Updated: Jun 7
*We are not affiliated with ZWO in any way and were not paid to write this post*
April 2023 has been a huge month for ZWO, as they revealed not one, not two, but SIX new astrophotography products at NEAF 2023.
We could not attend NEAF, but we've been following the exposition and want to report on what the astrophotography equipment company revealed in a summarized fashion.
Discover all the new products announced by ZWO, check out the specs and prices. We'll also chime in on how we feel about them as astrophotographers.
Tables of Contents
ZWO Camera Angle Adjuster (More info coming soon)
ZWO AM3 - A Smaller and Cheaper Version of the AM5!
The ZWO AM5 quickly became one of the most popular astrophotography mounts on the market when it came out in 2022! We wrote a review about it. It is small, lightweight, and does not require counterweights with most setups. This makes it incredibly portable and easy to use for beginners and excelled in terms of accessibility for all.
Well, ZWO certainly realized the potential of their first-ever mount and were quick to make a second version: the AM3!
At NEAF 2023, they announced the ZWO AM3 and it is expected to attract a wider audience due to its affordable price, smaller body, and even lighter weight.
What we know about the ZWO AM3:
It is a strain-wave gear mount
The design and ease of use of the AM3 appear to be identical to the AM5
It has a periodic error of +/- 20"
It has a payload capacity of 8kg (17.6 lb) without a counterweight and 13 kg (28.6 lb) with a counterweight
It has a weight of 3.9 kg (8.6 lb)
What comes in the box? You will find the same items that come with the AM5 and it is compatible with the ZWO pier extensions
The price of the ZWO AM3 retails at $1,499 for the mount head only, and $1,848 for the mount head and CT40 tripod
Personally, we are in love with the ZWO AM5, so this is a very exciting release! The AM3 will be perfect for small telescopes, and even more portable than the AM5. The downside is the price, which we were hoping would be a bit lower.
We could see this mount take over all the current and most popular star trackers (Sky-Watcher Star Adventurer Pro & iOptron Sky-Guider Pro), and become the top small, lightweight mount in the next year or two.
Overall, we believe this mount will be the new Go-To (literally and figuratively) mount for amateur or beginner astrophotographers who use a small telescope as their primary instrument. It will also be loved by Milky Way photographers searching for a portable yet reliable tracker for wide-field astrophotography.
Make sure to come back to galactic-hunter.com to read our full review of the AM3 when we get the chance to obtain it!
ZWO ASI2600MC DUO - No More Guide Scope!
You read that right. You will not need to bother with a guide scope or off-axis guider, if you use the ZWO ASI2600MC-Duo! Another NEAF 2023 announcement that rocked us.
As you can see in the image below, the camera has a built-in second sensor just above the main sensor, to be used for auto-guiding.
What we know about the ZWO ASI2600MC DUO:
The camera has the same overall specs as the ZWO ASI2600MC, but with several changes seen in the attachment below
The small built-in sensor meant for auto-guiding is the same sensor found in the ASI220MM mini camera
The camera has no amp glow and has a built-in anti-dew heater
The stars in the corner of the guiding sensor are expected to not be round, but that should not affect guiding in any way
Focus can be achieved with a focus knob on top of the camera
The ASI2600MC DUO costs $1,999
Because the guide sensor is built into the camera, the use of a filter wheel is not recommended as the guide star might go out of focus when switching filters. (This shouldn't be a problem considering most people only use one filter or none with an OSC camera.)
Our Thoughts about the ZWO ASI2600MC DUO
This new product made our jaws drop! We're always searching for ways to make our rig easier to use and this will certainly help.
When we think about it, not having to bother with an off-axis-guider or a guide scope is great! And, it's one less cable to worry about.
The price of the camera is also appealing to those with a budget in mind.
Buying the parts individually can be very expensive:
The ASI2600MC costs $1,799
The ASI220MM Mini costs $299
A Guide Scope costs $99
In total, it would cost $2,200. Not only is it pricey, but it's bulkier, heavier, and more complicated to use if got them all separately. The manual and invisible labor is worth considering when purchasing products for your personal equipment setup.
We are eager to try this camera and see if we can properly image and guide at the same time without issues. Once again, we'll do our best to publish a review here for you when we get our hands on it!
ZWO ASIAir Plus Upgrade - More Storage and More Speed!
Another announcement by ZWO was a minor upgrade for the ASIAir Plus. For those of us in the astrophotography field, we were happy to hear that ZWO decided to keep the same name and not change the device again after making brand new versions with the ASIAir and ASIAir Pro (we can probably expect an ASIAir Ultimate at some point 😅).
What we know about the ASIAir Plus Upgrade
This new version of the ASIAir Plus offers 8 times the storage space, 256G instead of 32G
The imaging efficiency when doing short exposures is improved by 26%
The video FPS is improved by 30%
The ASIAir 256G Plus costs $399
Our Thoughts about the ASIAir Plus Upgrade
This is helpful for people who do not own an ASIAir yet or own an older version of the ASIAir and are looking to upgrade. We personally use the ASIAir Plus (32G version) and don't feel the need to upgrade to this 256G version - but that could change! We enjoy this option.
