ZWO AM5 Full Review

ZWO AM5 Review

The ZWO AM5 is the astrophotography mount I didn’t think I needed. Yes, it perfectly matches the color of my existing ZWO cameras (and ASIAIR Plus), but do I really need a tracking telescope mount that doesn’t require a counterweight?

I have casually observed a number of harmonic drive telescope mounts appear in the astrophotography market over the past 5 years. I thought they were a clever idea, but definitely not something I would consider to be a ‘must-have’. 

After all, the traditional equatorial telescope mounts I use for astrophotography have been helping me collect incredible deep-sky images from my backyard for over a decade, why change now? Well, this one is a bit different. 

The AM5 is a strain wave gear (harmonic drive) telescope mount that was specifically designed to be compact, portable, and lightweight. In fact, it is not much heavier than a portable star tracker, yet it can handle the job of a much more robust equatorial mount. 

My first question was, does it actually track better than my existing astrophotography mounts? And to my surprise, the answer was no. So why is everyone excited about a new technology that doesn’t improve the primary function of the device?

The AM5 is all about portability. It’s about how everything seems to get a little easier once you start using it. The small size and overall convenience of the ZWO AM5 have changed the way I approach the art of astrophotography.

ZWO AM5 Mount

ZWO AM5 Harmonic Drive Mount ($1,999 at Agena Astro)

Key Features

  • No Counterweight (for loads up to 28 lbs)
  • Guiding Error Between 0.6-0.8 
  • Extremely Portable & Lightweight
  • Functions in EQ/AZ Modes
  • WiFi Connection 
  • ASCOM Compatible
  • Vixen + Losmandy Dovetail Mounts
  • Flawless Function with ASIAIR
  • Up to 44 lbs payload (with counterweight)

Orion Nebula

The Orion Nebula in LRGB. ZWO AM5, ASI 2600MM Pro, Radian 75.

In this article, I’ll show you how well the ZWO AM5 harmonic drive mount has performed for me in all weather situations, from the backyard and beyond. From hot and sticky July nights to frosty January nights with temperatures well below freezing. 

The team at ZWO kindly lent me a demo copy of the AM5 mount around the same time they started shipping in the USA. There was zero obligation to provide a positive review, nor was I compensated in any way. 

I began testing the ZWO AM5 harmonic drive mount in July 2022, just as Ashley, Rudy and I moved into our new house. I have been using this astrophotography mount for 8 months now, and I am ready to share my honest opinions about it. 

For a complete overview of all of the gear I use to photograph the night sky (and what everything does), be sure to check out my astrophotography equipment guide

ZWO AM5 Harmonic Equatorial Mount Review

The ZWO AM5 is an incredible option for small to medium-sized astrophotography setups. With several deep-sky astrophotography kits at my disposal in the astro-garage, I find myself reaching for the AM5 most often. 

Although the majority of my deep-sky astrophotography sessions take place at home in the backyard, I like to travel to darker skies during the new moon phase in the warmer months.

I fully realized the magic of the ZWO AM5 when packing up for the Okie-Tex Star Party. This event required a full day of travel by plane, from Ontario, Canada to Amarillo, Texas (with a layover in Dallas). 

The deep-sky imaging rig I brought with me was the most advanced, capable astrophotography rig I’ve ever flown with. It included everything from the ZWO AM5  tracking mount to a 75mm apochromatic refractor telescope.

Oh, and a full-frame ZWO ASI6200MM Pro monochrome camera, a 5-position filter wheel, and a heavy-duty carbon fiber tripod. A bit of a jump from my usually travel-friendly setup involving a star tracker and telephoto lens. 

ASIAIR telescope

The ZWO AM5 mount set up at the Okie-Tex Star Party.

Historically, traveling with a deep-sky astrophotography kit is a bit of a challenge. If you do somehow manage to pack a robust, telescope-capable computerized tracking mount in your luggage, you better hope that it was packed securely with lots of padding.

I have never trusted an airline enough to safely check my luggage with my precious telescope mount inside. So if I am bringing astrophotography gear on a plane, it must fit in my carry-on bag. 

Not only is the ZWO AM5 mount small enough to pack neatly into your carry-on luggage, but I also brought it in my ‘personal item’ backpack. Yup, I could pull it out to play with right there on my lunch tray if I wanted. (I kept it in my backpack the whole time).

