Update July 13 2020: :Long time coming update, apart from price updates, we have the Celestron CGX and CGEM II replacing CGEM, new iOptron mounts GEM45, CEM40, CEM70, Losmandy GM811G, SkyWatcher EQ6-R Pro, EQM-35. Losmandy G11 & SkyWatcher EQ8 are now on the mid/high-end mount page.
Price update Jan 9 2017: Some price updates. A few impressive price drops, the CEM25 in the UK (£699 from £899), the Orion HDX110 ($3505 from $4499!) and CGEM DX in the US ($1695 from $1999), otherwise mostly price increases in the UK, due to the $1=£0.82 exchange rate.
Note Oct 3 2016: After over a decade of listing the HEQ5 as 15kg payload and the EQ6 as 18kg img/25kg visual, Skywatcher has downgraded the capacities of these mounts as 13.7 and 18.2 respectively. To me it looks like a marketing idea to differentiate the more expensive AZ-EQ5 and AZ-EQ6, so I am keeping the listing as it was, at least for now.
Update Sept 19 2016: I added the three smallest/least expensive mounts (SmartEQ, EQ3, EQ5) just to be more complete, although they don’t really compete with the rest in astrophotographic capabilities. Prices are updated, mostly the weaker GB pound made some UK prices – especially Vixen – higher (with the notable exception of the CGEM DX which dropped dramatically). I added a separate price graph for UK, it has an extra mount compared to the US graph, as the EQ3 Synscan doesn’t seem to be sold in the USA (you can find it in Canada though).
There was a UK store that had a nice table with the basic specs of Sky-Watcher and iOptron which I had found quite useful especially to see at a glance which mount from a company was at the same category with what mount from the other. That page is no longer online, so I thought I’d compile my own table and try to include more and newer mounts. I’ll only include computerized EQ mounts from comparable/high volume manufacturers (under $4000), so no expensive Astro-Physics, Takahashi etc (but you can find all those and more mid-high end mounts on this comparison table here).
The specs were mainly lifted from the manufacturer page, except the peak to peak Periodic Error which is shown as a range (with before / after Periodic Error Correction values) from various reports (this source was helpful, also this and some of this – although may be less reliable – as well as numerous CN threads with PEMPro, PHd2 etc graphs). Note peak-to-peak error is twice the +/- values that are sometimes used and some extreme cases were not included. Also not included are values of 1-2 arcsec reported for some mounts (iEQ45, G11) with TDM. Payload normally means visual (apart from where noted) and sometimes I had to choose a source (e.g. Skywatcher and Orion give a bit different spec for the exact same mount). iOptron CEM mounts come in more expensive “EC” versions that include encoders for better unguided performance, they are not included as they only change pricing/PE and most other mounts do not include encoders. Prices are typical US & UK prices with basic tripod included (unless noted).
|Manufacturer / Model||Price||Mount Head (kg)||Payload (kg)||Resolution (arcsec)||Objects||Polar Scope||GPS||PE/PEC (arcsec)||Prede-cessor|
|Celestron CGEM II||$1649/£1499||18.2||18.2||N/A||40000||-1||CGEM|
|iOptron SmartEQ Pro+||$499/£385||2.8||5||0.5||150000||Yes2||30-60||SmartEQ|
|iOptron iEQ30 Pro||$1198/£1285||6.8||14||0.14||358000||Yes2||Yes||16/5||iEQ30|
|Losmandy GM8 G||$2495/£2988||9.5||16***||N/A||40000||-3||13-20/8|
|SkyWatcher EQ3 Pro Synscan (Orion AstroView Pro)||-/£399||4.2||5.5||?||42000||-4||>80|
|SkyWatcher EQM35 Pro||$725/£549||4.4||10||0.281||42900||Yes||60||EQ3|
|SkyWatcher EQ5 Pro Synscan (Orion SkyView Pro)||$699/£569||6.2||9.1||0.288||42000||-4||>60|
|SkyWatcher AZ EQ5-GT (Orion Sirius Pro)||$1299/£1029||7.7||15||0.25||42000||-4||16-40/?|
|SkyWatcher HEQ5 Pro (Orion Sirius)||$1099/£789||10||15||0.144||42000||Yes2||20-50/6-7|
|SkyWatcher AZ EQ6-GT (Orion Atlas Pro)||$1999/£1399||15.4||25**||0.144||42900||Yes2||25-30/8|
|SkyWatcher EQ6/NEQ6 Pro (Orion Atlas)||$1399/£1049||16||25**||0.144||42900||Yes2||20-50/6-7|
|SkyWatcher EQ6-R (Orion Atlas II)||$1599/£1199||17.3||20***||0.14||42900||Yes2||12-30/5-7||EQ6|
|Vixen SX2 (+SB10****)||$2199/£2048||7||12***||N/A||270000||-3||?/?|
*Does not include tripod.
