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New to Astrophotography. Budget = $5,000

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#1 Wishmasta07

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Posted 10 December 2020 - 04:01 PM

Hi all. I will be getting into astrophotography and I must say this has been a wild ride trying to decide where to start. Firstly, I'm a "buy once, cry once" kind of guy. Perhaps this isn't the hobby for that, but I'd prefer not to start on one full setup and then as I improve purchase additional setups.

I'll keep this short:

 

Currently I have a Meade 8" SCT on an alt-azimuth - This one:

https://agenaastro.c...-telescope.html

 

  • I've read many reviews that SCTs are awful and terribly difficult to figure out and others that just love them.
  • I'm back and forth between needing a CGEM, a wedge, or a different approach all together.
  • I've read raving reviews regarding DSLRs such as the Canon EOS Ra and others that say to stick to a astrophotography-specific cooled camera (such as the Starlight Xpress 814). I'm open to either type of option.

 

I'm starting from scratch and have a budget of up to $5,000.

 

Thanks in advance for any support or ideas from this excellent community and clear skies!



#2 jrcrilly

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Posted 10 December 2020 - 04:16 PM

SCTs can be used for imaging (I have shot through many of them), but the focal length is a challenge for a new imager and really demands an excellent mount.

 

I'd invest $3500 or so into a high quality used mount - for example, the EM-200 can be found in the $3000 range and will easily outperform anything else in that price class. If you can't find one, maybe a G11 - but try for the Tak. Then divide the rest of your budget between a good 80mm apo refractor and a decent (COOLED) camera, either new or used. Later, if you decide to stick with it, you can offload the Meade and pick up another SCT OTA to use on the EQ mount for the smaller objects. You will never regret starting with an excellent mount.



#3 rj144

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Posted 10 December 2020 - 04:17 PM

I can't add anything of insight, but that's a great budget for a starter. ;)


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#4 rk2k2

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Posted 10 December 2020 - 04:18 PM

If it were me, knowing what I know now and already owning a DSLR and a mirrorless, I'd put $3000 - $4000 into a mount and another $500 - $1000 towards a 72mm - 102mm APO.

 

I learned on the 'cheap' to determine if I'd stick with it or let it be a 'passing phase', and once I was convinced I'd stick with it, I bought a $3000 mount and recently a $1200 APO. 


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#5 Alucard400

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Posted 10 December 2020 - 04:27 PM

From knowing nothing to my current experience after 3 years into the hobby. I know which equipment and gear to buy now.  If I were you, buy nothing for 3 months and read around all about equipment and the needs and requirements.  you could pick a scope, and then realize you want to upgrade. so you do and then realize you have to upgrade a new mount. you could find out guidescope with a guide camera isn't sufficient so you have to do off axis guiding with an SCT. then later you want to go from an SCT with field curvature to an EdgeHD 800 to have a flat field. 

 

if you don't want to hold off that long and research. Buy a new mount. I don't recommend used. Get the Sky Watcher EQ6-R Pro.  It's a popular mount and you can control it with a pc/laptop. Don't go CGEM. I went through two of them before switching to a Skywatcher EQ6-R. I highly recommend a widefield 72mm refractor or 102mm to get started. go big at 127mm later when you're experienced.  Don't buy a standard AR non ED refractor. Make sure it's ED glass or FPL51 or FPL-53. You can tell by price when a 127mm refractor used or brand new costs more than $1000. 72mm ED refractors would be at minimum $400.

 

TL:DR

Buy a EQ6-R pro

Get a QHY Polemaster

 

then spend A LOT of time on researching scopes. SCTs, EdgeHDs and refractors.  Go to Star Parties (obviously can't right now because of COVID19 conditions). if you can, pick a refractor that does not have a cheap focuser (but okay to do if you decide to upgrade the focuser to a Moonlite or an expensive Feathertouch).  Skywatcher Evostars and Explore Scientific Essentials are affordably cheap but have average or **** poor focusers to use for heavy Astrophotography image trains.  Skywatcher Espirits are higher quality.


