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Beginner choice: Rig A or Rig B for visual and imaging $2k

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#1 digtlartst

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Posted 27 September 2020 - 07:14 PM

Hello from a first-time poster.

 

I'm retired and living in a light-polluted city suburb but recently bought a second little house 50 miles away in the Virginia Shenandoah mountains. The house is situated on a cleared bluff so the westerly sky view from the deck is about 150 degrees wide year round, and since the elevation is about 2400 ft the sky on clear nights is spectacular (even when there are clouds 1000 ft below in the valleys).

 

I know little about the sky or astronomy but I've been reading and studying while doing some planet-gazing through 10x70 binoculars on a tripod, which is ok as far as it goes, but I'd like a tracking scope for more comfortable viewing and also imaging. (I have a neighbor with a 3" refractor who likes to show guests planet views but it's funny that after all his effort to find and sight the planet, by the time a guest gets to the eyepiece they have to look for just a few moments before the object leaves field of view.) This is why I ruled out a simple Dob that is often recommended for beginners.

 

So I'm about to take the plunge with my first telescope and I want to start at about $2k total budget with goto/tracking for both visual and imaging. I'd start imaging with a trusty old Pentax K5 APS-C DSLR. The rig won't be traveling but will stay at the mountain house and can be stored fully assembled in a large closet so I could just lift it out to the deck and back inside afterward. I thought I might outgrow the alt/az goto of, say, a compact Celestron 6SE or even an Evolution 6 in a year or two, although I guess I could sell it later.

 

After much research I've narrowed down to 2 choices:

 

A - Celestron Advanced VX 6" SC package ~ $1350 plus extras/eyepieces

 

B - Celestron AVX mount/tripod ~ $900 with ES ED80 APO triplet ~$750 = $1650 plus extras/eyepieces

 

I'm thinking that I'd be happy with either but any advice before I flip a coin would be helpful.

 

Thanks - John



#2 SDTopensied

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Posted 27 September 2020 - 07:27 PM

Go with the ED80.  The shorter focal length will be much more forgiving for imaging and the optics make it a nice visual scope.  Once you have some experience under your belt, step up to a more challenging focal length like that of an SCT.  The AVX is a decent starting point for imaging but there are better options.  However, for visual use, Celestron has by far the best firmware out there and the AVX will carry a gob of weight for looking through an eyepiece.  Stick with a lightweight, short focal length refractor for imaging though.

 

-Steve


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#3 AZ Maverick

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Posted 27 September 2020 - 07:38 PM

Choice (A) would be nice for visual (although still challenging to center on the target for a newbie), but choice (A) would be a terrible choice for imaging especially for a newbie - the mount isn't up to the focal length and the focal length itself is way too long and it would be a frustrating experience to try learning imaging with.

 

Choice (B) with its shorter focal length and wider field of view will be much easier to learn how to image on and while not providing quite the 'reach' of the longer focal length choice (A) scope, it should still provide some very nice visual images.

 

I'm a person who tried to learn to image with a long focal length SCT telescope on a mount not suitable for it and I finally gave up and bought an ED80 telescope.

 

But that's just my opinion....


Edited by AZ Maverick, 27 September 2020 - 07:39 PM.

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#4 Deesk06

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Posted 27 September 2020 - 07:45 PM

One thing about the mounts..

 

It seems there are some here that have had issues with celestron mounts. I am sure others will chime in, however, I would try to go with an HEQ 5 Pro or EQ6 R Pro instead of a celestron. 


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#5 ShaulaB

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Posted 27 September 2020 - 07:46 PM

Setting the rig up on a deck might not be the best regarding stability. Every step someone takes on the deck will cause vibration, very noticeable in the eyepiece, and taking a few seconds for settling down. With imaging, this will ruin what you try to photograph. So see if you can set up on the ground.

 

Many folks pour permanent concrete piers that will hold the mount and telescope. Done properly, vibrations are non-existent.


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#6 SilverLitz

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Posted 27 September 2020 - 07:57 PM

Here is my standard $5K budget post, which will give you some background on making decisions.  There are also some lower priced pieces.  You can save money by OSC instead of mono/filterwheel, and going for a smaller APO (but still get quality glass and focuser).  Key on the mount as "put your money where your mount is" very much applies for AP.  Celestron mounts do NOT have a good reputation.  For low cost mounts, SW is a better choice, HEQ5 for budget or even better the EQ6R-Pro, the King of the budget mounts.

