Celestron’s Advanced VX is frequently cited as a great multipurpose mount for astrophotography, but in actuality, it’s ridden with problems in its design which make it less-than-optimal – a product of cost-cutting measures.
The Advanced VX is great, however, if you want a big dumb mount for planetary imaging and visual use which has to do nothing besides carry a telescope, track, and move around the sky with less-than-perfect precision. For the price, it’s unmatched in weight capacity and stability for this purpose, and it’s fairly easy to set up and use too.
However, if you want a high-quality mount that doesn’t have backlash issues at high power or when shooting the planets or want to do any deep-sky astrophotography beyond the most casual of efforts at this price range, one of the various mid-capacity mounts with stepper motors and actual declination bearings such as those offered by Sky-Watcher, iOptron, and other manufacturers is the way to go.
Celestron Advanced VX
FEATURES: 30lbs max load bearing, Advanced VX Equatorial Head, and NexStar+ Hand Control
- Equatorial mount meant for long-exposure astrophotography
- GoTo easily zeroes in on your targets
- Works with a variety of astronomical imaging software packages on your PC
- Lowest-priced proper equatorial mount
What We Like About the Advanced VX
- Fairly easy to transport. The Advanced VX’s mount head fits in a carry case easily, and the tripod – though beefy – isn’t too difficult to move around.
- High payload capacity – The Advanced VX can hold even a 10 Newtonian or 11 Schmidt-Cassegrain if you need it to, though careful balancing is needed.
- Easy to use – The Advanced VX’s NexStar hand controller is straightforward to set up and operate.
- Low price – The Advanced VX is cheaper than basically any other true GoTo equatorial mount on the market and has higher payload capacity than most similarly-priced competitors marketed for under $2000 USD.
What We Don’t Like
- Poor tracking accuracy – The Advanced VX’s servo motors and poor-quality declination bearing create a massive backlash and periodic error problems, which ruin astrophotography exposures even with good autoguiding. These can be compensated for, but getting your Advanced VX to perform well can be frustrating.
- Annoying setup, particularly for astrophotography – without a polar scope or digital polar alignment tool, you are forced to either guess (impossible) or use Celestron’s time-consuming All Star Polar Align feature, which is marketed as a way to avoid the polar scope but really just makes things more difficult.
- Software incompatibilities – Celestron’s mounts don’t work with EQMod, which makes it less user-friendly nor responsive with software like NINA, and you are forced to use the ST4 autoguiding port, which can lead to even less accurate autoguiding.
- Low-quality dovetail saddle – the Advanced VX has a dual Vixen V-style/Losmandy D-style dovetail saddle; however, the saddle bites into and mars your dovetail bar with its screws, and the D-style saddle is a hair too small to actually fit many true Losmandy-style D plate bars.
It also is time-consuming and annoying to switch the mount saddle from one plate size to the other, as opposed to most dual saddles, which don’t require any fiddling (though you won’t be doing much of that since the Advanced VX’s D-style saddle doesn’t actually fit!)
How The Advanced VX Compares to Similar Products
- Sky-Watcher HEQ5 Pro – The Sky-Watcher HEQ5 Pro has vastly superior hardware and software features to the Advanced VX, making it a much better choice for astrophotography. It tracks and guides accurately, it’s quiet, the dual saddle is actually a true dual saddle, and a polar scope is included. You do lose a little weight capacity for larger visual-only telescopes, however.
- Explore Scientific/Bresser EXOS-2GT/Meade LX85 – These mounts are actually worse than the Advanced VX, being essentially copycats of its predecessor, the CG5 ASGT. All have severe backlash and periodic error issues.
- Sky-Watcher EQ6R Pro – The EQ6R Pro is able to carry even heavier and bigger telescopes than the Advanced VX, isn’t too much more difficult to transport, and has vastly superior tracking and guiding accuracy compared to the Advanced VX – the EQ6R pro uses the same stepper motors and other mechanical improvements as the HEQ5 Pro, with the added feature of a belt drive and an illuminated polar scope reticle.
- Celestron CGEM II – The CGEM II is little more than a scaled-up Advanced VX with a bigger mount head but otherwise, the same features and problems with its design. Unlike the Advanced VX, however, the competing equivalent mount from Sky-Watcher (the EQ6R Pro) is basically the same price and can carry equally large payloads, making skipping over the CGEM for the EQ6R Pro basically a no-brainer.
For big telescopes meant purely for visual astronomy or planetary imaging, the Advanced VX can actually hold its stated weight capacity of 30 pounds or even a little more. Celestron’s C11 optical tube weighs 27.5 pounds, which gets bumped up to about 30 pounds or so with a typical eyepiece and other accessories, but still works okay on the Advanced VX if you are able to perfectly balance it (though for planetary imaging the C11 can be wobbly enough that a bigger mount is probably best).
So you needn’t worry about overloading the Advanced VX provided you have sufficient counterweights and know how to accurately balance the amount to avoid straining the gears and ruining slew accuracy.
