

 

I ended up coming home with a Celestar C8. Basically a C8, on an average fork mount, with fixed tripod legs (yeah, try leveling that...). The naivity of a kid that sees a 20cm telescope and think he's gonna own the Cosmos with it. Don't get me wrong, it gave me some fantastic views - it still does, but deforked and on a better mount - read later. I even managed a good share of pictures with it, both piggy-backing the camera and at direct focus with an off-axis guider. But boy was it hard.

 

Fortunately things went differently when in October of last year I decided I wanted to get back into astrophotography, this time with a DSLR. I had this and other fora where I could do my research. I had the whole Internet at my disposal.

 

I started thinking I should look into a star tracker. Then the AVX/CG5/EQ5 seemed a better choice. I finally decided that the HEQ5 was the bare minimum I could accept for my current astrophotography setup (DSLR plus 70-300mm lens), with the added bonus of using it to mount my deforked C8 for visual.

 

Luck had it I found no HEQ5s in the used market, but a NEQ6 Pro instead. Happier choice I could have made. It's even good enough that, once I acquire an auto-guider setup, I will even be able to use my C8 with it.

 

With the knowledge I have today, and having tried both visual and astrophotography with a subpar mount and with a solid, sturdy one, I would never advice anyone interested in starting astrophotography to do it with an SCT. Much less on an inadequate mount.

 

The best optics are completely useless if the mount cannot handle them. So, do yourselves a favor: buy a good mount first, think about the telescope later.


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#19 Droro

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Posted 27 August 2020 - 06:38 AM

I know there will be many who think getting the highest quality scope one can afford as the most important consideration when starting out (or heck, even upgrading), whether it is for visual or photography. But, in my opinion I think the mount is more important. When I started out so long ago I had no one to turn to for help. There was no internet, no local astronomy groups or even anyone I knew to ask. All I had were a few issues of Sky and Telescope for information. I went through a lot of scopes always wanting something better. The problem I always had (regardless of the quality of scope) was jittery, unstable views due to shaky, wobbly mounts sitting on top of wiggly, weak tripod legs.

Over the years of buying a lot of astronomy gear, one thing became increasingly apparent to me; The more solid the mount/tripod I had, the more enjoyable the experience was (no matter how good/bad the scope itself was). Even to this day, I'd take a rock solid platform (i.e. - mount/tripod) and a cheap scope, over an expensive apo sitting on some lousy, wobbly, shaky platform that leaves one feeling like they are viewing through a handheld scope on a fault line during an earthquake. Things like focusing, touching the scope or even a slight wind can leave the view almost impossible to enjoy, even with a high quality telescope. I wish someone had told me years ago to invest in a solid mount/tripod and worry about the scope later. It would have saved me years of aggravation and attempts at making bad mounts better. Although it did give me the benefit of honing my DIY skills. smirk.gif

Most online retailers put together package deals with some fairly nice scopes (and these days even inexpensive scopes have fairly good optics) sitting on the most woefully inadequate mounting platforms. Though it has gotten better since my early years of catalog shopping, the practice is still quite prevalent with the retailer making the incredible sales pitch about the scope itself, and "oh yeah, it comes with a mount too!" as if it really mattered.

Personally I think it does matter, A LOT. Maybe it's just me but knowing what I know now, I will always recommend a solid mounting platform over this or that type of scope. It all changed for me the day I got a brand new Meade 8" LX50 SCT from Astronomics many years ago. I spent all my money on the fork mounted scope, so I had no money leftover for a tripod. I built my own solid wooden structure to set it on (ala tabletop essentially), but it was solid and I spent at least a year in my backyard without any tripod at all. But it was solid.

But then one day I got lucky and came across a Meade Giant Field Tripod used and very cheap. Don't get me started on how heavy that beast was. It was rusty, pitted and really beat up, but that monolith was solid as a rock. I've long since moved on from my solid wood box or that beast of a tripod but I will never forget how much more I enjoyed my observing experience having such a stable platform. Damping time? What's that? grin.gif I've gotten a few questionable mounts since that I've been able to mod to my liking, but one thing has stuck with me that I will always pass on to others...

If you are just starting out, do yourself a favor a get a solid mount first above all other considerations. The scope and any accessories are essentially useless without a stable platform to put them on. Any scope will suffice if you are just beginning. You can always upgrade. But don't be led by the hype about scopes (justified or not) until you understand that whatever you put that scope on can either keep you in this hobby for a long time or make you want to quit before you've even begun.

Those guys who do astrophotography who tell you to get a small scope and put your money into the mount have it right. But I think it's valid for visual observing as well.

Just my opinion. Take it for what it's worth. Thoughts?


