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First Scope - Looking at Skywatcher Explorer ?

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Hi All

I'm looking at my first scope. I'm in Dublin so in the middle of the city and we dont have any astronomy shops to go to, so looking at them is difficult!


I have a few ideas in mind as to what I want to do.

1. Look at the solar system

2. Some DSO

3. Be able to do some astrophotography.

I have some ideas but someone might be able to steer me in a better direction.

I was looking at the http://www.firstlightoptics.com/reflectors/skywatcher-explorer-200p-eq5.html  

From what I can see its upgradable but I don't know if I could get away with  http://www.firstlightoptics.com/reflectors/skywatcher-explorer-150pl-eq3-2.html

I know that the EQ5 mount is better than the EQ3-2 but that the heq5 is whats really needed for AP. Would I get away with an EQ5 ?

The 200p is about my budget at £419 / €556. Its over €700 here in the one online shop we have ! I've seen it elsewhere for £389  incl delivery

I have a Canon EOS - D60 camera

I dont want to go down the GoTo road. It might be easier but I wont learn a whole lot and I'd rather put the money elsewhere.

I had looked at Dobs but for tracking the EQ is where I want to be

I did get a pair of Celestron 20x80 binos and saw some dual stars around Orion but they are not collimated so going back to Amazon. I might be able to get some help with them at the net Astronomy Ireland workshop next week.

Thanks in advance

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I recommend getting this kit... http://www.firstlightoptics.com/reflectors/skywatcher-explorer-200p-heq5-pro.html ...and observe for a time; get to know the sky, and the positions of those objects tha

If you are going to do astrophotography then get the goto. You will need the motors to track the target, you are not going to do it by hand. The 200P is a visual scope, and is set up for this. I do no

Hi, i have the 200p eq5, my third telescope and i was still a little shocked at the size of it so make sure you take that into account, it is a big object. When i go to my darksite in the car my scope

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If you are going to do astrophotography then get the goto. You will need the motors to track the target, you are not going to do it by hand.

The 200P is a visual scope, and is set up for this. I do not think you will get an image on the DSLR sensor without altering the position of the main mirror.

The 200P is at the top end of weight for AP on the EQ5, it is also sort of "big", any breeze will cause shake and vibration so you may end up throwing away a fair percentage of exposures. Just be aware of the limitations.

Not exactly the right tool for the job but you will get something out of it with a bit of work.

The easy way of putting it is for visual you tend to get a big scope on a small mount, for AP you need a small scope on a big mount.The EQ5 and 200P is a visual set up. People doing AP stick a William Optics Star 71 refractor on an EQ6. May seem crazy but that is how they get the good results.

Whatever I suggest the EQ5 and goto as the minimum.

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The 200P on an eq5 mount is right on the limit of the mounts abilities when the DSLR is attached

It can be done but with difficulties.

This is a tough hobby and handicapping yourself at the outset might be frustrating and put you off what is a fantastic pastime

I use a 200p on a modded eq5 mount in my Obsy and it is a struggle sometimes

Outside you will suffer from any breeze as well.

Only my 2 penny worth

Good luck


Edited by Garethr
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I image with a 200p on an eq5 mount and although I do loose alot of subs on a windy night, when it's calm I don't really loose any.

I also use a DSLR (Astro modded 600D) and I have no problem reaching focus.

I do wish I'd got it on a HEQ5 mount though simply for future proofing and I'd also not have wasted so much money on the goto upgrade.

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As the people above have already stated, the telescopes you're looking at are visual ones. I wouldn't recommend going for AP right off the bat, I'd recommend getting a solid Newtonian, either Dob mounted or EQ mounted and start with visual astronomy. Once you get in to the hobby you might want to do AP, but it's going to require a lot of hard work and money to get decent results.

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You really need to ask yourself whether you want a visual instrument or do you want to go down the astrophotography road? In my opinion you need to make some serious sacrifices to have an all round setup, usually ending up with something that is not particularly good at either AP or visual.

Big newtonians really shine as visual instruments when they are dobsonian mounted but then they are of little use for AP. On the more budget end of EQ mounts they are very wobbly and the eyepiece ends up in some very awkward positions.

For AP there is probably only one hard and fast rule that has no exceptions or caveats.... The longer the focal length of your scope the more difficult it is to acquire a good image. When using DSLR for capture you really, really want to keep your focal length short as something called oversampling which gives a low signal to noise ratio is going to be your enemy. The book Making Every Photon Count is an excellent read and will explain it all.

