Part three? What happened to part one and part two? Oh, there they are. The tl;dr version of those posts from last year is first that I had the wrong power supply for this mount, and then when I got the right power supply, the mount worked very well with my little 8-pound Mak on it. Which has nothing to do with this post.
So why a part three, well over a year later? Well, the mount started developing an unfortunate wobble beginning at the RMSS back in June. I didn’t write a blog post on it back then because I wanted to give Orion customer service a chance to make it right before just announcing to the world, “Hey, I’ve got a huge problem with my Orion Sirius Pro AZ-EQ/G mount!” So, did they? Read on.
The problem is that there is an excessive, inordinate amount of play in the mount on the RA Axis. What I mean is that no matter what adjustments I make to the mount, no matter how tight I tighten up all the tighteners, the mount has a wiggle to it that simply will not go away. You know, a wiggle just like one of those cheapo mounts you get with a $150 department store scope. Nice feature to get with a $1300 mount. Ugh.
To elaborate, what this play means is that whenever I touch the focus knob to, you know, focus the scope on whatever I’m looking at, that object literally bounces all over the field of view. It bounces so much that focusing becomes almost impossible – the object doesn’t stay still long enough to see if it’s getting sharper or blurrier as you turn the focus knob. Even when you let go of the focus knob, if there’s any wind at all, even a small breeze, it will push the scope (a nice, fat C9.25) back and forth, and the object will continue bounce all over the field of view even when untouched. This makes the mount – and therefore, my C9.25 – virtually unusable.
The view was simply intolerable, especially from a $1300 mount. For that much money, the mount just should not do this. After getting back from RMSS, which admittedly, had been pretty windy, I tested the mount out further. I saw that the bouncing problem was real and was persisting.
So, let’s take a dive into Orion’s customer service response. I initially contacted them at the end of June through their pop-up “Live Chat” box. They acknowledged the email immediately, and said they were forwarding the response to their technical support department. Then they didn’t respond to me for two days. At that point, I texted with someone named Eric, who was not in technical support, and was no help whatsoever. (I even had to convince Eric that this mount had a payload of capacity of two scopes at 30 lbs. each. You know, just like it says on the Orion website.)
Then I got an email from Simon, who was in tech support. He asked for a video of the problem. I had twisted my ankle in the meantime, which prevented me from getting the scope out to test it and shoot the video they wanted. When I finally did, I had a tough time sending them the whole, approximately 30-second video, so I clipped it down and uploaded it to the web – I am not a tech guy – so it’s only 7 seconds long. Even after reading my – thorough – description of the problem, and watching the video, he was still somehow failing to understand what was going on. It took me a bit of email cajoling to get them to send me an RMA number, and then quite a bit more cajoling to get them to send me a prepaid UPS label to send the mount head back to them.
I finally was able to send back the mount head at the end of July. I confirmed with them that they had received it on August 1. Then I went completely radio silent for a couple of weeks after that. I was fully expecting it to take them a couple of months to get it back to me. This was based on my previous mount dealings with Celestron back in 2015, so I “knew” that I’d be wasting my breath if I started inquiring early.
Starting August 16, I sent an email once a week just to check in and see what was up – if they could give me an estimate of when they would be getting the mount back to me. The responses were totally noncommittal. Absolutely vague. No information whatsoever, other than meaningless platitudes and banalities. August 17: “I expect to have something more within the next week.” August 24: “I intend to continue ensuring that the process is advancing steadily.”
By September 1, Ozzie had taken over the “handling” of my mount:
“The time elapsed on this repair has exceeded our normal estimation of 2-4 weeks. This is unexpected but the issue we are seeing on your mount, if truly as you describe, is not typical and we want to ensure we are able to diagnose and repair the problem correctly. We will continue to perform evaluation and seek a proper fix.”
“If truly as I describe”? “We will continue to evaluate”? That’s corporate-speak for, “Even though we’ve had your mount for a solid month, we haven’t done jack sh–, um, squat.”
At this point, seeing how things were going, or more to the point, how they weren’t going, I was getting concerned about getting the mount back in time for Okie-Tex, at least a few days before it began on October 9. On September 14, I was handed off to yet a fourth person at Orion, Rick:
“I am terribly sorry we have delayed service on your mount. I agree this is unacceptable that we have taken so long to provide a diagnostic.”
At which time, he did tell me that yes, the mount definitely had a wobble to it. So, finally, after six weeks, someone had at least looked at the thing.
At that time, I pointed out to Rick that this was a “known problem” – meaning that this wobbling was a common complaint about this particular mount. While waiting that six weeks to get my mount back, I had done a good bit of googling on it. It didn’t take me long to find that the third review of this mount on Orion’s own webpage for it discusses this exact problem:
“I noticed that there are some stability and vibration issues. Particularly in Alt-Az mode the azimuth backlash is so much neither I nor a guest were able to enjoy looking at the moon through the 4.7mm Ethos-SX eyepiece (171x). The surface of the moon would shift by as much as a few very large craters with the slightest gust of wind. I thought perhaps the clutches were not tight but they were. It was mechanical play. I changed to EQ mode and it improved but did not disappear. It gave us a headache and made us pack up and go home.”
