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Advice before purchasing first telescope


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Hi All

Saving for a first telescope, budget will be approx. £400.  Can save later to upgrade  eye pieces once I have used the telescope.  Interested in DSO' s, photography & planets. Would like a goto & motorised tripod, storage no problem.  Have found a fair fair number of stars and a couple of planets myself. Thanks.

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I have just purchased an 8" Skywatcher 'skyliner' 200p dobsonian and I can lift it fairly easy when split into the base and tube. I'm a 5' 2" woman and whilst the base is a little heavy I can carry do

Mary, you are doing the right thing by reading up and not rushing into your purchase. How well do you know the night sky ? - the reason I ask is that whilst most of us can recognise the main constella

Hi Purdo, and welcome to SGL. If you want to photograph DSOs up close then you'll find your budget won't get you very far! Think of DSO astrophotography as a specialised (and challenging) branch of ph

Hi Purdo, and welcome to SGL.

If you want to photograph DSOs up close then you'll find your budget won't get you very far! Think of DSO astrophotography as a specialised (and challenging) branch of photography, rather than "astronomy with a camera added".

You could get a SkyWatcher 150PDS on a manual EQ3, which you could later modify to goto.

Or you could get a SkyMax127 on a SynScan AZ goto, which is what I'd recommend. It's great for lunar/planetary photos, and (for its size) good for DSO observing.

You could get a much bigger aperture than either of these if you went for a Dobsonian mount - this means sacrificing goto and tracking capabilities, but you get to see more space stuff.

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Hi, thanks for replying.  Will take your recommendations on board.  I had looked at the 8" Dobsonians realising as you said I could see more, but would have to consider the weight, hubby could help me set it up ok, but wouldn't' be always available to take it down. It will be a while before I purchase but will keep looking in the meantime and keep looking on this forum to see what other newbies are doing.  I'll let you know how I get on and will post again before purchase.

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A lot depends on how "serious" you are on it all.

When you say photography does that mean a few shots to record what you have seen, or are you contemplating winning APOTM (Astro Photographer of the Month) on a regular basis. You will appreciate that the equipment for either is still a scope and an equitorial mount but that is where the simialrity ends.

Will presuming that the idea is more along the first option, at least until you have learnt the basics of AP and feel ready to upgrade dramatically (dramatic being by a few thousand pounds).

I am sat looking at a pleasant refractor on my floor, it is a 90mm scope and enable me to see most things pretty well. As weight and size appears to be an issue then look at the TS site and how about their 90mm diameter 600mm focal length achromatic refractor.

TS:- http://www.teleskop-express.de/shop/index.php/language/en

Being achromatic it will have CA, Chromatic Aberration, present, things like the moon and Jupiter will have a coloured halo present. Some people dislike it, others don't care. Cannot see anything that is f/7 or f/7.5, which would hopefully have been better. That is about £110.

The mount will be the problem. Really you want an equitorial, and I would have said an EQ5 at least. An EQ5 with goto is £500. An EQ5 on it's own is £238 and motors are £80-100 (NOT GOTO). So that would be say £340.

The catch here is that the goto upgrade will be around £300-350 for the EQ5, so you are saving £160 now to spend £320 later.

The lighter EQ3 goto mount is £385, so an additional £40 now and you get goto, but the mount is not as solid/good.

So an EQ5 with motors and a 90mm refractor is £450.

This would track things, and so enable basic AP (30-60 second exposures) - need a DSLR and a few adaptors and a power supply.

So it is possible to a fair/limited extent, just looking like £500 is the absolute minimum.

Really take your time and collect information, if there are clubs within reach pay a visit and ask questions - especially if they have an imaging section. Find someone there that has not spend over £10,000 on their imaging kit. Be aware that you could get going with the above for around £500, £1000 to £1500 will return better results (basically a better scope as in ED) and £20,000 is not unheard of, a good imaging refractor can easily be £4,000.

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If you really want to do deep space long exposure photography get this book

http://www.firstlightoptics.com/books/making-every-photon-count-steve-richards.html

It will tell tell you what you need and more importantly why if you still want to go for it after reading the book you will at least know what to look for second hand you may still need to up your budget a tad.

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Hi, thanks for replying.  Will take your recommendations on board.  I had looked at the 8" Dobsonians realising as you said I could see more, but would have to consider the weight, hubby could help me set it up ok, but wouldn't' be always available to take it down. It will be a while before I purchase but will keep looking in the meantime and keep looking on this forum to see what other newbies are doing.  I'll let you know how I get on and will post again before purchase.

purdo.......Hi, under the right conditions (same for any telescope) A Dobsonian mounted telescope has less spent on fancy equatorial tripods, so more can be spent on a bigger mirror / aperture,  allowing you to see the fainter objects( conditions permitting?)

