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iOptron Skyguider as a good first astrophotography mount?

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#1 lemonade

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Posted 15 September 2019 - 08:41 PM

Hi. I'm fairly new to imaging, although I've been doing a lot of research on the topic and I've been doing visual astronomy for a while. I'm looking to get my first "real" imaging mount, as so far I've only been strapping my canon 600d to the eq mount that came with my orion 130eq and using an eq motor to get up to ~1min exposures at 300mm with good polar alignment. While it's still fun and rewarding with this setup, I'd like to upgrade to something that will let me get some better quality images with a lot less frustration and tinkering.

In my research it seems the iOptron skyguider is a fairly common mount in this price range. Although a lot of people mention factory issues with it, it seems most are happy with the results they get. To start I'd really just be using my 600D with a kit lens and a cheap zoom lens that came with it, but I plan to upgrade to using a small fast refractor such as the WO RedCat 51. It seems a lot of people overload the thing with gear, and many have advised staying under 50% max load for imaging, but a combination of my 600D + the RedCat would still follow that rule it seems.

The main reason I think the skyguider is a good choice for me rather than saving up for a bigger and better mount is that I doubt I'd really ever grow out of it like I might grow out of the heavier mid-range mounts. I could buy a heavier mount in my budget, but I'll probably end up upgrading to something better if I did so, not to mention the fact I'd have to save up extra to buy a telescope to really take advantage of a large mount. The portability and ease of use of the skyguider, though, will make it an asset on vacations, camping trips, and on nights when I don't have much time to spend setting up. It'll also be nice for when I want to shoot wider stuff like milky way or constellation shots, which I intend to do quite a bit when I have the rare chance to escape my bortle 9 skies and visit my favorite dark sky spots.

I don't want to sound like a complete newbie, but is my reasoning solid? Are there other, better portable/light mounts? I don't mind shelling out the extra cash if necessary. To those who have skyguider, what are your setups like? How have your results been? Manual polar alignment or some sort of polar camera set up? Guided or unguided?


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#2 DubbelDerp

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Posted 15 September 2019 - 09:09 PM

I’ve been happy with mine! I had a problem with the motor, but ioptron repaired it and had it back to me two days after they received it.

My setup is completely manual. Visual alignment with the polarscope, no guiding, shooting with an intervalometer. I’ve managed a 4 minute exposure at m81/82 with a 200mm lens, but I try to keep it at 2 minutes, especially close to the celestial equator. With a 50mm lens, I can do 5 minute exposures with minimal star trailing.

What I like about this set-up, I can take the tripod outside, plunk it on the ground, level it, roughly align it to north, and be ready to go in about 5 minutes. Once dark enough, align with the celestial North Pole, and be taking subframes in another 5 minutes.

I’m definitely a beginner, and will be getting a real mount at some point. But I don’t see myself getting rid of the SGP, it’s just too versatile and easy to set up in short order. Good for hiking, camping, or road trips.
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#3 44maurer

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Posted 15 September 2019 - 09:35 PM

I have a skytracker and the skyguider Pro (new purchase). I like both, but I’ve never pushed their limits. 

 

I’ve taken 3min exposures with the SkyGuider Pro with a William Optics Star 71 and a canon T3i. I got nice pinpoint round stars. Again, I didn’t try to push it, the 3 mins were just what I tested out on it. As you can see, I have other equipment, but this small setup is really nice, I can setup in no time, take it to a dark site with ease, etc. Widefield photos are really cool.

 

i did want my setup to be as portable as possible, but I find that I will want to dither to help with the noise from the Canon. This is no reflection on the SkyGuider,  it on the DSLR. So I will end up using a small guidescope and laptop. (So much for my portability)

 

All in all, I am happy with it and I do recommend it to others.

 

keep in mind you have to find and frame the targets manually.


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#4 lemonade

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Posted 15 September 2019 - 09:37 PM

I’ve been happy with mine! I had a problem with the motor, but ioptron repaired it and had it back to me two days after they received it.

My setup is completely manual. Visual alignment with the polarscope, no guiding, shooting with an intervalometer. I’ve managed a 4 minute exposure at m81/82 with a 200mm lens, but I try to keep it at 2 minutes, especially close to the celestial equator. With a 50mm lens, I can do 5 minute exposures with minimal star trailing.

What I like about this set-up, I can take the tripod outside, plunk it on the ground, level it, roughly align it to north, and be ready to go in about 5 minutes. Once dark enough, align with the celestial North Pole, and be taking subframes in another 5 minutes.

I’m definitely a beginner, and will be getting a real mount at some point. But I don’t see myself getting rid of the SGP, it’s just too versatile and easy to set up in short order. Good for hiking, camping, or road trips.

This is exactly what appeals to me about it, it's just so easy and portable I'll always have a reason to use it even if I eventually have a state-of-the-art go-to mount. With it being so easy to pull out on any given night, I can always be imaging multiple things per night too once I do upsize. Good platform for learning and making mistakes too.


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#5 lemonade

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Posted 15 September 2019 - 09:40 PM

I have a skytracker and the skyguider Pro (new purchase). I like both, but I’ve never pushed their limits. 

