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Opinions on what to buy for a Vixen ED103S

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#1 Telaeus

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Posted 29 January 2013 - 10:59 AM

Hey folks. I need some advice on options for this scope. I just picked it up used to get back into this great hobby I had 20+ years ago. I'm hopelessly out of date.

It's intended use is two-fold - visual observing for my daughter (5 years old, so not too much yet), and astrophotography for me. I can't do much visual observing nor carry much weight due to disability.

The scope came with a Vixen porta mount, which I figure is too lightweight for astrophotography. Is the Vixen GP2 sturdy enough? I'll be wanting to add tracking and Goto since again, I can't really be bent over much looking through eyepieces and making adjustments.

What would be some good other options besides the GP2 and Starbook setup from Vixen? I haven't decided yet whether to go DSLR or CCD... I think I'm leaning DSLR due to cost and the fact I've never taken a picture... those CCDs are expensive!

Oh, and any advice as to which eyepieces of equivalent quality to the scope would be good pickups I'd appreciate too! I don't want to get eyepieces that will break the bank, but nothing cheap either... something in line with the scope. I know this has the 2" eyepiece adaptor as well.

Anyway, I'd appreciate any input. Right now all I have are the scope, the mount (missing parts), a finder scope (broken crosshair and thumbscrew) and one eyepiece (think 22mm).

Thanks for any assistance!

Matt

#2 Thomas Karpf

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Posted 29 January 2013 - 12:45 PM

Matt,

Welcome back to the hobby, and to Cloudy Nights.

I'm willing to bet that shortly you will be advised to skip astrophotography; you have a beautiful little star living with you who is MUCH easier to photograph. Astrophotography can easily chew up hours of time just getting the equipment set up, let alone post-processing of images. Plus, setups are very complex: main scope, guide scope, auto-guider, camera, not to mention the mount itself (which should make up the major part of your budget).

With a focal ratio of f/7.7, the ED103S will work well with just about ANY brand of eyepiece; faster scopes require better quality eyepieces. Your lowest power eyepiece should be no bigger than 53.9mm (which will give you an exit pupil of 7mm), and your highest power eyepiece should be no smaller than 3.85mm (which will give you an exit pupil of 0.5mm).

If you expect your daughter to be looking through the scope, I would suggest you get lenses with lots of eye relief (at least 15mm or so).

I like the Explore Scientific 82* eyepieces; a 14mm (currently $99 on sale) would be a perfect match as a medium power eyepiece for your scope. The 4.7mm 82* Explore Scientific would be a nice high power eyepiece.

#3 WaterMaster

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Posted 29 January 2013 - 01:21 PM

Hi Matt, welcome to Cloudy Nights!

You're going to find you'll get lots of great advice on EP's, mounts, and astrophotography - we all love to help others (spend their money :lol:).

Rather than offer my (questionable) advice on these topics, I'll just make two suggestions:

Stellarium - a great piece of planetarium software, and it's free.

A good, adjustable observing chair. :ubetcha:

#4 Telaeus

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Posted 29 January 2013 - 05:29 PM

Matt,

Welcome back to the hobby, and to Cloudy Nights.

I'm willing to bet that shortly you will be advised to skip astrophotography; you have a beautiful little star living with you who is MUCH easier to photograph. Astrophotography can easily chew up hours of time just getting the equipment set up, let alone post-processing of images. Plus, setups are very complex: main scope, guide scope, auto-guider, camera, not to mention the mount itself (which should make up the major part of your budget).

With a focal ratio of f/7.7, the ED103S will work well with just about ANY brand of eyepiece; faster scopes require better quality eyepieces. Your lowest power eyepiece should be no bigger than 53.9mm (which will give you an exit pupil of 7mm), and your highest power eyepiece should be no smaller than 3.85mm (which will give you an exit pupil of 0.5mm).

If you expect your daughter to be looking through the scope, I would suggest you get lenses with lots of eye relief (at least 15mm or so).

