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First Telescope for AP

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#1 DocTopher

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Posted 07 July 2020 - 05:08 PM

I’m sure this gets asked a lot, but I have done my own research over the last month into an ideal telescope and having trouble coming to a decision. I have read many threads and watched many reviews on YouTube, but there is rarely a consensus. Let me tell you all a little about me and what I hope to accomplish and maybe you could point me in a direction.

I am new to astronomy and no AP experience. I would like to approach AP the way I have with most of my interest and hobbies, which is to purchase equipment that is a little more above my skill level and have something to grow into and enjoy for awhile before making big upgrades. Ideally, I would like to be able to get photos of the moon, Jupiter, and Saturn but also some of the brighter DSOs. I would be happy with the Orion Nebula, M51 and M31. My understanding is that terrestrials and DSO require very different gear, and trying to do both often results in poor results. I don’t expect to get great detail and expect everything to be trash for awhile.

I’m working with a initial budget of $500 but I don’t mind spending more on upgrades along the way. I just want something that will keep me satisfied for a year or two on that initial budget.

I have seen a few different makes of 102mm refractors and 4-5” reflectors that seem like they could accomplish what I would like to do, but not sure if it is realistic to photo all the things I’m interested in. Any thoughts on this telescope: Explore Scientific FirstLight 500mm f/4.3 Telescope, EXOS Nano EQ3 Mount? I am Open to suggestions. Thanks!!

#2 X-Lurker

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Posted 07 July 2020 - 06:30 PM

I hate to say but neither of those mounts will be ideal for AP unless you plan on short exposure planetary imaging. They are meant for observation. (They do not track). What kind of camera do you plan to use?



#3 futuneral

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Posted 07 July 2020 - 06:51 PM

What's funny with this hobby is that one already has things they need to grow into even before buying any equipment. Especially if you are new to astronomy in general.

One thing I'd suggest is get a good book and get yourself familiar with what this hobby is about. This will make your work towards good pictures more systematic. I love this one https://www.amazon.c...ing=UTF8&btkr=1

The lack of consensus is probably because there are too many variables for different people to agree on. So it may be best for you to have something solid to guide you.

 

A few notes:

- planets and nebulae like the ones you mentioned are of vastly different apparent size in the sky

- planets and nebulae have vastly different brightness level

- planetary imaging benefits from long focal lengths and super fast cameras. tracking is not as important here, so most EQ mounts would work (many even do this on dobsonians)

- DSO require longer exposures and need beefier and more accurately tracking mounts

- mounts for any decent DSO imaging start at around $1000, so the budget is on critical path here

 

With a $500 budget I'm afraid only two things are doable:

- a star tracker (like Skywatcher Star Adventurer) plus a DSLR and a regular lens. This will allow for great milky way shots and RGB shots of large nebulae. Great M31, M42 shots are possible. With this you can learn the full DSO processing flow.

- a star tracker (like Skywatcher Star Adventurer) plus a relatively light scope ~500mm and a high speed planetary camera with a small sensor. With this you'll be able to capture the moon and the planets and learn how to do lucky imaging and stacking.

 

p.s. Do not buy that ES 500mm reflector!


Edited by futuneral, 07 July 2020 - 06:51 PM.

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#4 bobzeq25

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Posted 07 July 2020 - 08:13 PM

I’m sure this gets asked a lot, but I have done my own research over the last month into an ideal telescope and having trouble coming to a decision. I have read many threads and watched many reviews on YouTube, but there is rarely a consensus. Let me tell you all a little about me and what I hope to accomplish and maybe you could point me in a direction.

I am new to astronomy and no AP experience. I would like to approach AP the way I have with most of my interest and hobbies, which is to purchase equipment that is a little more above my skill level and have something to grow into and enjoy for awhile before making big upgrades. Ideally, I would like to be able to get photos of the moon, Jupiter, and Saturn but also some of the brighter DSOs. I would be happy with the Orion Nebula, M51 and M31. My understanding is that terrestrials and DSO require very different gear, and trying to do both often results in poor results. I don’t expect to get great detail and expect everything to be trash for awhile.

I’m working with a initial budget of $500 but I don’t mind spending more on upgrades along the way. I just want something that will keep me satisfied for a year or two on that initial budget.

I have seen a few different makes of 102mm refractors and 4-5” reflectors that seem like they could accomplish what I would like to do, but not sure if it is realistic to photo all the things I’m interested in. Any thoughts on this telescope: Explore Scientific FirstLight 500mm f/4.3 Telescope, EXOS Nano EQ3 Mount? I am Open to suggestions. Thanks!!

