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Hi everyone,

I’m putting a shopping list together for an astrophotography setup and I could really do with a bit of advice on my options thus far.

My aim is to photograph DSO’s  (I’m really keen on imaging galaxies) I need a rig that is easy to set up and also portable as I plan to transport it to the darkest skies I have available to me.

I’ve been shooting wide field astrophotography with a DSLR and a tripod for about 5 years now so I already own a modified Sony A7S and an unmodified Canon 5D Mk3, so I will start by shooting with these bodies.
 
I'm still undecided on scope and mount, hence the list has options.

My list so far:

Telescope:
Orion ED80
WIlliam Optics GT81
Explore Scientific 80 Essentials

Mount:
EQ6
HEQ5

Finder Scope and CCD for Guiding:
Orion Mini 50mm Guidescope
Meade DSI Colour

I intend on using PHD for guiding. I also need other accessories such as field flatteners etc, so any advice on 'the extras' would also be greatly appreciated.

I don't expect to get hubble-esque images from this rig! I would like to go down the refractor route, but other than M31 which is, of course, rather large, are these telescopes going to be any good for galaxies? It is one of the reasons I am leaning towards the Orion ED80 as the scope for that extra 120mm of focal length as all the scopes listed are f/6.

I'm also leaning towards the EQ6 for the mount but any other suggestions are more than welcome.
 
Thanks is advance!
Edited by Astro Buer

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The only scope I would add to that list might be the Skywatcher Esprit 80 plus flattener.  I really like my Esprit 120 and have considered an Esprit 80 for wide-field.  I have read about a number f folks who seem happy with theirs.  However, it comes with a foot, not rings, so if you were planning to get a dedicated guidescope at some point (like the ST80) I am not sure how you would connect one to the other.   It should work fine with the finder-guider you are thinking about using though.

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Go find a club that has an imaging section: http://www.astronomyclubs.co.uk/

To me the equipment listed does not seem to match the requirements of transportable and easy to set up.

Have you seen, preferably lifted an EQ6? I have an HEQ5, I also have an EQ5. The reason I have the EQ5 is simply the weight and size of the HEQ5, no way was I going to think of hauling the HEQ5 around. Even into and out of the car was enough to put me off it.

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Gnomus, thanks for pointing me towards the Sky Watcher Esprit, I’ll look into that for sure.

Ronin, I have looked at astro clubs in my area as I know there will be people there will be able to give me a good steer. It’s something I plan to pursue in the near future, so thanks for the link.

Regarding the weight of the HEQ5, I know it is a little heavy (Tripod 5.6kg, Mount 10kg plus weights 5kg each) and the EQ6 being heavier weighing in at 23.5Kgs without weights… But I am quite used to hiking with a 15kg bag on my back (I know the differentiation of the weight is different!) plus when I travel I usually take two 23kg bags with me, and I get those two and from the car without issue so the weight of the mount does not bother me too much.

Everyone keeps saying that the mount is 70% responsible for your success, so I want to make sure I get this right, so if that means a little more muscle power to get it to and from a dark site, then I’m ok with that.

Thanks so much for your comments so far :icon_biggrin:

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A lot of people (me included) cut there teeth on a HEQ5, ED80 combo - it just works and works well. Converted finderscope for guiding and you are in business !

 

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Thanks for the reply Proto Star. The ED80 does seem like the go-to scope for beginners in DSO photography... It might not be the best bit of kit out there, but I agree it would be a good start. 

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If it is galaxies that interest you, then most of those refractors have too short a focal length to really do them justice I reckon, other than some notable larger ones. You need something with a little more reach, which will also up the challenge, but galaxies are basically not easy. To fit on an HEQ5, you could look at a 6" or 8" RC to add to your decision difficulties.

