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Is there anything rock solid out there?

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#1 nyx

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Posted 25 September 2020 - 03:11 AM

I decided to post this in refractors, but it affects reflectors as well. I'll try to keep it short and to the point. Be aware that this is mostly related to astrophotography.

 

I discovered this amazing hobby around 2 years ago and man.....what a ride! I started doing visual astronomy with a 6" reflector and about 10 months ago I managed to take my very first picture using a DSLR and a lens. Since then, I've owned and tried various "budget" (for astrophotography standards) telescopes and cameras, ranging from 500-1600€ a piece.

 

A short disclaimer here: I understand that these are complex systems, especially regarding the optics. But...

 

*here comes the rant*

 

Why is it so hard to produce a telescope that is rock solid and doesn't cost 5-10k (which shockingly enough isn't always the case - I've read numerous horror stories starring premium telescopes)? And I'm not even talking perfection here. I'll take a "90% there" telescope too! I'm sure plenty will chime in saying how awesome and free-of-problems their telescopes are. Good for you!

 

My biggest complaint relates to round stars (to the edge, please!). I'm very much a newbie, but I've already familiarized myself with concepts like differential flexure, sensor tilts, adjustment screws, collimation tools, dislocated lenses, you name it! I'm only going to focus on refractors at this point cause things are looking much worse in the reflector world, at least in my opinion.

 

Before any of you jumps on me and rips me apart, allow me to say that I've tested all my scopes indoors using an out-of-focus artificial star, checking center and all 4 corners, so guiding or any other astrophotography "demons" are not in play here. It is also important to note that I've never used any accessories (like OAGs, filter wheels, etc.) when conducting my tests. Such accessories introduce their own "manufacturing" problems, so I've limited myself to the necessary extensions tubes/rings in order to achieve proper backfocus. I did try tilt adjustment in order to rule out sensor tilt where necessary. Moreover, I've always used the required flatteners/reducers (adjustable or non-adjustable) as well as many fine-adjustment-rings (0.3mm, 0.5mm, 0.8mm, 1mm, etc.).

 

Anyway, I promised to keep it short and most of you are already aware of those hurdles, so I'll cut to the chase. Is there any refractor out there (think small, widefield, 500mm or less) that is rock solid and doesn't require that I donate any of my organs in order to make it mine? Rock solid in my world (with my pathetic, little experience) means: 

  • Simple design that doesn't require a team of scientists to adjust/collimate, if it ever comes down to that (like a doublet for example).
  • No adjustable flatteners/reducers! Anything that can be adjusted is a potential source of flexure and/or tilting, in my experience.
  • Can cope with the bare minimum flexure/sag introduced by flatteners/reducers, astro cameras (mine is a ASI183MM Pro), filter drawers, OAG.
  • Has proper mounting rings (no **** L-brackets that flex like a banana under load).
  • Motor focuser (ZWO EAF) should be easy to install (so enough screws for accessories on the focuser base), without being afraid of voiding warranty (I'm looking at you, WO!).

Any suggestions (or criticism) are welcome.

 

Thank you for reading my rant and sorry if anything I've written upset you in any way!


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#2 Echolight

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Posted 25 September 2020 - 03:43 AM

Hmmm.......................

 

 

I don't know



#3 db2005

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Posted 25 September 2020 - 04:54 AM

I'm guessing very few amateurs are willing to pay for such quality you describe. For science/research use such prices could possibly be justifed, as reliability and reproducibility of results are often of paramount importance for research.

 

Although we sometimes gasp at the hefty prices of TV/AP/TAK/CFF/[whatever brand] scopes it's worth keeping in mind they are primarily marketed to dedicated amateurs, not for for professional science/research use. And compared with scientific-grade instruments they really aren't that expensive. When looking at prices for research-grade optics, premium amateur telescopes might even look inexpensive in comparison.

 

I'm guessing the scope that fits your bill best would be one of the Tak FSQ's, such as the Tak FSQ-85. I'm not familiar with the scope, though.