AM5 carry-on-bagAM5 packed into my Nomatic V2 camera bag

Ashley brought the Sky-Watcher Star Adventurer GTi, another incredibly portable (fully capable) astrophotography mount. With an 11-pound payload capacity, the Star Adventurer GTi falls into the star tracker category, yet it is not much smaller in overall size than the ZWO AM5. 

telescopes at a star party

Our telescopes under the Bortle 1 skies of the Okie-Tex Star Party. 

After many successful astrophotography sessions with this mount, I decided it was time to share the incredible results and positive experiences I have had with it over the past 6 months. If you are in the market for a portable astrophotography mount to compliment your wide-field refractor telescope setup, I think the AM5 will exceed your expectations. 

Before we get into the nitty-gritty, let’s answer some of the most common questions people have about the ZWO AM5:

What is the maximum payload of the ZWO AM5?

The maximum payload capacity of the ZWO AM5 mount is 28.6 pounds, without the use of a counterweight. When a counterweight is added, the maximum payload capacity increases to an impressive 44 pounds. 

How much does the ZWO AM5 weigh?

The ZWO AM5 mount weighs just 11 pounds. It is lightweight enough to easily carry in and out of your garage, and fit in your carry-on bag on an airplane. 

What is the longest practical focal length for ZWO AM5?

I have personally had success using the AM5 with refractor telescopes from 400-800mm. ZWO confidently markets the mount as being able to handle a Celestron C11 (2000mm) without the use of a counterweight. 

How do you polar align a ZWO AM5 mount?

Because there is no polar finder scope built into the mount, you must use an electronic polar alignment tool such as the one built into the ZWO ASIAIR software. This was a bit of an unwanted change for me.

horsehead nebula

The Horsehead and Flame Nebula. ZWO AM5 mount, ASI2600MM Pro, Radian 75 APO. 

Equipment Used:

What’s in the Box?

The ZWO AM5 mount arrived at my house in two boxes. Box number 1 included the mount head itself, and the other contained the official ZWO T40 carbon fiber tripod. The tripod is strong and lightweight (5 pounds), and I definitely recommend purchasing this tripod to go with your AM5 if you can. 

A pier extension is also available to accommodate longer telescopes (to avoid running into the tripod), but I have not used it myself. The tripod can be purchased individually or in a bundle with the mount as it arrived for me. 

  • ZWO AM5 mount
  • The Carrying Case
  • The Hand Controller
  • Two Allen keys
  • A USB Cable
  • The Manual
  • ZWO T40 Tripod

astrophotography mount

The tripod is strong and sturdy, but you may find that it is a little short at just 31.5″ tall with the tripod legs fully extended. This places the telescope at about my waist, which was a bit strange at first. In terms of stability, having a lower center of gravity is a good thing. Just be sure that you’re able to point your telescope over any obstructions you have in your yard such as your house or any tall trees.

ZWO lists the maximum payload capacity for the tripod at 110 pounds, a ridiculously heavy amount that I doubt very few will ever come close to. Each tripod leg has padding along the top which is very much appreciated when carrying this setup outside in the winter. The tripod is said to be able to accommodate mount heads from other manufacturers including Celestron and Sky-Watcher, but I have not tested this feature myself. 

ZWO TC40 Tripod

The ZWO TC40 Tripod is lightweight and ultra-stable

ZWO also offers pier extensions for those with imaging payloads on the longer side. Using my setup, the small refractor, filter wheel, and dedicated astronomy camera cleared the tripod legs even when pointed near the zenith, so this was not an issue for me. The pier extensions allow for more room between your telescope and the mount head so you don’t have to worry about a collision. 

ZWO AM5 Harmonic Drive Mount

Running the ZWO AM5 

I know that many others that have reviewed the ZWO AM5 mount have successfully controlled it using software on their laptop computer (including the increasingly popular NINA). Because I am a huge fan of the ZWO ASIAIR Plus wireless experience, I chose to run the mount exclusively with this software. If you prefer to use your existing favorite image capture software, the ZWO AM5 supports ASCOM PC control. 

This allows me to control absolutely every aspect of my imaging session, from polar alignment to plate solving my target. I have not connected the hand controller to the AM5 mount, not even once. The seamless, hands-free control of the mount using the ASIAIR mobile app is just too easy and painless to not utilize.

With the AM5 in the home position, I start my polar alignment process. The ASIAIR software communicates directly to the mount via the included USB 2.0 cable, and runs the mount through a short routine involving rotating the telescope about 45 degrees in the RA axis.

From there, it’s a matter of following the on-screen prompts to make subtle adjustments to the alt/az adjustment bolts on the mount to dial in your polar alignment. The software uses your camera to take short exposure images of the star field and quickly plate solves the information to guide you in the right direction.

