Years ago I used an Atlas and loved its performance, hated its weight - but decided to take a sabbatical from imaging and so (stupidly) sold the mount and picked up an AVX. Nearly five years later, I'm getting back into imaging but don't want to learn the hard way and waste time and money trying out gear I come to realize just isn't going to work (FWIW, I've burned through a Celestron AS-GT, AVX, and CGEM, then an iOptron ZEQ25, then an Atlas, and now back to an AVX).
My AVX does work pretty well for my imaging purposes - once I get it going - and I've been able to get 10 minute subs pretty reliably for my ST-8300, though I have not attempted to image beyond the native 420mm focal length of my AT72.
Here are the frustrations I'm having with the mount (which *may* be common, but really these are just issues that bug *me*):
1. What I REALLY don't like is that I have to first do an alignment with the handcontroller before connecting the mount to my laptop.
2. I've also found that (sometimes) I have to reinstall the Celestron drivers because the mount cannot be initialized by my control software (MaximDL).
3. I've also found that it's possible that even though my guide camera and mount are seemingly both properly connected and controlled by my computer/MaximDL, I cannot calibrate autoguiding in MaximDL. I switched over to PHD2 and was able to successfully calibrate my guiding and was good from there - but I really want to incorporate dithering into my imaging and unless I'm guiding with MaximDL then I can't program dithering into my imaging sequence...
4. The AVX alignment seems ephemeral. If I go to target #1 and image there for a while, then try to go to a second target, the alignment is *way* off. Like nowhere close. The best solution I've found (by trial and error) is to disconnect the mount, cycle the power, clear sync in the handcontroller, redo the 2-star alignment, REINSTALL the software driver, reconnect the mount to the laptop, connect mount to software, and then hope like hell that guiding can calibrate. If this sounds like BS, it definitely feels like BS when it's late, I'm tired, and frustration is starting to boil over....
5. Once a target has crossed the meridian, it might as well no longer exist. Stuff to the south likewise might as well not exist. This is disappointing, but manageable as long as the weather cooperates and I just learn to ignore anything south of Altair...
6. I know there are other imaging software programs out there and I've considered trying out a different one in the hopes that it will play more nicely with the AVX, but I'm also considering the more practical limitations of the Celestron mount in that I do want to use up to my AT115EDT for imaging (that is, when that scope arrives, which it hasn't yet), so I've already kind of resigned myself to the fact that I'm going to have to upgrade my mount...
I have no interest in doing DSO imaging beyond the native focal length of the AT115EDT - I purchased my ASI533mc camera with my two scopes in mind as I am satisfied with how the 533 will frame galaxies in the 115, and most emission nebula in either the AT72 or AT115. I just need a mount that can handle either.
But I'm stuck in "analysis paralysis".
What I want is a lighter weight mount (because I have to drive a while to do any imaging) that, once I do a polar alignment on (I've been using Sharpcap and really like it), I can:
1. Connect to the mount directly through USB, and not a handcontroller.
2. Slew/platesolve/slew to a target.
3. A track record of no-hassle or minimum hassle to connect to software (i.e. MaximDL). When I can't get out every clear night and have to travel on the ones that I can, I really don't want to waste any time on stupid shenanigans.
I'm considering these:
1. The new EQ5 (because of the belt drives - also, I like the pier and the cable management scheme) - but the lack of a tripod spreader weirds me out. But is that an issue that I really need to care about?
2. The new EQ6 (again, belt drives are sexy) - but that thing is just so dang heavy, but I also am pretty confident that it'll just work...
3. An iOptron CEM40 - but on a 1.5" tripod?? Is that something worth worrying for a lightweight portable setup?
4. An iOptron GEM45 - said to be optimized for my latitude over the CEM40, but otherwise functionally the same.
$1500 is more or less my budget, though I can push up to the iOptron mounts if they really are going to be the better choice. The weight of the Atlas/EQ6 is more of a mental thing, probably, I'm not frail. It's just that my idea of "my" imaging rig is something that is closer to "grab and go" than "boat anchor."
If you're me and have got my money, what are you buying?