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13 hours ago, MattJenko said:

If it is galaxies that interest you, then most of those refractors have too short a focal length to really do them justice I reckon, other than some notable larger ones. You need something with a little more reach, which will also up the challenge, but galaxies are basically not easy. To fit on an HEQ5, you could look at a 6" or 8" RC to add to your decision difficulties.

Thanks MattJenko. Are there any RC's within a reasonable price range that you would particularly recommend? 

Also I see you are based in North Essex and have some wonderful images on your website. Could I trouble you to ask where you usually image from?

Edited by Astro Buer

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There are a few manufacturers of the RC6, with different brandings, which are in the £400 category. They are compact, and whilst certainly not as straightforward to use as refractors, they might offer an alternative to your original list.

I usually image from my back garden, which is up near the Suffolk border, in a street-light-less village, so I am lucky in that regard.

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The the exception of M33 & M31, galaxies are pretty small objects in the night sky. You're going to need some more focal length to do them any justice than an ED80 will give you, my primary interest is also galaxies and I image with a 6"RC from Altair Astro reduced down a little to just over 900mm focal length, which I find gives me a wide range of targets to image, but there are a huge amount more that even at 900mm I'm a little short on.

The 6"RC isn't what I would class as a beginners scope, and you may find it a little frustrating to begin with, but if galaxy imaging is what you are after there is no substitute for focal length.

Have a look at my web page in sig or my flickr stream to see what can be achieved witht e 6"RC and a mono Atik CCD camera.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/skywatcher150/

Edited by johnrt

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1 hour ago, MattJenko said:

There are a few manufacturers of the RC6, with different brandings, which are in the £400 category. They are compact, and whilst certainly not as straightforward to use as refractors, they might offer an alternative to your original list.

I usually image from my back garden, which is up near the Suffolk border, in a street-light-less village, so I am lucky in that regard.

Thanks MattJenko

59 minutes ago, johnrt said:

The the exception of M33 & M31, galaxies are pretty small objects in the night sky. You're going to need some more focal length to do them any justice than an ED80 will give you, my primary interest is also galaxies and I image with a 6"RC from Altair Astro reduced down a little to just over 900mm focal length, which I find gives me a wide range of targets to image, but there are a huge amount more that even at 900mm I'm a little short on.

The 6"RC isn't what I would class as a beginners scope, and you may find it a little frustrating to begin with, but if galaxy imaging is what you are after there is no substitute for focal length.

Have a look at my web page in sig or my flickr stream to see what can be achieved witht e 6"RC and a mono Atik CCD camera.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/skywatcher150/

Thanks Johnrt, some wonderful images on your site also! I've found the Orion RC6 which has a focal length of 1370mm but I have to say the 6"RC Altair Astro does look good.

Thanks for all your help :)

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1 hour ago, Astro Buer said:

Thanks MattJenko

Thanks Johnrt, some wonderful images on your site also! I've found the Orion RC6 which has a focal length of 1370mm but I have to say the 6"RC Altair Astro does look good.

Thanks for all your help :)

The Orion & Altair 6'RC are essentially the same scope, but may come with different accessories. The 6" RC at native focal length is f/9 which from experience I can tell you is too slow for DSO imaging here in the UK, you will need to think about also adding a reducer to speed it up a little and make it manageable. The Astro Physics CCDT67 works well with this scope.

Edited by johnrt

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On 31 October 2016 at 11:26, johnrt said:

The Orion & Altair 6'RC are essentially the same scope, but may come with different accessories. The 6" RC at native focal length is f/9 which from experience I can tell you is too slow for DSO imaging here in the UK, you will need to think about also adding a reducer to speed it up a little and make it manageable. The Astro Physics CCDT67 works well with this scope.

Thanks johnrt. 

If I was to stick along the refractor route what about the Explore Scientific ED APO 127mm f/7.5 Carbon Fibre v2.0 Triplet Refractor OTA?