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#4 nyx

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Posted 25 September 2020 - 05:18 AM

I'm guessing very few amateurs are willing to pay for such quality you describe. For science/research use such prices could possibly be justifed, as reliability and reproducibility of results are often of paramount importance for research.

 

Although we sometimes gasp at the hefty prices of TV/AP/TAK/CFF/[whatever brand] scopes it's worth keeping in mind they are primarily marketed to dedicated amateurs, not for for professional science/research use. And compared with scientific-grade instruments they really aren't that expensive. When looking at prices for research-grade optics, premium amateur telescopes might even look inexpensive in comparison.

 

I'm guessing the scope that fits your bill best would be one of the Tak FSQ's, such as the Tak FSQ-85. I'm not familiar with the scope, though.

I agree that expensive is subjective. And yes this is a hobby for amateurs and nobody's life depends upon it. But realistically speaking, spending e.g. 1k on a scope (or anything else for that matter) is nothing to frown upon. Perhaps I'm expecting too much or this hobby is really too expensive for my wallet. It just feels so weird that in the astronomy world spending anything below 2k is considered to be....cheap. I cannot even say if such high prices are justified cause I'm not in the business.


Edited by nyx, 25 September 2020 - 05:19 AM.


#5 25585

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Posted 25 September 2020 - 05:23 AM

"...all my scopes"

 

Which are?



#6 nyx

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Posted 25 September 2020 - 05:39 AM

"...all my scopes"

 

Which are?

I currently own a SharpStar 61EDPHII.

 

I have owned/tested (and sold or returned):

 

William Optics Z61, Z73, Z103, GT81

Orion 6" RC

TS-Photon 6" F/4

 

So all "budget gear", although the Z103 did cost like 1.5k (with the flattener). But for astronomy standards, still dirt cheap.



#7 25585

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Posted 25 September 2020 - 05:46 AM

Pre-owned for new=expensive is something to consider. As has been suggested Takahashi FSQs 85 & 106 or Tele Vue 4 inch Petzvals Genesis SDF, 101 and NP101.


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#8 Jon Isaacs

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Posted 25 September 2020 - 05:48 AM

Simple design that doesn't require a team of scientists to adjust/collimate, if it ever comes down to that (like a doublet for example).
No adjustable flatteners/reducers! Anything that can be adjusted is a potential source of flexure and/or tilting, in my experience.

 

 

My biggest complaint relates to round stars (to the edge, please!).

 

This is the deal:

 

Standard refractors (doublets and triplets) have a curved focal plane.  At a focal length of 480mm, 15mm off-axis, the stars will be about 0.7mm out of focus.

 

To provide a flat field, you can either purchase a field flattener and deal with setting it up properly.  That is generally the more affordable option.

 

The second option is to purchase a telescope that is corrected for field curvature.  Such telescopes are very expensive.  They are not doublets. They need to have a rear lens section to correct for the field curvature.   You can buy scopes in the 70mm range that are corrected for field curvature, I don't know how really good they are.  

 

Astrophotography is expensive if you want perfect photos.  And it's not just money, it's time.   It all starts with the mount.  The mount should cost more than the telescope. 

 

If you just want to have some fun and enjoy images that are less than perfect, things are much more affordable. 

 

Jon


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#9 nyx

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Posted 25 September 2020 - 05:49 AM

Pre-owned for new=expensive is something to consider. As has been suggested Takahashi FSQs 85 & 106 or Tele Vue 4 inch Petzvals Genesis SDF, 101 and NP101.

The Taks our out of my reach, price-wise. I don't think I will ever throw more than 2k on a scope. As far as Petzvals are concerned, I've read quite a few times that they are very sensitive as far as collimation is concerned.



#10 nyx

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Posted 25 September 2020 - 05:53 AM

This is the deal:

 

Standard refractors (doublets and triplets) have a curved focal plane.  At a focal length of 480mm, 15mm off-axis, the stars will be about 0.7mm out of focus.

 

To provide a flat field, you can either purchase a field flattener and deal with setting it up properly.  That is generally the more affordable option.

