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If you’re looking to enjoy deep space Astrophotography, then using the right telescope mount is going to be absolutely crucial. Your entire imaging experience is entirely dependent upon it, so it is without doubt the single most important piece of your equipment that you should invest in. It serves as the foundation, contributes significantly to the quality and consistency of your images and ultimately provides you with long-term consistency.
But if you’re looking to get an Equatorial Mount, where do you even begin? With a lot of choices, expensive models, confusing terminology and a variety of features on each model, it can be almost impossible to identify the best one most suitable for you. So to help your research and ensure you find top models, let’s take a look at the Best Equatorial Mounts For Astrophotography that you will find online.
THE BEST EQUATORIAL MOUNT FOR ASTROPHOTOGRAPHY
Why Use An Equatorial Mount for Astrophotography?
If you have spent any time already looking for a new mount; you may have come across terminology like ‘Equatorial’ and/or ‘Alt-Azimuth’. These are the most common mounts, but each serve a different purpose and will benefit astronomers in different ways. Which one is best for you will depend entirely on what, how and when you are looking to observe the night sky.
The majority of Astrophotographers will recommend Equatorial Mounts (EQ’s) for Astrophotography. That’s likely why you are here. There are several reasons for this but here are the main ones:
Alt Azimuth mounts, the main alternative, are moved and aligned via two central axes – both vertically and horizontally. As you can imagine, this point and observe method of observation is ideal if you are a casual observer but is not ideal if you are looking to pursue Astrophotography.
Computerized Alt-Azimuth versions, that are typically found on most GoTo telescopes, aim to address this concern by providing star tracking as the Earth rotates. Celestial objects will remain central through the eyepiece for extended periods of time. Unfortunately, due to geometry, the field of view also rotates, leading to issues when looking to take long exposure shots.
Equatorial Mounts, on the other hand, are specifically designed to work in accordance with the rotation of the Earth. They do this through a rotational axis that is parallel to the Earth’s axis of rotation
By operating with a Polar Axis, which aligns with the same axis of rotation as the earth, an Equatorial Mount will lock onto an a celestial object and track it – overcoming any alignment issues, or those potential blurs mentioned above.
Once polar aligned, all you need to do on your mounted telescope is aim using the setting circles on the mounts axes. There are also motorized drives that are built onto both axes which ensures the scope is accurately positioned. The right ascension (RA) axis follows the spin of the Earth simultaneously.
Advantages of Equatorial Mounts
✔️ You can manually position your telescope using a coordinate system. All you need to know is the coordinates of the object you wish to observe and track, and the EQ will automatically position.
✔️ Its also possible to observe an object manually using the RA Knob provided.
✔️ Motors on either/both axes enable star tracking without the need to re-positioning the scope each time.
✔️ Observe objects for as little/as much time as you like (minutes/hours) without the need to make adjustments. This makes an EQ the most effective for Astrophotography. Whilst computerized Altazimuth mounts include motors for star tracking, images rotate in your eyepiece.
The Case For Investment
If you are looking for your first mount for Astrophotography, its a good idea to consider your current and future telescope. The truth is, cheaper mounts may be suitable for your current telescope but will they be able to support any future telescope you may want to/need to buy.
When it comes to Astrophotography, the more power that your telescope has the better your observations and images will ultimately be. A new telescope, while it may not sound like a priority now, may well be something you consider in the future.
Getting a more premium mount first time round will therefore be suitable not just for now but with any future telescope you may purchase. Beyond this, with extra investment you can get a mount with extra features, a better design, greater component material and also a higher payload capacity (ability to hold your equipment’s weight). Plus, it will be more durable and last longer.
The Best Equatorial Mounts For Astrophotography
There are a lot of different brands and models of Equatorial Mounts on the market. As such, it can be hard to identify which is the best one to get, for you. I’ve been there I know how you feel – it can be quite overwhelming.
Whilst I have included a range of options below, at different price points, do not automatically disregard the more expensive ones. When it comes to Astrophotography equipment, like anything in life, the more it costs the better it is designed, the higher quality the components, the greater the functionality etc.