For astrophotography, stability is not so much the issue with the Advanced VX as tracking and guiding accuracy. You can shoot with a scope weighing up to 15 pounds, but anything over 800mm focal length is going to struggle to get sharp stars with anything but the shortest exposures and you’re completely out of luck with over 1000mm or so.
Longer optical tubes are more likely to have issues. For planetary astrophotography, you can again use a C11 or similar in principle, but we’d recommend staying at 25 pounds or below for stability reasons.
Polar Alignment with the Advanced VX
The Advanced VX comes with no polar scope, so you can eyeball Polaris through the hole in the mount where the polar scope should be or do the time-consuming process of using Celestron’s All-Star Polar Align process, which requires not only an eyepiece in your telescope but also takes quite a bit of time.
You could also purchase the polar scope Celestron offers, which makes alignment quite a bit easier and more accurate, or use a device like a Polemaster to polar align without the headache of trying to match and line up a polar scope reticle and whatnot.
After polar alignment, you’ll need to align the mount on a few stars for accurate GoTos or use an astrophotography tool that allows you to plate-solve with your camera.
The Advanced VX often suffers from big enough backlash issues that you may even notice during casual visual observing. It tends to slew accurately, but bigger telescopes and balance issues tend to degrade GoTo quality over the course of an evening – as will the poor polar alignment which you are likely to have if you don’t use a polar scope or camera for alignment.
Declination slewing and guiding accuracy tends to be the worst part of the Advanced VX, as the declination bearing is basically metal-on-metal. If you make a lot of slews from the northern to the southern part of the sky, expect slewing accuracy to go down even faster. You can always re-sync (if you’re using an eyepiece) when it gets bad enough to notice, but this is still annoying, especially when you’re looking for a difficult target and the Advanced VX fails to put it in the field of view.
The Advanced VX’s cheap servo motors also make it really loud compared to stepper-driven mounts, to the point of being able to actually disturb your neighbors if you live or observe in an otherwise quiet place. It pretty much always sounds like the mount is about to die as it whines and screeches during slewing. There is some – but not much – you can do with lubricants, shims, and adjustments to the mount’s gears to eliminate both the noise and backlash, but it will never be as good as a servo-driven mount.
As with any equatorial mount, you’ll need a power source; the Advanced VX is hungry enough that a big rechargeable 12v battery is required unless you have access to a reliable AC power supply that won’t drop or surge in voltage.
The Advanced VX for Deep-Sky Astrophotography
The Advanced VX is, for the reasons we’ve noted previously, pretty sub-par for deep-sky astrophotography. Anything beyond a small refractor or telephoto lens is going to be annoying to use, even with autoguiding, thanks to the Advanced VX’s backlash and periodic error problems.
Don’t even think about skipping out on guiding and expect to discard frames here and there. And, of course, above 800-1000mm focal length, basically all hope is lost in achieving consistently sharp frames.
Yes, you could technically use a 5, 1000mm focal length triplet refractor on the Advanced VX and throw away 50% of your frames, but that means that for every 2 hours of exposure time, you’re getting 1 hour of useful data – not great.
The Advanced VX for Visual Observing
For visual astronomy, the Advanced VX’s nuisances are little more than trivial inconveniences, though good polar alignment and balance are still essential!
The NexStar hand controller is a bit easier to navigate than competitors’ systems and contains a large database. You’re likely to be quite happy with an Advanced VX if all you do is look through your telescope, and for the price, it’s a pretty great choice for that.
Systems like Celestron’s StarSense or GPS add-ons further reduce the setup time of the Advanced VX for visual use. However, these accessories are of little value for an astrophotography rig.
Celestron Advanced VX Specs
Final Thoughts on the Celestron Advanced VX
The Celestron Advanced VX is a sub-par astrophotography mount at best and infuriating at worst. For visual astronomy, however, the majority of our complaints become either invalid or simply too trivial to be worth worrying about, especially considering that the next cheapest mount with a similar payload capacity to the Advanced VX costs nearly twice as much.
We would recommend the Advanced VX if you’re looking to:
- Use it for exclusively visual use, even with a fairly big scope of up to 10-11 in aperture, if you know what you’re doing and can’t afford a beefier mount
- Image the planets
- Do casual deep-sky imaging at short focal lengths
We would not recommend the Advanced VX for:
- Any deep-sky astrophotography. You will get frustrated and quit, or at least have to waste a lot of perfectly good hours of clear night skies getting the mount to cooperate and discarding frames. If you can’t afford an HEQ5 or similar high-quality mount, just get a star tracker and telephoto lens for now. You’ll save yourself a lot of headaches and wasted money.
- Holding a telescope bigger than an 8 Newtonian or 9.25 Schmidt-Cassegrain unless you absolutely cannot afford a bigger mount for some reason. Just because you can put a C11 doesn’t mean you should, especially if it’s avoidable.