Adventures with the
by J. P. O'Neil
December 6, 2006
I've come to appreciate Stellarvue's
M1 mount as one of the simplest, most idiot proof mounts ever
invented. I cannot say for the rest of the world, but here in
Canada, the large knobs are excellent in wintertime when you are
observing and wearing gloves or padded mitts. I've also heard
from people with slight arthritis that the large knobs are easier
to use as well in any weather condition.
Above is the M1 mount with a
Manfrotto mounting plate attached, beside it is a Manfrotto tripod
head with removeable mounting plate. The visible mounting plate
has a 1/4-20 bolt. The mounting plate under the M1 Mount has a
What I want to do is show you all
how I mount my mount. I'm a little anal retentive when it comes
to tripod legs - for example, for my old Losmandy CP-100 mount,
I had a local blacksmith make not one, but two sets of custom
legs. They weigh a ton, but they would likely stop dead in their
tracks the running of the bulls if setup in the right spot. :)
Another factor is aside from astronomy,
my other big interest (aka the "Photo" part of my company
name) is 4x5, large format photography. If you ever need sheet
film, tech pan, hypered tech pan, or infra-red film processed,
hey, I'm your man, but in this day and age of digital, I don't
get too much call for that kind of work. :( But large format
photography itself is undergoing a kind of rebirth - perhaps a
backfire against the march of digital. In any case, here's the
kind of camera I use:
Stellarvue Nighthawk Next Generation
beside a Tachihara 4x5 camera - both are my personal "toys".
Another view. The lens on the
camera is a 270mm Schneider G-Claron, if you are into large format
cameras. Oddly enough, the monetary value of the Stellarvue, SV
diagonal and Speers-Waler eyepiece (new 3rd generation, 9.4mm)
all together is roughly equal to the value of the Tachihara and
Schneider lens together. Depends however, as the particular size
of G-Claron I have is hard to find, and sometimes commands a premium
on the used market. Another aspect that may be confusing is the
name of the camera. "Tachihara" is a Japanese
made camera, "Takahashi" is a Japanese
made telescope, both of very high quality, IMO.
I bought my camera from Badger
Graphics in the United States. Also, look up their tripods,
because if you think the Stellarvue M1 mount at $200 US is expensive,
try seeing what a good Manfrotto (aka Bogden for those of you
in the USA) or a good Gitzo tripod head costs.
I also recommend here in Canada
Big Camera Workshops,
specifically look up the Berlebach, German made wood tripods.
Excellent workmanship, and steady as a rock.
So my problem is, while Stellarvue
and other suppliers I have do have excellent tripod legs for telescope
use, I am constantly looking for something that has dual purpose
- carry my 80mm, F7 ED Nighthawk (aka NHNG) and carry one of my
4x5 cameras. For example, when I travel space is so tight I simply
cannot bring two separate sets of tripod legs, and as I often
bring both my 4x5 camera and a Nighthawk, I need a tripod to
handle both. Here's what I do.
First, on all really good photo
tripods, heads are sold separate from the legs/body. You can
find combinations already pre-packaged, but when you really get
into, it's a la carte. When you look at the top of a tripod like
a Manfrotto, you will see that it has a larger bolt than on the
top of a photo tripod head. That is because there are TWO standards.
The first bolt that you see on most cameras is a 1/4 inch bolt
(sorry, even in the day and age of metric, it's still 1/4 inch,
so live with it :).
The second standard is 3/8ths of
an inch. Most, not all, but most tripod heads - and also the
M1 mount, have a 3/8ths bolt hole underneath. This also allows
you to say take a Manfrotto head and place it on a Gitzo or Berlebach
tripod if you want. Or, and what I really like, I can use the
Stellarvue M1 mount on just about any of these professional tripods.
Now here is something else that
can be done - some tripod heads also use the 3/8ths bolt, because
some larger cameras use that bolt hole size too. So, in my case,
I can actually mount my M1 mount on top of a large Manfrotto tripod
head. Now I do not recommend this as a starting point. First,
the Manfrotto head costs as much as the M1 mount - maybe even
a bit more, because this head is about ten years old. Secondly,
this is a very heavy duty tripod head, far beyond what you see
in your average department store. But I happen to have one already
for my large format cameras, and I happen to have a spare 3/8th
quick release plate, so in my case, I had a hand in glove fit
for my needs.
Here then are a series of pictures
showing how I do and can mount my Next Generation (ED) Stellarvue
Nighthawk to my Manfrotto (aka Bogden) photo tripod.
Heavy duty Manfrotto tripod and
head. Although this specific head is no longer made, the modern
equivalent is either the #160 or #229 heads, both fo which sell
for roughly $240 to $250 Cdn - about the same price as the M1
head sells for. :)
Mounting plate in place with telescope.
I like the quick release mounting plate system, but if you invest
in one, be careful, as some lesser tripod systems have very "wonky"
and lightweight plates that will not hold for you.
If attaching any plate or photo
tripod directly to the NHNG, or similar Stellarvue telescopes,
there are already 1/4-20 holes provided for this use.
All setup for daytime use.
However, for even daytime use, I
find the M1 mount still easier to use, so in this photo I have
put the M1 mount, with plate, on my tripod head. Now this is actually
a dumb thing to do in some repsects, because I can take that whole
tripod head off, and place the M1 mount directly on the Manfroto
legs, giving me breater stability. However in my ccase, setup
with way, it takes just seconds to swap out a telescope for a
camera. :) In the above photo, I show how the dovetail on the
SV clamsheel mount slides into the M1.
Once inn place, tighten and lock
Now, with my brand new Speers-Waler
9.4mm eyepiece, I am ready to look at all the pidgeons in downtown
In this photo and the next one below,
I want to show how if you are going to do this wort of thing,
you need a tripod head that is at the very least, equal in size
or heavier than the M1 mount itself, otherwise first time to try
it, everything will fall apart on you and hit the ground. Do not
underestimate what you might need.
Interesting to note that the handles
on both the Manfrotto and the Stellarvue are roughly the same
size - nice and big! On cold nights with heavy gloves, you have
no idea how nice that feature is.
So there you go. Another weird idea,
that kinda works, depending on your lattitude, is to point the
tripod head at Polaris, thus turing the M1 mount into a simple
equitorial mount. I am at 43 degrees latitude ( in fact, the 43rd
parallel is exactly one mile due north of me. :), so I can get
away with doing this and not too badly off balance the whole system.
But any farther north, or at an angle greater than say roughly
45 degrees, I think you would be too far off balance for this
to work. If I am able to attend the Winter Star Party again, which
is closer to around 25 degrees, then this idea should work fine.
For the record, the most stable
way to use the M1 mount is direclty on top of a set of good tripod
legs, but the mount iself is so versatile that is like me you
need to serve more than one use at once, it's nice to see the
M1 easily lends itself to these solutions.
me if you have any questions