Portability is very important for many astronomers, especially those who live in light polluted areas or adventurers who want to take their telescopes on holiday with them. A market has developed in recent years to cater for these astronomers and the Vixen Mobile Porta Altazimuth Mount is a welcome addition.
With a lightweight aluminium tripod, a geared altazimuth head and a Vixen dovetail clamp, the mount is ideal for small telescopes.
For this review, Opticron kindly lent us a Vixen A62SS Refractor and a set of Vixen SLV eyepieces which proved to be an excellent match for the mount.
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The mount is attractively finished in white and brushed aluminium, weighs just 2.38kg and is 86cm long in its stowed position.
The height to the telescope mounting point is adjustable from 77cm to 126cm using the extending tripod legs, and the swing out mount head allows for various telescope mounting positions to be accommodated.
A black plastic leg spreader is supplied to aid stability and this has cut-outs to accept four 1.25-inch eyepieces.
As well as the geared adjustment for operating as a star tracker, the altazimuth head also has slipping clutches for fast changes in the pointing direction. The tightness of the clutches is adjustable using the supplied Allen key.
Assembly was very straightforward and only required the mount head to be folded out from its stowed position and the installation of the two push-fit adjustment knobs. This is a simple yet clever design to further save space for transport.
The geared adjustment was smooth to operate in both azimuth and altitude and the adjustment knobs could each be installed in two positions.
The shafts of the adjustment knobs are made from chromed plastic which was a little disconcerting, but they performed faultlessly during our review and this material was no doubt chosen in the pursuit of lightness.
The design and general construction were excellent and had a quality feel to it despite its lightweight materials.
The day the mount arrived coincided with the transit of Mercury and with a rare, clear daytime sky. This was a perfect opportunity to put the mount to the test.
Installing the telescope with its front-mounted solar filter was simple using the Vixen dovetail bar, retained with a single hand bolt and a secondary locking bolt.
Tracking the Sun and Mercury’s movement across it using the altitude and azimuth adjustment knobs was intuitive and easy. A neighbour who joined us to enjoy the event, but who had no prior experience of any kind of telescope, found its operation to be very straightforward.
Moving on to the night sky, we observed a wide range of objects including the Moon, M45 and the Orion Nebula and found that the mount was surprisingly stable for such a lightweight construction.
A sharp tap on the telescope dampened down in just on 2 seconds giving an indication of the mount’s stability.
Used as part of a complete ‘grab and go’ portable observing system, the mount would be excellent for lightweight travel and would pack conveniently into a suitcase without eating too far into your luggage allowance.