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Another broke newb astronomer

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#1 EarNoodles

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Posted 04 August 2020 - 03:09 PM

Hi.  I've been into astronomy for awhile but recently got a Panasonic FZ-1000 bridge camera for birding/nature photography which it's really amazing for.  I've gone out to some dark sky (bortle class 2, 21.93SQM) and realized I basically have a better telescope than I've ever owned (i used to own a very small/cheap reflector).  I've learned how to stack DSO and comet images with deep sky, and planetary/moon images with autostakkert, and also have learned some post processing stuff with something called Star Tools.  For comet neowise I stacked images with the comet in focus then with the stars in focus and combined them so I had actually round stars.  I've also been testing my camera's abilities to optimize stuff as far as ISO levels and read/noise ratio doing ISO-variance tests revealed 800-1600ISO seems to be the sweet spot with this camera unless I'm shooting the full moon or something, learning what focal lengths can use what time maximum exposure without issues, etc.

 

Now that I'm getting more into astrophotography I realize a bridge camera is a bit of a dead end though.  You can't find astronomy filters for it, can't get a better lense, etc.  It also doesn't have an ability to mount a scope without probably damaging the zoom motor which I need for birding!  The only real upgrade with this bridge camera would be to get a sky tracker mount, and then once again it's a dead end with that camera.  So eventually I'd like to build a setup with a small refractor but with no DSLR camera to start with would I be better off getting a dedicated astronomy camera from the start?  I'm mostly interested in DSOs and maybe occasional planetary/moons/comet stuff which I know a small refractor has limited abilities in but it's still a lot better than this bridge camera will give me.  I was looking at maybe a williams 61mm scope? what are your thoughts on cameras for such a setup? dslr vs astronomy camera, and would mono+filters be better for DSOs?  With the dedicated cameras I'd probably prefer to use something like a StellarMate controller to use my phone/tablet to control it but laptops are cheap, it just seems clunkier and I'd like to be able to drive places and use this setup.

 

Should I get a mount first and learn how to do that with the bridge camera before even thinking about getting a scope and new camera?  Any other advice is appreciated as well thanks smile.gif


Edited by EarNoodles, 04 August 2020 - 03:10 PM.

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#2 Bean614

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Posted 04 August 2020 - 03:19 PM

You didn't mention what telescope you currently have. 



#3 bobzeq25

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Posted 04 August 2020 - 03:28 PM

Hi.  I've been into astronomy for awhile but recently got a Panasonic FZ-1000 bridge camera for birding/nature photography which it's really amazing for.  I've gone out to some dark sky (bortle class 2, 21.93SQM) and realized I basically have a better telescope than I've ever owned (i used to own a very small/cheap reflector).  I've learned how to stack DSO and comet images with deep sky, and planetary/moon images with autostakkert, and also have learned some post processing stuff with something called Star Tools.  For comet neowise I stacked images with the comet in focus then with the stars in focus and combined them so I had actually round stars.  I've also been testing my camera's abilities to optimize stuff as far as ISO levels and read/noise ratio doing ISO-variance tests revealed 800-1600ISO seems to be the sweet spot with this camera unless I'm shooting the full moon or something, learning what focal lengths can use what time maximum exposure without issues, etc.

 

Now that I'm getting more into astrophotography I realize a bridge camera is a bit of a dead end though.  You can't find astronomy filters for it, can't get a better lense, etc.  It also doesn't have an ability to mount a scope without probably damaging the zoom motor which I need for birding!  The only real upgrade with this bridge camera would be to get a sky tracker mount, and then once again it's a dead end with that camera.  So eventually I'd like to build a setup with a small refractor but with no DSLR camera to start with would I be better off getting a dedicated astronomy camera from the start?  I'm mostly interested in DSOs and maybe occasional planetary/moons/comet stuff which I know a small refractor has limited abilities in but it's still a lot better than this bridge camera will give me.  I was looking at maybe a williams 61mm scope? what are your thoughts on cameras for such a setup? dslr vs astronomy camera, and would mono+filters be better for DSOs?  With the dedicated cameras I'd probably prefer to use something like a StellarMate controller to use my phone/tablet to control it but laptops are cheap, it just seems clunkier and I'd like to be able to drive places and use this setup.

 

Should I get a mount first and learn how to do that with the bridge camera before even thinking about getting a scope and new camera?  Any other advice is appreciated as well thanks smile.gif

The mount is the most important thing in DSO AP.  Skimping on that is a very common beginner mistake.  Especially if you want to use a telescope >61mm, rather than a camera lens.  For that, you're looking at $1200.

