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Lightweight Astrophoto Travel Rig recommendations

astrophotography equipment mount
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42 replies to this topic

#26 pcos

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Posted 26 August 2020 - 09:57 AM

This is my travel setup. Both Air and Car. I can't image from the apartment complex I live in. Mount, imaging scope (now FSQ106), imaging camera, NUC all fits in Pelican Air 1615 Case (scope in hand carry for air travel). Tripod (Gitzo 5), half pier and counter weight is in Manfrotto tripod bag. Battery is 50Ah LiFePO4 in Nanuk case. 

 

 
 

 

 

FSQ shrinks to small enough size to fit in hand carry for air travel. I take 2x 6Ah batteries for air travel. 

Beautiful setup! Thanks for sharing!
 

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#27 pcos

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Posted 26 August 2020 - 10:01 AM

I want to thank the folks that responded and shared their portable rigs - you guys have really come through.  One of things that I love about Astrophotography is that everybody has to build and ingrate their own system and optimize it to get the results they want.  I always get inspiration and ideas when I see how others have approached the problem.   I now have some ideas I can dig into further - once I figure out what I am going to do, I will come back and share my solution!

 

Thanks again!

 

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#28 Hesiod

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Posted 26 August 2020 - 10:47 AM

Fornax is another outfit that was not on my Radar - thanks for the heads-up!

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I have the Astrotrac Travel Set, to whom the Fornax Lightrack2 was heavily inspired, and IMHO is not the best choice for your planned setup.
Rather may be of interest the new Astrotrac 360, whose first units are been shipped in these days: so, if are not in a hurry, may be worth to wait a bit and see how this device performs

#29 ChristopherBeere

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Posted 26 August 2020 - 11:27 AM

This is my travel setup. Both Air and Car. I can't image from the apartment complex I live in. Mount, imaging scope (now FSQ106), imaging camera, NUC all fits in Pelican Air 1615 Case (scope in hand carry for air travel). Tripod (Gitzo 5), half pier and counter weight is in Manfrotto tripod bag. Battery is 50Ah LiFePO4 in Nanuk case. 

 

FSQ shrinks to small enough size to fit in hand carry for air travel. I take 2x 6Ah batteries for air travel. 

 

Awesome rig, i just pulled the trigger on a Gitzo 5533S for my setup !!

Was using a series 1 mountaineer but needed something much beefier so went with the most rigid tripod Gitzo does.


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#30 alan.dang

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Posted 26 August 2020 - 02:45 PM

I did this with a Vixen SXD2, TEC APO110FL and EOS Ra with a single 1.9 kg counterweight.  I had a laptop for Polemaster but could have used the polar scope and drift aligned and gone completely without a PC.

 

49 min, 1 min unguided subs from Bortle 6/7.

 

The Vixen’s are among the very best when it comes to standalone imaging. Besides the weight savings, setup is also very fast.  If I was going to guide, I would get a Lacerta MGEN3 and use it as my DSLR controller too.

 

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#31 dayglow

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Posted 26 August 2020 - 03:03 PM

My rig comes to 52 lbs exclusive of packing cases measured by holding it all together (except for laptop), standing on bathroom scale then removing weight without rig, finally adding in measured weight for laptop.

 

Included:

* CEM25 mount with 2 inch iOptron tripod, counter weight, mount power supply

* D5300A camera, AC power supply

* AT80EDT with 0.8X reducing flattener, dovetail, dew cap

* QHY 30mm guide scope

* QHY guide camera

* All cables

* Laptop with AC power adapter

* Red Dot finder

 

I could post a picture at some point if desired but we are all pretty experienced here and have a good idea of what a small scope looks like on a small mount.



#32 Hesiod

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Posted 26 August 2020 - 03:22 PM

I did this with a Vixen SXD2, TEC APO110FL and EOS Ra with a single 1.9 kg counterweight. I had a laptop for Polemaster but could have used the polar scope and drift aligned and gone completely without a PC.

49 min, 1 min unguided subs from Bortle 6/7.

The Vixen’s are among the very best when it comes to standalone imaging. Besides the weight savings, setup is also very fast. If I was going to guide, I would get a Lacerta MGEN3 and use it as my DSLR controller too.


I use my sxd2 with the mgen2 to guide, dither and control the camera (also the mgen2 has a very good PA routine independent from Polaris).
That has proven to be a really handy setup, reasonably compact and very easy to use
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#33 Alen K

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Posted 26 August 2020 - 03:33 PM

I did this with a Vixen SXD2, TEC APO110FL and EOS Ra with a single 1.9 kg counterweight.  I had a laptop for Polemaster but could have used the polar scope and drift aligned and gone completely without a PC.

 

49 min, 1 min unguided subs from Bortle 6/7.

 

The Vixen’s are among the very best when it comes to standalone imaging. Besides the weight savings, setup is also very fast.  If I was going to guide, I would get a Lacerta MGEN3 and use it as my DSLR controller too.

