While I purchased this mount on 26th May 2015, the first light (night out) happened on 6th July 2015. What I really had to do is to read the user’s manual concerning Polar Alignment as that’s different at iOptron from Sky-Watcher, Losmandy and Gemini/Pulsar systems that I am familiar with. To do PA, you need to power on the mount, connect polar scope illuminator and its cable to turn the lit on (brightness is adjustable from the Hand Controller’s menu – I have set it to lowest possible value) unlock RA axis and rotate it so as the 12 hour indicator is at the top. Users’ manual says that the additional bubble level fixed on polar scope could be used for this task while I am not so sure about it when I do not precisely level the mount as that’s not needed unless you want to use some aid / tool for PA using hand’s controller’s advanced PA routine (have never really used yet).
The Polar Scope Dial has couple of concentric circles while those outer-most three are used for PA in southern hemisphere and those in-the-middle three are used for PA in the northern hemisphere. These circles serve for somehow compensating for precession that is expressed as ‘r’ parameter from the mount’s Hand Controller after MENU->Alignment->Pole Star Position was dialed. Provided you have correct time zone set and GPS status says ‘OK’ the data displayed are correct for doing PA. That is – hour angle (hour/minute) for Polaris position and mentioned ‘r’ value. You now need to put Polaris on the correct hour angle position and at the same time on the correct concentric circle matching the r value. That’s simple and surely more precise than polar scope on Sky-Watcher’s mounts. In spite of that, if it’s up to me, I would still prefer Losmandy’s style of PA with 3-star reticule – that system is best ever from my point of view.
Then, after PA procedure, if your mount/telescope is in the so called ‘zero position’ which typically means counterweight down and DEC 90 (telescope pointing to north) you dial MENU->Alignment->One Star Align the mount slews somehow close to the selected star for alignment. This is as nice as on Sky-Watcher mounts (I lack this behavior in Gemini/Pulsar where I have to manually slew to selected star). Aligning on one star on the same side of meridian for astrophotography and GoTo functionality is enough. I do not use more than one star alignment any more (since few years back). Therefore you center the star in the FOV of your CCD camera and confirm. Alignment successful.
Now is time to connect from PC (laptop) to the mount using COM (RS-232) adapter. Locating the COM port number from Device Manager manually may not even be needed as the iOptrons’ utility can search for correct port. I managed to make this connection on 2nd attempt, only issue I faced was with old firmware so I had to upgrade it. Then I connected from my favorite guiding and imaging software over ASCOM platform/driver. I discovered one bug though – when clicking on mount slew buttons (RA/DEC) twice or doing a quick double click there and in reverse, the mount went crazy (did not stop as it should). But it’s not a big deal, maybe WinXP is not so well tested as other Windows.
Surprisingly, on my first night out, I was able to easily do PA, I was able to do GoTo Alignment, I was able to connect from computer, I was able to calibrate guiding camera, I was able to take couple of 10 minutes H-alpha shots using 135mm lens so as my typical test object (NGC7000) fully fits into the FOV of my Atik ONE (ICX694) 16mm diagonal CCD camera. And the mount silently tracked… the night was very short, only about two and half hours. But anyway I found this first night out as very successful.
For reference – check other tracking graphs of different mounts using my setup
Even though I haven’t measured periodic error of the mount (PE) yet, I am using, for couple of years the same (or similar) guidescope setup having almost identical image scale for years (nowadays it’s about 3“ [arcsec] per pixel) and judging only from this guide chart I can say the mount is quiet without any notion of big backlash or tracking problems. So far it looks well and smooth.
During the dawn I made one more simple test of the mount – GoTo test Slew to Moon and then to NGC281, Pacman Nebula both at different side of meridian.
Talking about meridian and flips, the mount shall be able to do flips. The only problem I expect is that it can only track two hours after meridian I need to check this closely next time as the User’s manual doesn’t describe full options of the HC, only ‘Set Position Limit’ (2hrs) and ‘Set Behavior’ will tell the mount if a meridian flip will be performed – nothing else. I think that when I browsed this menu option the allowed options were stop and flip.
The HC does have heating(!) so in the winter freezing temperatures this mount could be operated easily using the HC which is another cool feature apart from others, e.g. integrated GPS.
+ very silent movement, smooth slews and tracking
+ integrated GPS module
+ handbox has heating for low temperature operation
+ nice fit and finish (looks good)
+ surprisingly easy to learn and use handbox
+ innovative flashlight on handbox
- limited clearance around latitude adjustment know and bubble level (because the mount has compact size)
- polar scope illuminator as extra tool requiring extra cable with power plug prone to humidity
- seems the mount can’t track more than 2 hours past meridian
- a minor thing: the power supply (12V) cable is 5 meters long! (replaced for 1.5m one)