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Sky-Watcher AZ-EQ5i Mount Review: Recommended Product

The Sky-Watcher AZ-EQ5i mirrors the features found in its larger counterpart, the AZ-EQ6i, but in a more compact and easily portable package, ideal for lightweight visual and imaging payloads.
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In the realm of Go-To mounts, tradition dictates a choice between two major types: equatorial and altazimuth. Each one caters to unique observational needs – altazimuth mounts are tailored towards visual observation, while equatorial mounts extend their capabilities to cater for both visual exploration and imaging tasks.

As the astronomy community’s needs evolve, there’s a growing demand for mounts that can effectively operate in both altazimuth and equatorial configurations. The Sky-Watcher AZ-EQ5i is at the forefront of this innovation, catering to this demand with its exceptional versatility and features. The Sky-Watcher AZ-EQ5i mount is a highly versatile tool adept at catering to both astrophotography and quick visual observations with almost any telescope. One of its remarkable features is the ability to switch between an equatorial and altazimuth configuration. This proves particularly useful for astrophotographers, as they have the flexibility to swiftly switch between stargazing and capturing night sky images.

A defining aspect of the AZ-EQ5i is its compact design, which makes it significantly more portable compared to the standard Sky-Watcher HEQ5 Pro. This portability is essential for astronomers who prefer a convenient ‘grab-and-go’ setup. Another notable improvement is the incorporation of belt drives, which are absent in the HEQ5 Pro but standard in Sky-Watcher’s larger mounts. These belt drives are critical for reducing backlash and ensuring smoother, more precise tracking – a necessity for astrophotography. The AZ-EQ5i’s FreedomFind encoders also allow for manual aiming, a feature lacking on most computerized German equatorial mounts.

While operating in its equatorial mode, the AZ-EQ5i calls for precise polar alignment, a prerequisite that makes it indispensable for the pursuit of deep-sky imaging. Conversely, when the mount shifts to its altazimuth mode, it leans more towards the requirements of the visual observer or the solar system imager. This mode does away with the need for polar alignment, avoids the characteristic “meridian flips” associated with German equatorial mounts, and also adds the unique feature of supporting the mounting of dual scopes.

How It Stacks Up





Sky-Watcher AZ-EQ5i Mount


What We Like

  • Easy to set up and use with either direct plug-in PC control or smart device over WiFi
  • All-metal construction with high-quality mechanics, compact design, & sturdy tripod
  • Alt-azimuth conversion and dual saddle allow for convenient setup with two telescopes side-by-side
  • Polar scope provided by default
  • Belt-driven stepper motors provide accurate tracking/guiding capabilities with minimal fuss
  • FreedomFind encoders help with maintaining pointing accuracy and allow manual aiming

What We Don't Like

  • Unusually wide footprint
  • Plug-in WiFi adapter awkwardly dangles from mount head unless you secure it with tape/Velcro
  • Nearly as expensive as EQ6R, which is superior for imaging and has more weight capacity
Recommended Product Badge

The AZ-GTi is undeniably one of the best alt-azimuth mounts available on the market, certainly when considering those offered at a reasonable price. When it comes to a compact and portable mount for visual use with smaller refractors, fast f/ratio small Newtonians, and compact catadioptrics, it’s hard to find a superior alternative.

Buy from Recommended Retailer

For purchasing this telescope, we highly recommend High Point Scientific. High Point is one of the largest astronomy retailers in the United States and offers excellent pricing, technical support, bonus accessory bundles, and fast shipping.


Upon initial observation, the Sky-Watcher AZ-EQ5i appears much like a typical German equatorial mount,  pointing in right ascension and declination, with a GoTo system driven by precision belt drives and stepper motors. The clutches of the mount can be disengaged, allowing the user to either balance it or manually manipulate the entire setup. A notable feature of the AZ-EQ5i is its FreedomFind precision encoders, which maintain its computerized tracking and pointing accuracy even when the mount is manually moved.

When the AZ-EQ5i is configured for use in alt-azimuth mode, its polar axis points towards the zenith. Using the AZ-EQ5i in alt-azimuth mode still requires some counterweight for heavier telescopes, but this element becomes less critical.

