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Re: Time to get a Focuser

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  • Mike Dodd
    ... I have a Starlight Instruments Feather Touch model 3545 3.5 focuser on my 130mm APO, along with the accessory motor. I use ACP automation software to
    Message 1 of 13 , Feb 10, 2013
      nicotewarren wrote:
      > I just got a bonus at work and I want to buy a motorized focuser. I'd
      > like to get opinions from the group on what people have experienced.
      >
      > All I do is imaging - no visual observing. I have a Stellarvue 105
      > APO on a CGEM mount and I guide through the Orion Awesome Guide
      > Package. My OTA has a 2" Featherlight focuser. I use MsxIm DL for all
      > the control of my QSI 583 CCD and have recently been considering
      > session automation software like CCD Commander (no decision yet). I
      > have a permanent pier and keep everything snug in a Motel o'Scope
      > from Dan's Piers.

      I have a Starlight Instruments Feather Touch model 3545 3.5" focuser on
      my 130mm APO, along with the accessory motor.

      I use ACP automation software to automate imaging sessions, and FocusMax
      to control the focuser.

      I don't know how or if FocusMax interfaces directly with MaxIm, so I
      can't help you there.

      The motorized FT focuser works very well -- I have no complaints at all.
      I did have to loosen the drawtube friction screw to allow the motor to
      accurately position it when the OTA was pointing straight up, and the
      camera weight was pulling straight down.

      BTW, my ST-8 camera + CFW10 filter wheel + Pyxis rotator weigh very
      close to the FT's capacity, which is what made high-elevation accuracy
      something to check and adjust. With less weight, the FT probably could
      have moved the drawtube accurately with the factory setting on the
      tension screw.

      FocusMax is another reason for positional repeatability. An automated
      procedure calibrates FocusMax by moving the focuser through a large
      range and taking images of a star. It measures the star diameter each
      time and builds a V-curve with the apex at best focus. The V-curve plots
      star diameter against focuser position. You repeat this calibration run
      a dozen times, ending up with 12 V-curves.

      FocusMax averages these 12 V-curves into a master. When focusing, it
      images a star, checks its diameter on the the master V-curve, and
      commands the focuser to move to the corresponding position, which should
      be best focus. So you can see that the focuser must have excellent
      repeatability.

      I like my motorized FT focuser a lot.
      --
      Mike

      Mike Dodd
      http://astronomy.mdodd.com
      Louisa County, Virginia USA N37.58.23 W77.56.24
    • Don
      I have a Starlight FeatherTouch focuser on my ATRC12. I put a RoboFocus on it and am very happy with the results. http://www.robofocus.com/products.htm I
      Message 2 of 13 , Feb 10, 2013
        I have a Starlight FeatherTouch focuser on my ATRC12. I put a RoboFocus on
        it and am very happy with the results.

        \\http://www.robofocus.com/products.htm

        I use FocusMax to control the RoboFocus. I recommend contacting Technical
        Innovations by phone and tell them the make and model of your focuser and
        ask them what you need in order to match your focuser. They have always
        been very helpful to me.

        Hope this helps.

        Don Waid
        http://www.waid-observatory.com


        ----- Original Message -----
        From: "nicotewarren" <nick.warren@...>
        To: <ccd-newastro@yahoogroups.com>
        Sent: Sunday, February 10, 2013 10:01 PM
        Subject: [ccd-newastro] Time to get a Focuser


