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What should my next step be?

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#1 Between17

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Posted 14 November 2019 - 01:36 AM

I've been doing astrophotography for well over a year now. Presently my set up is an Astrotech 72mm refractor with a Skywatcher EQ5 Pro mount. Camera is a crop sensor Sony A6500. I use a Polemaster for polar alignment. I'm loving the goto that my star tracker never had!

 

For processing I use DSS and Photoshop, although I have started dabbling recently with Pixinsight I still have much to learn there.

 

Most of my photos are taken in my Bortle 7 backyard. A light pollution filter has long been my friend, and I have an Ha filter on order. I'm targetting mostly Messier objects like M31, M33, M42, M45, M51, M87, M101 - I guess the 'low hanging fruit'.

 

I'm looking into the future and dreaming of a bigger telescope, using autoguiding, and a CCD/CMOS camera. I see adding each of these as a step along the way, and I am wondering what is the right order to proceed with these steps.

 

I think moving to a larger telescope would be the easiest first step, but I worry that it would make the next two steps more difficult. And also that the larger scope I might want now might not be the one I would want in my dream system.

 

Since my Sony camera is not well supported in the astrophotograhy software world, perhaps I should go first to a CCD/CMOS camera, and get familiar with it and some of the software it would need. Then I could add the autoguiding to the system and figure out to integrate its software in. At that point I could add a larger scope, if I still figure I would benefit from it.

 

Wondering what paths you have taken, and what you might recommend based on your experience and hard-won wisdom?

 

Dan


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#2 mic1970

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Posted 14 November 2019 - 08:41 AM

First, I'm just behind you in experience.  It sounds that you are looking to improve iteratively.  If correct, me also.  It would seem from what I learned here, the next step in your process is guiding.  To this layman, going to a bigger scope with a longer focal length, maybe longer tube, and heavier would only make non-guiding photography harder and more frustrating.  

 

One thing I would like to know is can one use a middle range mono camera as a guide camera.  If so, one could use it to guide, planets with an SCT, and some deep sky work.  For example, could I use an ASI 183mm or 1600mm for guiding?  On the ZWO site, they get 4/5 stars for both planets and deep space.  

 

Anyway, I'll be following along closely.    



#3 zakry3323

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Posted 14 November 2019 - 09:38 AM

I've been doing astrophotography for well over a year now. Presently my set up is an Astrotech 72mm refractor with a Skywatcher EQ5 Pro mount. Camera is a crop sensor Sony A6500. I use a Polemaster for polar alignment. I'm loving the goto that my star tracker never had!

 

For processing I use DSS and Photoshop, although I have started dabbling recently with Pixinsight I still have much to learn there.

 

Most of my photos are taken in my Bortle 7 backyard. A light pollution filter has long been my friend, and I have an Ha filter on order. I'm targetting mostly Messier objects like M31, M33, M42, M45, M51, M87, M101 - I guess the 'low hanging fruit'.

 

I'm looking into the future and dreaming of a bigger telescope, using autoguiding, and a CCD/CMOS camera. I see adding each of these as a step along the way, and I am wondering what is the right order to proceed with these steps.

 

I think moving to a larger telescope would be the easiest first step, but I worry that it would make the next two steps more difficult. And also that the larger scope I might want now might not be the one I would want in my dream system.

 

Since my Sony camera is not well supported in the astrophotograhy software world, perhaps I should go first to a CCD/CMOS camera, and get familiar with it and some of the software it would need. Then I could add the autoguiding to the system and figure out to integrate its software in. At that point I could add a larger scope, if I still figure I would benefit from it.

 

Wondering what paths you have taken, and what you might recommend based on your experience and hard-won wisdom?

 

Dan

I started with an Orion ED80, an AVX mount, and a Canon 5DMKII, no mods, also with a Polemaster- so not loads of difference! What software are you using for acquisition? 