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#6 bobzeq25

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Posted 10 December 2020 - 04:41 PM

Hi all. I will be getting into astrophotography and I must say this has been a wild ride trying to decide where to start. Firstly, I'm a "buy once, cry once" kind of guy. Perhaps this isn't the hobby for that, but I'd prefer not to start on one full setup and then as I improve purchase additional setups.

I'll keep this short:

 

Currently I have a Meade 8" SCT on an alt-azimuth - This one:

https://agenaastro.c...-telescope.html

 

  • I've read many reviews that SCTs are awful and terribly difficult to figure out and others that just love them.
  • I'm back and forth between needing a CGEM, a wedge, or a different approach all together.
  • I've read raving reviews regarding DSLRs such as the Canon EOS Ra and others that say to stick to a astrophotography-specific cooled camera (such as the Starlight Xpress 814). I'm open to either type of option.

 

I'm starting from scratch and have a budget of up to $5,000.

 

Thanks in advance for any support or ideas from this excellent community and clear skies!

Ideas.  Overriding thing.  This is just not intuitive.  Using your intuition can send you down some bad roads.  Knowledge, and listening to others experiences, is the antidote.

 

Understand why you see different things about SCTs.  SCTs are not bad for _doing_ imaging.  They are a bad choice for _learning_ imaging.  Read these quotes with that in mind.

 

"I regret spending the first 6 months trying to learn imaging with an 8" Edge, with that scope it was a losing effort. Fortunately got a nice little refractor, and not only have the quality of my images improved but I'm actually enjoying the process of learning how to do it!"

 

"I started out with a CPC 800  on a heavy duty wedge and a Canon 450d.  In hindsight, I'd have started with an 80mm refractor <on a good equatorial mount> .  I would have saved a lot of money and gotten up the learning curve a lot quicker."

 

"First and foremost is listen to the folks who have been there. The philosophy of 80MM APO and good $1500-2000 mount is great advice for beginners. Sure you can possibly <learn to> image as a beginner with something that is larger or that you may have but holy cow its hard enough with something small."

 

Holy cow, it is.  <smile>

 

The SCT will cause you any number of problems, and will get in your way.  It makes everything much harder, right down to locating your target.  It makes it very hard to diagnose issues, so you can learn the proper ways to fix them.  You have a lot of far more important things to struggle with than the scope.  You want one which gets out of your way.  That's the small refractor.

 

Just not the right tool for your job.  <smile>  Like learning driving on a Formula One car.  Or learning to build fine furniture while banging in nails with a crescent wrench.

 

Cooled cameras are substantially better.  Lower noise, easier to do darks.  And they come with good sensitivity for emission nebulae, which unmodified DSLRs don't.  They are now amazingly inexpensive.

 

People on low budgets may profit from using an existing DSLR.  On your $5000 budget, get a cooled camera.  A 533 is a good, inexpensive one.

 

The most important thing to discuss is the most important thing for your setup.  The mount.  It's more important than the scope or the camera. 

 

Did I mention this was unintuitive?  <smile>

 

Buy the best you can afford and carry.  It's the one (and only) thing where "buy once, cry once" works really well.  There is no such thing as "too good" a mount, the better the mount, the faster/easier you'll learn this marvelous, but oh so complicated hobby.  It's good for _both_ learning and doing.  No one has ever regretted getting "too good" a mount.

 

On a $5000 budget a wedge is silly.  A CGEM is skimping on the mount.  One of the two common beginner errors (the other is starting with too big a scope).  Something like an iOptron CEM70 or a Losmandy G11 would be a good choice for "BOCO".

 

This is a complicated deal.  Short posts here can only do so much.  You need to build your knowledge base, and by far the best way to do that is with good books.  My bookshelf is extensive, here's a great one to start with.

 

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


Edited by bobzeq25, 10 December 2020 - 04:47 PM.

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#7 Jinux

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Posted 10 December 2020 - 04:56 PM

You will never regret starting with an excellent mount.

 

This is golden. I couldn't agree more.

If you have an excellent mount, even SCT can be a good "learning" platform, just rougher and limited in choosing targets. But it can be very versatile with various FR/FF options. With a good mount, SCT will be a challenge. With an okay mount, it's a nightmare.


Edited by Jinux, 10 December 2020 - 04:57 PM.


