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Skywatcher AZ-EQ6


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Posted (edited)

After having an iOptron GEM45 on order forever I decided to swap my order to an AZ-EQ6. 

This came as a surprise to me as I swore I was done with skywatcher mounts.  I have to say it was not a decision I took lightly and spent close a month considering my options.

The iOptron struck me as a more high tech mount - it's smaller, lighter and comes with a lot of built in tech. It's also more expensive.

The tech the AZ-EQ lacks, I already have in the shape of an iPolor, ASIAir and Pegasus Power box.

 

The idea behind the new mount was to manage larger scopes. My current 10 year old EQ6 has suffered numerous issues. I suspect it has a lot still to give, but my plan is to run it as a second mount, carrying my smaller scope.

Opening the box, there are no surprises. It has the usual Skywatcher look of slightly too thick white paint and lots of knobs. That said the overall finish is night and day compared to the old EQ6.  The both have a slightly agricultural look, but the AZ-EQ6 looks more polished. I think a lot of this is the green setting cicles and the new smart logo.

Weight wise it feels lighter than the EQ6. Checking the specs, it's only about 1/2 KG. I suspect it's just better balanced.

Let's get to the main reason I chose this mount - Altitude adjustment.  Instead of the opposing bolts pushing into a tab made of Ementhal, this mount has long screw thread. Screw it one way to raise it, the other to lower it. Simple.  Azimuth adjustment relies on the same bolts pushing on the north pin method, but it works. They also feel more positive - this is probably my imagination though.

The saddle takes both Vixen and Losmandy dovetails. It moves smoothly and grips firmly.  It is fully painted and I wonder if this will wear off over time... probably will.

The clutches I like a lot. I would always stuggle to find the RA clutch on my EQ 6 in the dark.  On the AZ-EQ6 you have big lever for RA and tabbed wheel for dec (it looks like something they nicked from the engine room of a battleship).  These are easy to tighten and easy to find. There is no danger of twisting the wrong bit either.

 

The counter weight bar is fat and has brushed finish. It has a "take no prisoners" toe protector too.  The protector was a little stiff to remove and insert. A smear of copper grease fixed it. The bar is shorter than the EQ6, but comes with an extention if you need it.   I have to hand it to Skywatcher, they give you all you need in the box.  This includes 2 counterweights (with the iOptron I had to cough an extra 50 quid for an additional weight).  My old EQ weights have a plastic collar in side, the new ones do not.  The securing bolt has a plastic pad on the end.  The downside of this is the deposit paint onto the bar. It's easily cleaned up, but totally avoidable.

 

The tripod is the standard skywatcher 2 inch leg model.  The legs are stiffer than my old one ever was, they also spread further. This is not a bad thing as it can only add to stability. I do need to try it with my long scope. While I think it will be fine, I may add the mini pillar for peace of mind.  Due to the wider spread of the legs and the more compactness of the mount the saddle sits considerably lower than my old EQ6 - about 8-10 cm.

I have been unable to test it for real, but testing indoors reveals a very quiet drive system. It sounds so much smoother than the EQ6.  The hand controller is not a big deal for me as I use an EQDIR cable into the ASiAir. I will say it seems so much more responsive than my old handset. It has has much more refined display.

Alt-Az mode is not a priority for me as I mainly image. That said it's fun to set up and do some moon watching on summer evenings, so it may get some use.

Overall the mount impressed me. When I spoke to someone at the dealers re experiences with my old mount (some of which is down to novice wear and tear), they said I would be surprised at how far SW have come. They were right.  Yes this is an EQ6 mount at heart, it's heritage is clear, but it's refined  in all the key areas.  For me bolts and clutches are the most noticable changes.

 

Downsides.  There a lot of bits that stick out. Sticky out bits are cable snags waiting to happen. For me most of my cables are all up top on the scope, so I'm not massively worried. I would say you will need to consider cable management with this mount.

