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oldannie

Will this set up work for a beginner?

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Hi everyone - after using my general photography stuff to image the Milky Way and Moon have been looking for a gentle next step into astrophotography and wondered whether this set up would work.  An astrotrac (easy to use and to set up for a non-technically minded enthusuast?) - I have a suitable lithium tracer battery already as I don't want to use lots of small batteries and a couple of tripod heads that will connect astrotrac to tripod and astrotrac to camera.  I had intended to just use my camera and wide angle lens but can't resist the idea of a small scope and wondered if this would be okay on the astrotrac:   http://www.firstlightoptics.com/william-optics/william-optics-zenithstar-zs71-ed-2013-reducer-bundle.html  The astrotrac has a weight capacity of 15 kilos and the scope tube weighs 2.7kilos.  If I'm going to use a modded DSLR with the scope what accessories are a must?  My thinking is that if I don't get anymore serious I could have some fun with this set up and if I do get more serious this set up would still be useful. What do you think - I've been thinking for so long now I really feel I need to take the plunge and buy something

Thanks for reading!

Annie                    

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I have A williams Optics Megrez 72mm with the same flattener/reducer which I use for imaging with an unmodified Canon 1100D. I have handled a ZS71 and it looks and feels very similar and I recall reading a review which said it was pretty much on a par with Megrez 72. It has has the potential benefit of a rack and pinion foicusser I believe (should handle heavier loads attached to the focussing tube). The Skywatcher ED80 is supposed the to be an excellent imaging scope too.

As for the Astrotrac my question would be how portable do you need your setup to be? If you image from your back garden or can drive to your observing location then an equatorial may be better. You can get a goto equatorial mount like the Skywatcher EQ5 for not much more money (non-goto for less), which may be more suitable and gives you so much more - you get a handset, computer control via EQMOD and the ability to use it for plain visual astronomy if you want to. The downside is it is heavy but that may not be an issue for you?

HTH

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I can confirm this

Reading the info on the scope and the supplied Flattener only a suitable T-Ring to suit you DSLR will be required , as the Flatterner is threaded already and the the lens to sensor distance 55-57mmis is set with the T-Ring in place at 55mm,,,,,

T-Ring...

http://www.firstlightoptics.com/adaptors/t-rings.html

Yup, I can confirm this.

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Thanks for the replies.  In so far as the astrotrac is concerned I think it's just a way of avoiding the task of setting up a motorised mount such as the HEQ5 Pro mount with GoTo - perhaps I should just dive in and have a go! 

Thanks again

Annie

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yes that will work, the heq5 and guided will work better if you want to go deeper but this is not wasted kit your thinking is sound its good portable gear and should give good pictures if you use it right. 

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Of course you don't have to setup the goto on the EQ5/HEQ5, you could just polar align and start tracking just like you would have to do with the Astrotrac!

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I have a feeling you will get hooked and then the astrotrac might end up becoming surplus to requirements.

I'd get an HEQ5 or a CG5 GT which is even lighter and learn how to set it up, it's really not that difficult.  You just need to learn how to polar align, and having said that the HEQ5 is easier than the CG5 as the polar scope is lit, I found the unlit CG5 rather difficult as I couldn't see the reticle in the dark.

Carole 

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Thanks everyone for taking the time to reply.  Whilst I accept the arguments about the heq5  pro mount I've decided that for me the astrotrac is the way forward at this point especially as my budget will allow me to buy a mount at any stage.  I wonder if I can ask another couple of questions before I finally buy.  Am intending to buy either the WO Zenithstar Z S71 or the SW Evostar ED 80 Pro.  Does it matter which?  I have two cameras at the moment a Nikon D300 and NIkon D600 the latter is a full frame DSLR - does a full frame camera  pose any difficulties if I want to attach it to a telescope and finally I may well decide to buy a Canon as I have the opportunity of buying a Canon 600D in mint condition very cheaply.  If I then have it modified do I need anything more than the filter removed?

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I have a feeling you will get hooked and then the astrotrac might end up becoming surplus to requirements.

