Losmandy g8 / g11 GEM Review
By: Vlad Fedosov
My journey with the Losmandy line of mounts started way before I first owned one. In the early 2000’s I had an observing buddy that had a g11 that he used with a c14 witch created some long lasting memories of the setup. Back then that seemed like such a setup, and it was! I did not really use the mount at that point but I do have very positive feelings of the beast. Fast forward about 15 years and I now own two g11’s and have also owned a g8. Having used the mounts very extensively for both visual and Electronically Assisted Astronomy(EAA) with a variety of scope types ranging from an 80mm APO to a 14” Meade LX-200 I feel like I’m finally ready to talk about if the mount lived up to the expectations I had of its excellence. Losmandy is based out of California and all of their products are made right here in the USA. I really like that! The g8 mounts are rated for 40lb and the g11 is rated for 70lb. Lodmandy claims this is a photographic weight rating. Let’s dive in and see what these mounts are really all about.
Having owned one of my g11’s for about two years I have used it in a variety of conditions from home(where I use it primarily) to star parties. My particular g11 is outfitted with a Gemini 1 GOTO system, hypertuned by Deep Space Products, and has the Olivia gear upgrade. I will start off by talking about what I thought of the mount when I initially got it and progress to the work I have done on it and what I think of it now. My experience with GEM mounts was not too broad in scope when I bought my g11. It was limited to using the Meade LXD-75 and the Celestron equivalent Advanced GT mount. The g11 was certainly a much more solid mount! It increased the carrying capacity from 30lb to 70lb. The weight of the mount itself was also certainly higher. I used to have my LXD-75 setup by the back door with a c8 as my grab-and-go setup for quick looks that I could carry out in one trip. With the g11 this was no longer possible. I can carry out just the g11 but not with a scope or counterweight mounted on it.
The Gemini 1 system was the other component that really took some getting used to after the Meade Autostar and Celestrons Nexstar controllers. The Gemini is certainly not very intuitive and you WILL need to read the manual to get it going. Once you have used it a few times it’s actually not bad at all though. One thing that is a chore with the Gemini is that the system really needs at least a 3-4 star alignment to have decent pointing accuracy. In all honesty, unless the mount is well leveled and relatively well polar aligned the GOTO accuracy is still not as good as the Meade and Celestron units that I was used to even though they are much more entry-level mounts. With Celestron and Meade you also only need a two-star alignment. The upside to the Gemini system is that if you do not move the mount the “model” that it builds of the sky is good to use on the next observing session with just a simple sync to a single star. This is also true if you simply need to rebalance the scope or switch scopes. That I really like especially now that I have one of my g11’s permanently mounted.
As mentioned in the inro the first g11 that I bought was already hypertuned by Deep Space Products. Because of this, it is more than smooth! In fact, when I first got the mount it was a bit annoying at how smooth it really was as any slight imbalance was very evident even when switching eyepieces. This was remedied by upgrading to the clutch knobbes that have the 3 protrusions from Losmandy. This allows you to really crank down the clutches so that there is no movement when switching eyepieces or even switching to the very heavy Binotron binoviewer. The smoothness of the mount is matched nicely by the very fine machining of all the components. At this point, I have used a dozen other mounts in this class that are made in China and none of them come close in the precision and finish of all the components. I’m very happy with how the Losmandy mounts are made.
Now you may have noticed that earlier I said that I actually have two g11’s. The reason for this is that have one permanently mounted in a roll-of-roof observatory. Since I’m a bit lazy I do not want to remove this mount from the pier when I want to take it to star parties. A second g11 was the solution. My second unit is setup almost like the first. It too has the upgraded clutch knobs and the Gemini 1 GOTO system. It is not hypertuned though and has the standard RA gear. Still very smooth and works great! The reason I upgraded my observatory g11 to the Olivia gear is that it is used almost exclusively for EAA. I do not autoguide this setup as I do not use exposures longer than 60sec and did notice some elongation in the stars in some exposures. This upgrade has made the tracking error 3 times better than the stock worm form the tracking error report! Not bad at all. I can easily do unguided exposures of 1 minute with my c8HD at f/7. The mount works very, very well when permanently setup with a good polar alignment. I get very good GOTO accuracy now and it’s a breeze to get going as it remembers the alignment model from the last time I used it. Carrying capacity wise I had mounted a 60lb 14″ LX-200 on the g11 and it carried it well for both visual use and EAA. Would you be able to do full-blown astrophotography with it? I think so as long as you are in an environment with no wind.
So how about the g8? I had one for a relatively short time that I got as part of a trade. The mount was nice and I was very pleased with how it handled a 30lb c11 OTA. It was solid with dampening times below 3 seconds. I also really like that most of the accessories/tripods are interchangeable form the g8 to g11. The tripod of the g8 is certainly a lot easier to transport and manage than the HD g11 tripod. It is fully collapsible and certainly comparatively light. In a way, I would have loved to keep the g8 instead of the second g11 as it is a bit easier to carry around because of the lighter weight. Alas, it is just not enough mount for my 178ED…
In regards to the maintenance of the mount I have not done anything too extensive as it has not been required during my ownership. I have removed the motors and the worm gear on the RA axis. Everything is very easy to do and I like that no specialty tools are required. The other thing that I like about Losmandy is that you can pick up the phone and talk to the guy that makes these things! I had a specific question in regards to the DC out port on the mount and I was able to get an answer within minutes just by picking up the phone and calling. Very nice! Need any replacement component? Pick up the phone and call. they can get you anything. Very, very nice! And again I really like that everything is made right here in the USA!
Overall I could not recommend the Losmandy mounts enough. I really like them. Are there better mounts? Well of course. But they are all at least twice the price for the equivalent capacity. I just really enjoy that I can work on the mount myself, and have a manufacturer that is here in the USA that is willing to get you any replacement part that you may need all at a reasonable price! If you are someone that can not/will not work on their own equipment I think that the Losmandy mounts are not that much of an advantage from the Chinese competitors from Meade and Celestron besides the nicer machining on them.