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Astro Photography Equipment Budget

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#1 john1619

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Posted 11 January 2019 - 03:26 PM

With a $4000 budget for everything,  what would some recommendations be for a full set-up. telescope,mount,cameras,filters etc.

 

thank you!



#2 RMannix57

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Posted 11 January 2019 - 03:37 PM

E=MC2

Equipment = Money times the speed of light squared


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#3 aneeg

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Posted 11 January 2019 - 03:38 PM

Begin with half the sum for a proper mount.

 

Arne


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#4 Michael Harris

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Posted 11 January 2019 - 03:40 PM

As a relative newbie, I would recommend about half that budget for a good mount then get a doublet refractor and decent camera like a “modified” DSLR or a intro color CMOS camera from ZWO, Atik, QHY, etc. Stuff like filters, filter wheels, etc can be added later as you refine technique. I started with a Celestron AVX mount in the $800 range and it was fine as a “learner” but life will be a little easier if you start with a mid range mount say in the $1500-$2000 range. Shaky or awkward  mounts make taking images frustrating and frequently impossible. Keep the C8 for visual, I love mine.


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#5 terry59

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Posted 11 January 2019 - 03:43 PM

A mentor to help spend it smartly

 

smile.gif 


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#6 George Bailey

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Posted 11 January 2019 - 03:56 PM

DSO or planetary ?   It makes a difference !

 

I assume DSO, as I see you have a C8 for planetary .....

 

In that case, go with a low f refractor - and choose the camera based on the f for your system (max f sys = 5 * pixel size in um).

 

I agree with Michael about the mount.


Edited by George Bailey, 11 January 2019 - 04:01 PM.

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#7 fewayne

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Posted 11 January 2019 - 04:01 PM

Are we talking planetary, galaxies, nebula? What kind of targets make your socks go up and down?

 

For example, for DSOs the mount is absolutely crucial and you should dump half your budget into it. You will want something fairly wide-field to minimize frustration and let the learning happen. A used DSLR is a fine starter DSO camera.

 

But if you're doing planetary, you're going to need less mount and more scope (or at least more scope focal length), and will need a small-sensor camera that can shoot really really fast, so something like an ASI178MC (though planetary guys and gals, feel free to correct me!).


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#8 sg6

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Posted 11 January 2019 - 04:05 PM

How big a full set up do you want or anticipate?

 

Reason I ask is that you could start with a Skywatcher EQM-35, a 72mm ED, flattener, and an astro camera.

Nice set of items.

 

However then people get say a WO GT 81 for better images, thats heavier and so a better mount is possibly required (may not be), or for longer images a guide camera and guide scope. Again weight increase.

 

Then comes mono (camera weight the same), but mono means a filter wheel, motorised, filters etc. More weight.

 

So the initial mount not just creaking it is bending.

 

And when you look back everything has been changed and you have spent on two lots of imaging equipment. shocked.gif shocked.gif shocked.gif

 

So in a way the one stable item should be a more then adaquate mount.The problem rarely covered in that is that if more then adaquate it can be too heavy and you do not take it out and set it up so you do little imaging. That aspect usually goes unmentioned. I say it as I have an HEQ5 that is basically too much, and I have an EQ5 that is fine. The HEQ5 is the better mount but the EQ5 gets the use.

 

A lot depends on the mono aspect. That means a lot more processing and may not appeal in which case identify a good 80mm triplet and guiding setup, add in for a camera and say 1Kg for flattener then search out a mount capable of twice that weight. That would still leave a bit in hand.

 

Some say plan on half the mount capacity, others say 2/3 for the equipment you put on the mount. 2/3 seems OK to my thinking.



#9 bobzeq25

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Posted 11 January 2019 - 04:17 PM

Here you go.  Based on this wise statement from a talented beginner looking back on his first year.

 

"First and foremost is listen to the folks who have been there. The philosophy of 80MM APO and good $1500-2000 mount is great advice for beginners. Sure you can possibly image as a beginner with something that is larger or that you may have but holy cow its hard enough with something small."

 

Mount (the most important thing).

 

Skywatcher EQ-6R.  If that's too heavy for your taste, iOptron 45Pro.

 

Scope.  At $4000 total budget, you can get a good one you'll keep for a long time. 

 

Skywatcher Esprit 80.

 

For at least your first year or two, you could save some money here.

 

TS-Optics PHOTOLINE 80mm f/6 FPL53 Triplet APO - 2.5" RAP Focuser

 

Camera.  Two good choices.

 

Nikon D5300/5500/5600 DSLR.

 

ZWO ASI 294MC.  Cooled.

 

Another possibility would be the ZWO1600 mono cooled non plus a filter wheel and LRGB filters.  Offers the possibility of trying narrowband imaging later.  To stay under $4000, you'll need the cheaper scope above.

