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Help to get into astrophotography for a new starter ignoramous

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Hi All

I keep coming back to this question of what to get to start up in astrophotography and wanted to put a couple of ideas out.

Having read the "Making Every Photon Count “book which is a great and detailed read and given my own circumstances here is what I was thinking:

1) A SW200pds with either a second hand eq6 mount or even a Heq5 mount to do observing and Prime Focus astrophotography with my Nikon DSLR (D3100)


2) getting a astrotrac set with tripod head etc and using the camera initially then building up to getting a lense for it and/or a smallish APO for it. The real benefit of this I see at the moment is its light compactness for storage and its quick set up time.

At the moment I don't have all the space in the world to have all the kit set up ready to go and I don't want to have lots of set up time but rather seize the windows of opportunity that come about now and then.

Any thoughts would be much appreciated.


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I have to say that personally i would have to say an eq6. you will n

ever need to replace it, you might find yourselve thinking... damn i cant put the gear i want on the astrotrak so ill need to buy an EQ6 as well.. hey thats just my thinking

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Would certainly get the NEQ6 mount as that will provide you with the most choice of set up due to its increased capacity. This option allows choice as to whether you observe and image, astrotrac doesn't.

You appear to imply through your writing that the astrotrac is your preferred choice (space, set up time) and clearly you can go out and get this set up today. Looking for a second hand NEQ6 of HEQ5 will take time as they don't seem to appear that often and there are a lot of people out there who will want what you want too. I am not an imager, but all the kit I have bought has always had the needs of the longer term in view. I believe the end justifies the means and if it takes longer to set up so be it, if the rewards for doing so in the end out weigh any inconvenience. Astrotrac is a good, keenly priced system, but clearly if it was that good all imagers would be using it instead of spending a lot of money on an imaging rig with all its requirements.

A good mount will facilitate more choice be it observing, full blown astrophotography or widefield DSLR imaging. Astrotrac does what it says on the tin. Budget, space and time will be the final arbiters of how you get into imaging and the most important for long term success.


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Firstly let me say I am not an imager, now my humble opinion. The advantage of the astrotrac is its portability. But it seems that that portability costs a little in other ways. For example it's not as versatile, it is very expensive, you could get a new eq6 for the price of the astrotrac system. I am not sure that its that much quicker to set up. If you are going to go deep with it you still need to drift align your scope. Its true that with just a camera the makers claim you can go unguided but it has a guideport I assume its there for a reason.

Some people are using the neq3 with just cameras and a small scope for guiding. I don't know how successful that is. but certainly the cg5 or eq5 goto work very well with cameras and guiding and are much cheaper. and will take a 200 quite well if you just want visual. None are as portable as the astrotrac but an awful lot cheaper and even the neq3 will take a 150 for visual. To summarise astrotrac seems great if you want portabilty and if that's the most important criteria it's probably the best out there. but it's strength is also it's weakness. it's a specialist unit it doesn't do anything else. the eq mounts ae nowhere near as portable but are more versatile as they can be used visually. If you are going small neq3 -eq5 will be fine for camera work with small scope guiders but the heq5 and eq6 will give you more upgradability if you decide to go down the apo route in future and of course all of the eq mounts are cheaper

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I have both a HEQ5 mount and Astrotrac and they both have their own advantages over the other.

I use the Astrotrac for taking widefield images with my Canon 70-200 Lens and it generally takes me about 10 minutes to set everything up and get polar aligned. The major benefit is obviously it's portability and taking to a dark site is a piece of cake.

The HEQ5 etc takes about half an hour to setup, get polar aligned and get the guiding going. Easy to get much longer exposures than the Astrotrac and obviously can carry more kit. I wouldn't want to take the HEQ5 to a dark site because it does weigh a fair bit.

Which would I have......both :)

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thanks for all the views on this.

The EQ6 certainly sounds like the plan for a long term investment and for getting the right mount for imaging first time round. Although i know i wont be able to take it anywhere i guess i can look towards maybe getting an astrotrac at some point in the future (years away!)

Now i just need to find a second hand one. I have been looking for a while but not been able to get one near enough to collect or one that is at a sensible price point.

What sort of price would one expect (esp as SW have put all their new equipment prices up recently)? And where is good to look for one?

Thanks to all

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The EQ6 is a great place to start and you can mount a wide variety of ota's on it. You can expect to pay between £650 to £900 for a second hand one depending on age and condition.

They're around £1000 brand new so something under 1yr old still in perfect condition will be nearer the top end of that range. I've recently seen a 3-4yr old model with a broken leg sell for the lower figure. Try astro buy/sell till you meet the right criteria to see the for sale section here. Hope that helps :D

Edited by brantuk
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