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Best refractor in the 3,000 to 4,000 USD (visual and DSLR photo)

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#26 dagadget

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Posted 28 March 2021 - 09:03 AM

I am very surprised that Astronomics own AT 152EDT is not mentioned here. it is big at 6 inches and puts up an awesome view. get a field flattener and you will be taking excellent shots. I have mine on a CGEM II at present and I am waiting on a second Counter weight and will mount it on my Ioptron GEM 45 soon. Once that is done I'll be getting AP gear for both the soon to arrive AT 72EDII and the slightly less than $4000 AT 152EDT

 

CS

 

David


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#27 teashea

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Posted 28 March 2021 - 09:36 AM

Lol or you could turn your living room into a telescope dealership!?

Thanks ---- I converted a bedroom into a telescope room.


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#28 25585

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Posted 28 March 2021 - 10:44 AM

Hello there.

I prepare my overdue return to astronomy. Already own an old 8" SCT and looking forward to buying a scope for visual and AP with DSLR. What are the options for this budget? I'll definitely buy a good mount for this scope. Moon, planets, deep-sky objects...everything is an interesting subject.

 

I bought a piece of land in the mountains and I live there 100% of my time to enjoy every clear sky that will show up. 

 

Thanks in advance and clear skies to you all.

Regards.

Jeff

Just in your price bracket  https://www.astronom...n.html?___SID=U


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#29 Supernova74

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Posted 28 March 2021 - 12:06 PM

Good advice DeanD. Stellarvue is in the brands line-up I investigate. Surely will take a look at this model.

 

Just to make you not that much jealous, here's a picture of my freshly logged site for the sessions to come. So thrilled ...and I still have 45 acres to play with and preserve me from annoying neighbors with night lighting. 

 

Thanks again.

attachicon.gifIMG_0613.JPG

I love that picture kind of makes my hairs stand up on end of my neck,not my head tho as nearly bald!?it would be my ideal sanctuary,haven maybe log cabin with s few creature comforts and of course an observatory for my scope.


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#30 DeanD

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Posted 29 March 2021 - 01:50 AM

Good advice DeanD. Stellarvue is in the brands line-up I investigate. Surely will take a look at this model.

 

Just to make you not that much jealous, here's a picture of my freshly logged site for the sessions to come. So thrilled ...and I still have 45 acres to play with and preserve me from annoying neighbors with night lighting. 

 

Thanks again.

attachicon.gifIMG_0613.JPG

Looks awesome! Yeah, not at all jealous..... (and my nose is growing...)

 

All the best,

 

Dean


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#31 alan.dang

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Posted 05 April 2021 - 06:52 AM

Since you have dark skies, you are going to get great shots from shorter exposures than most examples you see here.  That goes to your benefit.  For imaging, responsiveness to guiding matters a lot.  In that category, the Vixen mounts are a better choice than iOptron as long as you can make the budget work. 

I also believe they good positive experiences translate into future use.  I gifted a CG5 to an enthusiastic photographer at a dark site and a Vixen SXW to an equally enthusiastic photographer in the city.  The CG5 owner struggled with polar alignment even all star polar align so he wasn’t interested in astrophotography after a few failed tries.  The Sphinx owner went from having no telescopes to having a flagship astrograph beyond your budget and a flagship Questar for visual use!  

 

Attached is what I would get, backed by some evidence

1) Vixen SXD2 (under 3k)

2) Mgen-3 (under 1k, imported to US from UK 365 astronomy)

3) EOS Ra (2.5k) or a Fuji APS-C camera.*

 

The Vixen line is hated by Rod Mollise due to a horrible product some 10-15 years ago.  The contemporary Vixen line really captures the Japanese level of precision and electronics design, optimized for the dense cities of Japan.  That means it is incredible by every metric except weight carrying capacity.  However owners of the Vixen mounts will say it is the very best photo/visual mount because of Starbook Ten.  The pointing model in that is on par with flagship designs from AP, 10Micron, Software Bisque with capabilities of atmospheric refraction compensation and an align-on-anything design.