Once this has been completed (it usually takes me about 2 minutes these days), you can slew to your intended target, or perhaps a bright star to focus your camera using a Bahitnov mask. If you own a ZWO EAF, the process becomes even easier as you wait for the software to find the perfect focus for you. 

ASIAIR controlling AM5 mount

It should come as no surprise that the AM5 and ASIAIR communicate flawlessly, as I am sure this is exactly what ZWO had in mind when they developed the mount. The ASIAIR is constantly being updated and tweaked to include new features such as a mosaic planner, deep-sky image processing, and much more.

If you use a non-ASI camera, I understand your frustration with the ‘closed ecosystem’ ZWO has created, but for ASI camera users (my first dedicated astronomy camera was the ZWO ASI071MC Cool in 2017) like myself, it is a great time to be an amateur astrophotographer. 

Balancing Your Telescope

If you are used to setting up a traditional deep-sky astrophotography setup on an equatorial telescope mount, this part just feels wrong. You do not need to balance the telescope in the RA and DEC axes on the ZWO AM5. In fact, there is no possible way to balance the telescope in RA if you are not using a counterweight. 

This is something to get used to (and you will), but it seems to throw all of the rules of setting up a telescope on a tracking mount out the window. Now, this incredible feat can not be mentioned without a bit of warning. 

Although the AM5 harmonic drive mount can handle the telescope payload with ease, you must ensure that the tripod base underneath is solid and secure. With a small refractor telescope like the one shown below, the tripod is stable even with the telescope slewed toward the meridian. However, with a heavier payload, it is possible for the entire tripod to tip over if the weight of the tripod base is not secure. 

The combo (mount head and tripod) I was supplied with included a canvas ‘pouch’ that sits between the tripod legs. I’d recommend adding weight to this area (I believe this is what it was intended for). This is a great spot to place any power supply cables and lens caps as well.

best astrophotography telescope

 ZWO AM5 Guiding Performance

ZWO provides the following periodic error report on their website and states that “ZWO measures each mount and includes an exclusive PE curve before it leaves our factory”. I received a unique periodic error report for the ZWO AM5 I am using and it was very similar to the one shown below. 

ZWO AM5 Periodic Error Chart

The guiding performance of the ZWO AM5 is more than adequate for my needs as an amateur astrophotographer. I regularly enjoy a total RMS error of about 0.6 – 0.8 arc seconds depending on the sky quality conditions that night.

These values are equal to the level of performance I had become accustomed to using the larger Sky-Watcher EQ6-R Pro. It should go without saying, that these numbers can only be achieved after an accurate polar alignment of the telescope mount. 

The autoguiding experience on the ZWO AM5 is so consistent and painless, it is just not something I even think about when running an imaging session. After I polar align the mount, I use the guiding tool on the ASIAIR app to perform a quick calibration routine, and I am on my way. 

Shooting at a focal length of about 400mm is not exactly pushing the mount to its limits, but this is a practical use case for many backyard amateur astrophotographers. I am confident a heavier load would achieve similar performance, although I think a practical focal length range for this mount is 2000mm and under.

ZWO AM5 guiding graph

The guiding performance of my ZWO AM5 using the ASIAIR Plus. (Radian 75mm APO + ASI2600MM Pro). 

What is a Harmonic Drive Mount?

The ZWO AM5 uses a strain wave gear instead of worm gears as you would find in a traditional equatorial telescope mount such as the Sky-Watcher EQ6-R Pro or Celestron AVX. 

A harmonic drive has three key components, a wave generator, a flex spline, and a circular spline. The wave generator has an elliptical shape and consists of an elliptical hub and a special thin-walled bearing that follows the elliptical shape of the hub.

A strain wave gear system does not experience backlash, and balancing the weight of the telescope and imaging equipment is not required.

Hamonic Drive Mount

The strain wave gearing system at the heart of the ZWO AM5. 

Compared to a traditional equatorial mount head with worm gears, the harmonic drive design has the benefit of containing the entire system in a smaller, lighter mount head.

ZMO AM5 Specifications

  • Mount Modes: Equatorial + Altazimuth
  • Periodic Error: <+/-20″
  • Weight: 11 lb (5 kg)
  • Payload Capacity (Without Counterweight): 28.6 lbs (13 kg)
  • Payload Capacity (With Counterweight): 44 lbs (20 kg)
  • Dovetail: Losmandy, Vixen
  • Max Slew Speed: 6°S
  • Latitude Adjustment Range: 0°-90°
  • Power Requirement: DC 12V 5A
  • Autoguide Port: Yes (ST4)
  • Communication Interface: USB/WiFi
  • Hand Controller: Yes
  • Operating Temperature: -15°C-40°C
  • Power Failure Protection: Yes

The design of the ZWO AM5 mount is very practical and slick in terms of both style and operation. It does have that familiar harmonic drive mount look to it (it reminds me of a robotic arm like one you would see in a factory), which is due to the fact that it aims to keep the size to a minimum. 

