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Looking for advice on my proposed deep sky Kit list

Astrophotography Beginner Refractor Mount Optics
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#1 fyferoni

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Posted 01 December 2023 - 01:23 PM

Hey everyone! I'm new-ish to visual astronomy (been using an 8"in. Dob for about half a year now) and as a photographer by trade, I've been really interested in jumping into astrophotography. I'm starting out already owning a Canon EOS 6D, and I'll be using that to build the kit around.

 

I live in a bortle 6 suburb with access to occassional trips to dark sky spots (when kids and job allow it) so the setup will mainly be used in my front yard (hence the filter addition to hopefully help in capturing at home).

 

After countless hours scouring this great community, here's my thoughts so far as a starting rig (with a budget around $2000).

 

Proposed Kit:

  • Mount and Tripod: Sky Watcher Heq-5pro
  • Scope: Astro-Tech AT72EDii
  • Field Flattener: Astro Tech .8x Field Reducer/Flattener
  • Camera: Canon EOS 6D (no mod) - Already owned
  • Finder/Guide Scope: Astro tech 8x50 Finder Scope (eventually would like to guide, but a bit out of budget)
  • Filter: Optolong L-Pro 2.in Broadband Filter
  • Dew warmer/cables/etc (i'm also planning on controlling the rig via laptop)

Thoughts? Suggestions? Insults? Let me know!



#2 FrostByte

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Posted 01 December 2023 - 01:41 PM

That looks like a good start. I'd probably skip the l-pro and put the funds towards guiding. Also, the AT60ED is a nice little scope if you want to shave off a bit more to put towards guiding. The benefits of autoguiding go far beyond just keeping your stars round, especially with a DSLR. Did I mention that guiding is important? grin.gif


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#3 fyferoni

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Posted 01 December 2023 - 02:00 PM

That looks like a good start. I'd probably skip the l-pro and put the funds towards guiding. Also, the AT60ED is a nice little scope if you want to shave off a bit more to put towards guiding. The benefits of autoguiding go far beyond just keeping your stars round, especially with a DSLR. Did I mention that guiding is important? grin.gif

Good to know! Any recs for a good starter guide scope/guide camera combo? I know ZWOs are popular, but don't know if there are less expensive alternatives out there.



#4 FrostByte

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Posted 01 December 2023 - 02:04 PM

The SVbony ones are decent. I have one of their 50mm guidescopes on my AT60 with a ZWO guide camera. If I didn't already have the ZWO guide camera, I probably would have given the SVbony one a try.


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#5 idclimber

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Posted 01 December 2023 - 02:25 PM

Guiding is an essential tool and skill. You don't not need much with that scope and mount. A 30mm guide scope and a basic guide camera like the ASI120mm mini will work perfectly and allow that HEQ 5 to track at the image scale of your scope and camera.

 

Going without would be about as much fun as doing indoor wedding formals without any lights/flash.


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#6 Desertanimal

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Posted 01 December 2023 - 02:47 PM

Keep an eye on the classifieds too. That combo mentioned above shows up quite a bit as it’s a pretty standard inexpensive starter setup. Or just buy new, you’re going to be spending money like you’ve got a money tree in the backyard soon enough anyway! Haha
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#7 TholianWeb

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Posted 01 December 2023 - 03:01 PM

Don't forget a power supply for the dark site field trips!  Bluetti (like PS72) and Jackaroo are popular, -or roll your own with newer Lithium Ion battery. 


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#8 fyferoni

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Posted 01 December 2023 - 03:09 PM

Don't forget a power supply for the dark site field trips!  Bluetti (like PS72) and Jackaroo are popular, -or roll your own with newer Lithium Ion battery. 

Question on that as well! Is that the appropriate amount of power needed on an average night of collection, or can you get away with less? Want to make sure i'm not over/under buying, especially with the hefty price tags of those things!



#9 TholianWeb

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Posted 01 December 2023 - 03:36 PM

I just got a Bluetti PS72 via Walmart (they have been on sale under $300). It has ~716Whr capacity which powered everything I had for the night (4hrs) without using no more than 25%. 