 

People will have other ideas, and that's fine.  There'll be some more stuff, like an autoguiding system.  But the above choices would give you an excellent system for starting out in astrophotography of DSOs.  I presume that's your interest, since you posted here.

 

The C8 and a ZWO 224MC would do planetary fine, although the planets are not well placed (too low) and it's getting worse.

 

The best and most important purchase for last.

 

https://www.amazon.c...d/dp/0999470906


Edited by bobzeq25, 11 January 2019 - 04:20 PM.

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#10 scadvice

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Posted 11 January 2019 - 04:43 PM

A mentor to help spend it smartly

 

smile.gif

Yes, but be careful some mentors are opinionated. 

 

I would look at these mounts which IMO ( note that these are my personal preference) are best suited for you. The mount is likely the MOST important purchase and a larger (If you can carry it) is better, more stable and will most likely track better.

 

iOptron iEQ30 Pro (OK) $1220 to $1300 

iOptron iEQ40 Pro (better) $1700 to $1900

Sky-Watcher EQ6-R Pro (much better) $1400 to $1600 and IMO best buy for your budget

iOptron CEM 60 (best) $2500 to $2800 I own this one and love it!

 

Sigh...Bob beat me again! His opinions are also very good in post #9 so I can stop here....

 

Accept... I'll add... A Canon DSLR T3i modified is also good used starter. At a low price of $300 to $350 used it's a great starter that when your ready to step up to a AP unit you will most likely resell for near the same price.

 

One last note keep your focal length down to F6.0 to F5.0. Above that the learning curve for AP is killer.


Edited by scadvice, 11 January 2019 - 04:52 PM.

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#11 Wildetelescope

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Posted 11 January 2019 - 09:16 PM

Here you go.  Based on this wise statement from a talented beginner looking back on his first year.

 

"First and foremost is listen to the folks who have been there. The philosophy of 80MM APO and good $1500-2000 mount is great advice for beginners. Sure you can possibly image as a beginner with something that is larger or that you may have but holy cow its hard enough with something small."

 

Mount (the most important thing).

 

Skywatcher EQ-6R.  If that's too heavy for your taste, iOptron 45Pro.

 

Scope.  At $4000 total budget, you can get a good one you'll keep for a long time. 

 

Skywatcher Esprit 80.

 

For at least your first year or two, you could save some money here.

 

TS-Optics PHOTOLINE 80mm f/6 FPL53 Triplet APO - 2.5" RAP Focuser

 

Camera.  Two good choices.

 

Nikon D5300/5500/5600 DSLR.

 

ZWO ASI 294MC.  Cooled.

 

Another possibility would be the ZWO1600 mono cooled non plus a filter wheel and LRGB filters.  Offers the possibility of trying narrowband imaging later.  To stay under $4000, you'll need the cheaper scope above.

 

People will have other ideas, and that's fine.  There'll be some more stuff, like an autoguiding system.  But the above choices would give you an excellent system for starting out in astrophotography of DSOs.  I presume that's your interest, since you posted here.

 

The C8 and a ZWO 224MC would do planetary fine, although the planets are not well placed (too low) and it's getting worse.

 

The best and most important purchase for last.

 

https://www.amazon.c...d/dp/0999470906

I agree, that combo of mount, camera and scope is a better than good starter kit.  It will be years before you out grow it, if ever.  Don’t forget a laptop!

 

jmd  


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#12 Stelios

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Posted 11 January 2019 - 09:47 PM

Bob made some very good recommendations. I'll simply point out that there are *many* non-obvious expenses in this hobby. If you have a $4000 *strict* budget, you can't allocate more than $3000 for mount, scope, camera + guidecam. 

 

Because, *even assuming you have a windows laptop*:

 

There's cases needed for everything.

And there's cables.

And there's powered hubs.

And there's dew heaters (and their controllers).

And there's batteries to power it all.

And there's acquisition software.

And there's processing software.

And there's Bahtinov masks. 

 

And (although not 100% required) there's flat panels, and autofocusers.

 

If you're a beginner in AP but experienced visual astronomer (as I was): Buy, in addition to Bob's book recommendation, this book. Bob's book is Sun Tzu mixed with war games theory (great stuff)--my recommendation is simpler, it's the story of the men in the trenches ;) It gives you a feel of the complexity of the hobby (and the author's setup is *simple*).


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#13 Eddie_42

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Posted 11 January 2019 - 10:40 PM

For DSO objects - See my signature - i just got started last month. Mount is solid, and thus far user friendly, well reviewed and regarded around the community.

 

Mount = 1600 (got mine for under 1300 on sale)

scope = 650

dslr (body only) = 600 mid line Nikon (d5600)

 

Accessories like Stellios said:

Battery pack - 60-100

bahtinov mask - $15

extender tubes (because you always need some) - $30

Book - $40 - a must have

AstroPhotography Tool ( APT ) - software is free for basic use, $20 for the full version. I chose it because its fully capable, and growing. Price is right.