        >I just got a bonus at work and I want to buy a motorized focuser. I'd like
        >to get opinions from the group on what people have experienced.
        >
        > All I do is imaging - no visual observing. I have a Stellarvue 105 APO on
        > a CGEM mount and I guide through the Orion Awesome Guide Package. My OTA
        > has a 2" Featherlight focuser. I use MsxIm DL for all the control of my
        > QSI 583 CCD and have recently been considering session automation software
        > like CCD Commander (no decision yet). I have a permanent pier and keep
        > everything snug in a Motel o'Scope from Dan's Piers.
        >
        > I want a focusing solution that will achieve excellent focus in my images
        > throughout an entire night's imaging session. Most of my filters are
        > parafocal - but not all. So the solution must be automate-able in MaxIm
        > DL. Here in Texas we also get a wide range of temperatures in an evening
        > (as much as 30 degF swing) so regular refocus is a good plan.
        >
        > Travel on my Featherlight is an issue - I only have about 2 inches.
        > Current payload on the drawtube is a field flatner and the QSI 583.
        >
        > I'm a big fan of Ron's book. In it, he talks about a few types of
        > motorized focus solutions and I've been researching them looking for the
        > specs he mentions (min step distance, encoding ability, backlash to name a
        > few). Few of the options give specs.
        >
        > I'm eyeing the following:
        >
        > Technical Inovation's RoboFocus
        > Starzona's MicroTouch
        > Rigel System's cFOCUS
        > Finger Lake's DF-2 (very expensive relative to others)
        >
        > Anyone have a setup similar to mine that owns one of these? What's been
        > your experience?
        >
        >
        >
        > ------------------------------------
        >
        >
        >
        >
      • Mark Acker
        The Feathertouch+MicroTouch is all but unbeatable.  It along with FocusMax+CCD Autopilot is an awesome combination.  I have this on a TOA-130 and it s
        Message 3 of 13 , Feb 10, 2013
          The Feathertouch+MicroTouch is all but unbeatable.  It along with FocusMax+CCD Autopilot is an awesome combination.  I have this on a TOA-130 and it's fabulous.  I'm in Central TX as well, so I get the temp changes you talk about.  The TOA is pretty sensitive itself, so the ability to either use temp. comp. or just refocus periodically is sweet. Have also used Robofocus (on a different scope) and it's great as well, but as I needed to change from a 2.7" to a 4" to carry all the gear, I went with the whole kit from Wayne and never looked back.  It's pretty square in the middle in terms of cost, but I can't imagine anything that performs any better.  My imaging is reasonably heavy with a flattener, MMOAG+SBIG RGH and STL-11000, so it's pushing 7-8 lbs and the focuser has never flinched.  Well worth serious consideration.

          Mark


          ________________________________
          From: nicotewarren <nick.warren@...>
          To: ccd-newastro@yahoogroups.com
          Sent: Sunday, February 10, 2013 9:01 PM
          Subject: [ccd-newastro] Time to get a Focuser


           
          I just got a bonus at work and I want to buy a motorized focuser. I'd like to get opinions from the group on what people have experienced.

          All I do is imaging - no visual observing. I have a Stellarvue 105 APO on a CGEM mount and I guide through the Orion Awesome Guide Package. My OTA has a 2" Featherlight focuser. I use MsxIm DL for all the control of my QSI 583 CCD and have recently been considering session automation software like CCD Commander (no decision yet). I have a permanent pier and keep everything snug in a Motel o'Scope from Dan's Piers.

          I want a focusing solution that will achieve excellent focus in my images throughout an entire night's imaging session. Most of my filters are parafocal - but not all. So the solution must be automate-able in MaxIm DL. Here in Texas we also get a wide range of temperatures in an evening (as much as 30 degF swing) so regular refocus is a good plan.

          Travel on my Featherlight is an issue - I only have about 2 inches. Current payload on the drawtube is a field flatner and the QSI 583.

          I'm a big fan of Ron's book. In it, he talks about a few types of motorized focus solutions and I've been researching them looking for the specs he mentions (min step distance, encoding ability, backlash to name a few). Few of the options give specs.

          I'm eyeing the following:

          Technical Inovation's RoboFocus
          Starzona's MicroTouch
          Rigel System's cFOCUS
          Finger Lake's DF-2 (very expensive relative to others)

          Anyone have a setup similar to mine that owns one of these? What's been your experience?




          [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
        • Mark Acker
          Should have also mentioned that the imaging train contains a Tak CAA+ Astrodon Takometer, so that s a bit more weight for the focuser to carry. Mark
          Message 4 of 13 , Feb 10, 2013
            Should have also mentioned that the imaging train contains a Tak CAA+ Astrodon Takometer, so that's a bit more weight for the focuser to carry.