 

The Eos Ra is a polarizing camera here but remains the only Astro-DSLR you can buy from Best Buy or Amazon have a return policy.  It has strengths and weaknesses but remains one of my most used astro DSLRs for reliable use.  If you are doubling duty for daylight and night photography, it is hard to beat the FujiFilm line as it has more Ha sensitivity than typical cameras (both the X and GFX line).  Pentax actually fits into this category too, but it only makes sense if you have reasons not to use the Canon or Fuji line.
 

Then you just have to budget for your scope. 
 

If you have run out of money due to my recommendations, getting a Made in China scope saves you a lot of money.  Their industrial optical companies are cranking out lenses for surveillance systems and that know how translates across to consumer optics.  Dollar for dollar, it’s hard to beat the pure assessment of immediate value.  There are politics involved which aren’t allowed for discussion.

Moving up to a Made in Taiwan William Optics refractor is the next step.  You still get a lot of cost savings but without worry about politics/tariffs.  William, the owner of Williams Optics, is actually based in Southern California.  So you are supporting an American company that manufactures in Taiwan, the way that Tele Vue is an American company that manufactures in Taiwan.  Not quite, but somewhat true.  Virtually their entire product line offers high value.

 

1) But jumping up to the premium tier line of 3K to 4K, I will offer the following advice shooting from Bortle 7 skies from the dense city of San Francisco.  Sharper lenses punch above their expected performance due to images being sharper and being able to get better signal to noise ratio.  I can pull more data out of my sharpest lenses than I would expect for the aperture and f-ratio.  It is worth that investment.  So while spending someone else’s money, I would encourage you to make as big of an optical purity investment as possible.

 

2) Larger aperture scopes will show more stars and having pinpoint stars makes for a nicer image.  The larger the scope, the more critical it is to get sharper images. 

 

3) for nightly setup and tear down, a 4” scope is vastly more manageable a 5” scope. 

 

4) I have imaged at 1800mm f/9 with the SXD2 - weight not focal length is the issue.

 

5) The best/cheapest astrograph is probably the Canon 400/5.6L.  It’s a 72mm FPL53 triplet with a flattener.  Doubles as a great daylight photography lens too.  As far as I know, still made in Japan.  This is a great focal length for context in your astrophotos.  The one thing the Hubble Space Telescope cannot do is give widefield images.  The 300/4L non-IS and the older FD 300/2.8L are also good choices.

 

6) Moving up, the Takahashi FC100 line is good.  You have to budget for all of your accessories and gizmos, but these modern designs give you a lot of bang for your buck, and act as a wider field visual instrument.  The performance loss from the high f-ratio is made up by your dark skies.  I think the 800mm focal length is great for many targets.

 

7) Moving up, get the Tele Vue NP101is.  A French magazine compared the FSQ106N/ED, NP101is, VSD100/SDUFII under the same conditions.  Everything you expect is true.  NP101is is the best visual instrument with widefield capability.  The FSQ106ED isn’t bad either, but the other 3 don’t play well with 2” diagonals without a lot of hand wringing.  Optically, the FSQ106ED had the highest strehl while the VSD100 had better color correction, less field curvature, and more even illumination.  In Japan, the VSD100 had a higher price tag than the FSQ106 despite the 6mm of aperture loss.  Not tested but confirmed by personal use and Vixen Japan’s charts, the VSD reduced at f3 is sharper than its native f3.8 (the same way the FOA-60Q is better than the FOA-60).  It will beat the FSQ-106ED reduced to f3.  The VSD100 is discontinued though.  Behind those two were the NP101is and FSQ106N which were very very close in performance.  Then last place was the Pentax SDUFII, but again only against those flagships.

 

The NP101is is the cheapest of the batch so that’s your best bet if going for a wide field astrograph.  These provide a lot of context which is great for doing Astro-art where you have some foreground elements in the final image and showing the dust lanes or IFN between objects.

 

8) Going beyond 4k takes you into the TOA-130, TEC140, AP130 range.  You will want a bigger mount.

