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I'm going to combine a blog post, a product review, and a request for advice...

So, the last few nights, we've had some clear skies (albeit moonlit and humid). It finally gave me the opportunity to try out my new LVI Smartguider V2. Where to start... The product would be excellent if it actually did anything it said on the box. This includes tracking stars up to magnitude 8 and after email correspondence with LVI themselves, compatibility with my CGEm.

Having read and re-read the _cryptic_ manual in preparation for tonight, I first, followed the quickstart instructions to get the camera up and running with my mount; No dice. The paddle indicated the tracking was not stable enough for long exposure photography. On recommendation of the documentation, I altered the CGEm autoguider rates to their lowest setting and tried again with the default aggression and pulse settings on the control paddle. The resulting read out on the paddle was somewhat better, but still fluctuating. Not quite sure how to quantify the fluctuation, I took some shots at 6, 4 and 1 minute exposures. The results were abysmal! I tried again, this time altering the settings on the paddle as per the suggestion of the manual. The tracking graphs, again, fluctuated between good and mediocre. I took the 6, 4 and 1 minute shots again. Still, bad tracking. Even the 1 minute shots - my mount tracks practically flawlessly for 1 minute exposures unguided. I am astounded how the Smartguider borks it up so badly. I am at a loss as to explain it, considering the combinations of settings I tried.

This was just last night. Tonight, I tried again, putting last night down to teething problems and my own inexperience with the product. Another 4 hours enumerating various combinations to try and get some semblance of effective tracking. I would have been even satisfied with 1 minute accurate tracking, knowing that I could probably improve this with further tweaking, but I didn't even get close.

Has anyone else successfully used one of these things with a Celestron mount? Is there something glaringly obvious I'm doing wrong? Has anyone got any advice? And at the risk of posing too many questions, what autoguiding cameras are you adept astrophotographers using? Any feedback, input or insights are greatly appreciated.

And now to remedy the frustration with a 21 year old single malt...

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