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#10 vidrazor

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Posted 01 December 2023 - 04:25 PM

Proposed Kit:

  • Mount and Tripod: Sky Watcher Heq-5pro
  • Scope: Astro-Tech AT72EDii
  • Field Flattener: Astro Tech .8x Field Reducer/Flattener
  • Camera: Canon EOS 6D (no mod) - Already owned
  • Finder/Guide Scope: Astro tech 8x50 Finder Scope (eventually would like to guide, but a bit out of budget)
  • Filter: Optolong L-Pro 2.in Broadband Filter
  • Dew warmer/cables/etc (i'm also planning on controlling the rig via laptop)

Question on that as well! Is that the appropriate amount of power needed on an average night of collection, or can you get away with less? Want to make sure i'm not over/under buying, especially with the hefty price tags of those things!

I just got a Bluetti PS72 via Walmart (they have been on sale under $300). It has ~716Whr capacity which powered everything I had for the night (4hrs) without using no more than 25%. 

I agree, skip the L-Pro and get a guide camera and guide scope. The cheapest guide scope I know of is the 30mm SVBONY. SVBONY also has a scope/camera combo. The camera isn't bad, but I think you'd be better off with the ASI120MM Mini camera instead. This guide scope's focal length with work well with your scope's 344mm focal length. Also get a UV/IR filter for the guide camera, it will help you get sharper focus on the stars to guide.

The Bluetti unfortunately appears to be back at $400 at Walmart. If you can find one at a good price they're nice units, and use LiFePO4 batteries.

 

Your rig won't need much power for the night, I use a GOLABS R150 to run my CEM26, Raspberry Pi4, dew heater, and cameras for an entire evening with power to spare. Although that model is no longer available (at least, on Amazon), the i200 unit will easily power your setup for the night. My friend has an R300 unit that he uses with his rig, and that's also a great unit as well. All GOLABS power supplies also use LiFePO4 batteries.

 

Whatever you do, stay away from Jackerys. Overpriced, with proprietary interfacing, and still using lithium-ion batteries.


Edited by vidrazor, 01 December 2023 - 04:30 PM.

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#11 fyferoni

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Posted 01 December 2023 - 04:40 PM

I agree, skip the L-Pro and get a guide camera and guide scope. The cheapest guide scope I know of is the 30mm SVBONY. SVBONY also has a scope/camera combo. The camera isn't bad, but I think you'd be better off with the ASI120MM Mini camera instead. This guide scope's focal length with work well with your scope's 344mm focal length. Also get a UV/IR filter for the guide camera, it will help you get sharper focus on the stars to guide.

The Bluetti unfortunately appears to be back at $400 at Walmart. If you can find one at a good price they're nice units, and use LiFePO4 batteries.

 

Your rig won't need much power for the night, I use a GOLABS R150 to run my CEM26, Raspberry Pi4, dew heater, and cameras for an entire evening with power to spare. Although that model is no longer available (at least, on Amazon), the i200 unit will easily power your setup for the night. My friend has an R300 unit that he uses with his rig, and that's also a great unit as well. All GOLABS power supplies also use LiFePO4 batteries.

 

Whatever you do, stay away from Jackerys. Overpriced, with proprietary interfacing, and still using lithium-ion batteries.

Sounds good! I think i'm fairly convinced to guide (even though it's a bit intimidating at first) and that one looks to be a better overall pick for this particular setup! Also, that i200 unit is now in my crosshairs for a post-new-year purchase! I'll probably have to stay tethered to the house until then, but it's probably for the best, as my shooting location is pretty dang cold for a dark sky adventure at the moment lol.gif .



#12 t-ara-fan

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Posted 01 December 2023 - 05:37 PM

Sounds good! I think i'm fairly convinced to guide (even though it's a bit intimidating at first)   .

