My first-ever post here. What would be the best possible setup for video astronomy under ~US$1000 (including the cost of telescope, camera, and any accessories)? My primary goal for a telescope is to be able to film eclipses, transits, occultations, and other dynamic processes (with the ability to record the entire event onto high-definition digital video if possible, or using high-resolution short exposures to compose a video). From my research, it seems that a Maksutov-Cassegrain would be the best possible design for a low-budget OTA for Solar, Lunar, and planetary imaging and videography?
I would need Solar-System Align to find and track Mercury in the daytime (particularly for the Mercury transit next year), so that limits me to either Celestron or iOptron go-to mounts. I like Celestron's software best of those two, especially since most of their mounts can be easily upgraded to use SkyPortal and StarSense for better tracking accuracy. I would also like a mount that can handle a short-focus OTA (such as a 500/114 reflector or a 400/80 refractor) if I decide that I would like to use a second OTA to try wider-field short-exposure deep-sky astrophotography in the future (I am fine with keeping exposures under 30 seconds with a go-to altazimuth mount). I was told by Celestron that the Nexstar SE mounts are only designed to work with Cassegrainian telescopes, otherwise the SE mounts seem a lot better than the Nexstar SLT mounts.
If I go with a Maksutov-Cassegrain on the SLT/AstroFi/SkyProdigy mount, it would be either the 127SLT (1500/127, 8.6 lb.) or the AstroFi 102 (1235/102, 5.0 lb.). The 127SLT would be my top choice, but I am worried about adding 3.3 lb. of payload for a camera and a StarSense to the 8.6-lb. OTA (for a total of 11.9 lb. payload on a mount that works best with 8 lb. payload). Celestron support told me that 3.3 lb. of payload on the 127SLT would be fine, with no impact on tracking or on the performance of the gears or motor, but I am still skeptical of this. Has anyone here mounted a smartphone (which actually weighs more than a DSLR) and a StarSense on a 127SLT? If so, how was the tracking? For videorecording, I would like to be able to track an object for hours at a time.
With the current sale ending June 30, I might be willing to get a Nexstar SE (up to an 8SE) if there is an overwhelming advantage to that mount or OTA over the 127SLT or AstroFi 102 (the 4SE and AstroFi 102 have the exact same OTA). But I don't like the idea of being locked to just using Cassegrainian telescopes if I decide in the future that I would like to also use a wider-field shorter-focus OTA. I have also read about a number of disadvantages for the Schmidt-Cassegrain design versus the Maksutov-Cassegrain design, including less contrast and needing collimation more often. The last thing I probably want is to have to worry about collimation after transporting the telescope by car over potholes the morning of a transit or eclipse. I also don't think that I need or want an aperture of over 6 inches if I plan to do many hours of Solar videography such as for eclipses and transits, though I am not sure how much of a concern Solar heating is per aperture.
I might also be willing to get a Celestron Advanced VX, but I think that could be too difficult for me to set up in the dark. Any setup I get, I will need carry cases, and will have to be able to carry everything one-handed up and down stairs, and to and from the car, to set up at the park with. For early-morning events, this means arriving before sunrise and setting up in the dark.
What are your recommendations for the best Celestron go-to telescope that is portable; easy to use; has the best possible views for filming eclipses, transits, and occultations; the ability to handle 3.3 lb. of payload on the OTA; and is flexible enough that I could also use a wider-field OTA on the same mount if I wish to? I would also appreciate any recommendations for cameras, though I was planning to start with just using a mounted smartphone camera for videography, and if that is not satisfying, then start looking for a better camera maybe. I don't own a DSLR, and was thinking that if the smartphone camera didn't work out, of getting a dedicated astronomy camera, since they seem to be cheaper than DSLR cameras. Though I should probably figure out my ideal camera now, so that I can check the weight before I buy a mount and OTA for it. I am hoping that astronomy cameras weigh less than a DSLR though.
I should add perhaps that I am not interested in producing any publication-quality work, and that creating videos is simply for my own personal recollection of things I can see in the telescope, and the ability to share them with others over social media. I was initially excited by the idea of doing astrophotography, but after a lot of research, I think it will be too expensive and difficult, especially since I can download much higher-quality images from NASA for free. I think that focusing on videography will be a lot more interesting and meaningful (as well as a lot easier) for me than trying to do photography of static-appearing objects, and I can still do planetary/Lunar/Solar imaging by stacking the video frames. I would like to be able to eventually photograph all eight planets though if possible with the telescope (even the altazimuth AstroFi 102 should be able to capture the pale blue dot of Neptune I would hope).
Edited by Nicole Sharp, 14 June 2018 - 03:05 AM.