 

The second option is to purchase a telescope that is corrected for field curvature.  Such telescopes are very expensive.  They are not doublets. They need to have a rear lens section to correct for the field curvature.   You can buy scopes in the 70mm range that are corrected for field curvature, I don't know how really good they are.  

 

Astrophotography is expensive if you want perfect photos.  And it's not just money, it's time.   It all starts with the mount.  The mount should cost more than the telescope. 

 

If you just want to have some fun and enjoy images that are less than perfect, things are much more affordable. 

 

Jon

Yeah, I think the best thing to do is to stop living in denial and accept the fact that astronomy is too expensive for my bank account.

 

I know the mount is #1, but I want to be confident of my optical system before spending hours freezing my **** only to find out my stars look bad because the scope doesn't do what I think it should do. But yes, you are 100% right. For perfect stars on the field, mount is #1.


Edited by nyx, 25 September 2020 - 05:57 AM.


#11 Jon Isaacs

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Posted 25 September 2020 - 06:06 AM

Yeah, I think the best thing to do is to stop living in denial and accept the fact that astronomy is too expensive for my bank account.

 

I know the mount is #1, but I want to be confident of my optical system before spending hours freezing my **** only to find out my stars look bad because the scope doesn't do what I think it should do. But yes, you are 100% right. For perfect stars on the field, mount is #1.

 

Maybe doing astronomy quite the way you want to do it is too expensive.  You want to buy a turn key telescope but are not comfortable with the cost.

 

Many wonderful photos have been taken with scopes like the Orion ED-80.  It's a matter of developing the skills required. Astrophotography is difficult but it's easier than it was 20 years ago or in the days of film.  

 

I prefer the visual side, I get to spend my time looking at the universe instead of looking at a computer screen and messing with a camera. 

 

Jon


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#12 25585

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Posted 25 September 2020 - 06:09 AM

The TSFlat2 is a visual field flattener that Teleskop Optics sell. Some Barlows also flatten fields to an extent. Generally longer FL refractors will have less field curvature, so a S-W ED 100mm F9 or Altair 102 F11 would be great for visual.



#13 nyx

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Posted 25 September 2020 - 06:23 AM

Maybe doing astronomy quite the way you want to do it is too expensive.  You want to buy a turn key telescope but are not comfortable with the cost.

 

Many wonderful photos have been taken with scopes like the Orion ED-80.  It's a matter of developing the skills required. Astrophotography is difficult but it's easier than it was 20 years ago or in the days of film.  

 

I prefer the visual side, I get to spend my time looking at the universe instead of looking at a computer screen and messing with a camera. 

 

Jon

Agreed on all points, but I don't even touched on topics like post-processing, or mounts that cost 10k (and track perfectly), or perfect seeing etc. I understand how "brutal" AP is. It's just unreal (in my opinion) that spending so much (again, for me) can only get you so far.

 

As far as the visual aspect is concerned, yeah, I was there. I went up to a 12" Dobson, which is the maximum I could comfortably transport (I only do astronomy from a bortle 4 zone, which means I'm 1 hour on the road to get there) only to sell it last month. I wanted to see more detail from the faint stuff. I guess I'll come back when I can afford a house in a bortle 3/4 zone and a 36" dobson :)



#14 nyx

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Posted 25 September 2020 - 06:24 AM

The TSFlat2 is a visual field flattener that Teleskop Optics sell. Some Barlows also flatten fields to an extent. Generally longer FL refractors will have less field curvature, so a S-W ED 100mm F9 or Altair 102 F11 would be great for visual.

May be. But we are talking AP here :)


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#15 Jon Isaacs

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Posted 25 September 2020 - 06:53 AM

Agreed on all points, but I don't even touched on topics like post-processing, or mounts that cost 10k (and track perfectly), or perfect seeing etc. I understand how "brutal" AP is. It's just unreal (in my opinion) that spending so much (again, for me) can only get you so far.