 

The bargain (and good) camera is a Nikon D5300/5500/5600 (all very similar).  I own a 5500.   You can find 5300s for $300.  For a DSLR it has low thermal noise.  If you go up to an astro camera it should be cooled (otherwise there's little point), and that may be out of your budget. 

 

Planets are tiny, the Moon is a good target.  Requires different techniques, there's a Solar System Imaging forum.

 

You don't need filters right now.  Mono (cooled) plus filters is surely out of your budget, we're talking $1500.  This is about as cheap as it gets.

 

https://astronomy-im...00mm-c-mini-kit

 

So, maybe start with the Nikon.  This can work with that and a lens, or the 61mm.  Nothing more.

 

https://www.ioptron....duct-p/3200.htm

 

Useful info on equipment; the Smart EQ, and a low end serious mount.

 

https://skyandtelesc...PTRONMOUNTS.pdf

 

Useful info about DSO AP in general.  The best $40 you'll ever spend in DSO AP.  <smile>

 

https://www.amazon.c.../dp/0999470906/


Edited by bobzeq25, 04 August 2020 - 03:45 PM.

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#4 EarNoodles

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Posted 05 August 2020 - 12:56 AM

Thanks! Yeah the cooled cameras are probably out of my price range I guess there's not much difference between a non cooled astronomy camera and a non cooled dslr in terms of image quality/noise?  A DSLR definitely seems like it would have some usability advantages as well.  And are there lenses that would be better for DSOs than the 61mm scope or is the scope better? I guess I just assumed a scope would be better?  I've looked on astrobin to see what kind of results are possible with that scope, although I know there's going to be a learning curve.

 

And cool thanks I didn't know there was a goto mount available for that cheap!  I was looking at the star adventurer which isn't goto and isn't much cheaper than that one.  I don't necessarily mind lining up my shots since that's what I've been doing so far (I've kinda rigged a green laser to my camera to help) but at the same time goto would save a lot of headaches I'm sure.  :)  I know some people recommend getting a much more expensive mount from the start to allow for bigger scopes in the future but unfortunately it's hard to see myself ever being able to afford anything beyond this type of lightweight setup, and it's also more convenient to carry around since I like driving out to dark skies.



#5 starblue

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Posted 05 August 2020 - 03:52 AM

Don't discount your FZ1000 so quickly. Panasonic accidentally made some great AP cameras with the FZ series. I have an FZ200 and have taken images of dozens of DSO's. Your camera may do even better since it has a larger sensor and I think its LENR behavior can be turned off, letting you control how you want to allocate your time under the stars. (It cannot be turned off on the FZ200 and FZ300.)

 

I'm not saying never move up to a full AP outfit (scope, mount, computer, etc.). What I am saying is that you probably haven't begun tapping the FZ1000's potential yet. From all accounts your camera has a better lens that should yield better star images and a sensor that's less noisy. Get yourself a star tracker and let that puppy collect some light!

 

You can check out these posts for example photos taken with the FZ200--skip the text if you like. The first link shows the "first light" DSO taken with the camera (M31, Andromeda galaxy).

 

https://www.cloudyni...e/#entry7402595

 

The next demonstrates its abilities on nebulas (NGC 7000, North America nebula):

 

https://www.cloudyni.../#entry10201828

 

This last one shows a globular (omega Centauri):

 

https://www.cloudyni.../#entry10202442

 

And lastly, I gave a friend a 22x26" framed photo of the Perseus Double Cluster taken with the FZ200. He was thrilled to hang it on the wall and didn't reject it because it wasn't taken with an approved DSLR.

 


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#6 EarNoodles

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Posted 05 August 2020 - 01:09 PM

Cool those are some nice shots!  A lot better than anything I've gotten from my FZ1000!  It seems a star tracker mount would probably be a good start for now.  1.5-2 second exposures at max zoom just aren't gathering very much light compared to what a tracker would allow. smile.gif  If I get the right mount I can hopefully use it with a small scope if/when I decide to go that route too

 

And yep it does allow you to turn off LENR.  smile.gif  That was one of the first recommended things when I learned to stack images.  I guess I hadn't even realized how unique it was for a bridge camera to have that functionality.


Edited by EarNoodles, 05 August 2020 - 01:09 PM.


