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Should I get an autoguider or mono astronomy camera first?

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#1 TenkoFox

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Posted 17 September 2021 - 12:20 PM

I've been doing unguided imaging with a DSLR and recently started looking into autoguiding and monochrome astronomy cameras, but with my budget I can only afford to get started on one of those for now.

 

So I'm wondering, would you recommend learning how to do autoguiding before diving into monochrome imaging? Or should I get a mono astronomy camera before I start learning how to autoguide? 



#2 f430

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Posted 17 September 2021 - 12:30 PM

Unless you have a really good mount, if you're going to do exposures of about 60 seconds or longer, you're going to need to guide......


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#3 daveco2

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Posted 17 September 2021 - 12:32 PM

How long are your exposures, and are you happy so far with the look of your stars?

 

Have you factored the cost of filters and a filter wheel into your astro camera costs?


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#4 rgsalinger

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Posted 17 September 2021 - 12:57 PM

Autoguider. Frankly I'm finding that the latest round of cooled OSC cameras from ZWO and QHY have such high broad QE curves that I would go mono only if I was a true processing wizard. I'm getting fabulous results from the QHY268C. So, get that guiding system and learn to guide and then look at whether you will really get better results from a mono camera. 

Rgrds-Ross


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#5 unimatrix0

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Posted 17 September 2021 - 01:04 PM

You made it sound like you only need autoguiding if you gonna use a mono camera. 

Your DSLR imaging would improve from autoguiding too.  Auto guiding is good for everything, including planetary imaging for people who want the best outcome. 
There isn't a lot to learn really, PHD2 takes care of guiding if everything set up correctly. 

Considering that small guider camera + guider scope will set you back about $150+- to sky is the limit price) , while if you have no experience with astro cameras, the guider camera will be a good introduction.  

People will say get a mono guide camera, but I had just as much success with a color camera as well, and you can use the color guider as a planetary camera as well.  

Today's cameras are much much more sensitive than even 5 years ago. 

 

Also, you don't need the best of the best guide scope and camera. I'm using a $50 svbony 50mm and other times a $40 30mm mini finder scope as a guide scope. My camera is asi120mini, but for fun , I have used a $50 "eyepiece camera" from svbony (SV105)  with limited exposure (500ms at top) and yet I was able to guide with it. 

 

edit : BTW the prices currently are inflated for these items, I just checked. Whatever cost $50 6 months ago is $80 now. ridiculous is what's going on. 


Edited by unimatrix0, 17 September 2021 - 01:11 PM.

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#6 jonnybravo0311

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Posted 17 September 2021 - 01:13 PM

That's got to be one heck of a guiding kit you're looking at if your budget is for either a guiding setup OR a mono setup :D


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#7 Baron von Smoogle

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Posted 17 September 2021 - 04:27 PM

I would do the autoguiding setup first.  As RGSalinger says, you can guide even with your DSLR.  That's the way I started.  The ASI120mm mini and the 30mm guide scope combo is working great for me.  It worked well with the DSLR and works with my 72 ED scope and ASI533MC Pro.

Davco also brings up a valid point about including the filters and filter wheel into your set up cost.


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#8 TenkoFox

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Posted 18 September 2021 - 07:27 AM

Thanks for all the responses. Sounds like I should get started with autoguiding my DSLR first.

 

I have a Vixen mount and regularly take 1-2 minute exposures without any noticeable trailing. I start to notice some trailing with 2-3 minute exposures.

 

To clarify, I would be well under my budget if I went with the auto guider set up first. Just can't get both systems at the same time wink.gif

 

And yes, I'm still debating whether I should go with color or mono for both the autoguider and main imaging camera. My understanding is that modern color autoguiders can be just as sensitive as mono autoguiders, and images captured with color cameras can be just as detailed as those captured in mono nowadays.


Edited by TenkoFox, 18 September 2021 - 07:59 AM.

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#9 Alex McConahay

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Posted 18 September 2021 - 08:16 AM

>>>>>>My understanding is that modern color autoguiders can be just as sensitive as mono autoguiders, and images captured with color cameras can be just as detailed as those captured in mono nowadays.

 

I would like to see your sources on that. IT does not ring true with what I know, but I am not an equipment junkie and you may have some knowledge I don't have. 

 

Alex



#10 Szumi

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Posted 18 September 2021 - 08:21 AM

I'd get the auto guider first.  

 

I didn't see what your scope is (image scale).  What is your current optical set up?

 

With the autoguider you can use software to help with polar alignment.  I can't always view the north pole so I drift align with PHD2 and the autoguiding camera.  When I can see the north pole I like the routine in Sharpcap.


