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Beginner - Need help deciding what telescope to purchase

Astrophotography Beginner
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#1 jsx

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Posted 02 December 2023 - 03:22 PM

Me and my friend want to get into Astrophotography, after we took really good pictures of the moon with our Nikon D800E without a telescope. We are both 16 and we are experts at photography.

 

Goal: our goal is to get pictures of nebulas like Orion and others, celestial objects in the sky like Saturn and it's rings, and a picture of other galaxies, specifically Andromeda.

 

To get to the Issue:  We're in a search for a telescope that fits under our budget of $500, but okay with going to a maximum of $800. (We already have a good camera, Nikon D800E).

 

We've researched for hours after hours and still were not sure of what is the best option for our goals. We've come to the point where we have narrowed it down to a few options:

 

- Celestron 70mm x SkyScanner Astropack (not sure of Astro or Pro pack), and this is in our budget because the telescope is $100 and the tracking mount is $300, and from the amazon reviews we saw really good pictures of galaxies and nebulas but not sure if we can trust those.

 

- Celestron - NexStar 130SLT Computerized Telescope, but we realized that this is an alt-az and for our goals, it could result in field rotation, which we dont want....

 

- Solomark 130EQ Newtonian Reflector Telescope ($260) is an option i'm not very fond of, but it has a german equatorial mount and it comes with a good but cheap package with a case, tripod, lenses, etc.

 

We know a location with no light pollution, so that is not an issue for us, the only issue is what telescope to get. I am experienced with Adobe Photoshop and I am learning how to use astrophotography software like Autostakkert!, and I know the general Idea of stacking, etc and generally good with computer programs.

Another question I have is that autosakkert has this feature that apparently de-rotates an image, so I was wondering if I took an photo using the NexStar 130SLT, could the rotation problem go away? I know what a de-rotator is but it's too expensive and all of this is coming from our pocket money.

 

One more thing to add, we have a tripod stand (Vanguard Mark S).

It would be very helpful if you could give us your opinion on our options and possibly give us a setup recommendation that's under our budget, it would be great

Thank you to everyone reading it this far, and thanks for your time to help me, I really appreciate it.



#2 UnityLover

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Posted 02 December 2023 - 03:29 PM

Only the nexstar is a good choice there. Field rotation can be fixed to post processing, but you would need to modify the nexstar so it would reach focus.

Consider astrophotography WITHOUT a telescope? A telephoto lens (probably already have it), and a star adventurer mount and tripod. the mount costs 740 itself, but the mount is often the biggest expense.


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#3 jsx

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Posted 02 December 2023 - 03:39 PM

Only the nexstar is a good choice there. Field rotation can be fixed to post processing, but you would need to modify the nexstar so it would reach focus.

Consider astrophotography WITHOUT a telescope? A telephoto lens (probably already have it), and a star adventurer mount and tripod. the mount costs 740 itself, but the mount is often the biggest expense.

the lens we used to take a picture of the moon was 300mm focal length, will this lens suffice or will we have to buy a more powerful one?


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#4 SpaceMax

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Posted 02 December 2023 - 04:13 PM

Hi guys,

I can only recommend getting a mount first, or even a star tracker, like the SkyGuider pro. With your camera a couple of lenses in dark skies you get much better results then with a sub par telescope.
For the Andromeda galaxy, even your 300mm might be a bit too long to get the full galaxy with some context around it.
If you want to do planetary, you need a completely different rig. Large aperture, long focal length. Large meaning 200mm and preferably more. Long means 2000mm and more. Since the planets are so small in angular diameter, a large sensor camera is not helpful, you’d need something like a webcam with 60 fps that puts out files in a format with the least compression. You could get a 10“ Dob and a barlow lens plus a planetary camera.
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#5 rob1986

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Posted 02 December 2023 - 04:16 PM

Buy an avx and stick your dslr on it for now.

800 bucks, but well worth the investment.

After you know how to use the mount, next year, get a scope.

#6 hyiger

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Posted 02 December 2023 - 04:19 PM

the lens we used to take a picture of the moon was 300mm focal length, will this lens suffice or will we have to buy a more powerful one?

Andromeda and larger nebula will fit well in 300mm. I usually shoot them at 350mm. 

 

Using astronomy tools: https://astronomy.to.../field_of_view/ here is how Andromeda would fit in the frame

 

astronomy_tools.jpg


Edited by hyiger, 02 December 2023 - 04:20 PM.