Guiding isn't difficult. After all, the program everybody uses is called PHD2 - the PHD  does not mean you need one.  It means "Press Here Dummy". 

 

And guiding makes a huge difference.  With my HEQ5 and 6D I could go about 2 minutes before the trailing bothered me. With guiding: 7 minutes which was way too long, but was fun for "one -shot" pics of DSOs.  The night I got plate-solving to work, I was jumping all over the sky taking "one-shot" pics of a half dozen DSOs. Fun.

 

Down the road, a focus motor is a good upgrade.  Your software i.e. NINA can autofocus if the focus HFR drifts by a certain amount.  You get better focus when you autofocus.  But wait a while, until you know how to work the stuff that is already on your list.

 

Other things that are handy? 

  • 8.4V supply and battery dummy for the 6D.  There is nothing worse than getting EVERYTHING setup and working smoothly, then the battery dies.
  • USB hub.  The 6D is only USB2, USB3 will also work. Don't get a USB hub that has a momentary power switch. Super annoying. 
  • 10m USB extension cable. So you can have your laptop on a table or in your car depending on the weather.
  • Cable to connect mount to computer. "EQdirect" cable from Shoestring astronomy used to be the thing, there might be newer solutions.  This lets you platesolve and center targets. It is REALLY nice to be able to do this. Saves hours of trying to find targets.

Edited by t-ara-fan, 01 December 2023 - 05:45 PM.

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#13 fyferoni

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Posted 04 December 2023 - 01:25 PM

Thanks so much for everyone's replies! All incredibly helpful and insightful! I'll definitely be revising to include guiding, and I might look into an ASI air mini (I'm all mac in my house, so I'd have to pick up a used/old PC laptop anyway?) if anyone has strong opinions either way on that, let me know! I'm an absolute novice over here, so any feedback is just adding to the pile of knowledge moving forward!

 

Again, appreciate all the expertise! This is a pretty cool slice of the internet grin.gif



#14 vidrazor

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Posted 04 December 2023 - 02:40 PM

Thanks so much for everyone's replies! All incredibly helpful and insightful! I'll definitely be revising to include guiding, and I might look into an ASI air mini (I'm all mac in my house, so I'd have to pick up a used/old PC laptop anyway?) if anyone has strong opinions either way on that, let me know! I'm an absolute novice over here, so any feedback is just adding to the pile of knowledge moving forward!

I'm personally not a fan of the ASIAIR because it locks you into ZWO hardware. You can get a used Windows laptop for pretty cheap, you don't need a powerful laptop to control a mount, cameras, etc for capture.

 

You can also get a Windows-base MiniPC that's like the ASIAIR that you can remotely control from your Mac and have it mounted right on your rig. This to me is a much better approach than the ASIAIR.
 

You can do all you stacking and post processing right on the Mac.


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#15 fyferoni

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Posted 04 December 2023 - 02:48 PM

I'm personally not a fan of the ASIAIR because it locks you into ZWO hardware. You can get a used Windows laptop for pretty cheap, you don't need a powerful laptop to control a mount, cameras, etc for capture.

 

You can also get a Windows-base MiniPC that's like the ASIAIR that you can remotely control from your Mac and have it mounted right on your rig. This to me is a much better approach than the ASIAIR.
 

You can do all you stacking and post processing right on the Mac.

I noticed that it has "support" for some DSLRs, but is the functionality limited in some way? I noticed on the air mini that it had a DSLR shutter control port, but I didn't know if you could wire it directly in via the A/V port on the 6D?

 

I would imagine you can have greater control over the camera via windows based programs, correct?



#16 Zambiadarkskies

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Posted 04 December 2023 - 02:53 PM

Thanks so much for everyone's replies! All incredibly helpful and insightful! I'll definitely be revising to include guiding, and I might look into an ASI air mini (I'm all mac in my house, so I'd have to pick up a used/old PC laptop anyway?) if anyone has strong opinions either way on that, let me know! I'm an absolute novice over here, so any feedback is just adding to the pile of knowledge moving forward!

