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#1 jeffscra

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Posted 29 January 2013 - 10:44 AM

Folks:

I have been a long time lurker and of these forums and like many sit by the hours looking at what all you guys accomplish with your gear.

I have dabbled with astrophotography with an old Meade DS2114 and a canon 40d/7d through a usb cord onto a laptop and also with my DSLR alone. I've taken pictures of the moon and jupiter but with no tracking.

I will be in a position soon to get some gear. It's really a two year plan and I just want to make the right decisions out of the gate. Just like most of the beginners, we want everything and we want our gear to do everything from viewing to astrophotography and I know the gear for both is not the same. Hence, my 2 year plan. I'm planning on spending $2500 per year on the big items.

First year I plan on buying the Orion Atlas mount. I've really struggled with this decision because I know this is the mount I should get long term. However, I'm also, concerned about the weight and taking it outside when I want to play. I don't see myself taking it anywhere often or at all. so Maybe this won't be an issue.

I've also considered the Orion Sirius mount but I just know that by year 2, I need to stay with the Atlas mount.

So I am at this point.

Now the scope. I haven't decided on these yet:

AT65EDQ - This one I've really started to consider and am leaning towards it.

Skywatcher Pro 80 ED

Orion ED80T CF

Orion ED80

I'm also looking at getting teh Orion Awesome Autoguider.

Those three items complete year one.

My plan would be to add a C9.25 or a C11 in the second year. Or if things are going well the first year, I might put that off and get a good CCD imager.

So, will that gear run on an Atlas mount? One of those scopes, with a 7d back to a laptop with the autoguider.


I know the ED80 and the Atlas mount are pretty popular on here. I was leaning towards the ED80 but I have read about the focusing problems. I'm concerned about the 7d hanging from it and if it will be a problem I could address. So with the possible need to upgrade the focuser would I be better off getting the ED80T CF or the Sky Watcher or even now the AT65EDQ. Seems like the AT65 has alot of value for the money and based on what I have seen on here picture wise, you can get some good results.

I'm open to suggestions. I have about a month before I make any firm decisions.

After year two, do you see any problems putting a c9.25 or a c11 on there?

Thanks as always for your comments.

#2 terry59

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Posted 29 January 2013 - 11:37 AM

Hi Jeff and welcome to the hobby that can suck you dry! :grin:

I don't think you can go wrong with the Atlas as long as you are up for toting it around. I do recommend that you not wait too long to ditch the SynScan hand controller and use EQMOD. The autoguider package will work fine. As far as scopes, the Skywatcher and Orion ED 80 are identical except for the focuser and other incidentals that the Skywatcher come with. That stuff is servicable but not of the highest quality. If there is one thing I've learned about AP is that, most times, trying to save money by buying the cheaper stuff isn't the best approach. With a DSLR, 600mm is a good spot for many objects and those both have FPL-53 glass. As you've noted, the focuser isn't the best and many of us replace those with a Moonlite. Many use the stock focuser on the other scopes but I also read about unhappy people with those too. My view is that many scopes come with focusers not designed for AP and should be replaced with one that is. Good luck with your choice. Looking forward to seeing your images.

#3 Fogboundturtle

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Posted 29 January 2013 - 11:47 AM

Sky-watcher focuser are plain terrible compare to moonlite but the glass in good so with a little investment, it can be fix.

#4 Intensity2x

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Posted 29 January 2013 - 12:16 PM

You won't regret the Atlas. It is large and heavy, but it is a solid mount, and it can carry much much more than an 80mm. My advice would be to take it slow. Dont worry about guiding, you can easily get 60s or better exposures on the atlas with good alignment. Stick with the Camera you have for now, dont worry about CCD or any of that. Learn the techniques, learn how to stack and process your photos. Once you start getting good at it, then you can decide which direction to go in. Just remember that everything you add to the equation is added complexity to an already steep learning curve. With just a basic setup you need to master: polar alignment, the atlas mount (though goto makes things easier), aquiring the images, stacking, processing. You may very well get overwhelmed and frustrated if you try to do too much too soon.

#5 JoLo

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Posted 29 January 2013 - 12:31 PM

That's a great rig to start with. The Atlas head is 40 lbs, the heaviest piece to tote around. I don't have trouble with it, and use a garden cart to haul it, the weights and the tripod out at once. The Orion Autoguider is easy to use, right out of the box.

My only concern would be your second OTA. I think the 9.25 is pushing it for AP, and I doubt it could handle the

#6 JoLo

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Posted 29 January 2013 - 12:32 PM

Sorry, wayward finger....

I was saying, the 11 is beyond the Atlas for AP. I am on a similar track, and will be mounting the 8" edge on it....I think that is about as far as one could go, but others may and will have other opinions.

