- Mount Type: German Equatorial
- Instrument Capacity: 17 kg. (37.5 pounds)
- Weight of equatorial head without counterweights: 16.5 kg.
The EM-200 Temma 3 is the most recent update/upgrade for the Takahashi EM-200 series of mounts. Having not seen a slew of reviews on the net about it, I decided to get one done. At first glance, not much has changed. It appears very “Takahashi” with the same light green paint color and finish. The appearance is very familiar, but there are some interesting new additions to this equatorial mount.
This mount is massive. For one that has an instrument capacity of 17kg, some will say it is too massive. Yep – it weighs a lot. I will say right now that I am perfectly happy with that. Massive mounts lead to excellent observing sessions and solid astronomical imaging. I am telling you now that you cannot have it all: a light-weight mount, solid tracking and the ability to hold 20 kg of gear? It isn’t going to be a pleasant experience. Please, save your money. Then again, if your back cannot lift massive mounts in the field, then maybe select lower mass imaging gear… or go to a permanently installed observatory… or have friends at hand to help you set up each night.
The mount is easy enough to setup. There are two major tripod options, wood and metal. I have the metal one. It is sturdy and easy to setup. One simply opens it up, places it on level ground and you’re good to go. You will have to make sure that the one leg aligned with a north facing peg at the top of the mount faces Geographic North.
The equatorial head sits on top of the tripod with its central round insert going into the tripod and the two azimuth screws straddling that north-facing peg. From underneath the mount, one bolts the head in place with the hand-tightened bolt that serves this purpose as well as to engage with the three tripod legs as a spreader. It is a firm, very secure and easy setup. I have found that there are no issues in getting the threads of that bolt to immediately engage with the head’s mounting base.
The counterweight shaft is not a separate piece. It is hidden, sliding into the equatorial head for shipping. Loosening a latch at the side, this shaft slides down and is locked into position easily. At this stage you can add your needed counterweights: first remove the safety catch nut, slide the weights on the shaft, then replace the safety nut. This is all smooth and solid.
There are a lot of cables. The hand control is connected to a central power box located on the side of the equatorial head’s main housing. Also connected to this central box is the main power cable that comes not from a power source, but a separate power box. This new piece of gear also has connections for serial cables, USB, 12V DC power as well as the main power cable to heads to the mount. Where to put this box? Where to put the hand control? Well, these two boxes have small metal loops on them. I took the hint and added two mini carabiners to the mount’s legs and hook them there. A small side table or a bunch of Velcro would also work. There are a lot of cables. One fear is that they will get entangled as the mount moves throughout the night. They might, but I haven’t encountered that as an issue yet. If you are looking to make this a permanent setup, then I suggest you investigate cable routing carefully. It would be easily doable. This seems pretty old-school compared to the many new mounts that have their cabling attach to the non-moving mount’s base. Once cables are all attached, it is time to power on the mount. This allows you to power the polar alignment scope reticle.
Polar alignment is the next logical part of the setup sequence. I found it easier to do this before having the instrumentation attached. It is your choice of course, but I have a big head and it will bump into gear. The manual gives clear and logical instruction as to using the included polar alignment scope. First, one does need to reduce the brightness of the red reticle in order to see stars. This is done through a pretty basic menu set on the hand controller. If you wear glasses, good luck: seeing the entire reticle at one time was a challenge for me and my multi-focals. There is no diopter adjustment to the polar scope, so… you either work with a blurry image, or you suffer seeing only one section of the view at a time. Advice: get the phone app PS Align Pro, it makes this alignment journey a LOT easier. Nice about the alignment process is that Takahashi includes precise adjustments to handle your exact longitudinal position on the Earth. It is impressive. Once alignment, this mount is just a marvel.
Telescope Attachment Time!
