Buying Second Hand

BEST BUDGET MOUNT

Mounts for astrophotography aren't cheap and so inevitably to get a cheap mount up and running to the standard we need to take great space pics requires either a bit of ingenuity and effort or some  degree of compromise. In this section I will run through various possibilities...

Home made pier

Old school Synta grease

Go small to save cash

Buying Second Hand

Skywatcher EQ5 (or EQ3) GOTO

I have bought and sold a lot of different second hand mounts and the best was my first - a second hand Skywatcher's EQ3-2 GOTO. If you can pick up an EQ3 or an EQ5 with goto and tune it up you will be looking at a guiding accuracy of around 1.4 arc seconds. In the states the EQ5 goes by the name of OMNI CG4.

PROs

  • With a bit of work these will guide to an accuracy of 1.4 arcsecs

  • EQ5 can carry a decent sized telescope 10kg/22lb

  • Portable

  • Can upgrade it to sub arcsec accuracy with a darkframe optics hypertune when your ready to up your game

CONS

  • Have to keep your eyes peeled for a cheap one

  • Have to be prepared to get your hands dirty

An OLD EQ5 goto 

There are many good guides on the web as to how to tune up your old eq3/5 mount. There are two things to do. Firstly replace the gunky synta grease with more refined lithium grease. This will allow you to balance the scope more accurately which plays a big part in performance. The other important step is to get the worm gear meshing correctly with the cog wheel. Here is a step by step guide to removing the gunk by protostar on stargazer's lounge website

If you serious about astrophotography then I would recommend asking Dave Woods to tune up your second hand mount. . For £189 he will turn an eq3/5 mount into a sub arc second precision instruments. Here is a link to his website. FYI he tunes lots of other mounts too! Please mention astrobiscuit as he's kindly agreed to support the channel with commission.

Fancy a professional tune up

The Man who knows EVERYTHING about mounts: David Woods

Buying New

Skywatcher EQM-35

PROs

  • Better at guiding than the competition. Out the box it will give you roughly 2 arc second guiding accuracy and with tweaking it will perform even better.

  • Can carry a decent sized telescope 10kg/22lb

  • Portable

CONS

  • Not as budgety as we'd like

Keeping it small and cheap with a travel mount

Small telescopes are capable of taking amazing pictures and happily they don't need to sit on big mount expensive mounts. The big surprise is that both the Skywatcher Star Adventurer and the AZ GTI (which needs to be tweaked in order to get it to work in EQ mode) are great when guiding. I admit there are other similar astrophotography travel mounts but these are the only one I've properly tested.  I've even stuck a little guide scope on the Star Adventurer and with good polar aligning I've managed 30 minute long subs a 60mm refractor (Tak fs60CB). The skywatcher 72 ed is as big a scope as I would recommend with these mounts.

Skywatcher Star Adventurer Pro Pack
Skywatcher AZ GTI

PROs

  • Cheap

  • Surprisingly good whilst guiding: around 2 arc seconds

  • Super Portable

  • Easy to user

CONS

  • No GOTO function

  • Can only Guide in RA

  • Need a tripod

  • Can only carry small scopes

PROs

  • Cheap

  • Surprisingly good whilst guiding: around 2 arc seconds

  • Super Portable

  • Has GOTO function via phone app

  • Can connect to a computer allowing the use of serious and powerful astrophotography software like APT

CONS

  • Is intended as an ALT AZ Mount. In order to make it work in EQ mode you need to install firmware and cobble together a suitable mount which can be polar aligned. Brief description here

  • No polarscope

  • Need to acquire counterwieght and counterweight shaft.

  • Complicated

  • Can only carry small scopes

AZ GTI in AZ mode. Nice little set up with the Skywatcher ST80

Don't forget your tripod. A decent camera tripod will do. And if you go down to the dark skies of Devon and forget your tripod you can get your old man to make one!

Using the Skywatcher AZ GTI in AZ mode

Once you get the hang of the AZ GTI you can control the mount with your phone and point the scope to thousands of space objects at the touch of a button. As the mount tracks you can take exposures of up to about 30 seconds duration (but the exact figure depends on where in the sky you are shooting, the size of your camera's sensor and your focal length. The wider your telescope or lens the bigger the problem you will have with field rotation and the shorter your exposures will have to be. I shot my first astrophotography video using an AZ mount.  You can checkout the video here. I often have problems when using this mount for deep space astrophotography in Alt Az mode. For me it works far better in EQ mode.

 

Using the Skywatcher AZ GTI in EQ mode

If you are massively geeky like me you can take this mount to another level. By installing special firmware you can transform this alt az mount into an equatorial mount for serious long exposure small scope astrophotography. Of course you need to align the mount to the rotation of the earth (polar aligning) before this will work so you might need to fiddle with the tripod in order to achieve the correct angle. Once sorted this mount’s tracking accuracy is really impressive and it can be controlled via wifi from a computer running astroimaging software like APT. All in all this small motorized mount is incredibly powerful but his is probably not a good mount for the technophobe. If you are a technophobe then really the star adventurer is your mount.  If you think you can handle it then go for this. It is brilliant in EQ mode.

Check out some results with the AZ GTI in EQ mode from Ben on astrobin here

This tripod is designed to be used with the star adventurer

 

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!)