#8 idclimber

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Posted 10 December 2020 - 06:09 PM

I started this journey back in February with a 12" Meade. Here are my thoughts. 

 

SCTs in general are really not the best for imaging. They can be setup for it, but it gets expensive and complicated real quick. I consider mine a specialty instrument for small targets only to be used when seeing conditions permit, which is simply rare. Your sky conditions may be better. This is irregardless of experience. 

 

An 8" SCT is significantly more difficult for a novice. Everything is harder and AP is hard enough. Bob is correct and he can add me to the list of testimonials if I could ever write well enough to quote.

 

Even with good skies my refractor images simply look better. 

 

The ACF scopes that Meade makes were a great idea, but are lacking support by them and others for a proper reducer and flattener. The standard Meade f/6.3 unit is not designed for these optics. I believed Optec makes one, but I believe it also requires their expensive focuser. Imaging at f/10 is simply madness especially with older cameras. 

 

Get the best mount you can. It is way more important than any novice really appreciates. 



#9 Wishmasta07

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Posted 10 December 2020 - 06:49 PM

If it were me, knowing what I know now and already owning a DSLR and a mirrorless, I'd put $3000 - $4000 into a mount and another $500 - $1000 towards a 72mm - 102mm APO.

 

I learned on the 'cheap' to determine if I'd stick with it or let it be a 'passing phase', and once I was convinced I'd stick with it, I bought a $3000 mount and recently a $1200 APO. 

Which mount and APO setup did you go with?



#10 Wishmasta07

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Posted 10 December 2020 - 07:06 PM

Ideas.  Overriding thing.  This is just not intuitive.  Using your intuition can send you down some bad roads.  Knowledge, and listening to others experiences, is the antidote.

 

Understand why you see different things about SCTs.  SCTs are not bad for _doing_ imaging.  They are a bad choice for _learning_ imaging.  Read these quotes with that in mind.

 

"I regret spending the first 6 months trying to learn imaging with an 8" Edge, with that scope it was a losing effort. Fortunately got a nice little refractor, and not only have the quality of my images improved but I'm actually enjoying the process of learning how to do it!"

 

"I started out with a CPC 800  on a heavy duty wedge and a Canon 450d.  In hindsight, I'd have started with an 80mm refractor <on a good equatorial mount> .  I would have saved a lot of money and gotten up the learning curve a lot quicker."

 

"First and foremost is listen to the folks who have been there. The philosophy of 80MM APO and good $1500-2000 mount is great advice for beginners. Sure you can possibly <learn to> image as a beginner with something that is larger or that you may have but holy cow its hard enough with something small."

 

Holy cow, it is.  <smile>

 

The SCT will cause you any number of problems, and will get in your way.  It makes everything much harder, right down to locating your target.  It makes it very hard to diagnose issues, so you can learn the proper ways to fix them.  You have a lot of far more important things to struggle with than the scope.  You want one which gets out of your way.  That's the small refractor.

 

Just not the right tool for your job.  <smile>  Like learning driving on a Formula One car.  Or learning to build fine furniture while banging in nails with a crescent wrench.

 

Cooled cameras are substantially better.  Lower noise, easier to do darks.  And they come with good sensitivity for emission nebulae, which unmodified DSLRs don't.  They are now amazingly inexpensive.

 

People on low budgets may profit from using an existing DSLR.  On your $5000 budget, get a cooled camera.  A 533 is a good, inexpensive one.

 

The most important thing to discuss is the most important thing for your setup.  The mount.  It's more important than the scope or the camera. 

 

Did I mention this was unintuitive?  <smile>

 

Buy the best you can afford and carry.  It's the one (and only) thing where "buy once, cry once" works really well.  There is no such thing as "too good" a mount, the better the mount, the faster/easier you'll learn this marvelous, but oh so complicated hobby.  It's good for _both_ learning and doing.  No one has ever regretted getting "too good" a mount.

 

On a $5000 budget a wedge is silly.  A CGEM is skimping on the mount.  One of the two common beginner errors (the other is starting with too big a scope).  Something like an iOptron CEM70 or a Losmandy G11 would be a good choice for "BOCO".

 

This is a complicated deal.  Short posts here can only do so much.  You need to build your knowledge base, and by far the best way to do that is with good books.  My bookshelf is extensive, here's a great one to start with.

