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Best Camera for a beginner

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#1 RRandol


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Posted 09 September 2019 - 03:15 PM

Everyone, I as somewhat new at astronomy and would like to get a camera and start my learning curve.  I have a  Nexstar 8 GPS AZ telescope an I am seeking advise as to what would be the best camera for my telescope and start learning how to use it.


Please advise your thoughts.





#2 sg6


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Posted 09 September 2019 - 03:43 PM

First thing is for AP - long exposure DSO type imaging - you need an equitorial mount.

Guess the Nexstar 8 GPS is an SCT, nice for visual not the best for AP.


You, at least on the surface, have acquired a reasonable visual scope and mount, the problem is that rarely does a visual setup transfer to a good AP setup.


One rather simple example is that a good AP scope is the WO Redcat which is 51mm aperture and about 250mm focal length. Assuming yours is as I think it is 200mm aperture and 2032mm focal length. Slightly odd is people mount the Redcat all of 2Kg on an EQ6 mount capable of some 40Kg.


Apologies: Camera - if possible start with a DSLR, one that you have and so no real cost. You will need a T-ring for the DSLR to connect DSLR to scope. And an Intervalometer to collect a series of exposures.


If you want an AP camera like the ZWO ones then suggest a color one first. Which one is more difficult. I was looking at the 183 (think it was the 183).


Chip size is relevant if you have a focal length of 2032mm - the image formed gets large so a large sensor is required, and large means costly.

Edited by sg6, 09 September 2019 - 03:49 PM.

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#3 RRandol


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Posted 09 September 2019 - 04:07 PM

Well that is disappointing, but thanks for your honest feedback.


I will try my DLSR camera.


I must have made many wrong decisions when I bought this telescope.  Just show when you don't know what you are doing.


thanks for your feedback.

#4 OleCuss



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Posted 09 September 2019 - 04:17 PM

Well. . .


IIRC, the 8" NexStar GPS is a double-fork system and I believe it works nicely in equatorial mode but you might really want to get a wedge if you don't already have one.  I tend to think of it as a sort of CPC and I'd imagine it is pretty capable as an imaging system.


The problem I'd see is that the focal length is much longer than I'd prefer for low-frustration imaging.  Seriously, keeping the focal length to under 600-700mm really reduces the difficulty level.


All that said, you can get the 0.4x Night Owl reducer/corrector from Starizona and shorten the effective focal length to about 800mm which would make things much easier.


The Night Owl would give you an image circle with a diameter of about 16mm.  You could get something like an IMX183 camera and likely do some very nice work since the IMX183 diagonal measurement is a good fit for that image circle and the small pixels in a low-noise camera should wring out all the possible detail you can get out of that aperture (which is quite a bit).


But you could use a larger sensor with larger pixels as well.  You could use something like an IMX294 camera or an IMX071 camera and define a smaller ROI for use with that small image circle.  With either of those I'd expect some under-sampling under the atmospheric conditions most of us have, but you could potentially be quite happy.


Note that even in equatorial mode you could turn up your gain, keep your sub-exposures short, take a whole bunch of subs - and come up with some pretty darned good images.


So I'd check on whether your NexStar can be used in equatorial mode before giving up on that system.  You just might be very happy imaging with it!

Edited by OleCuss, 09 September 2019 - 04:18 PM.

#5 petert913



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Posted 09 September 2019 - 04:54 PM

Yes, get an equatorial wedge and  your mount issues will be solved for the most part.  Then get a used Canon EOS or Nikon DSLR.    You'll be set to start

with the simpler AP anyway.   It's a very deep rabbit hole, astrophotography shocked.gif bawling.gif grin.gif

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#6 bobzeq25



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Posted 09 September 2019 - 05:29 PM

Well that is disappointing, but thanks for your honest feedback.


I will try my DLSR camera.


I must have made many wrong decisions when I bought this telescope.  Just show when you don't know what you are doing.


thanks for your feedback.

You made the same decision that a great many people make.  No need to beat yourself up about it.


You got a great scope for doing visual astronomy and lunar/planetary photography (which use short exposures), but a difficult one to start out with in long exposure Deep Space Objects astrophotography.  It's a completely different activity. 


For DSOs, consider starting out with the DSLR and a lens (50mm is good, others can work) mounted piggyback to the scope, placed on a wedge.  That will make life much easier, and you can learn the techniques of DSO imaging/processing that way.  Once you know them you can try the big scope.  If it's too difficult, and you're not having fun, consider a different setup for long exposure DSO work.  Many people who made that decision, found DSO AP was very hard, switched their setup, and succeeded.


By starting with the camera/lens, you greatly increase your chances of success with your scope.  Nothing will help as much as actual experience.


DSO AP is complicated.  This book will talk about how to use the camera/lens.




He has another book dealing with lunar/planetary.




This book is the next step up in sophistication, for DSOs.  Widely recommended here, my copy is well worn.



Edited by bobzeq25, 09 September 2019 - 05:40 PM.

#7 skaiser


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Posted 09 September 2019 - 05:32 PM

Ok . As a fairly new astrophotographer, I would like to reassure you that your scope can produce really nice photos.

with the right software and a reasonable camera, it is no longer a must to take minutes long photos.

if you have a Nikon or canon DSLR, then it’s easy to get a adapter to mount to your  scope,

using a pc computer and 

Using software like sharpcap, you can take tens of 30 sec exposures, which the software will auto stack for you , and you end up with great pictures.

ok , not Hubble quality , but still good enough to wow yourself.