As for the weights, the Skywatcher 'Skyliner' 8" in my example weighs 9Kg for the telescope section and 12Kg for the base. They can be lifted as one or separately, by undoing the tension handles. If your garden is pretty secure, you can just cover the telescope if weather is a factor, until hubby gets home.

For visual observation of the night skies, the 8" (200mm) sized telescopes are very popular, and able in their task.

rowan46 supplies a link. (We all have this book,I think) should you wish to venture in to Astro photography.

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Hi, thanks for replying.  Will take your recommendations on board.  I had looked at the 8" Dobsonians realising as you said I could see more, but would have to consider the weight, hubby could help me set it up ok, but wouldn't' be always available to take it down. It will be a while before I purchase but will keep looking in the meantime and keep looking on this forum to see what other newbies are doing.  I'll let you know how I get on and will post again before purchase.

Hi Purdo. Im not far from your neck of the woods. Before I bought anything I got into contact with Andy McCrea who trades in scopes in Bangor. Check out his website http://northdowntelescopes.co.uk/ 

He always has a few scopes in stock and will allow you to play with them before you buy. He uses a SW ED80 Pro to photograph which Im sure he would show you around and let you get to grips with, even though the ED80 will be out of your £400 budget, but it'll give you an idea. 

He also has the advantage of being able to supply any of the FLO scopes at a cheaper price, due to the extortionate shipping costs they gives us in NI. 

Drop him an email and explain what your after, he'll point you int he right direction :)

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Hi Purdo, welcome to SGL.

Purchasing a telescope is very much a personal thing.  Your needs and expectations will be different as no two sets of circumstances are alike, so what may suit one person, may not suit you.  My advice is not to rush into the purchase, take your time and do some research.  Go and visit a few shops that stock Skywatcher, Mead and Celestron telescopes so you can see the physical size of the scope, looking at something on a web site is one thing, seeing it in reality is another.  You should also search out a local astronomical society and pop along to one of their observing nights.  You'll have a chance to see through different telescopes and can make direct comparison of what they offer.

Regardless of budget, a Dob will come in with the largest aperture, but then as the design is so simple, that's where the money goes.  When you start looking at goto scopes, a fair portion of the budget goes on the mount and the scopes tend to be smaller. Ronin has given some good advice on what could be a decent package to compromise between visual and basic astro photography, but there is no such thing as a one scope fits all.  If you really want to get super detailed images of Jupiter, then you need a long focal length scope with a large aperture, but such a scope would not be suited well for imaging faint nebula DSO's, where a large aperture short focal length scope is required.

I think most of us here started off in one direction and then spend more money after having to upgrade the mount etc at a later stage. If you can stretch your budget now for the extra, you could save yourself  some money in the long run (as Ronin explained with the motors).  Buying secondhand is also a possibility.  Looking on e-bay at the moment there is an EQ5 pro goto mount for £405 buy it now - it's basically brand new and still boxed, but wouldn't leave you much if any to spend on the optics. 

Oh and one word of warning - don not buy a Seban or similar scope of E-bay.  Stick to recognised brands mentioned above.

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I have just purchased an 8" Skywatcher 'skyliner' 200p dobsonian and I can lift it fairly easy when split into the base and tube. I'm a 5' 2" woman and whilst the base is a little heavy I can carry down a flight of stairs and out into the garden and also out to the car.

Maybe try and view one at a showroom or astronomy class. I've only had mine a few days and it's mostly been cloudy but the views I've had of Jupiter are amazing. It's also is easy to set up!

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Hi Purdo

I bought a Skywatcher skyliner 250 GOTO flex tube dobsonian because it's easy to operate/move about and gives great views but beware of collimation issues with any flex tube. I have to collimate mine every time I use it (minor adjustments). I also rapidly realised that I had bought the wrong scope because taking photos with anything other than a compact camera/smartphone is not really possible due to limited back focus. I then bought a CPC800XLT a SCT which, I my opinion gives you the best of both worlds for visual and basic photography and holds collimation very well.

You need to very carefully consider how serious you are about Astrophotography or you might be happy just to do visual work until you get more experience. 

Been there - done that!

Peter

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You need to very carefully consider how serious you are about Astrophotography or you might be happy just to do visual work until you get more experience. 