Weighing in at 6.8kg and with a focal length of 952mm at f7.5, it would still sit within the HEQ5's payload for imaging. I know there will be other weight added and you should over egg the mount where possible... to be safe maybe I should just go for the EQ6 and get down the gym! 

 

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31 minutes ago, Astro Buer said:

Thanks johnrt. 

If I was to stick along the refractor route what about the Explore Scientific ED APO 127mm f/7.5 Carbon Fibre v2.0 Triplet Refractor OTA?

Weighing in at 6.8kg and with a focal length of 952mm at f7.5, it would still sit within the HEQ5's payload for imaging. I know there will be other weight added and you should over egg the mount where possible... to be safe maybe I should just go for the EQ6 and get down the gym! 

 

Once you have added accessories for guiding and cameras etc you are going to be really pushing the upper limit of an HEQ5, personally I would be looking at an EQ6 for that kind of weight. Your mount is the key to a successful imaging rig, you can have the best scope, cameras and filters in the world, but on a struggling mount they are useless. Don't skimp on the mount.

As for the 127mm triplet, I'm not aware of any images taken with it. The hallmark of a quality refractor is how it handles the blue end of the spectrum, an example with poor colour correction will bloat the blue and give you nasty rings on stars, I'm not aware of any images taken with this OTA, and I'd personally want to see plenty before I splashed £1500 on it.

Of course with an RC reflector at 1/5th the retail price you don't need to worry about poor colour correction ;)

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3 hours ago, johnrt said:

Of course with an RC reflector at 1/5th the retail price you don't need to worry about poor colour correction

:) ... I hope this doesn't sound like a stupid question, but when using the Astro Physics CCDT67, does this also act as a field flattener? I know the RC's handle coma well, hence they are such a good choice for photography, but I've been searching the web for a while now and cannot find an answer. Basically, will I need a field flattener as well?

So updated list would be:

Altair Astro 6"RC

HEQ5 with Synscan

Astro Physics CCDT67

Orion Mini 50mm Guidescope

Meade DSI Colour
 
I would probably image with my Canon 5D3 as I could run Backyard EOS, but this will add to the weight over the Sony A7S (which is modded...) But I have read that the Sony adds a noise reducing algorithm on bulb exposures that is a bit like the old Star Eater Algorithm of Nikon in days gone by, so not great for galaxies I'm assuming as I would be looking to take subs of over 30secs...
 
Would you still recommend the EQ6 with the above setup?
 
Sorry for my naivety! I'm sure you can empathise in some way from when you first started out...  
 
 

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21 hours ago, Astro Buer said:

:) ... I hope this doesn't sound like a stupid question, but when using the Astro Physics CCDT67, does this also act as a field flattener? I know the RC's handle coma well, hence they are such a good choice for photography, but I've been searching the web for a while now and cannot find an answer. Basically, will I need a field flattener as well?

So updated list would be:

Altair Astro 6"RC

HEQ5 with Synscan

Astro Physics CCDT67

Orion Mini 50mm Guidescope

Meade DSI Colour
 
I would probably image with my Canon 5D3 as I could run Backyard EOS, but this will add to the weight over the Sony A7S (which is modded...) But I have read that the Sony adds a noise reducing algorithm on bulb exposures that is a bit like the old Star Eater Algorithm of Nikon in days gone by, so not great for galaxies I'm assuming as I would be looking to take subs of over 30secs...
 
Would you still recommend the EQ6 with the above setup?
 
Sorry for my naivety! I'm sure you can empathise in some way from when you first started out...  
 
 

Yes the telecompressor gives a great flat for imaging with this scope. Be warned though I would not class the 6"RC as a beginners scope if you do decide to go down that route.

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I have an 8" RC and like it very much but my 80mm refractor is my scope of choice except during February and March.

I wouldn't recommend an RC for a first foray into guiding, don't underestimate the difficulties and frustrations that can arise. There's a whole host of fabulous targets for your camera combined with a fast 80mm refractor..... come back to the small stuff later.

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