The Skywatcher EQ6Ri Pro, being an EQ6 class mount, shares some key features with its older counterparts. In this section of the review, I will discuss most of the basic features included in the EQ6Ri Pro mount that are shared with all EQ6-type mounts.
The EQ6Ri Pro mount has a stated weight capacity of 44 lbs. or 19 kilograms. This number can be difficult to interpret, though, as Skywatcher and other mount manufacturers are not very specific as to how much weight you should use for specific purposes and how it affects tracking accuracy. In my opinion, if you are doing visual observing, you can load up the mount to the weight limit or even exceed it by a few kgs, as typically, the errors in tracking are too small to notice by eye and can be quite fast in nature.
In contrast, when you are doing astrophotography, the mount’s tracking accuracy is far more critical because the images you take will show streaking easily. Adding more weight to the mount can amplify tracking errors and ruin any images you take.
For this reason, we recommend using a maximum of ⅔ the stated weight capacity for astrophotography, but it is important to keep in mind that this is a very general statement. It depends on many factors, which I won’t discuss here.
The EQ6R Pro mount accepts both Vixen V- (narrow style) and Losmandy D- (wide style) dovetails (as well as near-identical CGE-style dovetails from Celestron). This means that you will be able to use any telescope that uses a standard mounting system with the EQ6Ri Pro, provided you can balance the mount with counterweights and keep the weight under 19 kilograms. Two 11-lb counterweights are provided by default. The EQ6Ri Pro’s counterweight shaft retracts inside the body of the mount for storage and fits any counterweight designed for a ¾” shaft diameter.
The EQ6-R weighs 17.3 kilograms, not including the tripod, which is also somewhat heavy at 7.5 kg. However, this is a fact of life for anyone wishing to do high-accuracy astrophotography, as the mount must be stable and sturdy and not be affected by external factors like wind gusts.
An illuminated polar scope is built into the EQ6Ri Pro by default, though you can also use the SynScan app to aid in polar alignment without the polar scope.
After discussing the obvious features, let’s get to the latest and greatest features that make the EQ6Ri Pro the best revision of the EQ6 yet!
The EQ6Ri Pro’s best feature, in my opinion, is the upgraded belt drives found in the mount.
In older mounts, you typically find gears connecting the motor to the worm drive (the most important drive in a telescope mount). These gears usually create a large amount of backlash.
Backlash occurs when gears are either too poorly machined or spaced too far apart from one another. This creates a gap between the teeth, which the motor has to clear if it wants to move the mount in the opposite direction.
Backlash can be seen during guiding. It effectively makes some guide pulses ineffective, as any corrective action is stuck in the gap between gear teeth. A belt drive cuts out the middle gear and instead connects the stepper motor to the worm gear with a toothed belt, which eliminates all backlash. In the past, belt drives were only available as a modification to the mount you had to perform yourself, voiding your warranty, but now belt drives are standard in the EQ6Ri Pro. The mount features much-improved azimuth adjustment features for polar alignment.
In the past, the EQ6 range of mounts has been notorious for having poor azimuth adjustment screws. The screw heads were way too small to do any sort of fine adjustment, and the base plate, which the mount contacted, stuck and grabbed, due to the friction caused by the action of paint on paint.
The EQ6Ri Pro improves the azimuth adjustment screws and reduces the friction issue. It also includes a more accurate altitude scale, so you do not have to do as much initial alignment.
The mount is built with a handle inside the body. This may seem insignificant, but it is far superior to awkwardly bear-hugging the nearly 20 kilogram mount to move it around, and it reduces your chances of damaging the mount (or your toes!). The mount also includes a snap port, which is effectively an interferometer built into the mount. This port can be configured from EQMOD or from a SynScan hand controller to trigger a DSLR exposure without software.
The EQ6Ri Pro is built with astrophotography in mind, and because of that, this is where this mount shines. Astrophotography is also where you will most likely end up utilizing this mount, as it is extremely popular amongst online communities such as Cloudynights.com and is one of the most highly recommended mounts out there. Here are some great features you will find.