 

Astrophotography Gear ($5K Budget)

 

I would 1st research the AP targets you are interested in; note the wide range of sizes of these targets and make sure these are visible at your location, with altitudes of >30deg.  With this info, you will find out that no one setup can fit all of these targets.  For DSOs, I break down in approx. 3 sizes: Small: most galaxies (M51, 11'x6'); Medium: most nebulas (M42, 90'x60'); Large: M31 (180'x40'), North American + Pelican Nebulas (120'x120'), Cygnus Loop (180'x180').  Planets are much smaller.

 

Then, investigate your locations sky conditions; how dark is it?  (Bortle Scale); what are the typical seeing conditions? (arc-sec, see Meteoblue.com).  Seeing conditions will greatly impact how much detail you can achieve.  Darker skies will make RGB imaging more doable, allow longer exposure times (before sky fog clips your histogram), and allows good images with fewer hours of integration.  Urban and a lot suburban skies will make imaging in narrowband, with a mono camera and filterwheel, a necessity.

 

Field of View (FoV, framing composition in X by Y arc-min) and image-scale (measure of detail in arc-sec/pixel) are achieved by the combination of focal length and aperture of the telescope and sensor size and pixel pitch of the camera.  Wider FoV can be achieved by a larger sensor or shorter FL scope with larger image circle.  Image detail can be achieved by smaller pixels or longer scope FL; all things being equal, larger scope aperture can resolve finer detail (Dawes Limit).  F-ratio (FL/aperture) determines the length of the exposure time; low f/ is "faster", allowing shorter exposures for the same light gathering.

 

The one thing that is important all AP targets is a good mount, though it becomes more critical and expensive for shooting your small targets, with long FL, heavy scopes, and highly detailed image scales.  At this budget, I recommend a SW EQ6R-Pro ($1595, $1345 Sale), a very good budget mount w/ 44# rating.  To get better you would pay much more for Losmandy G11 (what I got) or iOptron CEM60 (or newer CEM70), which have higher 60# rating and lower periodic error.  These are also high value mounts, but cost $3K to $4K.

 

For more budgetary constrained mount options, the advice to "put your money where your mount is" is very good advice.  Another good rule of thumb is to keep your total load at 50% of manufacturer’s stated, though Losmandy's loads are supposedly for AP (but I would still haircut it).  The normal budget pick is the SW HEQ5 (or Orion Sirius twin), or for very light imaging loads, the iOptron CEM25.  The widely available budget mount, Celestron AVX, seems to have serious problems (lack of bearings on DEC), though few have gotten “lucky” with a unit that performs OK.  ES has a couple of decent low priced mounts for the seriously budgetary challenged, the EXOS2GT (PMC-8 version) and iEXOS-100.  The EXOS2GT is more robust and capable of the two, and I expect is worth the very modest price difference.  All of these lower cost mounts are more limited in their ability to handle longer FL scopes, heavier imaging trains, or in guiding longer exposures.

 

You might ultimately want a couple of cameras to give you a wider range of image-scales and FoVs.  But with your budget, get only one, but make sure that it makes sense for your year 1 scope and target size.  If you already have a DSLR, use it at first.  I think crop sensor DSLRs make more sense than full-frame, as most scopes will have problems with vignetting and field flatness with those large sensors, even with a field flattener.  That said, use what you have.  If you do not already have a DSLR (or have a need for one for general photography), do NOT buy one.  Cooled astrocams make MUCH more sense.  I would suggest getting a monochrome camera with filterwheel/filters, as they give you more flexibility for narrowband, are more efficient, and give you more resolution.  I suggest a 7 or 8 position filterwheel, which allow for LRGB and NB filters.  With budgetary constraints limit yourself initially with on LRGB filters.

 

Two of the best deals in astrocams are the ZWO 183MM-Pro ($1000; which I have) and 1600MM-Cool ($1280).  The 183 has a smaller sensor (small FoV), but it is higher resolution and more efficient.  The ZWO has attractive priced packages with the 1600 with filterwheel and filters.  Filterwheels and filters will cost several hundred dollars more.

