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Next step from DSLR with Star Tracker and 400mm lens?

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#1 EarNoodles

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Posted 14 October 2021 - 01:51 PM

I've been super into bird and wildlife photography and started with a Panasonic bridge camera.  Eventually I got a DSLR and a 400mm f5.6 prime lense which has been a fantastic lens for birding.  I live in a climate where the birds go away for the winter though so my other photography interest became astrophotography stuff.  I got a Sky Watcher Star Adventure tracker, but with how heavy my lense and camera is I'm only comfortable shooting 30-45sec exposures and still have to throw away a lot of shots because of tracking problems.

 

 

So I know the mount is basically the backbone of the whole process and am planning to get an HEQ5 Pro or EQ6-R Pro at some point.  Those mounts cost $1200-1700 plus the cost of a guiding camera/scope.  I am also still using an unmodified DSLR though, and you can buy an Astro-modified DSLR and filters for a lot less money than the mount will cost.  Would an Astro camera be a worthwhile upgrade while I continue to save for a quality EQ Mount?  I'm going to have to buy both of them eventually I just have limited monies right now.   Start with an unmodified DSLR on a good mount (more expensive right now), or start with an astromodified camera on a mediocre mount (less expensive right now)?

 

A few photos I've managed to take

https://photos.app.g...f8c5wkqTaj95Th9



#2 jonnybravo0311

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Posted 14 October 2021 - 02:40 PM

The weight of your system, while it may play a role, is not the primary issue. It's the 400mm lens that is. A star tracker like the Star Adventurer is effective for up to about 200mm. It starts to show its limitations above that. For example, when I first started, I was using a Lumix G9 and a PL 50-200 f/2.8-4 lens on a Star Adventurer. On a _good_ night, I'd get about an 80% keeper rate of 60" subs at 200mm.

 

That's what the good mounts get you. The ability to not only carry higher payloads, but also the more accurate tracking from better machined parts. If you've got some shorter focal length glass, you might be better off imaging with that than trying to wrangle the 400mm on the SA.


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#3 Pluggednickels

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Posted 14 October 2021 - 02:48 PM

Always Put the money into a good mount first and you will be able to extend the capabilities with longer exposure times using your current camera gear.  If you can’t get a good mount your best bang for the bucks will be putting the money into a guiding camera and scope to use with the star adventurer and current camera.    This will get your exposures up into the multiple minutes range   You can get into a decent guide camera and scope for under 300 

 

if your going to get a mount save up and get the best you can afford  don’t  go for the cheaper mounts just to have a mount all that will do is waste your money    I have bought several mounts over the years and the only ones I wish I hadn’t bought was the cheap ones 

 

there is a reason the mount is king and it’s worth buying the good ones even if you have to save for a bit longer to get them 
 


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#4 Mpaige10

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Posted 14 October 2021 - 05:47 PM

A mount upgrade lays the foundation for you to improve everything else. Upgrading from a Skyguider pro to a larger iOptron mount really took away a lot of sources of frustration for me. I had a modified DSLR (old) but found it not that much more sensitive to that red end of the spectrum than my newer DSLR, under relatively dark skies. If I could go back I’d skip the modified DSLR and eventually get a dedicated astronomy camera if you really end up committing to the hobby. Even the benefits from that won’t be super apparent until other skills have been developed.


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#5 EarNoodles

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Posted 14 October 2021 - 11:34 PM

Thanks for all of the advice it seems like a good mount truly is the key to getting good results.  I am intrigued at the idea of trying autoguiding with my current tracker though thanks for that suggestion!  I guess I hadn't realized autoguiding could make that much of a difference even on a subpar tracker but that is food for thought.  It's not like a guide scope/camera would go to waste either I'll also be needing that at some point.  Thanks for putting into perspective how much difference I might see from going down various routes.  I have a Canon EOS 90D currently and had wondered how that would compare to an older modified DSLR but it seems the benefits are perhaps not quite what I was imagining?


Edited by EarNoodles, 14 October 2021 - 11:37 PM.