I'd get an HEQ5 or a CG5 GT which is even lighter and learn how to set it up, it's really not that difficult.  You just need to learn how to polar align, and having said that the HEQ5 is easier than the CG5 as the polar scope is lit, I found the unlit CG5 rather difficult as I couldn't see the reticle in the dark.

Carole 

I have an eq and could never imagine my A.T. becoming surplus to requirements :D. different horses for different courses I say

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Marketed as a portable EQ mount I would look at the iOptron SmartEQ Pro.

It does not have the capacity of the astrotrac, and although not the mass of the HEQ5 mount the ZS71 is not exactly heavy either and it may be a better setup.

THe HEQ5 is a fair size, even if it is good for AP you still have to move the thing around.

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Hi Annie

Purely from research I've done (I thought of getting an Astrotrac recently) the basic Astrotrac seems to be only ok for imaging with a dslr and a widefield or standard lens. Certainly if you want to add a proper scope you'll need the wedge,  head, etc and an autoguiding setup. By the time you've done all that you might just as well have got a proper equatorial mount anyway. I think the Astrotrac is probably great for portability with just a dslr. Anything much more and it doesn't seem such a good deal. Just my opinion :)

There is quite a useful reference here: http://www.project-nightflight.net/Astrotrac_Astrophotography_with_DSLR.pdf
 

Hth

Louise

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Hi - have looked at the iOptron and whilst it's tempting I think for me the weight capacity would be too limiting so am still moving towards the astrotrac.

Thanks for the extremely useful link Louise which suggests that even with a heavy lens - such as my Nikon f/2.8 300mm a wedge is recommended.  If I do eventually make up my mind ( gonna have to do so quickly as frustration is beginning to set in!) and go for an astrotrac I had been minded to try it with the WO Zenithstar ZS71 -  is an autoguiding set up a must with this?

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Hi - have looked at the iOptron and whilst it's tempting I think for me the weight capacity would be too limiting so am still moving towards the astrotrac.

 

Thanks for the extremely useful link Louise which suggests that even with a heavy lens - such as my Nikon f/2.8 300mm a wedge is recommended.  If I do eventually make up my mind ( gonna have to do so quickly as frustration is beginning to set in!) and go for an astrotrac I had been minded to try it with the WO Zenithstar ZS71 -  is an autoguiding set up a must with this?

Hi

I would think so - it has a fl of 418mm. Also the Astrotrac can't guide in DEC so that could be limiting anyway. I would suggest you join the Astrotrac Yahoo group as I'm sure there will people there that use a scope on the Astrotrac and can advise you better exactly what kit you'll need and what the limitations are. AP is a money pit however you do it! There are some peeps on SGL that use one but I reckon the Yahoo group might be the best place to ask stuff.

Louise

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Will do that Louise -thanks again.   It's not the money (well up to a point!) just wanting to make a gentle start and not wanting to be overwhelmed by a heavy mount so thought the astrotrac might be a short term answer - perhaps I'm being too wimpish about it all! 

Annie

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Hi Annie

I think the Astrotrac is aimed at people that want something that's very easy to transport so it kindof depends on where you plan to do your AP and what sort of AP you want to do? The Astrotrac quotes a 15kg payload but whatever it's mounted on must support at least that too. Don't rush and buy something because you're impatient! Take your time and ask lots of questions and read lots of relevant posts! Have a look see at the equipment other people have used to achieve their images. If you want to image DSOs, it's recommended to read this book:

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

Louise

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Another question I'm afraid!!  Steve Richards book was my first purchase followed by Jerry Lodriguss. To image Deep Space Objects is my ambition but  am not very technically minded (but capable of learning I think!) so thought that an Astrotrac would be a gentle introduction.  I'm still not clear about a basic point - I have a full frame Nikon D600 and  an f/2.8 17-35mm lens which is good with the Milky Way, an f/1.4 50mm lens also good for wide field work, an f/4 24-120mm and an f/2.8 70-200mm which is compatible with my teleconverters.   Weight wise I imagine I would be able to use these with an Astrotrac without a wedge or guiding? What should I be able to target with this set up and some stacking?  I also have an f/2.8 300mm lens but think at 4 kilos with camera I wouldn't use this with an astrotrac.