 

Again, appreciate all the expertise! This is a pretty cool slice of the internet grin.gif

You don't need a PC to use an AIR - the software runs on tablets/phones from either Android or Apple.  I have strong opinions - the AIR just works.  For various reasons I really need a system that doesn't need a laptop at my site (with no internet).  I dont give a rat's bum about locked ecosystems, I need something to let me finish a session by closing my phone/tablet and heading for the hills before I get eaten or trampled smile.gif . If it has a few lesser features than NINA I really don't mind.  The only other comment I have is that your scope choice might not be the best with the 6d in terms of corners, but my AT80ED is surprisingly good with my 6Dii - cropping a bit off is not the end of the world.  Plus the AT scopes are so well priced.  


Edited by Zambiadarkskies, 04 December 2023 - 02:58 PM.

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#17 Zambiadarkskies

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Posted 04 December 2023 - 02:56 PM

I noticed that it has "support" for some DSLRs, but is the functionality limited in some way? I noticed on the air mini that it had a DSLR shutter control port, but I didn't know if you could wire it directly in via the A/V port on the 6D?

 

I would imagine you can have greater control over the camera via windows based programs, correct?

You can connect it with the USB mini port on the 6D.  And get full control of everything.  It is just such a crap connection though... be ready to test more than one cable.  


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#18 fyferoni

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Posted 04 December 2023 - 03:17 PM

You don't need a PC to use an AIR - the software runs on tablets/phones from either Android or Apple.  I have strong opinions - the AIR just works.  For various reasons I really need a system that doesn't need a laptop at my site (with no internet).  I dont give a rat's bum about locked ecosystems, I need something to let me finish a session by closing my phone/tablet and heading for the hills before I get eaten or trampled smile.gif . If it has a few lesser features than NINA I really don't mind.  The only other comment I have is that your scope choice might not be the best with the 6d in terms of corners, but my AT80ED is surprisingly good with my 6Dii - cropping a bit off is not the end of the world.  Plus the AT scopes are so well priced.  

Correct! I'm aware I don't need a PC for the Air, I was just curious if there were any limiting factors with the ASI Air in relation to my 6D/guide camera (which is ZWO)/HEQ5.

 

Honestly, the amount that a used PC/mini-pc are, the air mini is really competitively priced. Even the astro-pc is $100 more than the mini, and has functionality that I really don't need at the moment.

 

To be clear; if I can scrounge up an old PC to use over an Air, i'm def gonna do it. I think it comes down to availability in the near term! A $170 dedicated device isn't a huge investment if it makes QOL when shooting so much better.



#19 Zambiadarkskies

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Posted 04 December 2023 - 03:33 PM

Correct! I'm aware I don't need a PC for the Air, I was just curious if there were any limiting factors with the ASI Air in relation to my 6D/guide camera (which is ZWO)/HEQ5.

 

Honestly, the amount that a used PC/mini-pc are, the air mini is really competitively priced. Even the astro-pc is $100 more than the mini, and has functionality that I really don't need at the moment.

 

To be clear; if I can scrounge up an old PC to use over an Air, i'm def gonna do it. I think it comes down to availability in the near term! A $170 dedicated device isn't a huge investment if it makes QOL when shooting so much better.

Not really.  The only thing I have found is the USB mini connection is not the best and the file transfer is slow over that connection (which doesn't really matter to me but is worth mentioning...). planetary it is not for!  I actually bought a mini to back up my aisair plus (as well as occasional 2nd rig use with a star tracker) as it is so essential to me. Laptops are not for me and my circumstances.  If I had internet at my site it would be different, then I could totally go mini pc and NINA.  But speed and efficiency are everything right now.  The Air is not perfect and there are a few limits that are annoying as hell, but I can live with them - especially as I am OSC and not running filter offsets and stuff like that which the air cannot do.  


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#20 Tkall

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Posted 04 December 2023 - 03:41 PM

 Also get a UV/IR filter for the guide camera, it will help you get sharper focus on the stars to guide.

