Getting a new mount, a ZWO AM5

July 30, 2022

UPS just delivered my ZWO AM5 and I'm going to start on a list of tests and things I'm curious about. I know guiding is a clear one, and definitely going to run some guide tests, but what else? Here are four things I'm going to do. Anyone planning a long astro trip, or thinking about doing interesting things—even crazy things—with their AM5? Anyone building a micro-observatory? This seems like the perfect mount for it.


One of the first things I wanted to verify is the iOptron CEM/ZQ Tri-Pier Adapter with the ZWO AM5 mount. Looks good. (see the pic, bottom right). Over the years I have moved to one standard mounting point for my tripods and piers. I have a heavy-duty tripod, a small test pier ("winter pier") right off the back deck and my big pier about 30 meters from the house, in the backyard, and each has a 6 x 8 inch (152 x 203mm) mounting plate, drilled to accept four clamping crews. I have an aluminum plate on the mount side, and for the EQ6R-Pro and Orion Atlas I drilled and tapped holes to attach an iOptron Tri-Pier Adapter (#8036-TK), and for the CEM25p I used the #8036-25 Adapter. The CEM25p and the ZWO AM5 both use a standard 3/8 inch center mounting bolt, making this easy. No new adapters to build, and the new mount will fit with the big tripod and both piers. (I also have the ZWO TC40 Carbon Fiber Tripod for travel and I won't use the mounting plate).


I see a lot of ZWO AM5 owners focusing on large scopes and OTAs, how the mount handles a C925 or large refractor. I find this interesting, but my focus is entirely different, or maybe just narrower? I already have a mount for my larger scopes, the RC and 8" Newt. Portability is my top priority for the AM5, and the largest scope I will probably ever use with the AM5 is my William Optics GT81. My SpaceCat 51 is the main scope I plan to pair with the AM5 and TC40 Carbon Fiber tripod. One of the first things I want to accomplish is to get a full astro setup in one backpack or bag. I may have to do some camera backpack shopping.


I will be doing full imaging runs with NINA/ASCOM on Windows and Ekos/KStars/INDI on Linux. Although I have used a bunch of different astrophotography sequence and capture tools over the years, I seem to have settled on NINA and Ekos as the two that get the job done. Both are heavily supported, and they have a similar feature set--at least everything I need: polar alignment, sequencing, framing, full astro device support, multi-star guiding, and more. I don't have plans to buy an ASIAIR, but I totally appreciate the ingenuity that went into the design, I mean one tiny red aluminum box for everything, device management, imaging, power distribution, dew control, all driven through a phone or tablet app, that's genius, especially for a portable rig. 


Since balance is less of a concern with strain-wave gear mounts I want to try moving the scope forward, making it front-heavy, to the point where the camera and cables at the back clear the mount base at any rotation, effectively removing the need for a meridian flip. Has anyone tried this? I just ordered the Apertura Losmandy 14" Dovetail Plate from Highpoint, and the plan is to swap out the stock William Optics Vixen dovetail. We'll see if this works. The only downside I see is it will make changing cameras on the SpaceCat 51 more of a task because the EFW won't clear the longer dovetail plate.