For visual astronomy the bigger the aperture the better but for AP (insert caveat) the opposite is usually the case.

I used an EQ5 Pro for several years, it's comfort zone for AP is a short and fast refractor. I've never used one but the Skywatcher ED80 with a reducer is well regarded.


If the budget is tight you might get away with a 130PDS but this would require some tinkering to get it to work really well.


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Hi ... I'm in much the same position, just looking at scopes and researching prior to buying and getting advice from the great people here. I'm also in Ireland (Donegal) and yeah, we don't have much in the way of shops here for telescopes!

I'm the same - I want as good a scope as my budget allows that will have a good stab at being an all rounder. From what I've been advised here the Skywatcher Skyliner 150p/200p seem to give the best compromise between price/ability. But (!) the dobsonian mount is apparently almost useless for imaging. I thought that until I dug round a bit and found this :


and :


so it is possible, I'm sure not to a standard of proper tracking etc etc but for me, a beginner, it could be enjoyable trying what is done in those links and, more importantly, it means I can still get a great beginners scope which will at least enable me to learn, get some decent images (hopefully!) and if I want to go further down the imaging road then I can win the lottery and get a proper astrophotography driven mount and everything alse that seems to be needed lol

Hope this helps a bit :)


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Everyone has different experiences, so you get a lot of different answers to questions like this.  So, I'll add mine to the list and you can take what you can from it.  I started back in astronomy 4 years ago with the intention of going into AP. I had some knowledge already around equatorial mounts, reflectors, etc from years ago, but not much.  I went for the 200P on an HEQ5 Pro - I can get this into focus with my EOS no problem.  As others have said, you're going to struggle with an eq5, particularly if you want to do long exposures (deep sky objects).  However, you will struggle to do that in town with any equipment.  You need the goto feature because only the goto mounts have accurate enough motors for guiding.  HEQ5 Pro is the way to go.    If you're planning on travelling outside the city to do this, then go for it.  You might want to start with a cheap-ish refractor though as these can produce some cracking results in wide fields and much lighter/easier.  I'm actually looking at buying one to use on the HEQ5.

Now, this is all based on deep sky photography (nebulae, galaxies, etc).  Maybe a better option is to go into planetary imaging first.  This is much easier to do in town and doesn't require the precise guiding.   It does, however, require high magnification, etc.  I know some folks who do some amazing things with a 10" dob and a camera which won't break the bank (as much).

Last thing:- look at the second hand market (here and astrobuysell, etc)  You can pick up much better kit for your €€€.

As others have said, the eq5 is going to be something you will struggle with for AP pretty early on and you'll be wishing you'd bought the HEQ5 pro instead.  Sorry, but this is a money pit.

Let us know how you decide to proceed.



Edited by craigg
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Hi, i have the 200p eq5, my third telescope and i was still a little shocked at the size of it so make sure you take that into account, it is a big object. When i go to my darksite in the car my scope in its box fillef the backseats of my car completely. It is an excellent visual telescope for the price with great aperture.

I love the pictured that amateur astrophotographers acheive! I would love to do the same. But if i was going to do it, i want to do it properly. Not waste hours of observing time with sub-standard equipment facing frustration and disappointent. I have realised that with tracking motors, guiding scope, computer software, ccd camera, mount stabilisation, polar alignment, power packs and batteries I am approximately 1000 pounds away from a good photography set up.

If astrophotography is your thing, and your budget can stretch, then go for it, but dont go half hearted and end up hating it through frustration.

Myself, and other astronomers i have spoken to have to admit that... i cant afford to do astrophotography! It is a VERY expensive hobby.


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Mike above puts the case in a nutshell.

Ask yourself would you be happy spending time and effort and at the end have sub standard work to show for all your effort? I suspect that after several very average images you are likely to give up and we will be seeing another little used set up on the pre-owned market.

I'm not saying don't do it but please think very carefully.

Good luck.

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Why cant this be as simple as building lego...another past time of mine (ostensibly for my son :))

Nebula, thanks for the links. I'll look at those later. You've a better chance of  dark skies in Donegal than we have in the capital...note to self...move house!

Thanks for all the feedback guys...its not easy.

Another question. If I go for a heq5 mount (I've seen one that could be within range though outside of budget)

What OTA would you recommend?  People are recommending a short focal length which from all my other reading makes sense. (I've ordered "Make every photon count")

Is there one that would give me some satisfaction looking at the skies myself rather than just looking at nice images on my camera?

