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Beginner Needs Help Getting Started

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#1 black cat

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Posted Yesterday, 11:39 AM

Help! A couple of weeks ago I was in the Canadian wilderness and had an amazing time shooting the Milky Way and Northern Lights with my Sony A7rii and Tamron lenses. I'm now hooked on astrophotography and am interested in getting a setup for some deep sky photography. I'm looking at jumping in with one of the William Optic ZenithStar series scopes and going ahead and going with a pretty solid mount like the EQ6-R Pro or something along those lines. I'm a big proponent of buy once, cry once so I'd prefer to step up the initial equipment in hopes of it meeting my needs for awhile instead of going with a strictly beginner setup. Thoughts on the mount and scope? Is my Sony good to use with the ZenithStar or will I need a dedicated camera?

 

Other than the equipment, I realize there's a steep learning curve going down this route. So much of what I've come across in YouTube videos is still Greek to me...such as dithering, Meridian flip, binning, shooting with different filters and the purpose of the different filters, etc. Where are some good places to dive into the details and learn the basics and beyond of deep sky photography? Most of the YouTube videos I've come across talk about a lot of this stuff but I can't seem to find some videos that are geared more as a tutorial and explanation of the ins and outs of astrophotography. 



#2 c131frdave

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Posted Yesterday, 11:54 AM

Buy once, cry once eh?

 

EQ6 is a good option.  

 

Telescope doesn't matter that much.  Something decent and short.  ED glass if you are getting a refractor (highly suggested).

 

If you are serious about your mantra, get a cooled camera and a control box.  Since you are completely green, I'd suggest a ASI533MC-Pro, 120mm mini, SVBony mini guide scope, and ASI Air Plus.  If you can swing it, get the ASI2600MC pro.  If you can get a flat field refractor, get that.  Otherwise you'll need a field flattener.


Edited by c131frdave, Yesterday, 11:55 AM.

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#3 Jim R

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Posted Yesterday, 12:09 PM

I am not criticizing the OP approach, indeed, it is probably the best approach.  My own has been somewhat different.  I started with a skyguider pro, and canon camera and lenses.  Two years later, I am still using those tools, even though I have a good short focal length refractor and a CEM 25 P mount.  I feel I am still learning and improving with my initial equipment.

 

Jim


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#4 Ken Sturrock

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Posted Yesterday, 12:25 PM

I know that it's boring, but you really should throttle the gear purchases back and read a while.

 

Although you can learn a lot about specific things from Cloudy Nights and YouTube, if you're truly new then it helps to have more comprehensive teaching material that is laid out logically as well as from a single coherent & experienced voice. After you get the basic ideas down, you'll be in a better place to sort through all of the posts from the also-green "seen one, done one" experts on Cloudy Nights as well as the more experienced veterans arguing esoteric edge cases.


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#5 matt_astro_tx

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Posted Yesterday, 12:32 PM

Buy once, cry once eh?

 

EQ6 is a good option.  

 

Telescope doesn't matter that much.  Something decent and short.  ED glass if you are getting a refractor (highly suggested).

 

If you are serious about your mantra, get a cooled camera and a control box.  Since you are completely green, I'd suggest a ASI533MC-Pro, 120mm mini, SVBony mini guide scope, and ASI Air Plus.  If you can swing it, get the ASI2600MC pro.  If you can get a flat field refractor, get that.  Otherwise you'll need a field flattener.

This is good advice and I agree with it. 

 

Also consider Astro-Tech's scopes for your refractor purchase.  They're available for purchase through our sponsor, Astronomics.com and you get a Cloudy Nights discount.  Check out the AT72EDii (a doublet) or the AT80EDT (a triplet, if you can afford it).  Either scope would be excellent for astrophotography, with the triplet producing a little crispier images.  I use the AT60ED (a doublet) and have zero complaints.  It's been an excellent scope to learn and grow with, and now to master.