I am using a 7kg Tak FSQ-106 scope for this. The fit and mass are perfect for this mount. One thing to note is that you will need to be sure your scope can be attached in such a way as to reach balance on the declination axis. For the FSQ, I needed to obtain a small flat metal piece that pushes the Tak clamshell forward (towards the sky) which brings the OTA into a balance-able position. It was too imager-side-heavy beforehand. Tak’s clamshells are the default manner of attachment, but other methods also exist. Your choice!
At this stage you can use the hand controller to zip around the sky in three speeds: sidereal, medium fast, and very fast. They all work as intended. Inside the menu system one can select other rates: solar, lunar. All work as intended. There is no GoTo facility in the hand controller. This is old school, but works fine. Many modern mounts are used this way, since they are really designed to be used with software control. This mount is no different. One thing to note is a design flaw (Yep! I said flaw!). The mount has setting circles: good. The declination circle works as expected. As the scope is moved either manually (loosening clutches and moved) or with the hand controller, the circles move, and one can monitor the scope’s declination by seeing where the circle aligns with the scribed indicator lines on the mount housing. The Right Ascension circle is another story. If you move the scope to a star, say Vega, and then loosen the RA circle, set it to Vega’s RA on the indicator, then re-tighten the RA circle, one would think you are good to go! Nope. If you now move the scope using the hand control, the RA circle does not follow which then throws off your RA reading completely. NOT GOOD. If you loosen the clutches and move the scope manually, then the RA circle does move: good, sort of. There is no manual slow motion control, so you are stuck with making large changes. Fine motions are not available if you want to keep the RA readings proper. Oh well. I have no idea what Tak was thinking here. All this goes away if you intend to use software control.
Software Control and GoTo:
The mount’s manual tells users to download the SkySafari Version 6 software, providing a link to the app. This runs well on iPhone and iPads. I have not tested it on other devices. The mount’s electronics provide a WiFi network, complete with a mount IP address, a port number and password to join the network. One then configures the i_device to connect to the mount’s network and use SkySafari to connect to and drive the scope. It works quite well, especially if a solid polar alignment has been done. The user simply slews to a known star (east of the meridian) using the mount’s hand control electronics, connects the software, and then tells the mount and software to align on that star. After this point, the mount should not be driven manually by loosening the clutches on RA or Dec. Slews to targets were spot-on every time in all parts of the sky. When told to slew to the Sun in the daytime, the software pulls up a warning: all good. Once accepted, the mount will slew to the Sun without issue, and will change to the solar tracking rate automatically. Any conditions that cause the mount to have a telescope below 10 degrees from horizontal will trigger a boundary range halt to the mount, whether slewing or tracking. This is a good safety feature but can also be disabled if you so desire. Be very careful if you choose to do this.
An important note: The mount has internal menu settings to tell it the time, date and location, among other things. If you are driving the mount without a device, then you should tell it these things by using the menu system. Software will completely control the mount properly, but the mount does not know where it is if there is no connected device. By giving it a north or south latitude, for example, the mount knows which way to track in RA throughout the night.
Other software? Yes! I tried out the OS X version of the Sky X Pro. This used a USB connection to the mount’s external power box. One could also use a serial null modem cable. Telling the software to use a Temma 2 mount worked just fine: slews and all worked just fine.
External guider? I didn’t find a need for one. Tracking was good enough for 10 minutes without an autoguider, and I didn’t try longer integrations. The mount does have a fully functional ST-4 style guide port should you desire to use an autoguider. I have no reason to suspect that it would not work just fine.
I have little negative to say about this mount: it has worked flawlessly for me in the ways that matter the most. I image a lot and in remote locations. It is sturdy, tracks well, and holds a ton of gear. I can operate all night without worry for power. I do not use external autoguiders, since the tracking is stable. My concerns remain with the RA circle oddity and the wires… lots of cables. I have gotten over that. I also am not concerned about the lack of databases and GoTo ability with the hand control alone. That might bother some, but I am happy using external computers to get that done. They are easier to update as well. Good mount? Yes! Awesome.