#7 droe

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Posted 02 December 2023 - 04:33 PM

I think the camera and lens you have are already good enough to start. What is important is not necessarily the scope but the mount.

With the equipment you already have, I might suggest a Sky-Watcher Star Adventurer GTi. Many people have good luck with it. 

You can use your current camera and lenses for targets like Orion, Andromeda and many other wider field targets. 

I have a lot of telescopes but still use my camera and lenses a lot with the GTi.

 

For planets you would need a scope with at least 1000mm focal length and better with 2000+ mm. So, I have a mix for telescopes and lens that I use for different targets.

No one scope can do it all. (my ES 127mm comes close though lol)

As you start you will begin to see the types of targets you like, for example nebulas, wide field stars, small galaxies, planets, ... Each have their own equipment needs and you can start gearing your setup to those targets.

 

None of the images you see posted look like they do until after post-processing. Learn to be a great post-processor and you will have some great images. This includes stacking and editing. I mainly use DeepSkyStacker for stacking images and AutoStakkert for video stacking (Planets and Sun images). Photoshop as the primary post-processing editing tool.

 

Just something to look into; good luck and have fun,


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#8 BQ Octantis

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Posted 02 December 2023 - 04:35 PM

G'day jsx,

 

Welcome to Cloudy Nights!

 

Your goals are at odds with each other:

 

  1. Andromeda and Orion are straightforward with good quality camera lenses, but require long exposures (30-90 seconds) with very good tracking. So an equatorial mount and an autoguider are your most needed significant investment.
  2. Planets require very long focal lengths (5000-10,000mm), mediocre tracking, but a very fast shutter rate (~10 fps or faster) for lucky imaging. Your Nikon is ill-suited for this, and no camera lens is long enough to produce satisfactory results. A 7-in Mak or an 8-in SCT (on almost any tracking mount) with a Barlow and a planetary camera is a good start.

 

I wouldn't recommend any of the options you list for either goal:

 

  • The Celestron 70mm aperture is at best a doublet that will produce severe blue halos around stars. It is only suitable for visual.
  • The 130mm apertures are ill suited to DSOs (too long of focal lengths with unsuitable mounts) and barely suitable for planetary (too small of aperture). They are more suitable for visual.

 

Instead, I would highly recommend a savings plan and a spend plan.

 

  1. I'd start with a high-quality GoTo equatorial mount and start with shooting with your camera lenses. A tracker would work with your tripod, but the AVX mentioned could support your camera while later supporting a planetary setup.
  2. I'd soon add a guidescope suitable for ~400mm focal length and shoot with longer lenses.
  3. Then maybe add a longer/better camera lens, a good triplet refractor for DSOs, and/or a Mak 180 or C8 with a Barlow and planetary camera…

 

Cheers,

 

BQ


Edited by BQ Octantis, 03 December 2023 - 07:31 AM.

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#9 Alen K

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Posted 02 December 2023 - 04:58 PM

First, you and your friend must be fast learners. I am 63 and have been doing general photography since I was your about your age but I wouldn't call myself an expert. Heck, I took my first astrophoto through a telescope when I was 17 yet I wouldn’t call myself an expert at astrophotography either. There is always so much more to learn. (But maybe I'm just a slow learner. :D)

 

Second, none of those telescopes you list would be good choices, for a variety of reasons well described already in earlier replies. Frankly, on your stated budget you won’t be able to afford a telescope and a suitable mount for it that is worth using, even just to learn the ropes. Beginners especially should not have to fight their equipment while they are learning how to take astrophotos (which isn't anything like general photography).

 

The suggestion to use a lens instead of a telescope to start, is a good one. A tracker would be a good option for mounting it but if you don't need extreme portability (like, everything fitting in a carry-on suitcase) then buying a full equatorial mount with your budget may be even better because of the potential for using bigger telescopes and to do guiding. However, at $800 there aren't a lot of choices that will allow you later to use the kind of telescope you would need for imaging Saturn, one of your stated goals. As suggested, an AVX would work at a minimum but I think those cost more than $800USD new. A used one would likely be under $800.

 

I don't know what kind of 300mm lens you have, but decent results on nebulae and specifically the Andromeda galaxy (M31) can be obtained even with a vintage model. Here's my take on M31 with an old 300mm lens. MUCH better examples are out there so consider this the minimum you might achieve with a 300mm lens.



#10 17.5Dob

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Posted 02 December 2023 - 05:01 PM

None of your options are particularly good. To begin, you need completely opposite sets of gear for planetary vs deep space. None of your choices have anywhere near enough aperture or focal length for planetary imaging. Additionally, planetary imaging is done via very high frame rate video, impossible to do with your dSLR.