If your budget for both the mount (the important part) and scope is $500, you are doomed to frustration, disappointment and wasted time.  That's just not enough for DSO AP with a scope.  (Planetary is completely different, requires different equipment.  But you won't be doing that for $500, either.)

 

The solution is to shorten the focal length and lighten the optics.  A _lot_.

 

For $500 (actually it will be a bit more) the ONLY way to go is camera tracker-camera-lens.

 

I _strongly_ recommend this book to you.  Starts with a camera and a lens on a tripod, then moves on to a camera tracker.

 

https://www.astropix...bgda/index.html

 

Adding a scope is what makes this so expensive.  Not because the scope is expensive.  Huh?

 

Scroll down to the picture of the very expert author on that webpage.  That's a $1200 Sirius mount with a $500 70mm refractor.  He didn't choose those because he had them lying around.  <smile>  That's about the ideal inexpensive starter setup for DSO with a scope.

 

Yes, you pay much more for the mount.  Because it's more important than the scope.  This business is _really_ unintuitive.

 

The antidote is knowledge, and you'll never get enough from short posts here.  Start with the book.

 

Here's a picture of a camera tracker - camera - lens setup.  Note that the price is only for the mount, but I wanted you to see what this looks like.

 

https://www.ioptron....duct-p/3550.htm

 

I have a fine CEM60 mount ($2200), and a few scopes.  I still use my camera tracker sometimes.  You can make very nice images with one.


Edited by bobzeq25, 07 July 2020 - 08:16 PM.


#5 Stelios

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Posted 07 July 2020 - 09:15 PM

You're looking to buy both beer *and* champagne on a chewing gum budget.

 

Your best bet is to forget anything new. Try to find something like a used CG-5 mount and a used C6. Or perhaps a used Celestron 6SE. That will be adequate for some planetary (after you add a Barlow and a camera--a DSLR body will do). 

 

For DSO, I don't see how to do it even with used equipment. It may be possible to take some streaky, blurry images with a used CG-5 and used C6 (hard to find even that for under $500), but you won't do any better. 



#6 TelescopeGreg

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Posted 07 July 2020 - 09:58 PM

Presuming you have a DSLR and a good lens (best if not a zoom), use that and a camera tracker.  Milky way images.

 

As others note, Deep Sky stuff (galaxies and nebulas) take a much larger investment; the challenges of taking images of things you can't even see are just too great.  In between, however, is imaging the Moon and planets (Jupiter, Saturn, Mars).  They're massively brighter, and much easier to image with "lucky imaging" techniques, and can be done on a smaller budget than Deep Sky.  If that is appealing, ask over in the Solar and Planetary sub-forum.  We're focused on the deep dark stuff here.



#7 Phishin_phool

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Posted 07 July 2020 - 10:39 PM

As I am new and inexperienced I didn't want to be the one to break the budget news but I saw that coming. I am just getting started in AP and my initial outlay was $1,391 for the mount (EQ6R-pro) and $550 for a secondhand William Optics Z71 APO with field flattener, $180 for SSAG autoguider package (guidescope + camera) about $70 in assorted spacer tubes, T rings, adapters etc. and I already had my A7III camera as my primary imaging camera. NOw I am considering replacing the A7III with a dedicated cooled CMOS astrocamera and that will run either $700 color or $1000 Monochrome. DSO astrophotography is not cheap. BY listening to others here though I believe I have a system that should last me quite a while and allow me to grow. I want to get good at what I am doing now and next spring summer add either A 123 or so APO Triplet or 8' RASA. 


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#8 17.5Dob

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Posted 07 July 2020 - 11:32 PM

I am new to astronomy and no AP experience. I would like to approach AP the way I have with most of my interest and hobbies, which is to purchase equipment that is a little more above my skill level and have something to grow into and enjoy for awhile before making big upgrades.
I’m working with a initial budget of $500 but I don’t mind spending more on upgrades along the way. I just want something that will keep me satisfied for a year or two on that initial budget.

I have seen a few different makes of 102mm refractors and 4-5” reflectors that seem like they could accomplish what I would like to do, but not sure if it is realistic to photo all the things I’m interested in. Any thoughts on this telescope: Explore Scientific FirstLight 500mm f/4.3 Telescope, EXOS Nano EQ3 Mount? I am Open to suggestions. Thanks!!

lol.giflol.giflol.gif

At $500, the best you can do is get a small camera tracker for your "existing" dSLR  and telephoto lens....