 

You can save money by getting an OSC camera, but you will be giving up flexibility to shoot NB, efficiency, and resolution.  There are OSC versions of the above 183 and 1600 sensors, and these versions are about $200 less than the mono version, without the need for the additional filterwheel and filters.  Besides the 183 and 1600, there are a couple of new OSC cameras with new sensors that have very low amp glow and high QE (higher than the 1600, but about the same as the 183), ASI533MC ($1000) and ASI2600MC ($2000).  The 533 is a small sensor of a square aspect ratio, taller but narrower than the 183.  The 2600 is the much larger, APS-C size.  Both the 533 and 2600 have pixel sizes similar to the 1600.

 

Get gear that is good for one of the AP target sizes; I would suggest start with the Medium size targets.  This is NOT starting "small" as in cheaper, but start with high quality, with gear you will keep and use in the future.  This will allow you to learn and get more intuition on what works and what is important.  A long scope is NOT "better" than a shorter scope, as a hammer is not better than a screwdriver.  The "best" scope is the scope matches your needs to shoot the particular target, and the "best" for M51 would more than likely be "terrible" for M31.

 

For medium size targets, the normal suggestion is high quality, APO refractors of 70-80mm aperture of f/6 or faster with a field flattener and possibly a focal reducer.  This can be expanded to larger, but faster scopes, such as Skywatcher Esprit 100 (550mm FL, f/5.5), and AT92 (506mm FL, f/5.5).  I have the Esprit 100, which I shoot at both 550mm (native, included FF) and 413mm (f/4.13, with TSAPORED075 FF/FR), and I love it.  I highly recommend the Esprit 100 ($2500, with everything included, even FF), with the idea of later getting a FR for a wider and faster option.  Other good lower priced options include the Esprit 80 (400mm FL, f/5; $1650, with everything included, even FF), WO Star71 II (350mm FL, f/4.9; $1200, petzval design, no FF necessary), WO GT71 (419mm FL, f/5.9; $828 + $198 for FF/FR), and SV SVX080T-3SV (480mm FL, f/6; $2200, with everything included, even FF).  TS Optics out of Germany also has many good value scopes, and the Sharpstar 61EDPH II (335mm f/5.5, 275mm f/4.5, $729 w/ FF/FR) and Sharpstar 76EDPH (418mm f/5.5, 342mm f/4.5, $1099 w/ FF/FR) look like very intriguing budget picks, especially when paired with their FF/FR.

 

When choosing your camera, estimate is FoV with your specific scopes FL.  You want this FoV to be larger than the FoV of your target, to allow cushion for: stacking artifacts, dithering, differing camera rotations, and slight framing errors.  My Esprit 100 with FF/FR, 413mm FL, with my ASI183MM-Pro camera gives me 110'x73' FoV with a 1.2 arc-sec/pixel image scale.  At the native 550mm, this combo gives a higher resolution and tighter 82'x55' FoV with a 0.9 arc-sec/pixel image scale.  The ASI183 is practically highest resolution camera with a decent size sensor available, and can be used with longer FL scopes for small targets, if seeing conditions are good enough.

 

You will also have extra costs for guide-scopes, guide-cam, various cables, USB hubs, dew heaters, power supplies, computer, software, etc. …



#7 redskynj

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Posted 27 September 2020 - 07:59 PM

I started with an ED80 on an AVX and was very, very pleased with it for 3 years, until I upgraded to a CGX for higher weight capacity and better guided performance.



#8 dhaval

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Posted 27 September 2020 - 08:21 PM

It clearly depends on what you want to do - imaging or visual. If imaging, what kind - DSO or planetary? The problem with this hobby is that there is no one size that fits all. So, the answer to your question is - "it depends". 

 

For DSO imaging, with your budget, I would keep the ES80ED on the list, although, I would be on the look out for a used AT65EDQ (or one of its many variants). If you can't find one used, hop over to teleskope service website (it is a German company, hence the spelling) and they have a TS65EDQ as well. I am guessing their focuser is slightly better than the one that AT used to provide. The ES80ED will suffer from chromatic aberration - unless you're not bothered by it (especially with an OSC camera like your Pentax camera).