 

Proof for my recommended combo of the mount/guider/camera recommendation

 

Vixen SXD2 with Astro-Physics 130EDF (overloaded mount)

50mm guide scope (180 f3.5 camera lens)

MGEN 3

30 minutes on M42 from Bortle 7.

Every scope you are looking at will be lighter and even easier for the mount.
 

 

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#32 Northern Jeff

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Posted 05 April 2021 - 11:27 AM

Thank you very much Alan. It is a great and detailed comment.

 

I'm goin' for the NP101is finally. Getting it in 6 weeks. I'll go first with the SW EQ6-R Pro. I'll start with these 2 items combined with a great selection of Ethos and Delos eyepieces. Astrophoto will follow this fall. I'll take the time to ask and review before moving forward to this step.

 

Thanks again.

Clear skies!

Jeff


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#33 alan.dang

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Posted 05 April 2021 - 01:28 PM

Thank you very much Alan. It is a great and detailed comment.

I'm goin' for the NP101is finally. Getting it in 6 weeks. I'll go first with the SW EQ6-R Pro. I'll start with these 2 items combined with a great selection of Ethos and Delos eyepieces. Astrophoto will follow this fall. I'll take the time to ask and review before moving forward to this step.

Thanks again.
Clear skies!
Jeff


Good choice on the scope.

If you haven’t already bought EQ6, drop one of your Ethos eyepieces and then get the Vixen SXD2 with Starbook Ten. :) The used market for Ethos is much better than the used market vs. the EQ6 or SXD2
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#34 Nippon

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Posted 05 April 2021 - 02:06 PM

"The Vixen line is hated by Rod Mollise due to a horrible product some 10-15 years ago."

 

I have one of those. Had it for years. It's light for it's capacity very steady and has very accurate goto. It also never does any weird things like my Celestron goto and I have never ever seen the dreaded declination jump. It does not have any double stars in its catalog of objects but that is about all I can find to complain about but there is a way around that using the always on screen RA and Dec. information. I half hope it will fail at some point so I can get the even better SX2:)


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#35 alan.dang

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Posted 05 April 2021 - 02:16 PM

"The Vixen line is hated by Rod Mollise due to a horrible product some 10-15 years ago."

I have one of those. Had it for years. It's light for it's capacity very steady and has very accurate goto. It also never does any weird things like my Celestron goto and I have never ever seen the dreaded declination jump. It does not have any double stars in its catalog of objects but that is about all I can find to complain about but there is a way around that using the always on screen RA and Dec. information. I half hope it will fail at some point so I can get the even better SX2:)


Yup and even that generation Sphinx did well at 1800mm. The SB10 is much more user friendly though.

https://www.cloudyni...trophotography/
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#36 Nippon

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Posted 05 April 2021 - 02:39 PM

Yeah I know it is. But I just can't justify buying an SX2 or SXD2 while the SXW keeps chugging along. Mine does well at 2160mm. If I were to come into serious cash I'd buy the SXD2 and that adapter made in Japan that allows third party saddles.


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#37 Nippon

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Posted 05 April 2021 - 02:45 PM

Wow very nice M42 image. Every one who ragged on the SXW about the Dec. jump always referred to it as a bug in the software that Vixen failed to address. But it actually was a feature to correct for Dec. drift if the polar alignment is not great. I do think they should have allowed the user to turn it on or off though. 


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#38 alan.dang

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Posted 05 April 2021 - 10:05 PM

Wow very nice M42 image. Every one who ragged on the SXW about the Dec. jump always referred to it as a bug in the software that Vixen failed to address. But it actually was a feature to correct for Dec. drift if the polar alignment is not great. I do think they should have allowed the user to turn it on or off though.


Agreed. In Starbook Ten it is a user option. :)
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#39 teashea

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Posted 06 April 2021 - 11:19 AM

Since you have dark skies, you are going to get great shots from shorter exposures than most examples you see here.  That goes to your benefit.  For imaging, responsiveness to guiding matters a lot.  In that category, the Vixen mounts are a better choice than iOptron as long as you can make the budget work. 