            Mark


            ________________________________
            From: nicotewarren <nick.warren@...>
            To: ccd-newastro@yahoogroups.com
            Sent: Sunday, February 10, 2013 9:01 PM
            Subject: [ccd-newastro] Time to get a Focuser


             
            I just got a bonus at work and I want to buy a motorized focuser. I'd like to get opinions from the group on what people have experienced.

            All I do is imaging - no visual observing. I have a Stellarvue 105 APO on a CGEM mount and I guide through the Orion Awesome Guide Package. My OTA has a 2" Featherlight focuser. I use MsxIm DL for all the control of my QSI 583 CCD and have recently been considering session automation software like CCD Commander (no decision yet). I have a permanent pier and keep everything snug in a Motel o'Scope from Dan's Piers.

            I want a focusing solution that will achieve excellent focus in my images throughout an entire night's imaging session. Most of my filters are parafocal - but not all. So the solution must be automate-able in MaxIm DL. Here in Texas we also get a wide range of temperatures in an evening (as much as 30 degF swing) so regular refocus is a good plan.

            Travel on my Featherlight is an issue - I only have about 2 inches. Current payload on the drawtube is a field flatner and the QSI 583.

            I'm a big fan of Ron's book. In it, he talks about a few types of motorized focus solutions and I've been researching them looking for the specs he mentions (min step distance, encoding ability, backlash to name a few). Few of the options give specs.

            I'm eyeing the following:

            Technical Inovation's RoboFocus
            Starzona's MicroTouch
            Rigel System's cFOCUS
            Finger Lake's DF-2 (very expensive relative to others)

            Anyone have a setup similar to mine that owns one of these? What's been your experience?




            [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
          • tpiccian
            I m using an SCT with a full load of equipment behind my focuser. I m using an Optec TCF-S for control. It s holding an ST8 and a Pyxis Rotator. I removed my
            Message 5 of 13 , Feb 11, 2013
              I'm using an SCT with a full load of equipment behind my focuser. I'm using an Optec TCF-S for control. It's holding an ST8 and a Pyxis Rotator. I removed my CFW-8 and put an Optec 2 inch filter wheel in front of the focuser so the weight to the focuser is reduced. But, before my recent update the TCF-S was able to handle the camera, rotator and CFW without issue. That's a LOT of weight!

              I also use a Stellarvue 102 but the draw tube just slips if I put that much weight on it. I have to lock it down manually then use the TCF-S to focus.

              The problem with the TCF-S is that you need to manually get within 1/2 inch of focus before using the unit. Its travel is only 3/4 of an inch so you don't have much room. You might want to use a simpler motor focus to get close then use the Optec unit to get right on.

              Tom P.

              --- In ccd-newastro@yahoogroups.com, Mark Acker wrote:
              >
              > Should have also mentioned that the imaging train contains a Tak CAA+ Astrodon Takometer, so that's a bit more weight for the focuser to carry.
              >
              > Mark
              >
              >
              > ________________________________
              > From: nicotewarren
              > To: ccd-newastro@yahoogroups.com
              > Sent: Sunday, February 10, 2013 9:01 PM
              > Subject: [ccd-newastro] Time to get a Focuser
              >
              >
              >  
              > I just got a bonus at work and I want to buy a motorized focuser. I'd like to get opinions from the group on what people have experienced.
              >
              > All I do is imaging - no visual observing. I have a Stellarvue 105 APO on a CGEM mount and I guide through the Orion Awesome Guide Package. My OTA has a 2" Featherlight focuser. I use MsxIm DL for all the control of my QSI 583 CCD and have recently been considering session automation software like CCD Commander (no decision yet). I have a permanent pier and keep everything snug in a Motel o'Scope from Dan's Piers.
              >
              > I want a focusing solution that will achieve excellent focus in my images throughout an entire night's imaging session. Most of my filters are parafocal - but not all. So the solution must be automate-able in MaxIm DL. Here in Texas we also get a wide range of temperatures in an evening (as much as 30 degF swing) so regular refocus is a good plan.
              >
              > Travel on my Featherlight is an issue - I only have about 2 inches. Current payload on the drawtube is a field flatner and the QSI 583.
              >
              > I'm a big fan of Ron's book. In it, he talks about a few types of motorized focus solutions and I've been researching them looking for the specs he mentions (min step distance, encoding ability, backlash to name a few). Few of the options give specs.
              >
              > I'm eyeing the following:
              >
              > Technical Inovation's RoboFocus
              > Starzona's MicroTouch
              > Rigel System's cFOCUS
              > Finger Lake's DF-2 (very expensive relative to others)
              >
              > Anyone have a setup similar to mine that owns one of these? What's been your experience?
              >
              >
              >
              >
              > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
              >
            • Mike Dodd
              ... Indeed. I forgot to mention in my original response that I also once had a 2 TCF-S on a 9.25 SCT, with the same ST-8, Pyxis, and CFW-10. The TCF-S is a
              Message 6 of 13 , Feb 11, 2013
                tpiccian wrote:
                > I'm using an SCT with a full load of equipment behind my focuser. I'm
                > using an Optec TCF-S for control. It's holding an ST8 and a Pyxis
                > Rotator. I removed my CFW-8 and put an Optec 2 inch filter wheel in
                > front of the focuser so the weight to the focuser is reduced. But,
                > before my recent update the TCF-S was able to handle the camera,
                > rotator and CFW without issue. That's a LOT of weight!

