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Prioritizing equipment for absolute beginner

Astrophotography Beginner
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#1 kantseeanything

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Posted 20 April 2021 - 08:01 AM

Good morning, so after several years of contemplation, my son and I finally decided to give AP a try. After researching this site a bit, it seems the consensus was to purchase the best mount one can afford so I picked up an EQ6-R Pro yesterday. Now, I want to take things a bit more slowly and develop foundational knowledge while upgrading and adding to my equipment as it becomes financially feasible. My questions are:

- regarding prioritization, is it mount>camera>scope>guide scope?

- I have a basic Canon DSLR. Should I start with this or pick up a cheap color ZWO ASI?

- in either case above, what would be a good starting refractor or lense(<$400)?

- to save money, I was looking to buy used but have read about a few negative experiences. Are there best practices for due diligence in AP when buying used?

Also, I'm at a bortle 6, so there's that.

Thank you!
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#2 abcdefghii

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Posted 20 April 2021 - 08:23 AM

I would say your prioritization is right, since you already have a Canon DSLR I would stick with that and look at a refractor. You could pick up an AT60ED brand new for right at $399, they are currently in stock and if you provide your cloudynights username then I believe they give you a discount at Astronomics. https://www.astronom...ed-doublet.html You would also need a field flattener and t-ring to mount your camera. 

 

Use something like https://telescopius....scope-simulator to get an idea of what you can see with the scope, 360mm is a good focal length, it's what I started with (still very much a beginner here). 

 

I can't help much with buying used, ultimately that's always a gamble, I picked up my first scope used locally and my mount via eBay, but both were in good shape. 


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#3 George Bailey

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Posted 20 April 2021 - 08:25 AM

IMHO:

 

 

1. mount > scope > camera (bought to match scope) > guide

 

2. Which Canon? I have made some good planetary shots with my Rebel T6i using APT software. Haven't tried it for deep sky yet.

 

3. Refractor (you really should up your budget - a good mount is critical, but a quality scope is not far behind! Look at the Explore Scientific or Orion scopes for cheaper ones in addition to the AstroTech line)

 

4. I have never bought a used scope, so can't help you there.


Edited by George Bailey, 20 April 2021 - 08:28 AM.


#4 Mr. Pepap

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Posted 20 April 2021 - 09:04 AM

1) A good telescope is pretty high up on the priority list, I'd say just behind the mount. 

 

2) DSLR is fine for beginners, a proper AP cam is a good long term investment. Mono cameras are more expensive, but they are 3 times better quality than color ones. However, keep in mind that they are also 3 times more work because you have to get LRGB filters as well to color-calibrate your subs. 

 

3) You probably want to adjust your budget a bit, a refractor worth buying can cost quite a pretty penny.

 

4) I've never bought used so I can't really speak on that.

 

5) Bortle 6 is excellent for beginning astrophotography. Generally speaking, light pollution doesn't matter for imaging. I live in Bortle 8 and have taken some decent photos IMO. I've also seen some excellent photos from users in Bortle 9. However, it is going to be more work the brighter you go because you have to get more subs and integration time to acheive the same effect as from a darker location.

 

Hope this helps.



#5 matt_astro_tx

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Posted 20 April 2021 - 09:11 AM

I agree with mount>scope>camera>guide since you already have a camera.  Would be helpful to know which model camera it is.

 

I just bought a new AT60ED from Astronomics for $399 as mentioned above and it just arrived Saturday.  It is very well built, and produces sharp stars across the field.  Depending on your sensor size you might not need the field flattener, at least to begin with.  Astronomics just got a shipment of AT60EDs in last week and you might be able to snag one.

 

Regarding used sales: The ASI183MC Pro I bought used from another CN user for $675 in mint condition with original packaging.  I've bought and bartered many things on CN and while YMMV I've never had anything but great experiences.  The astro community tends to take good care of itself.  Post a wanted ad in the classified for what you're looking for and people will come to you.  Always ask for pictures, insured shipped, and a tracking number.  I also tend to ask that the purchase price include PP fees and shipping cost, but that's just me.

 

You can absolutely use the AT60ED with your Canon and a t-ring adapter and enjoy the heck out of it.  I used my basic-as-they-come Nikon D50 with my newtonian when I started out and it was a lot of fun.

 

Lastly, I live in a bortle 6/7 zone and have no problem.  Granted I've only been doing AP for 6 months, but for my purposes at this stage it's not a hinderance.

 

Good luck and let us know what you do!

