My current astro setup is a Sirius EQ-G mount + either 5D2+lens or 5D2+AT6RC telescope+Orion Starshoot autoguider. While it gives great results, my only gripe is that the setup requires very careful alignment and calibration to get long exposures. Given the weight and setup requirements, it's not very portable (or as portable as I'd like it to be). Thankfully I live under relatively dark skies, but would like to travel and shoot from other darker locations too. Hence my interest in the Astrotrac. But I do have a few questions about the whole system...
1. Is this the only thing I need? The way I think it works is that the camera mounts on it, and the whole thing attaches to a tripod head. There must be a way to tilt the whole setup to the correct right ascension, either by using a ballhead or adjusting the tripod legs?
2. How easy/quick is it to set it up from scratch? Obviously the right ascension adjustment will depend on the tripod/ballhead. But what about the polar alignment? With the Sirius EQ-G, it does take a while to get it exactly right. How easy is the Astrotrac? With the EQ-G, getting everything balanced accurately takes time too -- does the Astrotrac need to be balanced or calibrated in any other way?
2. I don't see anything about counterweights -- does the Astrotrac not need any? The specs say that it can support up to 33lbs -- presumably without needing any counterweights?
3. Looks like it has a port for an autoguider. How does an autoguider attach to the system? I'm guessing the autoguider would attach on the Astrotrac first, and then the camera on top of the guider? Anyone have pics of a guided Astrotrac setup?
3. The AstroTrac website says it can achieve exposures of up to 5 minutes. Is that unguided? If it is indeed unguided, how realistic/frequent is that?
4. How delicate is the AstroTrac? Will carrying it in a padded camera bag as airline carry-on damage any of the built-in calibration?
Thanks a lot for any responses.