The imaging efficiency increase is a welcome change, but we hardly do short exposures except when we're focusing manually. We also never run out of storage because we use an SD card and wipe it clean after our files are transferred to a computer. However, the thing that would make us upgrade to this new ASIAir product is the improved FPS. This is really nice if you do lunar astrophotography or planetary imaging. The question is: Is the FPS increase worth the money? We'll just have to see.
Interested in diving into astrophotography but don't know where to start?
The Galactic Course is a membership to an all-encompassing series of lessons teaching you every aspect of astrophotography through written lessons and video tutorials. Step into an ever-growing library of knowledge and learn at your own pace. Connect with other members and get tips from instructors that care about your progress.
ZWO FF Telescope Series - Petzval Refractors of All Sizes!
This was a huge surprise! At NEAF 2023, ZWO announced that they are now selling telescopes, under the "FF" name series. There are four and they are refractors of different sizes.
What we know about the ZWO telescopes:
There are four Petzval refractor telescopes
The ZWO FF65 costs $999. It has an aperture of 65mm, a focal length of 416mm and a focal ratio of f/6.4
The ZWO FF80 costs $1,499. It has an aperture of 80mm, a focal length of 600mm and a focal ratio of f/7.5
The ZWO FF107 costs $2,499. It has an aperture of 107mm, a focal length of 749mm and a focal ratio of f/7
The ZWO FF130 costs $3,499. It has an aperture of 130mm, a focal length of 1000mm and a focal ratio of f/7.7
Our Thoughts on the ZWO Telescopes
As we said before, we were surprised to hear that ZWO is now offering TELESCOPES. With an S. We have a feeling they will be very popular.
One thing to note is that the telescopes are not built by ZWO, but are re-branded products. If you take a look at Askar, for example, they offer the same types of telescopes on their website. Our primary refractor telescope is from Askar, so for now, we do not plan on getting a ZWO telescope.
With that said these telescopes appear to be of great quality, especially because they are Petzval, which is a feature that is very important to us, and astrophotographers.
For clarity, Petzval telescopes are a type of design that adds an extra layer of glass within the instrument. That additional layer of glass flattens the field, meaning you do not need to purchase a field flattener or any corrector for that matter. This design type also helps with back-focus - a necessary but often challenging part of astrophotography. Basically, you don't have to worry about any back focal distance when using a Petzval telescope!
ZWO Seestar S50 - An Affordable Smart Telescope
Last on our list of new products revealed by ZWO is... a smart telescope, the ZWO Seestar S50.
NEAF is all about new innovations in astronomy. All of it. So bring on the haters because this announcement might be a polarizing one. ZWO at NEAF 2023 is diversifying its range of products to include smart telescopes - and we're here for it.
So to the nay-sayers, guess what, who cares if it's "too easy to use?" Not everyone is as skilled as the best out there or wants to be. It's the truth. So, this is a fun addition to the line-up.
We've reviewed smart telescopes in the past, like Unistellar's EVScope, and Vaonis's Stellina and Vespera. Next will be ZWO's Seestar S50!
What we know about ZWO's Seestar S50:
It is a small all-in-one smart telescope
It is a triplet apochromatic telescope with an aperture of 50mm and a focal length of 250mm,
It is black and has one arm that opens up
It weighs 3 kg (6.6 lb)
It has a battery life of 6 hours
It costs $499 and comes with the tripod
It can be used for both daytime landscape photography (probably for moonsets, etc) and deep-sky astrophotography
The ZWO Seestar closed, opened, and open on the tripod
Our thoughts about the ZWO Seestar S50
This is an interesting product that we're curious to try out. It appears to be very compact and might be able to fit in any bag. Most of the time, smart telescopes have an app to operate them, so it will be interesting to see if ZWO's app for this telescope will be as advanced as its competitors. Since it's so new, we're wondering if the telescope will be free of glitches from the start.
We'll be sure to report back with a full review.
ZWO 2023 Announcements - Final Thoughts
What an incredible turnout for ZWO! We usually don't create these types of posts but we were just so impressed with what was announced this year at NEAF! It's still quite new, so we wanted to report on as much as we could based on what was announced. We tried to gather as much information as possible about each product, and we hope you found this article helpful.
That said, we are impatient to review most of these products, so be sure to ask questions in the comments section below. If there is something specific you'd like us to cover in particular, we'll make sure to take note for when we get our hands on the products.
A smaller version of the AM5
An OSC camera with an integrated guider
A 256G version of the 32G ASIAir
Aperture of 65mm, focal length of 416mm, focal ratio of f/6.4
Aperture of 80mm, focal length of 600mm, focal ratio of f/7.5
Aperture of 107mm, focal length of 749mm, focal ratio of f/7
Aperture of 130mm, focal length of 1000mm, focal ratio of f/7.7
A Smart telescope
Antoine & Dalia