Attached Thumbnails

  • AT60 Setup.jpg

Edited by matt_astro_tx, 20 April 2021 - 09:25 AM.


#6 Sandy Swede

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Posted 20 April 2021 - 09:16 AM

IMO, mount > scope > camera

 

You already have a decent mount selected and you have a DSLR, so instead of a scope which will exceed your current budget, try a fast lens such as the Rokinon/Samyang 135mm f/2 (stop down to 2.8 at least) or a prime lens in the 200 to 300mm range.  Learn to track with relatively short exposures first before you step up to guided.  Just learning to polar align will occupy your time for a while anyway.  You may find a decent APO scope for your budget, but once you add all of the other goodies (e.g., focal reducer/flattener), your budget will be blown.  Just my .02. 

 

Meant to add:  You can find good used lenses here on CN in your budget.  Only had one negative purchase here on CN and the seller was unaware of the defect and immediately made good on it.  BTW, nothing wrong with the AT60 mentioned above.


Edited by Sandy Swede, 20 April 2021 - 09:24 AM.

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#7 dx_ron

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Posted 20 April 2021 - 09:26 AM

You already have the mount and (probably) camera taken care of. I would look for a scope and get started unguided for a bit, just to get down the routines of using capture software, taking flats, taking darks and basic processing before you add the complications of figuring out why your PHD2 guiding graph was wonky last night. The phase can last just a short while and you can be watching the classifieds for a used ASI120mm guide camera.

 

Darks: Someone already asked what Canon you have. If it is at all recent, it will record the sensor temp in the header of RAW files. You can use a utility like EXIFLOG to see those (or some capture software will let you include it in each file name - I know APT does that). That is a huge help in building a library of darks so you don't need to use valuable imaging time taking darks - use cloudy nights for taking darks.

 

For buying used, check to see if the seller has feedback, has sold other items and/or posts in the forums. Once you get the sense that they are a "real" member of the community the risk goes way down.



#8 kantseeanything

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Posted 20 April 2021 - 10:00 AM

I would say your prioritization is right, since you already have a Canon DSLR I would stick with that and look at a refractor. You could pick up an AT60ED brand new for right at $399, they are currently in stock and if you provide your cloudynights username then I believe they give you a discount at Astronomics. https://www.astronom...ed-doublet.html You would also need a field flattener and t-ring to mount your camera.

Use something like https://telescopius....scope-simulator to get an idea of what you can see with the scope, 360mm is a good focal length, it's what I started with (still very much a beginner here).

I can't help much with buying used, ultimately that's always a gamble, I picked up my first scope used locally and my mount via eBay, but both were in good shape.


Thank you for the recommendations. Very much appreciated.

#9 zakry3323

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Posted 20 April 2021 - 10:01 AM

Since you've got a mount, go ahead and start taking subs with it and your favorite prime lens. You'll be all set to learn the fundamentals of astrophotography with that setup, including learning how to take (very important) calibration frames, how to stack your subs, and the ins and outs of post processing. If you and your son are still feeling the astro-vibe after a while, it may be a good time to think about a scope and dedicated astro-camera. I would recommend thinking about both the camera and the scope at the same time, as they should be matched (you really shouldn't buy one without at least having a plan for the other) to get the best sampling that your skies will afford you :)


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#10 kantseeanything

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Posted 20 April 2021 - 10:05 AM

2. Which Canon? I have made some good planetary shots with my Rebel T6i using APT software. Haven't tried it for deep sky yet.


I have a 5 year old Canon EOS T7

#11 kantseeanything

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Posted 20 April 2021 - 10:39 AM

Since you've got a mount, go ahead and start taking subs with it and your favorite prime lens. You'll be all set to learn the fundamentals of astrophotography with that setup, including learning how to take (very important) calibration frames


This makes sense. Thanks for the recommendation.
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#12 Islander13

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Posted 20 April 2021 - 01:04 PM

To the OP... just wondering how old your son is, and if he is patient/science focussed?

It is nice for them to see some cool results sooner rather than later. So with your mount and dslr and what ever lens you have, you can take some longer exposure subs and start learning the processing game a little.

The photo that got me hooked on this last fall was a random capture of andromeda with a 15 second exposure, with a 28mm lens, an untracked shot, just tripod mounted... but when I saw an entire galaxy along with all of the other stars... I was really blown away.

Good luck! I hope it offers you and son the chance to have a wonderful hobby together. I was blessed in that my son was born to love fishing and taught me to love it. We’ve shared literally hundreds (or thousands) of hours fishing together over the years.