 

As far as the visual aspect is concerned, yeah, I was there. I went up to a 12" Dobson, which is the maximum I could comfortably transport (I only do astronomy from a bortle 4 zone, which means I'm 1 hour on the road to get there) only to sell it last month. I wanted to see more detail from the faint stuff. I guess I'll come back when I can afford a house in a bortle 3/4 zone and a 36" dobson smile.gif

The key to seeing more detail in the faint stuff.. eyepiece time, developing your observing skills.  The more you look, the more you see.

 

You have been doing this 2 years.  How many nights is that?   I average 150 nights a year, I am 72, been doing this about 30 years, my eyes are not what they used to be but I am still learning.. 

 

Jon


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#16 gnowellsct

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Posted 25 September 2020 - 07:08 AM

Good Lord gave you Adobe to cut off corners for a reason.

The rant appears directed at low and mid grade gear from China.

That's the gear that keeps the high end producers in business.

You buy a tire for 60 bucks You really think it's going to have the same wet dry and ice performance as the one that costs $175?

https://www.hagerty....might-kill-you/
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#17 nyx

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Posted 25 September 2020 - 07:22 AM

The key to seeing more detail in the faint stuff.. eyepiece time, developing your observing skills.  The more you look, the more you see.

 

You have been doing this 2 years.  How many nights is that?   I average 150 nights a year, I am 72, been doing this about 30 years, my eyes are not what they used to be but I am still learning.. 

 

Jon

Where I live, we "lose" 3 months of astronomical darkness per year. That alone affects a lot how much faint detail you can pull out of a DSO, visually. The rest of the year, it tends to get really cold. I've had nights observing at -10°C. Let me put it this way: it's rewarding the uncomfortable at the same time. The good thing is, the nights that is really cold, it is usually really, really clear. I've bought a full set of heated clothing/gear to battle such conditions, so that I can have more eyepiece time.

 

The next problem is, I live in the city. In my opinion, it is not worth it doing visual in the city. It might be for some people, not for me. I did it in the beginning from my balcony. I learned a lot of vital stuff. Constellations, star hopping, working with the Telrad and a night sky map (no fancy gadgets!). All fun stuff. I reached the point where I can look at the sky and show people the rough areas where DSOs are. There are at least 30-40 DSOs, I don't even need to consult a map anymore.

 

You mentioned 150 nights. Consider yourself a lucky guy. I consider myself lucky if I get 4-5 nights a month. There are times, where a month goes by and all you have is clouds. Sometimes enough for visual, but not AP. But as I mentioned, the best months are the ones when it is really cold outside. I've had at least 30 nights where I was literally wiping the tears from my eyes (due to the low temperatures and light, freezing wind) trying to enjoy the view through the eyepiece. And in order to enjoy that, I need to travel 1 hour to get to bortle 4 and then 1 hour to get back home. Consider all the wild life (like wild boars roaming around) while being in the middle of nowhere :)

 

I'm all for visual astronomy and sometimes I think I'd better invested the money I've spent in AP in a big truss dobson. Having owned a very nice 12" truss dobson, I now know there is 1) no way to comfortably fit anything bigger than that in the car and 2) no way I'll be lifting any heavier than that if I want to reach your age with a healthy back.


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#18 nyx

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Posted 25 September 2020 - 07:29 AM

Good Lord gave you Adobe to cut off corners for a reason.

The rant appears directed at low and mid grade gear from China.

That's the gear that keeps the high end producers in business.

You buy a tire for 60 bucks You really think it's going to have the same wet dry and ice performance as the one that costs $175?

https://www.hagerty....might-kill-you/

I get your point, but sometimes it's a bit worse than having elongated stars just on the edges/corners.

 

On another note, astronomy is a fairly new thing for me (compared to someone like Jon or yourself). You might know for a fact that something that costs 1-1.5k is "low grade gear". I don't. I do now. 



#19 PatrickVt

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Posted 25 September 2020 - 08:07 AM

"You mentioned 150 nights. Consider yourself a lucky guy. I consider myself lucky if I get 4-5 nights a month."