 

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

I've looked into that back and have it added to the wishlist for Xmas ideas! Thanks for the recommendation.

 

As for a mount - that iOptron CEM70 looks like it meets all of the specifications so I will be keeping my eye on that as I continue to learn more about this hobby.

I think you recommended the ZWO ASI533MC Pro. I also have on my list the ZWO 1600M/C Pro. At the end of the day I'm not going to remember the extra $500 I spent on the camera if the pictures are much better. What are your thoughts between the two?

 

Any particular scope you recommend? BTW - I'm not really interested in solar, planetary, or lunar imaging. Primarily interested in DSO - nebulae and galaxies.



#11 Wishmasta07

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Posted 10 December 2020 - 07:16 PM

From knowing nothing to my current experience after 3 years into the hobby. I know which equipment and gear to buy now.  If I were you, buy nothing for 3 months and read around all about equipment and the needs and requirements.  you could pick a scope, and then realize you want to upgrade. so you do and then realize you have to upgrade a new mount. you could find out guidescope with a guide camera isn't sufficient so you have to do off axis guiding with an SCT. then later you want to go from an SCT with field curvature to an EdgeHD 800 to have a flat field. 

 

if you don't want to hold off that long and research. Buy a new mount. I don't recommend used. Get the Sky Watcher EQ6-R Pro.  It's a popular mount and you can control it with a pc/laptop. Don't go CGEM. I went through two of them before switching to a Skywatcher EQ6-R. I highly recommend a widefield 72mm refractor or 102mm to get started. go big at 127mm later when you're experienced.  Don't buy a standard AR non ED refractor. Make sure it's ED glass or FPL51 or FPL-53. You can tell by price when a 127mm refractor used or brand new costs more than $1000. 72mm ED refractors would be at minimum $400.

 

TL:DR

Buy a EQ6-R pro

Get a QHY Polemaster

 

then spend A LOT of time on researching scopes. SCTs, EdgeHDs and refractors.  Go to Star Parties (obviously can't right now because of COVID19 conditions). if you can, pick a refractor that does not have a cheap focuser (but okay to do if you decide to upgrade the focuser to a Moonlite or an expensive Feathertouch).  Skywatcher Evostars and Explore Scientific Essentials are affordably cheap but have average or **** poor focusers to use for heavy Astrophotography image trains.  Skywatcher Espirits are higher quality.

So the setup I'm seeing by your post here would be something like:

 

Skywatcher Esprit 100mm ED APO Triplet Refractor - $2500

EQ6-R pro - $1600

QHY Polemaster - $269

 

Total: $4369



#12 idclimber

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Posted 10 December 2020 - 07:23 PM

I would suggest the CEM70 instead of the EQ6-R

Any 80mm scope with a flattener over a 100 (I should have followed this advice)

Skip the Polemaster. Use Sharpcap or another program that uses the main or guide scope instead. 

Guide scope and camera for refractor. 


Edited by idclimber, 10 December 2020 - 07:24 PM.

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#13 jrcrilly

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Posted 10 December 2020 - 08:16 PM

I STRONGLY advise:

 

Spend at least half of your budget on an excellent mount. A $2500 refractor on a $1600 mount makes no sense. It costs a lot of money to buy a 5% improvement in an optical tube but the same added money invested in a mount can bring much greater enhancements.

 

Find a way to get into a premium mount such as those produced in Japan, USA, or Italy. Your budget won't get you into a premium mount unless you go second hand. A second hand premium mount is the best single investment you can make. They can usually be found, offered by folks who have upgraded to larger mounts or have retired from imaging. Mach 1, AP900, EM-200, NJP are examples of popular top tier mounts that can be found within your budget . You will never be even tempted to replace one of these unless your capacity requirements increase. That is the only reason my EM-200, NJP, and AP-900 left. Second tier mounts are also available, especially the G11 - they sold LOTS of those over the years. Still a big step up from the imports I see mentioned here. You would probably still want to upgrade eventually, but not right away. 