Edited by Islander13, 20 April 2021 - 01:06 PM.


#13 kantseeanything

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Posted 20 April 2021 - 03:20 PM

To the OP... just wondering how old your son is, and if he is patient/science focussed?

It is nice for them to see some cool results sooner rather than later. So with your mount and dslr and what ever lens you have, you can take some longer exposure subs and start learning the processing game a little.

The photo that got me hooked on this last fall was a random capture of andromeda with a 15 second exposure, with a 28mm lens, an untracked shot, just tripod mounted... but when I saw an entire galaxy along with all of the other stars... I was really blown away.

Good luck! I hope it offers you and son the chance to have a wonderful hobby together. I was blessed in that my son was born to love fishing and taught me to love it. We’ve shared literally hundreds (or thousands) of hours fishing together over the years.


Hi there and thank you for the response. He's 16 and STEM oriented dude. I will definitely pursue your tips!
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#14 jdono

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Posted 21 April 2021 - 10:38 AM

This is just my opinion and I'm sure a lot of people will disagree but IMO I think it really depends on what you want to get out of this and what you and your son's desire is for really high quality photos vs the wonder of seeing and capturing images of any quality. I have a son about your son's age too, and he at least seems more interested in the EAA part than the detailed astrophotography part. He loves viewing objects (especially ones he hasn't seen before) and capturing images, but his patience runs thin after a lot of setting up and he isn't into working hard on processing them. Its more the thrill of seeing something new and the wonder if seeing galaxies, and its nice if there is a pretty good photo to show people.

 

If you are just interested in capturing OK photos of the brighter/easier DSOs plus planets and the moon (all impressive really) then the mount starts to matter a lot less. And I don't know you or his patience for aligning but it is somewhat time consuming with a delayed reward. 

 

Of course what everyone mentioned about the mount and the scope is certainly true for what people consider astrophotography and capturing high quality images, but I assume for beginners like myself people might use the term generically and might want different things out of it. IMO you can still capture images that look quite good and instill a sense of wonder, though they pale in comparison to images captured by the more appropriate and better equipment.

 

And keep in mind too that its much more relevant for DSOs vs for anything captured within the solar system

 

 

Again keep in mind that this is all coming from an absolute beginner (me).



#15 kantseeanything

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Posted 21 April 2021 - 11:41 AM

Jdono,
All fair points. For the reasons you stated, I was considering ideally having a refractor for AP and Newt for viewing... Best of both worlds.

#16 bobzeq25

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Posted 21 April 2021 - 12:34 PM

Good morning, so after several years of contemplation, my son and I finally decided to give AP a try. After researching this site a bit, it seems the consensus was to purchase the best mount one can afford so I picked up an EQ6-R Pro yesterday. Now, I want to take things a bit more slowly and develop foundational knowledge while upgrading and adding to my equipment as it becomes financially feasible. My questions are:

- regarding prioritization, is it mount>camera>scope>guide scope?

- I have a basic Canon DSLR. Should I start with this or pick up a cheap color ZWO ASI?

- in either case above, what would be a good starting refractor or lense(<$400)?

- to save money, I was looking to buy used but have read about a few negative experiences. Are there best practices for due diligence in AP when buying used?

Also, I'm at a bortle 6, so there's that.

Thank you!

The following post is dedicated to building good foundations for eventually becoming a decent imager.  If you simply want to mess around a bit, you can slop things up, I don't disrespect people by assuming that's their goal.

 

mount/mount/mount  (long gap)                                   scope (don't go too big, starting with camera lenses is fine), camera (don't get an uncooled astro camera), guidescope (don't go unguided)

 

The EQ6-R was an excellent choice.  The last 3 are not critical for now.  A DSLR works fine.  Cooling and sensitivity to H alpha from emission nebulae are the advantages of going astro specific with the camera.

 

Light pollution matters very much for imaging, but Bortle 6 is OK.  Look at my astrobin, and see what I could do in Bortle 7 skies, although much uses advanced techniques and equipment.  The tough decision when you're ready to move up is mono versus color in light polluted skies.  Mono is better, but very expensive, counting filters and a wheel. 

 

In the meantime, learn on targets other than emission nebulae.