The signature ZWO red matches the rest of my ASI cameras and accessories perfectly (if you’re into that sort of thing). I’ve heard some people complain about the loud “beep” the AM5 makes when you turn it on and slews to a new target. ZWO has since provided the option to turn this volume down (or off completely) within the menu on the ASIAIR software.

The AM5 can accept both Vixen and Losmandy style dovetail mounts, depending on the mounting hardware of your telescope. The tension knobs on the right-hand side of the mount head feel solid and secure, providing some peace of mind when your telescope is attached.

Veil Nebula

The Veil Nebula. ZWO AM5, ASI2600MM Pro, Radian 75 APO.

There is a finder shoe on the right side of the mount as well, which you could use to install a small finder scope to aid in polar alignment. I have not used this finder shoe for anything since the mount arrived. I would not suggest keeping anything in this location (such as an ASIAIR controller), as it looks like it could run into the tripod while slewing in certain directions. 

The power switch for the mount is on the other side and lights up red with a “beep” when you turn it on. The status indicator light shines red when in EQ mode, and green when in Alt/Az mode. This light is on the front of the mount, along with all of the primary input ports. 

On the front of the mount, you’ll find all of the main input ports on the mount including the USB 2.0 port, DC 12V power supply port, and autoguide port. I have never plugged the hand controller into the mount, as the USB cable running from the AM5 to my ASIAIR Plus handles all operations of the mount. 

The back of the mount is where you will find the important adjustment knobs to perform your polar alignment. The altitude and azimuth adjustment bolts are nothing special, but get the job done. I find it easiest to loosen the primary connection knob (the big black knob under the tripod) when making major adjustments in the azimuth directions. Just don’t forget to tighten everything back up when you’re done.

I rarely touch the tension grip for adjusting latitude, unless I am traveling far from home and need to make a major latitude change. The Altitude and Azimuth can both be locked to secure your position once polar aligned. 

Alt/Az Adjustment Bolts

Things to Keep in Mind

Watch the rear of the mount while slewing to ensure that no cables are getting caught up on the azimuth or altitude adjustment bolts. These spots stick out, and it wouldn’t take much for a cable to loop around one of the bolts and potentially cause damage to the port your device is plugged into. 

Always make sure to return the telescope to the home position when your imaging session has finished. Unlike a traditional equatorial mount, you can’t manually unlock the clutches in RA and DEC after the mount has been turned off. If you turn it off with the telescope off to one side, the off-balance load is much easier to top over when transporting your rig. 

Speaking of an off-balance load, you need to be very careful about tipping your entire setup over when not using a counterweight. My little rig with a 75mm refractor and imaging accessories only weighs about 12 pounds, and I can feel the weight leaning to one side when pointed near the meridian. 

Add weight to the tripod if necessary, and make absolutely sure that there is no potential for a tip-over with your setup. This may seem obvious to some, but if you’re coming from a German Equatorial mount (like me), this is not something you’re used to. 

Use a counterweight bar if you plan on mounting a heavy telescope  (20+ lbs) on the ZWO AM5. If the total overall weight of your imaging system is approaching 25 pounds (including your camera, filter wheel, guide scope etc.), I definitely recommend using a counterweight.

ZWO lists the size of the counterweight bar as an M12, and you will need to purchase this (and the counterweight itself) separately. 

ZWO AM5 Review

The ZWO AM5 and Radian 75 pointed toward the California Nebula in my backyard.

Final Thoughts

I think the two biggest potential sources of hesitation people have with the ZWO AM5 are its ability to handle a medium-sized astrophotography telescope and the tracking/guiding performance of the harmonic drive system. I too, had these thoughts when the AM5 arrived, and I am happy to report that my experiences with this mount have exceeded all of my expectations.

For owners of the ZWO ASIAIR wifi controller looking for a quality mid-range mount, the AM5 is an absolute no-brainer. ZWO has done an incredible job of creating a top-to-bottom deep-sky astrophotography system. 

The ZWO AM5 is a great fit for anyone looking for a travel-friendly telescope mount that can handle a decent equipment payload. For me, this meant being able to bring a serious deep-sky imaging setup to a remote location (on a plane) for the first time.  