#6 Hesiod

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Posted 15 October 2021 - 12:50 AM

Shooting unguided at 400mm is doable but much more expensive than getting the guiding equipment.
However I rather suggest to avoid the guide and get a 200mm lens instead: a 400mm AND the guiding equipment makes quite "clumsy" your tracker, while a lebs like the ef200 f/2.8 should allow you 120 to 180" subs with ease (mind also that being 4 times faster than your 400mm makes a very large difference on tbe final picture because of the lower amount of integration time required. This also helps on reds even if do not have a modded camera).

#7 Ibuprofen200mg

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Posted 15 October 2021 - 01:00 AM

Thanks for all of the advice it seems like a good mount truly is the key to getting good results.  I am intrigued at the idea of trying autoguiding with my current tracker though thanks for that suggestion!  I guess I hadn't realized autoguiding could make that much of a difference even on a subpar tracker but that is food for thought.  It's not like a guide scope/camera would go to waste either I'll also be needing that at some point.  Thanks for putting into perspective how much difference I might see from going down various routes.  I have a Canon EOS 90D currently and had wondered how that would compare to an older modified DSLR but it seems the benefits are perhaps not quite what I was imagining?

In your case I would go ahead a grab a guide cam (ASI120MM-Mini $150) and a guide scope (SvBony SV165 $50) and learn auto guiding. I would  keep shooting with your current camera and mount while you gain experience. Like others have said you should be able to push your exposures out to a couple of minutes with a high keep rate simply by adding guiding and refining your polar alignment (try SharpCap Pro). You can use this guiding combo down the road too when you upgrade your mount/scope/camera. Like Johnny said the Star Adventurer is a good little mount if you work within it's limitations (still my only mount). If you have a prime lens in the 200mm range I would probably swap to that for the time being, it will make life easier.

 

As for upgrading your camera before your mount it depends on your goals and your sky conditions. There are scenarios where it makes sense to do one over the other and vise versa. You don't need a $1500+ mount to get passable images, you can do that with your star tracker, working within it's limitations, which basically comes down shorter focal lengths/wider fields/larger targets. Check my signature for my latest image taken with my Star Adventurer, could be better but is certainly passable. 


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#8 nyx

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Posted 15 October 2021 - 01:21 AM

I'm sure other people will have different opinions regarding the HEQ-5, but I'd advise you to stay away from it. I purchased one earlier this year and it was so horrible in terms of bearing build quality and bad grease/stiction, that I had to send it to a guy who tunes mount for a living for a complete teardown, repair and tuning. Even after the repair, guided tracking was still not smooth enough for getting tight, round stars (I do narrowband so I need long exposures).

 

That experience including 2 horrible Star Adventurer copies (again, guided tracking accuracy) was enough to turn me into a Skywatcher enemy.

 

Regardless, if you are between the HEQ-5 and the EQ6-R Pro, do yourself a favor and get the latter ONLY IF you can handle the weight!



#9 EPinNC

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Posted 15 October 2021 - 07:35 AM

A few photos I've managed to take

https://photos.app.g...f8c5wkqTaj95Th9

Those are nice images!  That Triangulum Galaxy is especially good.  Since you've already got images like these, I suspect that you'll do some great work no matter what (good) mount you get waytogo.gif



#10 matt_astro_tx

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Posted 15 October 2021 - 08:06 AM

I've just scanned over this thread (which is dangerous) but I'll offer my 2c on what I've picked up.

 

I use the SA and a small refractor with an astro camera, so it's relatively lightweight.  I shoot every night at 287mm focal length with no problems.  My scope has a native FL of 360mm and I use a 0.8x reducer.  I agree with others that your 400mm aspirations are too much for this mount... without guiding.

 

I see that someone suggested a guider and I can say firsthand that guiding with the star adventurer is a GAME CHANGER.  I bought the SVBony SV605 30mm mini guidescope ($60 on Amazon) and the ASI120mm-mini from Agena.  I use these with the ASIAir Pro for guiding.  I am regularly achieving <2" accuracy with the SA now, and have seen it as low as 1.3" RMS.  The pixel scale of my rig is 1.75", so that number or lower is where I need to be to keep nice and tight stars.