#14 jonnybravo0311

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Posted 10 December 2020 - 08:17 PM

Do you have everything else necessary? It's not just the mount, camera and scope :)

 

Mount

Main camera

Main scope

Flattener/Reducer

Guide camera

Guide scope

Scope-side computer

Power

Dew heaters

Various cables to connect everything

Various adapters (spacers, extension tubes)

Various software applications to run it all

Optional: auto-focuser

 

Pretty sure I've forgotten something in my list... but my point is that VERY quickly hits your $5000 budget cap.


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#15 Alucard400

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Posted 10 December 2020 - 09:02 PM

So the setup I'm seeing by your post here would be something like:

 

Skywatcher Esprit 100mm ED APO Triplet Refractor - $2500

EQ6-R pro - $1600

QHY Polemaster - $269

 

Total: $4369

It gets expensive quickly as you can see. you stated a $5000 budget, but what I recommended is just to get started. You will forever be bound to be upgrading your gear.  I hate to say that, trying to cheapen out means you're trying to compromise. That usually leads to a bad path.



#16 bobzeq25

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Posted 10 December 2020 - 09:26 PM

I've looked into that back and have it added to the wishlist for Xmas ideas! Thanks for the recommendation.

 

As for a mount - that iOptron CEM70 looks like it meets all of the specifications so I will be keeping my eye on that as I continue to learn more about this hobby.

I think you recommended the ZWO ASI533MC Pro. I also have on my list the ZWO 1600M/C Pro. At the end of the day I'm not going to remember the extra $500 I spent on the camera if the pictures are much better. What are your thoughts between the two?

 

Any particular scope you recommend? BTW - I'm not really interested in solar, planetary, or lunar imaging. Primarily interested in DSO - nebulae and galaxies.

 

 

I have the CEM70's predecessor, the CEM60.  Like it.

 

The 1600 has a larger chip than the 533, wider field of view.  It's an older camera (one of the first astro CMOS), has some issues with very bright stars.  ZWO no longer makes the 1600 as a color camera. 

 

A 294 gets you the big chip in a more modern camera.

 

Scope.  It's easiest to go by characteristics.  Short, light, and fast are all good.

 

No more than 600mm focal length.  480 is better.

No more than 10 pounds, 5 is better.

No slower than F6, faster is better.

 

Two good choices.  Inexpensive starter scope.  You'll make _far_ better decisions on how to spend money after some experience.  High quality small scope, good to learn on, keep it forever for big targets.

 

Example of each.

 

https://www.astronom...fpl-53-f-6.html

 

https://www.skywatch...t-apo-refractor

 

Bigger is _not_ better, right now.

 

There are many choices.  Match the characteristics, and this is not a crucial choice (like the mount is). 

 

Just as a small scope is better to learn on, so are big bright targets.  They make problems obvious, so you can fix them.  _Many_ nebulae qualify.  A few galaxies, M31, M33.  Some galaxy groups like the Leo Trio and M81/82.  Star clusters are excellent to start with, you can even do them with some Moon out.  Pleiades.  Double Cluster.  M35.  M13.

 

Markarian's Chain is an intermediate target.  Many galaxies of various sizes.  You can see how many you can get.  You need the small scope to take it all (or most of it, anyway) in.

 

All those targets are suitable for small scopes.  I've imaged them all.


Edited by bobzeq25, 10 December 2020 - 09:44 PM.


#17 ryanha

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Posted 10 December 2020 - 10:38 PM

  If I were you, buy nothing for 3 months and read around all about equipment and the needs and requirements. 

This is great advice, tbh.  Also about the SCT, that is where I started and I love mine, but it definitely is harder.

 

For a full setup, make sure to have your checklist:
 

- Mount & tripod

- OTA (telescope part)

- Imaging camera

- (if monochrome camera) Filter wheel and filters

- Guide scope

- Guide camera

- Motorized focuser (if you want to do full night automated imaging and/or auto focus)

- Processing software (e.g. DSS, PixInsight, PhotoShop, other)

- PC (laptop or scope mount or really long USB/Ethernet cable)

- Misc cables and doo dads

 

(am I missing anything?)

 

Those pieces can easily add up quickly.  

 

Biggest decisions to start with are:

- Camera: Cooled astrocamera or DSLR.

