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SlyReaper

Spec me an imaging rig

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I'm unhappy.  I have this 10 inch dob that is fantastic at taking pictures of planets, but not a lot else.  Anything that's dim, that requires more than a few seconds exposure, it won't come out clearly, because the tracking system is simply not accurate enough.  I know, it's an alt-azimuth mount, of course it's going to be pretty much useless at imaging galaxies and nebulae.  What's worse is it's front-heavy, so it slowly pitches downwards.  I've known this all along.  But it came to a head last week when someone on another forum took an absolutely stunning picture of comet Lovejoy, tail and all, with what they described as a "budget rig".  They had used a small scope on an EQ2 mount with a motor.  Not even a guide scope.  The best I had been able to do was a greenish blob with nearly a grand's worth of kit.  I want to do better, and I don't think my current equipment is up to the task.

So yeah, I'm looking for a proper AP rig.  Equatorial mount, guide-star tracking scope, small-to-medium OTA; I'm not expecting to get a 10 inch tube on an equatorial mount without selling a kidney.  I already have a fairly decent camera for planetary imaging, a ZWO ASI120MM.  Is that usable for DSO imaging with the right scope?

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I just bought an HEQ5, SW 200P, Canon 1000d, coma corrector, guide scope and cam and various other bits and pieces (in other words a pretty comprehensive bit of kit) for less than the price of a new HEQ5, the seller even threw in his laptop and all the necessary software. What's more he linked me to his website, so I know what the kit is capable of if I can learn all the necessary skills.

There are deals out there, this was by far from unique, it just happened to be close by so I bought it.

Post a wanted ad here, and on AstroBuySell. There are a surprising number of people looking to sell a complete outfit.

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What is your budget budget? :-)

I use an EQ3-2 with an RA motor, polar scope, 70ED refractor and my unmodded 1100d. I am getting 1 min subs, unguided at the moment, but I reckon, as I work on PA, I should be able to get it to 90 seconds.....maybe 120, but it is a great way to practice the arcane arts.

However, I am already itching to upgrade the mount so I can go longer and start thinking about guiding.

So that's the question - how "budget" do you go? My lot still set me back the best part of £1000 - although if you have cameras and some bits already, it will be cheaper - perhaps I should have saved initially and gone with an HEQ5 and be done with it....although I may not have enjoyed the hobby and felt I had wasted my money.

Bit of a balancing act, but I guess you can spend as much as you want on it.

If you have a budget in mind, people might have some more specific advice on some suitable packages - maybe something like this on FLO?

http://www.firstlightoptics.com/pro-series/skywatcher-evostar-80ed-pro-heq5-pro.html

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How serious:

EQ5 + goto + ZS71 then later off axis guider and guide camera I suppose £1200.

HEQ5 goto, + triplet apo + off axis guider + guide camera say £4000.

If you want the better images then that seems to mean a mono camera (cooled ccd), filters and filter wheel I would say you are at the £6000 mark. Mono+filters also quadruple the amount of time to get an exposure.

Back to the problem that the bigger and more capabile it is then the longer it takes to set up, do you want to spend an hour setting everything up?

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Budget is everything. 

You need an accurate German equatorial, an autoguider, a well colour corrected scope of short focal length and a sensitive camera. Is there any good news in all of this? Well, yes. Second hand cuts it almost in half. (Say 60% of new).

My 'budget serious' starter rig would be HEQ5, ST80 guidescope, classic ED80 imaging scope or 130P Newt, QHY5 autoguide camera, Atik 314L mono CCD, Baader filters in manual wheel, AstroArt 5 and a legit copy of Photoshop around CS2 or later. However, I'm told I'm biased so I'll let those who are not biased give an alternative view - and what I'm suggesting may not strike you as even slightly 'budget' but deep sky imaging can take you to £100,000 in kit. Quite seriously, there are amateurs out there with that as a budget. How long is a piece of string? (Mine is a good bit shorter than a hundred grand!)

Olly

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Thanks for the suggestions.