 

I consider myself lucky if I get one night a month.  Four to five nights a month is like an impossible dream.  I highly doubt I would have the time to devote that much time to any one hobby anyway.  On top of that, I have a pretty solid six months of winter where snow is falling from the sky constantly.  I don't let it bother me though.  I have plenty of other things to do each day and each night.  In the end, I get about six nights a year due to the long snowy winters and most of those nights are only observing sessions with the wife and/or grandkids.  On a rare occasion, I get to do some imaging which turns out to be maybe once or twice a year.  I think if I devoted 150 nights a year to any one hobby, it would be more like a job and quickly become boring.  
 

I believe that part of this hobby and any hobby is learning how to properly maintain and configure your equipment for a minimum of fuss.  It is never "no fuss" but it can be maintained and configured for a minimum of fuss.  Honestly, I can't think of a single hobby that I have (and I have a lot of them) that is no fuss.  One could argue that astrophotography requires more fussing than simply observing but even that isn't true.  It all depends upon how much of a perfectionist the person is while observing vs during astrophotography.  I'm always striving to improve the quality of my observed night skies so I'd say I'm kind of fussy that way.  Astrophotography...  I'm no more fussy.  I'm certainly not a pixel-peeper diving deep into the corners away from the subject of my image looking for the slightest indication of imperfection.  

 

If someone demands ease and perfection right out of the box, every time, everyday, I think that person would be frustrated in any hobby unless they have a full support team of professional maintainers and setup crew.  They maintain it, they set it up, they test it, then you come out and do your thing.  Then they put everything away and then maintain it again for the next session.  That would be as close to no fuss as one could get but then your cost is astronomical. 

 

In this hobby, anyone should be able to find happiness in a $1000 scope, $2000 mount, and a few thousand dollars in astrophotography gear.  People do it every night with far less and are always quite happy.  A $2000 scope and a $4000 mount could provide less fuss but there would still be enough fuss to make for some very frustrating and unproductive nights.  Even big observatories have bad and unproductive nights and that is with whole teams trying to minimize problems.  I don't see any hobby being any different though and life would be pretty boring if everything was no fuss and simple to do.

 

Patrick  


Edited by PatrickVt, 25 September 2020 - 08:15 AM.

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#20 Bomber Bob

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Posted 25 September 2020 - 08:23 AM

The next problem is, I live in the city. In my opinion, it is not worth it doing visual in the city.

 

That's too bad.  I also live in the city under Bortle 6/7 skies.  Given the location, I don't go after the faintest fuzzies -- mainly the biggest & brightest.  My main targets are the planets; and, we're they're not around, double stars & open star clusters.  With high-contrast scopes, my back yard isn't a big limiting factor for those objects.  IOW:  adapt & overcome.

 

AP?  Planetary only for me at home.  I enjoy reviewing the videos, and experimenting with post-processing, on our many cloudy nights when I can't haul a scope outside.


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#21 nyx

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Posted 25 September 2020 - 08:23 AM

"You mentioned 150 nights. Consider yourself a lucky guy. I consider myself lucky if I get 4-5 nights a month."

 

I consider myself lucky if I get one night a month.  Four to five nights a month is like an impossible dream.  I highly doubt I would have the time to devote that much time to any one hobby anyway.  On top of that, I have a pretty solid six months of winter where snow is falling from the sky constantly.  I don't let it bother me though.  I have plenty of other things to do each day and each night.  In the end, I get about six nights a year due to the long snowy winters and most of those nights are only observing sessions with the wife and/or grandkids.  On a rare occasion, I get to do some imaging which turns out to be maybe once or twice a year.  I think if I devoted 150 nights a year to any one hobby, it would be more like a job and quickly become boring.  
 

I believe that part of this hobby and any hobby is learning how to properly maintain and configure your equipment for a minimum of fuss.  It is never "no fuss" but it can be maintained and configured for a minimum of fuss.  Honestly, I can't think of a single hobby that I have (and I have a lot of them) that is no fuss.  One could argue that astrophotography requires more fussing than simply observing but even that isn't true.  It all depends upon how much of a perfectionist the person is while observing vs during astrophotography.  I'm always striving to improve the quality of my observed night skies so I'd say I'm kind of fussy that way.  Astrophotography...  I'm no more fussy.  I'm certainly not a pixel-peeper diving deep into the corners away from the subject of my image looking for the slightest indication of imperfection.  

