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New Setup - which DSLR or dedicated Astro cam?

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#1 craynerd

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Posted 27 February 2024 - 03:30 PM

I’m starting in Astrophotography and have ideas about mounts and other equipment I need for deep space astrophotography. I’m struggling with the camera. I’d really quite like to use a DSLR or non Astro camera so that I can use it for other things as well! Seems like a nice advantage.

My budget for a DSLR would be that of a similar budget for a cheap Astro camera. Would anyone have any recommendations - I’d personally like to go Canon but I could be tempted with a Sony. If using a DLSR, does it have to be “Astro modded” in which case, does this make it redundant and incapable of normal use?

I’m just a bit confused - any help appreciated!

#2 mmalik

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Posted 27 February 2024 - 05:18 PM

Some thoughts here...; with that said, dedicated astro cams (ZWO/QHY) can be cheaper and easier start in AP these days. Regards

 

 

Note: A much larger perspective here...; may not be directly related but lot of ideas for everyone, novice & expert alike. Yet another perspective here....

 

 

.


Edited by mmalik, 27 February 2024 - 05:20 PM.


#3 DeepSky Di

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Posted 27 February 2024 - 05:50 PM

There's a new ZWO ASI 585 MC coming soon at $599. An unmodified DSLR doesn't do well with bright nebulae, so it's totally worth getting a dedicate Astro camera.

 

I have a modified DSLR that I keep for very large targets that need DSLR lenses. 



#4 vidrazor

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Posted 28 February 2024 - 03:18 AM

I would get an older Canon and not mod it if you plan to use it for terrestrial use. Although all DSLRs/mirrorless have their imaging disadvantages, the old Canons lend themselves to be the best compromise I think. You can always get a dedicated astro camera down the road after you've learned the ins and out of astrophotography. You just need to learn the ropes and not worry about Ha sensitivity and whatnot. There's a lot of other details you need to get down in the three generals phases of astrophotography, which are acquisition, stacking, and post processing.

 

What is your available budget for gear? That will dictate what you can get, and what you can expect to get from it.


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#5 skysurfer

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Posted 28 February 2024 - 04:50 AM

Newer Canon DSLRs which are not modded perform good. I have had a 6D and now an R6, both DSLRs (the R6 is better) provide decent imagesm even of red nebulae. Admittedly, an astrocam (e.g. the ASI533MC) perform better, but you need a separate power supply, storage unit (ASIAir should be the best) which results in a much more complex setup. Moreover the deep cooling costs a lot more power supply (12V 3A), even a large power bank of 30Ah is empty in a couple of hours.

Hence I still stick to DSLR for convenience and easy setup.

Maybe you can try a used 6D which sells for less that $1000.


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#6 nhmorgan79

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Posted 28 February 2024 - 07:04 AM

Used R6s sell for around $1100 EOS Rs for a few hundred less than that. Used Z6s for under $700 (with low shutter counts) Z6iis for $1000, used Z7s for around $950-1050. Hard to beat those prices, but they all come with some compromises for astro. But, if you're just starting out, I would recommend buying a used Z6 for $700 and ship it off to Kolari for modification for $300 and then you've got a solid astro cam for $1000. Add in a clip in Kolari UV-IR cut filter for original function for $150 and you've got a good astro cam that can also take great photos for daylight use. The Nikon Z lenses are outstanding. If you are not planning on shooting a lot of nebulae, then I would just start unmodified. Many targets like the Pleiades, Orion, Andromeda can all yield spectacular results unmodified. The best bang for the buck right now is a used Z7. It's low noise performance is not practically worse than a Z6 and it's easier to zoom in to focus with higher megapixels.

 

I recently made the move to a dedicated astro camera (asi2600mm) and while for narrowband the results are remarkable, the workflow is significantly more complicated; I wouldn't recommend starting here. If you plan to do a lot of wider angle shots under 200mm or a lot of landscapes, I would 100% go with a mirrorless body. If you're thinking about Sony, as a former Sony user, the cameras you are going to find in a similar price range have too many compromises for astrophotography.


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#7 skysurfer

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Posted 28 February 2024 - 10:16 AM

Used R6s sell for around $1100 EOS Rs for a few hundred less than that. Used Z6s for under $700 (with low shutter counts) Z6iis for $1000, used Z7s for around $950-1050. Hard to beat those prices, but they all come with some compromises for astro. But, if you're just starting out, I would recommend buying a used Z6 for $700 and ship it off to Kolari for modification for $300 and then you've got a solid astro cam for $1000. Add in a clip in Kolari UV-IR cut filter for original function for $150 and you've got a good astro cam that can also take great photos for daylight use. The Nikon Z lenses are outstanding. If you are not planning on shooting a lot of nebulae, then I would just start unmodified. Many targets like the Pleiades, Orion, Andromeda can all yield spectacular results unmodified. The best bang for the buck right now is a used Z7. It's low noise performance is not practically worse than a Z6 and it's easier to zoom in to focus with higher megapixels.

