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Best equipment for beginner

astrophotography accessories beginner equipment
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#1 LaurenLouise

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Posted 20 January 2019 - 02:54 PM

I am just starting out with astrophotography and I have a Nikon D3400 camera. I don’t know a ton about astrophotography so any help on which lens is best for starting out and any helpful accessories would be appreciated. I read that a neutral density filter can be helpful. Is an ND filter worth it?
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#2 Kevin Ross

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Posted 20 January 2019 - 03:36 PM

ND filter? No. We usually want more light, not less.

 

A good way to start out is with a camera lens and a tracker, like the Skywatcher Star Adventurer, or the iOptron Sky Guider Pro.

 

Then if you decide you like the hobby, you can start moving up to the really expensive stuff. :)



#3 terry59

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Posted 20 January 2019 - 03:40 PM

I am just starting out with astrophotography and I have a Nikon D3400 camera. I don’t know a ton about astrophotography so any help on which lens is best for starting out and any helpful accessories would be appreciated. I read that a neutral density filter can be helpful. Is an ND filter worth it?

Can you elaborate on your near-term objectives? 



#4 Ed Wiley

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Posted 20 January 2019 - 03:44 PM

I always try to read up before making any decisions on equipment. Much depends on what you wish to photograph and how much time and money you wish to invest.

 

Here is an excellent resource. 

http://www.astropix.com/bgda/bgda.html

 

And an article:

https://www.skyandte...with-your-dslr/

 

Search around on the Web, there are lots of resources.

 

Ed

 

ps-- not sure what you would use a neural density filter for in astrophotography but perhaps others can tell you



#5 zakry3323

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Posted 20 January 2019 - 04:25 PM

I started with a dslr on a tripod with a 50mm prime focus lens. I shot at f/2.8 with my ISO as high as it could go to get focus, then bumped back down to 1600. Your Nikon may be able to produce better images at higher ISOs than my old Canons could. Use an intervalometer if you can, if you don't have one available just put it on a timer - anything that keeps you from touching the camera while the exposure is being taken. 

Shoot the moon, shoot star fields, shoot Andromeda and the Pleiades. Experiment with how long you're able to expose without getting star trails or blobs. Point toward Polaris and make fun stacked long-exposures of star trails as the Earth rotates. 

That is the absolute minimum investment in time and equipment, and will teach you loads about how your camera works for night sky work. 

After you're comfortable, start looking into stacking, learning how to take calibration frames, and using software. You'll start seeing improvements in your photos.

After that, you can get into longer focal lengths. By this time you'll be aware of many of the challenges of Astrophotography. You'll know whether or not you're hooked, and whether or not to start spending money on tools and equipment that will help you achieve your imaging goals. 

In any case, do have fun smile.gif


Edited by zakry3323, 20 January 2019 - 04:28 PM.

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#6 sg6

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Posted 20 January 2019 - 04:28 PM

Ultimately an AP set up is a fast scope on a good equitorial mount and the mount has to at least track.

Goto is better as the motors are generally a step up from simple tracking and the electronics will enable guiding further down the line.

In general the weight of all the stuff has to be around half to two thirds of the load capacity of the mount. So if future is serious AP you have: Scope+Camera+Guide Scope+Guide Camera, and even further down maybe a filter wheel and filters. Even at the start plan on flatteners and DSLR attachments.

 

So if you expect to start out "small" and develop the mount has to start out a bit bigger then you are likely thinking of.

 

The other aspect to get across is a good visual setup does not mnake a good AP setup. The equipment has the same names but the characteristics are different. May be simplistic but visual is often a big scope on a small mount, AP is a small scope on a big mount. You will do a lot of AP with a 70-89mm apo but visual is a 8"-16" scope.

 

A big over the top mount will or may handle both within reason. Hence the often stated aspect of get a good mount first, that way you only buy the mount once.

 

A "big" mount may cost but you can drop an inexpensive 102mm f/6 achro on it for visual.

