I am an AP noob - dove into a Really Deep pool - went from an SCT (EdgeHD 8) on an Evo Alt/Az mount with StarSense and a Canon DSLR to an EQ6-R Pro with a bunch of bells and whistles.
The SW EQ6-R Pros are on sale ~$1350 right now. Per Chuck at Chuck's Astrophotography the latest versions of the EQ6-R Pros are shipping with a USB port on the mount that will enable direct PC control of the mount (see https://youtube.com/...mlREEvoskaq9b3A). The EQ6-R is rock solid. Its a bit heavier then the iOptron options (CEM25 or CEM40) but can handle a tad bit more weight (e.g. more add-ons.) Lighter than the CEM60.
StarSense was a crutch...really frustrating trying to do SS alignments in the backyard and getting '100 stars found' when the OTA was pointed at the side of my house, trees, etc. Was terrified of doing Polar and star Alignments. Traded in the SS crutch and got a Polemaster for the EQ6...so nice...5 mins PA, then 2 more minutes getting a single star alignment...two star if I'm being confident, then the SW's HC Go-To is dead on. Add a cable from the HC (n/a if you get the latest version) to the laptop then control via ASCOM driver in SGP/EQMOD.
SGP is great, ASCOM drivers mean you can control everything with a good Planetarium software though the HC works fine. Stellarium has capability to show your camera's FOV for centering/selecting targets. It overlays your guider's FOV too - very handy if you go OAG with a DSLR.
Still learning PHD2 and a guidescope with a mono CCD - a steep learning curve.
Good on you if you can get an OTA that allows a direct bolt on of a guider - ala bolts on the top of your rings/handle. Attaching a guidescope to an SCT is a PITA not to mention flexure, etc.
I can seriously second the KISS principal...each item logarithmically complicates the outcome. Learn PA and alignment. Then learn your camera and getting basic subs (lights, darks, flats, bias) then learn your processing flow (stacking, registering, enhancing/color correcting). An EQ6-R will allow for at least 1-2 min subs (maybe a tad longer if you get a good PA and 3 Star alignment) unguided and DSS can stack and register and then you can process in Photoshop (PS) ala AstroBackyard on YouTube. Then comes light pollution abatement, unless you live in a Cat 1 dark site.
I have 25+ years of commercial experience with PS. PixInsight (PI) makes PS feel like Windows Paint. PI is a very sharp scalpel (very accurate, high quality) compared to PS but the learning curve is darn near vertical. The UI and all the processing options in PI are overwhelming. Lots of PI pointers/work flows on YouTube but again its very overwhelming. Find a user with a setup similar to yours that is posting targets in Astrobin that you aspire to do then contact them or find out similar users posting their workflows in YouTube.
Once you get all that, THEN go guiding, mono camera, filters, autofocus, etc.
One other surprising discovery on my journey so far...power and cable management. The more you add on, the more you shackle yourself in the tangle of wires, connections, etc. Much less wi-fi, remote control to a laptop, etc. When things don't work then its that much more complicated to reverse engineer the cause that led to the issues (assuming its just one cause...not likely) and determining a solution.
If you are always near power then add a Pegasus Pocket Power box, USB hub, power outlet splitter, etc. to help consolidate and thin out the bird's nest of cables. If remote capturing then you'll need a good battery, invertor, etc.
My first ride was a Honda XL-185, then I blew out a knee and went Honda V30 Magna. Upgraded to a Yamaha FZ750 (similar Astronomical upgrade of the Evo to the EQ6-R). Eventually went full on CBR900RR and street racing. After a couple near-death experiences I "stepped down" to a HD Nighttrain. Feels much more sedate than the RR buts it's reliable, repeatable, and lots of fun if you're in the right place (I live in the Black Hills.) Don't get suckered into the high speed stuff, take it easy, enjoy the ride and do a steady comfortable trip upwards and onwards.
Clear Skies...happy riding. God Bless.
Edited by SoDaKAstroNut, 17 June 2019 - 10:06 PM.