Included with the AZ-EQ5i is a robust tripod that boasts 1.75″ steel legs, just like the one supplied with the HEQ5. If you’re upgrading from an HEQ5, Sirius, Atlas, Advanced VX, EQ6 etc. the AZ-EQ5i will fit those mounts’ tripods or pier adapters with no modifications. The 2” steel tripod supplied with heavier-duty mounts like the EQ6/6R and Advanced VX is a nice upgrade for the AZ-EQ5i if you can get your hands on one, but the stock tripod will do. Sky-Watcher bundles a pier extension with the AZ-EQ5i by default, which is great if you’re using a long refractor but is probably something you won’t use with most telescopes. There is no spreader for the tripod by default, and the legs splay out unusually far, which improves stability but may be a little inconvenient if you are dealing with limited space.

One of the notable components of the AZ-EQ5i is its stainless-steel counterbalance bar, which measures 25mm (or ¾”) in diameter. This dimension means the AZ-EQ5i is compatible with most counterweights from other equatorial mounts. An added convenience is the main counterweight bar’s ability to fully retract inside the mount head when it is not in use.

The AZ-EQ5i comes pre-installed with a standard Sky-Watcher illuminated polar scope, housed in the base of the right ascension (RA) axis. The polar scope comes complete with etchings for Polaris, the Big Dipper, and Cassiopeia, aiding users in the Northern Hemisphere, as well as Octans for observers in the Southern Hemisphere.

The AZ-EQ5i accommodates both the Vixen V- (narrow style) and Losmandy D- (wide style) dovetails. Additionally, it can accommodate CGE-style dovetails from Celestron, which are basically identical to Losmandy D plates. This means any telescope that employs a standard mounting system can be used with the AZ-EQ5i, provided it can be counterweight-balanced and that the overall weight does not exceed around 35 lbs.

The Sky-Watcher AZ-EQ5i package includes two 7.5 lb counterweights by default. These counterweights are generally sufficient for most imaging and visual applications. For power supply needs, a DC cord is also included. When the AZ-EQ5i is configured in alt-azimuth mode, it features a detachable secondary dovetail saddle that allows for the installation of a second telescope on the end of the counterweight shaft. However, due to the somewhat less robust mechanical design of this secondary saddle, it is advised not to load it with anything exceeding approximately 15 lbs.

Sky-Watcher AZ-EQ5i Multi-Function Hybrid GoTo Mount with WiFi


An innovative feature of the AZ-EQ5i that operates effectively in both equatorial and alt-azimuth modes, is the integration of Sky-Watcher’s FreedomFind position encoders. When these are enabled (they are turned off by default in the hand controller’s menu settings), the user has the flexibility to unlock the mount’s locks, manually steer the mount across the sky, and then securely lock it back in position. The encoders continuously monitor and record the mount’s position, allowing the GoTo finding feature to resume operation seamlessly. This means that even if the mount accidentally shifts or slides in the right ascension or declination, there is no need to recalibrate it on alignment stars, a requirement that other mounts typically mandate.

The AZ-EQ5i provides a couple of options for control. It can be managed either via the WiFi adapter that is part of the package via the SynScan app, connected directly to a PC with a cable, or operated through an aftermarket SynScan hand controller. The SynScan app offers nine varying slew rates for meticulous and accurate slewing and pointing, allowing a user to adjust the rate from a fast-paced 9, which moves the mount several degrees per second, to a slower rate of 1, moving at half the speed of the stars. Boasting a database rich in objects, it provides an extensive variety of options for visual observation.

If you purchase the SynScan controller-equipped AZ-EQ5, the SynScan V5 operates pretty much just like the SynScan app, but with a keypad and a red text display. We would strongly recommend sticking with the AZ-EQ5i version, both for the lower cost and simpler operation compared to the version supplied with the SynScan V5.

Using The AZ-EQ5i In Alt-Az Mode

For those considering the Sky-Watcher AZ-EQ5i mount primarily for visual observation, they will find the mount’s exceptional performance to be a reaffirmation of their investment decision. Transitioning the AZ-EQ5i to its altazimuth mode entails tilting the polar axis to a 90-degree angle and securing a bolt, conveniently stored on the mount, into a safety stop. This process ensures that the mount head doesn’t inadvertently revert to a horizontal position. While this conversion process isn’t overly complex, it’s not necessarily something you’d want to do frequently. It is entirely possible that you may choose to predominantly operate the mount in one mode or another. However, the added flexibility of being able to choose between modes is always an appreciated feature.