                Indeed. I forgot to mention in my original response that I also once had
                a 2" TCF-S on a 9.25" SCT, with the same ST-8, Pyxis, and CFW-10.

                The TCF-S is a great focuser. I never used it with ACP or FocusMax, but,
                as I recall, it worked with MaxIm.

                I also used a Bellerophon focuser <http://www.clementfocuser.com/> for a
                while. This one looks a bit odd, and weighs a lot, but it's very
                well-built and capable. I installed a Robo-Focus on it. Never used it
                with ACP or FocusMax, though.
                --
                Mike

                Mike Dodd
                http://astronomy.mdodd.com
                Louisa County, Virginia USA N37.58.23 W77.56.24
              • Mark Acker
                Did I misread?  I thought the OP is using a 105mm refractor.  Seems to me that neither a TCF or Ballerophon would be a very appealing option on a refractor
                Message 7 of 13 , Feb 11, 2013
                  Did I misread?  I thought the OP is using a 105mm refractor.  Seems to me that neither a TCF or Ballerophon would be a very appealing option on a refractor that size.  Seems to me that the drawtube would buckle under that amount of weight if extended very far at all.  Perhaps I misread.

                  Mark


                  ________________________________
                  From: Mike Dodd <mike@...>
                  To: ccd-newastro@yahoogroups.com
                  Sent: Monday, February 11, 2013 8:08 AM
                  Subject: [ccd-newastro] Re: Time to get a Focuser


                   
                  tpiccian wrote:
                  > I'm using an SCT with a full load of equipment behind my focuser. I'm
                  > using an Optec TCF-S for control. It's holding an ST8 and a Pyxis
                  > Rotator. I removed my CFW-8 and put an Optec 2 inch filter wheel in
                  > front of the focuser so the weight to the focuser is reduced. But,
                  > before my recent update the TCF-S was able to handle the camera,
                  > rotator and CFW without issue. That's a LOT of weight!

                  Indeed. I forgot to mention in my original response that I also once had
                  a 2" TCF-S on a 9.25" SCT, with the same ST-8, Pyxis, and CFW-10.

                  The TCF-S is a great focuser. I never used it with ACP or FocusMax, but,
                  as I recall, it worked with MaxIm.

                  I also used a Bellerophon focuser http://www.clementfocuser.com/> for a
                  while. This one looks a bit odd, and weighs a lot, but it's very
                  well-built and capable. I installed a Robo-Focus on it. Never used it
                  with ACP or FocusMax, though.
                  --
                  Mike

                  Mike Dodd
                  http://astronomy.mdodd.com
                  Louisa County, Virginia USA N37.58.23 W77.56.24



                  [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                • Mike Dodd
                  ... No, you did not misread. You are correct that the Bellerophen would be pretty heavy for a 105mm refractor. That s why my original reply mentioned the FT. I
                  Message 8 of 13 , Feb 11, 2013
                    Mark Acker wrote:
                    > Did I misread? I thought the OP is using a 105mm refractor. Seems
                    > to me that neither a TCF or Ballerophon would be a very appealing
                    > option on a refractor that size. Seems to me that the drawtube would
                    > buckle under that amount of weight if extended very far at all.
                    > Perhaps I misread.