Re the image: interesting colors. I am surprised to see so much blue from a (pre)modified camera (the Ra could be considered a modified R done by Canon). Normally, the enhanced h-alpha sensitivity turns h-alpha rich nebulae more red than they would be with a "normal" camera. 



#34 alan.dang

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Posted 26 August 2020 - 04:16 PM

Re the image: interesting colors. I am surprised to see so much blue from a (pre)modified camera (the Ra could be considered a modified R done by Canon). Normally, the enhanced h-alpha sensitivity turns h-alpha rich nebulae more red than they would be with a "normal" camera. 

Me too!  The Ra is a modified R by Canon but if you go to PhotonsToPhotos.net you can see that it’s more than just a filter modification.  Read noise and dynamic range are superior to the R.  Firmware is also different.

 

The 20Da and 60Da were less sensitive than an Astrodon modification or full spectrum modification.  That is still true with the Ra.   Canon has always held back on full Ha sensitivity partly to give some daylight capability.  The Ra is using a newer filter that has some issues with some optics esp. with poor IR correction (not the TEC 110FL) but the colors straight out of the camera are incredible.  Several astrophotographers have noted that with Canon and there is some pre scaling of the data in RAW which probably helps.
 

https://youtu.be/x8bYAc0cGM4
Software Bisque’s Richard Wright on the Ra

 

Sadly, there is no in camera intervalometer.

 

This edit is artistically a bit bluer than what the dust probably should be of calibrated to Gv stars but my blue stars are blue and yellow stars are still yellow.  I had to desaturate yellow a bit to control my light pollution.  The North American Nebula does have a lot of O III.



#35 Jerry Lodriguss

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Posted 26 August 2020 - 11:45 PM

Jerry - what a great setup!  This looks like the kind of thing I had in mind. Are you using the standard Ioptron light triopod?  Have you been happy with this setup?

I'm not using the iOptron tripod. I'm using a Losmandy lightweight tripod.

 

The iOptron CDM25P is brand new and it's already been back to the factory for adjusting the mesh on both the RA and DEC. 

 

I know how to do it, but I could not fix it. Take that for what it's worth about this mount.

 

Total weight?  with the tripod?

 

Jerry



#36 AnakChan

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Posted 27 August 2020 - 04:12 AM

That's big for travel; following... is quite small/light weight...


Note: I dither without guiding; all I do is shut mount off every so often (after 20-30 min runs) for few (~10-20) seconds


Errr...I think that’s drifting, not dithering!?!? You are right you could dither without guiding (see NINA direct guide), but simply toggling the mount power wouldn’t be dithering.
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#37 AnakChan

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Posted 27 August 2020 - 08:36 AM

So my travel rig is kinda in the works. It’s something along the lines of this :-
 

EA13F46A-F7DC-4135-9E67-FB3BC585D28E.jpeg

 

FSQ85EDP

ASI120mm based guide camera & scope

SS-One Traveler (boutique Japanese made Harmonic drive based) mount with a built-in Raspberry Pi

 

In my new configuration, as the Raspberry Pi is built in there’s no need for the mount controller. It’s managed via WiFi. The counterweight is also kinda optional. I’ve tried it with my FSQ85ED without it and it seems fine. The harmonic drive is able to handle the weight. However, I believe the maker is on the conservative side and recommends using it.

 

Here’s my video of it’s operation without the counterweight shaft to make the whole rig a little more compact. The motor is quite silent :-

https://youtu.be/u7bpXuwFqKI


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#38 mmalik

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Posted 27 August 2020 - 09:13 AM

Anak, I may have asked you in the past as well, can you elaborate on 'SS-One Traveler'. Is it widely available?  Who makes it? I could be wrong, but doesn't seem to be known/available in the US. Any background info would be helpful; curious. Regards

 

 

Note: I see the tripod and tripod mount point NOT so fortified for the heavy load on top; is that the case in real? Wouldn't being top heavy make it susceptible to sways and/or not being rigid? Setup I show is quite rigid to the point it is not susceptible to any sway. Still curious to know more about SS-One!

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Edited by mmalik, 27 August 2020 - 09:16 AM.


#39 AnakChan

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Posted 28 August 2020 - 11:18 PM

Anak, I may have asked you in the past as well, can you elaborate on 'SS-One Traveler'. Is it widely available?  Who makes it? I could be wrong, but doesn't seem to be known/available in the US. Any background info would be helpful; curious. Regards

 

 

Note: I see the tripod and tripod mount point NOT so fortified for the heavy load on top; is that the case in real? Wouldn't being top heavy make it susceptible to sways and/or not being rigid? Setup I show is quite rigid to the point it is not susceptible to any sway. Still curious to know more about SS-One!

Sorry, missed this. So yes the tripod is a little too dinky for the setup. I do need a heftier tripod but on a budget right now. I do hook some weights to the centre column but diameter of the shaft is a little too small.