As an imager first and visual person second there was a stong case for the EQ6-R.  I was wary of this mount as it uses the dreaded bolts. While I know the bolts are improved, I just opted to avoid that whole way of doing things.  Also the R is still in short supply.

I'll update this report after first use.

FIRST USE UPDATE:

After two aborted setups where cloud crashed the party, I have now had the chance to test the mount for real.

Polar alignment was a very easy. I used the ASiAir's routine and was close after around four minuites - that's prettty good for me.

Guiding I had the best guide graph I have ever seen. You could rest a cup of coffee on it.

Movement and slewing.  It moves to target quickly and quietly. The slew noise is very quiet - someone stood a few metres away would not hear it with normal background noise.

I was fussing a bit with slewing and was forever making sure the cables did not snag or pull taut. I had just run the cables so it was for the best,

I have ordered the extention pillar.  There's too much chance of my scope hitting the legs for me to be comfortable.

Edited by paulgrover68
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An interesting read. Fortunately it sounds like you have found far more positives than negatives to report on so I hope it gives you good use. (For many years).

i look forward to your update after you have had chance to test it.

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Posted (edited)

 

10 minutes ago, Marmot said:

An interesting read. Fortunately it sounds like you have found far more positives than negatives to report on so I hope it gives you good use. (For many years).

i look forward to your update after you have had chance to test it.

I think it will - bent bolts, followed by some chewing on the tab skewed my perception of Skywatcher mounts. I should remember that I get some epic guiding out the old mount, so can't wait to get the new one under sky that's not full of clouds.

Edited by paulgrover68
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36 minutes ago, Marmot said:

Your ‘first use update’ sounds very positive. Glad there were no hidden or unexpected issues for you to deal with.

It was surprisingly trouble free. The only downside was the never quite dark prevented me from getting a usuable image (I got a okay M106, but it fell short in many ways).  I think it'll be clusters until August!

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  • 2 weeks later...

Nice write up, the downsides I have with my AZ EQ6 are it's Bl***** heavy, the Dec is a bit stiff and not easy to balance. Otherwise it's a good mount. Extension pillar is a good idea, next to no issues with clashes well past the meridian.

 

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24 minutes ago, MarkAR said:

Nice write up, the downsides I have with my AZ EQ6 are it's Bl***** heavy, the Dec is a bit stiff and not easy to balance. Otherwise it's a good mount. Extension pillar is a good idea, next to no issues with clashes well past the meridian.

 

The weight and extra spread on the legs makes wrestling it out a fun experience for sure.  I opted for the pillar extention in the end as I was dead set for a collision!

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I have the USA version of the AZ-EQ6 (black, not white). It is a workhorse and the guiding is quite good. My heaviest scope is the 10" RC. and the AZ-EQ6 handles it easily. I am sure you will like this mount.  

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58 minutes ago, rwillits said:

I have the USA version of the AZ-EQ6 (black, not white). It is a workhorse and the guiding is quite good. My heaviest scope is the 10" RC. and the AZ-EQ6 handles it easily. I am sure you will like this mount.  

Last night was the night it really came to life - it was flawless for my whole session - I was very impressed. Not least by how smooth it sounds.  

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I also opted for the tripod extension Tube for my AZ-EQ6 and in addition to potentially saving the scopes I have also found that when setting up each session being able to rotate the mount head with the tube makes it real easy to get Polaris in the sights when using the pole master, I have no need to fuss over tripod alignment, an added bonus for me. great review by the way.  gary

Edited by gpowers
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Hi Roger, agreed, I also use the AZ bolts for final fine adjustment, just that a nominal centering of Polaris rotating the mount head helps in getting polaris in the rough centre of the image ... I would never get that accuracy without the bolts as you say.    

Edited by gpowers
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Interestingly the design of the extension pillar seems to have been revised.  The plastic base now has a lip on the "flat" side and a rubberised base. This makes rotation a lot harder.  More of a concern was how you can only give the bolt 5-6 turns to tighten it in place (the threaded collar that used to sit inside the tripod is now on the other side).

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