Cable for PC to mount $20-50

Cable for Camera - $20

Extender cables (because) - $20

Computer/tablet to run things - who knows

 

Bit over $3100 plus the computer.  Personal mantra, if you are going to buy expensive stuff, get quality that you will use for a long time. You can certainly find a 80mm scope for less than $650, but will it last you 1yr? 2? 5? how long until your skill outgrows the equipment. I chose the Explore Scientific because i found a lot of people say "i've had this since my first" or "worst thing i did was sell my ES 80mm".

 

The learning curve is steep, get on and enjoy the ride. I am.  Once you can do all things with that setup, then explore guiding, longer focal lengths, filter wheels, etc etc.


Edited by Eddie_42, 12 January 2019 - 09:59 AM.

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#14 scadvice

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Posted 11 January 2019 - 11:50 PM

Filters? Naaa you don't need them to start. I have two and only have used one of them. 



#15 Night shift

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Posted 12 January 2019 - 11:54 AM

 Don't forget dew straps, controller and money left over for processing programs. Its always something.   



#16 zach540

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Posted 12 January 2019 - 06:04 PM

SNIP

Accessories like Stellios said:

Battery pack - 60-100

SNIP

Since you are going to need power to run your mount and possibly dew heaters, I'd recommend getting an AC battery adapter, similar to the one below, very few things more frustrating than setting up only to have a dead battery, plus very little to worry about in terms in cold temperature interference. 

https://www.amazon.c...01?ie=UTF8&th=1


Edited by zach540, 12 January 2019 - 06:13 PM.


#17 MalVeauX

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Posted 12 January 2019 - 06:20 PM

With a $4000 budget for everything,  what would some recommendations be for a full set-up. telescope,mount,cameras,filters etc.

 

thank you!

 

Really doesn't matter what is suggested unless you give information on the following:

 

1) Where are you imaging from and what is the light pollution?

2) What subject matter do you want to image (be specific between DSO and solar system bodies)?

3) What level of portability do you need it to have (weight, distance you will travel if applicable, etc)?

4) How long do you have to image each session or plan to?

5) Do you already have ANY components, including a laptop or computer in general, dew management, etc, that will not take away from budget?

6) What's your experience level with any of this?

7) Did you include software for processing and the machine you will process with in this budget? What do you already have?

8) An example of your expectations from the system?

 

Very best,


Edited by MalVeauX, 12 January 2019 - 06:27 PM.

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#18 nimitz69

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Posted 12 January 2019 - 06:30 PM

Having just completed what you are doing here’s what you “should” do with a $4,000 budget: smile.gif

 

SkyWtacher EQ6-R pro mount.  ~ $1,500

Nikon D5300 unmodded ~ $300

WO GT81 APO triplet refractor. ~ $1,200

WO 6aII FF/.8 reducer. ~ $200

You could wait on these but ...

ZWO 50mm guidescope.  ~ $120

ZWO ASI120 mini guide camera.  ~$140

 

The above setup could easily last you for years and if you want to go with a dedicated OSC CMOS then you can eventually upgrade to a ZWO ASi294MC pro and not skip a beat since you won’t have to change out any other equipment and you’ll be good for a few more years ....

 

there will always be something ‘better’ to buy and someone will always tell you what is wrong with your choice.  Check out Astrobin and look at the equipment lists of people who re doing good AP - you should recognize many of the above items ... there’s a hint in there somewhere ... smile.gif

 

 

And that book Bob recommended is the. FIRST thing you should buy. ~$35


Edited by nimitz69, 12 January 2019 - 06:32 PM.


#19 the Elf

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Posted 13 January 2019 - 08:10 AM

The EQ6-R is great. For scope and camera you have to think about scope and camera and objects as a group that must match in several ways:

a) your preferred objects should fit the field of view and should not be too small. Use e.g. stellarium to enter some sensor data and focal lenghts to check that.

b) the pixel size and the focal lenght should make up a pixel scale that matches your seeing, read about "oversampling" in Bracken's book.

c) if you think about narrow band, that can be done even under bad light pollution or the full moon, this means you need a mono camera and you will like a fast scope (f/4 - f/5 range).

 

The fastest scopes for the money are newtowns. The longest and medium fast scopes for the money are folded designs like SCT (Schmitt-Cassegrain-Telescope) and RC (Richey-Chretien). The sharpest and best beginner scopes are (not too low priced) refractors. In the refractor world doublets and triplets are available. Refreactors tend to have dew on the front lens, so do SCTs while my RC never had any dew problem on the mirrors even if the water drips down the outside. On the other hand RCs are very difficult to collimate. Long focal lenght is demanding, that is why a short refractor is recommended in general.

