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Best Telescope Mount for Astrophotography [Top 7 Picks for 2020]

Sandy Fargus

Last updated: November 12, 2020

Best Telescope Mount for Astrophotography

Choosing the right telescope mounts for astrophotography can be as important as choosing the right telescope and camera. Not only does it need to hold your equipment securely, but your choice will affect the finish of your pictures.

Our top pick of best mount for astrophotography is the Sky Watcher EQM-35. As long as your kit comes in at under 22 pounds, this mount is perfect. It’s a computerized EQ mount that is ideal for long exposure shots. If your kit is on the heavier side, then there are a few options on this list for you to consider as well.

Our Top Picks
Best Overall
Sky-Watcher EQM-35 – Fully Computerized GoTo German Equatorial Telescope Mount – Belt-driven, Astrophotography ready, Computerized Hand Controller with 42,900+ Celestial Object Database
Best Dual Option Mount
Orion 10010 Atlas Pro AZ/EQ-G Computerized GoTo Telescope Mount
Budget Option
Orion AstroView EQ Mount & EQ-3M Motor Drive Kit
Name
Sky Watcher EQM-35
Orion Atlas Pro Computerized GoTo Mount
Orion AstroView EQ Mount
Features
This computerized go-to mount has a remote control for easy operation and can hold 22 pounds of equipment.
This upgraded mount can handle an impressive 44 pounds of equipment with ease. You can use it as either an EQ or Alt-Az mount.
This kit combines an EQ mount with a telescope motor drive. This modest mount can hold up to 12 pounds of equipment.
Best Overall
Our Top Picks
Sky-Watcher EQM-35 – Fully Computerized GoTo German Equatorial Telescope Mount – Belt-driven, Astrophotography ready, Computerized Hand Controller with 42,900+ Celestial Object Database
Name
Sky Watcher EQM-35
Features
This computerized go-to mount has a remote control for easy operation and can hold 22 pounds of equipment.
More info
Best Dual Option Mount
Our Top Picks
Orion 10010 Atlas Pro AZ/EQ-G Computerized GoTo Telescope Mount
Name
Orion Atlas Pro Computerized GoTo Mount
Features
This upgraded mount can handle an impressive 44 pounds of equipment with ease. You can use it as either an EQ or Alt-Az mount.
More info
Budget Option
Our Top Picks
Orion AstroView EQ Mount & EQ-3M Motor Drive Kit
Name
Orion AstroView EQ Mount
Features
This kit combines an EQ mount with a telescope motor drive. This modest mount can hold up to 12 pounds of equipment.
More info

Related post: Best Refractor Telescope for Astrophotography in 2020

Best Telescope Mounts for Astrophotography in 2020

Best Overall – Sky Watcher EQM-35

Best Overall
Sky Watcher EQM-35
This computerized go-to mount has a remote control for easy operation and can hold 22 pounds of equipment.

The Sky Watcher EQM-35 is a high-quality astrophotography mount. It can hold a solid 22 pounds of equipment, so it should be sufficient for most astronomers and photographers. With two 7.5 pound counterweights, it’s easy to move even the largest OTA that this mount can hold.

The mount is computerized, so you can just tell it what you want to look at. It will find it in the sky and track it for you as well. This is ideal if you are taking long exposure shots. It’s also a great way to find more elusive deep sky objects. There are around 42,000 objects in the database to choose from.

The mount itself is fairly compact and portable. It’s a great option for anyone who likes to get out and about. The mount is a sturdy metal construction, so it’s by no means the lightest option. It weighs in at around 40 pounds.

One of the most unique features of this mount is that the controller works remotely. That means you can direct your telescope without being tethered to the mount. If you want, you can connect the controller to a computer with a USB connection.

This mount is really easy to set up as it comes with a great polar finder scope. The alignment controls are really smooth and easy to use.

The combination of metal gears and a belt-driven motor makes for a completely smooth repositioning experience. You really can’t ask for more in an astrophotography mount.

Best Dual Option Mount – Orion 10010 Atlas Pro AZ/EQ-G Computerized GoTo Mount

Best Dual Mount
Orion Atlas Pro Computerized GoTo Mount
This upgraded mount can handle an impressive 44 pounds of equipment with ease. You can use it as either an EQ or Alt-Az mount.