I also believe they good positive experiences translate into future use.  I gifted a CG5 to an enthusiastic photographer at a dark site and a Vixen SXW to an equally enthusiastic photographer in the city.  The CG5 owner struggled with polar alignment even all star polar align so he wasn’t interested in astrophotography after a few failed tries.  The Sphinx owner went from having no telescopes to having a flagship astrograph beyond your budget and a flagship Questar for visual use!  

 

Attached is what I would get, backed by some evidence

1) Vixen SXD2 (under 3k)

2) Mgen-3 (under 1k, imported to US from UK 365 astronomy)

3) EOS Ra (2.5k) or a Fuji APS-C camera.*

 

The Vixen line is hated by Rod Mollise due to a horrible product some 10-15 years ago.  The contemporary Vixen line really captures the Japanese level of precision and electronics design, optimized for the dense cities of Japan.  That means it is incredible by every metric except weight carrying capacity.  However owners of the Vixen mounts will say it is the very best photo/visual mount because of Starbook Ten.  The pointing model in that is on par with flagship designs from AP, 10Micron, Software Bisque with capabilities of atmospheric refraction compensation and an align-on-anything design.

 

The Eos Ra is a polarizing camera here but remains the only Astro-DSLR you can buy from Best Buy or Amazon have a return policy.  It has strengths and weaknesses but remains one of my most used astro DSLRs for reliable use.  If you are doubling duty for daylight and night photography, it is hard to beat the FujiFilm line as it has more Ha sensitivity than typical cameras (both the X and GFX line).  Pentax actually fits into this category too, but it only makes sense if you have reasons not to use the Canon or Fuji line.
 

Then you just have to budget for your scope. 
 

If you have run out of money due to my recommendations, getting a Made in China scope saves you a lot of money.  Their industrial optical companies are cranking out lenses for surveillance systems and that know how translates across to consumer optics.  Dollar for dollar, it’s hard to beat the pure assessment of immediate value.  There are politics involved which aren’t allowed for discussion.

Moving up to a Made in Taiwan William Optics refractor is the next step.  You still get a lot of cost savings but without worry about politics/tariffs.  William, the owner of Williams Optics, is actually based in Southern California.  So you are supporting an American company that manufactures in Taiwan, the way that Tele Vue is an American company that manufactures in Taiwan.  Not quite, but somewhat true.  Virtually their entire product line offers high value.

 

1) But jumping up to the premium tier line of 3K to 4K, I will offer the following advice shooting from Bortle 7 skies from the dense city of San Francisco.  Sharper lenses punch above their expected performance due to images being sharper and being able to get better signal to noise ratio.  I can pull more data out of my sharpest lenses than I would expect for the aperture and f-ratio.  It is worth that investment.  So while spending someone else’s money, I would encourage you to make as big of an optical purity investment as possible.

 

2) Larger aperture scopes will show more stars and having pinpoint stars makes for a nicer image.  The larger the scope, the more critical it is to get sharper images. 

 

3) for nightly setup and tear down, a 4” scope is vastly more manageable a 5” scope. 

 

4) I have imaged at 1800mm f/9 with the SXD2 - weight not focal length is the issue.

 

5) The best/cheapest astrograph is probably the Canon 400/5.6L.  It’s a 72mm FPL53 triplet with a flattener.  Doubles as a great daylight photography lens too.  As far as I know, still made in Japan.  This is a great focal length for context in your astrophotos.  The one thing the Hubble Space Telescope cannot do is give widefield images.  The 300/4L non-IS and the older FD 300/2.8L are also good choices.

 

6) Moving up, the Takahashi FC100 line is good.  You have to budget for all of your accessories and gizmos, but these modern designs give you a lot of bang for your buck, and act as a wider field visual instrument.  The performance loss from the high f-ratio is made up by your dark skies.  I think the 800mm focal length is great for many targets.

