#1  
Old 09-02-2018, 04:31 PM
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lazjen (Chris)
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Mount Upgrade

I have been considering for sometime about upgrading my mount. I've got a G11 at the moment.

What's stopping me is that the next tier of mounts is quite a lot of cash. Now I can probably afford/save up to get one without causing a financial apocalypse in the household, but I'm having trouble justifying to myself just what the extra benefits of these mounts are compared to the G11.

If you've had a G11 and upgraded, what did you upgrade to and why?

I use my mount mixed mode: in the observatory and taken out to dark sites. Ideally, the upgrade mount would do this and perhaps better (easier to assemble/disassemble/transport).

Obviously I would expect the mount to be more accurate and need less guiding corrections than the G11 - it would be the main reason for the change.

I'd like to move to a more automated setup over time. Subjectively, I feel the G11 just scrapes in on being able to do this and I suspect that there might be features out there on other mounts that would help (e.g. cable management).

As I've moved to a Linux based setup (INDI), I'm considering mounts from: 10 Micron, AstroPhysics and Bisque Paramount. I'd also be interested in hearing from anyone with these mounts who have used a Linux setup.

For now, I'm unlikely to change my scopes (RC10 and 107mm refractor) so I doubt any of them would be an issue for the weight I handle right now (both scopes are mounted right now). I have delusions, er, dreams of one day getting a bigger RC for a dark site observatory, but the weight is becoming an issue for me to handle as I get older, so this may become a non-issue.

So thoughts? Anything else I should consider?
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  #2  
Old 09-02-2018, 05:18 PM
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Amaranthus (Barry)
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Chris, this might be a radical suggestion, but have you thought about going down rather than up. Say a Skywatcher AZ-EQ6. In AZ mode it's great for visual, in EQ it's a solid AP platform with a belt driven and controllable by the wonderful thing that is EQMOD. It would handle both the RC10 and mid-sized frac with ease.

What's the catch? Visually, none at all. Synscan is beaut for portable pointing and slewing, and this mount works well for SkySafari etc. with a wireless dongle. For AP, obviously there is the PA and worm smoothness to consider. So it comes down to your pixel scale and camera's read noise. If you're using one of the new CMOS imagers, such as the ASI1600, then the read noise is insanely low at medium-to-high gain. So you can get away with much shorter exposures for the same SNR. This is a bit of a game-changer, IMHO, because it means we are inching towards the inevitable obviation of expensive high-end mounts that require super-long-exposure guiding/tracking precision. Not there yet, sure, especially for narrow-bandpass filters, but inching there. It's still a personal judgement call, but there are many pros these days to offset the cons of a solid mid-range mount, when coupled with the right scope and camera.
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Old 09-02-2018, 05:28 PM
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Logieberra (Logan)
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Went from G11 G2 to MX, and arrived at AP1600GTO.

Love the SB mounts; though very techy and CPU dependant.

Enjoying the simplicity and quality of the AP.

Quote:
Originally Posted by lazjen View Post
I have been considering for sometime about upgrading my mount. I've got a G11 at the moment.

What's stopping me is that the next tier of mounts is quite a lot of cash. Now I can probably afford/save up to get one without causing a financial apocalypse in the household, but I'm having trouble justifying to myself just what the extra benefits of these mounts are compared to the G11.

If you've had a G11 and upgraded, what did you upgrade to and why?

I use my mount mixed mode: in the observatory and taken out to dark sites. Ideally, the upgrade mount would do this and perhaps better (easier to assemble/disassemble/transport).

Obviously I would expect the mount to be more accurate and need less guiding corrections than the G11 - it would be the main reason for the change.

I'd like to move to a more automated setup over time. Subjectively, I feel the G11 just scrapes in on being able to do this and I suspect that there might be features out there on other mounts that would help (e.g. cable management).

As I've moved to a Linux based setup (INDI), I'm considering mounts from: 10 Micron, AstroPhysics and Bisque Paramount. I'd also be interested in hearing from anyone with these mounts who have used a Linux setup.

For now, I'm unlikely to change my scopes (RC10 and 107mm refractor) so I doubt any of them would be an issue for the weight I handle right now (both scopes are mounted right now). I have delusions, er, dreams of one day getting a bigger RC for a dark site observatory, but the weight is becoming an issue for me to handle as I get older, so this may become a non-issue.

So thoughts? Anything else I should consider?
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  #4  
Old 09-02-2018, 06:49 PM
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lazjen (Chris)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Amaranthus View Post
Chris, this might be a radical suggestion, but have you thought about going down rather than up. Say a Skywatcher AZ-EQ6. In AZ mode it's great for visual, in EQ it's a solid AP platform with a belt driven and controllable by the wonderful thing that is EQMOD. It would handle both the RC10 and mid-sized frac with ease.