I first moved on to a dedicated astrophotography camera. I've got nothing negative to say about using a DSLR, and I learned a ton from using mine, but to be honest I doubt I'll ever go back. Though pretty forgiving once it's freezing outside, the noise and hot pixels I'd have to fix in the subs from my Canon were numerous and unavoidable. Also a pain in the butt to match darks within 5 degrees or so. Also, got a bit too much vignetting on my full-frame. Also less sensitivity to Ha emissions. Also, from shooting in Bortle 7, light pollution from the city would produce difficult-to-deal-with gradients- a couple tries at different broadband filters only helped boost contrast a little, and produced annoying and difficult-to-fix color casts. 

Shooting monochrome with an ASI1600mm fixed so many issues for me, and made the overall experience more enjoyable. Less weight on the imaging train, easier to balance, no problems matching darks perfectly, and light pollution became less of an issue. Of course that also meant getting a filter wheel, and filters (started with just LRGB to save money). 

 

Guiding came next, and it was probably the easiest step in a major improvement in image quality, even for short subs. Keep in mind I was using an average AVX smile.gif Very inexpensive asi120mm is still the guide camera I'm using, and I have no issues finding stars up to around 900mm in focal length. I started using a guide scope, but eventually sold it and went with an OAG. It was a pain in the butt to set up initially for sure, but I got a lot of help from folks on this forum, and once it's set up you don't really have to mess with it anymore- it just works, and no need to worry about flexure anymore (as long as your drawtube is solid!) 

 

Next I upgraded to a CEM60 over the AVX, and it's just no comparison. An unexciting, but very much well-worth-it investment. 

I'm not sure I have anything for you that qualifies as "wisdom", but I will say this: A good doublet is absolutely good enough for a long time. It's far less instant-gratifying to upgrade components rather than optics, but I found that skimping on the "boring" stuff always comes back to bite me in the end. 


Edited by zakry3323, 14 November 2019 - 09:39 AM.


#4 bobzeq25

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Posted 14 November 2019 - 10:21 AM

I've been doing astrophotography for well over a year now. Presently my set up is an Astrotech 72mm refractor with a Skywatcher EQ5 Pro mount. Camera is a crop sensor Sony A6500. I use a Polemaster for polar alignment. I'm loving the goto that my star tracker never had!

 

For processing I use DSS and Photoshop, although I have started dabbling recently with Pixinsight I still have much to learn there.

 

Most of my photos are taken in my Bortle 7 backyard. A light pollution filter has long been my friend, and I have an Ha filter on order. I'm targetting mostly Messier objects like M31, M33, M42, M45, M51, M87, M101 - I guess the 'low hanging fruit'.

 

I'm looking into the future and dreaming of a bigger telescope, using autoguiding, and a CCD/CMOS camera. I see adding each of these as a step along the way, and I am wondering what is the right order to proceed with these steps.

 

I think moving to a larger telescope would be the easiest first step, but I worry that it would make the next two steps more difficult. And also that the larger scope I might want now might not be the one I would want in my dream system.

 

Since my Sony camera is not well supported in the astrophotograhy software world, perhaps I should go first to a CCD/CMOS camera, and get familiar with it and some of the software it would need. Then I could add the autoguiding to the system and figure out to integrate its software in. At that point I could add a larger scope, if I still figure I would benefit from it.

 

Wondering what paths you have taken, and what you might recommend based on your experience and hard-won wisdom?

 

Dan

First step (relatively cheap) is to guide.  It's fundamental, and improving other things won't realize their full benefit without it.  Adding it to your existing setup will make learning how to use it easier.

 

Next step could either be a larger scope or a cooled (necessary) CMOS camera.  There are arguments for both.  But, with an EQ5 PRO mount, don't get too ambitious with the scope, particularly the focal length.  I'd say 100mm/700mm focal length, tops.