The Orion  Atlas Pro Computerized GoTo Mount is the most recent iteration from Orion. It’s a really flexible mount that will suit any astrophotography needs.

You can use the mount in EQ mode. In this arrangement, you can make use of the go-to feature. If you want to mount two telescopes, you can convert the mount to an Alt-Az arrangement.

The computerized database has the locations of over 42,000 astronomical objects. The accuracy of the motors is really impressive. It will get you to within 0.1436 arc/sec.

No matter how many kits you have or how large your OTA is, this mount should be able to deal with it. It can securely hold up to 44 pounds of kit. Despite this, its own weight is pretty reasonable at only 47 pounds. For a mount that can hold so much equipment, this makes it surprisingly portable.

You have quite a few options when it comes to controlling the mount. You can use the attached handheld controller. It’s backlit in red, which makes it easy to control at night without sacrificing your night vision. You can also connect it to your computer, or if you get an additional wi-fi kit, you can use your phone instead.

The biggest weakness of this mount is the interface of the handheld controller. It’s not the most intuitive device. You will probably end up using your computer instead of the controller. It is enough of an annoyance to use that you might want to consider getting the wi-fi adapter to allow you to avoid using the controller at all.

The motors are belt driven and offer a smooth drive experience. While this is not the cheapest option, it really offers a great experience. This is a mount that should last you through the whole of your astronomy career.

Budget Option – Orion AstroView EQ Mount & EQ-3M Motor Drive Kit

Best Budget Option
Orion AstroView EQ Mount
This kit combines an EQ mount with a telescope motor drive. This modest mount can hold up to 12 pounds of equipment.

The Orion AstroView EQ Mount is a great option for anyone who doesn’t want to spend an arm and a leg but still wants to have something that will work with a good range of reflector scopes.

As this is a budget option, you will be limited to 12 pounds of equipment, but otherwise, this mount performs as well as the bigger and more expensive alternatives.

The drive motor will turn the basic mount into a motorized one. It doesn’t have goto capability. So as this is an EQ mount, you will need to make sure you are comfortable with operating this style of mount. It does work well for tracking objects, however, so it is a good compromise of features.

As a nice touch, this mount features a removable 8-inch dove plate. This makes it quick and easy to attach your telescope with no need for tools.

Best for Two Telescopes – Orion Sirius Pro AZ/EQ-G Computerized GoTo Mount

Best for Two Telescopes
Orion Sirius Pro GoTo Mount
This is a hybrid go-to mount that can be used for a single telescope or two side by side telescopes.

The Orion Sirius Pro GoTo Mount can support up to 30 pounds of equipment. This means it should be suitable for almost all astrophotographers out there.

As a go-to mount, it has quite a large database. There are over 42,000 celestial objects in its database. It tracks items well, which is ideal for long exposure photography.

The mount comes with a pair of dual optical encoders. This means that you can make manual adjustments to the position without losing the go-to alignment. It makes for a very flexible mount that gives you the freedom to explore the night sky.

While this mount is on the heavier side, it is also quite compact. It’s also foldable, which means you can transport it to dark-sky sites without too much difficulty. The total weight of this mount is just over 33lbs. This includes the two 7.5lb counterweights. These are a nice addition when you only have a single telescope in use. They make it very easy to manual control the mount.

The mount comes with two narrow dovetail saddles. This makes it exceptionally easy to secure your telescopes. The second saddle is easily removed when not in use.

Best Portable Option – Orion 9055 Min-EQ Tabletop Equatorial Mount

Best Portable Option
Orion Min-EQ Tabletop Equatorial Mount
This mount can support up to 7 pounds of equipment and makes a perfect travel mount.

The Orion Min-EQ Tabletop Equatorial Mount is the smallest and cheapest option on this list. It’s not right for everyone, but it is a good option to have for anyone who travels a lot.

This tabletop mount can easily be used for small telescopes or for directly mounting a DSLR or SLR camera. If you are a keen photographer, beyond astrophotography, then this can be a great option.