About the SS-One Traveler (http://shop.ss-one.net/?pid=130931446), it is from a boutique Japanese maker. It's not mass produced and done in batches, pre-order basis. It uses harmonic drives, the same motors the now obsolete HobyM CruxMini.

 

The idea of the SS-One Traveler is that (aside from being portable) it's self-contained. The Raspberry Pi is in the mount itself running a proprietary software. In short, one just uses a tablet/iPad to RDP into the Raspberry Pi WiFi. No external computer is needed for acquisition. It is also designed more for DSLRs though than astro imaging cameras. One would connect the cable release from the camera to the mount and the Raspberry Pi acts as an intervalometer.

 

The software on the RapsberryPi does sync up the intervalometer with the guiding - so it can dither between shots. It also has polar alignment however seems to be prioritised for the northern hemisphere only (i.e. Polaris). For the southern hemisphere, one would need to drift align.


Edited by AnakChan, 28 August 2020 - 11:19 PM.

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#40 mmalik

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Posted 31 August 2020 - 03:56 AM

So if I understand correctly, you are guiding with SS-One when imaging? Have you tested it for un-guided imaging? If yes, how long can you go unguided? Is using RapsberryPi mandatory to use when operating this mount? Can it be operated as a stand alone mount; means can it be used without RapsberryPi integration/functionality? Regards



#41 AnakChan

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Posted 31 August 2020 - 08:33 AM

Advanced apologies to @pcos for crashing his thread.

 

[Part #1]

 

So bear in mind this is meant to be a lightweight travel rig. So it's really at a minimum - i.e. DSLR control, not dedicated astrocamera. It basically looks like this. In normal cases, this looks off-balance being top heavy but bear in mind this is a harmonic driven mount so it can handle the load. This is a minimalist approach with no need for laptop/PC although a tablet is very useful.

 

IMG_4145.jpeg

 

It takes 12V in (in my case coming from the Omni Ultimate providing 38400mAh), and there's a 2.5mm shutter release port for the Raspberry Pi controlled intervalometer (synced to allow dithering).

 

IMG_4146.jpeg

 

There is a top display which is kinda useless especially with the WiFi dongle plugged in. There's a couple of free USB ports but one is used for autoguiding.

 

IMG_4147.jpeg

 

The guidescope is a 120mm with a hacked/modified ASI20MM (older one using USB2).

 

IMG_4148.jpeg

 

Finally in the mount, there is a Raspberry Pi camera used for polar alignment.

 

IMG_4150.jpeg


Edited by AnakChan, 31 August 2020 - 08:52 AM.

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#42 AnakChan

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Posted 31 August 2020 - 08:50 AM

Continued apologies to @pcos.
 
[Part #2] Software
 
The software is -very- basic, and very proprietary - so no INDI, Alpaca, etc. It's also tailored very much for the Northern Hemisphere. Will explain later why. 
 
Top Menu
 
IMG_2118.jpeg
 
The autoguiding is very simple but works. Note the shutter menu to control the intervalometer. And there's dithering 
 
https://youtu.be/v6-zXrae7eI
 
Here is the polar alignment routine, but it's only for Polaris (Northern Hemisphere). It's basically placing Polaris in the offset circle (assuming you've got the correct date/time/latitude/long set). Now that I've moved back to the Southern Hemisphere, I have to drift align - or find a custom adapter to attach my Polemaster...but that means I'd need to bring a laptop/notebook. That defeats the portability aspect.
 
IMG_2120.jpeg
 
Here is a very basic GOTO database which is also not too useful. However the good news is that SkySafari Pro works with this (just have to select LX200 classic as the mount).
 
IMG_2121.jpeg
 
Here's the Motor control.
 
IMG_2122.jpeg
 
In the sub menu of the motor control you can select/goto park/home.
 
IMG_2123.jpeg
 
And in one more level of the motor menu, one can provide advanced control of the motors. For me, I've selected the RA direction to "-" for use of the Southern Hemisphere.
 
IMG_2124.jpeg
 

So if I understand correctly, you are guiding with SS-One when imaging? Have you tested it for un-guided imaging? If yes, how long can you go unguided? Is using RapsberryPi mandatory to use when operating this mount? Can it be operated as a stand alone mount; means can it be used without RapsberryPi integration/functionality? Regards

Harmonic drive mounts have very poor periodic error so guiding is almost a must. Some of the newer HobyM or RainbowAstro are putting in some kinda new "workaround" but mine doesn't have that. The RPi is mandatory to use as it controls the motors as above. And since everything is very basic/rudimentary with direct control of the motors, it's very much needed. I'm happy with the RPi built in as it really makes the whole package travel friendly. As much as possible I don't want to be carrying a separate computer.


Edited by AnakChan, 31 August 2020 - 08:51 AM.

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#43 pcos

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Posted 31 August 2020 - 11:14 AM

Advanced apologies to @pcos for crashing his thread.

 

No Problem!  I enjoyed going over your posts!

 

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