Wouldn't it matter the scope length/weight?
I started out with a 80mm apo f/6 on an az3 which I modified to take an az gti. Pretty stable.
Clearly I will have to upgrade the mount and tripod for heavier scopes but for starting its fine.
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#20 MarkMittlesteadt

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Posted 27 August 2020 - 08:52 AM

Hello, Mark,

I am planning to buy one of those SVM2C's mount heads for my third Gen. Grab and Go rig. I am really not sure myself about the tripod they supply them with. I am surmising that this mount would  be better served putting it on a Berlebach Uni tripod. This tripod would also serve my AZ8 mount as well. The tripod supplied from Losmandy is itself a little light for the task at hand. And I dont want to use a stone bags or hang a weight on it.

I love my M2C so much that I'm on my second one because I (regrettably) sold my first one. I know there are better manual Alt-Az mounts out there, but nowhere near the price point of the M2C and I think it's a great mount for anything 25 lbs. or less. I have no idea if the tripod Stellarvue sells with it is solid or not. I would assume so, but I have no first-hand experience with it. I've always used my EXOS2-GT as my tripod of choice with every mount I've had as I know it's capabilities. I have had to make my own adapter plates to accommodate whatever mount I've put on my tripod, but it's easy enough for me to do. 

 

If you have a tripod you already have confidence in, I would just make or buy an adapter for the M2C that works with that tripod. You'd then have what you are looking for. I think Stellarvue sells adapters to make the M2C work with tripod heads other than their own.  


Edited by MarkMittlesteadt, 27 August 2020 - 09:18 AM.


#21 MarkMittlesteadt

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Posted 27 August 2020 - 09:16 AM

Wouldn't it matter the scope length/weight?
I started out with a 80mm apo f/6 on an az3 which I modified to take an az gti. Pretty stable.
Clearly I will have to upgrade the mount and tripod for heavier scopes but for starting its fine.

A lot of what is considered stable by the manufacturer is based on weight alone...i.e.- for scopes and accessories up to "x-amount" of weight. But you can have a shorter SCT and a long refractor of the exact same weight (with everything on them), but with the refractor being longer it has what is called a "moment arm" meaning how much beyond center is hanging off each end. This means there is some instability built into how much "twist" can happen with a slight wind or even touching the scope itself. A lot of that has more to do with the tripod than the mount itself. 

 

There are two components to factor into one's decision...the mount itself (with it's given weight restriction) and the tripod, or more specifically the tripod legs ability to withstand any twisting force exerted on them. So, stability of the mount is about weight. Stability of the tripod is about twisting force on the legs. 

 

Think about what a tripod has to do to solidly support what is on it. Those legs (especially when fully extended with the lower legs being thinner than the upper legs) are prone to vibrations and twisting. The longer the scope placed on the mount, the more "twist" and vibration the tripod legs are subjected to. If the mount itself were directly attached to say, a concrete pier, the moment arm of a long refractor would probably have no effect on the mount whatsoever (so long as the scope and accessories are within the weight parameters). But put that same setup on various tripods (of different lengths, materials and thicknesses - i.e. - steel, aluminum, wood) and you'd notice how each are affected by the moment arm. This is why some people combine pier extensions on their tripod heads. Not only does it allow for a longer scope to swing further without hitting the tripod, but also so the legs are extended as little as possible in order to keep the legs solid and stable. The more the lower tripod legs are extended, the weaker the tripod becomes.

 

So, in this case, depending on what kind of scope is mounted, the tripod probably becomes more important than the mount itself, factoring in the weight restrictions of the mount. The shorter the scope is (SCT, short wide field refractor) the less twist will be exerted on the tripod legs. The longer the scope is (relative to the weight restriction of the mount) the more twist the tripod legs will have. Long focal length refractors or reflectors are going to exert more twisting force on the tripod legs. 

 

One way you can counteract twist from a longer moment arm is by adding tripod leg spreader bars to connect the legs together further down. It essentially makes a hollow, but solid "pyramid" out of your tripod so it is more solid up until the lower legs get extended. Then the lower legs become the weak point. See my own homemade collapsible "spreader" on my tripod where the upper and lower legs meet (pic below). While my tripod is very stable on it's own, the upper legs are tied together and locked in place at that location making for a very solid and stable tripod. The lower legs get extended only as far as needed for the required height, which for me, is only about 1/3 the length of the lower legs. Two thirds of the lower legs are still inside the upper legs. VERY solid. So much so that even at my highest magnification, I can have my hand on my scope and focus, or keep the object centered in the eyepiece by nudging my manual mount, and there is absolutely no vibration visually detected...meaning no "damping time" at all (damping time = how long it takes for the vibration to settle down). 

 

So when it comes to mount decisions there are three main things to consider...

 

1. Functionality (intended purpose) - Dob, GEM, Alt-Az. Manual, Tracking, GoTo.

2. Mount ability to handle the load (weight restriction) - How solid and smooth will it operate under a load.

3. Stability (ability to have little to no damping time) - This is more a function of the tripod legs than the mount itself. 