This small mount is still quite sturdy. It is a tabletop mount, so you will need a strong surface on which to place it.

It’s an EQ style mount, so some knowledge is beneficial when using it. It does have slow-motion tracking cables, which allows you to make precise adjustments. It does require a lot of adjustment to give continuous tracking, so it’s not ideal for long exposure photography.

You can retrofit this mount with a motor kit. So if you don’t have the cash to splash on an all singing and dancing portable mount now, you could work towards it in stages.

If you want a mount that you can easily throw in a bag or take on a camping trip, then this is the best option. If you want a heavy-duty mount with go-to functionality, then this is not a mount to bother looking at.

As a nice bonus, the motors on this mount are practically silent. It means you can enjoy the unbroken peace of stargazing without the hum and whir of motors while your telescope tracks objects in the night sky.

Best for Holding Lightweight Kit – Orion 9995 Sirius EQ-G Computerized GoTo Mount

Best for Lightweight Kits
Orion Sirius EQ-G Computerized GoTo Mount
This reasonably priced go-to mount has a simple alignment procedure and is a sturdy option.

The Orion Sirius EQ-G Computerized GoTo Mount is a nicely designed mount. It’s one of the few that actually looks quite sleek. It is rated to hold up to 30 lbs of equipment. However, it can get a little unstable when you get near that limit, so you’re better leaving a small margin.

The database in the computerized handset has over 42,000 celestial objects to choose from. With such a large range to choose from, it’s a mount that will also you a long time. The alignment process is simple, and there is also a polar alignment scope if you prefer to use this method.

The mount comes with one 11lb counterweight, which does aid in the control of your telescope.

While the mount does run on a 12V supply, it’s worth noting that no power supply is included as standard.

This is a solid choice as a telescope mount for astrophotography. It’s durable, and stable although it is a little on the heavier side as a result. It weighs in at 43lbs with the counterweight included.

Best Manual Mount – Orion 9829 SkyView Pro Equatorial Mount

Best Manual Mount
Orion SkyView Pro Equatorial Mount
This is a low-cost option for those who are confident with using an equatorial moun.

The Orion SkyView Pro Equatorial Mount is a high quality manual equatorial mount. The setup of this mount takes a lot of care. It is quite a detailed procedure to get it right, so it does lend itself towards more experienced astronomers. The end result is worth it, though.

The mount can support up to 20lbs of equipment, which can be fitted using the quick release dovetail bar. The total weight of this mount is 35lbs. This includes two counterweights, 4 and 7.5lb each. Having the flexibility to choose the right counterweight to match your OTA is a good feature for a manual mount like this.

Tracking celestial objects with this mount is really easy. The Dec and Ra knobs move slowly and smoothly. It really is a pleasure to use.

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This is a really good mount. If you just can’t live without the motorization, you can get an electronic drive kit or computer to fit at a later date. So it can easily become a goto equatorial mount if that’s what you need.

What to Consider When Buying Mounts For Astrophotography

Telescope on a mount

Type of Mount

When it comes to choosing your mount, you have a total of four options.

Computerized Equatorial Mounts

These are the best types of mounts for astrophotography. They allow you to track celestial objects easily. If you take long-exposure photographs with these, the background will remain static. This means you won’t get star trails from background stars, distracting you from your main focus.

Manual/Motorized Equatorial Mounts

Manual equatorial mounts have a challenging learning curve. They are not simple to set up and can be worth avoiding for beginners. However, once you master them, they do offer a satisfying user experience. With an EQ mount, you don’t get any field rotation, so again there will be no star trail with this mount.

The difference between a motorized and a computerized mount is the goto function. A motorized mount is one that you can move with motors. A goto telescope mount has a computer controlling it. You can tell it what you want to see, and it will track it all night long with no further intervention.

Computerized Altazimuth Mounts

Computerized Alt-Az mounts are also go-to telescope mounts, so they can also track celestial objects without intervention. The difference between an EQ and an Alt-Az mount is the field rotation. Alt-Az mounts are not centered around the polar axis. The result is that any stars in the background will appear to rotate. If you’re taking long exposures, then you will get star trails.

