I wonder whether other amateur astronomers have the same thought about turning their APO telescopes into a high-end terrestrial view telescope and for birding near car when traveling on the road. If so, what tripod head mount is suitable? I would say my interest is broader, which make the traditional Alt Az telescope mounts potentially less suitable. I wonder whether I can find a single tripod head, especially a heavy-duty gimbals (up to 5Lb weight is OK if I can get away with only one tripod head), that can be used to satisfy my varied needs (a) Terrestrial viewing using a 3" to 4" refractor telescope (8Lbs to 20Lbs), in lieu of a spotting scope, on a heavy tripod near my car (b) Birdwatching with 15x56 binocular on a travel tripod for hiking up to a couple of miles © Used as a regular ball-head equivalent for landscaping and travel photography. (d) If eventually I do get a spotting scope for bird watching, be compatible with digiscoping as well. One of the options I am considering is finding a heavy-duty photographic gimbal head to satisfy all these competing needs. For example, ProMediaGear GK Jr Katana Pro gimbal head which only weighs 2.4 Lbs but can handle 50Lbs equipment.
I have Televue NP101is, when adding in all the accessories, can weigh up to 20Lbs. I also have a much lighter Orion 80mm APO ED80T-CF which is only 8Lbs. I have considered Televue Gibraltar HD5 or HD4, the great benefits are being top mounting and stable, but it's not something I want to pick up for a hike, or use for general photography. I have also considered Stellarvue M2C mount which is much more compact but I have heard side-mounting a 20Lbs refractor with one hand while tightening up the saddle knob with the other hand requires great arm strength and can be a bit scary. It is also not particular compatible with general photography with just DSLR camera and photographic lenses. So I wonder whether photographic gimbal head can be used to handle telescopes? Being top mount, it would be Televue Gibraltar HD4 equivalent and I can tighten the saddle knob while the weight of the telescope is resting on the saddle. I know I need to produce my own custom converter by bolting a dual Vixen/Losmandy clamp onto a Arca Swiss plate. Photographic gimbals almost always use Arca Swiss plate, which is slightly narrower and shallower than Vixen, can it really handle 20Lbs telescope securely? Some of these gimbals are rated to carrier up to 150Lbs of equipment, although 50Lbs is more typical. Some big telephoto lens can weigh 20+Lbs, so it gives me hope perhaps the same gimbal head can handle a 20Lbs refractor?
I just don't like the idea of carrying a Alt Az for telescope, a gimbal for heavy-lens, and a ballhead for photography. Carrying three heads on the road is just too much. What capability am I missing by just a single heavy-duty gimbal head (such as the 2.4Lb ProMediaGear GK Jr. that can handle 50Lbs)? Is it much harder to change eyepieces while maintaining balance compared to the Televue or Stellarvue mount (because these two have either two disks or one disk with larger diameter to provide friction)? My eyepieces are all relative heavy, from 1Lbs to 2Lbs. What if I just lock the gimbal head tilt axis, change the eyepieces, then re-balance by sliding the adapter plate? I like the idea that a full gimbal head can produce perfect balance in both tilt and pan, so the telescope can be pointed effortlessly with a finger to any direction just like a telephoto lens. The motion can also be damped by tightening the knob. Is such a set up really practical when it is a telescope mounted instead of a telephoto lens? Why do I not hearing other people doing this? There must be a blind spot in my thinking process.
A related question is spotting scope vs. telescope. Other than being heavier, no zooming and not weather-proof, it seems a APO telescope will beat spotting scope in the field-of-view big time. A spotting scope will NEVER match the 100 degree apparent field-of-view of Ethos eyepieces that I already have for my telescopes. For example, Swarovski 95mm at 30x has a true field of view of ~1.9 degrees. With my NP101is telescope at 32x (if hypothetically I use a 17mm Ethos eyepiece), I can get ~3.1 degrees sharp to the edge. The viewing area is 2.7x bigger even at a slightly larger magnification! I also don't like the idea of spending more and carrier more weight if the new equipment does not have better performance. Why aren't more people using small telescopes in lieu of spotting scope for terrestrial applications?
Edited by Spectrum805, 27 February 2021 - 03:42 PM.