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Sky-Watcher HEQ5 vs. NEQ6

Comparing the SkyWatcher HEQ5 Mount to the larger NEQ6 version

On this page, I will discuss the differences between the HEQ5 vs. NEQ6 astrophotography mounts from Sky-Watcher.  I am often asked by beginner astrophotographers for advice on purchasing their first tracking mount.  I have been using the Sky-Watcher HEQ5 SynScan GPS for my personal astrophotography in the backyard.  This mount has provided reliable and consistent results for years.

HEQ5 vs. NEQ6

A discussion that often surfaces is whether to invest in the Sky-Watcher HEQ5 Pro Synscan or the larger NEQ6.  To be clear, I am referring to the HEQ5 Pro Synscan version, not the regular HEQ5 mount.  You can often find this mount for sale in astrophotography classified sites such as Canada-wide Astronomy Buy Sell.

My first experience with Sky-Watcher equatorial mounts was back in 2011.  I had the opportunity to use my astronomy clubs Sky-Watcher NEQ6 with my brand new Explore Scientific ED80.   I immediately noticed a big improvement from the Celestron ASCG-5 I currently owned.  I would later purchase the HEQ5 based on the positive experience I had with the NEQ6.

A Go-To German Equatorial Mount

Features found in both the Sky-Watcher HEQ5 and NEQ6 models:

The Sky-Watcher mounts were designed to be used by amateur astrophotographers and experts alike.  Both the HEQ5 and NEQ6 provide extremely high-precision tracking and have built in autoguider ports.  The astrophotography capabilities of these mounts are impressive, as seen by the countless images found online using these GEM’s. (German Equatorial Mount)


The SynScan system provides a user-friendly menu that allows automatic slewing to over 42,000 objects.  The SynScan hand controller also has the ability to connect to your laptop computer with a RS-232 cable.  This way, you can control the mount using a software from your computer, including a planetarium.

As of February 2017, I am currently looking into controlling my Sky-Watcher HEQ5 using EQMOD during my astrophotography sessions in the backyard.  Keep up to date with me on the AstroBackyard Facebook page.

The biggest difference between the HEQ5 and the NEQ6 is payload capacity

Skywatcher NEQ6 telescope mount

The Sky-Watcher HEQ5 with an Explore Scientific ED102 attached

The EQ5 and EQ6 mounts from Sky-Watcher share many of the same characteristics.  The counter weights, motor drive, GoTo hand controller, guiding and slew speeds are all identical.  These two mounts both include a Polar Alignment Scope, an extremely useful tool.  The biggest advantage the NEQ6 has over the HEQ5 is the ability to handle larger telescopes, and more astrophotography gear.

The HEQ5 is a perfect fit with my small carbon-fiber refractor, with all of the necessary imaging gear.  However, using my larger 8″ Newtonian Astrograph is about a heavy a load I would recommend for this mount.  Owners of larger refractors or heavier reflector telescopes will benefit from the beefier NEQ6 model.

With the added payload capacity comes a higher price tag.  If you are on a budget, it is worth comparing these models to see which mount is the right fit for your imaging gear.  Don’t forget to account for the weight of your primary imaging camera, guide scope, and all other accessories.

Weight and Portability

With the added stability of the NEQ6 comes an added overall weight.  If portability is a big concern of yours, the more lightweight HEQ5 version may be the mount for you.  The difference in overall weight between the two mounts is about 10 kg (22 lbs), including both counter weights. At my age, I am able to lift the entire HEQ5 mount, with 1 counter weight (and the telescope) attached quite easily.  You can view the Sky-Watcher HEQ5 in action in the video below:

 

 

HEQ5 vs. NEQ6 EQ Mount – Specs

Sky-Watcher HEQ5 Pro SynScanSky-Watcher HEQ5 Pro Synscan

  • Counter Weight: 2 x 5.1Kgs
  • Accessory Tray: Large wall-to-wall
  • Motor Drive: 1.8° stepper motors
  • GoTo: SynScan Hand Control
  • Tripod Height: 97-121cm
  • Tripod Weight: 5.6 kg, 1.75″ steel tripod
  • Payload Capacity: 13.7 kg
  • Slewing Speed: up to 3.4°/sec (800X)
  • Guiding Speed: from 0.25X, 0.50X, 0.75X, or 1X

 

Bottom Line:

The Sky-Watcher HEQ5 is a very capable astrophotography mount with all of the features of the larger NEQ6.  A wise investment due to its proven reliability and affordability.  The payload capacity of 13.7 kg (30 lbs) may limit your use depending on your current imaging equipment.

sky-watcher-neq6-mountSky-Watcher NEQ6

  • Counter Weight: 2 x 5.1Kgs
  • Motor Drive: 1.8° stepper motors
  • GoTo: SynScan Hand Control
  • Tripod Height: 90-147cm
  • Tripod Weight: 7.5 kg, 2″ steel tripod
  • Payload Capacity: 18.20 kg
  • Slewing Speed: up to 3.4°/sec (800X)
  • Guiding Speed: from 0.25X, 0.50X, 0.75X, or 1X

Bottom Line:

The NEQ6 is a sophisticated mount for many astrophotography configurations.  The added stability means more effortless tracking abilities and room to expand on your imaging equipment.  This mount is more expensive than the HEQ5.

Astrophotography Examples using the Sky-Watcher HEQ5

Resources:

Review of the Sky-Watcher HEQ5 by Sky at Night Magazine

Honest Review of the Sky-Watcher NEQ6 by Dave Dev