 

I haven't heard this before.  Shoud we have uv/ir filters on guide cameras?


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#21 vidrazor

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Posted 04 December 2023 - 05:58 PM

I haven't heard this before.  Shoud we have uv/ir filters on guide cameras?

It filters out IR bloat. The image below, shot with an ASI120MM Mini, while a terrestrial test shot, shows the filtration removal of IR in light emission. When autoguiding, it will allow for smaller, tighter, better focused stars.
 

Attached Thumbnails

  • UV-IR Difference.jpg

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#22 vidrazor

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Posted 04 December 2023 - 06:02 PM

I noticed that it has "support" for some DSLRs, but is the functionality limited in some way? I noticed on the air mini that it had a DSLR shutter control port, but I didn't know if you could wire it directly in via the A/V port on the 6D?

I would imagine you can have greater control over the camera via windows based programs, correct?

Yes, some DSLRs and mirrorless, but once you get more advanced in shooting, you can't use astro cameras, guide cameras, focus motors, filter wheels, etc. from other manufacturers. You're locked into using only ZWO hardware.

 

The MiniPC I linked does everything the ASIAIR does, only better, because you're free to use whatever hardware (and software) you desire.
 


Edited by vidrazor, 04 December 2023 - 06:04 PM.

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#23 idclimber

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Posted 04 December 2023 - 11:38 PM

Thanks so much for everyone's replies! All incredibly helpful and insightful! I'll definitely be revising to include guiding, and I might look into an ASI air mini (I'm all mac in my house, so I'd have to pick up a used/old PC laptop anyway?) if anyone has strong opinions either way on that, let me know! I'm an absolute novice over here, so any feedback is just adding to the pile of knowledge moving forward!

 

Again, appreciate all the expertise! This is a pretty cool slice of the internet grin.gif

I image on an old MacBook Pro for well over a year before purchasing a small NUC. In my case I ran TheSkyX and a python script written by a well respected member here. I also already had that software as it is tied to the Paramounts. I believe there are other software alternative that would also work if you wanted. I do know that PHD2 does run on the Mac although I never ran it. 

 

The NUC does not have to be expensive. Many here do it at about the same cost as the Air. The air does give you USB ports and 12 volt dew strap control so consider that if you need that as well. I control the NUC from my MacBook with a VNC connection. T

 

Right now the most popular software to run an imaging session is NINA. I run something similar called Voyager. Both only run on Windows. As such you are very much tied to Windows if you wish to use either of these software packages for image acquisition. 

 

For Post processing your choices are far better with your Mac. PixInsight and APP both run on that OS. Although I also have a workstation to process my images, I often use my MacBook as it is more convenient than going to my office. The M1 processor also runs the Russ Crowman plug ins really quickly. 


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#24 Phishin_phool

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Posted 05 December 2023 - 12:16 AM

I haven't heard this before.  Shoud we have uv/ir filters on guide cameras?

NO - you do not need to have sharp stars to guide. I was just coming in to say that.  THis has beeen dicusse dmany times before - from another thread

My guide camera is slightly out of focus and I get guiding of around .3RMS with good graphs but more importantly - my rig guides just fine. I normally only shoot 1-2 minute subs but do gi uo to 3 minutes at times 

 

 

 

A program like PHD2 doesn't care so much for the shape of the star but more the signal to noise.  If it is bright enough and shaped like a bananna it will guide.

which is only mostly true - it needs to be consistent is all. It will guide off of SNR 


Edited by Phishin_phool, 05 December 2023 - 12:18 AM.

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#25 Phishin_phool

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Posted 05 December 2023 - 12:21 AM

It filters out IR bloat. The image below, shot with an ASI120MM Mini, while a terrestrial test shot, shows the filtration removal of IR in light emission. When autoguiding, it will allow for smaller, tighter, better focused stars.
 

Yeah the IR cut filter will do that  but you ABSOLUTELY DO NOT  need smaller tighter better focused stars for guiding , only for imaging


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