BEST MOUNTS FOR ASTROPHOTOGRAPHY

Ok so lets cut straight to the chase. Skywatcher have the best low and mid ranged mounts for astrophotography. The reason I now know this is because I paid a visit to see the man who knows everything about mounts: Dave from Dark Frame Optics. He has spent years elbow deep in synta grease hyper tuning every variety of commercial mount you could imagine. Dave says Skywatcher mounts have the advantage of using accurate stepper motors combined with a simple design which can be easily tweaked by astro tweakers like us.  I wish he'd told me 5 years and 5 mounts ago!

Which mount is right for me ?

There are basically two things to think about when choosing a mount. Can the mount carry the weight of my telescope (and camera and finderscope and guidescope and guide camera) and will the mount track the stars accurately enough for me to take great astro pictures.

Lets talk about wobble

In order to take great astro pictures you need a mount that doesn't wobble. Or to be more precise you need a mount that can track  objects in space so accurately  that the  light from a distant star always falls onto the same pixel in your camera. A little bit of wobble is ok so long as the the wobble doesn't cause the light to spill into the neighbouring pixels and blur your final image.

Trusty HEQ5: I bought it second hand and the previous owner had had the mount tuned byDave at Dark Frame Optics.

How much wobble can I get away with?

If you are using a small scope say the skywatcher 72ED and a canon 600d then every pixel would cover 2.11 arcseconds of the sky. So as long as your mount wobbles less than that then your image will be very crisp. You can work out  how many arc seconds of sky each pixel of your set up covers at this brilliant website.  Then all you have to do is make sure this resolution whilst guiding in arcseconds is larger than the wobble in your mount. To help you decide I have included the expected mount wobble of each of the mounts I recommend in the chart below and a dumbies link to the roughly the sort of scope you could use for astrophotography with the mount.

Overview of Best Mounts

MORE INFO:

Skywatcher Star Adventurer Pro

Super brilliant for imaging unguided with lenses. Only Guides in RA and no GOTO but does guide surprisingly well with a good polar alignment

guiding accuracy 

imaging payload

out of the box

2.0 arcsec

tweaked

N/A

5kg

Can image with a

Price

MORE INFO:

Skywatcher AZ GTI wifi

Has GOTO, controlled by phone, absolutely brilliant but there is a catch: Its a faff to set up. Please check out notes before buying.

guiding accuracy 

imaging payload

out of the box

2.0 arcsec

tweaked

N/A

5kg

Can image with a

Price

MORE INFO:

Skywatcher EQ3

Great budgety option especially if you can get it second hand and tune it yourself

guiding accuracy 

imaging payload

out of the box

 2.8 arcsec

tweaked

1.4 arcsec

5kg

Can image with a

Price

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Skywatcher EQ5

Great budgety option especially if you can get it second hand and tune it yourself then with the extra payload this becomes the biscuit man's top budget mount

guiding accuracy 

imaging payload

out of the box

2.8 arcsec

tweaked

1.4 arcsec

Officially 5kg - but I think its more like 10kg when tuned!

Can image with a

Price

MORE INFO:

Skywatcher EQM-35

This newer model has the potential to be more accurate than either the EQ5 or EQ3 because of its larger RA gear wheel.

guiding accuracy 

imaging payload

out of the box

better than 2.8 arcsec

tweaked

better than 1.4 arcsec

7kg

Can image with a

Price

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Celestron AVX

Great mount in lots of ways but limited in astrophotography by is comparatively weak guiding. Fine for scopes of up to 650mm focal length (assuming your using a DSLR (with 5ish micron pixels)

guiding accuracy 

imaging payload

out of the box

2 arcsec

tweaked

N/A

5kg (can carry much more when not imaging)

Can image with a

Price

MORE INFO:

Skywatcher HEQ5 (with Rowan belt upgrade)

Now we're talking. With a rowan belt upgrade this is a great mount. Hard to get the upgrade in the States though, having said that if you are able to tune the standard version it will perform as well.

guiding accuracy 

imaging payload

out of the box

less than 2 arcsec

tweaked

1 arcsec with Rowan belt upgrade

11kg

Can image with a

Price

MORE INFO:

Skywatcher EQ6-R

This is my recommended mount. In a league of its own.

guiding accuracy 

imaging payload

out of the box

1 arcsec

tweaked

N/A

20kg

Can image with a

Price

I am supported by FLO, Astroshop and OPT. They can't be beaten on price and offer 30 day returns policy (which is useful for astro stuff!)