 

Do pickup a copy of Bracken's Deep Sky Imaging Primer to read.



#6 bobzeq25

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Posted Yesterday, 12:48 PM

Help! A couple of weeks ago I was in the Canadian wilderness and had an amazing time shooting the Milky Way and Northern Lights with my Sony A7rii and Tamron lenses. I'm now hooked on astrophotography and am interested in getting a setup for some deep sky photography. I'm looking at jumping in with one of the William Optic ZenithStar series scopes and going ahead and going with a pretty solid mount like the EQ6-R Pro or something along those lines. I'm a big proponent of buy once, cry once so I'd prefer to step up the initial equipment in hopes of it meeting my needs for awhile instead of going with a strictly beginner setup. Thoughts on the mount and scope? Is my Sony good to use with the ZenithStar or will I need a dedicated camera?

 

Other than the equipment, I realize there's a steep learning curve going down this route. So much of what I've come across in YouTube videos is still Greek to me...such as dithering, Meridian flip, binning, shooting with different filters and the purpose of the different filters, etc. Where are some good places to dive into the details and learn the basics and beyond of deep sky photography? Most of the YouTube videos I've come across talk about a lot of this stuff but I can't seem to find some videos that are geared more as a tutorial and explanation of the ins and outs of astrophotography. 

Welcome to the hobby.  Here's some help getting started.

 

The EQ6-R is the right class of mounts, good choice for mount performance.  It's heavy.  If that's no problem for you , great.  But, it's hard to get good nights, if the weight deters you from getting out, consider a CEM40 or GEM45.  Similar performance, much lighter.

 

Zenithstars are good scopes.  One thing to keep in mind, and it's not an easy thing to wrap your head around.  Smaller is better when you're starting out.  Really.

 

Focal length.  No more than 600mm, 480 is better.

 

Weight.  No more than 10 pounds, 5 is better.

 

Speed.  No slower than F6.

 

You'll see all kinds of weird stuff on the Internet, and you won't know it's weird.  <smile>  This is fiendishly complicated and often unintuitive.  The good news is that you will never, ever, run out of new things to learn.

 

This defines "not weird".  It will be the best $40 you ever spend in DSO imaging.  I've chosen it for you from a _large_ bookshelf.

 

https://www.amazon.c...d/dp/0999470949

 

Those are the big deals.  More minor, but still important points.

 

Don't avoid autoguiding, it's not an advanced technique, it's fundamental.

 

The same applies to the camera calibration frames, don't omit bias, flats, darks.

 

Other stuff.

 

Either the Sony or a dedicate astro camera will work for learning.  But, do not try to use a terrestrial photo editing program for astro processing.

 

I like Astro Pixel Processor, many like Siril.

 

If there's a conflict between better equipment for learning with, and better equipment for an experienced imager to do imaging with, pick the first.  This is not a close call.  If you try to anticipate what you'll need later, and cause yourself a lot of grief learning, you've made a bad choice.  You can buy your forever mount right now.  Trying to buy a forever scope (by getting a bigger one) can lead you to a _lot_ of problems.

 

But, if you must avoid "beginner" stuff, here are some suggestions.  Great for learning on (compare the specs to the criteria), and can be your big target scope forever.  There are a lot of big targets.

 

https://www.skywatch...t-apo-refractor

 

https://williamoptic...ducts/redcat-71

 

https://camera-conce...-guidescop.html

 

https://www.highpoin...pe-ota-tsk06010

 

This is a fabulous camera.  I own both 2600s.

 

https://astronomy-im...600mc-pro-color

 

Filters are far from magic.  I'd avoid them, with one exception.  A duoband for emission nebulae.  You'll need either an astro camera or a modded DSLR.

 

The two big beginner mistakes, we all cover our eyes with our hands when we see them.

 

An inadequate mount.  You've avoided that one.

 

Too big a scope.  Avoid that one, too.


Edited by bobzeq25, Yesterday, 01:20 PM.