I like the Explore Scientific 82* eyepieces; a 14mm (currently $99 on sale) would be a perfect match as a medium power eyepiece for your scope. The 4.7mm 82* Explore Scientific would be a nice high power eyepiece.


Thanks for the input Tom. Actually, my daughter, while being quite cute, is entirely sick of being photographed, as my wife takes WAY too many pictures... lol. And my daughter has been telling me for a year she wanted me to get a telescope, so she totally approves. She wanted to take it out last night (just got it in the mail)... but it was raining.

We've been watching Astronomy shows on Discovery and such for a while, and she likes to shout out, "There's Jupiter!" whenever she sees it when we're outside...

I appreciate your comments on eyepieces. I'll definitely take what you said into consideration. Do you have any good opinions on the Mount/Goto Drive? Of course, I'm looking for stable enough for Astrophotography, but as light as possible... lol. Who isn't probably, right?

Anyway, thanks again for your time!

#5 Telaeus

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Posted 29 January 2013 - 05:30 PM

Hi Matt, welcome to Cloudy Nights!

You're going to find you'll get lots of great advice on EP's, mounts, and astrophotography - we all love to help others (spend their money :lol:).

Rather than offer my (questionable) advice on these topics, I'll just make two suggestions:

Stellarium - a great piece of planetarium software, and it's free.

A good, adjustable observing chair. :ubetcha:


Thanks Steve. I'll take a look at the software... and the chair is going to be a definite need!

Matt

#6 Thomas Karpf

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Posted 30 January 2013 - 08:21 AM

Matt,

With regards to astrophotography, what, exactly do you want to photograph and how?

Video photography of planets?
Wide-angle shots (all of Orion) using a DSLR lens?
Long exposure shots of deep sky (galaxies, etc.)?

Are you willing to spend at least an hour setting up your equipment and getting your polar alignment perfect? Are you willing to spend as much time on the computer post-processing the pictures you take as you spent taking the pictures?

Once you have those questions answered, I'd try posting your questions on the astrophotography forum. I'd also suggest checking out http://www.astropix.com/ . There's a ton of information in the Astrophotography Techniques section, and his books on CD are great resources.

#7 Reid W

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Posted 30 January 2013 - 10:16 AM

Matt, the Cloudynights sponsor, Astronomics, has new CG-5 mounts on closeout for $550 with free shipping. There are several of these mounts in operation at our observing facility here in Shreveport. It's a great value for $550. Heck, my Vixen GP has way over $550 worth of dual drives and digital setting circles alone. A lightweight folding table near your setup is a great accessory. For Shreveport, planetary viewing breaks down on images over 200X. In my 90mm f/9 fluorite that's about a 4mm eyepiece equivalent. I like my Televue plossels in the shorter focal lengths, 13, 10.5, and 8, but I am tempted to try the $40 TMB planetary eyepieces available from Astronomics. I just picked up the 28mm 68' Explore Scientific 2" eyepiece. I am very pleased with that purchase.

#8 Telaeus

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Posted 30 January 2013 - 01:01 PM

Tom,

As far as targets go, I'd love to get into nebula/galaxies/clusters. I also know those are challenging with a scope this size and where I live (suburban Philadelphia). I am 30 minutes or so away from Philly, so the glow isn't TERRIBLE, but it's certainly not great compared to well, most everywhere else... lol. I know this scope would be good for nice wide pictures...

Bah, since I haven't done it before, all I can give you is impressions. I want to make nice looking pictures of various things. I kind of bought this scope thinking it can do a little bit of everything. Not the best at anything, but decently well-rounded. I imagine that's how I'd approach AP too... even if it's not optimal for taking a picture of "x", I'd still give it a go.

As far as time goes, yes, I have it. And my daughter is interested... and my wife says she wants to join me in my "new" hobby (she didn't know me when I was into it last... lol). My wife is even urging me to look into going to local star parties for the family.