 

7) Moving up, get the Tele Vue NP101is.  A French magazine compared the FSQ106N/ED, NP101is, VSD100/SDUFII under the same conditions.  Everything you expect is true.  NP101is is the best visual instrument with widefield capability.  The FSQ106ED isn’t bad either, but the other 3 don’t play well with 2” diagonals without a lot of hand wringing.  Optically, the FSQ106ED had the highest strehl while the VSD100 had better color correction, less field curvature, and more even illumination.  In Japan, the VSD100 had a higher price tag than the FSQ106 despite the 6mm of aperture loss.  Not tested but confirmed by personal use and Vixen Japan’s charts, the VSD reduced at f3 is sharper than its native f3.8 (the same way the FOA-60Q is better than the FOA-60).  It will beat the FSQ-106ED reduced to f3.  The VSD100 is discontinued though.  Behind those two were the NP101is and FSQ106N which were very very close in performance.  Then last place was the Pentax SDUFII, but again only against those flagships.

 

The NP101is is the cheapest of the batch so that’s your best bet if going for a wide field astrograph.  These provide a lot of context which is great for doing Astro-art where you have some foreground elements in the final image and showing the dust lanes or IFN between objects.

 

8) Going beyond 4k takes you into the TOA-130, TEC140, AP130 range.  You will want a bigger mount.

 

Proof for my recommended combo of the mount/guider/camera recommendation

 

Vixen SXD2 with Astro-Physics 130EDF (overloaded mount)

50mm guide scope (180 f3.5 camera lens)

MGEN 3

30 minutes on M42 from Bortle 7.

Every scope you are looking at will be lighter and even easier for the mount.
 

This is not always true.  The Takahashi FSQ85EDX is a better imaging telescope than a Takahashi FC100DZ.  There are many factors to consider.  



#40 Nippon

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Posted 06 April 2021 - 11:51 AM

I think one of the top scopes I would consider as a dual visual/DSLR imaging scope is the Vixen AX103s. This is a 4" f/8 FPL53 triplet with a built in field flattener. It is right at the low end of your budget at about $3,000. My understanding is they also make a reducer for it but it is ready to go for imaging at F/8 out of he box because of the flattener.


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#41 teashea

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Posted 06 April 2021 - 05:35 PM

Teashea...I'm pretty sure the mods are going to reclassify you as a Tak vendor!!! lol.gif

 

Great looking flock.

 

Norther Jeff...I have a TV101is and a TV127is. The 101is is extremely portable and puts up incredibly sharp views of DSOs and lunar/planetary. Used 101is scopes seem to go in the very high $2k to mid $3k range.

 

The 127is is also a fantastic scope for viewing and AP.  Both scopes are known for their wide field views - the 101is up 4.8 degrees, while the 127is tops out at 4 degrees. The 127is usually seems to go in the $4,000-$4,500 range used.

..... from my cold dead hands.............



#42 alan.dang

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Posted 07 April 2021 - 12:03 AM

This is not always true.  The Takahashi FSQ85EDX is a better imaging telescope than a Takahashi FC100DZ.  There are many factors to consider.  

What I was trying to say is that larger aperture scopes will show more stars.  F/ratio plays a role in DSOs along with aperture while aperture alone is what affects the numbers of stars.  
 

If you get the bigger scope, it is even more important to invest in a scope that will show small stars and therefore you need to spend exponentially more.


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#43 Bobo666

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Posted 07 April 2021 - 01:06 AM

Your price point lets you move up from an ED doublet to a triplet in the 120mm class for better color correction.   Consider the Skywatcher Esprit 120mm ED Triplet for $3200 USD as it includes a field flattener/corrector, rings, dovetail, finder, and...

Never see many comments re the Esprit line. Is that because there aren't too many out there or some other reason? 

 

I've also wondered how their quality control is when produced. From the few reports, owners seem to love them though. Am tempted by their 6 incher. 



#44 leviathan

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Posted 07 April 2021 - 01:23 AM

Used FSQ-106.


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#45 Northern Jeff

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Posted 07 April 2021 - 06:19 AM

Thank you all. I really appreciate the inputs, pros and cons to consider for my project.

I actually bought a NP101is yesterday along with 3 eyepieces from TV and 1 Powermate.

