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Astrophotography and Sketching >> Beginning and Intermediate Imaging

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Crash
newbie


Reged: 12/05/12

Gear List - Seeking Approval Before Purchase
      #5558238 - 12/06/12 08:41 PM

First, thank you for all of the fantastic info on this forum. I have spent many hours absorbing as much as possible!

I'm a bit paranoid when jumping into a new hobby prior to making my first purchase. I would greatly appreciate verifying that my purchase list is complete. If you have an opinion on a better bang for my buck, I would also be appreciative of your time sharing.

I own a Nikon D90, 18-55mm f3.5, a 50mm prime f1.8D and several filters (UV, circular polarizing, etc.).

Purchase List:

Orion SkyQuest XT4.5 Classic Dobsonian Telescope $249.99
1.25 inches Orion Universal Camera Adapter $39.99
Orion T-ring for Nikon Camera $24.99
1.25" Orion 13% Transmission Moon Filter $14.99

Total: $329.96

I understand that without a guide, I'm limited to a shutter speed using the rule of 600. Would the next purchase in the evolution of this gear list then be an auto-guide? Or is that not possible on a Dobs? With expectations to expand my gear further in the future, should I then avoid Dobsonian scopes?

Thank you in advance for your time!


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Footbag
Post Laureate
*****

Reged: 04/13/09

Loc: Scranton, PA
Re: Gear List - Seeking Approval Before Purchase new [Re: Crash]
      #5558381 - 12/06/12 10:18 PM

What types of targets do you hope to image? The Moon and Planets or deep sky(galaxies, nebula)? Either way, a Dob is more of a visual scope then an imaging one. You could probably get some nice one shot lunar images with your DSLR, but without tracking the moon will quickly drift out of the FOV. The same with the planets.

Auto-guiding is for motorized equatorial mounted scopes and deep sky imaging. Won't work for a DOB.

For any type of imaging, a motorized tracking mount would be best, but this could blow your budget quickly. Especially if you want a mount with goto. The mount is very important as it must be stable and able to handle all of the weight.

If you let us know what type of imaging you want to do, we can make some suggestions.


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Crash
newbie


Reged: 12/05/12

Re: Gear List - Seeking Approval Before Purchase new [Re: Footbag]
      #5558387 - 12/06/12 10:22 PM

Well, I'm glad I asked. I must have crossed into the regular astronomy forum (where dobs seem pretty popular for first scopes) during my flurry of research.

I would like to be able to target deep sky if it's possible within this budget.

Thank you for taking time to respond!


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Footbag
Post Laureate
*****

Reged: 04/13/09

Loc: Scranton, PA
Re: Gear List - Seeking Approval Before Purchase new [Re: Crash]
      #5558459 - 12/06/12 11:17 PM

For deep sky imaging, the most important thing is the mount. The mount must be able to precisely point to the same spot for the length of the exposure. This can be anywhere from 15s to 30m.

Better mounts can track more precisely and carry more weight. Before you look at which mount, you need to determine the weight capacity you need. Larger scopes with longer focal lengths require larger more expensive mounts, so that is a tradeoff you will be facing. By sticking with smaller, shorter focal length telescopes or even camera lenses, you can get away with a less expensive mount.

If you want to work your way up the learning curve a good way to start is with camera lenses. This means you can get away with a very light weight class mount. I don't have experience with them, but several vendors are making eq tracking mounts intended for DSLR's. Orion has one for $179(I cannot speak to the quality), and they go up from there.

A good beginner DSLR setup would be a small refractor on a CG5 class (at least) mount. This is probably going to run at least $1000 on a good day.


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Phil Sherman
Pooh-Bah


Reged: 12/07/10

Loc: Cleveland, Ohio
Re: Gear List - Seeking Approval Before Purchase new [Re: Footbag]
      #5559049 - 12/07/12 10:55 AM

Another option for a dob is an equatorial tracking platform (Poncet platform) for it. The scope sits on the platform which is polar aligned and has the motor drive. They usually allow tracking for an hour or so then have to be "rewound" to continue tracking an object.