To ensure the balance of your telescope on the altitude axis, the altitude clutch should be unlocked. If, upon doing so, the telescope plummets nose-first, it’s indicative of a front-heavy setup. If it swings upward instead, the setup is back-heavy. The necessary adjustments can be made either by repositioning your telescope within its tube rings or by sliding its dovetail in the saddle of the mount head until the previously observed movements are no longer observed.

The procedure for aligning the AZ-EQ5i in its alt-az mode involves pointing the mount/telescope towards a few bright stars and verifying that they are centered in the telescope’s eyepiece. For expedited alignment, there are “quick align” options, such as level north, one-star, or Solar System alignment modes. While these options might not offer the highest accuracy, they are adequate for immediate use. In situations where two telescopes are deployed on the AZ-EQ5i, the secondary saddle is equipped with thumb screws. These allow for minute adjustments to the precise angle of the secondary instrument until both telescopes achieve perfect synchrony.

Using the AZ-EQ5i in Equatorial Mode

The Sky-Watcher AZ-EQ5i, like any equatorial mount, requires meticulous balancing on both the right ascension and declination axes when using it in equatorial mode. To achieve this balance, it involves carefully sliding your telescope back and forth within its rings or along the dovetail saddle for the declination axis. This process is quite similar to balancing on the altitude axis while using the mount in alt-azimuth mode. When it comes to balancing the right ascension axis, the process involves moving the counterweights along their respective shafts until the desired balance is achieved.

Furthermore, the AZ-EQ5i demands precise polar alignment for the most accurate slewing and tracking capabilities. Sky-Watcher provides an inbuilt polar scope with the mount head to aid in this process. However, for those who prefer a different approach, an alternative software-assisted polar alignment routine, similar to the Celestron All-Star Polar Align, is also included. This procedure requires aligning at least two, preferably three, test stars to eliminate potential cone errors. Following this, an additional star is selected by opting for ‘Polar Re-Align’ from the hand controller’s menu options and centering it within the eyepiece. After it’s been centered using the direction keys, the routine moves the telescope to an offset position. It then requires manual re-centering using the altitude and azimuth adjustment bolts. A sophisticated algorithm is then employed to correct any detected polar misalignment in the star’s position.

After the polar alignment is complete and you’re using the SynScan app, the AZ-EQ5i mount will prompt you to point it at one, two, or preferably three stars that the software selects. However, if your location doesn’t provide clear visibility of these stars, the software provides an option to scroll through a list of alternate stars. If you’re controlling the mount directly from a PC, the step of star alignment can be bypassed entirely.


The AZ-EQ5i mount shines brilliantly in the realm of astrophotography. Conceived and crafted with a focus on astrophotography, this is the field where this mount is most commonly found in use. The AZ-EQ5i boasts precision stepper motors, belt drives, and ball bearings, all of which combine to facilitate sub-arcsecond guiding, making it a perfect fit for any setup weighing less than about 15-20 lbs for the purpose of long-exposure astrophotography. However, if you are dead set on a heavier rig than 15 lbs, you should probably opt for a heavier-duty mount like the EQ6Ri Pro or AZ-EQ6i instead of the relatively lightweight AZ-EQ5i.

A salient feature of the AZ-EQ5i mount is its comprehensive computer control support, which is built on the back of the open-source astronomy control interface known as ASCOM. The presence of ASCOM support empowers you to use software such as EQMOD. The EQMOD software forms a connection with the mount, either through WiFi or via an EQDIRECT cable. This feature does away with the need for manual entry of date and time into the hand controller, thereby enhancing user convenience.

Moreover, EQMOD allows you to wield extensive control over the mount’s positioning. The inclusion of plate solving directly updates the mount’s positioning model, thereby eliminating the requirement of star alignment. You also have the freedom to control the mount using any standard image capture program, including but not limited to SGP, NINA, and APT. These programs offer functionalities such as plate solving (aligning your mount via images of stars), automatic slewing to various targets, and automated execution of meridian flips. This provides an astrophotography experience that is truly seamless and effortless.