 

My path started with 66mm/400mm scope, unguided, on a zeq25; with a Sony NEX7T.  Then 80mm/600mm, first unguided, then guided.  Then a cooled CCD (CMOS wasn't available yet).  Then a CEM60 mount.  (There was a misadventure with a 6 inch RC along the way, but that was a mistake, until I got the CEM60).  The CEM60 has enabled me to go larger with the scope, but my biggest is still only 130mm/910mm.

 

Hard won wisdom.  Don't make your "dream scope" a goal.  It will almost certainly be futile.  Dream camera is more realistic.  Dream mount can work.


Edited by bobzeq25, 14 November 2019 - 10:28 AM.

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#5 MapleEve

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Posted 14 November 2019 - 12:10 PM

Telescope is replaceable
Starts with A good mount and a Good guideRlike imx290, then choose a Mono starter cooled camera like 1600mm

#6 ehunnell

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Posted 14 November 2019 - 03:15 PM

I agree with MapleEve. Get a better mount and add autoguiding (either order). Once you have a good mount and you can guide, then you can worry about a new OTA, camera, filters, etc.

 

Eddie


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#7 Between17

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Posted 14 November 2019 - 05:14 PM

Interesting suggestions, thank you all.

 

I know my mount is pretty ordinary, I figured at some point I would need to upgrade to a higher quality unit and/or one with a bit more capacity. I see several people have indicated a mount upgrade should be more of a priority than I was expecting.

 

And the comments also show clearly a telescope upgrade should not be my next step. It looks like either autoguiding or a CCD/CMOS camera could work as a next step though, with the consensus being autoguiding.

 

I appreciate the feedback.

 

Dan

 

 

What software are you using for acquisition? 
 

I am not using any acquisition software, I have not found any that will work with the Sony. At the end of my session, or more normally the next day, I just download the RAW files from the camera's memory card onto my computer. It's kind of like Christmas! Some days I get a lump of coal though. . . .


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#8 cfosterstars

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Posted 14 November 2019 - 05:32 PM

I started much as several of the posters on this thread. DLSR -- lots of money -- bad mount -- lots of money -- tried to compensate for the mount - more money - repeat. Do yourself a big favor and upgrade the mount as your #1 priority.  That being said, the Skywatcher EQ5 Pro mount is not a bad mount, so maybe you can live with it. Get a good autoguider and aquisition software. You need that to even do auto guiding. I use Sequence Generator Pro. A cooled camera is lightyears better than an uncooled DLSR. you will need a compute, but I use a cheap headless PC mounted on the rig and connect to it with my laptop. 



#9 zakry3323

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Posted 14 November 2019 - 05:39 PM

 

I am not using any acquisition software, I have not found any that will work with the Sony. At the end of my session, or more normally the next day, I just download the RAW files from the camera's memory card onto my computer. It's kind of like Christmas! Some days I get a lump of coal though. . . .

 

That's why I asked, just wasn't sure if there had been any new developments since I DSLR'd. Solidary regarding that occasional lump of coal, friend :)



#10 TareqPhoto

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Posted 16 November 2019 - 06:03 PM

And what i have to say is: step by step.

 

Well, i can't help here because i can see myself into you, doing the same, i started in 2017, but 2017 wasn't a real year to judge, so almost last year 2018 was a starting point maybe, and now i will be nearly 2 years, i still trying to find my way, but let me tell you that the best thing i did so far is buying that mount AZ-EQ6 and mono cooled camera with Astrodon Ha filter, if i didn't make those decisions i will be giving up this year earlier or even last year maybe.



#11 Stelios

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Posted 17 November 2019 - 03:49 AM

1) Guiding -- that will make the most difference. No-brainer. An OAG-capacity camera like the ASI290MM-mini will future-proof you--or you can save money with the ASI120MM-mini if you'll stick to guidescopes.

 

2) Cooled camera. Can accompany you to any scope. Choose wisely, though...

 

3) Auto-focuser if you like and will keep the present scope. If not, get a new scope and add auto-focus. 




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