The EQ6Ri Pro mount has full and excellent computer control support, based on the open-source astronomy control interface ASCOM. With ASCOM support, you can use the EQMOD software. The EQMOD software allows you to connect to the mount over WiFi or with an EQDIRECT cable. With EQMOD, entering the time and date into the hand controller is not necessary.
Using EQMOD also allows you to have full control over the mount’s positioning, and plate solving directly updates the mount’s positioning model without having to do any star alignment.
The mount is controllable with any standard image capture program, for example, SGP, NINA, APT, and other similar programs, which you can use to plate solve (align your mount via images of stars), slew to various targets, and perform meridian flips automatically.
Using the EQ6Ri Pro for Visual Astronomy & Planetary Imaging
If you would like to use this mount for observing visually, it is still a stellar performer and is sure to make you appreciate buying the EQ6Ri Pro. For visual use, you can control the EQ6Ri Pro with the WiFi adapter that comes with it, the SynScan app, or an app like SkySafari. You can polar align either using the app or with the provided polar scope. The mount has a 3-star alignment system, which allows your pointing to be quite accurate if you are polar aligned well. You slew around to 3 different stars and carefully center them in the eyepiece, and if you do it correctly, you will have an accurate pointing model that lasts. The SynScan app includes nine slew rates for intricate and accurate slewing and pointing. This means you can go from rate 9, which moves the mount several degrees per second, to rate 1, moving at half the speed of the stars. The database of objects is more than sufficient for visual observation.
Using the EQ6Ri Pro for Deep-Sky Astrophotography
The EQ6Ri Pro mount is a very reliable performer for deep-sky astrophotography. So far, there are almost no complaints or concerns regarding the reliability of the EQ6-R’s motors in terms of either tracking/guiding accuracy or failures, unlike with cheap servo-driven mounts such as the CGEM or Advanced VX. This means that you can leave the mount running all night without worrying about it hitting the tripod or doing something else unexpected. This is important if you want to sleep or go somewhere else while you are imaging. The mount guides excellently for its price, thanks to its belt drives. You can expect around 0.8 arcseconds RMS guiding out of the box if you set up the mount correctly and make sure your mount is calibrated in your guiding software, but this can vary from model to model.
Controlling the EQ6Ri for imaging will require you to use a PC to plate solve (avoiding the need for star alignment), slew, and guide the mount either directly through the main PC connection or with the ST4 port in the mount (the former is preferable).
Should I buy a Used Sky-Watcher EQ6Ri Pro/EQ6R Pro?
A used EQ6Ri or EQ6R is an excellent mount, though you should always make sure you are purchasing a working unit, as repairs can be difficult or expensive. The only difference between the EQ6R and EQ6Ri is the hand controller of the standard EQ6R versus the new version with the WiFi adapter.
The EQ6Ri Pro is our top pick in its price range. However, here are some more expensive mounts we also recommend:
- The Sky-Watcher AZ-EQ6i largely duplicates the EQ6Ri Pro but offers FreedomFind encoders to be aimed manually without affecting your star alignment for visual use. It can also be converted to an alt-azimuth mount to hold two telescopes and has a USB port built in by default to connect to your PC without a specialized adapter.
- The Celestron CGX has slightly greater weight capacity than the EQ6Ri Pro or AZ-EQ6i with the ability to be controlled directly via a USB port and similarly high-quality belt-driven steppers and worm gears for smooth tracking and guiding.
- The Losmandy G11 offers higher weight capacity than the EQ6Ri Pro with extremely well-made, durable, and accurate motor drive parts. However, a PC interface with it can be complicated and the provided hand controller is rather outdated.
Aftermarket Accessory Recommendations
Controlling the EQ6Ri Pro via a PC will require the use of a USB adapter and a USB-B type cable (or an all-in-one EQDIRECT combo) for it to communicate with your PC and ASCOM/EQMod. A power supply of some sort is also needed or you can use an AC adapter.