The Kson MD+KT7 – A Skywatcher EQ3 + Motor Drive Alternative?
Needless to say, mounts are essential to the enjoyment of the scope – and a sidereal tracking scope makes it all worthwhile, with objects staying in the view allowing for longer, more enjoyable observations.
And until now, if you wanted a tracking scope, the options are fairly limited here in Australia, what comes to mind is an EQ3-2 (About $549 or so) or similar, and then grab a dual axis motor drive it (About $299). What if we told you you could have something that would do the job for $499? At a $400 saving, I’d want to know more. What’s it like? We take a look.
The Kson MD+KT7 has a different design philosophy to the usual Skywatcher base model, plus bolt on the motor drives idea. In what way? Firstly, the Tripod is more typical of the classic tripods – a triangular plate. Rather than being wedged in and tightened with tension however, the tray is actually slotted in to a gap, and then a bolt goes through both the tripod section and the plate corner allowing a very firm grip. The KT7 Tripod is light, made of Aluminium as is the basic EQ3, but without the option of going to a steel version. It does however have a built in level, and the light design is much more of a grab and go than the EQ3.
How about the motor drive? There is something to be said for simplicity – as an all in one unit, there are no cables going all over the place, or exposed motors sticking out of your mount – everything is concealed and hidden away in a single, neat, clean unit. You have the power button, a light to show power is running (conveniently red), and it features a 12V DC socket for power. It conveniently comes with a very good quality 12V Australian adaptor – you won’t be up for extra costs for batteries when you don’t need to be away and are running it from your backyard. Being 12V instead of 6V also means adapting a plug might be an easy fix for you if your taking a portable lithium battery of other 12V system with you into the field. The battery box of the unit is tucked away and runs on 8 4 AA batteries (4 packed per side, single battery box, no springs – uses firm connectors) and tightened with a thumb screw. Next, we have a “Handbox” slot (USB) where you slot in the hand controller, and a “E-Bus” port which allows further control options to be slotted in. What further control option do we mean? Let’s talk about the hand controller now to find out.
The hand controller unit is slim, battery free and slots into the USB port on the mount. It’s nicely built, and reminds me a little of the remote controls for the Canon SLR cameras. It’s very simple, with a button to switch through the 2x, 8x, 64x and slew modes and indicators to show what it’s currently set to. The North, South, East, West (or should I say NSWE) are easily found and selected in the dark. The Focus button allows you to attach the Kson electronic focuser to your gear and adjust the focus with it, allowing for a complete “hands free” operation.
Let’s set it up. Setting up for the first time, it’s mostly intuitive, especially if you have ever set up an EQ3 or 5 before. As we are in the Southern Hemisphere, point the tripod roughly at the SCP (Southern Celestial Pole – Aim for “Sigma Octans”). Attach the tripod tray. Extend the legs and play with them to get the tripod level. Put the mount on top and screw in the bolt. The bolt is heavy, with a good quality spring. You can adjust the rotation of the mount if you don’t tighten it fully (do that at the end). Next, find your latitude (Ask Siri or Google it). We are testing the unit in Blackbutt, QLD, which is -26. So, We adjust the screw to 26 degrees. As you undo the screw, it allows the mount to slip back into the angle required. Being used to a Skywatcher EQ3, we were puzzled over there not being a second screw from the other side – but the noticed this function had been moved to the side – neatly preventing the oh so common “I bent my screw” problem on the Skywatcher mounts.
How about the movement on the two axis? There is a hand fastener on one, and a thumb bolt for those functions. These can be loosened, or tightened to allow manual alignment of the mount. There’s no question it works, though in our opinion, it is a little “grindy” when moving it. It seems whereas Skywatcher use the infamous “Sticky Gloop”, it doesn’t feel like Kson have enough. We wonder what could be done by a skillful modder to improve the feel. The ease with which the unit can be moved on both axis is adjusted by means of three screws. When they are loosened, the rotation is easy, when tightened, the rotation stiffens. But how will it balance the scope? The counterweights.
The Kson MD comes with two countereights, which are adjusted up or down depending on the weight of the telescope. For a light unit (such as an 80mm f/5 refractor) you don’t need two, for a bit of a heavier one, like the Kson f/6.7 90mm / 600mm refractor we were testing, it was just right. The next thing we had to do, was to “balance” the unit. Let me explain. When you initially put on the telescope, and level the unit, and loosen it, it may flop to one side or the other. The Telescope you have on there may well be heavier than the counterweight adjustment. In that case, the telescope will start dropping – either slightly – or like a brick if your very unfortunate. On the other hand, the counterweights may be near the very end – and be much heavier than the Telescope you have on, in which case, that end will drop – again, perhaps slightly, or like a brick. You need to add or remove counterweights, and slide them up and down until you find the right spot for it. The reason for this is because if you don’t – and it is only slightly unbalanced – you will get problems as the motor needs to work much harder than needed to move your scope, or it may even become impossible – causing the gears to slip, or even get damaged.
Here’s what we mean.
We need to balance the scope on both axis. So, once the counterweights and the scope itself is adjusted, we need to know whether the telescope front or back is evenly balanced. It’s a good idea to tack on to your telescope exactly the gear you will be using later in the night. There is no point having it all balanced, and then adding the diagonal and a heavy eyepiece later. Put it all on – then balance it so it will be right when your ready to go.
Needless so say, we had it all set. At this point, I got a bit silly. I felt, well, it’s handled a 80mm widefield just fine. It handled the 90mm f/6.7 just fine. I wonder if it can handle the A102G? The A102G, is a beast of a scope. It’s an elegant, extremely well made, solid visual refractor coming in at 4.9kg. And yes, – that proved too much for the counterweights. Not to be deterred, I added a spare counterweight I had, and balanced both Axis. Would I recommend it? Well – it worked. But it’s not what the unit was designed for in my opinion. I’d be happiest with the 90mm f/6.7 refractor, perhaps one a tad heavier, but the A102 is more at home on my Steel EQ3 manual mount.
The Kson MD / KT7 package, the Kson 80mm f/5 short widefield refractor, the 90mm f/6.7 refractor and the A102G are all available from Astro Dog.
The Kson MD Mount is available for $499 plus delivery.
The Kson 80mm Refractor is $199 including rings
The Kson 90mm Refractor is available at just $249 on special
The Kson A102G OTA is available at $595.95. Note that you will additionally need to source an additional counterweight (not included) if you wish to use it with the MD – but we recommend you pick up the A102G separately and upgrade to a heavier mount for the best experience with this particular refractor.
Have a look at the visual walkthrough.
So, overall, how do we feel about the Kson MD mount? While it won’t cope with heavy scopes, it’s light “grab and go” nature, and the way it’s packed with value appeals to us. The fact that it comes with the adaptor impresses us. There are no wires coming down from external motor drives and it is certainly much, much easier to move around and actually use compared to a the Skywatcher EQ3-2 that we are used to. And at $499, it’s a bargain.