My old (but mint) SCT 8" LX5 will be "deforked" so I can attach it on the EQ6-R I just ordered as well.

 

Only one question remains, for now...What would be the best portable power source for my kit and adding my laptop for guiding and astroshooting with DSLR?

 

Regards to all of you and thanks again.

Jeff


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#46 SimonIRE

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Posted 07 April 2021 - 08:08 AM

Not to derail the thread but a prize for the person who can provide me with proof of a refractor that can produce a truly flat field across a full frame sensor without calibrating or processing the image i.e. a single sub.

I have tried and failed with my FSQ106.

Desperate to use my QHY600 but losing faith in ANY refractor guaranteeing this (in so far as one can ask for a guarantee)

Edited by SimonIRE, 07 April 2021 - 08:11 AM.


#47 alan.dang

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Posted 07 April 2021 - 09:19 AM

Not to derail the thread but a prize for the person who can provide me with proof of a refractor that can produce a truly flat field across a full frame sensor without calibrating or processing the image i.e. a single sub.

I have tried and failed with my FSQ106.

Desperate to use my QHY600 but losing faith in ANY refractor guaranteeing this (in so far as one can ask for a guarantee)


The FL55ss and VSD100 are the only ones that are truly flat across the field. The FL55ss is actually better than the VSD given the slower speed.

https://global.vixen...roduct/37252_2/

https://s5yd6tjlqdn3...xen-fl55ss.html

#48 alan.dang

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Posted 07 April 2021 - 10:10 AM

Thank you all. I really appreciate the inputs, pros and cons to consider for my project.

I actually bought a NP101is yesterday along with 3 eyepieces from TV and 1 Powermate.

My old (but mint) SCT 8" LX5 will be "deforked" so I can attach it on the EQ6-R I just ordered as well.

 

Only one question remains, for now...What would be the best portable power source for my kit and adding my laptop for guiding and astroshooting with DSLR?

 

Regards to all of you and thanks again.

Jeff

MGEN-3 is really good and since you're in Canada, there is a retailer that carries it

https://www.ferventastronomy.com/

 

It takes the laptop out of the equation, but is also compatible with a laptop.

 

For power, I really like this:

https://www.amazon.c...742617632&psc=1

 

Dew heaters do drain a lot of power which is the biggest problem with this.



#49 leviathan

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Posted 07 April 2021 - 11:13 AM

Not to derail the thread but a prize for the person who can provide me with proof of a refractor that can produce a truly flat field across a full frame sensor without calibrating or processing the image i.e. a single sub.

I have tried and failed with my FSQ106.

Desperate to use my QHY600 but losing faith in ANY refractor guaranteeing this (in so far as one can ask for a guarantee)

Not sure why you have failed with FSQ106 and QHY600 combo, maybe your scope was bad. Also not sure what exactly do you call "truly flat field".

My example of FSQ106 illuminates 87-88% of the very edges of QHY600 44mm sensor and field is quite flat.


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#50 Linwood

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Posted 07 April 2021 - 11:35 AM

Also not sure what exactly do you call "truly flat field".

Yeah... if you mean zero light falloff, I suspect there are none, but my NP101is has only minor falloff to a full frame easily corrected by flats. 

 

If you mean perfect round stars at center and corner... well, it's a work in progress for me, I did something stupid and did not design my imaging train so I could adjust backfocus (I just ordered parts to hit the number they said).  I think I'm a mm or so short (or long) and so get a tiny bit of coma in the far corners.  But I don't think it is the optics, I think it was stupidity's cost.  But I cannot prove it. 

 

And of course there's just "how flat is flat".   Does that mean zero measurable variation in PSF or eccentricity measures?  Or "not noticeable to a human".  I'm after the latter, and even with what I can see is wrong, I think the NP101is meets that.  When I look at a final wide image nothing says "not flat".   Example (very large image, bandwidth warning): https://photos.smugm..._Narrowband.jpg

 

There's some "shape" to the corner stars, but at any reasonable viewing distance I do not think you can see it. 


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