This same portability and reliable performance mean that it is also the mount I use most often at home, simply because I can get it up and running the fastest. Sure, it may only be another 5-10 minutes to get my beloved EQ6-R running (which it often is, as well as the AM5), but the ZWO AM5 is my ‘ready for anything’ telescope mount that gets called into action most. 

astrophotography telescope

The ZWO AM5 is available at Agena Astro

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40 Comments

  1. So the mount and tripod in Europe is a bit more expensive than in the US (3526 US Dollars)

    Do you find it smarter to buy

    EQ6-R Pro AND
    Star Adventurer GTi
    For a price of 2563 US Dollars, so almost 1000 dollars less (replacing my Heq5)

    Of telescopes i have an ZS73 and a 200PDS

    1. Wow, that is a huge jump. I mean, if portability is not a factor for you, you can’t go wrong with the EQ6-R Pro (especially if it is that much cheaper!). I had no idea the mount was nearly double the price in Europe!

  2. Hi Trevor

    Lovely review!
    I’m the lucky owner of the am5 as well. It actually replaced my eqr6 mount, as I was tired of the fairly long heavy haul every time I had to setup the rig.

    Have you experienced poor guiding in windy conditions with the am5? I do, it seems to perform fairly bad in windy conditions, where the eqr6 in same conditions hardly had an impact.
    I even replaced the carbon tripod with a Berlebach, to see if this would improve.

    Just wondering 🙂
    Still absolutely love the mount!!

    1. Thanks for the input, Dennis! I have not noticed a difference in guiding performance in windy conditions – but that makes sense considering there is less overall weight to combat the breeze. The spot I set up in front of my garage is actually quite protected from the wind, so I haven’t really tested this. Windy nights are no fun when imaging in general, but I can see how this mount would be more susceptible to it than a bulkier mount.

  3. Okay, my advice is to keep it in the protected area 👍😁

    My garden is really open, and living in the country side gives me no wind protection.
    So learned the limitations the hard way 😎 still don’t regret it though.

    Thanks for all you great reviews, posts and so on 💪

  4. I will be mounting my Celestron 11” OTA on this mount in my observatory.

    Have you heard of any issues with a telephone this size with the mount?

    Enjoyed your post very much.

  5. Hi Trevor,

    Great review! I have been interested in this mount for travel but haven’t seen a good solution for power. What do you use to supply the 12 V @ 5 A? And how does that work with the airline?

    Thanks!

    1. I would be very interested in the answer to that question as well. Much effort is being made to make astrophotography rigs more portable, but what good is it if you don’t have power in the field? If you have to lug a marine battery with you, thus need a car – well then, might as well bring counterweights. This has always puzzled me…

  6. “…ZWO supplies sand bags to add stability”? Not for me they didn’t!

    One issue I have with this review. The PE chart that ZWO displays on their website and the one you have, if similar, are not typical. Each is different and mine, for example, is far different and not nearly as “clean”. If I had my pick, I would select a mount with a PE similar to yours/theirs. Likely much easier to guide, and track, with your unit than with mine.

    1. Hey Paul – I have reworded that part as I believe the ‘pouch’ that sits between the tripod legs is where ZWO intended users to add weight (sand, rocks, etc.). It sounds like you’re having issues with guiding performance then? Which telescope/imaging payload do you have mounted on the AM5?

  7. Hi Trevor,

    I hope that one day you can try to load the AM5 to max 44 lb capacity for astrophotography. I don’t think anyone has tried yet and it’s one of the reasons a lot of people are still on the fence about it, myself included.

  8. Excellent review. I have used with good results, the AM5 with a Celestron EdgeHD 9.25 at its native focal lenght (2350 mm). In that case, I think that the carbon tripod is not sturdy enough, so I currently use a NEQ6 tripod.

    1. Thank you for sharing that, Nicolas. That is an impressive focal length to be shooting at on a mount of this size! It sounds like a heavier tripod is a must-have in that scenario. Clear skies!

      1. I have the same setup as Nicholas. You can actually use your skywatcher eq6 pro tripod for the am5 if you have the zwo pe200 pier extension. Just remove the bottom plate from the pier extension, remove and reverse the spindle on the tripod, and thread it through the tripod and up through the unthreaded hole in the base of the extension. Then use the tensioning knob from the tripod or a m12/1.75 nut on the exposed threads to attach the pier. You can even use the spreader plate in this arrangement. If you used the skywatcher tensioning knob to attach the pier, the tensioning knob from the zwo tripod can be used to attach the spreader as the threads match.

