Weight: 25kg (excluding counterweights)
Telephone: 01582 726522
We couldn’t fail to be impressed by the robust build and quality of the Vixen Atlux Deluxe (AXD) mount as we started to assemble it.
The creamy-white construction came supplied with a pillar mount for the purposes of the review, although a tripod option is also available.
Assembly was straightforward, although installing the mount on top of the pillar was much easier with two people because of its weight.
The mount ships with its latitude set to the middle of three ranges, so the first task was to adjust the range to ‘high’ – a simple enough process using the good-quality Allen keys provided with the kit.
This procedure also gave us further insight into the engineering quality of the mount, which appeared to be excellent.
We were, at first, surprised that the altitude bolts weren’t a little more beefy, but the fine thread turned out to work very well indeed.
Bearing in mind the 30kg payload, we wondered why only a single 7kg and a much smaller 1.5kg weight had been supplied.
However, we soon realised that the clever design of the AXD places much of the casing and many of the components on the counterweight side of the RA axis, thus building in a fair amount of counterbalance before the weights are added.
Our Sky-Watcher 80ED imaging telescope, ST80 guidescope and two cameras were easily counterbalanced using just the 1.5kg weight installed half way along the retractable counterbalance bar.
Connection of the new-style Star Book Ten hand controller and optional AC power supply was simple; the plugs felt very secure, with the power lead clicking firmly into place.
A small battery in the Star Book maintains the date, time and location, saving you the chore of entering this information at the start of each session.
Setting up these parameters for the first time was easy and intuitive: by the time we’d done it we were already warming to the on-screen interface, with its good quality, crisp, colour display and the easy-to-use navigation buttons.
Having polar aligned the mount with the excellent built-in polarscope, we set it at its ‘home’ position, which, here in the northern hemisphere, is with the counterbalance weights pointing down and the telescope pointing west.
We chose the first of our alignment stars from the list of visible stars and it promptly appeared comfortably within our 25mm crosshair eyepiece, courtesy of the Go-To motors.
After we centred the first star, our second alignment star came into view on the crosshair, as did the third.
Choosing various deep-sky objects within our triangle of alignment stars resulted in them all appearing very close to the centre of the crosshair although Saturn and the Moon, while comfortably within the eyepiece’s field of view, were not actually sitting on the crosshair.
Slews were fast and pleasantly quiet with a reassuring speed ramp up and slow down – this mount will not keep your neighbours awake at night.
Five-minute unguided exposures through our Sky-Watcher ED80 imaging telescope produced fairly well-shaped stars in most sub-frames.
Connecting our autoguider to the ST4 port on the Star Book Ten showed a worthwhile improvement, producing very good star shapes indeed using the default settings.
The actual errors being corrected were, for the most part, quite small and we were impressed with how simple it was to get our autoguiding setup up and running with the minimum of fuss.
We very much enjoyed using this mount as it had a great feel to it and the Star Book Ten made it all incredibly simple to operate.
The cost of the AXD mount means that it will be aligned with some pretty heavyweight competition, so we had expected the unguided images to have shown slightly better star shapes than they did.
However, if you’re using this level of equipment for imaging you’d almost certainly be autoguiding your mount anyway.
The cost does include the excellent Star Book Ten controller, which, coupled with the mount, makes this is a very good base for your telescope indeed.
The styling of the original Star Book was a little quirky, even ‘retro’, but its update, the Star Book Ten, has a more contemporary design.
The 5-inch back-lit TFT colour display has a resolution of 600×480 pixels.
It gives a very good quality view that can be turned to red to maintain dark-adapted vision.
Navigating the various menus is simple and intuitive with good-sized buttons for those cold night sessions.
We really enjoyed using the planetarium view with its two modes, ‘Chart’ and ‘Scope’.
Chart mode gives you many of the features you’d expect from an electronic planetarium and operates independently of the telescope, but if you do select an object, you can slew to it immediately.
Scope mode links the telescope to the chart so that movements on the chart – as you scroll from object to object – are mirrored by the mount.
Selecting many popular objects, such as those from the Messier Catalogue, produces a photographic image of the object you’ve selected on-screen complete with its size, magnitude and co-ordinates.
This review originally appeared in the July 2011 issue of BBC Sky at Night Magazine.