I’d been wanting to upgrade/update my old LXD75 mount for quite some time. The old horse has been tracking great, but I really want to take my imaging to the next level, and I had an opportunity for a package deal with an Meade 80mm triplet refractor that I couldn’t pass up. You can check out the video below, and/or read on for some first impressions.
The LX85 is built solidly and precise. It really is sturdy and feels like it could pull a truck. All of the cabling (power, dec motor and handbox) has moved to the sides of the RA motor housing, making them more accessible than my old LXD75.
The tripod is a lot lighter, but very stable. The black legs also give it a nice look aesthetically.
Even at full slew speed, the motor noise (example in video) is significantly less than the old Synta mounts. In quiet slew, which I use through the PC, the sound is just a whisper. This is important to me as my neighbors are in close proximity to the setup spots in my back yard.
This is really all that matters, right? I was pleasantly surprised by the tracking the first night out. I was expecting it to be a testing and adjusting session, but ended up capturing nearly 4 hours on a target without losing a single frame to tracking errors.
Most imagers measure their guiding in arc-seconds, but I measure in pixels because my guide camera and scope have about the same resolution as my imaging camera, with a tiny field of view. This isn’t a reliable method with a longer focal length on your imaging scope. I don’t obsess over this and let the images do the talking.
My second night out wasn’t as successful, but it was more due to poor seeing and camera issues I was having. That said, I still did not lose frames due to tracking errors.
What I’d Like to See
USB was the top technology of 1998. While not specific to the LX85, this class of mount from all manufacturers (AVX, HEQ-5/Sirius, CEM25P) has been lagging behind in adapting to USB direct connections via the PC and handbox.
A better dovetail clamping mechanism could be had. Nothing has really changed on the clamping from the old LXD75 single screw clamp with a small lock screw. I’d like to see a dual-point compression-type clamp rather than a single pressure point. The current method does hold the scope just fine.
Overall First Impressions
This mount is more solid and guides better than I expected. In two nights out, I’ve obtained a little more than six hours of data without losing a frame do to tracking issues. Fully automated meridian flips through Astrophotography Tool have so far been flawless.
You can’t ask for much more in a mount at this price-point. Meade kind of fell off the map in the amateur astrophotography community after the LXD75 stagnated and eventually went out of production, but they’re positioned to be right back at the front of the pack with the LX85.
More to come as I get more time under the stars with this setup, but so far this mount is exceeding my expectations.
This was first light from the LX85 and 80mm APO. I was slightly out of focus, but still a pretty successful first night out of what will be many, many.
Clear Skies, Bleary Eyes – KA