Am grateful for all your comments- thanks.

Annie

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Oldannie, you will need a good tracking mount, a HEQ5 would be future proof up to a point a long way off, the Astrotrac as pointed out will need extra's bring the money side of thing more balanced, and your be a lot happier doing your AP.....you do need a good tracking mount....

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Hi again Annie

It's difficult to advise as I've no hands-on experience with the Astrotrac... Might I suggest you re-post in the Imaging section with 'Astrotrac' in the title? You're likely to pick up more Astrotrac users who can give better practical advice. The forum is still a little quiet but people are slowly drifting back in after the summer interlude. My impression is that setting up and using an Astrotrac is not really any less technical than using a mount. You still need good polar alignment, some way of controlling your exposure plan, adjusting this and that, processing your images, etc. etc. You still need a heavy-duty tripod or the expensive Astrotrac travel system. In other words, you end up building a mount bit by bit but will only ever being able to track and guide in RA. That may not prevent being able to take decent widefield images but is a limitation to bear in mind. To my mind, one big disadvantage of the Astrotrac (and similar devices) is not being able to use planetarium software to go to targets. But, if you want to traipse up a hill to get dark sky views, it's probably great - if you know what you're doing and can do it in the dark!

Louise

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Hi Louise - I may have got the wrong impression about  the setting up of a mount such as the heq5 pro!  Some of the posts I've read imply that there's quite a lot of fiddling about to do to get each part to work as it should so I've been a bit hesitant - whilst that process might be a bit frustrating at the end of it I guess I would have the basis that would enable me to do the kind of imaging I want to.  I guess its the sort of hobby that'll present lots of opportunities to fiddle about!! The advice from the astrotrac group is to buy an astrotrac if i just want to use my DSLR and lenses and to buy the heq5 if I want to use a telescope.

Thanks for taking the time to respond Louise - much appreciated.

Annie

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Hi Annie

Well I wouldn't say that AP isn't challenging, at the best of times! As I say, the main differences are portability and control. I have the heq5 syntrek, and for me it's heavy! But I've been an armchair imager - literally! I image from my living room through a (open!) window! So I have the syntrek powered by mains adapters and controlled from a PC. I think it largely depends on what sort of targets you want to image and where you want to do it. If you want to image DSOs from your garden then I'd recommend an heq5 syntrek or synscan. It's heavy, but manageable, providing you're reasonably fit and healthy. On the other hand, if you want something light and portable that you want to take here and there, then maybe an Astrotrac will do you. An alternative might be the Skywatcher Star Adventurer - cheaper and does more or less the same thing but with reduced payload. Both run from batteries so easy to manage.

The heq5 will track quite well with good polar alignment and you can just fit a dslr via a dovetail. That's how I started - heq5 syntrek + canon 1100d + 75-300mm lens. For widefield-ish shots you can get reasonable length exposures without guiding. But once you get the bug you just want to do more! You can't run a proper mount from just standard batteries though, you need a Powertank or leisure battery if you can't plug in a mains adapter.

There's no reason why you shouldn't get a basic Astrotrac to start with - keeping it simple with just a dslr and standard lens. You'll always then have it for portability and, if you get the bug, and want to do more, you can upgrade to an heq5, say, later. But... if you want to use long lenses and proper scopes then I'd say go straight for a proper tracking eq mount like the heq5 syntrek or synscan. I have limited experience myself (still not reached my first year!) so don't just take my word for it. It's just my opinion :)

This is a friendly and helpful forum packed full of resources and very knowledgeable and experienced folk - do make use of it!

Louise

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Well folks am beginning to think I should bite the bullet and get a decent equitorial mount  - next question!  is there anything else other than the heq5 pro syntrek or synscan that I could look at as a first mount?  I don't have a particularly tight budget just want something of good quality that works as it should but don't want anything heavier than the heq5.

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Go for the HEQ5 your love it to bits, it really good value for money......

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