#7 EarNoodles

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Posted 26 August 2020 - 04:14 PM

So I got the Star Adventurer pro pack!  I know it's sick but I actually kind of enjoy the star hopping process and learning the night sky.  I just point my laser where I know the object is in the sky and see where it is in my camera frame and adjust accordingly.  It was actually a lot harder without the tracking mount because I had to keep readjusting as it would move out of frame after 5-10 minutes, whereas with the mount once I have it on target it will stay there for the whole night.

 

Unfortunately as things usually go the weather has been horrible now that I have new gear I want to try.  tongue2.gif  There has been partial cloud cover every night and it's been very hot and humid.  Even so I managed to get a whopping 14x60second exposures in between some clouds one night of Andromeda from my bortle class 6 suburban sky and it's waaay better than anything I ever managed without the tracker even from bortle class 2 skies.  I can't wait to see what it can do with more total exposure time and dark skies once the weather is clear!  Thanks for recommending the mount this will keep me busy while I save up for a scope. smile.gif

 

zOT8oFq.png

 

1yXGBgr.jpg

 


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#8 EarNoodles

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Posted 28 August 2020 - 05:17 PM

Hmmm.  I tried to get some images of the veil nebulae from some bortle 3 skies and it just didn't seem to pick them up at all, just lots and lots of stars.  I chose that one because people said you don't need filters to see it.  Granted I only got about 30mins total exposure but shouldn't something at least be showing up?

 

I did an autodev and gradient wipe (lassoing out the bits where the nebulae are supposed to be) in Star Tools which left me with this: 

ljJ8tMF.png


Edited by EarNoodles, 28 August 2020 - 05:19 PM.


#9 Alen K

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Posted 28 August 2020 - 06:05 PM

You did get it, at least the Eastern Veil. It's at the toP just left of center.


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#10 EarNoodles

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Posted 28 August 2020 - 09:14 PM

Wow thanks you have much better eyes than me! There are other parts of the image with more stars that seem to have similar brightness/coloration in the background so it seems pretty hard to pick out.  I guess the clue is the seeming lack of stars but still having that "background"? I was also a little bit confused on the exact location of the nebula relative to the stars too which didn't help



#11 17.5Dob

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Posted 28 August 2020 - 10:36 PM

Hmmm.  I tried to get some images of the veil nebulae from some bortle 3 skies and it just didn't seem to pick them up at all, just lots and lots of stars.  I chose that one because people said you don't need filters to see it.  Granted I only got about 30mins total exposure but shouldn't something at least be showing up?

 

I did an autodev and gradient wipe (lassoing out the bits where the nebulae are supposed to be) in Star Tools which left me with this: 

ljJ8tMF.png

You have both loops...



#12 chanrobi

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Posted 29 August 2020 - 01:39 AM

Hmmm.  I tried to get some images of the veil nebulae from some bortle 3 skies and it just didn't seem to pick them up at all, just lots and lots of stars.  I chose that one because people said you don't need filters to see it.  Granted I only got about 30mins total exposure but shouldn't something at least be showing up?

 

I did an autodev and gradient wipe (lassoing out the bits where the nebulae are supposed to be) in Star Tools which left me with this: 

ljJ8tMF.png

I can get west and east veil clear as day in a single frame from bortle 2 of 30 seconds on my aps-c DSLR. You definitley should be able to get something with 30 minutes.


Edited by chanrobi, 29 August 2020 - 01:39 AM.


#13 Alen K

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Posted 29 August 2020 - 08:30 AM

You have both loops...

True, there is something of the western veil there, but it's just barely above the noise. Personally, I would want a little more SNR there before I claimed I got something. 

 

I think the main problem for the OP is that the camera's comparatively small 1-inch sensor and fixed lens results in small apertures throughout its zoom range. I don't know what focal length the last image was taken at but I'm going to guess somewhere around 50mm (equivalent to 135mm full frame). That would put it at about f/3.8 if shot wide open and hence an aperture close to 13mm. If the image was actually shot at a shorter focal length and cropped, the aperture would have been even smaller. Even shooting at the maximum focal length (146mm), the maximum aperture is only 36.5mm. 

 

The other problem appears to be low h-alpha sensitivity of this camera's sensor. Combined with the aperture, that would explain the low SNR on the veil. 


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#14 EarNoodles

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Posted 29 August 2020 - 02:26 PM

Thanks for your insights!   Your guess was pretty accurate I was shooting around 60mm to try to get both in the shot but perhaps it would be better to try to get one at time with the full 146mm zoom (400mm equivalent) instead, as well as just get a lot more total exposure time and perhaps I'd get better results despite the cameras shortcomings?  I think I can also get longer single exposures now that I'm getting better at polar alignment too.




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