The least expensive equatorial mount I've seen that should be able to handle the 4.5" scope is Ioptron's new lightweight mount that's just under $400. There's no information yet about how well it would work for AP and you'll probably need to buy some accessories to attach your scope to it.

ANother issue you'll face is that you probably won't be able to focus the camera on the scope without some modifications. The imaging chip in a camera is located much further away from the front of the camera than the way that eyepieces are constructed. You might have to move the mirror up the tube an inch or so to be able to focus the camera.

With a dob as your initial scope, I'd look instead at getting a webcam. I've seen them from Orion, Celestron and other manufacturers and they're usually a drop-in replacement for an eyepiece. Record an image stream and use Registax to process it and you'll have the basics needed for lunar and planetary imaging. This will also give you some experience at astro image processing.

Phil


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CounterWeight
Postmaster
*****

Reged: 10/05/08

Loc: Palo alto, CA.
Re: Gear List - Seeking Approval Before Purchase new [Re: Crash]
      #5559364 - 12/07/12 02:03 PM

Hold on...

Great that you are asking questions - hope you don't mind having them responded to with more questions. Consider it all part of the discovery process, and it keeps going why the forums so useful.

You mention 'a new hobby'. IMO first thing is to separate imaging from visual COMPLETELY. It's possible to do either and never have gear that overlaps between. Very difficult to find things that will do 'double-duty' equally well.

But I'm trying to figure out if you want to do some visual astronomy and then also try some astro-imaging... and have done neither yet. If that is the case then I recommend looking about for an observing club and join in, even if it is a quite a reach.

If that is not possible, read a lot more and take your time - it can be disasterous to be impulsive jumping in the imaging pool. There are very good reasons for everthing here and they need not be expensive to learn, but absolutely can be.

The human eye is very different than cameras and CCD's. Things that work very well for visual astrnomy might have no place in the imaging world, things that are critical to imaging DSO may have no place (or be much more than needed) in the visual world. This is why a Dobsonian mounted Newtonian reflector may be great and very popular starting (and even continuing indefinately) in the visual part of the hobby and all but absent in the DSO imaging part of it all.

Adding to emphasize what already posted above, for imaging DSO the mount is really the most important thing - everything else after that. Not that you need a top shelf imaging mount that can cost as much as a used automobile to start... but what frustration you encounter imaging will be highly impacted by your choice of mount, and keeping within what that mount can do easily and repeatably. Another consideration between what makes for good visual as opposed to good imaging, the discussion of telescope aperture is very important, as are ideas of light pollution, portablitiy, and complexity.

Lastly just want to say welcome to the forum and the diverse and great bunch of folks here that make it my opinion the great place it is.

We might have our different opinions and experience here but almost always I find the posts here well meaning and intentioned, even when not exactly what you want to hear. As opposed to all the marketing, visual and imaging are both a challenge, and both rewarding and at times frustrating in their way though for different reasons.


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lakeorion
professor emeritus


Reged: 08/03/10

Loc: Lake Orion MI
Re: Gear List - Seeking Approval Before Purchase new [Re: CounterWeight]
      #5559928 - 12/07/12 08:32 PM

X2 on that. I have my 127 Mak on a hand move alt-az mount for the visual fix, and I'm getting an equatorial mount for photography - but not with the Mak. I'm planning on just taking pictures with camera lenses. A 35mm or 50mm prime can take some awesome 'wide field' shots with a small portable mount like the Vixen Polarie or iOptron Sky Tracker.

As budget and experience continue, someday I'll graduate to using a telescope to take photos...


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Crash
newbie


Reged: 12/05/12

Re: Gear List - Seeking Approval Before Purchase new [Re: lakeorion]
      #5560190 - 12/07/12 11:51 PM

Thanks for all of the helpful info!

