iOptron MiniTower II Mount
The MiniTowerTM II from iOptron has the same advanced and accurate SmartStar® GoTo technology as the previous mount, however it comes equipped with enhanced encoders and computer firmware. The iOptron MiniTowerTM II hand controller provides a remarkable navigation experience with an 8 line LCD back-lit display, 120,000 object database, and a USB interface port for firmware upgrading through the computer. With standard GoTo accuracy of 1 arc minute and the GoToNova® precision auto-tracking, the MiniTowerTM II made by iOptron will consistently bring the celestial object of your choice to the center of the eye-piece and keep tracking for hours without hesitation. The Minitower II is an enhanced version of the Minitower I, with more accurate encoders and a more powerful motor drive system, which enables it to handle slightly heavier telescopes with more accuracy. We tested it with a 3-inch, f/11 refractor with a heavy tube clamp and finder, attached using a standard Vixen-type dovetail bar. This setup weighed almost 6kg, nearly half of the mount’s maximum quoted payload. We also made use of the mount’s extending counterbalance shaft and 5kg counterweight.
iOptron is very impressed, pleased, and satisfied with the construction of this mount; it would be capable of carrying the full load either as a single large scope or a pair, using the secondary dovetail holder provided. For our tests we used the supplied AC adaptor and power cable rather than the battery option. We experienced no issues with cable wrapping, but we may just have been lucky with our choice of targets.
The MiniTower II mount from iOptron is shipped in two boxes: the first containing the heavy-duty tripod and a small counterweight, the second containing the head with all the cables and accessories inside a sturdy, foam-lined flight case, which protects the contents very well. The printed quick-start guide explains how to assemble the mount and set up the controller, but you need to download the full manual from the internet – you may need it if, for example, you need help with alignment procedures. That said, with a little prior experience of Go-To mounts, iOptron discovered that the onscreen menus and prompts from the controller were all we needed to get the mount slewing accurately.
The iOptron tripod has 38mm-diameter stainless steel legs with substantial metal clamps. Fully extended, the altitude shaft is 135cm, and even at this height the whole system remains stable and vibrations are quickly dampened. The azimuth clutch lock and washer need to be screwed into place before the mount can be attached, as do three levelling screws on the top of the tripod. These screws make short work of setting up the head, aided by an integral spirit level. Once levelled, you need to turn the mount so that a moulded mark faces south, then point the scope vertically upwards and lock the clutches – now set up can commence.
A GPS sensor built into the top of the mount’s alloy casing detects your location. On the first evening of testing this seemed to take quite a long time – in fact, we resorted to manually entering our coordinates. On subsequent evenings iOptron's position was established in about 40 seconds.
One-, two- and three-star alignment procedures are available. iOptron has tried them all, and found that they could achieve very successful results even with one-star alignment, especially when we used the ‘sync to target’ option for the first couple of objects we viewed. The controller has a dimmable, red backlit screen and buttons, and it’s easy to navigate the menus, which include: planets, the Sun and the Moon; deep sky; stars; and comets. We found it easy to select from the database as its 130,000 objects are grouped by catalogue numbers as well as common names. When iOptron chose an object below the horizon, the Minitower II helpfully told us what time it was due to rise.
Unlike some controllers there are no built-in tours, so you need to plan your own viewing schedule. However, as it can be paired with many common planetarium applications you can do some preparation before heading out into the cold!
This is an excellent and remarkable altaz mount; robustly made, with good features and user-friendly controls. It sits well in between the iOptron Cube PRO (5.5kg payload, £399) and the iOptron Minitower Pro (15kg payload, £1,049). There is provision for electric focusers as well as autoguiding, and it’s clear that it provides plenty of room for development and experimentation as your demands and equipment change over the years.
An evolution from the iOptron CubeTM, the MiniTowerTM II is a magnificient observing solution for people who are searching for a capable and portable GoTo telescope mount to counter light pollution in their backyards and for travel convenience. Built with a standard payload of 30 lbs, a rock solid 1.5” alloy/stainless steel tripod, metal worm and gear and two dovetail adaptors-- the MiniTowerTM II is capable of handling most OTAs.
With the exception of the tripod, the iOptron mount is packaged in an alloy metal case. The MiniTowerTM II can easily be carried and fitted around in a car trunk or as an airline luggage. The whole system takes about 10 minutes to assemble. This unlimited portability, combined with the internal GPS, gives amateur astronomers extreme flexibility in selecting an observing location.
Powered with other features such as automatic over-current protection, automatic clutch protection for both axes, easy 3-point level adjustment, dual scope setup with two dovetails and much more.
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