    2. So, Nicolas, just to confirm: you used the AM5 with an Edge HD 9.25 to do planetary astro? Have you used the AM5 with your Edge to do any DSO (perhaps with a focal reducer)?

      I’m asking because I’d like to get a second mount (in addition to my AM5) planning down the road to get an Edge HD 9.25 for planetary and DSO imaging. I was under the impression that because of its longer focal length, an Edge HD 9.25 wouldn’t pair well with the AM5 (although in the article Trevor said ZWO verified this could be done, but not specifically for DSO imaging).

      Trevor, please feel free to add anything you can! Thanks for the great review as well.

      Thanks!

      Best,
      Greg

  9. Trevor… So after using the AM5 for a while, Have you decided to purchase and keep it? And was it worth it compared to your other mounts? I currently have the EQ6R-Pro, and as much as I love that mount, it is quite heavy and a pain to lug around when going to a remote site.. So I think the AM5 will be a good addition for me..

    Rob

    1. Robert, I’d certainly like to if they allow it. The idea of transitioning back to the EQ6-R as my “last-minute imaging” setup makes my back hurt (just thinking about it). I think the AM5 would serve you well in that situation – but remember that the way it operates is quite different. If you already use the ASIAIR for mount control, I’d say go for it!

  10. Thank you for the thorough review Trevor, as always. What I’m impressed with the AM5 is the consistency of guiding (when seeing permits) night after night, with minimal fine-tuning. I could just do a quick calibration at meridian and point and shoot, without worrying about fluctuation of guiding accuracy at different RA positions. (something i always struggle with in the past with other setups). I’m new to the PA with plate-solving but even the first time i tried it, it didn’t take more than 8mins. So the learning curve is quite low for a beginner like me.

    As for the wind comment, I did have the whole setup blown over by gust wind once.

  11. Hello I am in the UK ( elderly). How can you use the am 5 mount without the tripod? I use a pier in my observatory. Can it be adapted to a pier, saving the cost of the tripod?
    Many thanks for all of your videos.
    Frank White

    1. Hi Frank – I reached out to some people on Twitter who have successfully mounted the ZWO AM5 to an observatory pier. Aleix Roid mentioned to “give enough length behind the mount and prepare a plate for it as small as you can to avoid telescope/pier crash”. I hope this is helpful! Clear skies

  12. Is it better than Rainbow Astro? Are you sure that the next person get the same quality of AM5? Does it work with proper software such as NINA and Voyager?
    All the best!

    1. Ana, I have not used a Rainbow Astro harmonic drive mount, but I would imagine the performance is similar. I have no way of knowing/ensuring that someone else’s AM5 will perform as well as the unit I received – I can only share my specific results. The AM5 is ASCOM compatible so I would assume running the mount with NINA and Voyager is possible.

      1. Hi !
        What about the AM3 ? I am planning to use this mount remotely. Since I will be using a rather lightweight refractor (WO Zenithstar 73 with reducer), it seems that the AM3 would do the job.
        By the way, can I have the functionalities of Asiair Plus on a PC, or do I need to have an Asiair box anyway ?
        Thanks !

  13. Hey Trevor! I just ordered this AM5 and planning on firs using it with my current Sony A7 and the 200-600, i was wondering if i will need to purchase a dovetail to mount the lens on the AM5 or will the lens foo will actually just slide in? If I do need aone which you recomend that is futureproof since i’ll be buyig a telescope later on?

  14. Should have held on to the AM5 a little longer. I got my AM5 in late March. June 19th the ASIAir app reported “USB serial disconnected.” I swapped it out with my other ASIAir Plus (non 256G version) same message. Plugged AM5 into my Windows 11 PC device manager reports “device descriptor request failed” and my MacBook Pro 2019 does not recognize the AM5 at all.

    Contacted the vendor who told me to contact ZWO. I opened a ticket at ZWO. Crickets. Vendor says they can’t do anything because holidays in China. Thursday morning China time I finally get a response. Says to use WiFi instead of USB. But even the hand controller doesn’t move the AM5. Another day passes and they tell me to open an RMA. So I did and still a dead AM5 with them possibly sending me a mother board to replace. Someone on the Facebook AM5/AM3 group reported they had the same failure a month before me.

    I had a total of 12 night sessions and now a $2300 brick. There is something wrong with the design of the ports facing up and out the way they do. Does dew build up in those ports and then short out the device?

    Definitely the case of buyer beware. I’m now looking at the RST-135 as a replacement.