 

The mount on your list is questionable - some get lucky and get a decent mount, others, not so much. A better one in your price range would be HEQ5 from either SkyWatcher or Orion. Buy used. 

 

For planetary imaging, the the 6in SC may be OK, but even that is not what I would want to buy. I would instead buy a used Celestron 8in EdgeHD. Much better scope, overall. And when you do decide to get in to DSO imaging, you can use either a reducer and take it down to F7 or you can use a HyperStar and get it to F2 (which will be challenging, but it does collect a lot of photons, quickly). 

 

Now, if you are going to be doing planetary imaging, the Pentax won't be much useful. I would suggest you get a used ZWO224 color camera. About $200 on the used market. You will need an ADC unit as well - ZWO sells one, at around $100. 

 

CS!


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#9 bjulihn

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Posted 27 September 2020 - 09:37 PM

Welcome to CN!

 

You are making us all jealous with your description of your place in the Shenandoah's.

 

I want to say something that others are already saying, but which I suspect you will find difficult to hear. There is no such thing as a " good all around telescope". There is no such thing as a telescope that is good for all uses. In particular, a telescope that is good for imaging and visual use makes compromises for both. A 1500mm focal length SC is pretty good for planets and smaller deep sky objects visually. But the field of view at 1500mm for most cameras is quite limited. I was surprised when I started AP how big many of the classic targets are. I have an ES80mm CF with a.8 reducer to get it down to 385mm and I still can't fit a lot of bigger targets in the field of view of my admittedly small chip 183C camera. The challenges of learning AP at 1500mm are much much harder than at 480mm (ED80) and especially with a mount that is probably borderline in terms of tracking. I strongly advise you to make a choice about whether your primary goal is AP, or is that just something you want to dabble in. If AP is the goal, there is no question which scope to choose.

 

Second, if it were me I would look for an iEQ30 Pro, an HEQ 5 Pro, or an Orion Sirius mount. They are a little more expensive but give you a better margin when comes to learning AP (if that's a goal here). The AVX plus 6" SC is probably a very good choice for visual use and showing your friends the planets without them drifting out of the field of view. But you are starting your mountain climbing experience with Mt. Everest if that is what you are planning to learn AP on. Good Luck!

Brad


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#10 digtlartst

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Posted 27 September 2020 - 09:40 PM

GREAT responses all, thanks. The forum is full of knowledgable and experienced folks.

 

Leaning toward an AVX/ED80 as a starter. I've read a lot about HEQ5 vs AVX but the $250 difference and the well-regarded Celestron software system are hard to ignore.

 

As for used vs new I'd buy used eyepieces and other accessories and maybe an ED80 but not a mount.

 

The old Pentax is pretty heavy so a ZWO makes sense.

 

Good point that as a platform the deck won't do but just below it are SUV-sized flat-top boulders (millions of years old, no doubt) that should do the trick.



#11 Avgvstvs

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Posted 27 September 2020 - 09:47 PM

The ED 80 is a great imaging choice but not much good for the planets

I'm sure the trusty Pentax K5 will help with beginning imaging

I have always been happy with my Pentax gear, starting out with an ME and K1000

from the old film days. As others have mentioned your deck will be a weak point as your images will move around



#12 17.5Dob

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Posted 27 September 2020 - 09:57 PM

GREAT responses all, thanks. The forum is full of knowledgable and experienced folks.

 

Leaning toward an AVX/ED80 as a starter. I've read a lot about HEQ5 vs AVX but the $250 difference and the well-regarded Celestron software system are hard to ignore.

 

Good point that as a platform the deck won't do but just below it are SUV-sized flat-top boulders (millions of years old, no doubt) that should do the trick.

Add me in as another strongly advising you against the AVX.and the "well-regarded Celestron software system lol.gif "

With the EQ-5 you can ditch the handcontroller, all together, and use EQMOD instead, and a planetarium program, all free open source, for a data base...It's the difference between film / manually finding and digital/ "1 Billion" object data base...
 


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#13 drd715

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Posted 27 September 2020 - 10:13 PM

You might like a little more focal length for the planets. For visual my thoughts are 100mm or more. AT-102edl or skywatcher 100ed are good choices. I'm still using the older Celestron CGEM mounts, but the HEq5 might be quite usable for an 80-100mm scope. If you get the 80mmed it will make a good guide scope if you get into auto guiding.