Budget wise... I have recently found myself with an embarrassingly large heap of cash to spend, so I'd like to say money is no object.  4 grand?  Okay.  I can spend that.  But I also don't want to be that guy who has all the gear and no idea.  It has been less than a year since I bought my first scope, so I have absolutely no confidence in myself to make sensible choices.   I think I want to be spending a large fraction of the total spend on the mount, so something like a HEQ5 appeals to me.  But I worry that might be over-speccing it.  

In addition to my dobsonian light bucket, I also have a 130mm newtonian OTA.  It was the first telescope I bought.  It's currently on an EQ2 mount.  If I slap that thing on a beefier mount and whack a guide-scope on the side of it, would that make a semi-decent rig for photographing DSOs?  It's a spherical mirror though, not parabolic.  

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No No no, its needs to be the 130pds f/5 imaging Newtonian, the 130 you have won't work for a couple of reasons, firstly it won't come to focus with a DLSR. The good news is the 130pds is just 159 pounds! plus 97 pounds for the coma corrector.

HEQ5 pro is a good place to start but also check out the Celestron AVX. 

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4K spent on decent kit is better than 2K spent on less than useful kit, my advise...take your time, look hard and long at the options, way it up first, Olly's point is valid, i speak from experience, i cant say i have wasted money but i have made decisions i later thought could have been more informed.

Your location will factor in as will your targets, light pollution etc.

the learning curve is tough n steep.

good luck with your decisions

Ray

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I've a Celestron 130 SLT newtonian, and would have considered keeping it - probably still on an HEQ5 though - except that it won't reach focus with a DSLR. Now if you have the SW 130 PDS, that will reach focus and off you go.

An HEQ5, from all I read, and advice received, is pretty much the minimum for a scope, camera, guide scope and camera etc - it has a payload of about 11kg for imaging, and that lot won't be too far short. I think an EQ3 would most likely struggle, but others will no doubt correct me

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if money isn't a problem then I'd seriously look at ollies choice. it'll give you a very capable set-up and you'll have a load left over from 4k 

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Thanks for the suggestions.

Budget wise... I have recently found myself with an embarrassingly large heap of cash to spend, so I'd like to say money is no object.  4 grand?  Okay.  I can spend that.  But I also don't want to be that guy who has all the gear and no idea.  It has been less than a year since I bought my first scope, so I have absolutely no confidence in myself to make sensible choices.   I think I want to be spending a large fraction of the total spend on the mount, so something like a HEQ5 appeals to me.  But I worry that might be over-speccing it.  

In addition to my dobsonian light bucket, I also have a 130mm newtonian OTA.  It was the first telescope I bought.  It's currently on an EQ2 mount.  If I slap that thing on a beefier mount and whack a guide-scope on the side of it, would that make a semi-decent rig for photographing DSOs?  It's a spherical mirror though, not parabolic.  

Spend £950.00 on an NEQ6 pro, another £750~£900 on a short triplet of about 400mm of FL and spend the rest of the £4000 on an Atik 460 EXM and some RGB filters and an FW. May have to cough up another £400.00 on a guide camera and a little guide scope. Then start praying that you learn to do the processing and the sky remain clear for you. You may get lucky and find all these second hand which will save you over a grand in cash if not more.

A.G

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Spend £50 on a telescope and £3950 on a big fan, because lord knows that as soon as you buy anything, the clouds start rolling in. 

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Money no object (Or nearly so)? Mesu 200, Tak 85 FSQ, ST80 / Lodestar 2, QSI cam of your choice, Astrodon filters (Especially the 3 nm NB)

More realistically get Making Every Photon Count, from FLO. While you're reading it work out a permanent location for your mount on a pier either in a full obsy or at least under a roll off cover as putting it all on a tripod is a pain, especially when you kick the damn thing during a run (Been there, done that) and setting up before each run is a pain too.

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Olly's suggestion is a good one for a more budget rig, while Dave's suggestion is the best!!!

Don't underestimate the pain of setting up each time. If you have any way at all of getting an observatory, that will probably revolutionise your imaging more than anything else. To be able to be up and running in a matter of minutes is an absolute godsend.

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Olly's suggestion is a good one for a more budget rig, while Dave's suggestion is the best!!!

Don't underestimate the pain of setting up each time. If you have any way at all of getting an observatory, that will probably revolutionise your imaging more than anything else. To be able to be up and running in a matter of minutes is an absolute godsend.