To make it easier, yes, get a focal reducer.

read up on those to find out how much they help with photos.

Study the sub group in this forum on doing photography.

ask questions 

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#8 goldtr8


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Posted 09 September 2019 - 05:55 PM

Go to the EAA forum and learn how to do short exposure stacked pictures. You will get live views and also data to play with. The game is changing fast with software like SharpCap. You will be amazed what you can do with what you purchased. So do some more research before you get that camera. Also research focal reducers and field flateners. I use an 8SCT with a .63 reducer flatener and ASI294MC noncooled camera.
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#9 GSqwid


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Posted 09 September 2019 - 07:07 PM

I'd like to second what Skaiser said above.  I'm inexperienced and have sub-optimal equipment for AP, but I've been able to have fun and create images that impress family and friends.  Of course, those images don't hold a candle to some on here and I am working to improve, but they are mine.  If I wanted the best possible images via the path of least resistance, I'd be on the NASA website ;).


I do agree you'll want a wedge or an EQ mount.  I use an EQ, so I can't speak much on wedges.  In case your are unfamiliar: the issues is that your current mount will track objects, but over time they will appear to rotate in the field of view.  This will cause issues with your images even if your telescope manages to track the target perfectly.  A wedge or EQ puts everything on an angle so it follows the apparent rotation as it tracks across the sky.


Your SCT has a long focal length, which basically means any errors in tracking will be magnified in your images.  There are a lot of ways to overcome this, but early on learning how to do a good polar align, taking shorter exposures, and accepting less than ideal results are probably your best bets.  Over time you'll decide if you want to try and improve your accuracy with the SCT (adding an autoguider for instance) or try a shorter focal length scope (or both).


As others have said, adapting a DSLR (if you have one) is a relatively inexpensive option and many people get great results.


In short, working with what you have now may throw in some extra challenges, but I don't think you need to be overly concerned.  You'll have some challenges that might have been avoided with a more traditional beginner setup, I still think you'll have fun.  Take this opportunity to learn more; ultimately you'll figure our ways to either improve with your current scope or what kind of equipment you really want to be working with.  

#10 mclewis1


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Posted 09 September 2019 - 07:32 PM

There are many kernels of wisdom in the above posts but there's a general attitude that I don't agree with. 


You can create really nice images and learn a lot about astro photography without having to resort to an EQ oriented mount ... at least at first. As Dan (goldtr8) has suggested spend some time in the EAA forum. There you'll see how to do short exposure imaging which doesn't require a gem or an Alt Az mount on a wedge. Sure having an EQ oriented mount makes things even easier and eventually if you want to really explore the potential of serious imaging you will want to go that route, but in the short term your existing NS GPS scope can open up a whole world to you. 


The combination of a reasonable Alt Az goto mount, faster optics (using a focal reducer as OleCuss mentioned), today's very sensitive cameras (such as the IMX 294 based models mentioned) and advanced software (for example SharpCap) you can create great images in a short amount of time. These images can then be manipulated (post processing) with commonly available software into very respectable "keepable" images.


Long term, if imaging is something you find you want to really explore sure you'll likely want to step up to a gem style mount so you can easily do longer exposure work but in the short term you won't need to spend a lot of money. Get a good camera, focal reducer, and then concentrate on getting good usable short exposure images that will give you something to work with and build your experience in post processing capabilities.


On the other hand if you find that serious imaging isn't for you, well you haven't spent a small fortune and can always just continue to use your nice scope visually.

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#11 sandconp


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Posted 09 September 2019 - 08:24 PM

I use a ZWO ASI 178MC one shot color camera which sells for about $300. If you don’t mind spending a bit more money the ZWO ASI 183MC would be a better choice for DSO since you will get a wider fixed of view and sells for $500. I am doing EAA with Sharpcap Pro and Live Stacking using a Hyperstar lens and I am getting some fantastic images in around 3 minutes total exposure. My focal length goes from a F/10 to F/1.9 and because it’s so fast, I don’t need a Wedge for my AZ mount.

Edited by sandconp, 09 September 2019 - 08:25 PM.

#12 speedster


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Posted 10 September 2019 - 01:40 PM

Don't be disappointed!  You have made an excellent equipment choice and have what is arguably the most versatile scope in history.  It naturally excels at some targets.  Other targets take more care than a shorter focal length instrument.  Everything is a trade-off and there is no "perfect" instrument unless you want to specialize in only one type of object.  As for long focal lengths, I don't call it more difficult, just less forgiving. 


Some things to make your journey easier:  1)  wedge (the Celestron wedge is very good, think "used" if you can find one),  2)  focal reducer,  3)  12mm illuminated reticle eyepiece to help get alignments spot on.


Second to the starting with DSLR.  Use what you have, get your feet wet, develop your technique.  Your post-processing may be the weakest link in your work for some time.  When your equipment is your limiting factor, then buy new stuff.


Here is an example of what a C8 can easily do: 








In fact, go to astrobin.com, do a search for 8SE, C8, etc. and see what others have done with your scope and also what camera they used. 


One other thing that will help:  Mike Swanson's book.  Search this site for it, I can't remember the exact title.  It's the Bible of Celestron SCT's.


Best of luck!

#13 Michael_Swanson


    Author of The NexStar Users Guide

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Posted 10 September 2019 - 07:19 PM

For the older NexStar GPS that would be the first edition of my book:


available now only as a Kindle book or on the used market for printed format.


Best regards,
Mike Swanson
Author of "The NexStar Users Guide II"
Author of "The NexStar Users Guide"
Author of "NexStar Observer List"

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