This new iOptron SmartEQ grab-and-go German equatorial mount has:
• Built-in go-to computer drive with 50,000+ object database
• Dual-axis servomotor with optical encoders
• 11 pound maximum payload capacity
• Runs 16-20 hours on 8 AA batteries for use in the field
• Adjustable height tripod with 1.25” diameter stainless steel legs
• "An excellent photography platform." Sky & Telescope review.
The new iOptron SmartEQ mount is a very portable and very affordable grab-and-go German equatorial mount for entry-level astronomers and wide-field astrophotographers. Flashlight battery operated, it is designed for travel, backyard imaging, and transporting to a dark sky site. It is ideal for go-to visual observing and wide-field astrophotography with many of the most popular short focal length refractors, small catadioptrics, and cameras of all types.
Payload capacity: The SmartEQ comes with a 2 pound (0.9kg) counterweight and a retractable 16mm counterweight shaft that stores inside the equatorial head. The design of the equatorial head and position of the battery compartment let you use payloads of up to 4 pounds (1.8kg) without using the counterweight. The mount and installed batteries will provide the balancing weight needed. The counterweight and extended counterweight shaft will balance payloads between 4 pounds and 8.8 pounds (4kg). If your payload is greater than 8.8 lbs (4 kg), an additional optional counterweight will be needed.
Drive system details: The SmartEQ mount has 120-tooth 60mm diameter molded drive gears in both right ascension and declination. The steel right ascension and declination axis shafts are 25mm in diameter, with 42mm diameter bearings.
The standard equipment dual-axis DC servo motors with encoders provide 0.5 arc second per step resolution, more than precise enough for an imperceptible stepping motion during visual observing and wide-field imaging.
The DC motors require a 9-12VDC, 1 amp power supply. The motors draw 0.1A while tracking and 0.3A while slewing. Eight AA batteries provide 16-20 hours of continuous tracking, depending on the ambient temperature. An optional external 12VDC power supply can be used to power the scope indefinitely, for example from 110VAC in your back yard.
There are nine guiding, centering, and slewing speeds available: sidereal and 2x sidereal for guiding; 8x, 16x, 64x, and 128x sidereal for centering; and 256x (1°/sec), 512x (2°/sec) sidereal, and a maximum speed of ~4°/sec for slewing. There is a serial port on the hand control for mount firmware upgrade and ASCOM control using an optional computer.
The supplied GoToNova hand controller has a 4 line/21 character LCD display. After entering the local time ande location information, a simple one-star alignment is all that is needed to start you observing. You can sync the scope to known objects to improve the pointing accuracy.
The GoToNova hand controller contains a more than 59,000 object go-to database that includes: 60 named deep sky objects; the 110 object Messier Catalog, the 7,840 object NGC Catalog; the 5,386 object IC Catalog; the 12,921 object UGC Catalog; the 109 object Caldwell Catalog; the 400 object Herschel Catalog; 195 named stars; 15 comets; 116 asteroids; 210 double stars; 26,584 bright stars from the SAO catalog; 5,553 bright variable stars from the GCVS catalog; the 88 modern constellations with their names; plus 60 user-defined objects.
Mount details: The SmartEQ mount is designed to be very portable for travel and grab-and-go use. The equatorial head weighs only 6.2 pounds (2.8kg), not counting the 2 pound (0.9kg) counterweight. The supplied adjustable height tripod has 1.25” diameter stainless steel legs, and weighs only 5.7 pounds (2.6kg). It is quite stable, able to support the SmartEQ equatorial head and the maximum rated payload with ease. An optional set of vibration-dampening pads might be a useful addition during visual observing, however. During transport and storage, the standard counterweight shaft stores conveniently within the mount body.
The mount is designed to operate in both northern and southern hemispheres at latitudes from 0° to 62°. Twin adjustment knobs in the base of the mount let you fine-tune the azimuth alignment on the pole over a +/-10° arc.
While simple sighting on Polaris through the right ascension axis is usually accurate enough for polar alignment for visual observing and wide-field imaging, an optional polar alignment finderscope is available to let you align the scope on the celestial pole with greater accuracy if desired. The Sky & Tel review said that "Just eyeballing Polaris through the mount's hollow polar axis shaft gave me good enough polar alignment to make fine 3- and 4-minute exposures from my back deck with a 50mm lens. There is a built-in bubble level for leveling the mount for the most accurate tracking.
Optical tube mounting method: The mount head accepts industry-standard Vixen-style dovetails.
If you’re looking for an extremely affordable grab-and-go go-to mount for visual observing and wide-field astrophotography, you won't find a better value than the iOptron SmartEQ equatorial. As the Sky & Tel review concluded, "This inexpensive unit is a great little mount for constellation and meteor-shower photography or the next bright comet." It may be the grab-and-go travel mount you've been looking for.
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