 

I recently made the move to a dedicated astro camera (asi2600mm) and while for narrowband the results are remarkable, the workflow is significantly more complicated; I wouldn't recommend starting here. If you plan to do a lot of wider angle shots under 200mm or a lot of landscapes, I would 100% go with a mirrorless body. If you're thinking about Sony, as a former Sony user, the cameras you are going to find in a similar price range have too many compromises for astrophotography.

When these are the regular prices, then go for an R6 (or a Z6 or Z7 if you are a Nikoneer).

The mirrorless are much more convenient. The EOS R (original) I would not recommend as the exposure latitude of its sensor is by far not as good as the R6 or the Nikons. In the latter case it allows more pushing in post processing without much extra noise.
Moreover, these mirrorless Nikon and Canon DSLRs allow clip-in narrowband filters such as Astronomik UHC. With this filter you can make nice images of red Halpha nebulas like Heart&Soul, North America, California or Horsehead without modding.


Edited by skysurfer, 28 February 2024 - 10:19 AM.


#8 nhmorgan79

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Posted 28 February 2024 - 11:56 AM

When these are the regular prices, then go for an R6 (or a Z6 or Z7 if you are a Nikoneer).

The mirrorless are much more convenient. The EOS R (original) I would not recommend as the exposure latitude of its sensor is by far not as good as the R6 or the Nikons. In the latter case it allows more pushing in post processing without much extra noise.
Moreover, these mirrorless Nikon and Canon DSLRs allow clip-in narrowband filters such as Astronomik UHC. With this filter you can make nice images of red Halpha nebulas like Heart&Soul, North America, California or Horsehead without modding.

Canon also has the advantage of being able to add an adapter that can take 2" filters for older canon mount lenses and telescopes.



#9 erictheastrojunkie

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Posted 28 February 2024 - 05:12 PM

The advantages of using a DSLR/MILC come in the form of more sensor area for less dollars, I don't consider a camera being used for astrophotography and daytime terrestrial use an advantage because for a lot of astro uses you want a modified DSLR/MILC, which comes with its caveats and list of things you have to think about when switching the camera between daytime and nighttime use. I did it for a lot of years, using a DSLR/MILC for both my astro and terrestrial uses, eventually just buying a second DSLR/MILC to dedicate towards astro, eventually modifying that camera, and then ultimately buying a cooled astro camera. Do yourself a favor, just buy a dedicated camera for astro and a dedicated camera for terrestrial, just buy a cooled astro camera. 

 

Yes, you pay more for less sensor when it comes to cooled astro cameras and yes you'll have to sort out some things like camera control, camera power, etc. BUT, if you are investigating a whole astrophotography setup (mount, telescope/lens, and everything else) you are already going to have to invest in something that can control those elements, like a computer/tablet/ASIAir and you are going to have to figure out how to power all those things. This can be relatively straightforward, I have a fun little portable setup that I can take pretty much anywhere that is just a Sky Watcher AZ-GTi based system with an ASI533mc (or mm) attached to a Rokinon 135mm lens with an EAF for autofocus, EFW-mini for filters, a mini-guide scope and ASI120mm for guiding and an ASIAir to control the whole thing, I literally power the whole setup with 2 of these: https://a.co/d/avfDGNy and the whole thing can run ~2 nights (8-10 hours each) before the two batteries die, depending on temperature. It's a great camping setup since everything is so lightweight and easy to pack. I've also done a setup with my asi2600mc and wider lenses that doesn't incorporate an autofocuser or guide scope, but still used the ASIAir to control everything (and even power the AZ-GTi), you can see what that looks like here: https://imgur.com/gallery/nKePnW5

 

The benefits of using a cooled astro camera are substantial, you have precise control over the sensor temperature to make image calibration substantially easier, the cooling gives a substantial reduction in dark noise, they are smaller/lighter and are much more straightforward in terms of settings and control (you don't have to worry about many menus of sub-settings/image settings). You also don't have to worry about RAW cooking that pretty much every DSLR/MILC manufacturer does this day, things that do impact image quality and calibration. There are numerous programs/hardware control options for cooled astro cameras that can be ran with even a simple smartphone and you don't have to worry about dummy batteries for extended powering/imaging sessions. There are a lot more reasons to use astro cameras, from the actual setup all the way through the post processing it's just a simpler process in the end to use them vs DSLR/MILC despite what you want to think/others have said. 

 

Now, having said that, if you are just dipping your toes in to see if this is something you want to pursue before making any big investments then I'd recommend just simply getting a DSLR/MILC that you know will fit your terrestrial imaging needs and trying it out at night for something basic like Milky Way nightscapes. You could even buy a cheaper tracking mount like a Sky Watcher Star Adventurer off the classifieds here for $200-300 and use a longer focal length lens like an 85mm or 135mm for some basic widefield imaging to see if you really catch the bug. But if you know deep down that you want to get into the middle/deeper end of the astrophotography pool and that'll include a larger equatorial mount, telescope/lens, and some longer focal length imaging (like 250mm+), just buy a cooled astro camera and something like an ASIAir. 



#10 ChristopherBeere

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Posted 28 February 2024 - 06:19 PM

I’m starting in Astrophotography and have ideas about mounts and other equipment I need for deep space astrophotography. I’m struggling with the camera. I’d really quite like to use a DSLR or non Astro camera so that I can use it for other things as well! Seems like a nice advantage.