Most astrophotographers would prefer to avoid this, in which case an EQ mount is better. However, if you do want to play with star trails, you might consider getting a dual mount. These can switch between EQ and Alt-AZ.

Manual/Motorized Altazimuth Mounts

These are not really worth considering if your aim is to take any long exposure pictures. You can’t easily track the objects you are photographing, and the background will rotate, leaving star trails.

Weight Range

Big telescope on a telescope mount set up for night sky viewing

Since the main point of your mount is to hold your equipment, you need to choose one that is capable of doing so. Before you choose a mount, you need to know what the combined weight of your OTA and all your accessories is.

It’s usually a good idea to leave a small margin of error between the weight of your kit and the weight limit of the mount. Astrophotography kit is not cheap, so it’s not worth risking it. The general rule of thumb is to keep the payload to 65% of the rated maximum.

Number of Items It Can Hold

It’s not uncommon for astrophotographers to end up with a lot of kit. Having two OTAs is not uncommon. If this sounds familiar, then it might be worth considering a mount that can hold more equipment. There are some mounts that will allow you to have two telescopes fitted at the same time. This does usually limit you to an Alt-Az arrangement while both are on, but it is a nice feature to have.

Adjustable Height

If you’re going to spend a long time trying to get the perfect picture of the night sky, then comfort is going to matter. Nothing sours a stargazing experience faster than an aching back. It might not seem like the most important consideration, but being able to adjust the height of the tripod can impact on the amount of joy you get out of your astrophotography, not only on the night but the morning after as well.

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Counter Weights

When you use an equatorial mount, the OTA is not centered directly above the mount. This can cause it to move unsteadily or to slip from its position while you’re using it. Not ideal for astrophotography.

You will need to balance your rig in both axes. For the DEC, you do this by shifting the position of your telescope on the dovetail mount. The counterweights are what allow you to balance the RA. The counterweights don’t have to match the weight of your kit to achieve balance. You can do this by adjusting their position.

Type of Photos

Setting up telescope to look at deep sky objects at night

The type of pictures you want to get will have an impact on your mount choice. If you are interested in taking short exposure pictures, then all you really need is a stable mount that you can easily use to find the objects you’re looking for. This is more likely to be the case for amateur astronomers who are just starting out with astrophotography.

If you are looking to take long exposure photos of deep-sky objects, you will likely only achieve this with a computerized mount. If you don’t want star trails, then it will need to be a computerized EQ mount.

Viewing Location

The location you will be doing your photography from matters when you’re choosing your mount. If you have an area at home where you can leave your mount set up or near to your viewing location, then the weight and the size will not matter.

If you plan to travel to dark sky locations, then you will need to consider what size and weight of mount you are willing to carry about the country. The more foldable one will fit in your car much more easily.

If you want a mount that you can throw in a backpack, then you will be quite limited. The only options that fit this bill are tabletop mounts. This will obviously limit what you can do with them, but they can be great for taking on camping trips.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do you need a German equatorial mount for astrophotography?

If you are just dipping your toes into astrophotography, you don’t need any particular type of mount. As long as your telescope and camera are secure, then you have everything you need.

The benefit of German equatorial mounts is that they allow you to track objects easily. However, you can also track objects with a computerized Alt-Az mount. The difference will be clear in the picture you get out, though. With an EQ mount, the stars in the background remain fixed. With an Alt-Az mount, the stars will appear to rotate, which will leave light trails on long exposure pictures.

Why are telescope mounts so expensive?

They’re expensive because they are a specialized piece of kit. The motorized and computerized ones contain quite a lot of engineering. They are also a necessary bit of kit for a quite specialized hobby. The final reason, which is less down heartening, is that they last a long time. A good mount will last decades.

Which mount is best for deep sky astrophotography?

For deep-sky astrophotography, you will be best served by a computerized equatorial mount. This will allow you to track deep-sky objects for long periods. This will mean you can take very long exposure pictures easily. The pictures will also have fixed backgrounds, so there will be no star trails to distract from the focus of your picture.

Sandy Fargus

Last update on 2020-12-02 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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