 

Consider all those factors when choosing. 

 

6f106c_1247076d84dc4fc2b52cba375982b884~


Edited by MarkMittlesteadt, 27 August 2020 - 10:01 AM.

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#22 Wildetelescope

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Posted 27 August 2020 - 09:56 AM

I know there will be many who think getting the highest quality scope one can afford as the most important consideration when starting out (or heck, even upgrading), whether it is for visual or photography. But, in my opinion I think the mount is more important. When I started out so long ago I had no one to turn to for help. There was no internet, no local astronomy groups or even anyone I knew to ask. All I had were a few issues of Sky and Telescope for information. I went through a lot of scopes always wanting something better. The problem I always had (regardless of the quality of scope) was jittery, unstable views due to shaky, wobbly mounts sitting on top of wiggly, weak tripod legs.

 

Over the years of buying a lot of astronomy gear, one thing became increasingly apparent to me; The more solid the mount/tripod I had, the more enjoyable the experience was (no matter how good/bad the scope itself was). Even to this day, I'd take a rock solid platform (i.e. - mount/tripod) and a cheap scope, over an expensive apo sitting on some lousy, wobbly, shaky platform that leaves one feeling like they are viewing through a handheld scope on a fault line during an earthquake. Things like focusing, touching the scope or even a slight wind can leave the view almost impossible to enjoy, even with a high quality telescope. I wish someone had told me years ago to invest in a solid mount/tripod and worry about the scope later. It would have saved me years of aggravation and attempts at making bad mounts better. Although it did give me the benefit of honing my DIY skills. smirk.gif  

 

Most online retailers put together package deals with some fairly nice scopes (and these days even inexpensive scopes have fairly good optics) sitting on the most woefully inadequate mounting platforms. Though it has gotten better since my early years of catalog shopping, the practice is still quite prevalent with the retailer making the incredible sales pitch about the scope itself, and "oh yeah, it comes with a mount too!" as if it really mattered.

 

Personally I think it does matter, A LOT. Maybe it's just me but knowing what I know now, I will always recommend a solid mounting platform over this or that type of scope. It all changed for me the day I got a brand new Meade 8" LX50 SCT from Astronomics many years ago. I spent all my money on the fork mounted scope, so I had no money leftover for a tripod. I built my own solid wooden structure to set it on (ala tabletop essentially), but it was solid and I spent at least a year in my backyard without any tripod at all. But it was solid.

 

But then one day I got lucky and came across a Meade Giant Field Tripod used and very cheap. Don't get me started on how heavy that beast was. It was rusty, pitted and really beat up, but that monolith was solid as a rock. I've long since moved on from my solid wood box or that beast of a tripod but I will never forget how much more I enjoyed my observing experience having such a stable platform. Damping time? What's that? grin.gif I've gotten a few questionable mounts since that I've been able to mod to my liking, but one thing has stuck with me that I will always pass on to others...

 

If you are just starting out, do yourself a favor a get a solid mount first above all other considerations. The scope and any accessories are essentially useless without a stable platform to put them on. Any scope will suffice if you are just beginning. You can always upgrade. But don't be led by the hype about scopes (justified or not) until you understand that whatever you put that scope on can either keep you in this hobby for a long time or make you want to quit before you've even begun.

 

Those guys who do astrophotography who tell you to get a small scope and put your money into the mount have it right. But I think it's valid for visual observing as well.

 

Just my opinion. Take it for what it's worth. Thoughts?

I agree completely with tthis comment.  For observing the mount is as important as the optics.  For Imaging, the mount is MORE important than the optics(within reason).  It is important for those new to the hobby to understand the mount and the optics are to be considered as a system.   In my opinion, more often than not, the issues with MOST mounts are 1. over loading them, and 2. unrealistic expectations for a given price point.  Yes there are always QC issues, which is why you should buy from a dealer that has a good reputation in handling returns(like our sponsors).  But I have owned and maintained mounts ranging from CG4, CG5, EQ6, and a whole range of Losmandy mounts.  FOR THEIR PRICE POINT, each one is generally built pretty well and will function for a reasonable load and application.  I have had a lot of fun doing solar system imaging with a CG4 and a 6 inch mak.   I have had  fun doing casual DSO imaging with an F6 80 mm Triplet using my friends Skyview Pro(CG5).  I have done a bunch of unguided DSO imaging and solar system imaging with my EQ6 with focal ratios up to 2000mm.   I use it regularly for visual with my C11, and my 6 inch F9 Triplet.  Then I have my GM8 and G11T.  These are in a different level of mechanical quality, goto control, etc..  The G11T is my primary longer duration guided imaging mount.  Our club has a AP 1200 that is used with a C14 in our observatory.  THAT is a REALLY nice mount.  