- Camera: Mono or one shot color

- OTA: Key questions: Focal length of the targets you want.  E.g. how wide of a field.  SCT is narrow field, refractor is wider field.  Also longer focal length (SCT) will be harder to get right due to lots of factors (mirror, guiding, smaller error tolerance). That is fine if you are a "harder is better" type person (I am such a person) but that is not for everyone. 

 

There are a lot of trade offs and tbh, this will add up to $5k really quickly smile.gif

 

--Ryan


Edited by ryanha, 10 December 2020 - 10:40 PM.

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#18 fetoma

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Posted 10 December 2020 - 10:38 PM

Don't forget PixInsight for image processing.



#19 joeytroy

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Posted 10 December 2020 - 11:54 PM

Everyone is sending you down a rabbit hole, don't tell a forum you got money to spend cause they will all build you a custom setup and tell you where to spend your money lol.gif you will buy it all and then not know where to start.

 

Restart your post and try this.

 

Hey all I am have never done AP and I have 5K budget. Before getting crazy with spending money I would like to know what it takes to get started, and how much time I will be spending outside freezing my kester off to capture amazing images. I live in _____ bortles class skies do I need filters? I want to take images of the following objects in space _______ and _______ and _______, oh and maybe even planets. Besides my concern with gear what types of applications will I need to learn? Is it better to use a laptop with a bunch of software or am I better off investing in a ZWOASI Air pro which can guide, plate solve, and take images easier for me? I have spent a lot of time reading forums and think I want to stick with a One Shot Color camera as I only have _____ time a day to shoot or should I bite the bullet and go Mono? Let me know.

 

Honestly, check out my website in my signature and see what I have done since July of 2020. I have spent a decent chunk on my equipment but I also started with a DSLR and a tripod and worked my way to a barn door with some cheap lenses and then moved into a RedCat 51, Skyguider Pro (sent it back) to a Sky-Watcher EQM35, then to a ZWO ASI Air pro with guide scope and PixInsight to edit images. All these months later I now have got a good understanding on how to shoot the stars. The newest thing I have learned is you need to dither to help with noise, and you need to shoot for at least 6 hours on an object to get a good picture. This hobby takes lots of time and lots of work and lots of support from your fellow Cloudy Nights brother and sisters! Not to mention the weather to work in your favor. There is no wrong or right setup it's all based on what you want to do and where you want go.

 

Here is a current shot of M42 The Orion Nebula & NGC1977 The Running Man I recently took. This is a total of 6.75 hours at 81x5-minute exposures and I had to throw out 9 other shots due to issues with tracking or other issues with the photos. This was done over the last 8 days of on and off good or bad weather and it's raining tonight so no shooting. I tell you this all so you can get an idea of what it takes to end up with something you might be happy with.

 

Best of luck!

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Edited by joeytroy, 10 December 2020 - 11:55 PM.

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#20 Stelios

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Posted 11 December 2020 - 03:54 AM

A $5K mount unfortunately doesn't go very far if it includes a good mount, a decent scope, and a dedicated camera. An example for a new scope and mount with VERY rough numbers:

 

1) CEM70 mount with tri-pier  $3,100.

2) Nice 80mm triplet refractor + flattener or reducer $1,100

3) ASI294MM-Pro + FW + medium quality filters $2,000 (or ASI294MC-Pro $1,000)

4) Guidescope and guide camera $250

5) Auto-focus solution $250+

6) Books and software $400

7) Cases, batteries, cables, bahtinov mask, light panels $500+

 

Total $6,600 - $7,600+ depending on camera and that's fairly conservative.

 

With *current* scope:

 

1) CEM70 mount with tri-pier  $3,100.

2) Reducer $90

3) OAG + OAG-level camera $450

4) ASI294MM-Pro + FW + medium quality filters $2,000 (or ASI294MC-Pro $1,000) 

5) Books and software $400

6) Cases, batteries, cables, bahtinov mask, light panels $500+

 

Total around $5,500-$6,500 depending on camera. 

 

The problem with the current scope is mainly field of view which is relatively restricted. But other than that, I find many of the objections fanciful. An 8" SCT is not *that* massive. The CEM70 (or a Losmandy G11) should handle it with ease. The OAG will allow you to guide well. If you are imaging from a Bortle 5 or better area, then the color camera will do a good job. If from more LP areas, it would be worth it springing for the mono.