  15. Nice review and pretty much in line with my experience. I use it with Ha solar scope, a 80mm Officina Stellare APO refractor and .8 flat field/focal reducer, and my 8″ Celestron SCT HD with the matched .7 focal reducer. That is a bit over 1400mm focal legth and it tracks fine with nice round stars to the edge although my favorite is the 80mm APO and matched .8 focal reducer. I use the Polar alignment routine where you just aim the scope either a bit N/W or N/E and you don’t use Polaris. Instead it uses a very fast plate solve to identify in real time repeatedly showing you which way to move to align. It is fast….once you get used to it….in 3 minutes or so. There is a happy face and when you get a smile you have a very good alignment. I am just starting to use the ASI AIR Plus mosaic routine which is working out fine (although the weather hasn’t been kind thus far). Rather than use the carbon fiber tripod I adapted my Ioptron heavier duty tripod and pier extension that I had from my Ioptron Mini Tower Pro. That has proven to be a rock solid setup and pretty easy to modify the pier extension to work with the AM5….and save me a needless expense. I do a lot of remote imaging but from my car so haven’t found a need to get the CF tripod. Auto guiding is excellent. My observatory setup is an Astro Physics 1100 with a large full frame SBIG CCD camera and full set of RGB/NB filters. That supports a 6″ APO Officina Stellare refractor. That is obviously a more capable setup but frankly the differences in easy of transport/setup make the ZWO setup a no brainer unless I leave the big setup in the observatory. I can put the ZWO fully assembled but not on the tripod in my car….get to the observing site and setup it up in a couple of minutes. On the big setup you are looking at a LOT of weight and equiment and a much longer setup time. The other blessing is the ASI AIR Plus. That is a brilliant tool. Being able to image and control everything from my Samsung large Android tablet is so wonderful.

  16. Hi Trevor,

    Awesome article as always. I am heavily researching entering into Astrophotography and your articles/videos have been extremely helpful.

    Could you elaborate on the section below:

    “If you use a non-ASI camera, I understand your frustration with the ‘closed ecosystem’ ZWO has created, but for ASI camera users (my first dedicated astronomy camera was the ZWO ASI071MC Cool in 2017) like myself, it is a great time to be an amateur astrophotographer. ”

    I want to ease myself into astrophotography and although I want to invest in a solid mount (like the AM5), I do not want to complicate matters by investing in a dedicated ASI camera or even a refractor. My hope is to be able to use my Nikon Z7II and Nikon wide angle lenses/mid telephotos for now while I am still honing my technique.

    Are you saying that the integration between non ASI camera (like my Z7II), the AM5 mount and the ASAIR maybe problematic?

    Many thanks!

    Avi

    1. Avi, thank you for the kind words. That is an excellent question, I am sure there are many others in your position. The AM5 works best when it is controlled using the ASIAIR wifi controller (in my opinion). The ASIAIR can control mirrorless cameras like the the Nikon Z7, Canon EOS R, etc. – however it doesn’t look like the Z7 II has been tested yet. I would think it is compatible, but I am not certain. If you’re not interested in taking the ASIAIR route (I do recommend it), the Sky-Watcher EQ6-R Pro is another fantastic option in this price range (although much heavier). Clear skies!

    2. ZWO is constantly testing some of the newer camera from Canon, Sony, and Nikon to see which are compatible with the ASI AIR and AM5 mount. Go to their web site and it will list all the ones that have been tested and work with it. They update the list after testing.

  17. Hi Trevor,
    I just picked up a ZWO AM5 second hand and enjoyed reading your experiences. I thought I’d point out a few typos…
    – In one spot, you reference ZOW instead of ZWO.
    – You also mention your tracking error of “.06-.08 arc seconds”, but I think that should be 0.6 – 0.8 arc seconds. Even my AP1100 with encoders hasn’t hit .06-.08 🙂
    – Last one I spotted: “I have not used this finder show for anything”, clearly, show should be shoe.

    Thanks again and clear skies!

  18. Hey Trevor – been following you since you first had the website only. Great to follow up over the years.

    I recently moved from the EQ6R-Pro (loved it) to the more age-friendly AM5 – read: hard to move EQ6 up and down stairs for an old guy.

    I have had a lot of trouble getting guiding below 1.0 even with all the “recommended” PDH2 settings from so many other AM5 users.

    Was wondering if you had any tweaks that you may have had to do to get down to the 0.6-0.8 you report?

    Clear Skies!