 

My point is, fun can be had at ANY price point, if you do not overload the mount, and have realistic expectations of what can be expected in terms of performance.    My father is a carpenter and he had two pieces of advice regarding tools.  First, by the best quality tools THAT YOU CAN AFFORD.  Second, learn to maintain and take care of your tools and they will take care of you.  I have always applied those principles to my astronomy gear, and have never been disappointed.  Matching your mount to your desired optics load AND your expectations in performance is the key to happiness!   If you can afford a more expensive mount, go for it.  If you can't, buy what you can afford and learn how to use it inside and out.  You will be better for the experience and truly appreciate the upgrade when you can afford it.  And I totally agree that the stability of the mount is just as important for visual observing as for imaging.   I LOVE sitting at the eyepiece with my 6 inch refractor on my G11T!  

 

 

Cheers!

 

 

JMD


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#23 Jethro7

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Posted 27 August 2020 - 11:37 AM

I love my M2C so much that I'm on my second one because I (regrettably) sold my first one. I know there are better manual Alt-Az mounts out there, but nowhere near the price point of the M2C and I think it's a great mount for anything 25 lbs. or less. I have no idea if the tripod Stellarvue sells with it is solid or not. I would assume so, but I have no first-hand experience with it. I've always used my EXOS2-GT as my tripod of choice with every mount I've had as I know it's capabilities. I have had to make my own adapter plates to accommodate whatever mount I've put on my tripod, but it's easy enough for me to do. 

 

If you have a tripod you already have confidence in, I would just make or buy an adapter for the M2C that works with that tripod. You'd then have what you are looking for. I think Stellarvue sells adapters to make the M2C work with tripod heads other than their own.  

Hello Mark,

Thank you starting this Topic. It has turned out to be a good topic. I agree about the SVM2 mount. You can attach digital setting circles on it. The one tripod I have total confidence in is my Losmandy HD tripod but it weighs more than 30 Lbs. The Berlebach Uni is 14.7 Lbs rated at 77 Lbs. Which brings up another issue for beginners.  They need to figure out what they are going to do with the scope. Keep it at home, Take it to dark sights or what? I have traveled with my G11G and a C8 Edge HD  plus all the gear you need to operate it, total weight 150 + Lbs. That's too much to haul around. I have a AZ8 mount now for a Grab and go and it works well and is reasonably stable and as a bonus I can mount two scopes on it. I bought a ES Twighlight 1 mount after reading the threads on the topic I started for this mount. The reviews were favorable. I dont know how any one could give that mount good ratings.I found it totally unacceptable as is. After having to weld a solid support bar into the ALT arm it is still just barely usable. I needed to find a mount that will be more compact than my AZ8. I will have to just deal with the Berlebach tripod. To get the stability I want. Most things in this hobby are a give and take depending on  what your plan is for the rig. I totally agree with you Mark, without stability you have nothing but frustration.

 

HAPPY SKIES AND KEEP LOOKING UP Jethro

A fully loaded up AZ8 At102ED and Astro telescope 102mm F/11 Super Planetary  
20200816 015043

Edited by Jethro7, 27 August 2020 - 12:12 PM.

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#24 MarkMittlesteadt

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Posted 27 August 2020 - 11:55 AM

 

Hello Mark,

Thank you starting this Topic. It has turned out to be a good topic. 

 

I bought a ES Twighlight 1 mount after reading the threads on the topic I started for this mount. The reviews were favorable. I dont know how any one could give that mount good ratings.I found it totally unacceptable as is. After having to weld a solid support bar into the AZ arm it is still just barely usable. 

Thanks. Mounts/Tripods as a priority has always been a big factor in my decision process over the years. 

 

I too bought a Twilight I mount/tripod, but I did that mostly for the scope (an AR102) that came as a "too good of a deal to pass up" thing. I sold the mount but kept the scope. I agree that the mounthead on the Twilight I was a real head scratcher. It was barely adequate with an 80mm short tube refractor, much less the short AR102. It wasn't even stable when mounted vertically, and of course that meant limitations pointing it high enough without hitting the tripod. Mounting it as intended (at an angle) to allow views near zenith made it totally useless.

 

I modded it a lot and added a significant wooden block to it that essentially locked the entire altitude arm in place and made it significantly more stable. Obviously I moved on from it. Not a very well thought out design. It was like the engineers thought it was a great idea to use a wet noodle for the Alt arm. lol.gif


Edited by MarkMittlesteadt, 27 August 2020 - 11:59 AM.

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#25 Michaeljhogan

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Posted 27 August 2020 - 02:21 PM

Best advice from another wise man who learned the hard way like me spend 70% or more of your money on the mount everything else becomes easy after that a great mount can make people think a cheap telescope is a premium scope.

Edited by Michaeljhogan, 27 August 2020 - 02:27 PM.

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