Recently I started to think about ways I could simplify my set up and make imaging from suburbia a little more successful. There are a few parts to this equation but the main issue was the set up time for all of my gear, this generally takes about 1.5 hours to set up the mount and tripod and fit/balance all the scopes and then hook up the computer and cables to run it all and then the time to drift align etc to make sure I am pointing to true south. By that time I need to start thinking about bed and really don’t achieve anything for my efforts.
This had to change if I was ever going to be able to get all my gear out and running during the week on a regular basis, so I started to think about what I needed and how I would get it. As a result I have sold off some of my gear like the GStar EX camera, the Orion Awesome Auto Guider Package, as well as my MAK127 Scope and Goto Mount, I will miss these things as I really enjoyed using them but had to raise the funds for my new ideas (on wards and upwards).
So what did I buy, well I still needed an auto guiding function so I purchased a Lodestar Guider Camera to replace the GStar and Orion Guider into one unit (this took some weight off my mount and made balancing far easier with just two scopes), but more importantly I purchased a Pier for my EQ6 mount.
I was a little hesitant at first when I looked at the pier as my impressions from the pictures was that it was a little flimsy. Nonetheless I splashed out and purchased it from Astroshop and all up it was just over $455.00 delivered. As always; Astroshop communications was great and I was kept informed of ordering status, store stock and shipping advice and all up it took 2 or 3 days to find it’s way to my work place. I must say I have always had a great experience from Astroshop and cannot recommend them highly enough.
Anyway back to the review:
Delivery: When the Pier arrived I set about checking everything was in order and it was all there wrapped and protected as one would expect, the boxes it shipped in were sufficient for their purose and arrived fully intact.
Assembly: Assembly can be a little tricky as the three legs are held together against each other forming a cradle for the pier pole to slip into, I would definitely suggest having a second pair of hands free to help. However once the pole is in the cradle it is a simple case of tightening the Hex bolts down (with the supplied Allen Key) to clamp onto the pole. Once this is finished it is assembled so all in all quite easy.
Finish and Quality: Well I will start by saying the pictures do not do this pier justice, it is very solid with solid cast aluminium legs and a very sturdy pole that is about 5mm wall thickness. The wheels are smooth and allow easy movement of the pier as well as three heavy duty leveling bolts with quality knurled nobs at the top to list all the equipment off the wheels when in use imaging. The power coated finish is great and strong and the Mount head at the top of the pier is really well made with nice smooth surfaces for easy Azimuth adjustments as well as a strong centre bolt to screw into the mount base.
Performance: As mentioned above the pier is solid and easy to use and comfortably holds all my gear without any signs of movement when set in place, it is easy to level and align. I am very happy with the pier and can see this having a place in my equipment line up for a long time. I would have to give this pier a 9/10, while it is not perfect and small improvements could be made I think for the cost of the unit it is spot on and excellent value.
Problems: My small issues with this pier is the fact that the pier head that connects to the EQ Mount base needs to be unscrewed to assemble and disassemble, but I have seen through use however that this is probably the most rigid way to hold the mount securely without any movement when in operation. Secondly I wish they made these in white (really big issues I hear you say!!!).
Closing Thoughts: For anyone looking for a set up they can easily wheel in and out of the garage for rapid deployment of their Astro gear then this is one great way to go about it, no need for expensive Observatories or permanent piers taking up space in the backyard. I had a test run last night and had all of my Astro gear out the back set up and imaging within 15 minutes and likewise for pack up, this means I can now enjoy imaging on any day of the week when the weather permits and not miss out on those great nights just because I have to go to work the next day and do not want to spend hours setting/packing up.
Here is a picture of my set up now with the new camera and pier.
Please feel free to leave a comment or ask questions.