Terri, have you considered the AP portable pier? I have the Eagle and the portable pier and like the both. Either one is quick and easy to assemble/take down and have easy attachment for the CP4. The Portable pier is much cheaper and I purchased one front someone in AstroMart for around $400 if I remember correctly.
The only downside to the portable pier is getting it level. However, it doesn't need to be level, just polar aligned.
To continue discussion on a tripod for the Mach2. I was originally going to buy the AP Eagle but the discussion here has convinced me that I should at least look at the alternatives. I’ve narrowed my search down to the Losmandy folding HD tripod, the Planet wood tripod and the Avalon TPOD. It seems that people have used all of these tripods with Mach1’s with success. Part of the reason to look at alternatives is the cost, as the Eagle as-is, seems to need additional purchases to make it usable, or at least this is my impression. I am almost 6’ tall and I’ll use my mach2 for both AP and visual, and my impression is that the Eagle is quite short and I’ll want the $400 8” pier extension. My understanding is that the other tripods likely need extensions as well to make them usable for visual with long refractors, but in each case the tripod and extensions are about 1/2 the cost to acquire new.
A few questions for the A-P astronuts:
1) If I buy a non-AP tripod, is this going to force me to cobble together a way to attach the CP4 control box and/or hand controller? On that same vein, do the AP tripods provide this facility or do I have the same issue and have to cobble something together or buy another accessory? I’d really like a solution that just bolts together and is neat and tidy.
2) I’ve read that the Losmandy HD folding tripod has a bunch of sharp edges that will destroy the interior of my car if I have to transport it. Is this real or an exaggeration? I am really more concerned with my hands than car.. as my trunk has a liner and in Vt we have a truck. Roland seems to advocate the Losmandy which seems a good recommendation on build quality. The other downside of the Losmandy seems to be weight at 35 pounds (without extension and adapter). This is one beefy tripod!! given the head is heavier than this, it’s not going to be the limiting weight..
3) On the Planet, I’ve not really heard downsides other than weight and some irrational concerns with using wood. And weight is relative since it is lighter by 10 pounds than the Losmandy but some seem to have issues with the weight.
4) On the TPOD, at 15 pounds without all the adapters, seems to be the lightest. It seems very minimalist, but people have said it’s very stiff. Is there any downside to the TPOD that anyone has found? Has anyone built a setup with the mach1 here that includes extension and adapter, and can comment on experience?
I’m really looking for a solution I can just bolt together, have reasonable height for visual with a long refractor such as the tec140 and maybe tec160, and not have to make adapters, etc.
A third alternative is to get a Meade Giant Field Tripod. It uses 3" diameter legs and has a large flat round top. It is rock solid and works very well for solid vibration free mounting for larger AP mounts up to 1100. I mounted the flat surface AP adaptor that takes both my 900 and 1100 mounts. I support a 6" APO refractor w SBIG STL 6303 camera or alternating with a 11" SCT with Hyperstar. I needed a tripod that would put the mount high enough so I don't have to kneel in the weeds to get to the eyepiece of the 6" reftractor. I usually set it up so the height of the top of the tripod is around 44" for the refractor. If you aren't using a long refractor you could set the tripod up lower. It will require a bit of basic metal work such as drill and taping to take the mount.
Meade uses that tripod with a lot of their heavier scopes and I suspect a lot of people bought it with their scope/mount and later upgraded to piers so you can often find these for sale on line. Note that some of the models came with extra long legs that were designed to work with their largest refractors. Make sure that you verify how long the legs are on any specific one you are buying.
Besides mine, two of my friends have one...in both cases I modified them to take their AP mount and in one case shortened the legs a bit as it was from one of the big Meade refractor versions and was too long even at the lowest height with a big SCT.
There is one safety tip I recommend though.....the spreaders are connected with steel drift pins into aluminum. They are notorious for backing out after extended opening and closing and could fall out causing the tripod to collapse. I pushed the drift pins out and replaced with stainless steel screws and lock nuts.
They work great with one caveat....since it is a true tripod (legs to all the way to the top) if you use it with a big refractor you MAY run into cases where the telescope and camera setup may get close to one leg when tracking close to zenith. You just need to watch for that in use. SCTS and shorter refractors will have no problems.
I have used mine for 17 years and no issues.