#7 jeffscra

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Posted 29 January 2013 - 01:05 PM

Thank you all for the comments.

Terry - EQMOD - I've read some about that but haven't really gotten into it. I would like to use my laptop to drive the scope...I've read a little on the Backyardeos, which i'm also interested into looking into.

So far the comments on the scope selection are I have several that are compariable. I guess I am looking to see if I should get the AT65 or one of the ED80's. The AT is f6.3. I think the Triplet Ed 80 is f6 and the Ed80 is 7.5. 65 vs 80 would be the next debate for me.

Like I said, I'm pretty sure I'm sticking with the Atlas, unless someone says a c9.25 and an 80mm won't run on it.

Fog - I've read about the moonlite focusers....just MORE money to add to the project. Thats why in my comparison between the AT65 and the ED80's, I haven't read that much about people replacing the focusers in the AT65's. Maybe I just haven't seen it.

I think for my plan its important for me to look at all aspects as to what I would like so I can make sure that it all works together and that the people currently using the equipment will second that whole deal. I don't want to purchase items that in a month, I realize that if I would have asked, I would get real world knowledge on the functionality of it.

As for the guider, is that the one to get, or is there a better one that works better? I know they also have the mini guider as well. I know this is an after thought, and getting the right scope and mount is my first priority. But since it is in the 300 range, it might be a piece of the puzzle I can get during year 1.

Thanks for teh comments.

#8 David Ault

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Posted 29 January 2013 - 01:18 PM

Welcome to the forums!

There is another option for the mount, the iOptron iEQ45. It's a bit more expensive than the Atlas mount, and not as well proven in the field, but it is definitely lighter (the Atlas EQ head is 41 lbs, the iEQ45 is 25 lbs). I've never used one of these myself, but you might add it to your list for research and comparison.

I'm definitely biased towards the AT65EDQ. You can follow the link in my signature to see what I've done with it. Having the flattener built in makes life a lot easier, and the 422mm focal length is very forgiving of tracking error, wind, etc. The focuser is ok, but I did have flexure. It wasn't an issue with just my ATIK 314E on there unless I tried to take 10+ minute exposures, but once I added an OAG, 9 position filter wheel and guide camera it just couldn't handle the load. I eventually put a MoonLite focuser on mine. I know this is a shameless plug, but I will be selling mine soon as I recently upgraded. PM me if you are interested.

Both the Skywatcher Pro 80 ED and the Orion ED80 are doublet instead of triplet designs, which means you may see blue halos around brighter stars as the blue frequencies don't quite come to the same focus point as red and green. The Skywatcher has a better focuser, but otherwise have the same optics (I can't remember, but the SW may have a collimatable lens cell as well). Since you are planning on using a DSLR, at least initially, I would recommend a triplet refractor over these doublets.

For the triplet design, several manufactures make 80mm clones. Orion, Explore Scientific, Meade, and many others I'm sure. I've only used the Explore Scientific carbon fiber version ($1000 new), but I can say it was very well made and had a solid focuser. They also sell a non carbon version for $800 new. It's a little heaver at 7.5 lbs instead of 5.5, but any of these would do well on an Atlas class mount.

As far as the c9.25 or 11. Both would work well visually atop an Atlas or iEQ45, but may be difficult to use well for astrophotography. SCTs have a lot of mirror flop that shows up when using a guide scope rather than an off-axis guider. I would personally recommend you go with either the 8" or 9.25" EdgeHD scopes. They have mirror locks and native flat fields, making them much better for astrophotography and great performers visually as well. I recommended staying at or below the 9.25" for a few reasons: weight (the 9.25" is 21 lbs which is already pressing it for an Atlas mount doing astrophotography), focal length (at 2350mm any tracking errors will be noticeable and the Orion guider may have too much of an image scale difference to accurately track) and cost (new the 8" EdgeHD costs about the same as the standard 9.25").

I think the Orion mini guider package is better for the small refractors and is easier to mount as it just fits in the finder scope slot. With the Orion Awesome AutoGuider package you have to find a way to mount the guide scope on top of your imaging scope or get a side-by-side saddle.

If you want to save money and make your budget go further, definitely look at buying used. In my experience, the astronomy community is very good at taking care of their equipment and are happy to see it go to a good home when they upgrade.

These are of course, just my opinions, but I hope it helps.

Regards,
David

#9 terry59

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Posted 29 January 2013 - 01:51 PM

I'd like to add that whatever choices you make in this hobby, there is no one size fits all solution and each decision is a (series of) tradoff(s).