    1. First is to get a solid tripod…. I don’t have the CF ZWO version although it should be ok with a lighter load. I had a 2″ leg heavier Iomega tripod that came with my older MINI Tower Pro and also the Iomega pier tube extension. I was able to do a bit of minor modifying and use it with the AM5. Second you must avoid using rubber tips on the tripod legs or setting up on soft soil or grass. That will let the mount/tripod move slightly with wind gusts and sink into the ground as the weight of the telescope moves around offsetting the center of balance. Often I just setup on hard ground or pavement. I cut 3 squares of plywood that sits on top of the soft ground or grass and under the tripod legs to make it a more solid connection. I have a hammock tripod bag similar to the ZWO version that comes with the carbon fiber tripod. There are several of these available from camera tripod equipment stores…. mine is a Bogen. Placing the setup on the plywood squares makes for a very solid setup. Of course the issue is that my tripod is heavier than the CF tripod. I don’t need to worry about that as it all fits easily in my car. I use all ZWO equipment generally with this setup and either a 80mm Officina Stellare super APO refractor with .8 flat field lens or a Celestron 8″ SCT HD equipped with a matched .7 focal reducer or setup with Hyperstar V4. All setups work perfectly….. don’t have any subs that get tossed which is pretty remarkable. My home permanent setup is both an AP 900 and AP1100 carrying 6″ Officina Stellare APO refractor alternating with 11″ SCT with focal reducer or Hyperstar with full frame SBIG mono camera and motorized filter wheel. Needless to say both of those setups are more weight than my AM5 can handle I believe but haven’t tried it yet. While the two AP setups are spectacular, to take them down, move them to a remote observing spot, setup and than deal with all the various computer software, etc. means that it isn’t too practical to go out for only one night. Unless I am going to be out for several days the AM5 setup is so much better. I keep everything connected and wired up at the telescope. I take the tripod out of the car, place the mount on it, tighten the thumb screws that hold them all together. Turn on the mount and ASI AIR Plus and can be fully setup in a couple of minutes. Turn on the cooler automatically (setup that way in ASI AIR), do an all sky polar alignment with the ASI AIR and can be imaging in about 10 minutes from taking it out of my car trunk to imaging.
      I am getting spectacular images with nice round stars to the edges. If you have the ASI AIR get the latest firmware and find the place to turn on two options…. all sky polar alignment and the mosaic feature. By the way the mosaic feature is incredibly good and easy. It will automatically do a mosaic when you choose the frame number…. say a 2×2. To assemble I use Photo Shop in File Photo Merge which uses AI to perfectly figure out which frame goes and matches with the others…. you don’t have to even tell PS which frame goes where…. it figures it all out. I do recommend setting the overlap in ASI AIR to 20-25%, not the default of 15%. This makes sure it will find as many stars to match as possible.
      Last…. power source…. you can run it all from a wheel chair battery at 12 volts or AC if you have it by using the 5 amp AC/DC ZWO power source.

      Here is a hint.,, if you have an EGO brand battery powered snow blower, lawn mower etc., EGO sells inverters designed to connect to their standard battery. The one I recommend is the model 400 which sells for around $150 at Lowes or Amazon. It and the battery is 8 1/2# and will power everything for about 7 hours. That includes the mount, ASI AIR, cameras, EAF, and two dew heaters. Of course it and the battery is pricey but if you already have the EGO equipment batteries this is a good way to get more use out of what you already have.

  19. Hello,
    I am a newbie and I was to buy a cem40 mount. But the seller currently doesn’t have stock of cem40. He gave me option to buy hem27 or gem45.
    Then guys at cloudynight.com suggested me to look at am5 mount and I landed on your review. Currently I am using a nikond750 with tarmon 150-600 lens. In future I will buy red at 71, Celeste on 8” or edged 9.25 sct ota and asiair pro.
    So shall I still go ahead and buy this mount or shall I buy a cem40/gem45 instead.
    I click from my backyard and generally don’t travel much for astrophotography.

  20. My AM5 mount works great, but the Asiair Plus controller is very unreliable as it often looses the WiFi signal. When this happens I need to shutdown the Asiair Plus and restart the system to regain control.

    1. Sorry to hear that Michael. Are you sure you need to shut down the AIR to regain the WiFi connection? I temporarily lose my connection all the time and just reconnect to the wifi on my phone/tablet. The AIR continues to take images/guide etc. even when I’m not connected.

    2. I had many similar experiences.
      I finally bought a 50-foot ethernet cable and connected it to the ASIair.
      Problem solved.
      You can connect the ethernet cable directly to your home network or even a small portable wifi router.