                    No, you did not misread. You are correct that the Bellerophen would be
                    pretty heavy for a 105mm refractor. That's why my original reply
                    mentioned the FT. I lost track of the OP's OTA when I wrote about the
                    Bellerophen; sorry.

                    OTOH, I think a TCF -- especially the 2" model -- would be a reasonable
                    choice if a threaded adapter is available to attach it to the OTA.
                    --
                    Mike

                    Mike Dodd
                    http://astronomy.mdodd.com
                    Louisa County, Virginia USA N37.58.23 W77.56.24
                  • tpiccian
                    The TCF-S does need an SCT thread. You can get an SCT to 2 inch barrel adapter. Not expensive at all. I used to use one when I was using SCT attachments on a
                    Message 9 of 13 , Feb 11, 2013
                      The TCF-S does need an SCT thread. You can get an SCT to 2 inch barrel adapter. Not expensive at all.

                      I used to use one when I was using SCT attachments on a large reflector I used to own.

                      Tom P.

                      --- In ccd-newastro@yahoogroups.com, Mike Dodd wrote:
                      >
                      > Mark Acker wrote:
                      > > Did I misread? I thought the OP is using a 105mm refractor. Seems
                      > > to me that neither a TCF or Ballerophon would be a very appealing
                      > > option on a refractor that size. Seems to me that the drawtube would
                      > > buckle under that amount of weight if extended very far at all.
                      > > Perhaps I misread.
                      >
                      > No, you did not misread. You are correct that the Bellerophen would be
                      > pretty heavy for a 105mm refractor. That's why my original reply
                      > mentioned the FT. I lost track of the OP's OTA when I wrote about the
                      > Bellerophen; sorry.
                      >
                      > OTOH, I think a TCF -- especially the 2" model -- would be a reasonable
                      > choice if a threaded adapter is available to attach it to the OTA.
                      > --
                      > Mike
                      >
                      > Mike Dodd
                      > http://astronomy.mdodd.com
                      > Louisa County, Virginia USA N37.58.23 W77.56.24
                      >
                    • Mark Acker
                      Agreed on both counts.  I have a TCF-Si as well that I use on an ACF.  Great focuser. The Ballerophon was a bit out of my price range, not to mention a
                      Message 10 of 13 , Feb 11, 2013
                        Agreed on both counts.  I have a TCF-Si as well that I use on an ACF.  Great focuser.

                        The Ballerophon was a bit out of my price range, not to mention a rather unpleasant bit of communication with its creator.  Not to veer off too much here, but Mike, didn't you have to brace it a bit on the back of your scope?  I actually spoke to you about this a couple of years or so ago and thought I remembered some photos where you essentially bolted it to the back of the scope to sort out some flexing.

                        Mark


                        ________________________________
                        From: tpiccian <tpicciani@...>
                        To: ccd-newastro@yahoogroups.com
                        Sent: Monday, February 11, 2013 10:01 AM
                        Subject: [ccd-newastro] Re: Time to get a Focuser


                         
                        The TCF-S does need an SCT thread. You can get an SCT to 2 inch barrel adapter. Not expensive at all.

                        I used to use one when I was using SCT attachments on a large reflector I used to own.

                        Tom P.