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#7 danny1976

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Posted Yesterday, 01:07 PM

If your A7RII is not modified you will have a hard time capturing Ha which is present in many nebulae. A dedicated astrocam also has cooling which lowers the noise and you can reuse your darks and biases. 

 

I had a Sony A6400 but went immediately for the good stuff so I sold it and bought an ASI2600MC. You can also go for mono but for a beginner maybe not the right choice and you will need a filter wheel and many filters lrgbsho.



#8 fewayne

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Posted Yesterday, 01:17 PM

My "utter newb" days are still large enough in the rearview mirror that I remember what worked (and didn't) for me.

These folks are definitely giving you the solid 411 here. You won't go wrong with the equipment recommended so far, but I'm with Ken and Bob -- TDSIP is a solidly-constructed beginner's curriculum that will equip you to evaluate just what you want to do and what gear, software, and techniques you'll need to do it. For example, after reading Chapter 4 you'll know exactly what tradeoffs you need to balance between the Sony and a dedicated camera.

 

The third edition is available as a custom PDF, if that's your style, with the target stuff customized for your latitude and longitude, and it's even cheaper.

 

Along the just-bought-a-lottery-ticket lines of "what could I do with...", two previsualization techniques you might enjoy. One is to download a copy of a good planetarium program. I like Stellarium, there are others. You can set it up to show the field of view of various combinations of sensor and optics, along with the all-important image scale (how many seconds of arc each pixel covers). The other is to go to Astrobin and search on, say, Sony A7III to see what other people have produced with that gear.

 

Welcome, and enjoy!



#9 black cat

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Posted Yesterday, 01:59 PM

Awesome info guys. Keep it coming. Just bought Bracken's book.


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#10 c131frdave

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Posted Yesterday, 03:54 PM

One interesting note from this thread and similar threads on this forum, often people suggest reading first before you try your first imaging session.  For many, that is good advice.  For me and people like me, that's a waste of time.  I learn by doing.  I can't learn from a book.  I've tried, many times, but I just can't.  I struggled in college because much of it was book learning, but when I got into the real world I excelled quickly because I was knee deep in it.  I like being thrown in the deep end and figuring it out.  If you are the type of person who can learn from reading, then that is probably a wonderful and smart suggestion for you, and by all means, do it.  If you learn by doing like me- do your reading during the day and get out there.  This hobby is a skill.  Skills have to be honed through practice and experience.  The tools available today are extremely user friendly and make this hobby MUCH easier if you choose to use them.   Whatever path you choose- welcome to CN.  We are all here to help each other, even though we might not always agree...  slaphappy.gif


Edited by c131frdave, Yesterday, 03:54 PM.

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#11 Spaceman 56

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Posted Yesterday, 04:04 PM

I know that it's boring, but you really should throttle the gear purchases back and read a while.

 

 

thats great advice Ken.  waytogo.gif

 

regarding the Mount I looked at an EQ6-R, but went with the slightly smaller AZ/EQ5-Pro.

 

much more portable, and good for the type of OTAs that most people starting out might be using.

 

Meaning anything DSLR, anything Refractor up to 120mm, and Newts up to 200mm.

 

Spaceman



#12 Spaceman 56

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Posted Yesterday, 04:14 PM

One interesting note from this thread and similar threads on this forum, often people suggest reading first before you try your first imaging session.  For many, that is good advice.  For me and people like me, that's a waste of time.  I learn by doing.  I can't learn from a book.  I've tried, many times, but I just can't. 

I am also a bit like you. this was my first astro rigg.

 

I started at the bottom, with a DSLR,  and learnt from experience mainly.

 

 

and the 6 mega pixel Pentax.

 

Ladder Tripod & 6Mega-Pixel Pentax V2.jpg

 

I think its good to start simple and work up from there, and only invest once you know its heading somewhere.

 

if you cant get the basics happening with a DSLR and a simple set up, then your not going to handle a complex set up.

 

Spaceman 




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