What's the catch? Visually, none at all. Synscan is beaut for portable pointing and slewing, and this mount works well for SkySafari etc. with a wireless dongle. For AP, obviously there is the PA and worm smoothness to consider. So it comes down to your pixel scale and camera's read noise. If you're using one of the new CMOS imagers, such as the ASI1600, then the read noise is insanely low at medium-to-high gain. So you can get away with much shorter exposures for the same SNR. This is a bit of a game-changer, IMHO, because it means we are inching towards the inevitable obviation of expensive high-end mounts that require super-long-exposure guiding/tracking precision. Not there yet, sure, especially for narrow-bandpass filters, but inching there. It's still a personal judgement call, but there are many pros these days to offset the cons of a solid mid-range mount, when coupled with the right scope and camera.
It's an interesting idea, but I don't think it would be worth the change - I'm effectively 100% AP, no visual. I am using an ASI1600 but I think it might not be the best match to the RC10 - it's probably borderline with the 0.67FR I'm using. But I'm not too worried about the camera right now as if I need to get something different in the future, it's either going to be because I got a bigger RC and/or the tech has improved further.

I think your point about the shorter exposures is part of what's been kicking around in my mind for a while now. I might be better off sticking with the G11 for now and sorting out some other issues instead. For example, changing the focuser on my refractor to work under Linux and maybe add a rotator (or sell the whole unit and buy something else completely).

More food for thought.
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  #5  
Old 09-02-2018, 06:57 PM
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lazjen (Chris)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Logieberra View Post
Went from G11 G2 to MX, and arrived at AP1600GTO.

Love the SB mounts; though very techy and CPU dependant.

Enjoying the simplicity and quality of the AP.
Ok, good to know. How's the AP simpler than the G11?
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Old 09-02-2018, 06:58 PM
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Atmos (Colin)
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I went from a quite comparable mount (EQ6) to an ASA DDM60 and haven’t ever looked back. It use it exclusively for astrophotography and I’d argue that the ASA mounts are the best that money can buy for what they do best.

In saying that however, the ASA mounts are not for you. I don’t think they play as well with INDI and even if they do, they’re not the most user friendly for visual. If I want to go visual I use my EQ6.

If you’re wanting it for visual I’d limit myself to AstroPhysics or 10 Micron as both of them can easily be used for field work (no laptop).
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  #7  
Old 09-02-2018, 07:10 PM
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lazjen (Chris)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Atmos View Post
I went from a quite comparable mount (EQ6) to an ASA DDM60 and havenít ever looked back. It use it exclusively for astrophotography and Iíd argue that the ASA mounts are the best that money can buy for what they do best.

In saying that however, the ASA mounts are not for you. I donít think they play as well with INDI and even if they do, theyíre not the most user friendly for visual. If I want to go visual I use my EQ6.

If youíre wanting it for visual Iíd limit myself to AstroPhysics or 10 Micron as both of them can easily be used for field work (no laptop).
I can't see the ASA mounts at all in the INDI list, so looks like you're right there. The 10 microns seem to be equipped with encoders (I couldn't see configurations without? maybe I didn't look hard enough) and I'm not sure how useful they are for me, since I plate solve everywhere.

And to make it clear - I can't remember the last time I did any visual stuff. I want this for AP only. I have something suitable for any rare visual stuff I'm likely to do.
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  #8  
Old 09-02-2018, 08:55 PM
Wavytone
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Thereís also a superb mount made in South Korea which has harmonic drives... cost is about $10k. This would be a beautiful thing if you are prepared to hook up a computer to it with the right software.
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Old 09-02-2018, 10:02 PM
ericwbenson (Eric)
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Hi,
I concur with your observations of the G11 when used with anything bigger than a refractor.
I started AP with a G11 (60 lbs capacity) and spent a few years tuning, and tuning, and tuning. It was OK and I could get useful data from it, but not all the time, it sometimes would 'flare up' and give funny star shapes. Now mind you I was using a C11 at f/10 most of the time, so I was pushing the limit, but the gear box noise problem (76sec quasi-periodic spike) and somewhat random nature of the PE made it frustrating to use in an observatory setting. I believe the simplicity of the worm mounting scheme is the root cause. The components, brass, steel, aluminium and plastic (gearbox) all have different coefficients of thermal expansion and just don't sit where you last left everything after tuning/adjusting, also the rigidity of the mounting is suspect IMO when doing portable.

