Mak 102 and AZ-GTi

In about March of 2021 I placed an order for a Skywatcher AZ-GTi mount with the package including the Maksutov 102 telescope on it. I had been on the lookout for a fairly cheap electronic driven mount that would be usable when e.g. on holiday, that wouldn’t take up too much space, but would work well enough not to be a hindrance. The scope was only some €150 extra on top and seemed like a fairly good fit for my stable of scopes.

Unfortunately, with the Covid situation and the all-pervasive issues with semiconductor supply shortages, my order was significantly delayed, and it was only in mid-November that the package finally arrived.

My impressions of the mount? It’s pretty effective so far, working well with my H-alpha scope, either of my grab’n’go refractors (70mm f/6 or the 80mm f/6.2), and also very well with the longer focal length Mak-102. The onboard wifi is connectible from the phone application, and the accuracy is “good enough” for sure for my usage needs. I’m working 100% so far with the mount in alt-az, and powering with onboard AA batteries. I do have a Synscan handset but I’m finding that this is less accurate than I’d really like and that is a tad unfortunate. I had hoped to be able to work with the handset alone and not have an Android device needed; the tactile feedback from the SynScan handset is great in the dark, where the phone just doesn’t work in the same way at all.

The Mak-102 OTA must have received a knock in shipping, as the first views were horribly comatic off-axis seagull shapes, and I was disappointed. But, I loosened the screws holding the corrector plate on and gently tapped the corrector housing in the appropriate direction while looking at the diffraction patterns, and the plate holder just “clicked” into place and everything suddenly was round and sharp. The views since then have been impressive. I’ve been using the scope with my Baader Zoom Mk2 eyepiece as the 24mm-8mm focal length matches fairly well with the diffraction limits of the scope’s focal length – 13x to 41x the aperture in inches of magnification. A 32mm Ploessl eyepiece gives me the absolute maximum field of view possible with the scope. There’s no capability of adding 2″ eyepieces to the scope without significant vignetting but I knew and accepted this prior to the ordering of the scope.

Observing from the balcony is nice. A simple but accurate levelling of the tripod base, then putting the mount itself on that and tightening up (placing the arrows towards North) puts the mount into a standard start position. I usually start with the OTA south and level, but I might change that pattern, I can not remember the accepted home position. Performing the three-star alignment in the phone application then gives an aligned mount and ready to observe within five minutes of setup. Planetary detail is good, better than either of the smaller refractors, nowhere near the 130mm apo – but that is entirely to be expected. Deep sky, it’s not bad, a bit better light grasp than the Celestron Onyx 80mm, and definitely better resolution. Contrast is pretty good to be honest, though I may flock some portions of the tube.

I store the scope under a Scopestuff cover on the balcony, with the mount in hibernate mode and power off. This means that the scope is as well adjusted for temperature as it will ever be, and the pickup from hibernate is quick and still accurate enough.

The use when on holiday is yet to be trialled, but I’m expecting no problems based on the experience so far. Dark-sky observing from the usual campsites is something I am very looking forwards to, and it can be taken down to a decently small overall package size for transport. I must cut a foam insert for one of the flight cases and have it all in a nice grab and go setup for the holidays.

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