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Requesting Advice For DSO Astrophotography Mid-Budget Setup

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#1 Ethilium

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Posted 20 August 2020 - 11:08 PM

Hi CN,

 

I'm going to be selling my 2 dobs (4 and 12 inch) to pivot into DSO astrophotography with a refractor/eq mount setup.

 

I'm looking for a goto eq for quick setup/tear-down shooting. Budget is $1200 for refractor + goto eq mount.

 

I'm leaning towards a William Optics Redcat 51 ($748) with an Explore Scientific iEXOS-100 Equatorial Mount with PMC-Eight GoTo ($430). Also picking these because I found them in stock and they seem to have decent reviews.

 

Plan to shoot with my old Nikon D3300.

 

Any help would be greatly appreciated. Apologies if a similar question has already been asked.

 

Clear Skies!



#2 bobzeq25

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Posted 20 August 2020 - 11:43 PM

That could work OK.  But, the mount is marginal.  The mount is the most important part of a DSO AP setup, because of long exposures and .005mm pixels.  The rule of thumb is that it should take 50% of your total (mount + scope + camera) budget.

 

But the Redcat is an unusually small scope, only 250mm long, and 3 pounds.  It could work.


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#3 Ethilium

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Posted 20 August 2020 - 11:52 PM

That could work OK.  But, the mount is marginal.  The mount is the most important part of a DSO AP setup, because of long exposures and .005mm pixels.  The rule of thumb is that it should take 50% of your total (mount + scope + camera) budget.

 

But the Redcat is an unusually small scope, only 250mm long, and 3 pounds.  It could work.

Thank you for the reply ISS. That is what i was thinking as well. I would estimate about 5 pounds for the whole camera/telescope setup which is way under the 15 pound max rating. I will probably be shooting around 1-2 min bursts for an hour. That's why I want to go lightweight with a goto as well.



#4 idclimber

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Posted 21 August 2020 - 01:07 AM

That mount is not a "mid-budget" AP capable mount. Entry level is probably closer to double that. One of the most recommended mounts to start with is the EQ6-R Pro at $1,595. A premium mount would be something north of 6k.  I think most of us would be thinking closer to 3k as middle of the range.

 

The Redcat is closer to the middle in price, at least in that size.

 

If you have any thoughts of a longer scope in the future, Consider a better mount. 


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#5 sg6

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Posted 21 August 2020 - 01:46 AM

You have the almost eternal problem of which mount. And you will always get told the biggest, in a way makes sense, but from experience there is more then that.

 

The EQ6-R is nice, will last you for years (ever?) and is plain heavy/big.

Using the Skywatcher options:

EQ3 - way too underweight for real AP.

EQ35M - Unfortunately looks the same in being too lightweight.

EQ5 - More solid looking mount, one that many here have started with.

HEQ5 - Fairly good solid mount, will last you for at least a number of years.

EQ6-R - probably the one to have, would save you gym membership or do you have a fork lift truck.

 

The problem is I bought an HEQ5, good mount. Left it in the car for about 8 weeks before I plucked up the courage to get it out. Even in many bits it was a struggle. Just heavy. And that was in component bits.

 

I went and bought an EQ5. OK smaller, not so good. It does one thing the HEQ5 doesn't. It gets used.

 

So yes buy the biggest, but it could be useless if it sits inside.

 

Now will say the HEQ5 is likely the better mount for starting, but one group many years back all used EQ5's. BUT their expectations were realistic. And what they did was realistic. Seems these days expectations exceed equipment. And people keep adding more and more, and want to do less and less themselves.

 

If you go above EQ5 then get organised - some means of transporting the mount items around, not you simply lugging them.

 

The iOptron mounts seem light in physical weight, but high in cost. And these days all mounts seem prone to death and problems. In iOptron you are likely looking at their 40 rated mount, the 25 might be OK but it seems a bit of a nightmare to live with. Although few screams of pain from owners recently.