The standard, excellent, advise is to start off with a small refractor. How small will influence what you can reasonably expect to image. Get CCDCalc, add your camera specs and try different scopes. If you add the extra images there will be lots to make comparisons with.
Sign up on Astrobin and look around at results with the camera and scopes that interest you. Pay attention to the image and try to determine if it has been cropped or not. Pay attention to star shapes in the corners.
All refractors need a field flattener. Make sure you are getting a scope and flattener that are proven to work together with an APS-C chip in the mix.
I hate to disagree with David above but don't be put off by the doublets. The ED80 and ED120 are good imaging scopes because they are slower. Short, fast scopes have their own issues although the ones you are looking at are widely used so there are plenty of images to examine.

#10 David Ault

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Posted 29 January 2013 - 02:59 PM

Hey Terry,

No worries. I have no problem being disagreed with. I try to talk from personal experience unless a discussion is intentionally theoretical in nature. I will occasionally make comments about equipment I haven't used, especially if I don't see it come up and I feel it might be useful information (as I did with the iEQ45), but I try to indicated that I have no direct experience.

The problem with personal experience is that, being amateurs with limited budgets, most of us only get to use a piece of equipment in one configuration. For example, I used a friends ED80 with my DSLR and did experience blue halos around very bright stars. For me, it was more than I could tolerate and so I went in a different direction. Having said that, when I did this test I was very inexperienced and will certainly admit that the halo-ing could have been from my specific DSLR, poor focus which would exaggerate the halos (I had not learned about Bahtinov masks yet), non-orthogonal image plane or any number of other issues I didn't know about at the time.

So, feel free to add your experiences and correct me if I'm wrong. I don't offend easily. :)

Good suggestion on CCDCalc. There's also this online version: http://www.skyatnigh...view-calculator

Regards,
David

#11 jeffscra

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Posted 29 January 2013 - 04:39 PM

David - Alot to think about in your post. And yes, I have been all over your images! :-) Very Nice...in fact I think your images got me thinking about this particular scope. As you can see from my avatar area, I have been a VERY long time lurker...from 2006. Once I get the opportunity to get some gear I want to make sure its stuff that will work for me for some time to come.

I think for the mount, I am going to stay with the Atlas...because it is a proven mount. I don't want to be some new guy, getting the latest, and being one of the first to figure something out when I don't know what I'm doing.

For the year 2 upgrades, I was thinking that I would use the c9.25 or the c11 just for viewing and the ED80 or At65 for imaging. I just can't get all three for 2500 in one year. So I was going with the ED80 and the mount for the first year. Then get the viewing hardware the second year.

Also I think when I get there, I will be looking at the EdgeHD scopes. Whatever I can get for $2500 or less when I get to that point.

I'm not at all opposed to going used. I have done that with my camera gear and I know I take good care of my items and usually people spending this kind of money for toys usually do too. The only problem is, not knowing what you are looking at and if there are any problems with it, and also, the stuff GOES so quick once it is posted.

I will look there.

Terry - thanks for all the information as well. I have done alot of research up to this point and take everyone's points and then conduct more research. Finding out what is going to work for me is what I'm trying to determine. If I can get real world experience from people on here, I can only better my judgement in making a large decision like this. Its all good.

I've been through all the ED80 photos on Astrobin, I know it can be done with that scope. I just want to get the right one.

Also, guys, being amateurs and on fixed budgets with little experience, we sometimes only get one shot to get the right stuff.

Interesting comments on the Mini-auto-guider. Should I be looking at an OAG instead withe an Edgehd in the future? Or will the Mini work for both the Edge and the Ed80/at65?

Thanks again....off to do more research...

#12 jgraham

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Posted 29 January 2013 - 04:54 PM

You can't go wrong with the Atlas. +1 on EQMOD, my hand controller hasn't been out in months. I also use a small cart to move mine around. As for the scope, think small. Imaging is different from visual in that you don't need a big scope. I like to have a small scope for wide field (in my case an SN6) and something a bit larger for narrow fields and the planets. I use an 8" SCT at f/10 for narrow fields and stretch it out to f/30 for the planets.

Have fun!

P.S.

heh, heh, I spent my first year imaging with an Orion StarBlast on a DS-2000 mount. It was a lot of fun and I learned quite a bit from that experience.

My starter kit...

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#13 jgraham

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Posted 29 January 2013 - 04:55 PM

...and my present kit configured for wide field...

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#14 rigel123

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Posted 29 January 2013 - 05:39 PM

Well, I love the combination of the Atlas, the ED80T CF and the Mini guider from Orion. I added an AT6RC for smaller objects which is about 7 lbs lighter than the C 9.25. I think the Atlas could handle the larger scope using the Mini Guider to guide to reduce the weight. I use my ED80T to guide when I am shooting with the larger OTA.

