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The basic function of a dedicated astro camera - noob alert

Astrophotography
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#1 Ghettogurke77

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Posted 04 December 2022 - 02:29 PM

Hey all!
I recently decided to start my astro photography journey with a Celestron SLT 90 and my mirrorless camera.
I guess I can get some first results with that combination but I'm also aware, that at some point I will have to invest in a dedicated astro camera.

So here's some basic questions I still wonder about.
Will I have to bring my laptop out in the field (or garden) and keep it connected to the asto cam while taking the many images / videos? I saw that there are some astro cameras that don't need some external source of power, so I wonder if they have internal storage then to save all the files?

Thank you for your help and making things clear! I'm very close to start my very own journey and I'm stoked to show my first (probably absolutely awful) results here.



#2 Tfer

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Posted 04 December 2022 - 03:07 PM

Think of it like this:

 

Take your mirrorless camera, and remove the body, processing chips, display, battery, memory card holder, and everything else that isn’t the sensor and the data plug.

 

Put that into its own case.

 

That’s an astrocam.  A VERY sensitive sensor and a data output.

 

As such, you’ll need to plug it into a compatible device to do anything with it. 


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#3 alphatripleplus

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Posted 04 December 2022 - 04:47 PM

As the OP is interested in doing AP,  moving this to Beginning Deep Sky Imaging.



#4 mariemarie

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Posted 04 December 2022 - 05:09 PM

Welcome to the rabbit hole! Prepare your wallet.

 

While you might be able to get some pix with your Celestron 90 to begin learn how to stack multiple images, do some processing, and generally see if you like being out in the dark fussing with AP equipment… your current set up is very much not ideal for photography. The main issues are that you’ve got a “slow” telescope at F/14 which is fine for visual but doesn’t bring in enough light for a camera sensor, a “long” focal length that demands precise tracking to avoid blur, and a mount that is also fine for visual but not precise enough to guide a camera through long exposures.

 

You’d be much better off starting out with a static tripod and a wide (like 35, 50, or 85 mm) prime lens on your camera (with an intervalometer to trigger the shutter). Maybe you already have those or could borrow them, an intervalometer will set you back about 20 bucks. What will that will do is give you a widefield image more forgiving of tracking issues and probably lead to success faster.

 

With the camera prime lens you should be able to take a bunch of 10-15 second widefield photos (depending on the focal length of your lens), and stack them up in a lightweight program like deep sky stacker. You can get some lovely results that way! You can try photos of larger objects like Orion’s Belt or the Pleiades.

 

if you want to move on from there the first thing you want to think about adding to your beginning AP kit is the best mount you can afford. This might be a star tracker or a lightweight goto AP mount. That will take your ability to track to a new level, but at the cost of some technical difficulty. Then you might think about getting a small refractor, and then maybe a dedicated astrocamera, like the 533MC. And yes, you’ll need some kind of computer to run your astrocamera, I use the ZWO ASI air package, rather than a laptop, and I absolutely 100% love the thing. It makes astrophotography so much easier for me. You should be able to get most if not all of this stuff used here on the classified, with patience.

 

Good luck! Looking forward to seeing your photos!


Edited by mariemarie, 04 December 2022 - 05:37 PM.

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#5 soojooko

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Posted 04 December 2022 - 05:17 PM

Hey all!
I recently decided to start my astro photography journey with a Celestron SLT 90 and my mirrorless camera.
I guess I can get some first results with that combination but I'm also aware, that at some point I will have to invest in a dedicated astro camera.

So here's some basic questions I still wonder about.
Will I have to bring my laptop out in the field (or garden) and keep it connected to the asto cam while taking the many images / videos? I saw that there are some astro cameras that don't need some external source of power, so I wonder if they have internal storage then to save all the files?

Thank you for your help and making things clear! I'm very close to start my very own journey and I'm stoked to show my first (probably absolutely awful) results here.

Some astro cams are indeed standalone - so have some sort of computer/storage built in. For example: https://www.astrel-i...s.com/ast8300-x

 

But the vast majority need an external controller/computer of some sort. If you want to keep things super simple, you can use a ready made astro PC, such as the Asiair controlled by your phone/tablet.

 

Aside from the obvious benefits of a super sensitive sensor and possible cooling - there's also the lifespan to consider. DSLRs have a shutter count lifespan. Astro cams do not. So you can take exposures and calibration frames to your hearts content without being concerned about shutter count.



#6 EPinNC

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Posted 04 December 2022 - 06:25 PM

I don't have an astro camera, so I can't speak to that.  I do know something about starting off with a long focal length Mak-Cass (Orion Apex 102, f/12.7, much like what you have) and a DSLR.  In short, it's difficult and very limiting.

 

I second mariemarie's suggestion of just putting your camera and a basic lens on a fixed tripod and trying a few images that way.  It is possible to do a considerable amount of astrophotography this way, and many people start this way.  I did, and here's what I came up with.  These images won't win any awards, but I really learned a lot in the process and I had a lot of fun.

