SkyWatcher SynScan Alt/Az GoTo Mount and Tripod

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Brand and Model:SkyWatcher SynScan Alt/Az GoTo Mount and Tripod
Price ($USD):210 Euro
Attributes:un-checkedMotorized un-checkedPEC checkedGoto
Electric Power:12 vDC Positive center
Weight (lbs.):9
Description:My overall assessment of the SkyWatcher SynScan Alt/Az GoTo Mount and Tripod is very favorable. Its goto accuracy is outstanding; however, it does have some design characteristics and omissions that detract from the systems performance.

I own and use three different goto telescope systems; a Meade DS2000 GOTO with a vintage Meade 2045 LX3 SCT and, for my Celestron C6S SCT, a Celestron CG5/iOptron NOVA GOTO and the SkyWatcher SynScan Alt/Az GOTO.

I purchased the SynScan Az GOTO have a grab and go capability for my C6S SCT. The combination weighs 9 kg and is very easy to transport either by hand or by vehicle. I have owned and used my SkyWatcher SynScan Alt/Az GoTo Mount and Tripod for approximately six weeks.

Many telescope stores advertise the mount as capable of carrying a 5 kg load. However, the largest scopes SkyWatcher recommends are its D130/F650 Reflector (Explorer-130P) and its D127/F1500 Maksutov (Skymax-127). Based upon SkyWatcher’s recommended telescopes, my Celestron C6S SCT is oversized in aperture and weight.

My GOTO accuracy is now 100 % for DSOs, Stars, Saturn, and the Moon (25mm eyepiece; f=1500, f/10 scope). However, this was not the case when I first got the mount. My first light with the mount was a disaster; 100% misses.

The problem was the tripod. For accurate gotos, the mount must be rigid and the vertical axis of the tripod must be orthogonal to the plane of the earth. The tripod has a lot of play in its leg hinges and cross brace hinges. It also has a bubble level that is accurate. As my telescope rotated in the azimuth direction I could see the bubble in the bubble level move in synchronization with the scope. The telescope’s movement deflected the tripod’s orientation from orthogonality introducing an error in both altitude and azimuth.

Fortunately, the fix is simple. Firmly tighten all the leg and cross brace hinge bolts, make sure the accessory tray is installed on the cross brace and firmly locked in place, and do not fully extend the extension legs. This last part is dependent upon the weight and size of the telescope. For my 5 kg, C6S, I can not extend the extension legs more than 15 cm without a negative impact upon goto accuracy. People with lighter scopes will need to experiment to determine their maximum leg extension. The tripod also vibrates when the telescope is focused.

After doing these simple things, my mount is 100% accurate to date putting objects in the eyepiece of my telescope. I probably have viewed about 50 objects with it. Needless to say, I am extremely pleased with this accuracy.

Features that I like about SkyWatcher SynScan Alt/Az GoTo Mount and Tripod are:
1. its accuracy
2. quite operation
3. ease of alignment
4. rugged construction
5. value

However, the mount has several issues that are not so good. The hand controller does not have an auxiliary red led light nor does it have a time chip. This means you must manually enter the correct time and date when you power up the mount …. reading a watch in the dark, entering data in a hand controller, holding a flashlight …. running out of hands here.

The mount has no power switch and is powered up by inserting its power plug. The power plug can easily become disconnected while the mount is rotating which results in the need to initialize the hand controller (input time and star alignment all over again). The mount comes with a battery pack for 8 AA batteries. The power plug attached to the battery pack has a locking nut. This nut must be firmly tightened which is hard to do if you have fingers of any size. Since I use an automotive power pack, I removed the power cable from the SkyWatcher battery pack and spliced it to the end of my automotive power pack cable using an inline on/off switch as a splice. I then firmly tightened the power plug locking nut with a pair of needle nose pliers. I do not remove the power plug from the mount.

Because I can only extend the tripod’s extension legs by 15 cm, I have a difficult time acquiring alignment stars that are past about 45 degrees in altitude. For stars near the zenith, I must lay on the ground. However, viewing through the telescope is easy.

Price: excellent 190 pounds (210 euros)
System Accuracy: excellent 100% accurate for DSOs, Stars, Saturn, and the moon (25mm eyepiece, f=1500 f/10 telescope) carrying a 150 mm aperture, 5 kg telescope. The mount has no problem with a 5 kg load and probably can carry a heavier one.
Mount design and finish: rugged, quite operation, easy to use mount that is well put together (time chip, auxiliary light, and power plug issues).
Tripod design and finish: The design is good but construction and assembly are poor. Overall I found the tripod’s performance to be marginal. I am sure that many will say it is unacceptable. A 5 kg load clearly is too much for the tripod. However, the tripod, when tightened up, most likely is acceptable for the range of scopes that SkyWatcher recommends.
Manual: below average. Confusing. The manual covers four mounts, two of which are not goto mounts. It language is simplistic which often imparts inaccurate information, e.g., “level mount” really means tripod vertical axis is orthogonal to the plane of the earth.

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