 

This book will be the best $40 you'll ever spend in DSO AP.  Equipment can be overvalued.  Dustin Johnson's clubs will not put you on the PGA tour.  <smile>

 

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

 

Similarly, processing is more than half the game.  I recommend Astro Pixel Processor.   Calibrates/stacks/processes in one program, a serious advantage.  Has an excellent gradient reduction tool for reducing the effects of light pollution.  The "free" alternatives are not free in terms of image quality, or helping you learn the difficult art of processing.  You're spending thousands on equipment, $200 to do the last 50% of the process better is trivial.

 

Take (all 3) bias, flats, darks, from Day One.  Lights only will cause you to acquire bad habits in processing, processing is hard enough without having to unlearn bad habits.  <smile>


Edited by bobzeq25, 21 April 2021 - 12:50 PM.

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#17 kantseeanything

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Posted 21 April 2021 - 05:56 PM

The following post is dedicated to building good foundations for eventually becoming a decent imager. If you simply want to mess around a bit, you can slop things up, I don't disrespect people by assuming that's their goal.

mount/mount/mount (long gap) scope (don't go too big, starting with camera lenses is fine), camera (don't get an uncooled astro camera), guidescope (don't go unguided)

The EQ6-R was an excellent choice. The last 3 are not critical for now. A DSLR works fine. Cooling and sensitivity to H alpha from emission nebulae are the advantages of going astro specific with the camera.

Light pollution matters very much for imaging, but Bortle 6 is OK. Look at my astrobin, and see what I could do in Bortle 7 skies, although much uses advanced techniques and equipment. The tough decision when you're ready to move up is mono versus color in light polluted skies. Mono is better, but very expensive, counting filters and a wheel.

In the meantime, learn on targets other than emission nebulae.

This book will be the best $40 you'll ever spend in DSO AP. Equipment can be overvalued. Dustin Johnson's clubs will not put you on the PGA tour. <smile>

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

Similarly, processing is more than half the game. I recommend Astro Pixel Processor. Calibrates/stacks/processes in one program, a serious advantage. Has an excellent gradient reduction tool for reducing the effects of light pollution. The "free" alternatives are not free in terms of image quality, or helping you learn the difficult art of processing. You're spending thousands on equipment, $200 to do the last 50% of the process better is trivial.

Take (all 3) bias, flats, darks, from Day One. Lights only will cause you to acquire bad habits in processing, processing is hard enough without having to unlearn bad habits. <smile>


Thanks for all the info. Admittedly I only understand about half of what your talking about, lol, but I'm trying to look up terms and acronyms as I encounter them. I'll definitely look into picking up that book. Very much appreciated.

#18 Islander13

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Posted 21 April 2021 - 08:32 PM

I've saved thousands of dollars and endless hours of frustration by starting small and manageable (for now!). And I've even got a few nice pics that I'm very happy with. But that's me - I have more time than money right now.

 

I was lucky to get started while Orion Nebula (M42) and Andromeda (M31) were still visible and both provide beautiful images and are great targets for new imagers. They are both technically naked eye objects. I can't wait for them to come back so that I can get more than 3 minutes of integration on each. If I was just starting now in the spring, I would probably be struggling more. Imaging things that you can't see is a lot tougher when you're new at it!

 

People like bobzeq25 and many others on this forum, and a few key youtubers (Nebula Photos, Astrobackyard) are invaluable mentors.


Edited by Islander13, 21 April 2021 - 08:43 PM.


#19 matt_astro_tx

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Posted 27 April 2021 - 10:25 AM

I've saved thousands of dollars and endless hours of frustration by starting small and manageable (for now!). And I've even got a few nice pics that I'm very happy with. But that's me - I have more time than money right now.

 

I was lucky to get started while Orion Nebula (M42) and Andromeda (M31) were still visible and both provide beautiful images and are great targets for new imagers. They are both technically naked eye objects. I can't wait for them to come back so that I can get more than 3 minutes of integration on each. If I was just starting now in the spring, I would probably be struggling more. Imaging things that you can't see is a lot tougher when you're new at it!

 

People like bobzeq25 and many others on this forum, and a few key youtubers (Nebula Photos, Astrobackyard) are invaluable mentors.

Tell me about it!  I started in December and M42 was my nightly haunt.  Then M31.  I had really shoddy equipment then.  I've since upgraded considerably and now all the bright targets are gone and worst of all I don't have a finderscope on my new rig.  So I'm sighting down the tube and praying.  At least I would be, if the Texas skies would ever clear up. 



#20 asanmax

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Posted 27 April 2021 - 12:40 PM

I think the following should be a sticky:

https://docs.google....fGJ8/edit#gid=0




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