The NexStar 130, besides being on an alt/az mount, (and a poor one at that), is not built for photography. The factory spacing of the mirrors is set only for visual use with an eyepiece and it is impossible to reach focus with using dSLR without rebuilding the telescope.

Your budget is large enough to buy a "camera tracker" that you can use with your Nikon and 300mm lens. Both Orion and particularly Andromeda are huge and do not even need a telescope to get a detailed image.

Edited by 17.5Dob, 02 December 2023 - 06:06 PM.

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#11 rollomonk

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Posted 02 December 2023 - 05:10 PM

Goal: our goal is to get pictures of nebulas like Orion and others, celestial objects in the sky like Saturn and it's rings, and a picture of other galaxies, specifically Andromeda.

 

Welcome to Cloudy Nights! You've come to the right place because there are many experienced astrophotographers here who can give lots of reliable advice.

 

First off, nearly everyone who gets into astrophotography finds that it is far more challenging than what they first anticipated. Taking good photos of big bright targets like the moon is very easy compared to taking good photos of very tiny targets like Saturn or very dim targets like Andromeda.

 

Small targets with tiny details are greatly impacted by the 'seeing' of the atmosphere. Any twinkling means the details get blurred together. So imagers use a technique called 'lucky imaging' in which they use a small, specialized camera with a very long focal length telescope to take thousands of very short images and then use software to pick the best, combine them, process and hope they get 'lucky'.

 

Dim targets need lots of exposure time and this means a mount that tracks. There are inexpensive tracking mounts that can do a good job as long as you are using short focal lengths (i.e. <300mm or so). Longer focal lengths require much more precision along with guiding and this is where the cost goes way up. Many learn to put more money into a good mount than anything else.

 

Either way, there are additional challenges that come with polar aligning, focusing, post processing, etc.... there is so much to learn.

 

I suspect that you and your friend are totally up to the challenges but a good plan is needed....

 

The least expensive way to start is with an inexpensive tracking mount and your camera and lens and go for large targets like Andromeda, Pinwheel, large nebula, etc. This could keep you going for a long time.

 

Then, if you want to go for smaller targets, decide whether you want to go for bright planets like Saturn or dim DSOs -- each requires very different equipment and techniques.

 

Again, welcome. Keep asking questions because this will help increase your chances of success from the start.

 

Good luck!



#12 rob1986

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Posted 02 December 2023 - 05:22 PM

I'll add that at a minimum a cg-4 or an eq3 with steel legs (actually the same mount, different branding) would be absolute minimum for ap, works with your dslr, people have done it with film using five inch scopes,

But

Such a mount would have no growth potential if what you want to so is AP. It would quickly limit you and is reall more suitable for dabbling than serious pursuit.

If AP is your draw, i would recomend against low end, even if possible. You'll spend more time with mount stuff than AP stuff.

Edited by rob1986, 02 December 2023 - 05:23 PM.


#13 UnityLover

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Posted 02 December 2023 - 05:29 PM

the lens we used to take a picture of the moon was 300mm focal length, will this lens suffice or will we have to buy a more powerful one?

it will work. You just need a mount.



#14 Sheridan

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Posted 03 December 2023 - 04:28 AM

In the beginning I would forget about the scope and focus on the mount.  A good mount with your camera and a telephoto Lens would be much better to start with.

 

This guy shot this region with a 135mm prime lens.

https://www.cloudyni...135mm-new-data/

 

I know it's probably what you do not want to hear but it will suit you better in a long run.

l When I want to travel light  I use my IEXOS 100, my nikon's and a couple of lenses.


Edited by Sheridan, 03 December 2023 - 04:45 AM.


#15 Desertau

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Posted 03 December 2023 - 08:08 PM

Ditto on the mount since your budget is limited get the best one you can afford, that with a dovetail adapter for your Nikon and with the ability to do longer exposures you will get amazing results at your 300mm focal length. Also frequent Astro mart, and the classifieds here you can stretch your money much farther buying gently used and I’ll bet most sellers will be more than happy to coach you on how to use whatever you decide to by. With a good mount that you are comfortable using you can begin to build your dream setup one piece at at time and by then you will have a much better idea of what you really want, there are some great deals on Optical tube assemblies, William Optics Z series, Astro tech and a plethora of others can be had far less than new there are a lot of choices and nothing wrong with gently used. Good luck and have fun building your AP setup.




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