 

If initially then it is sort of difficult - saying buy a Skyadventurer and put the DSLR on is an option, except you are spending money on the Skyadventurer and you could be keeping it for an Eq mount - which you will eventually need. Answer there is see if you can pick up a used Eq mount (even a smallish one) as you can sell it later.



#7 TelescopeGreg

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Posted 20 January 2019 - 05:10 PM

To answer your question about the ND filter...  Its purpose is to dim bright things - specifically the Moon - when looking through the telescope with your eyes.  Looking at the full Moon on a clear night through a large telescope can be painful without it.  (Note that it is NOT intended for viewing the Sun.  That's a completely different scale, requiring very different filtering.)

 

But for photography, it's not used.  As noted, we generally want more light, not less, when trying to photograph stuff.



#8 Daniel Dance

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Posted 20 January 2019 - 05:17 PM

I always tell this to everyone asking the same advice.

The best way to get into astrophotography is with a camera lens.  Period!

 

I'm not familiar with Nikon, but with Canon, I always recommend the Canon 200mm f/2.8L lens.  I'm not sure what the equivalent Nikon would be.

 

Why?

 

  • Camera lens is relatively inexpensive - about $800 USD for the Canon 200mm
  • There are many objects and regions to photography with 200mm focal length
  • Doesn't require an expensive mount - A tracking tripod mount is all that is really needed
  • Doesn't require guiding
  • Doesn't require a laptop or other fancy equipment

 

So any lens from 50mm to 200mm is great for starting astrophotography.


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#9 CharlesW

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Posted 20 January 2019 - 06:28 PM

Their is no such thing as “beginner” equipment, there is only budget. I’ve see people new to the hobby spend $800 and $50,000. You have to say what your budget is. 



#10 Tjn58

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Posted 20 January 2019 - 10:55 PM

I have a Nikon D5300.  I started out using a Nikkor 180mm F2.8 ED lens that I bought used.  It's a great lens to use with a sturdy tripod.  Good Luck in your journey.



#11 David-LR

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Posted 21 January 2019 - 10:59 AM

I am just starting out with astrophotography and I have a Nikon D3400 camera. I don’t know a ton about astrophotography so any help on which lens is best for starting out and any helpful accessories would be appreciated. I read that a neutral density filter can be helpful. Is an ND filter worth it?

LaurenLouise,

 

I think you need to think about what you want to do in AP, for starters.   Then as others have said, figure out a budget you can live with.  I took  the approach of making my mount my biggest first expense, all based on reading about the challenges of tracking and guiding and that is one of my suggestions to any beginner.

 

Be prepared to read LOTS of material on AP, from capture to post processing of images, because it is pretty much a nonstop learning experience.  If you are like most of us, you will make purchasing mistakes, learn from that and get back on track as you go along.

 

The biggest investment you will make is your time and FWIW, places like Cloudy Nights are full of useful tips from very helpful people.  There are other forums that get specific into a technology or software, (EQMOD comes to mind).

 

FWIW,



#12 Hesiod

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Posted 21 January 2019 - 11:46 AM

I suggest to get first and foremost a good tripod whose head can be replaced, a decent quality ball head, and an intervalometer: with this equipment can take nice pictures of the Milky Way, and the "star trails" (I prefer an intervalometer over phone/PC softwares).

Since to build an house is better to have robust foundations, I suggest to avoid savings here, to avoid regrets later.

 

If want "more", can add the already suggested "star tracker", which should allow you to exploit longer exposures and longer focals.

With lenses up to 200mm shoudl not have major troubles with most commercial trackers; however, if plan to use lenses >50mm, I suggest to get also a good geared head* and the polarscope*.

 

As for specific models/brands, much depends on your budget, aims and special wishes, so it could be more useful to state your immediate (and maybe a bit less immediate) objectives and available equipment: an Astrotrac would be way overkill for a 50mm lens, but I would not sugget to get a Star Adventurer to shot at 400mm...

 

*these items are sometimes bundled with the tracker; the geared head is, in this case, often called "polar wedge"




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