                        --- In ccd-newastro@yahoogroups.com, Mike Dodd wrote:
                        >
                        > Mark Acker wrote:
                        > > Did I misread? I thought the OP is using a 105mm refractor. Seems
                        > > to me that neither a TCF or Ballerophon would be a very appealing
                        > > option on a refractor that size. Seems to me that the drawtube would
                        > > buckle under that amount of weight if extended very far at all.
                        > > Perhaps I misread.
                        >
                        > No, you did not misread. You are correct that the Bellerophen would be
                        > pretty heavy for a 105mm refractor. That's why my original reply
                        > mentioned the FT. I lost track of the OP's OTA when I wrote about the
                        > Bellerophen; sorry.
                        >
                        > OTOH, I think a TCF -- especially the 2" model -- would be a reasonable
                        > choice if a threaded adapter is available to attach it to the OTA.
                        > --
                        > Mike
                        >
                        > Mike Dodd
                        > http://astronomy.mdodd.com
                        > Louisa County, Virginia USA N37.58.23 W77.56.24
                        >




                        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                      • Mike Dodd
                        ... Hi, Mark. Yes, I bolted the Bellerophon to the rear casting of my C9.25 SCT. I don t know if this was necessary, but I didn t like the idea of sll that
                        Message 11 of 13 , Feb 11, 2013
                          Mark Acker wrote:
                          > The Ballerophon [...], but Mike, didn't you have to brace it a bit on the
                          > back of your scope? I actually spoke to you about this a couple of
                          > years or so ago and thought I remembered some photos where you
                          > essentially bolted it to the back of the scope to sort out some
                          > flexing.

                          Hi, Mark. Yes, I bolted the Bellerophon to the rear casting of my C9.25
                          SCT. I don't know if this was necessary, but I didn't like the idea of
                          sll that weight hanging off the SCT threaded connector that was directly
                          connected to the central tube holding the primary mirror.

                          When I was done, the Bellerophon was securely bolted to the scope, and
                          the central tube made no contact with it at all. I fashioned a light
                          shield to cover the gap between the two.

                          --
                          Mike

                          Mike Dodd
                          http://astronomy.mdodd.com
                          Louisa County, Virginia USA N37.58.23 W77.56.24
                        • Wayne
                          I have a Moonlight (www.focuser.com) stepper-motor focuser for my Televue NP127is and SBIG ST2000XM. I use it with MaximDL and FocusMax. Once I figured out how
                          Message 12 of 13 , Feb 11, 2013
                            I have a Moonlight (www.focuser.com) stepper-motor focuser for my Televue NP127is and SBIG ST2000XM. I use it with MaximDL and FocusMax. Once I figured out how to use FMax, it has performed excellently. I now have a new SBIG STT8300 with filter wheel coming and am looking forward to trying that bad boy out! Just need some clear skies here in Seattle!

                            --- In ccd-newastro@yahoogroups.com, "nicotewarren" wrote:
                            >
                            > I just got a bonus at work and I want to buy a motorized focuser. I'd like to get opinions from the group on what people have experienced.
                            >
                            > All I do is imaging - no visual observing. I have a Stellarvue 105 APO on a CGEM mount and I guide through the Orion Awesome Guide Package. My OTA has a 2" Featherlight focuser. I use MsxIm DL for all the control of my QSI 583 CCD and have recently been considering session automation software like CCD Commander (no decision yet). I have a permanent pier and keep everything snug in a Motel o'Scope from Dan's Piers.
                            >
                            > I want a focusing solution that will achieve excellent focus in my images throughout an entire night's imaging session. Most of my filters are parafocal - but not all. So the solution must be automate-able in MaxIm DL. Here in Texas we also get a wide range of temperatures in an evening (as much as 30 degF swing) so regular refocus is a good plan.
                            >
                            > Travel on my Featherlight is an issue - I only have about 2 inches. Current payload on the drawtube is a field flatner and the QSI 583.
                            >
                            > I'm a big fan of Ron's book. In it, he talks about a few types of motorized focus solutions and I've been researching them looking for the specs he mentions (min step distance, encoding ability, backlash to name a few). Few of the options give specs.
                            >
                            > I'm eyeing the following:
                            >
                            > Technical Inovation's RoboFocus
                            > Starzona's MicroTouch
                            > Rigel System's cFOCUS
                            > Finger Lake's DF-2 (very expensive relative to others)
                            >
                            > Anyone have a setup similar to mine that owns one of these? What's been your experience?
                            >
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