Thank you all for your advice.
Right now I use plate solving and not a RDF or similar to align, and I don't really want to invest in more stuff that won't grow into new gear (so I don't plan to get finders, better tripods etc)
My plan is to get a better mount in the next 1-2 months, but right now everything is backordered. I was trying to hold out for a CEM40 but thats going to take longer so I may have to get the 26 and upgrade later
I don't have the iPolar, but use SharpCap to do PA, so it's difficult to adjust once I am framed. Yes, I can use the reticle but the reason I don't use that is because SharpCap is in theory better.
My current process is
- Polar align with reticle
- Polar align with Sharpcap
- Plate solve to a bright star and use mask - I had a SLR lens with Bahtinov mask and mostly got that dialed in. Now I have a scope with a Carey Mask and this was really difficult to use.
I use APT to plate solve because with NINA its hard(er) to see where I am in Stellarium, whereas APT makes that easy
- Plate solve to the target with APT
- Intent is then to use NINA to image (once I get a better mount it will all be in NINA)
The more I touch the mount, the more I have a chance to affect PA and then I only have PHD2s reports of PA error to go on (and since I cannot guide in DEC, I can't really fix much)
Then, if focus changes during the night, I'd have to either try to refocus on target, or again slew manually off & back - a real pain
I *could* change the order of Sharpcap and focus first, then come back and use SharpCap (for when the focus star is not near my target at least) which would help a bit
I can afford both the focuser and a better mount, but not the mount immediately. So It seemed reasonable to get the focuser, work with that and then integrate the new mount and NINA so I can automate most of this
Totally appreciate the advice on learning it manually, and I definitely need to be able to diagnose.
However, if I had refrained from plate solving and tried to star hop (especially in my skies), I would have virtually no images because I'd spend forever finding targets (plus even with a 30sec+ exposure at high ISO, I cannot see many targets, even when stretched)
I really appreciate the time everyone took to respond. A lot to think about