By: Vlad Fedosov
EQ mounts have been around for a long time, but in recent times they seem to be getting more and more popular as many more people are getting into astrophotography where the EQ platform shines. The Orion Atlas Pro mount is designed to meet the needs of both the visual observer, as well as the astrophotographer. I’m mostly a visual guy so this review will focus on that aspect of the mount, but I personally know several astrophotographers that use this mount and have great success with it. The Atlas Pro is a mid-weight mount that is rated for 44lb and can also be used in AZ mode to carry two optical tube assemblies(OTA’s).
My astronomy club had the crazy idea of scheduling a new years star party on December 30th. The reason that this was a crazy idea is that here in the northwest, the likeliness of having a clear sky around this time of year is quite dismal. Well, the day of the star party the forecast looked bleak but I did have a bit of free time so I decided to take the risk and make the hour-long drive to Stub Stewart State Park. By the time I arrived at sundown, there were a couple of club members already setup. I proceeded to chat with them a bit and it started raining! I sure was glad that I did not setup any of my gear, By this time I was ready to head home. Since I was there I decided to hang out and see if the clouds would clear. Much to my surprise about 45 minutes later we were treated with a clear sky!
I eagerly setup my Atlas Pro, and outfitted it with an Astro Tech 80mm APO for some wide field visual observing. Flipping the switch on the Atlas Pro, I was greeted with a screen that asked if I was in AZ or EQ mode, and then asked me to put in my location, time, date… After all, that was input I proceded to do a two-star alignment. This is where you will be amazed! The first time you hear the mount slew is an unreal experience. It is Sooooo quiet. I have never heard such a quite mount or GOTO scope. There is a very, very slight buzz at full slew and I would estimate that it is only about 10-20% as loud as a Meade/Celestron goto system(LX200, LXD75, AVX, CPC) and about 40% as loud as my g11 mount. This is definitely a very cool feature of the mount.
Once I did the two-star alignment I proceded to view some wide field deep sky objects(DOS) such as m31, m33, and m45. The GOTO accuracy was spot on! Changing the slew rate for centering an object is just like on a Celestron hand controller. You hit the rate button and a number 1-9. I do like Meade’s controllers better in this respect as you just hit a number that is 1-9 and away you go. Inputting objects into the controller is straightforward; you hit the appropriate catalog button and then you input the object number. This I like better than the Meade Autostar since you do not need to scroll through menus.
A nice feature of this mount is that the counterweight shaft of the mount retracts into the head while not in use. You also use this feature to get the proper distance between the two scopes in AZ mode to have then counterweight each other. I did not get a chance to try out the AZ mode of the mount, but I do think that this is a neat feature if you enjoy using two OTA’s side by side. The overall fit and finish of the mount is very nice and on par with what you would expect to get from Meade/Celestron/other Chinese rebranders. The machining on the mount is definitely not on par with my g11 however, and I suspect that will be true about any of the other premium mounts.
Overall I had a really good time with the Atlas Pro, and if you are considering this mount for primarily visual use I can confidently say that; it just works! The mounts goto is very accurate and the motors are so quiet. The hand-controlled is user-friendly as well. You also have the option of the dual OTA configuration which is very nice!
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