That's a very good point.

The HEQ5 will not be over spec. It's the minimum straightforwardly good mount and doubtless the Celestron equivalent will be fine too. I just don't know these.

The £4K budget opens up the Atik 383L which has a nice big chip. Worth putting on the list.

Olly

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Don't worry about the learning curve. I got started in imaging with my 200P on my HEQ5 Pro. The scope's a sail so can't even have any breeze on it, but I did OK. I have little technical skill so if I can do it you certainly can! I asked on here (marvellous forum) and my astro group. Do try to find an astro group near you. Their one-to-one tuition is invaluable.

As for the autoguider, I would suggest a finder-guider. It's cheaper and lightweight. I use one of these:

http://www.firstlightoptics.com/finders/skywatcher-9x50-finderscope.html

+1 for the HEQ5 Pro. The HEQ6 is more sturdy but very heavy.

Have a read of this before you decide though:

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

I use my 200P (reaches focus with DSLR fine) for small DSOs like galaxies, and my 72mm frac for large nebulae and wider field.

If you don't want to go for an expensive Atik imaging camera, then try a modded Canon, such as the EOS 600D. It has a flip screen and is sensitive. But the Atiks are by far the best, but you would need to have a filter wheel and RGB + Luminance filters as a minimum. That makes imaging more demanding, so I would really just go with a Canon to start with, otherwise you might find yourself struggling and give up.

Good luck!

Alexxx

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Yaaay, wish list time. budget of 4K, let me see what I can cook up!

If I was going for new stuff, I would stick to a formula that works:

Both Bern (ModernAstro) and FLO (SGL Sponsor) are good solid reputable dealers.

Camera:

Atik 383L + Atik EFW 2 Filter Wheel + 2" Baader LRGB CCD Filter - £2363

http://www.firstlightoptics.com/atik-cameras/atik-383l-plus.html

http://www.firstlightoptics.com/rgb-filters-filter-sets/baader-lrgbc-ccd-filter-set.html

or

QHY9 + QHY filterwheel + 2" Baader filters - £1900

http://www.modernastronomy.com/camerasQHY.htm#qhy9

Mount: 

EQ6 SynTrek mount - £839

http://www.firstlightoptics.com/skywatcher-mounts/skywatcher-eq6-syntrek.html

Skywatcher HEQ5 SynTrek - £630

http://www.firstlightoptics.com/skywatcher-mounts/skywatcher-heq5-syntrek.html

Scope:

Evostar DS-Pro Series Refractors + Sky-Watcher 0.85x Reducer 

http://www.modernastronomy.com/telescopes_swRefractors.htm#ds-pro -  £650 

http://www.firstlightoptics.com/pro-series/skywatcher-evostar-80ed-ds-pro-outfit.html - or £595

Or if collamination does not deter you

130PDS with a SW Comma corrector + Collaminator

http://www.firstlightoptics.com/reflectors/skywatcher-explorer-130p-ds-ota.html  £295

Guiding:

QHY5-II Mono Guide Camera - £199

http://www.modernastronomy.com/camerasGuider.html#QHY5-II

QHY5 Straight through finder adapter - £40

(Use the finder that comes with the ED80 and guide scope)

http://www.modernastronomy.com/camerasGuider.html#guiding_accessories

PC for Guiding / Capture & processing:

Refurbished X201 Lenovo - rugged PC good horse power. -£169.99

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Quality-Refurbished-Lenovo-X201-Warranty/dp/B00L6Y40QY/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1422262968&sr=8-1&keywords=lenovo+x201

Purchased Software:

APT  - £10

http://www.ideiki.com/astro/Purchase.aspx

Pixinsight - £200

https://pixinsight.com/buy/index.html

Grand total for budget rig

HEQ5, QHY,130pds => £3450

EQ6, Atik, Evostar 80ED => £4470

Things to consider:

You could shave off about 40% off the mount if you go used and save between £200 (HEQ) and £400 EQ6

You could reuse you planetary camera for guiding and save £200

My choice would be a used EQ6 and the QHY with the 130PDS.

Read making every photon count before you buy anything.

Cheers.

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