 

Yes, a new more capable mount will yield the best results.  But if its not in your budget, spending the $200 to add guiding will sharpen things up considerably.

 

EDIT:  Here is an example of what I've been able to achieve with the mighty SA and guiding.


Edited by matt_astro_tx, 15 October 2021 - 08:08 AM.

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#11 photobiker

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Posted 15 October 2021 - 08:55 AM

I'm not much into giving advice at this point, kinda of new at it compared to the other folks here.  I agree with the mount being your next purchase and make sure it can handle the weight of your near future expectations.  I started with a Skyguider Pro, with Canon lenses and bodies and had what I thought was good success.  At some point I added a guide scope to help track better.  Then got a good mount and then a telescope and then a focuser and now waiting for a mini pc to arrive.  You can do a lot with what you have.  I've included 2 images I hot with a Canon body and a Canon 400mm-5.6 L lens without a guide scope.  I think Andromeda was comprised maybe 35-145 sec exposures and the Rosette I think was +/- 100-70 sec images.  These were my early on efforts before I joined Cloudy Nights.

Attached Thumbnails

  • Andromeda-sized.jpg
  • Rosette-edit-2.jpg

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#12 DubbelDerp

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Posted 15 October 2021 - 09:47 AM

I very much agree with the recommendation to add autoguiding to your current setup. When I was shooting off a Skyguider Pro with my 60mm 360mm f/l refractor, I could do maybe 30 second unguided subs before I started tossing lots of them. Add guiding to the setup and I could easily do 180-seconds. Probably longer, but I didn't see the need to test it.

 

The nice thing about adding autoguiding is that it doesn't cost an arm and a leg, and helps you learn skills that will certainly apply when you save up for a higher end mount later. Then start dithering in RA, and your images will improve that much more. While you're at it, tether your system via ASCOM or INDI to a computer (which you'll need anyways for autoguiding) and learn platesolving and polar alignment through the guide camera. You'll need a much better polar alignment since you can only guide in RA, so this is the perfect time to learn how to use something like Sharpcap or Ekos to really nail your alignment.

 

A higher end mount will certainly make things easier, but that doesn't mean you can't have a lot of fun and learn a bunch of new things with a modest investment in guiding.


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#13 Ryou

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Posted 16 October 2021 - 12:03 AM

Just going to echo others here and say that adding guiding (and looking at electronically assisted polar alignment through something like the polemaster, nina, sharpcap) will help out a lot.

 

From there the next step would be getting a better mount. Yes they are expensive, however they do open you up to more scopes/setups than your star tracker mount will handle. Also just to throw out something others haven't fully said, the nice thing (imo) about the higher end mounts is the GoTo (plus platesolving) for precise framing. Sure I can roughly point out something in my night sky and get it in target, even down to something fairly precise, however it's going to take a bit of extra time comparatively.


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#14 EarNoodles

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Posted 16 October 2021 - 04:11 PM

The nice thing about adding autoguiding is that it doesn't cost an arm and a leg, and helps you learn skills that will certainly apply when you save up for a higher end mount later. Then start dithering in RA, and your images will improve that much more. While you're at it, tether your system via ASCOM or INDI to a computer (which you'll need anyways for autoguiding) and learn platesolving and polar alignment through the guide camera. You'll need a much better polar alignment since you can only guide in RA, so this is the perfect time to learn how to use something like Sharpcap or Ekos to really nail your alignment.

 

A higher end mount will certainly make things easier, but that doesn't mean you can't have a lot of fun and learn a bunch of new things with a modest investment in guiding.

Thanks for the advice.  I am pretty good at manual polar alignment (I've realized I can do it without the illuminator with the camera gear already mounted) but humans can only reach a certain level of precision of course.  Computers are a lot better at that type of thing :)  Using a guide camera for polar alignment seems like another very useful skill to learn!



#15 matt_astro_tx

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Posted 16 October 2021 - 06:21 PM

With the ASIAir Pro it uses my main camera through the main scope to polar align.  While I also have a guide camera I don't use that to PA with.  Frankly I wouldn't know how to even do that.




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