View Full Version here: : Rigel Systems - nStep automated focusing review

15-11-2017, 10:18 AM
I have been slowly working towards automating as much as I can for imaging and have just added automated focusing to my ED 120. I had always thought that automating the focus was going to cost me an arm and a leg and had put off going down this path until I came across Rigel Systems in the US. Whilst the shoe string focusers are electronic and allow you to focus without having to touch the OTA (and are somewhat cheaper), I hadn't gone down that road, as I was leaning more towards automated focus.

As a disclaimer, I have no association with Rigel Systems other then as a customer, having just received the nStep in the last day or so.

Leon was very helpful and responded to my emailed questions within a matter of hours, even with the time difference and at times on a weekend. Ordering was simple, Leon asked me to email a couple of photos of the focuser to ensure we were looking at the same thing and provided a photo with the dimensions and some further information which was useful. Payment was as simple as providing an email address for Paypal so that Leon could email a Paypal invoice to effect payment.

The website (www.rigelsys.com (http://www.rigelsys.com)) shows the wide range of scopes that Leon can provide automated focusing for and if your scope is not on the webpage, he will custom build a bracket to suit for the same price as the ones listed on the site. This just needs some photos and measurements to allow Leon to make the bracket for the specific focuser. There is the option to go wired or wireless, I have gone for the wired version.

The package turned up in a week of being posted in the US and contained the stepper motor, a 12V cable to power the motor, the USB controller, a voice cable to connect the USB controller to the motor and a temperature sensor. A set of Allen keys was included along with a couple of thumb screws and springs to connect the motor to the bracket and allow for the system to be disengaged to allow for manual focus. The screws to fit the parts to the focuser were also included. I will admit the motor is much bigger then I was expecting and will certainly lift a substantial imaging train. the motor component itself comes in at a diameter of 40 mm and is about 60 mm long but fits well under the base of the focuser on my ED 120.

It was necessary to remove the coarse focus knob to install a sprocket on the end of the knob, this is a tight fit and took some getting on until I found a piece of small diameter galvanised pipe that was lying around and placed the sprocket over the end of the pipe and pushed the focuser knob on that way. It was also necessary to drill a hole into the focuser to allow access to the set screw that holds the focuser knob onto the shaft as the sprocket moves the knob about 3 mm along the shaft and of course the hole doesn't line up with the set screw. The bracket simply screws on with the necessary screws provided in the package.

The thumb screws included with the package allow for engagement/disengagement of the focuser so you can manually focus if you need to. Undoing the 2 thumbscrews completely allows you to remove the motor from the bracket without needing to remove the bracket. I have super glued the springs in place on the mount to prevent these falling off when the thumbscrews are removed.

One particular aspect of the system Leon is using that I really like is the ability to remove the motor and install it on another focuser, provided you have the bracket for the other scope. To help minimise the cost, Leon will provide further brackets for the cost of the bracket and postage, so you don't have to purchase the entire kit for each scope. You can simply swap the motor between scopes as desired.

I use the Sky X and whilst I haven't yet had the chance to do any focus runs with the system, it connected seamlessly with the Sky X and I believe also works seamlessly with FocusMax - Leon provides instructions for FocusMax with the suppled instructions. The focuser is fully ASCOM compliant and the setup steps are clearly shown with screen shots to follow.

Once the cloud here finally clears, I will have a go at using it to do some focus runs.

Overall I am very happy with the system and the build, best of all it just works.