 

All, of course, IMO. I started with a $3,000 budget in 2013, and I already had a mount and 3 scopes (but no camera or laptop). I am more than $20K into the hobby since then, and I'm a Camry and Civic class person. I am glad I didn't start with a big budget though, because I would've bought the wrong things. Much of what is popular today, both hardware and software, either didn't exist then or wasn't popular, and some things I needed (such as a flat panel and auto-focuser) I wouldn't have thought of buying. Just something to keep in mind.


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#21 Wishmasta07

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Posted 11 December 2020 - 05:40 AM

A $5K mount unfortunately doesn't go very far if it includes a good mount, a decent scope, and a dedicated camera. An example for a new scope and mount with VERY rough numbers:

 

1) CEM70 mount with tri-pier  $3,100.

2) Nice 80mm triplet refractor + flattener or reducer $1,100

3) ASI294MM-Pro + FW + medium quality filters $2,000 (or ASI294MC-Pro $1,000)

4) Guidescope and guide camera $250

5) Auto-focus solution $250+

6) Books and software $400

7) Cases, batteries, cables, bahtinov mask, light panels $500+

 

Total $6,600 - $7,600+ depending on camera and that's fairly conservative.

 

With *current* scope:

 

1) CEM70 mount with tri-pier  $3,100.

2) Reducer $90

3) OAG + OAG-level camera $450

4) ASI294MM-Pro + FW + medium quality filters $2,000 (or ASI294MC-Pro $1,000) 

5) Books and software $400

6) Cases, batteries, cables, bahtinov mask, light panels $500+

 

Total around $5,500-$6,500 depending on camera. 

 

The problem with the current scope is mainly field of view which is relatively restricted. But other than that, I find many of the objections fanciful. An 8" SCT is not *that* massive. The CEM70 (or a Losmandy G11) should handle it with ease. The OAG will allow you to guide well. If you are imaging from a Bortle 5 or better area, then the color camera will do a good job. If from more LP areas, it would be worth it springing for the mono.

 

All, of course, IMO. I started with a $3,000 budget in 2013, and I already had a mount and 3 scopes (but no camera or laptop). I am more than $20K into the hobby since then, and I'm a Camry and Civic class person. I am glad I didn't start with a big budget though, because I would've bought the wrong things. Much of what is popular today, both hardware and software, either didn't exist then or wasn't popular, and some things I needed (such as a flat panel and auto-focuser) I wouldn't have thought of buying. Just something to keep in mind.

Thank you very much for your post! One thing I might add that you touched on: I'm part of the Denver Astronomical society and where we observe is a Bortle 7 - so pretty good opportunities here! I'm happy to hear that the G11 and the CEM70 is consistently mentioned as a good option as it helps me narrow my search through all the options.

20K into the hobbie?!

One thing I find a little funny is this is an extension of another hobby and that's taking pictures I love, editing them a bit if necessary and then hanging them on my wall. If I get 10 favorite pictures with my current budget that's $500 per picture!

 

Of course, it's the love of the hobby that makes the investment worth it though :)

Thanks again for your information as I hadn't considered the filters, books, software, cases, batteries, cables, light panels, and whatever a bahtinov mask is!



#22 Wishmasta07

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Posted 11 December 2020 - 05:51 AM

Everyone is sending you down a rabbit hole, don't tell a forum you got money to spend cause they will all build you a custom setup and tell you where to spend your money lol.gif you will buy it all and then not know where to start.

 

Restart your post and try this.

 

Hey all I am have never done AP and I have 5K budget. Before getting crazy with spending money I would like to know what it takes to get started, and how much time I will be spending outside freezing my kester off to capture amazing images. I live in _____ bortles class skies do I need filters? I want to take images of the following objects in space _______ and _______ and _______, oh and maybe even planets. Besides my concern with gear what types of applications will I need to learn? Is it better to use a laptop with a bunch of software or am I better off investing in a ZWOASI Air pro which can guide, plate solve, and take images easier for me? I have spent a lot of time reading forums and think I want to stick with a One Shot Color camera as I only have _____ time a day to shoot or should I bite the bullet and go Mono? Let me know.