Edited by Szumi, 18 September 2021 - 08:23 AM.


#11 sbharrat

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Posted 18 September 2021 - 08:33 AM

>>>>>>My understanding is that modern color autoguiders can be just as sensitive as mono autoguiders, and images captured with color cameras can be just as detailed as those captured in mono nowadays.

 

I would like to see your sources on that. IT does not ring true with what I know, but I am not an equipment junkie and you may have some knowledge I don't have. 

 

Alex

Just *seems* like it can't be true. Doesn't an OSC by definition have a filter in front of each pixel? 



#12 Oort Cloud

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Posted 18 September 2021 - 09:11 AM

That's got to be one heck of a guiding kit you're looking at if your budget is for either a guiding setup OR a mono setup :D


Some people like apochromatic guide scopes dude. :p

#13 TenkoFox

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Posted 18 September 2021 - 09:33 AM

>>>>>>My understanding is that modern color autoguiders can be just as sensitive as mono autoguiders, and images captured with color cameras can be just as detailed as those captured in mono nowadays.

 

I would like to see your sources on that. IT does not ring true with what I know, but I am not an equipment junkie and you may have some knowledge I don't have. 

 

Alex

 

 

 

I was mainly referring to rgsalinger's post above:

 

Autoguider. Frankly I'm finding that the latest round of cooled OSC cameras from ZWO and QHY have such high broad QE curves that I would go mono only if I was a true processing wizard. I'm getting fabulous results from the QHY268C. So, get that guiding system and learn to guide and then look at whether you will really get better results from a mono camera. 

Rgrds-Ross

however I've seen similar statements in various forum threads but don't remember where exactly, I'll update if I find the specific links. I'm speaking from a beginner point of view though. I know mono is ultimately better in terms of image quality and detail but at my level I don't think I would be able to notice the differences. That said, I don't have first hand experience with any astro cam and this is just what I've gathered from reading all these forum threads. 


Edited by TenkoFox, 18 September 2021 - 09:35 AM.


#14 Alex McConahay

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Posted 18 September 2021 - 10:00 AM

Don't get me wrong....there is no doubt that a OSC camera can deliver really pleasing results. However, deep down inside, the sensor in that camera is essentially identical to the equivalent sensor in a mono camera. They then add some kind of color filter array (CFA) on top of that. The CFA, usually a Bayer Matrix, by definition cuts down on the amount of light getting to any given pixel. Furthermore, the light transmission of the CFA is not generally as high as that of dedicated filters, nor are the cutoffs between one color and another in the array. And, of course, there is no  provision for straight Luminance.  The only way to reconstruct its color is to "interpolate" the color values of the individual pixels. Cutting down on the light, soft shoulders on the color transmission of the CFA filters, and interpolation all cut into resolution, color values, and most of the other things that make an image what it is. Again, granted there have been great gains in how well the software does all this. But, it is always best to avoid the things that cut down on efficiency and resolution if possible.

 

I've no question that Ross and others (and me, too) get very good results from their OSC cameras. Whether they are yet the equal of dedicated mono with filters is not quite established. You notice in his post, even Ross implies there is a higher top end in mono if you know how to get it out.

 

And Ross is talking about a modern dedicated OSC  camera, not a DSLR......

 

And, more to the point of this thread......You should get good at autoguiding as soon as possible. The main imaging camera can wait. 

 

Alex


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#15 unimatrix0

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Posted 18 September 2021 - 10:03 AM

I was also referring to a color  guider, since I use one time to time. 

 

Just separate the gudier vs imaging camera here. 

Basically any camera is good enough as a guider if it can see the stars as long as PHD2 can lock onto it. Even a modified Logitech webcam, which I also have. 
The point I was making, that the OP is coming from a DSLR and I would advise to get a guide camera first and guide scope, and the guide camera can also be a planetary camera, especially if it's color and if the OP also have or want to have a longer focal range telescope. 
In my book - Color or mono guider camera, doesn't matter , although the color one has the benefit of being a color planetary camera as well. 

This has nothing to do with the imaging camera though, that's up to him, but I'd be investing in a guider setup, since it's not that expensive and provides a big benefit of better stars, tracking correction, dithering etc.


Edited by unimatrix0, 18 September 2021 - 10:05 AM.