Been there - done that!

Purdo, the point Peter makes here cannot be emphasised enough. The imaging apparatus on my main scope has cost me £500 so far - a Nikon dSLR, an off-axis guide and a guide camera. This setup is not complete - on the shopping list is a filter wheel, a set of filters and a focal reducer, which will come to about £600 more. And I'm doing this on the cheap. That's beside the £1,500 I paid for the scope itself! Then I'll want to upgrade the mount and get a better imaging camera ...

If you're content just to do observing then £500 will get you enough kit to keep you going for years. Astrophotography, on the other hand, will happily absorb all the money you can throw at it.

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I think forget AP for now and get an instrument you can use to discover visual astronomy first. 8" dobson is perfect because you can do just about anything with it. For photography it is not optimal, but You can do enough photography with it to realize how hard AP is. Also later when/if you start investing in a photorig , most of the time the camera is looking through your phototelescope and not you. So you might as well look through the dob while the camera does it's clicking. 

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As everyone has said AP is not cheap the minimum you could get is EQ3-2 setup with motors and polar scope but that is around £300 without a scope, it would work with a camera/lens or short focal length scope but would limit you to 2 min subs at best.

The second hand market might give you a few more options but again the mount will nearly allways take a big chunk of the budget.

Alan

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Hi All, many thanks for your replies, will take everything on board especially about the photography. (I have a Canon 450d.)   I met Andy approx 20 years ago, when I was a member of the Irish Astronomical Association and he lives quite near me and I have looked at his site. I did borrow a telescope from the club at the time for a couple of weeks. I will purchase Make every Photon count next week. I bought Turn Left at Orion a couple of weeks ago.  I certainly have plenty of reading to do.  Thanks again. Mary

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Mary, you are doing the right thing by reading up and not rushing into your purchase.

How well do you know the night sky ? - the reason I ask is that whilst most of us can recognise the main constellations, finding dso's etc can take some doing, which is why a lot of people opt for the goto mounts, which will no doubt push you over your initial £400 budget.

One possible solution for you to start, and could give you the opportunity of connecting your camera to the scope so you could dip your toe into imaging would be the Skywatcher 130PDS OTA for £159, mount this on an EQ3-2 mount at £174 and then add the single axis  motor drive for £68.40  - total spend £399.40.   I would suggest paying the extra £20.10 for the dual axis drive, but that would take you over the initial budget, but should give you a nicely portable, and practical introduction to the hobby.   If I was on such a tight budget this would be the option I would go, but that's just my opinion

Prices from Rother Valley Optics web site

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You could probably just about put together the most basic imaging rig for around £500 - but only if you knew what you were looking for and bought mostly second hand gear. First is a sturdy tripod and mount capable of holding a scope and camera. A used manual EQ5 or a CG5 will be around £120 (look for one with a polar scope). Upgrade it with a new £75 RA motor. The mount will need to be polar aligned as accurately as possible.

The next £200 (+ or - £50) will get you a nice little short tube wide field refractor like a WO ZS66 or a Meg72 doublet. Finally a flatener/reducer and a T-ring will allow you to correct the scope and attach a dslr. A remote shutter release can be had for around £15 - £20 from e-bay. Add a webcam with 1.25" nose piece adaptor for planetary imaging.

It's very basic - but if you're obsessive about accurate setting up I see no reason why you couldn't get unguided LE subs of up to 2mins and process the errors out of them. Free software you'd need includes Deep Sky Stacker for aligning and stacking dso images, Registax for planetary stacking/aligning, and Gimp for final processing.

It's very rough and very basic with lots of limitations - but it's a cheap and cheerful, will take you through all the basics, and give you enough experience and information to decide if you really want to do AP seriously. A half decent deep sky imaging set up will start around £1500 to £2000. Hth :)

(All prices quoted are approximate and will depend on age, condition, supplied extras, and negotiating prowess.)

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I would agree with forget imaging for now. Mostly, you will need two telescopes if you want to do both visual and imaging. My imaging equipment so far is around maybe £1300, and that is not yet including guiding, or any wheels etc. That is literally just the mount, scope and camera. 

On the other hand, if you want to do a bit of both, below is a pretty good solution.