A SkyWatcher  "Star Adventurer" is about the best you can do

https://astrobackyar...trophotography/



#9 Ryou

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Posted 07 July 2020 - 11:37 PM

I'm going to take a slightly different route than has been posted here by others... however to be honest they are very much right. A 500 budget does very very little in this hobby, especially starting out.

 

Instead of that doom and gloom though, I do think that depending on what you may already have you may not be wholly dead in the water (as it were).

 

Your best bet at that price point is going to be that you already have a DSLR and a telephoto lens around the 135mm or above range lens already. Get the star tracker style mounts and you'll be able to take some longer exposures at a usable focal length for some of the larger/brighter DSOs like the Andromeda Galaxy, some of the larger nebula like Heart/Soul, Elephant Trunk, definitely Orion, the moon, etc. Planetary is likely out of reach if you want any details, such as seeing the rings of Saturn or Moons of Jupiter, however in general planetary is a bit different that DSO and some things just don't transfer well between the two.

 

Considering that a lot of people suggest a widefield scope around the 60-80mm range that is around 350-480mm to start out, and there is a great option in the RedCat scopes at 250mm for beginners also, you can see how you could use an existing lens around those focal lengths just fine. 135mm is very much on the wide end of the spectrum, however there are some really wide targets out there too.

 

That said, you will still need to temper your expectations some unless you have some money to astro modify the DSLR (again assuming you have one) as there can be a decent difference between stock and modified. I actually recently decided to revisit one of my (stock) DSLR targets with a dedicated camera/filters....

Comparison.jpg

 

Full disclosure that the dedicated camera (left) was on a different scope than the DSLR (right) so I did have to shrink the image a bit to match scales. Additionally it is a mono cam vs color, so this is not really apples to apples comparison to stock vs modified DSLR, however my understanding is that the modified DSLRs have similar sensitivity to the wavelengths of light so would be closer to the dedicated image than a  stock DSLR, just not exactly the same.

 

To be honest I don't think the stock DSLR did too bad, especially when you consider that the DSLR has about 4hr of exposure and the dedicated was about 10hr of combined exposure. I also don't think that even with more exposure time the DSLR would be beating the dedicated camera though, and I also think that I got relatively lucky with the stock DSLR's IR filter.

 

Of course this does make one massive assumption... that you already have a DSLR and telephoto lens. If you do not have that already than unfortunately I also have to go that doom and gloom route about the budget.


Edited by Ryou, 07 July 2020 - 11:44 PM.

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#10 terry59

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Posted 08 July 2020 - 07:09 AM

I would purchase a used SW HEQ-5 (or Orion Sirius) GEM and use the camera/lens. That mount has a solid AP reputation and, unlike a star adventurer et al, can serve as your skills and needs change



#11 bobzeq25

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Posted 08 July 2020 - 11:31 AM

I would purchase a used SW HEQ-5 (or Orion Sirius) GEM and use the camera/lens. That mount has a solid AP reputation and, unlike a star adventurer et al, can serve as your skills and needs change

Honest question, to help the OP.  Can you get one for $500?



#12 terry59

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Posted 08 July 2020 - 11:50 AM

Honest question, to help the OP.  Can you get one for $500?

I've seen them at that price, mainly ones without the hand controller. It IS easier to find them ~$600 though for sure


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#13 Ryou

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Posted 08 July 2020 - 01:55 PM

I've seen them at that price, mainly ones without the hand controller. It IS easier to find them ~$600 though for sure

Not sure if I'd want to suggest a mount sans HC to the OP w/o more information about what they have currently... Doubly so a HEQ5 where w/o the HC you need the EQMod cable to control it.



#14 DocTopher

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Posted 08 July 2020 - 08:06 PM

Thank you for all the advice. I will pick up the books recommended. Sounds like my best bet is to go the mount/camera/lens route until I feel confident enough to pour more money into it. I did pick up a used Rebel 3ti that I planned to have modified, so the $500 would go towards mount and lens. Looks like I’ll have to increase the budget a bit to get both. Thanks for the help and I’m enjoying seeing everyone’s work
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#15 Phishin_phool

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Posted 08 July 2020 - 08:17 PM

This is in the classifieds - I would jump on this if I were op it is a great start at a price that works for him and leaves him budget

 

https://www.cloudyni...168-meade-lx70/



#16 Ryou

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Posted 08 July 2020 - 08:21 PM