I'm  looking at €750 for the mounts so another €250/£200 would for an OTA would be about my limit. Perhaps this http://www.firstlightoptics.com/reflectors/skywatcher-explorer-150p-ds-ota.html  or equivalent !!

As you've said. I dont want to short change myself on equipment and not be a happy camper in the end...but I need to think about my pocket.

Can anyone recommend any banks I can rob that have no security :)_


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I got the 200PDS on an NEQ6 mount as my first set up. It's great for visual, and good for planets, Lunar and Solar ( with suitable white light filter ). Even on the big NEQ6 mount, 2 minutes exposure was the maximum I could get without star trailing when not guiding. Any wind catches the big scope, and it is a big sail!

A 200P or PDS on an EQ5 or HEQ5 would be a good starter set up for both visual and planetary imaging, but with a webcam type camera rather than a DSLR. Here's one of my first Lunar images with a webcam that was already 14 years old when I got my scope in 2012. Converting a webcam is a cheap and easier way of getting into astrophotography. 


After a couple of years, I bought an Evostar 80ED refractor for deep space imaging, so now I have set ups to manage visual, planetary and deep space imaging. While I mainly image rather than view, occasionally, I'll stick and eyepiece in the scope and look at Jupiter, Saturn or the Moon and still have that "wow" moment that I had when I first got my scope.

I've since expanded my equipment and cameras and have now probably spent about £5k on astro gear. That's not the kind out outlay that beginners should spend in their first purchases, but as you gain experience, and learn more about the sky, that will probably direct where your future money gets spent. Let your interest guide your spending over time!

As I've recently discovered, good quality planetary cameras can do deep sky imaging with fairly short exposures. Here's the Eskimo Nebula, from 100 x 3 second exposures with an ASI120MM planetary camera.


There's a gallery here with many deep space images, produced with planetary cameras, using very short exposures but thousands of them, so a planetary camera on the 200 scope could give you quite a good all round capability.


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I recommend getting this kit...


...and observe for a time; get to know the sky, and the positions of those objects that you would like to eventually image.  That 8" f/5 will "knock your socks off".  In the meantime, read the book you've ordered, more than once, and again(third time's a charm), dream, then in future you can get just the right small telescope, either a 70mm or 80mm ED or apochromatic refractor, or the 130P-DS Newtonian, and begin your imaging venture.

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If you can afford what Alan linked - above - I'd also recommend that scope & mount. It would involve a bit of a learning-curve to set the mount up, but you can master that quite rapidly. And as an equatorial go-to, it would provide what you'd need for viewing and astro-photography purposes.

Enjoy -


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As Dave and Stephen above. There is no one size fits all really however that's about as close as you will get. The whole set up is upgradeable and will accept easily a ED80 later for deep sky imaging and guiding scope/paraphernalia etc.

I like to tinker (when the awful weather allows) with a webcam which is a simple xbox webcam conversion and its quite fun with the images it gives and very cheap to make.

Have fun and keep us informed. Oh and read the M.E.P.C book for sure.

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Hi there,

I managed to do a lot of deep sky astrophotography using a heavily loaded EQ5 (I have uploaded some of the pics to my gallery). I mounted an Evostar 120 with a DSLR and a piggybacked guidescope. I would say that the EQ5 is a good start because it does not break the bank and provides a good secondary mount when/if you upgrade to a heavier mount later on. I agree that an ED80 imaging scope is a good choice for deep sky imaging (especially when equipped with narrowband filters in an urban area) and will be easily mounted on an eq5. 

Just bare in mind that to get good results from a heavily loaded mount you will need to properly balance it before hand. 

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OK guys, you've convinced me.

I've a chance of a heq5 goto for €650/£485 second hand.

Now the dilema

I've also an offer of a celestron as to master 130eq for €130/£100.

Am I better off leaving the scope and putting the money into something better. I see the skywatcher 150 is a shorted FL and the 200p is a fast scope at f5.

My budget it blown and my wife will divorce me when she gets home from slovakia.:)

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Id do the 200mm. 200mm - 8" - is the size most concur will allow you something new and amazing every night of your life. It will show you just about all there is to see up there, and show it very well indeed.

And that's not just my opinion.



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Incidentally, the reason I hinted at the 150mm instead, even though it would only draw the upper portion of one's socks down to their ankles, is because it would better serve as an imaging telescope, as a primer, than the 200mm on an HEQ5, whilst still offering bright views of the starry void.

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