If you do photography only a scope with an internal field flattener is a nice option. These tend to have little back focus so that you cannot use a diagonal and eypieces (straigth view works). Unless you use a very small sensor you have to add a flattener or a flattening reducer to the scope for sharp corners. E.g. the TS flat for the TS photoline recommended by Bob adds another 290 Eur. If your sensor is APS-C and below a flattening reducer makes sense to boost the intensity while offering a larger field of view.

 

If you get an OSC (one shot color) no matter if astro or DSLR (digital single lens reflex) you won't do narrowband, not even the popular Ha. If you love galaxies and global clusters this is fine. If you love the emission nebulae the minimum is a modded DSLR or an astro camera. The optimum for nebulae is a mono camera and filters, including Ha (Hydrogen alpha, the first line of the balmer series, deep red). Check my video "Which camera is best for me".

In any case a flat field like Gerd Neumann's Aurora is recommended. If you percieve this hobby as an extension of photography and want to use a DSLR you can have setup without computer using a stand alone guider. Such a setup is simple, easy to set up and needs little energy. If you go for guiding with a computer and/or an astro camera you need a laptop and lots of power. Most people use the laptop, just want to point out it is not the only way. Is a laptop also part of the given budget?

 

For guiding most beginners use a guide scope but you should know that there is a thing called off axis guiding. While difficult to use it is not more expensive than a guide scope and it cures a lot of problems people have with elongated stars. You first pick a scope and then check what the best guiding strategy is.

 

Last but not least investing 4k$ in hardware and then use free software is stupid. Keep a few $$ for software. In general you have the stuff for (fully automated) imaging that moves your mount, does your auto focus if you have one, opens and turns your dome if you have one and captures the images. I know nothing about that, please ask the others about it. Then you want to process the images. I am very happy with PI (PixInsight) but I do not say it is better than others. Software is pretty much a matter of tast. It must match you way of working. If you have Photoshop anyway you might use it, but a programm specialized to astronomy is recommended. If you try the free Gimp don't expect to find much guidance or good results.

Hope I did not create too much confusion! *g*



#20 bobzeq25

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Posted 13 January 2019 - 03:18 PM

Note that my whole concentration is on a setup that enables you to best learn to image well, which is the task for at least the first year.  In that context.

 

A flattener makes your stars at the edges look better, but does not make learning AP any easier.

 

An SCT or an RC is a horrible choice for the task.  They demand too much of your attention, hinder learning.  The small refractor gets out of your way and enables you to diagnose and fix issues much better.  There will be issues.  <smile>  It also doesn't require adding the complication and expense of off axis guiding.  See the quote at the beginning of post #9, substitute "learn to image" for "image".  I know the person quoted, am very confident he'd agree.

 

It's better to cut your teeth using one shot color, and then decide where you want to go next, at that budget.  Assuming you've decided you want to stay with this, which is more likely if you start out simply.

 

A major problem with Cloudy Nights advice is experienced imagers expressing the concerns of experienced imagers.  All too often they're not relevant to you, and may be detrimental.



#21 scadvice

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Posted 13 January 2019 - 04:12 PM

"The sharpest and best beginner scopes are (not too low priced) refractors. Very good point to pay attention to. In the refractor world doublets and triplets are available. Refreactors tend to have dew on the front lens,"  But, the dew on the lens is a fixable problem with dew heater straps... most of us use them.

 

"if you think about narrow band, that can be done even under bad light pollution or the full moon, this means you need a mono camera and you will like a fast scope (f/4 - f/5 range)." I understand you can do "some" narrow band work with a OSC... it just takes alot longer. See links.

 

https://astrobackyar...m/h-alpha-dslr/

 

https://astrobackyar...d-color-camera/

 

"If you get an OSC (one shot color) no matter if astro or DSLR (digital single lens reflex) you won't do narrowband, not even the popular Ha." See links above.

 

"Long focal lenght is demanding, that is why a short refractor is recommended in general." Very, Very good advice and comment

 

 

"A major problem with Cloudy Nights advice is experienced imagers expressing the concerns of experienced imagers.  All too often they're not relevant to you, and may be detrimental." Very true and wise comment.


Edited by scadvice, 13 January 2019 - 04:19 PM.


#22 ImNewHere

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Posted 13 January 2019 - 04:52 PM

This mount: https://www.astronom...t.html?___SID=U

This refractor: https://www.aliexpre...11-dfd3fe95d9fc

That leaves 700 and I'd spend that on a used astro modded DSLR, and cheap guidescope and guide camera combo bu hitting the classifieds here. You could likely score an astro modded Nikon D5300 for around 400-450, leaving 250 or 300 for your guidescope and guide camera that can double as a planetary cam.

For a simple starter planetary cam and guide cam here you go: https://optcorp.com/...elescope-camera and then you could hit ebay or amazon for a 50mm Astromania guidescope that will work fine with this.


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