So I upgraded to a PME (140 lbs capacity), HUGE difference. It handled the C11 with spectroscope + a C14 with long imaging train side-by-side. I could start a session and pretty much guarantee guiding would work, no fussing around. The worm in this case is spring loaded, temperature changes did not seem to have much effect, the PE was reproducible, no fast spikes from gear boxes etc.

Then I changed the scope to a CDK20, used it for a couple years and succumbed, it was a bit too much scope for the PME, so I upgraded to a Planewave A200HR (with encoders), again HUGE difference (240 lbs capacity). What is nice about the encoders is that mechanical PE does not matter anymore. The encoders do PE/gear noise/belt slack/whatever correction in real time on the output shaft.
The pointing accuracy of the encoder mount is extremely good but really unnecessary these days with modern plate solving. Especially since when I rotate the camera (motorised IRF90) there is an offset that basically swamps the pointing accuracy, but again don't care with plate solving and ACP.

I understand the cost bump is pretty big so take your time and really evaluate what you want to do, the G11 can still do a lot.

EB
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Old 09-02-2018, 10:46 PM
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lazjen (Chris)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wavytone View Post
Thereís also a superb mount made in South Korea which has harmonic drives... cost is about $10k. This would be a beautiful thing if you are prepared to hook up a computer to it with the right software.
What's the brand name? Although I'm unlikely to go with anything "unknown", I'm still curious about it.

I have to admit, that even though I don't mind tinkering, I think I am at the stage that I want to reduce some variables. I feel as though right now I have a poor conversion rate from time messing with the mount/setup to actually producing images. I'd like to change that now.
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Old 09-02-2018, 10:53 PM
DJT (David)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lazjen View Post
Ok, good to know. How's the AP simpler than the G11?
Not a G11 user but I have 2 pre-loved AP Mounts, a 900 and a Mach1.

They are simple because they work without tinkering or constantly tuning. Great handset, plays nicely with EQMOD, and when imaging they disappear into the background giving great performance and they just work.

Worth every penny.
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  #12  
Old 09-02-2018, 11:19 PM
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lazjen (Chris)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ericwbenson View Post
Hi,
I concur with your observations of the G11 when used with anything bigger than a refractor.
I started AP with a G11 (60 lbs capacity) and spent a few years tuning, and tuning, and tuning. It was OK and I could get useful data from it, but not all the time, it sometimes would 'flare up' and give funny star shapes. Now mind you I was using a C11 at f/10 most of the time, so I was pushing the limit, but the gear box noise problem (76sec quasi-periodic spike) and somewhat random nature of the PE made it frustrating to use in an observatory setting. I believe the simplicity of the worm mounting scheme is the root cause. The components, brass, steel, aluminium and plastic (gearbox) all have different coefficients of thermal expansion and just don't sit where you last left everything after tuning/adjusting, also the rigidity of the mounting is suspect IMO when doing portable.
Yes, it feels like a system that when everything is in "alignment" works really well, but if somethings "changes", it's a fight to get things back on track again.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ericwbenson View Post
So I upgraded to a PME (140 lbs capacity), HUGE difference. It handled the C11 with spectroscope + a C14 with long imaging train side-by-side. I could start a session and pretty much guarantee guiding would work, no fussing around. The worm in this case is spring loaded, temperature changes did not seem to have much effect, the PE was reproducible, no fast spikes from gear boxes etc.

Then I changed the scope to a CDK20, used it for a couple years and succumbed, it was a bit too much scope for the PME, so I upgraded to a Planewave A200HR (with encoders), again HUGE difference (240 lbs capacity). What is nice about the encoders is that mechanical PE does not matter anymore. The encoders do PE/gear noise/belt slack/whatever correction in real time on the output shaft.
The pointing accuracy of the encoder mount is extremely good but really unnecessary these days with modern plate solving. Especially since when I rotate the camera (motorised IRF90) there is an offset that basically swamps the pointing accuracy, but again don't care with plate solving and ACP.
That's some upgrades! And your comments are what I suspect is one of the major advantages of a better mount - you have consistency in your setup.

Re: encoders and PE - I wasn't aware of that aspect, thanks.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ericwbenson View Post
I understand the cost bump is pretty big so take your time and really evaluate what you want to do, the G11 can still do a lot.
Yes, this is important and the thread has made me think about my setup as it stands right now. I might look at adjusting a few other details first to see if that removes enough "frustration" for now.
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Old 09-02-2018, 11:24 PM
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lazjen (Chris)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DJT View Post
Not a G11 user but I have 2 pre-loved AP Mounts, a 900 and a Mach1.

They are simple because they work without tinkering or constantly tuning. Great handset, plays nicely with EQMOD, and when imaging they disappear into the background giving great performance and they just work.