To answer your question, I'd like to target DSO for AP, but if I can't afford the gear, not much I can do about that.

I'll admit -- I was a bit disappointed reading that a beginner DSLR setup would require $1,000.

The iOptron Sky Tracker might be do-able, though, at $399, if that's all I'd need to put my D90 and 50mm prime to work.

Also, I've begun looking into astro clubs in the area and digging around for sky viewing parties. It'll be a big help having some local folks to show me the ropes.

Thanks again, everyone. Super excited about learning more.


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shawnhar
Post Laureate
*****

Reged: 06/25/10

Loc: Knoxville, TN
Re: Gear List - Seeking Approval Before Purchase new [Re: Crash]
      #5560582 - 12/08/12 09:43 AM

Quote:

Thanks for all of the helpful info!

To answer your question, I'd like to target DSO for AP, but if I can't afford the gear, not much I can do about that.

I'll admit -- I was a bit disappointed reading that a beginner DSLR setup would require $1,000.

The iOptron Sky Tracker might be do-able, though, at $399, if that's all I'd need to put my D90 and 50mm prime to work.

Also, I've begun looking into astro clubs in the area and digging around for sky viewing parties. It'll be a big help having some local folks to show me the ropes.

Thanks again, everyone. Super excited about learning more.



You don't need a mount, your camera with a 50mm lens and tripod will capture lots of DSO's, they will just be very small. You will also need to go to a dark site to do it.
I would vote NO to the i-optron - that is not what you want. Anything that sit's level is AZ mount, you want EQ, the kind you have to adjust to your latitude, this is because of the tilt of the Earth. That mount you listed will limit your exposure times and cause what's called "field rotation", the exposures will be slightly rotated frame to frame due to the UP/DOWN, Left/Right movement. A true Equitorial mount is what you want.
1000 is kinda high, but the level of money you spend is directly related to the frustration you will have trying to do it. You COULD look at the classifieds and get the Orion EQ head for 60 bucks, then find a clock drive for 50, but you would be spouting bad words trying to get that to work for astrophotography. The drive is not consistent, the gears don't mesh well, it's wobly, etc...
You need a stury, well built mount that can handle whatever weight you are going to put on it with ease. 500 bucks is about as cheap as it gets, there is a used 6" scope and mount on the classifieds for that
http://www.cloudynights.com/classifieds/showproduct.php?product=70405&sor...
AYou would need a couple of adapters, one to piggyback the camera, one to put the camera on the scope "prime focus", etc, but this is about as cheap as you are likely to get and still have a chance of not pulling your hair out.
Focal length is everything, at 18mm you don't need tracking much, you can expose for almost a minute and not see the stars trailing, at 50mm you can get maybe 30 seconds, at 200mm, you are down to 2 seconds or less, not enough time to capture anything. The quality of the mount will directly determine the amount of time you can expose without seeing tracking errors, and this is directly related to the focal length you are using.
Your camera on the back of that scope I listed is something around 1500mm focal length, imagine holding a prime lens that long steady enough to track an airplane across the sky.


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Footbag
Post Laureate
*****

Reged: 04/13/09

Loc: Scranton, PA
Re: Gear List - Seeking Approval Before Purchase new [Re: shawnhar]
      #5560736 - 12/08/12 11:31 AM

I think the iOptron you posted is kind of an EQ mount. It's actually an Equatorially mounted DSLR head that sits on a camera tripod. It needs to be polar aligned but then will track the stars for longer exposures. I know vixen makes a similar one as well. These are new on the market, so it's hard for me to suggest them. Maybe you can find some reviews.

Getting more expensive, Astrotrac and Losmandy are making similar unit. The Losmandy is new, but the Astrotrac has been on the market for a while and seems like a good one.

But... If you aren't adverse to buying an EQ mount without the telescope initially, this would be what I'd suggest. In that case, you are just looking for the best equatorial mount you can fit into your budget. I'd strongly consider used, you'll get a better class of mount.

