SkyWatcher HEQ5 Goto Equatorial Telescope Mount Review


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Are you looking to buy your first high-quality mount for astrophotography?

Are you new to using GoTo or GEM mounts?

The HEQ5 is an ideal, computerized mount for first-timers looking to get into the imaging game.

Even though it may have a more expensive price tag than you were thinking about spending, you must invest in your scope since what you can and can’t do will be up to the mount.

Leave it to the Sky Watcher HEQ5 – you’ll learn pro tricks to achieve your imaging goals in no time.

Zooming in…

✔️ Best Feature: Stepper motor

Worst Feature: Light-duty

👌 Ideal For: Visual, Astrophotography, Beginners, Intermediates

  • Mount Design: Computerized Equatorial
  • Mount Weight: 22 lbs (10 kg)
  • Tripod Weight: 16.5 lbs (7.5 kg)
  • Load Capacity: 30 lbs (13.6 kg)
  • Tripod Leg Diameter: 1.75” (44.5 mm)

Our Verdict: The Sky Watcher HEQ5 mount is an excellent beginner’s mount. It provides all the essentials for getting started into astro-imaging without the high-end cost. It is light-duty in many ways for many benefits, but it will provide the weight limits you’ll need to image with a DSLR unguided or guided.

Who is the SkyWatcher HEQ5 Best Suited to?

This is an excellent example of a beginner’s GoTo mount that is world’s better than the average in the entry-level market. Although this isn’t for the brand-new beginner, it is for someone who has had some experience with telescope mounts and is ready to try all sorts of imaging configurations with a computerized EQ head.

Intermediates will also enjoy the many conveniences of the HEQ5. It’s smaller, lighter in weight, and can still handle the demands necessary for long exposure DSLR imaging. But, seasoned and serious imagers may find it too light-duty for their needs if they’re using rigs closer to 25 lbs or heavier.

How Does the SkyWatcher HEQ5 Perform?

The HEQ5 is a high-functioning mount that has excellent traits that allows versatile performance. It comes with the SynScan hand controller that provides access to all its features, easy object locating and tracking, and is great for beginners who need to learn the night sky.

However, you can opt for direct computer control for fully autonomous imaging like what the big boys do in astrophotography – set-it and forget-it. The HEQ5 can do it all while you make yourself a cup of coffee.

One of its biggest advantages is that it’s lightweight and portable. It’s an upgraded setup for the beginner astrophotographer and the no-fuss setup for the seasoned pro. Capable of a lot, the HEQ5 is a highly recommended mount.

Features & Benefits

Stepper Motor

While the HEQ5 does not feature a belt-driven system as it incorporates gears, it does have a stepper motor that is an upgrade from the servo motors seen on cheaper mounts. It’s quieter, and any backlash that occurs can mostly be corrected with autoguiding and periodic error correction technology.

You could do an aftermarket belt mod, but you will likely be voiding your warranty by doing so. However, the HEQ5 performs very well with excellent 0.9 arcsecond accuracy with autoguiding. It may take some experimentation with exposure durations, but for the price, this mount is worth it and allows a beginner to develop essential skills needed to upgrade to a telescope that costs twice the price.

SynScan Hand Control

The HEQ5 comes with Sky Watcher’s SynScan hand control. This is their universal hand control that all their GoTo setups, so it will be easy to get started if you’re familiar with its interface. If this is your first time using the SynScan, you may find the interface difficult to navigate as it’s not very intuitive, and there is no internal clock, so you will need to input time and date every time you start up your scope.

The SynScan has a 42,000+ object database and you can connect your PC/laptop to the hand control via a RS-232 cable for planetarium-assisted technology.

Since direct computer control is convenient, you can completely bypass the hand control and use a software that plate-solves for precision alignment as it takes astro photographs autonomously. Yes, you can setup your scope to take long-exposure, guided images and take a nap at the same time!

30 lb Payload Capacity

As you can tell, its payload capacity is much lighter in weight than EQ6 and heavy-duty models, by at least 10-14 lbs. For long exposure imaging of larger galaxies and nebulae with a DSLR and guiding scope, this is plenty of weight allowance to get it done. 

Lightweight & Portable

Due to its light-duty build, it’s easier to travel with and get setup since the entire assembly comes to approximately 38.5 lbs without the counterweights. This is incredibly lighter than the average 50 lbs plus some that heavy-duty mounts weigh.

The mount head is also small and can be packed within a carry-on bag for flight travel. The counterweight shaft is also designed to be retractable.

Limitations

Light-Duty

The HEQ5 mount is a light-duty mount, so if you’re looking to mount a 20 lb telescope on it, this isn’t the mount for you.

Even though its weight capacity is rather low, it’s appropriate for the design concept. Sky Watcher is pretty liberal in allowing up to 24 lbs of max weight for astrophotography, but it’s unlikely you’ll achieve max performance with strain and backlash at this weight.  

Its light-duty build allows for ultimate travel and ease of setup.

Popular Questions

What is the Latitude Range for the HEQ5 Mount?

The latitude range for the HEQ5 is 0-90 degrees. It’s ready to go and you shouldn’t need a pier extension to prevent the counterweight from hitting the tripod.

Is the Sky Watcher HEQ5 and the HEQ5 Pro the same Mount?

Yes. The HEQ5 Pro mount is the HEQ5 mount with the manufacturer model number of S30400.

Is the SkyWatcher HEQ5 Pro Mount a Heavy Duty Mount?

This is sort of a subjective term as it’s much more heavy duty than cheaper mounts with its higher payload capacity and 1.75” steel tripod legs. However, its lighter duty than the mounts in this price range.

It does support up to 30 lbs for visual and 24 lbs for astrophotography, but to prevent excess strain on the worm gears, 16 lbs should be the limit for imaging. No more than an 8” reflector or SCT and 5” refractor should be loaded on the HEQ5.

What Style Dovetail fits the HEQ5 Pro Mount?

The HEQ5 is compatible with Vixen-style dovetail mounting plates. It is not dual-width, so the wider Losmandy dovetails will not fit onto this mount.

Conclusion

The HEQ5 is a good and solid-performing mount for both alt-azimuth visual-only use and equatorial use for astrophotography. It has plenty to offer the beginner who is looking for their first high-quality mounting system to get into the long game of imaging.

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