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#14 Stelios

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Posted 28 September 2020 - 02:18 AM

GREAT responses all, thanks. The forum is full of knowledgable and experienced folks.

 

Leaning toward an AVX/ED80 as a starter. I've read a lot about HEQ5 vs AVX but the $250 difference and the well-regarded Celestron software system are hard to ignore.

 

As for used vs new I'd buy used eyepieces and other accessories and maybe an ED80 but not a mount.

 

The old Pentax is pretty heavy so a ZWO makes sense.

 

Good point that as a platform the deck won't do but just below it are SUV-sized flat-top boulders (millions of years old, no doubt) that should do the trick.

The Celestron software system is totally irrelevant. You won't be using it once you get past the rank beginner stage--you will be plate-solving to your target and tracking all night long.

 

And that's where the AVX can bite you. They are very variable in quality when it comes to tracking, due to the plain bushing on the DEC axis. I had one that was so bad it could not track for 10" even guided. I was lucky enough that eventually (took 2 return trips and 6 agonizing months) Celestron replaced it. The replacement works fine, but trust me, any beginner that had received this mount would've given up the hobby. 

 

The HEQ5 is a superior mount. Unless the funds really are not there, it's by far the superior choice. You may get lucky with an AVX--or not. 

 

As for the scopes, the ED80 is the standout choice. 


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#15 endlessky

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Posted 28 September 2020 - 06:25 AM

Visual will benefit more from aperture, photography will be easier with a small refractor. That said, with astrophotography you'll be able to "view" way more than you'll ever be with amateur telescopes, so I would suggest you to give priority to this.

 

My personal choice would be B, but with a twist. Get a HEQ5 Pro instead. The AVX has bushings in the DEC axis, instead of proper bearings. These are known to stick, give issues when guiding in DEC.

 

Software is not an issue, there's plenty of software to go around and EQMOD works perfectly fine with Sky-Watcher mounts. For slewing and GO-TOs and syncs, all you need is a planetarium software (that "talks to" EQMOD - pretty much all of them, Cartes du Ciel is a free example) and plate solving (Astro Photography Tool, another free piece of software).



#16 terry59

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Posted 28 September 2020 - 06:34 AM

GREAT responses all, thanks. The forum is full of knowledgable and experienced folks.

 

Leaning toward an AVX/ED80 as a starter. I've read a lot about HEQ5 vs AVX but the $250 difference and the well-regarded Celestron software system are hard to ignore.

 

 

The $250 difference gets you roller bearings on both axes, the AVX has a sleeve bearing on the DEC axis which causes issues for some people....others don't (quality control). The HEQ5 allows you to step up in capability with a very small outlay for a cable and by adding a laptop with EQMOD and a planetarium software . The CGX doesn't offer that.

 

Anyway, that's my $250 worth of advise

 

smile.gif

 

Edit: endlesssky beat me to it 


Edited by terry59, 28 September 2020 - 09:42 AM.

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#17 vio

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Posted 28 September 2020 - 07:57 AM

One ring to rule them all? Until we find it, I suggest A for visual and B for imaging. Now it’s up to you on how to compromise.


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#18 terry59

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Posted 28 September 2020 - 08:35 AM

One ring to rule them all? Until we find it, I suggest A for visual and B for imaging. Now it’s up to you on how to compromise.


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Why not use the HEQ5 for visual???


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#19 drd715

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Posted 28 September 2020 - 08:39 AM

Why not use the HEQ5 for visual???

Or the AZ-Heq5

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#20 RJF-Astro

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Posted 28 September 2020 - 09:03 AM

Definitely B. In addition to what has been said above, you can always add a cheap 6" newt later on. It will be great for visual, both DSO and solar, and will work fine with either the AVX or HEQ5.

#21 vio

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Posted 28 September 2020 - 06:58 PM

Why not use the HEQ5 for visual???

In my opinion, the 6” scope offers more visually than the 80mm.


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#22 bobzeq25

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Posted 29 September 2020 - 12:30 AM

A classic beginner mistake is underestimating the importance of the mount for DSO astrophotography.  It's the most important part of a DSO imaging setup, NOT the scope or the camera.  It's just not intuitive how good a mount you need, or what a mount of that quality costs.  .005mm pixels are unforgiving of tiny tracking errors.