My budget for a DSLR would be that of a similar budget for a cheap Astro camera. Would anyone have any recommendations - I’d personally like to go Canon but I could be tempted with a Sony. If using a DLSR, does it have to be “Astro modded” in which case, does this make it redundant and incapable of normal use?

I’m just a bit confused - any help appreciated!

So what do you use to shoot normal stuff right now ?


Edited by ChristopherBeere, 28 February 2024 - 06:20 PM.


#11 soggywaffles

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Posted 09 March 2024 - 11:45 PM

I’m starting in Astrophotography and have ideas about mounts and other equipment I need for deep space astrophotography. I’m struggling with the camera. I’d really quite like to use a DSLR or non Astro camera so that I can use it for other things as well! Seems like a nice advantage.

My budget for a DSLR would be that of a similar budget for a cheap Astro camera. Would anyone have any recommendations - I’d personally like to go Canon but I could be tempted with a Sony. If using a DLSR, does it have to be “Astro modded” in which case, does this make it redundant and incapable of normal use?

I’m just a bit confused - any help appreciated!

I spent a lot of time with DSLR's modded and unmodded. I got my astro camera 2 weeks ago and I don't know why i didn't do it sooner.

 

Everything with the astro cam (SV405CC is the one I got) is just better. I got 45 mins worth of data with it on my first time and it came very close to 3 hours worth on my Modded DSLR. Taking dark frames is also much easier since I can take them inside now. This gives me more time to image my target. Also since it doesn't have a mechanical shutter focusing is much easier since shots come in more rapidly. 

 

I would get one used since they can be pricey new, but even if you get it new its worth it.



#12 GTom

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Posted 13 March 2024 - 09:15 AM

I really comes down to how much you can afford or want to invest in the hobby. Astro/full spectrum-modded DSLR's are available for a song, just seen an astro-modded 450D for sold for £80 (UK market). Alternatively, you can pick up a stock DSLR and take the filter out. How-to descriptions are available on the net for hosts of cameras. You can't get anywhere near that with a cooled astrocam.

 

DSLR's have their limitations indeed, but to effectively beat even an ancient 450D, you'll need to invest at least around $/£500ish for a color astrocam, more for a mono+filter kit system. Both have their steep learning curves, in different ways.

 

A DSLR doesn't necessarily need a power supply, external battery (but does benefit one!) and no need for a capture software. If running unguided, which is the usual starting point anyway, you can save the laptop entirely.

However, the DSLR's sensor temperature isn't regulated at all, passive cooling is very poor: it can heat up 10+degrees DURING one single exposure! This is a total madness for thermal noise, requiring sets of long exposure darks, which is a time-consuming exercise when your precious telescope prime-time is ticking.


Edited by GTom, 13 March 2024 - 10:57 AM.


#13 lviatour

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Posted 19 March 2024 - 06:28 AM

I really comes down to how much you can afford or want to invest in the hobby. Astro/full spectrum-modded DSLR's are available for a song, just seen an astro-modded 450D for sold for £80 (UK market). Alternatively, you can pick up a stock DSLR and take the filter out. How-to descriptions are available on the net for hosts of cameras. You can't get anywhere near that with a cooled astrocam.

 

DSLR's have their limitations indeed, but to effectively beat even an ancient 450D, you'll need to invest at least around $/£500ish for a color astrocam, more for a mono+filter kit system. Both have their steep learning curves, in different ways.

 

A DSLR doesn't necessarily need a power supply, external battery (but does benefit one!) and no need for a capture software. If running unguided, which is the usual starting point anyway, you can save the laptop entirely.

However, the DSLR's sensor temperature isn't regulated at all, passive cooling is very poor: it can heat up 10+degrees DURING one single exposure! This is a total madness for thermal noise, requiring sets of long exposure darks, which is a time-consuming exercise when your precious telescope prime-time is ticking.

I use an old unmodified Nikon Z7, with a very high resolution, large sensor, and therefore a wide field, very little noise. I am going to have it de-filtered to get more H-Alpha. Recent sensors have little noise even at summer temperatures.

20230910102911-b230fb0f-la.jpg

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20230115181859-7765550b-la.jpg


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#14 skysurfer

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Posted 19 March 2024 - 02:21 PM

I use an old unmodified Nikon Z7, with a very high resolution, large sensor, and therefore a wide field, very little noise. I am going to have it de-filtered to get more H-Alpha. Recent sensors have little noise even at summer temperatures.

20230910102911-b230fb0f-la.jpg

20230916111154-63a7e7c7-la.jpg

20221216130826-4f8148b9-la.jpg

20230115181859-7765550b-la.jpg

Awesome images ! So an unmodded DSLR like the Z7 can make nice images ! But did you use any filters and how dark was it ?
 


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#15 lviatour

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Posted 19 March 2024 - 02:31 PM

Awesome images ! So an unmodded DSLR like the Z7 can make nice images ! But did you use any filters and how dark was it ?
 

IDAS LPS-P3 filter for nebulae. Bortle 4 sky quality.


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