 

If you want to simply go collect say 60 second images, OSC type, with a small scope 60-70-80 ED refractor type. Say 120-150 exposures (3-4 hours collection) and do it unguided then an EQ5 will get you by.

 

If you want to join in the longest exposure competition so guiding system, use a 100-120 triplet, mono camera and filters then you will need the EQ6-R (the HEQ5 might squeeze in).

 

So a huge amount comes down to what it is you want to do, and I mean what you really want to do. I know someone that produces excellent images, they also have £30,000 of equipment.


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#6 Stelios

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Posted 21 August 2020 - 02:15 AM

If portability is an issue, get an iOptron CEM25P.

 

With a low budget like $1,200, I would get the iOptron and something like the AT 70ED. The Redcat is a limiting scope--just good for extreme widefield. This is a bit more versatile, and more to the point, the mount allows for an 80mm scope and should outperform the iExxos. 



#7 RJF-Astro

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Posted 21 August 2020 - 02:26 AM

I agree with the others: $1200 could generally be seen as low budget, not mid. So your choice is a good one for low budget. Here are a few constraints I can think of:

  • The iEXOS does not allow a lot of room to grow scope-wise. Also include the optional polar scope unless you want do to polar alignment with help of an application like Sharpcap. But for that you need a camera connected to Sharpcap, and I do not know if the D3300 is supported.
  • The RedCat is great for widefield, but most targets will be small in your FOV. There are not that many big targets.

So the risk is you want to get closer but the mount does not support it. Maybe you can add a 80mm triplet and guiding later on, but you will be pushing the limits. An HEQ5 or bigger offers this room to grow, while you can still start of with a RedCat.

 

An HEQ5 will support most scopes up to 6" and 1000mm focal length. For refractors a heavy 4" or regular 5" will be the maximum. This is based on my own experience with different scopes. Some report succes with larger scopes. With an EQ-6r you can safely venture into the realm of 8"-10" scopes or heavier refractors.


Edited by RJF-Astro, 21 August 2020 - 02:30 AM.


#8 Hesiod

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Posted 21 August 2020 - 05:18 AM

I have no first hand experience with the iexos mount but agree with others that a somewgat larger mount could be a more effective choice, money-wise, as having more room to grow, will last a longer time.
IMHO the redcat is an excellent choice, as there is no lack of suitable targets; however these targets are not the typical "visual objects" so chances to have them listed in the mount's HC are low to none, and the same applies to most basic charts/atlases

#9 endless-sky

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Posted 21 August 2020 - 05:35 AM

There's an Italian saying that goes like this "L'appetito vien mangiando". Rough translation is "the more you eat, the hungrier you get" - assumption: what you are eating is good, tasty food.

 

What I am trying to say is: you might be happy starting astrophotography with a lightweight mount and DSLR plus lens (or small refractor, like the RedCat). Get plenty of good results and nice images. Then you'll get hungry for more. You'll want a better telescope, longer focal length, add guiding, maybe change the camera. But the mount won't handle it anymore, and you'll have to buy another one.

 

I am in the group that advice to look into getting the best mount you can afford and then, maybe, buy the next size up.

 

When I was looking at my options in October of last year, I first considered a StarAdventurer. Then an EQ5. Then an AVX or a HEQ5. Finally set my mind for the HEQ5, but buying it from an online used astro market that we have here in Italy. One of the reasons was that I also had a Celestron C8 on a fork mount, that wasn't getting used because I had no tripod for it. So, I wanted to defork it and put it on the HEQ5 to at least use it visually. Long story short, no luck in finding the HEQ5 for the price I wanted to pay (which was also the price they were mostly selling for), as they were either too far from home to go view them (and eventually pick them up) in person, or they would sell too quickly. Luck and patience (since October, I had to wait until the end of January of this year, before finding the mount) had it that I was contacted by a guy selling a NEQ6 Pro, instead, for the same price I was willing to pay for the HEQ5.

 

Not only can I use it for mounting my C8 for visual use, but I can also do astrophotography with it. I am sure, if I bought the HEQ5 instead, in a few years I would have wanted to try the C8 for imaging as well. As I said, the more you eat, the hungrier you get.


