The Synta/Skywatcher/Orion Series of Equatorial Mounts
have been around a considerable period of time. In an effort to capture a
little of the history
I have created this potted history from web research.
Dates where unknown are stated as such. Information was gleaned from Syntas own
and various web research.
As far as I know dates given are
accurate but there may be discrepancies especially between country release
dates for earlier mounts.
|2-Release Dates and Versions of Mount
is a potted history of the EQ6 and the HEQ5. You should note that due to the
long supply chains and local stock situations some older mounts
were being shipped at various times and
also some versions appear slightly different even from the
The most easily visible
differences in the mounts are the polar scope illuminators. No two mounts ever
seem to be the same with some having very bright
LEDs and some having very dim ones. Some of the earlier versions have
a dimmer control (EQ6 Only) set into the side panel.
manufactured after 2008 are, based on my
own experience, better in many respects. The overall Quality Control (QC) seems
mounts were often loaded
with a dreadful lubricant. Even later
mounts may suffer under lubrication and poor overall tuning. All mounts can be
careful tuning and older
ones imporved by cleaning out the factory lubricants and replacing witha modern
lubricant such as TF2 or Superlube.
The EQ6/NEQ6 and HEQ5 broadly
comprise of three main units; The motors; the motor control board and the handset (the HEQ5 has two internal
one for the motors control and
one for the power input the two boards are identical in function to the single
board in the EQ6).
All of these are
replaceable. The GoTo and Syntrek versions are identical as far as the mount
hardware goes the only difference being the
while the non-GoTo
versions use different motors and motor control boards. These are removed and replaced during a GoTo
Early version mounts up to Early 2006 were shipped with version 1 or
2 handsets. These are non software upgradeable.
||First version of EQ6 Released. Tracking motors only.
Rated payload for the EQ6 is 25kg.
||First version of HEQ5 released. Tracking motors only.
Rated payload for the HEQ5 is 15kg.
||First version of Synscan released. Version 1 and 2
handsets are non-upgradeable.
||First version 3 handsets start to ship with GoTo (Pro)
models. These feature flash upgrade options. A full listing of software updates
is given below.
||Across the mounts development period some mounts feature
slightly different features. Users had complained that early mounts had too
bright an LED in the polar scope. Some mounts were supplied with a very reduced
power LED while some other mounts feature a small rotary control that allows
for variable LED power/dimming.
||Syntrek versions appear. These have the same mount
internals as the GoTo (Pro) version mounts but are not supplied with the GoTo
handset. The GoTo functionality can be supplied via PC with third party
add-ons. The Syntrek version may have only become available in 2008 with the
roll out of Synscan Version 3.21 which allowed support for external serial
commands to the Motor Control Board.
||First NEQ6 versions of the EQ6 start to appear. These
are initially supplied ONLY with the 300P telescope tube. First versions
feature only an extended weight bar to help balance the 300P tube. Internals
are identical to EQ6 versions. No data on Motor Board and some NEQ6s reported
to have Version 1 MCBs (this is not validated).
||Some mounts appear using an upgraded Motor Control Board
(version 2). Version 2 Motor Control Boards allow for software dimming of the
polar scope LED via the GoTo handset which combined with version 3.27
||NEQ6 Mounts start to appear sold as EQ6s. Most have just
the extended weight bar, a few start to appear with dual saddle plates which
can be swapped out between a Vixen and a Losmandy Plate - this is a physical
changeover rather than a dual plate and requires the user to remove the plate
from the mount and replace it with the alternate plate.
||Across this period NEQ6 and EQ6 are often identical in
everything but name plate although the NEQ6 always ships with a longer weight
bar. All internals are identical. Some mounts ship with just a Vixen saddle,
some with the kit which allows the saddles to be swapped and others with dual
saddle plates which can accomodate either dovetails style.
||All EQ6 Shipments are now of the NEQ6 version. This
version features a single saddle plate which can accommodate either a Vixen or
a Losmandy dovetail. All other specifications identical to later
||EQ6 Alt Az First Shipments almost 1 year after being
announced. Alt Az Mount features encoders, locking power plug (Country
dependent) and belt drive. Synscan software is upgraded to accomodate features
in Alt/Az version (Version 3.32)
||V4 Handset starts to ship to replace the older V3
handset. See software release notes below for full details of the
/ NEQ6 Pro alongside my own modified HEQ5. Pro versions with GoTo are mostly
white while the
non-GoTo versions are most usually black. Weights for the
mount head are given.