While you might be tempted, or even see a Computerized Alt-Azmuth mount available for a lot less, consider that it will not be as optimal or ideal for Astrophotography.
With the right Astrophotography mount, you will likely find that you take the hobby much more seriously and actually use the equipment rather than store it away.
So without further ado, here are my personal favorite EQ mounts for Astrophotography available to buy right away:
Orion Atlas 10010 Pro EQ Mount (Editors Choice)
The Orion Atlas Pro is widely considered the best choice for a variety of reasons. Its actually an upgrade on the original Orion Atlas design – supporting more weight and being lighter too. It provides 44 lbs of payload, and weighs only 46.7 lbs.
There are over 42,900 celestial objects that you can quickly identify and explore from a simple and easy-to-use menus on the computerized GoTo hand controller. There are also optical encoders that provide you with an ability to align your telescope more easily and even if you move or point in another direction, the mount understands its positioning and can relocate without the need of you having to readjust.
Orion AstroView EQ Mount (Budget Friendly Option)
If you’re on a smaller budget, the Orion AstroView EQ mount is definitely one in which you should consider. This is particularly true if you own a smaller Refractor telescope and are in the market for your first mount.
Its smooth to operate and has a sturdy frame, providing up to 12 lbs of payload capacity. While it is not a computerized GoTo setup, you will be benefiting from dual slow motion controls that are great when manually tracking celestial objects. Plus the mount head design enables the dovetail plate to be easily removed where you can quickly attach your telescope without the use of any specialist tools.
Sky-Watcher EQM-35 Equatorial GoTo Mount
In the mid-price range, the Sky-Watcher EQM-35 Equatorial GoTo Mount is another excellent option for beginners to intermediates. Its very easy to use and most suitable for Refractor Telescopes up to 100mm in Aperture.
It provides a stable platform and yields a 22 lbs payload capacity, plus has a removable DEC assembly which you can use to turn the mount into a heavy duty tracking system.
There are over 42,000 objects in the database, and you can use the provided Synscan hand controller to easily identify, observe and track any included celestial object.
Celestron Advanced VX Mount
The Celestron Advanced VX Mount is another premium option within the mid-price point. It was specifically designed to provide optimum imaging performance for smaller telescopes and also to be fully transportable yet stable under heavy loads.
Sleek and impressive to look at, its comes with a host of functionality and design features that sets it apart from many other alternatives out there. Some of the best are the intuitive motors that provide improved tracking performance and work to overcome any potential load imbalances that may arise.
The Celestron NexStar technology is built into this mount, providing all-Star Polar Alignment and auto guider support. Plus it supports multiple languages (English, French, Italian, German, Spanish) making it ideal for various users.
Celestron CGX Equatorial Mount (Premium Option)
If you are serious about Astrophotgraphy and are in the market for the best mount regardless of price, then you’ll want to consider the Celestron CGX. It has the highest payload capacity at 55 lbs than any other on the list providing the most stable and sturdy framework for any telescope between 6-11 inches in Aperture.
The CGX mount includes a low profile EQ head, which provides a more compact and therefore more stable setup; an excellent drive system, remote operation-friendly with home and limit optical sensors; easier polar alignment adjustments; and better cable management.
Its also been ergonomically designed to make it sturdier, easier to use and transport. If you have some room in your budget, take a look!
If you are a seasoned Astronomer or have looked for Astronomy Equipment in the past, you’ll know that Orion and Celestron are two of the most significant and tend to be the best brands and manufacturers around. There is a reason why the list is predominantly filled with their models.
If you are serious about Astrophotography, then the best investment you can make is in a sturdy, durable and well designed Equatorial mount. This will ensure you obtain the best results possible and make your whole experience far more enjoyable – you’ll also likely to save money in the long term!
While you wouldn’t go wrong with any of the options on the list, in my opinion and experience, the Orion Atlas Pro 10010 is the best Equatorial Mount to get. Having a great payload capacity, object database as well as not being the most expensive makes it my Editors choice and recommended purchase.