Should I buy a Used Sky-Watcher AZ-EQ5i?

Given that the AZ-EQ5/5i mounts were launched as recently as 2021, it’s highly unlikely that you would come across a used model that has significantly aged. Therefore, it is reasonably safe to assume that a pre-owned unit’s performance and expected operational lifespan would closely parallel those of a brand-new unit. However, it is crucial to verify that key components like the encoders, motors, and WiFi network are fully operational. Should these components not have been tested before your purchase, it is advisable to insist on having them checked to ward off any unpleasant surprises later on.

Should you find that the tripod of the AZ-EQ5i is missing, it is no cause for alarm. The AZ-EQ5i is compatible with a range of robust tripods designed for other Synta mounts, allowing for easy replacement. Alternatively, you could simply invest in a pier adapter.

Alternative Recommendations

Few direct comparisons to the AZ-EQ5i exist, but here are a few mounts that can fulfill some of its functions:

Under $2200

  • The Sky-Watcher AZ-EQ6i, in many respects, can be considered a scaled-up version of the AZ-EQ5i. Much like the AZ-EQ5i, the AZ-EQ6i can support payloads on both sides, with a capacity of up to 44 pounds on the main saddle, or approximately 20-25 pounds for imaging purposes. It employs the same belt drives and stepper motors as the AZ-EQ5i, which contribute to its ease of use, precision, quiet operation, and reliability.
  • The Losmandy AZ8 is a unique mount offering from the respected Losmandy brand. The AZ8, which draws inspiration from the acclaimed Losmandy GM8, serves as a robust alt-azimuth mount designed to support one or two telescopes. Unlike some of its counterparts, the AZ8 does not come with motorized features. However, it can be equipped with digital setting circles, which facilitate a certain level of computerized pointing, albeit without motorized tracking.


  • The Celestron CGX mount has a slightly higher weight capacity than the AZ-EQ6i and also utilizes stepper motors. A notable feature of the CGX is the inclusion of a USB port, which is absent in some of the lower-priced Celestron mounts. The CGX mount is well-regarded for its high-quality parts and gearing, making it excellent for astrophotography. However, it is more expensive and lacks the dual configuration capability (alt-azimuth and equatorial) or FreedomFind encoders that the Sky-Watcher mounts offer, which means it might not be the ideal choice for everyone, particularly if you are looking for versatility in both imaging and visual observing.
  • The Sky-Watcher EQ6-R Pro. It has similar features to the AZ-EQ6i for equatorial use, including the same belt drives, stepper motors, weight capacity, and tripod. Opting for the EQ6-R Pro might be more cost-effective if you do not require the alt-azimuth configuration.

Aftermarket Accessory Recommendations

The Sky-Watcher AZ-EQ5i is a versatile mount that can benefit from a few additional investments to enhance its performance. One such investment is the PoleMaster polar alignment tool, which facilitates a more precise and expedient polar alignment compared to conventional polar scopes or polar alignment software tools. This ensures more stable and accurate tracking, which is crucial for astrophotography. Furthermore, when using the Sky-Watcher AZ-EQ5i for prolonged observation or imaging sessions, it is important to have a reliable power supply. A good option would be the Celestron PowerTank Lithium or a generic rechargeable lithium battery that can provide sufficient watt-hours and voltage to sustain the AZ-EQ5i’s operations. This is particularly important if you are observing or imaging at a remote location where power outlets are not accessible.

Zane Landers

An amateur astronomer and telescope maker from Connecticut who has been featured on TIME magazineNational GeographicLa Vanguardia, and Clarin, The Guardian, The Arizona Daily Star, and Astronomy Technology Today and had won the Stellafane 1st and 3rd place Junior Awards in the 2018 Convention. Zane has owned over 425 telescopes, of which around 400 he has actually gotten to take out under the stars. These range from the stuff we review on TelescopicWatch to homemade or antique telescopes; the oldest he has owned or worked on so far was an Emil Busch refractor made shortly before the outbreak of World War I. Many of these are telescopes that he repaired or built.

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