Note: This applies only to European versions.
American versions with the Orion Brand are often black
even when GoTo
equipped. Both mounts above are equipped with Astro Developments Alt/Az
|3-Synscan Software Releases (most recent
4.36.02 Release Date 13th November,
Update to release version of V4
Handcontroller. See article below for details on differences
between V4 hand controller and V3 hand
1. User configurable declination offset for a mount(e.g. EQ8) which
supports Auto-Home function.
2. Astronomical time-lapse
3. Atmospheric refraction, cone error and
non-perpendicular error compensations for better pointing accuracy.
Cone error measured in 3-Star alignment
can be used in subsequent 1-Star or 2-Star alignment.
flipping for GOTO can be enforced or disabled.
5. New algorithm for
alignment stars filtering to improve alignment quality.
1. Occasional irregular approaching
at the end of GOTO.
2. New firmware
uses J.2000 coordinates for computer communication.
3. Unreliable Auto-Home when the mount is already at
4. Fix bug in time zone
5. Fix Astro Time-Lapse bug in
v4.36.01 firmware and other minor bugs.
|Synscan Version 4 Handset versus Previous Version 3 Hand
(Dateline January 2015)
of April 2014 the original V3 handset was replaced with the V4 handset. Some
mounts shipped after April 2014 may contain
the V3 handset but all newly manufactured units will contain the V4
The handset has a slightly
different appearance as can be seen below from the two line drawings. The
change was required as
in the original V3 handset were no longer available forcing a redesign.
Functionality is more or less
identical. Key changes are detailed below.
POINTS TO NOTE ABOUT THE CHANGE FROM V3 TO V4 HAND
- Unlike the V3 handset the
V4 has no DC power input socket so it cannot be powered stand alone from the
It must be connected to a mount that has power in order to operate.
- The V3 and V4 hand
controllers are interoperable on any Skywatcher/Orion GoTo system that uses the
GoTo hand controller.
- The V4 hand controller is
NOT firmware compatible with the V3 hand controller. Skywatcher will
updates for BOTH V3 AND V4 handcontrollers in the
future as the requirements for upgrades arise.
BE AWARE THAT THE FIRMWARE LOADERS AND
FOIRMWARE SETS ARE DIFFERENT
AND ENSURE YOU LOAD ONLY THE CORRECT V4 OR V4
- There is no need for
existing V3 users to consider V4 as an upgrade. Functionality is not upgraded
(although there are some slight differences between the two hand
controllers). However any users with
a broken/damaged V3 hand controller
will have no choice but to move to a V4 hand controller as the
contreoller is now no longer available.
- Seperate manuals/user
guides are available for each handcontroller from the Skywatcher
3.36 Release Date 11th July,
1. User configurable
declination offset for a mount(e.g. EQ8) which supports Auto-Home function.
2. Astronomical time-lapse
3. Atmospheric refraction, cone error and
non-perpendicular error compensations for better pointing accuracy.
Cone error measured in 3-Star
alignment can be used in subsequent 1-Star or 2-Star alignment.
4. Meridian flipping for GOTO can be enforced or disabled.
5. New algorithm for alignment stars filtering to improve alignment
1. Occasional irregular approaching at the end of GOTO.
2. New firmware uses J.2000 coordinates
for computer communication.
Unreliable Auto-Home when the mount is already at home position.
