New October Update: After doing most of the upgrades mentioned below I had an opportunity to test drive the new Gemini 2 during a solar (day) imaging session - everything worked perfectly. The RA Separation kit allowed me to more easily transport & prepare the mount for use. The hand-controller worked great and the mount tracked the sun with no issues.
Almost 7 years to the day of buying the Losmandy G-11 mount with Gemini 1, Now I contemplate an upgrade or replace the entire mount; should I just buy a new mount or upgrade my Losmandy G11?
To help make my decision I listed a set of features and established my budget, I itemized the cost of each Losmandy G11 upgrade followed by some research for other possible replacement mounts and their cost. I will post a full matrix listing here sometime in the near future.
Upgrades I had in mind with the cost are listed below;
- Gemini 2 Upgrade with High Torque Motors: $1,595.00
- RA Extension Kit: $295.00 (allows meridian flip & break down of head for weight management- two pieces)
- New GPS: $150.00 (you can rewire you old Gemini one)
- Knob Upgrades: $50:00 ( not necessary but makes adjustments much easier)
- High Precision Worm & Block Assembly: $495.00 (BACK ORDERED)
- New Polar Scope LED: $55.00 (I may not even use this now that I have the Gemini 2)
- New Folding Tripod - Head Unit Only: $595.00 (Phase II Project, I would like a folder for better transportation)
Total Cost for Phase I: $2,640.00
Total Cost with Phase II item: $3,180.00
Looking at the numbers alone one can see why I had such a dilemma for justifying the upgrade project. I believe a lot of people in my same (shoes) situation would have sold their G11 and added some funds to purchase another mount, such as an iOPTRON CEM60 with high-end encoders, for $3,800.00 or some other shiny new mount.
One thing to consider is you don't have to do your upgrade all at once, you can spread this out over a year if you wish and the impact on your finances is lessened. In fact, many of my upgrades were "nice to have".
I consider my Losmandy G11 like an instrument which facilitates owner maintenance, with readily available parts. Everything mechanical wears down over time, it is nice to have support for replacement parts.
If you're in the same boat as me, either looking for a new bigger mount than the one you have or have an older G11 there are options to offset your upgrade cost; I will be selling the GEMINI 1 and motors, and the tripod head, and hope to recover about $600.00
Thus, after 8 months of thinking about this, I decided to go with the Losmandy upgrade.
Why I went with a Losmandy G11 upgrade vs new replacement mount?
- Loyalty: I am loyal to companies that provide good service and stand behind the products they sell.
- Longevity: Losmandy and the G-11 have been around for a long time and still to this day you can buy parts and upgrades for it. I know of no others like that.
- Customer Service: Every question I ever ask has bee answered promptly and as complete as possible.
- Quality: I never had a quality issue with any product from Losmandy - ever.
- Everything I need The G11 Offers everything I need!
- Made in the USA
Two things I am looking forward to is the RA Extension kit, this will allow me to break the head down into two separate parts which make transportation and set up easier on the old back.
Secondly, a folding tripod, I have the non-folding one and they are cumbersome to transport move, and assemble.
As of this posting - the precision worm block and worm are not available, so this will be a later upgrade once they are available. OPT sells them pre-assembled but is waitlisted.
Losmandy allows you to keep your system updated over time, and if you ever check out their site will find new Astronomy gear. Losmandy.com
I have a couple more upgrades to implement that were budgeted and will do so as they become available.
You may ask was the upgrade worth it and if so, what are the shortcomings?
Cable Management: To be honest, I would like to have better cable management. Although things are manageable as they are, I would like to have an integrated system.
Lighter: The argument about being lighter does rings somewhat true, but I also know a solid tripod serves as the platform of stable viewing/imaging.so, I am not too keen on having the mount/tripod too light. I feel the G11 is pretty much at the max weight for what I need it to do, I am sure one could find a way to shave a couple of pounds off if they really tried.
I will be posting an article on my future wishes for all Astronomy Systems and will put the link here.