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#16 TenkoFox

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Posted 18 September 2021 - 10:17 AM

Thanks for all the helpful input. You've convinced me to go ahead with a color autoguider setup first and use that for planetary imaging as well before diving in with a dedicated astro cam smile.gif

 

The CFA, usually a Bayer Matrix, by definition cuts down on the amount of light getting to any given pixel. Furthermore, the light transmission of the CFA is not generally as high as that of dedicated filters, nor are the cutoffs between one color and another in the array. And, of course, there is no  provision for straight Luminance.  The only way to reconstruct its color is to "interpolate" the color values of the individual pixels. Cutting down on the light, soft shoulders on the color transmission of the CFA filters, and interpolation all cut into resolution, color values, and most of the other things that make an image what it is. Again, granted there have been great gains in how well the software does all this. But, it is always best to avoid the things that cut down on efficiency and resolution if possible.

So if I'm understanding correctly, having a Bayer Matrix also cuts down on resolution, and the reduced light transmission is not something I can make up for with longer exposures?


Edited by TenkoFox, 18 September 2021 - 10:18 AM.


#17 unimatrix0

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Posted 18 September 2021 - 10:19 AM

That's got to be one heck of a guiding kit you're looking at if your budget is for either a guiding setup OR a mono setup laugh.gif

Do you want to see a heck of a guiding kit for a  price around $1260? grin.gif

 

I know some people do this, but I think this is an overkill to be used as a guider setup.

 

(OP, don't do this, IMO it's a lot of waste of money unless you gonna use these as other things, like the guide scope becomes the imaging scope) 

 

for guider telescope: 
https://agenaastro.c...ope-fma230.html
For guider camera: 
https://agenaastro.c...-iii-174-m.html
 



#18 rgsalinger

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Posted 18 September 2021 - 10:37 AM

The QHY268C that I use costs 2000 dollars. The equivalent mono version is 2400 dollars (but wait........).  Now you need a filter wheel for 300 and a full set of filters (including narrow band) is another 1000. That's twice the price for some theoretical incremental gain. Will you realize that gain? Well, if your seeing is just average, then no, you will be seeing limited no matter what you do.Using a short focal length scope? Then you are undersampled and again, won't get much improved spatial resolution in extended objects. I would note that the FWHM of stars using my QHY268C on my AP155 is lower than it ever was with my mono QHY16200A on the same mount at the same location. 

 

I'm not really sure what the deal is with the smaller than APS-C chipped  QHY and ZWO cameras. That could be a different story in terms of QE, resolution. And with mono you can make stunning narrow band images which you really can't do with a one shot color camera. 

 

When I use one of my OSC cameras here's what I do. First, set up my software to take 25 sky flats. I can't realistically take that many sky flats (the most convenient way to shoot flats) with LRGB and NB filters. I have to cut back on the flats. Next, I just tell the imaging software to take some number of 3 or 4 minute exposures as make sense. For some targets on some nights that's 100 or more exposures all night long. With others, it's less. I only need to dither ever 3 or 4 exposures because I am taking so many. 

 

Now all that I have to do is to create one master flat and stack one set of subs. Nothing much can go wrong there. I don't have to play around with multiple flat/light masters, getting them all leveled out, etc. If you become a processing wizard (and there are some here) then you will be able to eke out better images than what I get by going mono. Otherwise, for most people having fun, a modern chipped OSC camera is the correct choice - little or no practical loss in quality big gain in simplicity.   

 

I use an off axis guider with all of my telescopes. These cost under 250 dollars and work better than any guide scope. Using a 300 dollar ZWO290 mini gives me a wonderful guiding system for less than 1/2 of a state of the art mounted guide scope system. Yes it takes me a couple of hours to set up the OAG. After that I keep the OAG, the guide camera and the main camera (and filter wheel if there is one) in once piece. That way I just slap it back on the OTA and I'm ready to calibrate and image in no time at all. 



#19 Alex McConahay

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Posted 18 September 2021 - 10:41 AM

Thanks for all the helpful input. You've convinced me to go ahead with a color autoguider setup first and use that for planetary imaging as well before diving in with a dedicated astro cam smile.gif

 

So if I'm understanding correctly, having a Bayer Matrix also cuts down on resolution, and the reduced light transmission is not something I can make up for with longer exposures?

 

Generically, a CFA like a Bayer Matrix will cut down on resolution, and since it is missing the ability to use Luminance only, it cuts down on the light transmission. Can you expose longer to make up for it.....to some extent yes. But, then again, you could also expose longer with the mono, and the race could continue. Fact is, as long as you do not have clear transmission (luminance) you can never make up for the loss of light. 

 

Hey, this thread is becoming a discussion about mono v. OSC. Your question is about Autoguider vs. new main camera. The answer to that is "Autoguider."  The answer to the OSC v. mono is whatever it will be in those monster threads on that topic. 