Edited by endlessky, 21 August 2020 - 05:37 AM.


#10 bobzeq25

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Posted 21 August 2020 - 09:33 AM

I'm an enthusiastic supporter of the "get the best mount you can" approach.

 

But this may be an exception.

 

The OP's stated budget is $1200.

 

The proposed setup will enable him to try DSO AP, learn the techniques, and decide if he wants to pursue it farther.  It's basically a variation on a setup I often recommend for that, camera tracker/camera/lens.

 

If someone were to go that route (Exos 100/Redcat), understanding that the setup is not easily upgradable, I see nothing wrong with it.


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#11 Huangdi

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Posted 21 August 2020 - 09:56 AM

The iExos100 will easily take care of a small 50mm scope such as the redcat, no problems at all there. For that price, it's an amazing mount. It will also comfortably carry something a bit larger, such as a 70mm refractor. I put an ED80 with a DSLR on it and that's where it started to reach its limits.

So think very hard on your future plans. I would bet my cat that you will eventually want to upgrade to a bigger scope such as an 80mm triplet or perhaps even a real big one like the common 8" newts/rc's/act's for galaxy/planetary imaging. And once you go down that route, you will have to upgrade.

I upgraded my mount 3 times. Star adventurer, then iExos100, now an EQ6.

Why? Because I was (and still am haha) a broke student who couldn't afford to spend thousands of euros on mounts.

But IF you can save 2-3 more months and get a real good mount, I highly suggest you do that. If you don't mind carrying weight, the Skywatcher EQ6-R is what I would recommend.

If you need a lightweight option, consider the ioptron CEM40 (I don't think the Cem25 is that useful when you want to upgrade later on).

#12 dayglow

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Posted 21 August 2020 - 10:23 AM

I've been imaging with a CEM25 for the past 3 years, either with 80mm triplet or camera lenses and found it to be reliable and accurate with these loads.  I acquired it (used) via the Cloudy Nights classifieds section for about $650 including its case and 2 inch tripod. 

 

The setup is quite portable which I take advantage of by bringing it to my dark site regularly and have also used in at various remote sites to capture events (like comets) that could not be well seen at home.



#13 nimitz69

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Posted 21 August 2020 - 10:36 AM

While certainly not the optimum beginner setup usually recommended, the OP’s budget will not support that so as long as he understands the limitations of the equipment he is getting than I see nothing wrong with it.

We would all do well to listen more often to ‘Dirty Harry’ (Inspector Callahan, detective extraordinaire):

“A man’s just gotta know his limitations ...”

#14 17.5Dob

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Posted 21 August 2020 - 10:49 AM

The OP would be further along by getting a better mount like the CEM25 and just shooting with his existing camera and lens'...the Redcat is just a very short telephoto "lens"...and very limited in suitable targets. The IEXOS 100 is also extremely limiting. I'd rather have a better mount, with the capabilities to upgrade my 'scope when means allow, rather than being locked into a system with no upgrade path available.

 


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#15 Hesiod

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Posted 21 August 2020 - 11:02 AM

If OP has already a lens in the 200mm, then may post-pone the purchase of the RedCat after the evaluation of the lens' performance but, otherwise it is a very sound choice and far from being limited.

It is limited only as far as want to shot the most notorious "visual" objects or galaxies* but luckily there are many, many other options, from integrated flux nebulae to dark nebulae and molecolar clouds

 

 

 

*even in this case there are interesting options if want to be "creative", from the pair m81/m82 embedded in the mist of integrated flux nebulae to the huge but elusive SagDeg



#16 Ethilium

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Posted 22 August 2020 - 11:10 AM

Thank you everyone for the advice. It sounds like I should pivot towards a cheaper 70mm like a SW Evostar 72Apertura 72EDR, or WO Zenithstar 73 (when available) for a closer image and then spend more on a better, more long term mount?