If you do make it to an astro club, just seeing the different scopes will go a long way. You'll see the difference between alt-az and equatorial mounted scopes. They may know of a mount or scope for sale.

There are certain features to look for in a mount. As I said before, capacity. For imaging, cut the capacity in half. Motorized tracking is required for imaging. You can get a mount with or without GOTO. GOTO has a database of objects and automatically points at the objects for you. I like GOTO, it saves a lot of time. If it has an autoguiding port, that is better. Not that you'll be autoguiding for a while, but at least it's capable.

I would try some tripod images at least to begin. If you Google startrails, you'll find a nice technique to take beautiful images with only a tripod. That 50mm is the perfect lens for it.


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Ranger Tim
scholastic sledgehammer
*****

Reged: 03/25/08

Loc: SE Idaho, USA
Re: Gear List - Seeking Approval Before Purchase new [Re: Footbag]
      #5563236 - 12/09/12 10:06 PM

I'm going to jump into the fray, as I have a soft spot in my heart for those who are in my situation, i.e. limited funds. Many may refute what I will recommend and there may well be a less expensive alternative out there - if so please post it asap!

You must have some sort of mount that will track the sky if you want to shoot DSO's. Period. The few times you shoot wide field with your "nifty fifty" will merely prime the pump and leave you thirsting for more depth and magnification. So start following the sale ads for used mounts and snag a CG-5 ASGT or similar. There should be one showing up soon in the $400 range. That mount will put you into the thick of things and may have some challenges, but you will be able to shoot well enough to reveal weaknesses in technique instead of just in your equipment.

Pick up an inexpensive refractor to mount on it, such as the Orion Short Tube 80 ($80-100) and you have a scope to use for your beginning imaging and visual efforts. Yes, it will suffer from some rather flagrant color issues but HEY! It's only a starting point. Later it will be a great little grab -n- go OR a scope for a guide camera.

So we now have a set-up for around $500. Add a couple of eyepieces and accessories and you may bump it up a bit more. It will just depend on how much you can "DIY." Bahtinov mask? Make one. Dew heaters? Make 'em. Been there, done that!

Point is, you will have a mount that will yield reasonable go-to's and will carry a decent load AND will not be outgrown for a while. Then start saving up for an imaging reflector such as the Astro-Tech 6 inch Imaging Newtonian or the like ($300) and you will indeed be well on your way. Contact (PM) me for more info on how to integrate your Nikon D90. There are some special challenges for Nikon users but they are still very workable.

I buy virtually all my equipment used and so should you if your funds are limited. But there is no way to short cut having a decent mount. Start watching for one today. Begin educating yourself and don't get impatient. The stars will still be there in a few weeks... unless the Mayan thing messes us up


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Uptmor
member


Reged: 02/16/10

Re: Gear List - Seeking Approval Before Purchase new [Re: Ranger Tim]
      #5563920 - 12/10/12 10:47 AM

I fully agree with Tim on this one. I would find a way to get in to an equatorial mount. You 'may' find your frustrations reduced if you do. There are going to be PLENTY of frustrations anyways For one, tracking should be better. Second, you will pretty much eliminate field rotation (which is a pain in the rear). As Tim said, this is a hobby of upgrades. You will never be done! Start with something that will allow you to grow a little, then you will want to upgrade. The EQ5 would be a great choice.

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Phil Sherman
Pooh-Bah


Reged: 12/07/10

Loc: Cleveland, Ohio
Re: Gear List - Seeking Approval Before Purchase new [Re: Uptmor]
      #5563962 - 12/10/12 11:08 AM

The least expensive equatorial mount for imaging with a DSLR's lenses is the ancient barn door mount. A high quality hinge, a few of small pieces of plywood, a bolt and a few other inexpensive pieces of hardware will give you an equatorial tracking platform that attaches to your sturdy photo tripod. Your finger and a watch with a sweep second hand (you remember those don't you?) will give you tracking accurate enough for 30 second to 2 minute or longer exposures with no visible star trailing in the images.