 

That said, you can still try a few things with your DSLR attached to your telescope, just to get a feel for what the issues are.  There will be many issues, and you will quickly learn what you will need to take long-exposure images of deep-sky objects.

 

Start with the Moon.  Try a fast shutter speed and a low value of ISO.  You might be surprised at what you can do.

 

Then turn your attention to something a little more difficult, like Jupiter.  It will be tiny, and it won't be spectacular, but you can still get something.

 

Then try a bright star cluster, like the Pleiades.  You may not get the whole thing in the field of view, but you'll get some stars.  This is where you'll see one of the most basic issues:  using a long enough exposure to actually register some stars but without allowing them to "trail" across the image during the exposure.  You want nice little round stars.  Without the ability to precisely track the stars across the sky, you will find that you need to keep your exposures to literally a fraction of a second.  You can take a lot of short exposures like this and stack them, but you'll probably find it very difficult to get much of great interest, even if you do everything right.  It's just the nature of the beast.

 

Then go back to mariemarie's post and look at the next to last paragraph about getting a mount.  Go from there, and start enjoying your new hobby like never before.

 

In short, try a few simple things first, using just what you already have.  Just think of it all as a learning process.  Then go forth one careful step at a time (mount first).  Exhaust the possibilities of what you have, and then decide where your hard-earned dollars should go next.


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#7 jml79

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Posted 04 December 2022 - 06:52 PM

Astrocams are; available in monochrome, if they are colour they are already modified to see more red (most regular cameras can be modified to do this), they are cooled (reducing sensor noise and simplify darks), they don’t have a shutter which can eventually wear out.

 

Regular cameras are; powered by an internal battery, have internal storage, can be used without a computer using a cheap intervalometer, need to modified for best results with astrophotography. They are always colour.

 

As for the sensor difference, astrocams use almost exclusively Sony IMX sensors that are sold for commercial use. Some of these are available in regular cameras and some aren’t and a few are slightly different than the ones in a regular camera but very similar.

 

Both have their place, advantages and uses. You aren’t going to see an amazing quality difference outside of very hot environments. The fancy astrocam is likely the last thing you should buy unless you can’t or won’t modify your mirrorless. Everything in my gallery, good and bad, has been shot with a modified Sony mirrorless camera. They can work well. 



#8 Alex McConahay

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Posted 04 December 2022 - 08:45 PM

Think of it like this:

 

Take your mirrorless camera, and remove the body, processing chips, display, battery, memory card holder, and everything else that isn’t the sensor and the data plug.

 

Put that into its own case.

 

That’s an astrocam.  A VERY sensitive sensor and a data output.

 

As such, you’ll need to plug it into a compatible device to do anything with it. 

And when you are finished stripping it down, you will probably want to add a chip cooler to it. 

 

But overall, if you want to get serious about the whole thing, you will need a computer in the field. It does a whole lot more than just take the pictures. It controls the mount, helps plan the session, displays what you are getting, and plays music while you wait for the exposures.

 

 

Alex


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#9 Tfer

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Posted 04 December 2022 - 10:02 PM

And when you are finished stripping it down, you will probably want to add a chip cooler to it. 

 

But overall, if you want to get serious about the whole thing, you will need a computer in the field. It does a whole lot more than just take the pictures. It controls the mount, helps plan the session, displays what you are getting, and plays music while you wait for the exposures.

 

 

Alex

This topic started in the EAA forum, wher cooling isn’t really required.



#10 jml79

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Posted 04 December 2022 - 10:36 PM

This topic started in the EAA forum, wher cooling isn’t really required.

Hmm, that's interesting. Using a camera for EAA is a bit of a different beast. Don't you usually take a boat load of short exposures? If that's the use case then a big advantage of an astrocam is no shutter to wear out and in some ways the cheaper and smaller sensors in astrocams really would make some sense. Plus you already have a laptop right there so...


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#11 Alex McConahay

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Posted 04 December 2022 - 10:48 PM

Well, before we go much further, we better ask the threadstarter what kind of images he or she wants to take, long exposure deep sky, or electronically assisted astronomy. 

 

It will make a difference in what kind of camera you want to buy. 

 

Alex



#12 Robert7980

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Posted 04 December 2022 - 11:15 PM

What I do to make it easy and compact is run a mini PC on the mount that I RDP into over Wifi, mostly on an iPad but I can pull it up on my desktop to… There’s lots of brands but I choose the MeLe Quieter 3Q running N.I.N.A and APT as well as PHD autoguider, Stellrium and everything else I need.. The little thing comes with Windows 11 Pro and is around $200 right now… Not my idea I copied it from others, but for me it’s far superior to the ASIAIR plus that is unavailable and why I went this route… Everything needed to run the scope and imaging is onboard I only need to run one power cable to the mount either 120v from the wall or a 12vdc supply… It totally eliminates needing to babysit the scope and have a laptop near it… It will control DSLRs or any camera that can be plugged into a PC…

 

So yes you definitely need a computer of some sort… there are products available that can extend the wireless range to hundreds of yards to miles… I haven’t had any issues at about 100 feet… 

 

 

https://www.amazon.c...product_details

 

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