Thank you for all the advice. I will pick up the books recommended. Sounds like my best bet is to go the mount/camera/lens route until I feel confident enough to pour more money into it. I did pick up a used Rebel 3ti that I planned to have modified, so the $500 would go towards mount and lens. Looks like I’ll have to increase the budget a bit to get both. Thanks for the help and I’m enjoying seeing everyone’s work

If you don't already have the lens than expect a decent chunk for that sadly. For example the Rokinon/Samyang 135mm (I want to say they are the same lens and just different branding depending on region?) which is a nice super fast wide field lens is around 430-500 on it's own. That is about as much as some of the entry level scopes are. As you're just trying to figure out if you feel confident enough to really get into things I probably would still suggest this lens to you though as you'll have a wider audience to re-sell it if needed. 135mm at f/2 is a great portrait lens so you'd have that audience also.



#17 bobzeq25

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Posted 09 July 2020 - 12:48 AM

A good Canon 50mm is close to $100.  With my Nikon I use an old 200mm with manual everything, it was about $150.

 

A great thing about DSLRs is the availability of old manual lenses with good optics at low prices.  For learning imaging the standard zoom is not a bad choice.


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#18 terry59

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Posted 09 July 2020 - 09:06 AM

Not sure if I'd want to suggest a mount sans HC to the OP w/o more information about what they have currently... Doubly so a HEQ5 where w/o the HC you need the EQMod cable to control it.

A difference in perspective perhaps but I always recommend moving to EQMOD as quickly as possible, if only to take advantage of being able to set safety limits 

 

smile.gif


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#19 Ryou

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Posted 09 July 2020 - 09:52 AM

A difference in perspective perhaps but I always recommend moving to EQMOD as quickly as possible, if only to take advantage of being able to set safety limits 

 

smile.gif

Oh don't get me wrong, I ditched the HC within like a week or two of having my HEQ5. However that cable, if you want to be safe and not buy something possibly more headache inducing on amazon, is another like 30-50 bucks. While that is normally nothing in this hobby, for the OP we're already dealing with a tight budget where we're talking about a used HEQ5 basically eating it all up as is.

 

A good Canon 50mm is close to $100.  With my Nikon I use an old 200mm with manual everything, it was about $150.

 

A great thing about DSLRs is the availability of old manual lenses with good optics at low prices.  For learning imaging the standard zoom is not a bad choice.

Admittedly my numbers were new and you can definitely find some deals used along with other lenses. Plus the nifty fifty is only around 100 most times. This would definitely not be a bad starting point, however I can speak from experience that even the larger DSOs are fairly small at 50mm. I actually started off with that and M42 and it was just a small portion of the image a couple hundred pixels wide I think. So more focal length like the 135 would not go amiss.

 

As seems to be the theme of the thread, there are definitely options out there for this budget, however I also feel like we have a "duty" (for lack of a better term) to let the OP know about some of the possible things they'll see with those so they do not get very disappointed with things. That isn't to say good (or great) images can't still be taken mind you, just don't expect it out the gate and be aware of various things.



#20 bobzeq25

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Posted 09 July 2020 - 10:06 AM

Oh don't get me wrong, I ditched the HC within like a week or two of having my HEQ5. However that cable, if you want to be safe and not buy something possibly more headache inducing on amazon, is another like 30-50 bucks. While that is normally nothing in this hobby, for the OP we're already dealing with a tight budget where we're talking about a used HEQ5 basically eating it all up as is.

 

Admittedly my numbers were new and you can definitely find some deals used along with other lenses. Plus the nifty fifty is only around 100 most times. This would definitely not be a bad starting point, however I can speak from experience that even the larger DSOs are fairly small at 50mm. I actually started off with that and M42 and it was just a small portion of the image a couple hundred pixels wide I think. So more focal length like the 135 would not go amiss.

 

As seems to be the theme of the thread, there are definitely options out there for this budget, however I also feel like we have a "duty" (for lack of a better term) to let the OP know about some of the possible things they'll see with those so they do not get very disappointed with things. That isn't to say good (or great) images can't still be taken mind you, just don't expect it out the gate and be aware of various things.

The thing about the 50mm is that people can start using it, immediately get good results, and spend time learning data acquisition/processing techniques.  Like bias, flats, darks, which beginners often omit because they're swamped.  That is definitely not good for their progress.

 

My advice is always driven by learning imaging, not doing imaging.


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