**Orion rates these at 18kg, Sky-Watcher at 18kg imaging / 25kg visual, so we use the specifically “visual” number.
***Value is for imaging load, so probably more modest than the rest.
****The SX2 comes with the Star Book One as standard. The Star Book Ten that provides goto is added to the price to match the list’s minimum spec.
Polar Scope Notes:
1. Optional non-illuminated available.
2. Illuminated Polar scope comes standard.
3. Optional illuminated available.
4. Optional non-illuminated available that attaches externally.
5. Electronic (iPolar – requires computer) included.
Let’s make some charts. We’ll start with the Payload vs Mount weight:
A y = x/2 line is drawn and there are actually several mounts below it, most from iOptron (plus the new small SkyWatcher mount), meaning they can lift more than twice their weight. The Celestron mounts are rather disappointing, although the new version of the CGEM, finally claims to “lift” at least as much at it weights, although Celestron may be a bit modest about their payload spec. Note that the EQ6-R is not disappointing, as its “photo”
payload is listed versus “visual” for most others.
Let’s move on to capacity / price, first in USD:
The dashed line represents $100/kg and most mounts fall around or below it. Losmandy is considered a higher quality manufacturer, so understandably you are expected to pay more. The new iOptron CEM40 & GEM45 mounts are the first non-EC models to go over this line – but they include GPS, iPolar electronic polar scopes and guarantee very low PE, so their chart position does not tell all the story. It is clear that if you are looking for payload/$ the new SkyWatcher EQ6-R and NEQ6 (Orion Atlas) are the champs. The EQ6-R has a higher capacity, so if the visual load was listed it would be a bit higher than the NEQ6. If you are looking for smaller mounts the Celestron AVX and iOptron CEM25P seem good values, while for larger mounts, the CEM70 looks interesting (price without tripod though).
All prices include a GOTO handset, most also a tripod (exceptions noted). However, it should be noted that Celestron mounts do not include a Polar Scope like all the iOptron, most Vixen and some Sky-Watcher/Orion. In fact, some iOptron mounts now include an electronic (iPolar) finderscope, although that requires you to connect to a computer. You may like Celestron’s polarscope-less ASPA procedure, but it is not a complete substitute when with some other mounts you can get within 2 arcmins from NCP in under a minute of effort (sometimes with the option of improving it with an ASPA-equivalent process). Also the iOptrons seem to be the only ones that include GPS as standard – which is a bit strange as GPS modules are included in $30 phones currently…
Making the same chart with UK prices gives similar results right now – the NEQ6 & EQ6-R come ahead, the only notable difference seems to be the SkyWatcher HEQ5 offering a better payload/£ ratio than the Celestron AVX:
It might be interesting to take a look at a graph with UK vs US prices:
The yellow/orange line is the exchange rate today as I compiled the chart (1$=£0.79). Note that GBP prices include a 20% VAT, while the US prices have no sales tax, so in general you would expect the prices to be above that line. And yet, pleasantly for Europeans (who traditionally have to pay more), most Sky-Watchers and an iOptron are below it. The Celestrons seem to carry a premium in UK/Europe.