As far as post-processing, my job is... slow. I spend hours every day reading books/browsing the net and playing games. So I think I'm good there.

Anyway, I'll take a look at that site.

Thanks!

Matt

Matt,

With regards to astrophotography, what, exactly do you want to photograph and how?

Video photography of planets?
Wide-angle shots (all of Orion) using a DSLR lens?
Long exposure shots of deep sky (galaxies, etc.)?

Are you willing to spend at least an hour setting up your equipment and getting your polar alignment perfect? Are you willing to spend as much time on the computer post-processing the pictures you take as you spent taking the pictures?

Once you have those questions answered, I'd try posting your questions on the astrophotography forum. I'd also suggest checking out http://www.astropix.com/ . There's a ton of information in the Astrophotography Techniques section, and his books on CD are great resources.



#9 Telaeus

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Posted 30 January 2013 - 01:03 PM

I'll take a look at those mounts. Thanks for the advice as far as eyepieces too!

Matt

Matt, the Cloudynights sponsor, Astronomics, has new CG-5 mounts on closeout for $550 with free shipping. There are several of these mounts in operation at our observing facility here in Shreveport. It's a great value for $550. Heck, my Vixen GP has way over $550 worth of dual drives and digital setting circles alone. A lightweight folding table near your setup is a great accessory. For Shreveport, planetary viewing breaks down on images over 200X. In my 90mm f/9 fluorite that's about a 4mm eyepiece equivalent. I like my Televue plossels in the shorter focal lengths, 13, 10.5, and 8, but I am tempted to try the $40 TMB planetary eyepieces available from Astronomics. I just picked up the 28mm 68' Explore Scientific 2" eyepiece. I am very pleased with that purchase.



#10 Thomas Karpf

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Posted 30 January 2013 - 01:48 PM

Matt,

With regards to a mount for visual and astrophotography, keep this in mind:

1) The HEAVIER the mount, the more stable it will be for all purposes, and
2) The shorter the focal length of the scope, the more forgiving your images will be of gears that are wobbly or not quite round, and
3) Mounts for visual use can be MUCH lighter than mounts for astrophotography, and
4) Components that make astrophotography easy add cost, weight, and time to set up. You can easily spend $2000+ on a mount that will work well for astrophotography. Then you will probably add a guide scope (another $300+), oh and don't forget to get a 2" light pollution filter (another $200), and the focuser of the scope may not hold the camera well when the scope is pointed high (another $400-500 for Moonlite focuser), and don't forget a field flattener (so stars in the corners are points instead of circles, another $200+). I'm sure I've forgotten several somethings (like a portable battery pack, vibration suppression pads, etc.).

Astrophotography is not for the faint of wallet.

Here's a photo I 'borrowed' from a 'show your mount' post here. It's a pretty standard astrophotography collection of equipment. Please note all the wires.

http://www.cloudynig...97-IMG_3539.JPG

#11 WaterMaster

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Posted 30 January 2013 - 01:48 PM

If you don't already know, astronomics gives discounts to Cloudy Nights members. :ubetcha:

#12 Telaeus

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Posted 30 January 2013 - 04:17 PM

Tom,

Nice setup. I particularly like the ability to mount the mount on wheels and then jack it up. Might make sense for me with my dystrophy.

I realize the large cost/effort associated with the hobby. Frankly, if it were easy, I probably wouldn't be as interested. Plus, I've been telling my wife for years I was eventually going to buy a scope worth more than her engagement ring. I'm still 7k to go... lol.

I don't intend to buy all of this at once though. The scope I bought for my anniversary. My birthday is April... then Christmas... etc. So I'll have time to play with what I get before ramping up.

But next on my list are a few eyepieces and a mount/Goto due to my dystrophy.

