This year has already brought major upgrades to my telescope equipment. I've added the Primalucelab Eagle telescope control unit to make set up a lot faster and easier. This month I decided to go ahead and pull the trigger for a new mount, autoguider, and autofocuser. For the most part, nothing was wrong with my previous equipment, I just wanted more sensitive and accurate instruments.
The QHY 5-II monochrome camera is replacing my Orion StarShoot Autoguider camera. I chose to upgrade this camera because the Orion SSAG has served it's purpose for getting me started in the hobby. It was also first generation so it was slightly outdated but it still did it's job. It had given me fairly straight RA/DEC correction graphs. The new QHY autoguider should give me much more stable photos paired with my new mount. I picked this camera as a recommendation from a few friends and Primalucelab (a local telescope store where I live). It would seem this camera is quite sensitive compared to the 1st gen Orion SSAG.
I've replaced my RoboFocus autofocuser with one that's easier to mount without 3D printed parts that I had to custom make. The FeatherTouch focuser easily accepts the Focus Boss II and motor assembly without any extra hardware. This is probably the most well needed upgrade since I never could get the RoboFocus to properly link to my Mac rendering it useless. I quickly gave up on trying to use it and cut my losses.
Lastly, a new Astro-Physics Mach1 GTO will be replacing my iOptron iEQ45 mount. I was quite overwhelmed when the boxes finally came in the mail. The quality of the AP mounts have always been better than most but it's different when you have one you can call your own. The stainless steel counterweights are quite expensive but match the mount perfectly giving it a very fresh, professional look. Unfortunately, for my wallet, my set up required 3 (almost 4) counterweights that weigh 9lbs each. Something I love about the Mach1 is that you can route all the cables through the mount so nothing will snag. This also makes set up and tear down a lot easier without dealing with all those wires. The iOptron mount got me where I am today so I can't say too many bad things about it. To be frank, I thought the quality and customer service rather lacked. I've been told by others that I should contact iOptron about the new Pro version so I did. It would cost nearly $900 to trade the mount in for the Pro version. I figured that $900 would be better spent elsewhere given some of the problems iOptron has caused me. I should also mention it was very difficult trying to get the mount to connect to the computer for control. I cannot say that I recommend the iEQ45 but like I said, I've heard the Pro version is so much better. For the size and the price, I would recommend a SkyWatcher/Orion mount.
I haven't had a chance to give these components their first light due to bad weather these winter months but it's starting to clear up and a few friends of mine have asked me to tag along. I know that this new equipment will help me produce my first color images that are finely tracked and focused.