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Starting again - What to get first?

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Hi All,

Been a long time since I posted here, but now my interest has been rekindled I will hopefully be a regular visiter.

I have had some previous experience with budget equipment and got the expected budget results.

What I am aiming for this time around is to do a bit of imaging, cost was a prohibiting factor before but it is not such a scary financial prospect as it was a few years ago. That is not to say it is not still scary... just not as much!

at the moment I have no proper equipment at all, I am limited to moon shots with a hs10 bridge camera. Since reading up here the last few days I have learned a lot about the different settings and how it affects the image. Until now I didnt even realise my camera had a manual mode!!  For its intended market purpose and price it is pretty good, a point and shoot that flatters the user. However it waved a little white flag when I pointed it at the moon last week, which is what got me looking for advice and brought me back here.

I had set my mind on an 8" newt, there are a good number of tube only options available at the moment. This is where things get tricky for me.

Do I...

go ahead and get a cheap used tube, get a mount that will do for viewing and use as is while I save for a camera and better mount.

or get a camera to start with and stick to moon imaging to learn how to use the camera first before getting the rest of the setup. I also need to learn about the stacking and processing of the images.

I would also appreciate some advice on which ota i should be looking for, I gather they are not all equal when it comes to being used for imaging. I have seen recently the Helios explorer which is touted as the older version of the blue tube skywatcher which itself has been replaced with a black version. I mention these as they appear to be the most often available used. Is there a particular version I should avoid or aim for? Similarly, is a dual speed focuser a help or hindrance when it comes to use for imaging?

Thanks for the great info that I have already been able to get from this forum.

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The book Making every photon count would be a huge help to you at this point.  It can save you making some expensive mistakes.


There is bad news regarding the bridge camera as these are poorly suited to astrophotography where you normally remove the lens from the camera and use the telescope as a lens.

You can use it for afocal imaging where you connect it to an eyepiece though and the high fps video mode on your camera will lend itself well to lunar and planetary imaging where it is the norm to take a video then use software to stack the individual frames.

Otherwise you could just mount the camera and use it for wide field imaging.  A barn door tracker is the cheapest way to do this and can give some great results.

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An 8" Newt is what I got about 3 years ago.  Nearly all the images in my album were taken with it and an Astro modded DSLR.  It did get added motors and eventually with a guidescope, it could track. 

But before that I used a bridge camera (max ISO 200, max exposure 30 secs) mounted on a home made barn door tracker.  The images that came from that won't win any prizes but they did show the Andromeda galaxy (M31) and the Orion nebula (M42) in much more detail than could be seen visually.  They also got me going on processing, stacking, framing and so on.

If you are at all handy, a simple barn door tracker isn't expensive to make and can provide valuable experience while you decide exacty where your interests lie.

Edited by almcl
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Thanks for the replies so far guys.

I have seen that title mentioned on a few different sites so I think I will be getting that sooner rather than later.

I realise the hs10 is not up to the task, when I was looking into it a few years ago, the general opinion of it was that it had poor low light performance so I never bothered with it. I am just going to use it to learn how to set up manually for moon shots for now and see what I can squeeze out of it. 

Almcl - Glad you pointed me at your album, they look Great and have changed my thinking a little. I had been led to believe that imaging with a 200p on an eq5 was just going to generate frustration, but your album clearly shows good results can be had from the combination.

I think my Hs10 is limited to 4s exposures but I will have a read about the barn door trackers you mention..

thanks again.

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I'd hit the books first.  When I read "Making every photon counts" it was a bit dissapointing for me... but having thought about it, it's because I already knew the subject matter.  For someone that is just starting out, you'll get alot of great information from it.

If you are going to be spending money,  here's the rough guide on what to get and the priority....


1. mount, biggest strongest stabelist that you can get.  Start be looking at the HEQ5 or higher.  (I like the look of the NEQ6)    Big strong and stable.  It's also goto which will allow long exposures.

2. camera.  If you can, skip DSLR's  go for a dedicated astro camera.  Mono if you can, colour is ok too, but mono will get you better results long term.  (I can't afford this, so am using an unmodified DSLr)

3. Scope, surprisingly, you don't need a huge scope.  A fast refractor, for imaing, and a smaller scope for guiding.  Rather than a guide scope, there is a possibility of a finder-guider.  It's a guide scope that is the size of a finder scope.

4. Laptop - put on azcom, phd2, astrotortilla, CdC and SharpCap  that should get you going.

The mount is more key than anything else, and that's where you need to spend the money, and time learning to set it up properly.


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2 hours ago, Grunter said:

Thanks for the replies so far guys.

Almcl - Glad you pointed me at your album, they look Great and have changed my thinking a little. I had been led to believe that imaging with a 200p on an eq5 was just going to generate frustration, but your album clearly shows good results can be had from the combination.


There is a certain amount of frustration with an EQ5 with a 13kg load (camera+guidescope+OTA+tube rings &c) but with a reasonable polar alignment, a certain amount of luck and some processing software, astrophotography is possible.   

Oh, and thanks for the compliment!    

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There are members getting great images using a DSLR and camera lens on an EQ tripod, you don't need to use a telescope. A telescope with big aperature is great for observing but do you need that bulk for imaging and the capable mount to go with it. There are members using 135mm vintage camera lenses for example.

Think about the images you like and want to aspire to so that you seek the right equipment to get you there cost effectively for the time you are prepared to spend. I gather the book mentioned is a good read to help with decisions.

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You say you want to get into imaging but imaging what? planets or deep sky....

For planets aperture rules..so a big light bucket with a dedicated planetry camera is the way forward...

For deep sky a smaller faster scope,something like a 80mm refracter and a dslr brings great results..yes you can use a newt or a sct if you want a scope that would do both planetry and dso but  as in all scopes they have their limitations,weak and strong points..

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  • 4 weeks later...

Thanks all for the info so far.   I lost internet over xmas week and using my phone didnt work out too well either :(

It did mean that it was nice and quiet though and gave me time to read the suggested book, which thankfully arrived before xmas. I think it turned up next day from FLO so a thumbs up to them.

I do need to re-read it a few times for the info to sink in but what has so far is that it can be a very deep  money pit if you let it.

Being honest with myself I guess the photography side of things is just a way to be able to share what I can see with friends. I would like to achive DSO images for myself, but not for the kind of investment it requires. I will have to see if that changes over time, and if, what is at present an interest, develops into a hobby.

I Do like to tinker and modify things to get the best out of them, so getting what images I can from whatever equipment I have at the time will tick two boxes for me, and I think that is the more wallet friendly option too.

This is where I am at right now, possibly my best moon shot to date which is about as good as I am going to get out of my hs10. This is as it came out of the camera, I have yet to learn processing and I need to persuade my pc not to crash as soon as I ask it to do anything in registax.




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