4. Other minor bugs.
3.35 Release Date 24th April,
1. Implemented an all
new polar alignment algorithm.
Latitude adjustment and Azimuth adjustment have been split into two steps.
2. New adjustment allow users to set the maximum altitude for a
GoTo slewing on equatorial mount.
3. Some bugs were
inaccuracy in some regions of the sky, frozen of directional buttons after
starting from parked position
incorrect tracking speed after GoTo at the Moon.
3.34 Release Date 13th February,
1. Update from previous
firmware of SynScan Ver.03.32.
2. Fix the bug in connecting SynScan GPS at power up and
enhance the reliability.
In EQ Mode operation, recover displaying the Hour Angle of Polaris to providing
assistant information for polar alignment.
The Hour Angle of Polaris can be viewed at the beginnig after the
location and time settings, or can be browsed
at "Utility\Show Information\Polaris Pos" sub-menu. Under the
sub-menu, Polaris Pos., press the scroll keys to
switch viewing between the Polaris position in polarscope and the
hour angle of Polaris.
editing of the interval time setting between exposures in the Configuration of
Camera Control function in Utility.
User may change and set the time interval between exposures from 1
seconds to 10 minutes or more.
disable the polar (re-)alignment function for the feature still under
3.32 Release Date 12th December,
Final version of 3.28 with
all star polar alignment routine and software features to accommodate the EQ6
Alt/Az version and the proposed EQ8 mount.
3.28 BETA - Release Date circa 31st March,
BETA TEST VERSION OF 3.28
NOT the official SynScan EQ official firmware
A new feature of Polar
Re-alignment is added under Alignment sub-menu of the hand control in the
This is an 'any star' polar alignment routine.
3.27 - Release Date 6th January, 2010
1. Fix the bug in the SAO catalog regarding disabling the key-
Problem: Unable to
drive and slew the telescope with the directional keys after browsing the SAO
Result: The directional keys
are properly activated after browsing the SAO catalog.
2. Fix the
bug in the User Object coordinate editing.
Problem: In the User Object function, under RA-Dec format, when the
user enters an object with a declination angle between 0 and -1 degree the
value becomes positive after the
coordinates are saved. This causes GoTo pointing inaccuracy.
Result: The user-entered coordinates are saved properly.
3. Fix the error in the database of NGC, IC catalogs.
Problem: In the NGC and IC catalogs,
the coordinates of the objects located between 0 and -1 degree in declination
always read as positive.
GoTo pointing inaccuracy.
coordinates are read as their true values.
3.27 also supports a
polar scope dimming feature from the UTILITIES menus of the handset if the
Board is version 2 or above.
** This was not in the Synscan
Version 3.25 - Release Date 24th June,
1. Fix the
bug existed in the Time Zone Setting
Problem: Unable to save the data entered by using the scroll-down
Result: Now the user is able to
enter the data by pressing either the scroll-down and scroll-up key.
2. Fix the bug existed in the PAE Function
Problem: Incorrect data calculation occurred when the RA
axis of the telescope (AX2) was pointed at a negative angle.
Solution: Now the PAE functions properly when the RA
axis (AZ2) is pointed at a negative angle.
Version 3.24 - Release Date 26th January,
1). Fix bugs in firmware version 3.23
Now the hand control setting will
remain upon power up, after the PAE function was performed.
LED and LCD backlight performance.
3.23 - Release Date 30th July,
1. Fix bugs existed in firmware version
Now tracking mode is
deactivated automatically when the goto object selected is an user-defined
2. Fix bugs existed in firmware version
Now the hand control will not
lock up when the user chooses to advance directly to the Show Position option,
skipping the initial alignment procedure.
Version 3.22 - Release
Date 5th June, 2008
1. Add SAO submenu in
The total number of
objects in database increased to 42,900.
2. Enhance Show Position
Function: display telescope current position by RA/Dec, AZ/ALT or motor drive
readings of both axes.
display is accurate to one arc seconds.