 

Buy the best you can afford and carry.  The good news about mounts is that you generally get what you pay for.  The bad news about mounts is that you generally get what you pay for.

 

Take a look at this thread, which has much good information.  Read at least the first two posts.  Note that the first one got 17 (count 'em, seventeen) likes.

 

https://www.cloudyni...s-about-mounts/

 

Note that there's been only one consistent comment about your plans here, from a number of people.


Edited by bobzeq25, 29 September 2020 - 12:35 AM.


#23 Stosh68

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Posted 29 September 2020 - 04:58 PM

I posted a thread a few days ago, and I kind of regret doing so because I didn't realize how much (I'll be nice, and use a a positive word.) passion there is when it comes to mounts.

 

I've been a visual guy for the last 15 years, and was a member of an active club in southern California until a few years ago when I was made an employment offer I could not refuse and relocated to Idaho.   I've been waiting until I was close to retirement to start dabbling in AP, and that time is about here.  The part of Idaho that I'm located in is 250/300 miles away from the major cities of Salt Lake and Boise where large, active clubs exist.   So I no longer have in person, easy access to the collective wisdom of a bunch of long time APers, and have to leverage the internet for information and advice.   If you go to YouTube, many of the popular channels are using CGXs.  If you read the forums here, CGXs are the red headed stepchildren of mounts and should be avoided.  Fair enough.  I've never heard one of the YouTubers criticize a Celestron product more critically than "I wasn't a fan of the cardboard shipping box.", so perhaps they want to remain in the good graces of Celestron for whatever reasons motivate them.

 

With a budget of around $3000 to $3500, and wanting to keep future options open for payloads of around 30-35 pounds, that seems to leave two choices.  Either Losmandy G8/G11 or IOptron CEM 60/70.  But the 60 is discontinued, so the just released 70 is the option.     

 

Reading the forums, this active thread covers both:  https://www.cloudyni...5#entry10544739   This, and similar threads basically boil down to Losmandy mounts look nice but are dated and Scott is a great guy.  However they often require extensive tinkering to make them work as advertised.  While iOptron mounts are "Chinese mass produced junk" with terrible customer support.  Both camps zealously tout their choice as being better and cite personal knowledge of people who have had terrible experiences and will never buy the other brand.  If there was no moderation, the thread would devolve into personal attacks and insults.   As a newbie, all these threads do is make me fearful that whatever choice I make, I'm going to have problems even though I understand that happy people don't typically make threads and complain.  Nobody wants to spend that much money and have trouble, I sure don't.

 

I wish I could ask people what mount do you own, and would you buy it again.  Yes or no.   Several hundred responses and you would start to get an idea of what percentage of people were satisfied with their mount.  At this point, I've chosen to punt the decision until next year to see if the newly released CEM70 has growing pains before I make a final choice.


Edited by Stosh68, 29 September 2020 - 05:05 PM.


#24 SilverLitz

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Posted 29 September 2020 - 05:20 PM

For a 30-35# payload, either the iOptron CEM70 or Losmandy G11 are your best choices. 

 

I have a G11(ES PMC-8 controller), and it is my 1st mount.  My decision came down to these two (actually CEM60), and I thought the G11 was the safer long-run choice and would have ~10# greater AP load capacity, and I paid a $400+ premium for my G11 over what the CEM60, with tri-pier, would have cost me.  If you go with the CEM70, pay extra to get the tri-pier, as the normal tripod seems to clearly be substandard for a mount of its capacity.  The Losmandy HD tripod (normal w/ the G11) is DEFINITELY stout enough.



#25 idclimber

idclimber

    Viking 1

  • -----
  • Posts: 557
  • Joined: 08 Apr 2016
  • Loc: McCall Idaho

Posted 29 September 2020 - 05:31 PM

I don't know how active the club is in Idaho Falls but that is probably closest to your location. I am extremely pleased with my mount, I would have purchased one new instead of used, and I wish I did it all before the Eclipse rolled through our home in Jackson Hole. Obviously the Paramounts even used are outside of your stated budget. 

 

Good luck with whatever you decide. 


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