 

I’ve taken 3min exposures with the SkyGuider Pro with a William Optics Star 71 and a canon T3i. I got nice pinpoint round stars. Again, I didn’t try to push it, the 3 mins were just what I tested out on it. As you can see, I have other equipment, but this small setup is really nice, I can setup in no time, take it to a dark site with ease, etc. Widefield photos are really cool.

 

i did want my setup to be as portable as possible, but I find that I will want to dither to help with the noise from the Canon. This is no reflection on the SkyGuider,  it on the DSLR. So I will end up using a small guidescope and laptop. (So much for my portability)

 

All in all, I am happy with it and I do recommend it to others.

 

keep in mind you have to find and frame the targets manually.

Framing targets for me has been fairly easy even with my wobbly and unstable orion 130eq mount. The R.A. axis is so unstable and wobbly on that thing that when the clutch is unlocked that it can be very difficult to get it to stay where you want. I'm sure the skyguider will perform better, and if it does even a little bit I'd be okay with it!



#6 Alex McConahay

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Posted 15 September 2019 - 09:43 PM

For its intended use, it is a very good choice. There are other very good choices in that range, though.....so I will not make any recommendations. 

 

I know I have a skytracker like that, and like to work with it. 

 

It is not, however, meant to be a full service astroimaging mount. 

 

For one thing, eventually you will want to guide and use a larger camera. I do not believe this tracker will serve you well when you move to that stage. 

 

Don't get me wrong. If what you want is wide field shorter exposures, great for constellations and milky ways, etc. It is a good idea. But it will not reach into deep space with you.

 

Alex


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#7 17.5Dob

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Posted 15 September 2019 - 09:47 PM

Sound reasoning.

I have a SkyTracker for widefields..200mm and lower and I have my big Atlas, for everything else, which I'll never outgrow.

Weight is not the real issue with these small "camera trackers" , it's too long a focal length. Avoid the temptation to overload the focal length beyond 300mm and you'll be a happy camper.


Edited by 17.5Dob, 15 September 2019 - 09:54 PM.

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#8 jgreif

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Posted 15 September 2019 - 10:12 PM

Hi.  Very little to add except that as a 'grab and go' set up, I love my Ioptron SkyGuider Pro which I mount on Ioptron's 1.25 inch steel tripod (light and very solid) and I'll use my Canon Eos 760D camera with either a 50 mm or 300 mm lens, or use the same camera through my AT72EDII refractor, which balances very nicely on the SGP set up with counterweight.  I've imaged up to 2.5 minute subs with each of these setups and get very nice pinpoint stars.  The caveat that you have to find and frame your targets is true, but not a deal breaker.  Good luck and clear skies.

Jon


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#9 scadvice

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Posted 15 September 2019 - 11:30 PM

We have a guy in our club who is doing some decent AP using a SkyGuider Pro. He has mounted a older William Optic's 66mm ZenithStar with flattener and using a Canon or Nikon (I don't recall which)DSLR.


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#10 SHFT

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Posted 16 September 2019 - 01:03 AM

It is a lovely piece of kit but the one thing I very much underestimated is Goto. It can be tricky to aim it wherever you want. However with a proper red dot finder and the improved DEC plate from William Optics life will be easier. A small tip, do not buy the iOptron tripod because it is too low and it will make polar alignment a nuisance.

 

I do think it is the best portable tracker so you will not be disappointed.


Edited by SHFT, 16 September 2019 - 01:03 AM.

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#11 Hesiod

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Posted 16 September 2019 - 11:16 AM

While I do not own the iOptron's tracker have a couple of such devices and think that are really the best option for "vacations, camping trips, and on nights when I don't have much time to spend setting up".

There are "better" options, but they being better is first and foremost about having a larger payload (=longer focals=greater need for tracking accuracy): at 300mm or less the Skyguider should be adequate*.

As long as you shot with a "vanilla" DSLR and reasonably fast lenses should manage to avoid the autoguide, and that it is a great feature since means saving a not negligible amount of weight and room.

This is true for any decent mount, but once one start using a CGEM or an Eq6 the relative size/weight of the guiding rig become suddenly negligiblelol.gif.

The RedCat seems a nice plan too, even if may also look into Canon's offering if prefer a faster lens ("telescopes" may be better corrected, but are also much slower than dedicated camera lenses so, depending on your aims, the latters could have strong arguments. The Canon ef200 does not give stars as good-looking as those I get with the fl55 , but the latter can be reduced only to f/4, the formeris f/2.8 open wide, and this is HUGE because means halving the integration time)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*I have the Polarie (Vixen's counterpart to the Skyguider) and up to focals around 200mm is just as good as the Astrotrac.


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#12 g450

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Posted 16 September 2019 - 07:50 PM

I am using a Astrotech 72Ed2 , an Orion field flattener and a Sony A6500. I have a laser ring finder. I can do two minutes after a careful polar alignment. Check out the first Orion nebula I posted. The scope and camera weigh around 6 pounds. I made my own concrete pier . Occasionally the Skyguider will trail on one or two frames out of 70 to 100. Not sure why. Someday I will upgrade. Right now I am having fun.


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#13 kroberts26

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Posted 17 September 2019 - 01:16 AM

Here's a good overview of four popular star trackers, including the two from Ioptron: https://astrobackyar...trophotography/


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