#17 Ethilium

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Posted 22 August 2020 - 11:12 AM

And apologies for such a late response to everyone. Spent most of the day working a basement remodel.

#18 Jerry Hubbell

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Posted 22 August 2020 - 11:38 AM

The OP would be further along by getting a better mount like the CEM25 and just shooting with his existing camera and lens'...the Redcat is just a very short telephoto "lens"...and very limited in suitable targets. The IEXOS 100 is also extremely limiting. I'd rather have a better mount, with the capabilities to upgrade my 'scope when means allow, rather than being locked into a system with no upgrade path available.

 

Yes, the iEXOS 100 is extremely limiting as demonstrated by this post

 

https://www.cloudyni...2#entry10441489


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#19 RJF-Astro

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Posted 22 August 2020 - 03:10 PM

Thank you everyone for the advice. It sounds like I should pivot towards a cheaper 70mm like a SW Evostar 72, Apertura 72EDR, or WO Zenithstar 73 (when available) for a closer image and then spend more on a better, more long term mount?


Sounds like a plan! Although they will need a flattener (often combined with a reducer) to get good results. Otherwise your images will suffer from field curvature. I think anything larger than 1" sensor will suffer from this, my experience with a 72ED. The Redcat is nice because it does not need one. But you still save $200 or so, which is worth a lot when invested in a good mount.

#20 Stelios

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Posted 22 August 2020 - 03:35 PM

Yes, the iEXOS 100 is extremely limiting as demonstrated by this post

 

https://www.cloudyni...2#entry10441489

The usual issue with inexpensive mounts is variability. I don't have an iEXOS 100, but the Celestron AVX is a prime example of that--you can find excellent ones as well as totally horrendous ones. 

 

If the quality on the iEXOS 100 is reasonably consistent, then it would be a great budget choice. If.


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#21 Devonshire

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Posted 22 August 2020 - 05:13 PM

Stelios,

 

I help out on the PMC8 support forum from time to time, and see the posts that go by. I suspect that ES probably exceeded their own expectations for the iExos-100 as far as AP is concerned.    

I don't think we're dealing with the old lucky/unlucky mount paradigm with these.  They did a good job on the mount, and if there is a problem or question - at least the ones I see - it gets taken care of pretty quickly.

 

There are posts here on CN from folks doing interesting AP with it, usually embedded in other threads like the one Jerry linked to.  Some astrobins as well.

Typically, though, they post pix back at the support forum.  Often just happy to show off what they can do...and nobody's telling them that they should have bought something else...  :-)

 

Will they move on to a larger mount?  Coin toss - depends on their situation and needs.  Not everybody wants to spend a lot, or schlep a lot of weight.  And truth be told, people are up-rating that little mount's capacity, with piers or heavier tripods, so depending on your ambitions, you do have some room to move. 

 

FWIW...

 

- Bob



#22 17.5Dob

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Posted 22 August 2020 - 06:07 PM

Yes, the iEXOS 100 is extremely limiting as demonstrated by this post

 

https://www.cloudyni...2#entry10441489

That's shooting at 250mm fl with a Redcat....how's it handle a 100mm OTA at 700mm fl   ??????

That's what I mean by limiting...It's an excellent mount within it's limitations, I've been thinking of getting one as an upgrade to my 8 year old original model iOptron SkyTracker for widefields..


Edited by 17.5Dob, 22 August 2020 - 06:09 PM.


#23 Jerry Hubbell

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Posted 22 August 2020 - 10:08 PM

That's shooting at 250mm fl with a Redcat....how's it handle a 100mm OTA at 700mm fl   ??????

That's what I mean by limiting...It's an excellent mount within it's limitations, I've been thinking of getting one as an upgrade to my 8 year old original model iOptron SkyTracker for widefields..

 Maybe not so much,

 

127 mm @ 1310 mm FL < 1 arcsec RMS guiding 

 

https://www.cloudyni...-399/?p=9655705


Edited by Jerry Hubbell, 22 August 2020 - 10:13 PM.



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