Cloudy Nights has a thread asking about this exact issue on the SkyWatcher version of this same mount – the SW AZ-EQ5:
“the wobble/bobbing/bouncing is unbearable. 5-7 second settle down time with the pier extension on it. It’s really like a wave, it starts from the scope through the head into the pier and back again. I can watch the wave happen externally, don’t even have to be looking through the eyepiece. Up to 7 seconds in AZ mode, 5 seconds in EQ mode.”
“Trying to focus is almost impossible. Just touching the scope gets the scope bobbing and weaving. I’m picturing any amount of wind keeping this thing bobbing all night. I’ve read people that are happy with their 8″ newts and 127 refractors on this thing, you think it could handle my 125 refractor. I’ve also read of people with 80mm refractors and 8″ SCT’s that have an unacceptable wobble.”
“There doesn’t appear to be much if any backlash when using the controls, so I’m not sure that doing the worm gear adjustment procedure mentioned in our forums would help, or at least help enough. Or would it?”
(In case you don’t know, both Orion’s stuff and SkyWatcher’s stuff – not to mention Celestron – are manufactured at the exact same factory, Synta, in China. )
Another unsatisfied customer in that same thread says the same:
“I had one..same issue…major wobbles…couldn’t solve it. I made sure everything was tight..adjusted the backlash..set up the tripod on grass. I purchased it specifically for a TMB CNC Classic 105/650 which weighs about 22 lbs but is shorter than yours. The instability was unacceptable to me…even with my lighter C8. I quickly sold it and bought the bigger atlas az eq-g. That one has a little backlash that can get annoying when it’s windy but it is much more stable by leaps and bounds.”
Apparently, SkyWatcher is already aware of this problem in this mount:
“I had a conversation with Kevin at Sky-Watcher a couple days ago. He’s a really nice, knowledgeable guy who gave me a lot of help and advice. He does know about my issue. He adjusts the mount heads on a regular basis for customers.”
A “regular basis”? Ouch. A different CN thread discusses the wobble in the SW version as well:
“It had a small amount of wiggle in the RA axis but thanks to CN members acajuan and Thonolan I was able to fix it in 20 minutes.”
Yet another thread discusses the wobble/play in the Orion version of this mount – the Sirius Pro – and includes a link to a page in Spanish with a mechanical solution:
“Their has been [sic] some complaints of excessive play in the mounts, but it seems it is easy to adjust..Here is a link about it..You can translate page with google..I have been pleased with the mount so far..”
If Orion hadn’t taken the mount back, I would have had to follow the instructions on that page, crack open the mount, and start futzing with it. Unfortunately, when I take something apart, it generally never finds its way back together again. I am not handy. Not something I was looking forward to doing.
I sent all the above information that I had collected across the web to Rick; he seemed to be large and in charge, and took my mount outside and put a big Mak on it to see if he could adjust it properly to eliminate the wobble. In the end, due to all the delays, he decided that he had run out of time to fix the problem before Okie-Tex and sent me a new mount head instead.
Overall, I give Orion poor marks for their handling of this, which Rick himself again admitted in his final email on September 26:
“As I had referenced earlier, it was unacceptable that the mount sat in our shop as long as it did before I was made aware of the situation.”
Their customer communications were virtually nonexistent unless they were prodded to communicate in response to me. Over the course of the two months, each email from them was only ever responsive to mine. I never once received a proactive, “Hey, we did something; and here’s what he found” email from them. Further, they simply didn’t get the right person on the job for six whole weeks. Even then, that person had the mount for two weeks, and he still wasn’t able to find the time to fully diagnose the problem and correct it.
On the plus side, Orion customer service did do a few things right. They took responsibility for the mount, paying for shipping both ways. They did get the problem resolved in what seems to be the “industry standard” of two months. They did acknowledge that they handled this poorly – an admission of guilt goes a long way to mollifying bruised feelings. And finally, they did resolve the problem by sending me an entirely new mount head that they presumably had tested out (“I am sending a new head convinced that it performs to expectations and within specification.”)
Which leads to the most important final question: How’s the new mount working?
Well, so far, so good. I had it out the other night, loaded the C9.25 on it, and took a peek at Comet 46P/Wirtanen. All systems were go. There was still the tiniest bit of play, but that is to be expected. Even with that tiny amount of play, focusing was not a chore – neither the comet nor the other DSOs I was observing bounced around. By the way, the comet was all nucleus, no tail, and I could see it in my 6×30 finder.
However, this is just how the original mount was . . . until it wasn’t. Perhaps a part four will be necessary? We’ll see. In the meantime, would I recommend this mount? I’m not sure; I’d have to lean towards “no”. I’m “sure” that a good portion of these mounts, whether it’s the Orion Sirius Pro or the SkyWatcher AZ-EQ5, work just fine and don’t have this problem.
On the other hand, as my web search shows, I am by far not the only person to have this particular complaint about this particular mount. This is something that both Orion and Skywatcher should have already addressed with the manufacturer, Synta, in China. And it appears that even after all of these complaints, they still haven’t. So if you buy this mount, you’re definitely rolling the dice as to whether you’re getting a good one or not. And even if you do get a “good one”, it might not be good forever . . . or even for very long. My problem seemingly did not develop until I had had my mount for a year.