Which is why I've been trying to figure out what I should be targeting. Now, if I don't have to spend 6-7k, great. If I can get away with another 3k, I'm fine with that. But I'll get what I need to get to have a decent setup. That's why we work isn't it, to have nice toys???

So far, I've gotten a couple good recommendations on the eyepieces, and the CG-5 mount. Now is that mount sufficient for AP with my scope, or is it too light? It's not very expensive, so it makes me wonder if it isn't beefy enough. Also, any recommendations on Goto setups and tracking? Can you fit any onto any mount, and which are steady and smooth enough for AP?

Thanks again.

Matt

Matt,

With regards to a mount for visual and astrophotography, keep this in mind:

1) The HEAVIER the mount, the more stable it will be for all purposes, and
2) The shorter the focal length of the scope, the more forgiving your images will be of gears that are wobbly or not quite round, and
3) Mounts for visual use can be MUCH lighter than mounts for astrophotography, and
4) Components that make astrophotography easy add cost, weight, and time to set up. You can easily spend $2000+ on a mount that will work well for astrophotography. Then you will probably add a guide scope (another $300+), oh and don't forget to get a 2" light pollution filter (another $200), and the focuser of the scope may not hold the camera well when the scope is pointed high (another $400-500 for Moonlite focuser), and don't forget a field flattener (so stars in the corners are points instead of circles, another $200+). I'm sure I've forgotten several somethings (like a portable battery pack, vibration suppression pads, etc.).

Astrophotography is not for the faint of wallet.

Here's a photo I 'borrowed' from a 'show your mount' post here. It's a pretty standard astrophotography collection of equipment. Please note all the wires.

http://www.cloudynig...97-IMG_3539.JPG



#13 Telaeus

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Posted 30 January 2013 - 04:19 PM

Saw that. Looks nice!

Thanks!

If you don't already know, astronomics gives discounts to Cloudy Nights members. :ubetcha:



#14 csrlice12

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Posted 30 January 2013 - 04:26 PM

The CG5 mount is a good mount, but is "entry level" for AP. I'd look for a bigger mount like tthe Losmundy G8 or 11, or an Atlas, or CGEM. Best is a permanent pier stuck in the ground in an observatory.

#15 Thomas Karpf

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Posted 30 January 2013 - 04:38 PM

Agreed with regards to permanent pier in an observatory.

The CG-5 is definitely a 'starter' mount. It includes an autoguider port (as will pretty much any of the more expensive mounts), so you could certainly START with the CG-5, work on getting your scope perfectly polar aligned, take some pictures, add in working with the various additional exposures (darks, flats, etc.), process multiple images together, add an auto-guider, add a focal reducer/field flattener, and then down the road replace the 'light' mount with something a little (or a lot) more impressive.

Keep in mind that this 'light' kit is still going to involve setting up 75-100 lbs of equipment.

Again, consider taking your questions to the beginner imaging forum.

#16 csrlice12

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Posted 30 January 2013 - 04:44 PM

Agree that the CG5 will allow you to learn AP (i.e. polar alighment, setup, guiding, processing, etc...), especially with a small refractor/triplet. This is probably the cheapest way to decide if AP is for you. If you find its not, at least you still have a decent visual setup without it being too unweildy...

#17 WaterMaster

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Posted 30 January 2013 - 05:27 PM

It's been brought up but it's important to stress that EQ mounts for AP get pretty heavy pretty quickly (not to mention the price tag). As you look at all this cool stuff on the various vendor's sites, check the specs for the weight and capacity. :ubetcha:

#18 DHurst

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Posted 30 January 2013 - 05:42 PM

Don't forget a good adjustable observing chair!

#19 Telaeus

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Posted 31 January 2013 - 12:36 PM

Ok, thanks all for the advice. I told my wife I was thinking of using my April birthday a bit early this year for a mount... she asked how much it could run... I told her... and she says, "I can't believe it costs so much for three little legs!".

I was amused. Have to figure out which will work best. Thanks for the advice on where to start!

Matt






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