 

Honestly, check out my website in my signature and see what I have done since July of 2020. I have spent a decent chunk on my equipment but I also started with a DSLR and a tripod and worked my way to a barn door with some cheap lenses and then moved into a RedCat 51, Skyguider Pro (sent it back) to a Sky-Watcher EQM35, then to a ZWO ASI Air pro with guide scope and PixInsight to edit images. All these months later I now have got a good understanding on how to shoot the stars. The newest thing I have learned is you need to dither to help with noise, and you need to shoot for at least 6 hours on an object to get a good picture. This hobby takes lots of time and lots of work and lots of support from your fellow Cloudy Nights brother and sisters! Not to mention the weather to work in your favor. There is no wrong or right setup it's all based on what you want to do and where you want go.

 

Here is a current shot of M42 The Orion Nebula & NGC1977 The Running Man I recently took. This is a total of 6.75 hours at 81x5-minute exposures and I had to throw out 9 other shots due to issues with tracking or other issues with the photos. This was done over the last 8 days of on and off good or bad weather and it's raining tonight so no shooting. I tell you this all so you can get an idea of what it takes to end up with something you might be happy with.

 

Best of luck!

You make an excellent point and I mentioned it on another post, but I should have mentioned my light pollution. I'm a member of the Denver Astronomical Society and where we meet is a Bortles 7 so it's a pretty darn good dark site.

I'm not that interested in photographing anything planetary, lunar or locally celestial - mainly just DSOs.

M42, 43, & 6 are currently my 3 favorites so I appreciate your picture and I will check out your site.

 

Thank you for your input on this forum and as I progress through this journey, which I anticipate will be much more research before pulling the trigger, I may reach out to you.

 

Best,

Ryan



#23 Wishmasta07

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Posted 11 December 2020 - 05:56 AM

This is great advice, tbh.  Also about the SCT, that is where I started and I love mine, but it definitely is harder.

 

For a full setup, make sure to have your checklist:
 

- Mount & tripod

- OTA (telescope part)

- Imaging camera

- (if monochrome camera) Filter wheel and filters

- Guide scope

- Guide camera

- Motorized focuser (if you want to do full night automated imaging and/or auto focus)

- Processing software (e.g. DSS, PixInsight, PhotoShop, other)

- PC (laptop or scope mount or really long USB/Ethernet cable)

- Misc cables and doo dads

 

(am I missing anything?)

 

Those pieces can easily add up quickly.  

 

Biggest decisions to start with are:

- Camera: Cooled astrocamera or DSLR.

- Camera: Mono or one shot color

- OTA: Key questions: Focal length of the targets you want.  E.g. how wide of a field.  SCT is narrow field, refractor is wider field.  Also longer focal length (SCT) will be harder to get right due to lots of factors (mirror, guiding, smaller error tolerance). That is fine if you are a "harder is better" type person (I am such a person) but that is not for everyone. 

 

There are a lot of trade offs and tbh, this will add up to $5k really quickly smile.gif

 

--Ryan

Thank you for your input, here! The more I research the more it seems like I must go with a cooled astrocamera. I was set on a DSLR for a while, but it seems like I will get better results with the former. Good to know mono is the way to go as I was trying to figure that one out.

 

As far as what I'm looking for: not too concerned about local celestial objects, mainly DSOs. M42, 43, & 6 are my current favorites so maybe that will give you context? I'm sure that will change as I delve into this hobby.

One thing I didn't mention is I view at a Bortles 7.

 

I'm definitely a harder is better kind of person as I've consistently found that effort reaps reward (and in hobbies like this, we can throw in investment reaps reward).

 

Thanks again for your input!

Best,

Ryan



#24 jonnybravo0311

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Posted 11 December 2020 - 08:57 AM

Are you sure it's Bortle 7? Because that definitely does _not_ qualify as a "good dark site".


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#25 jrcrilly

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Posted 11 December 2020 - 09:10 AM

Are you sure it's Bortle 7? Because that definitely does _not_ qualify as a "good dark site".

Thanks for that. I was about to go recheck the map for my place in case I had been doing it wrong all these years (Bortle 6 here).




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