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Celestron VSP Pads

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Date: NA
Price: $40.00
Design: Hard rubber pads with soft gel for tripod legs
Description: Hockey puck sized pads with an internal shock absorption system.

Review

As the owner of a 120mm refractor on a mount that could be described as nothing short of minimal I decided to do something about it.  After looking at the options I found that Celestron’s VSP (Vibration Suppression Pads) offered the easiest and most recommended solution.  At $40 for a set of three I figured that even the slightest improvement might just be worth the expense.

My current system features a light EQ-3 mount from Orion (very light Chinese replica of the GP).  While it would be perfect for a 90mm scope this mount just does not make the cut for a 120mm scope.  Although vibrations are acceptable on low powers anything above 100x can become quite a challenge.  Just imagine focusing on Jupiter at 250x with 7 – 9 second vibrations.  While it is understandable that most of this vibration comes from the mount itself the aluminum tripod is not the sturdiest piece of equipment ever built either.  It is my hope to eventually work these vibrations down to the sub five-second range without spending a ton of money.

Ordering

After reading a few reviews of the system and asking some specific questions I decided to place an order at Poccono Mountain Optics – for no reason other than I was also looking at one of their Orthoscopic eyepieces also.  This was probably my first mistake (purchasing the Ortho not shopping at Poccono).

I placed the order a few days after Christmas for the Celestron VSP pads and a 5mm Orthoscopic eyepiece.  Within a few days I had received confirmation of my order and notification of a three to four week wait – I felt that this was normal for the post Christmas season.  Almost two months later I decided to send Poccono a few emails regarding the location of my order.  After a few tries I did get through and they explained that my order was grouped and that while my pads were in they were still waiting for the Ortho to come in.  They then offered to send me the pads immediately and free of shipping charges.  As a side not my Ortho finally arrived about a week ago, almost five months after placing the order – these must be some fairly popular eyepieces.

The Pads

The pads themselves basically look like hockey pucks with a bright orange indented side for the placement of your tripod legs.  Under this orange rubber “cup” there is a softer gel type substance that performs the actual vibration suppression.  The bottom side of the pad has three small stubs on it to allow for better grip to the ground.

Upon first inspection they looked to be in good order and of decent quality.  They are however a bit rough around the edges and feature that super high quality made in China feel that seems to be the rage today.  Well, I just figured that if they did their job who cares what they look like.

First Light

After setting up my telescope in my backyard like usual I placed one pad under each of the feet of my tripod.  This was actually quite difficult in the deep grass and I feel that perhaps they were made for use on harder surfaces.  After a minute or two I finally got all of them in place and fairly level to the ground.

Like I said previously my telescope usually has about 7 – 9 seconds of vibration when I smack the tube or the tripod leg.  After setting up and quickly focusing on a star at 40x I found that the vibrations from a tripod tap died to just about 4 – 5 seconds or a bit less while a tap on the tube itself also improved a bit.  After increasing the power to 133x I did notice that the vibrations were significantly less than when I did not use the pads.  I found that finding focus was much easier while at highly critical levels of magnification, there is less of the focus, wait, focus, wait some more…  I have also found like others that have written reviews of these pads that they not only decrease vibration from the bottom down but also help from the top down.

Negatives

There are a few minor problems and one possible major problem that I have run into with the pads.  First of all they seem to be made for use on a hard surface.  In deeper grass they do not sit well and some times the tripod legs either fall off of them or dig into the gel substance.  The only real major problem I ran into is that one completely fell apart on me.  During one observing session one of the tripod legs dug into the gel and ripped the pad apart.  Luckily the pad was not ruined and slipped right back into place after I found the second half impaled on my tripod leg.  It seems that someone overlooked the gluing process at the factory – this has only happened once so I will treat it as an anomaly, if it happens again I may have to re-engineer them.

Conclusion

For $40 these are a good way to salvage an otherwise questionable mount.  I would recommend every owner of a recent Chinese telescope and mount to invest in these pads before you drop a couple of thousand dollars on a new mount.  I have even recently seen them being sold for $13 (for the set) at Natural Wonders during their going out of business.  Imagine my dismay when I saw these a few days after receiving mine, oh well.  Another hint is to remember that you own them – pick them up at the end of the night.

Submitted by Curt Irwin - irwincur@excite.com - Grand Rapids, MI

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