You can see what I have been able to capture with that setup at my Astrobin site in my signature. I would suggest holding off on the larger OTA and get a good CCD camera as there are a lot of objects you can practice on with the smaller scope.

#15 jeffscra

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Posted 29 January 2013 - 11:17 PM

John - Nice rig you have there. Year two had me thinking about a larger OTA for viewing purposes, not really for AP. I would still run the ED80/ET65 for imaging purposes.

Warren - WOW - your photos are very cool. The pictures of the sun, I've never seen anything like that. That is just incredible. So for me it looks like I am trying to set up my first rig very similar to what you are using. Looks like from your stuff and a couple others that I have seen, I need to add that Atik 314 on my list of wants. I am leaning towards the AT65EDQ instead of the 80ED.

For year two, I think I am leaning now towards the 8in Edge HD. Thats quite a ways off.

Thanks for all the help.

#16 CounterWeight

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Posted 30 January 2013 - 09:00 AM

Great advice here so far :) Just want to add that for any of the larger chipped CCD's or DSLR you will need (not want but need) a field flattener for all but the quad 65. Outside the lil' 65 quad, I'd opt for a triplet + flattener for imaging but that is just me. Like Warren I love my ED80-T (with a flattener or reducer/flattener) and mini-guider, it takes amazing images (some in my link in sigline). But if just starting maybe the 65 would much easier on the budget and allow for investing in an astro CCD... in the tradoffs I'd recommend starting with a dedicated astro-CCD and get something with 'regulated cooling' - it will makes using 'darks' easier and can reuse. That should keep you busy for some time, and depending on your weather - possibly a long time ;)

#17 rigel123

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Posted 30 January 2013 - 05:55 PM

I agree with Jim, that little 65 will give you a nice FOV and would be a nice startup scope for learning AP.

#18 Erskin71

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Posted 30 January 2013 - 09:53 PM

One more vote for the Atlas.

I have the AT65 and love it. I will say I wish I had gone with and 80mm. Though for the the price and fact it has a built in flattner it cant be beat.

#19 jeffscra

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Posted 30 January 2013 - 10:34 PM

Do you have some recommendations on a CCD?

#20 jeffscra

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Posted 30 January 2013 - 10:36 PM

Erkskin, you are using the AT65 on an Atlas now? Why would you have gone with the 80 over the 65? Do you guide? Do you use EQMOD?

#21 CounterWeight

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Posted 30 January 2013 - 11:54 PM

For CCD I have to ask specifically about budget. (?) It's sure fun to help others stimulate the economy ;) I'd recommend something 'monochrome' with 'regulated cooling', a filter wheel of some sort and filters, and include an Ha filter with RGBL?.. (OK I said it) At the high $ mark.

#22 jeffscra

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Posted 31 January 2013 - 09:24 PM

HAHA....Jim.....what about a grand or less?

#23 CounterWeight

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Posted 02 February 2013 - 09:28 AM

Hopefully someone can help out here, the one I used I was never really happy with - it was OK... but I was expecting more from it, in ways an expensive lesson in time and effort for me. Importantly, it was not a big loss in $, as I was able to sell the CCD for about 75% what I bought it for. The good thing about buying it new was that it did need several warranty trips back to the mfg and they were fantastic about honoring the warranty. I consider the $ I lost as a sort of learning/class fee.

Another thing I learned the hard way - the CCD shipped with a stripped down version of Maxim, a capture/calibrate/initial processing program. It made initial capture and calibration pretty easy, but what was missing IMO was pretty huge in the initial processing - to the point where it wasn't much different than DSS. I'd seen some fantastic results using the full program package (which is capture/calibrate/process/post process/guide/ ...) and mine were nowhere near. So in purchasing my next CCD (the one I have now) I saved and ponied up for the full version of MaximDL - it is quite expensive and it took a while to save for. Sorry for long way down the trail with this but it's just that the software you use can have a lot to say about what you can pull out of the data you do get.

So in ways I'd recommend to keep in mind the possibility of purchasing something on the used market to get started, and what software you will need to get the most from it.

We don't get a lot of imaging time here, and so it took a long time (far longer than it might have in a better area for this) for me to understand just what I was up against in terms of limiting exposure times, different type objects, 'da woyks'... and what I wanted to try and get from my imaging. I image from a 'white' LP zone and that adds a significant amount of difficulty.

So I think choice of a camera or CCD has a lot to do with your particular area and climate, and expectations beyond the initial euphoria of getting an image or two. I used to describe the process for me as one of excitement, enthusiam, reality, panic... Sorry for the long and wandering response, but I think there is a lot to consider here that only you can determine.






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