If you need spend more than $10 to build one of these, then you should look for a friend who does woodworking who will have the simple tools necessary to build this device.

Phil


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orlyandico
Post Laureate
*****

Reged: 08/10/09

Loc: Singapore
Re: Gear List - Seeking Approval Before Purchase new [Re: Phil Sherman]
      #5564030 - 12/10/12 11:58 AM

You can contact Geo. on this forum. He may have some motor-less CG5, LXD55, or Orion SVP mount heads for sale. Probably even below $100.

Then dig up a dual-axis motor drive on ebay. $115. I got lucky and snagged one on the CN classifieds last night for $78 shipped (helping out a friend who needs a mount on a tiny budget).

Make your own wood tripod.

And.. that's it! slap your DSLR with a long lens on top, and you can AP away. Since you have the D90 and 50mm you can get started with that.

Believe it or not, I did some unguided 50mm f/2.8 shots of Orion, 2 minutes each (about 5) and I got both the Horsehead and Flame! (to say nothing of M42 itself)

This was with a Pentax K20D which is far inferior to the D90 in the low-light, low-noise area.

can you see 'em?



Later on, try to find the Nikkor 180/2.8 ED IF Ai-S (about $350) which is a completely kick-*** astrophotography lens. There are some really amazing shots in the DSLR sub-forum with this lens.. like this

http://www.cloudynights.com/ubbthreads/showflat.php/Cat/0/Board/DSLR/Number/5...


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hcsceo
super member
*****

Reged: 10/14/09

Loc: Austin, TX
Re: Gear List - Seeking Approval Before Purchase new [Re: Ranger Tim]
      #5564040 - 12/10/12 12:02 PM

I'm with Tim here also on this. Find a used CG5 or Skyview Pro mount at minimum first and go from there. The CG5AS-GT is hard to beat when on a budget. You can mount your camera to it now while you are finding a scope to put on it. An 80mm refractor is a great choice for both visual and photo. Anything less than this will be very frustrating for astrowork. I've got a thread in here right now for a $300 setup but is NOT recommended for a beginner for sure. This is a process that takes time. It really is best to start out with the best mount you can afford with the CG5 being minimum for AP work.

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orlyandico
Post Laureate
*****

Reged: 08/10/09

Loc: Singapore
Re: Gear List - Seeking Approval Before Purchase new [Re: hcsceo]
      #5564047 - 12/10/12 12:08 PM

a used SVP + dual-axis drive would be at least $250.

so a used CG-5 ASGT at $400 or a new one at $650 may be a better option.

I'd put all the money in the mount for now, start using that 50mm lens, then buy the 180mm ED later. But note - a new CG-5 ASGT + the 180mm Nikkor is still $1000.

There's no two ways about it.


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hcsceo
super member
*****

Reged: 10/14/09

Loc: Austin, TX
Re: Gear List - Seeking Approval Before Purchase new [Re: orlyandico]
      #5565874 - 12/11/12 12:36 PM

FYI the advantage of the CG-5 AS-GT will come when you are ready to start guiding and of course the GOTO. It will only require a cheap programming cable from the controller to the computer. If you go with the Skyview Pro + Dual-Axis drive you will have to modify the drive controller with ST4 AND buy a GPUSB or similar device to guide. IMHO, the CG-5 AS-GT is a great value mount as long as you don't put more than 15-20 pounds on it for AP. I've owned the SVP w/dual drive and intelliscope (pushto) with ST4 upgrade and GPUSB for guiding and the CG-5 is much better and less overall after all the upgrades to the SVP. Like the others have said spend your money on the mount first. You can get images from a good mount and mediocre scope but you can't get anything from a great scope on a poor mount.

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