3. Add precession
compensation in coordinates calculation.
information such as the rise, transit and set time of an object is available
when browsing the information for an object.
If a selected catalogue object is currently below horizon, the hand
control will prompt "Below horizon!" for two seconds to notify user.
5. Improve "PC Direct Mode" function and fix the directional key
lock out problem in "PC Direct Mode".
Version 3.21 -
Release Date 4th January, 2008
1. Smoother response to
manual guiding and PC based autoguiding command.
2. "PC Direct
It allows the PC to
communicate directly with the motor controller via RS-232C connection.
The RS-232C port of the PC should be
configured as 9600bps, 1 start bit, 8 data bits, 1 stop bit, no parity check
and no flow control.
Direct Mode" under "Utility\PC Direct Mode>".
Press the "ESC" key to exit. The 4 direction buttons and rate
controlling function operate as usual under this mode.
This feature is also designed for future applications.
Version 3.20 - Release
Date 16th November 2007
the planet orbital calculation and fixed the inconsistent Double Star and
Variable Star Catalogs.
1. The time zone setting has been changed to more precise in
minutes for locations with half hour definition.
For example, if you live in a region with -3.5 hours of
time zone, the setting will be -03:30, indicating minus three hour and thirty
2. The planets' orbital calculations have been enhanced
based on "Keplerian Elements for
Approximate Positions of the Major Planets",
published by NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The
calculation data are available and reliable from 1800 AD to 2050 AD.
Most of the calculation precision will
be within one arc minute and others such as Jupiter and Saturn will be within a
few arc minutes.
3. The Identify function has been improved to be able to
4. The inconsistency in
Double Star and Variable Star database while scrolling the list has been
5. In the SETUP menu, we add a Factory Setting
function under the SETUP menu.
may choose to reset the settings to the default settings. Restarting the mount
(switching off the power and turning it back on) is
Note: All the settings of Longitude, Latitude, time zone, daylight
saving, backlash, PEC data, PAE data and previous alignment data will be
deleted, except for the user defined
3.12 - Release Date 13th March, 2007
1). More options
available for alignment star selection
Auto select or manual select, and alignment stars sorted by
magnitude or alphabet. See "Alignment Stars" under submenu "SETUP".
2)."Clear PAE data" added under "Utility".
parking positions available:
HOME +90 degrees (Northern Hemisphere) or -90 degrees (Southern Hemisphere) in
b. Current Position Park the scope
at currently position.
Position Slew and park the scope to the previously saved parking position.
To save a parking position, choose one
of the above parking positions under Utility-Park Scope, then turn off the
(ESC to cancel and escape from
the Utility menu.) If there is a parking position stored in the system, SynScan
will prompt "Start from park position?"
at power up.
4). IMPORTANT!! Re-enter the
Time Zone data on your hand control after installing the V3.12 firmware.
3.11 - Release Date 17th January,
1. Firmware version and warning message displayed at
power up, before the Initializing message.
2. Daylight saving setup
required throughout the year instead of just in summer.
3. The hand
control displays hour angle and clock position of Polaris after location, date
and time are entered.
4. Fix default backlash retrieving bug and set the
default backlash as 0°02'00" when the hand control is powered up for the
5. Fix bugs in PEC Training and PEC
3.10 - Release Date 15th November, 2006 (First version for the V3.0
1. GPS function added.
The SynScan hand control automatically retrieves
Longitude, Latitude, and Universal Time for initial setup when the SynScan GPS
is in use.
2. Criteria for alignment star selection implemented
in the software.
The star alignment
list contains only the appropriate stars for the time, location, and star
alignment method selected.
3. Automatic backlash
compensation when under PC control or slewing using directional keys.
4. Adjustable beeper volume under SETUP menu -- HANDSET SETTING.
5. PAE function accessible from the UTILITY menu.
and Power Voltage display under UTILITY menu -- SHOW INFORMATION.
7. Bugs reported in the 3.01 firmware fixed.
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