Worth every penny.
I guess it's an indication of how good these mounts are - I can't recall the last time I've seen one advertised here, so those that have 'em want to keep 'em.

Do you use them for portable work - going to dark sites, etc? What scope(s) do you put on them?
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Old 10-02-2018, 05:29 AM
AstroApprentice (Jason)
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FYI, recent harmonic drive review here:
https://atik.kr/2017/07/crux-170hd-review/
Plus k-Astec have been retrofitting some mounts with harmonic drives recently
Some mixed comments about them on CN




Quote:
Originally Posted by lazjen View Post
What's the brand name? Although I'm unlikely to go with anything "unknown", I'm still curious about it.

I have to admit, that even though I don't mind tinkering, I think I am at the stage that I want to reduce some variables. I feel as though right now I have a poor conversion rate from time messing with the mount/setup to actually producing images. I'd like to change that now.
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Old 10-02-2018, 07:22 AM
DJT (David)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lazjen View Post
I guess it's an indication of how good these mounts are - I can't recall the last time I've seen one advertised here, so those that have 'em want to keep 'em.

Do you use them for portable work - going to dark sites, etc? What scope(s) do you put on them?
The 900 is permanently mounted but I used it at my dark site once or twice. The Mach1 is the one I use most for portable. There is a very good daylight polar alignment routine in the manual so setup is pretty straight forward and you get close on pa then I use pempro to finish. No dramas

Cheers
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Old 10-02-2018, 08:24 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lazjen View Post
I can't see the ASA mounts at all in the INDI list, so looks like you're right there. The 10 microns seem to be equipped with encoders (I couldn't see configurations without? maybe I didn't look hard enough) and I'm not sure how useful they are for me, since I plate solve everywhere.

And to make it clear - I can't remember the last time I did any visual stuff. I want this for AP only. I have something suitable for any rare visual stuff I'm likely to do.
10 Micron mounts have absolute encoders that are almost as accurate as the ASA ones. With 10 Micron you can create a pointing model using the handset and it should be easily controllable directly through INDI.

As others have mentioned, the main difference between a EQ6/G11 or anything of that ilk is that the mount fades into the background. My DDM60 does take a bit longer to set up than my EQ6 but I can still beat astronomical darkness anyway and Iím rarely in a rush. The difference is that When I was using the EQ6, some nights Iíd have to fight to get decent results, other nights the gremlins would stick around and 120s exposures would have issues. With the DDM60 I just tell it to go somewhere, itíll be accurate to within 2 pixels without plate solving and it will keep it centred all night without autoguiding.
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Old 10-02-2018, 12:21 PM
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Chris,honestly you can't go wrong with any of the high end mounts mentioned here!of cause you could all ways end up with a lemon and that's why good warranty policy is important.

Out of all the high end mounts mentioned Software Buisque mounts are the best value.

You should also keep an eye out on reviews for the new Ioptron CEM 120EC if you don't want to spend a great deal of money.
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Old 10-02-2018, 06:43 PM
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lazjen (Chris)
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Thanks for the replies David and Colin - good info and more points to the side of upgrading.

Quote:
Originally Posted by atalas View Post
Chris,honestly you can't go wrong with any of the high end mounts mentioned here!of cause you could all ways end up with a lemon and that's why good warranty policy is important.

Out of all the high end mounts mentioned Software Buisque mounts are the best value.

You should also keep an eye out on reviews for the new Ioptron CEM 120EC if you don't want to spend a great deal of money.
Wow, that's significantly less cost than the other mounts and it looks like the Ioptrons have INDI support. I'll definitely keep looking for reviews (and they've just announced a CEM 120EC2 - EC on both axis) and try to work out what is missing/different to make them so much cheaper. The feature set I've read so far indicates it should have what I want.
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Old 10-02-2018, 07:14 PM
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Of those being discussed, I can only comment on the AP mounts and then only the Mach 1.

The Linux / INDI factor may limit the performance / features you can get out of an AP mount. Specifically, AstroPhysics Command Center (APCC) and Astrophysics Model Maker (APPM) are Windows only. These two bits of software offer features such as horizon limits and pointing/tracking correction. Note that APCC is an additional cost with an AP mount and comes in two versions, the pro version has APPM.

You can use an AP mount without APCC/APPM, but IMO if you're going to spend that kind of money, it makes sense to get the most out of them, and to do that you may want the features offered by the aforementioned software.

Just something to consider...
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Old 10-02-2018, 09:25 PM
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I'll have to check the software features, but I expect it to mostly be a non-issue by using ekos, etc for any of these mounts. There's quite a lot of features available for full remote/"robotic" imaging under Linux already. I am most comfortable with Linux over Windows, so I'm going to go that path first.
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