 

If someone demands ease and perfection right out of the box, every time, everyday, I think that person would be frustrated in any hobby unless they have a full support team of professional maintainers and setup crew.  They maintain it, they set it up, they test it, then you come out and do your thing.  Then they put everything away.  That would be as close to no fuss as one could get but then your cost is astronomical. 

 

In this hobby, anyone should be able to find happiness in a $1000 scope, $2000 mount, and a few thousand dollars in astrophotography gear.  People do it every night with far less and are always quite happy.  A $2000 scope and a $4000 mount could provide less fuss but there would still be enough fuss to make for some very frustrating and unproductive nights.  Even big observatories have bad and unproductive nights and that is with whole teams trying to minimize problems.  I don't see any hobby being any different though and life would be pretty boring if everything was no fuss and simple to do.

 

Patrick  

You are absolutely right. Though, if I were to be a e.g. professional photographer trying to get an amazing landscape picture, I'd rather let getting to the location where I'll be shooting be the fuss (whether it is climbing, hiking, driving through rough terrain or snow) than my 2k camera that doesn't work how I expect it to work.

 

Like I said, I now understand that I had false expectations.

 

The weather is for me, like in your case, one of the biggest limiting factors, which is why I try to make every night count and strive to be ready and prepared. 


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#22 nyx

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Posted 25 September 2020 - 08:29 AM

The next problem is, I live in the city. In my opinion, it is not worth it doing visual in the city.

 

That's too bad.  I also live in the city under Bortle 6/7 skies.  Given the location, I don't go after the faintest fuzzies -- mainly the biggest & brightest.  My main targets are the planets; and, we're they're not around, double stars & open star clusters.  With high-contrast scopes, my back yard isn't a big limiting factor for those objects.  IOW:  adapt & overcome.

 

AP?  Planetary only for me at home.  I enjoy reviewing the videos, and experimenting with post-processing, on our many cloudy nights when I can't haul a scope outside.

Yeah well, I don't do any astronomy in the city anymore. As I mentioned before, it isn't worth it in my opinion. Plus, I use it as an excuse to get out of the city and experience the nature (albeit in the night), instead of being lazy, sitting on a couch.

 

Planets and double stars are not my thing. I like nebulae and galaxies. Photographing galaxies is out of the question due to financial and practical reasons, so narrowband widefield is where I put my focus (and money) on.



#23 Bomber Bob

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Posted 25 September 2020 - 08:40 AM

Good Luck!   I'm not aware of any mid-tier fast APO that wouldn't require a field flattener to get the results you're after.  I'm pretty sure that many CN members who post DSO pix here have done some cropping in their post-processing -- or they just don't worry about edge bloat...


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#24 nyx

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Posted 25 September 2020 - 08:42 AM

Good Luck!   I'm not aware of any mid-tier fast APO that wouldn't require a field flattener to get the results you're after.  I'm pretty sure that many CN members who post DSO pix here have done some cropping in their post-processing -- or they just don't worry about edge bloat...

Thanks. I've never said anything about using no flattener though. But you are right, I have to accept the edge bloat.


Edited by nyx, 25 September 2020 - 08:42 AM.


#25 Bomber Bob

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Posted 25 September 2020 - 08:51 AM

I know this is the refractor forum, and I'm a lifelong Refractor Fan, but have you looked at the EdgeHD's?

 

And, after 50 years of observing, IME the more pieces of glass you put between yourself & the object, the more problematic the views (or imaging, in your case).  I try to avoid even Barlows for high-power / planetary.  If I were you, I'd look at brand new mid-tier fast ED Triplets; or, used top-tier Fluorite Doublets, to make the videos.  Then, do the serious clean-up in post-processing.  IOW:  Gather the best data you can, then work it as best you can for the desired results.




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