 

If you are using a guidescope, I am pretty sure you can do well with a OSC guide camera. If you are using an off axis guider, which I recommend highly regardless of what kind of main tube you are using, I will leave you to your devices to choose which is the better guide camera, OSC or mono. I just do not know the current state of the art and how much difference it will make. I mean the Bugatti can do 160. The Prius 85 (100???). Either one of them are fine on a road that only allows 65. Just because the mono may be more sensitive, does not mean it is "better." Especially if you want to use the same camera for planets. 

 

Alex



#20 WadeH237

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Posted 18 September 2021 - 07:23 PM

My understanding is that modern color autoguiders can be just as sensitive as mono autoguiders,

Absolutely not!

 

As has been mentioned, a color camera has a Bayer matrix permanently in front of the sensor.  No matter how efficient it is, it can never allow as much light through as a mono camera with no filters in front of the sensor.  If you are using a guide scope, then you could make a color camera work.  But you'd end up replacing it later when you switch to OAG.

 

Do yourself a favor and get a cheap, small mono camera to use as a guider.  Ideally, you want one that either fits into a 1.25" eyepiece socket, or uses a C mount.  Get a cheap camera.  You don't need cooling or whatever for guiding.

 

If you want a planetary camera, buy a second, color camera.


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#21 Oort Cloud

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Posted 19 September 2021 - 10:46 AM

Absolutely not!

As has been mentioned, a color camera has a Bayer matrix permanently in front of the sensor. No matter how efficient it is, it can never allow as much light through as a mono camera with no filters in front of the sensor. If you are using a guide scope, then you could make a color camera work. But you'd end up replacing it later when you switch to OAG.

Do yourself a favor and get a cheap, small mono camera to use as a guider. Ideally, you want one that either fits into a 1.25" eyepiece socket, or uses a C mount. Get a cheap camera. You don't need cooling or whatever for guiding.

If you want a planetary camera, buy a second, color camera.


Perhaps not ideal, but certainly possible. I shot these both at almost 2m focal lemgth using my 6se, which has a notoriously small image circle, coma outside the center of field, and using a square sensor, which pushes the OAG prism out into the really bad parts of said image circle. And guided it at around .4" RMS with a color guide camera (462mc)...

https://www.cloudyni...7/?fromsearch=1
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#22 rgsalinger

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Posted 19 September 2021 - 11:25 AM

Guiding to me is one of the "big three" things to learn that will make astro-photography vastly easier (not counting a really good mount) as you get started.  FWIW, they are autoguding, autofocusing, and plate solving. Therefore, get a guiding system next would be my advice That also means that skimping on any component that is used for autoguiding is risky. 

 

If you're going to BUY a camera for guiding get a mono camera is the best advice. Having said that, if you buy from a vendor who has a 30 day return policy, then you could try a color camera and see how it goes. Try binning the color camera if you're guide scope isn't too short in focal length. If it works, then enjoy it until it doesn't and then buy a mono camera. If it doesn't workt then return it and get the mono camera now.

 

Rgrds-Ross


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#23 Cheyenne

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Posted 19 September 2021 - 11:44 AM

Here would be my purchasing order (starting from scratch and you need to stretch the $$$ out)

1) DSLR - you can do simple star trails and short exposures (using a wide angle lens)

2) an EQ mount that you can grow into with the scope that you want make sure it can be setup for autoguiding.  -- with this you can extend the length of the exposures with the DSLR and become familiar with setup and polar alignment

3) scope - without guiding you will need to keep your exposures really short.

4) autoguider -- Decide OAG

5) upgrade to a CMOS or CCD camera.  Decide if you want to go OSC or monochrome

6) If monochrome camera, filters and filterwheel.  Deciding if you want to do narrowband or not will dictate the size filterwheel

7) autofocuser

8) rotator

 

If your mount is "good" enough, you can continue using the DSLR by piggy-backing it on the scope -- you get nice wide field images while you are also collecting photons through the scope.

 

I also heard budget: 1/3 scope 1/3 camera 1/3 mount.  And of all of those the mount with guiding is probably the most important.


Edited by Cheyenne, 19 September 2021 - 11:44 AM.

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#24 andysea

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Posted 19 September 2021 - 03:46 PM

To the OP
My answer to your question is to get setup with auto guiding first.
If you use an oag I suggest a monochrome auto guider. If you get a mini guide scope then you should fine with color.
Get the monochrome camera setup when you have the budget again.
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#25 WadeH237

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Posted 19 September 2021 - 08:10 PM

Perhaps not ideal, but certainly possible.

Agreed that it's possible.

 

I was responding to the comment that OSC cameras are just as sensitive as mono.  Assuming that we are talking about a mono vs OSC version of the same sensor, that is simply impossible, for the reason that I stated.




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