One possible solution for you to start, and could give you the opportunity of connecting your camera to the scope so you could dip your toe into imaging would be the Skywatcher 130PDS OTA for £159, mount this on an EQ3-2 mount at £174 and then add the single axis  motor drive for £68.40  - total spend £399.40.   I would suggest paying the extra £20.10 for the dual axis drive, but that would take you over the initial budget, but should give you a nicely portable, and practical introduction to the hobby.   If I was on such a tight budget this would be the option I would go, but that's just my opinion

Prices from Rother Valley Optics web site

Matt,

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I'm brain dead at the moment, have printed out all the replies and will look up all the suggested telescopes.  I think I will open a file!!! Ordered Make every Photon count today, so will have a good read when it arrives, I'm in no rush at this stage, I've waited this long so don't want to make a expensive mistake.  I would know a fair few constellations, but not the DSO' s. Between the internet, my mobile and the numerous astronomy books I have collected and my binoculars, I will get scanning the night sky on the next clear night-whenever that may be to brush up on what I think I know. I won't be buying anything before posting here what I'm thinking of. I certainly have a lot of  "window" shopping to do.  As far as I am aware there are no Astronomy shops in Northern Ireland, (I will contact Andy) I haven't checked Southern Ireland, but I imagine the prices would be way expensive as everything else there is. Pity I never thought to check shops when I was in London last year. THANKS again and I'll keep you posted. Mary

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Hi, I'm still around after a couple of months since my first posting.  Have learnt a lot from the forum, it has been brilliant & I may add a steep learning curve.  Realised that I was very naive in my first posting :eek:  but perhaps most newbies are.  Anyway, from what I have gleamed through the forum (& reading Make every Photon count) and from the advice I was given initially, AP could turn out to be deep money pit. (It has started already),  I have upped the budget and am veering towards a SW 150P DS & EQ5 Goto mount - final decision not yet made.  Won't run before I can walk though, AP will be way way down the line.  Will have to learn how to use the scope first, which I am sure will itself will take some time, trial & error.  It will near the end of June before I purchase anything anyway.  From experience would this set up be easy enough to lift, set up  etc & take a Canon 450D camera weight 475g??

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If you have a Laptop, you could instead of the EQ5 GoTo go for the much better HEQ5 Pro Syntrek  http://www.firstlightoptics.com/skywatcher-mounts/skywatcher-heq5-syntrek.html .

And instead of the 150PDS go for the 130PDS, to bring costs a bit down again  http://www.firstlightoptics.com/reflectors/skywatcher-explorer-130p-ds-ota.html .

People make impressive images with the 130PDS.

You can check a dedicated topic about this scope right here:

http://stargazerslounge.com/topic/210593-imaging-with-the-130pds/

If you are not in a hurry and the price of a new HEQ5Pro Syntrek is too much, you could keep an eye out on the secondhand market for a used HEQ5 Pro (Syntrek or SynScan GoTo) Mount. They really are much better than the EQ5. Better Mount, twice the load capacity and better and more accurate tracking motors.

The HEQ5 Pro really is a proven & tested Mount and has been THE recommended Choice of Mount to get into astrophotography for years.

Edited by GuillermoBarrancos
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Your probably at the hardest stage of purchase i.e. the void between going with Head or Heart. I've been interested in astronomy for years and went with a pair of Bins 10x50 first about 6 years ago but to be honest it was my lack of Garden views that stopped me going with my heart at the time on a shiny Dob. I just moved to another location and whilst I have SW London LP I do have great S SW views from my little garden. I suspect, knowing N.I. that you will have far less LP in your area and can see more with a smaller Dob that I can in my LP area? For me I'd go with a second hand DOB as big as you can afford without GOTO and probably 3 decent EP's 3xmm, 2xmm and either a 12-10mm with a Barlow and/or a 8-5mm. My 300p is heavy but its not too bad when you split the Base and Scope so a smaller Dob should be fine for you to manage. That's a newbie's advice.

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Hi All, thanks for replying. I had looked at the 130PDS & glanced at the HEQ5 have read obviously it was the better mount. Have 2 laptops, so no problem there. Have looked at so many reviews here on the forums about the different scopes.  Was very interested in the Dobs, till I read about the AP.  Not that is highly important at the moment, but just thought, If I got a half decent scope that was capable of doing AP, it would save me money down the road.  But I like the Dobs for ease of use etc, especially being new to all this. I'm in no rush at the moment, so the jury is still out, so to speak.

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Meant to say, you've right about the head or heart, nearly bought a scope in FLO' s sale a couple of weeks ago. Also, have been following the thread on the AP with the 130PDS, some very impressive images.  I think my biggest worry would be I'll get the scope & won't be able to use it. Yikes!  Therefore a plus for the Dobs. :grin:

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