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IF I give it another go.....

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So, I'm thinking about having a stab at imagaing, again. I say again as I have previously done a bit of Alt/Az imaging and got some really quite satisfying results using a Nexstar SE mount and a WO 66mm frac & DSLR. However, the mount and scope were sold on so I could fund my current visual set up, which consists of a C8 Evo & ST120 on an Altair Sabre mount atop a CG5 tripod. I really enjoy this setup so I'm not looking to sell any of it to fund an imaging rig.

Given that I basically don't have any equipment suitable for imaging (I've considered hyperstar with the C8 but think I'll give it a miss), I'm thinking of a completely new setup and wanted to run it by you knowledgable folk for your approval.

I have been guilty in the past for buying equipment that I like the look of, despite it not being the best for the job. For example, I prefer black equipment over white, so may have been swayed by a Celestron mount over a Sky-Watcher. But, this time I want to do it properly and am prepared to take my time to purchase the gear over time, obviously I would like to get started sooner rather than later though.

I am not aiming to be the best imager out there and unfortunately do not have unlimited funds avaialble, so to that end I have come up with the following approach....

Mount: "Mount comes first", I've read it so many times that this time I will comply :) I do like the Celestron software but there's no doubt that SW mounts seem to have the biggest AP following (of the two brands). I have weighed up AVX vs HEQ5 but given the AVX's lack of DEC bearing and the upgradeability of the HEQ5 & it's compatibilty with more software, I have decided HEQ5 is the way to go. I may very well start off un-guided so have also considered the Dark Frame Optics Stellardrive mod which consists of the Rowan belt mod and hypertuning. Yes, the cost of those two could buy a bigger mount but I do have to consider the 25 steps to the top of the garden and the modded HEQ5 should provide an accurate tracker to start with. There's also the option of fitting the HEQ5 to my CG5 2" tripod for a bit more stability.

Scope: ST120....just to start with! I've imaged with it before and yes, it's colourful but it will only be a stepping stone to a better frac and will allow me to learn the EQ imaging ropes. With a Baader MPCC I got a nice flat field (to my eye) with round stars right to the edges/corners from the ST. I have also seen some stunning narrowband images taken with the ST120, which may be an option later on. Now, my ST also has a rather lovely moonlite focuser which fits the SW ED80, so that seems like the obvious upgrade option when further funds become available.

Guiding: Initially unguided short sub stuff, much like I did with Alt/Az, but using the opportunity to become proficient at polar alignment. I discovered the DARV drift alignment method when I briefly tried my Alt/Az mount on a wedge and found it really quite easy to get good alignment in 5-10 minutes (unfortunatley the mount was not smooth enough to make the best of the alignment). Moving on...the next step would be the introduction of the trusty ST80 for a guidescope and a SkyWatcher SynGuider. This may draw some mixed comments, however, having read all the user reviews, everywhere, the SynGuider looks to work well if you accept it's limitations. A guidescope/laptop setup, however, can come in time but the appeal of the SynGuider is the cost and lack of laptop requirement.

Imaging camera: My current Nikon DSLR that I've already imaged with. I have a very good wireless intervalometer to go with it and several batteries. Again the appeal of the DSLR is being laptop free, but if the bug gets me then a dedicated imaging camera may come in time.

So what do you think. Does this seem an acceptable, evolutionary approach? Is there anything glaringly obvious that I've missed?

Cheers all


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18 minutes ago, parallaxerr said:

 HEQ5 & it's compatibilty with more software, I have decided HEQ5 is the way to go. I may very well start off un-guided so have also considered the Dark Frame Optics Stellardrive mod which consists of the Rowan belt mod and hypertuning.


The cost of the Stellardrive tune-up far exceeds the cost of a finder-guider.

Even with the DFO mods. you will still have to guide if you want exposures of more than a few seconds.  So buying the finder-guider will get  you into the DSO imaging game, but a modded HEQ5 will not. Doubly so if you wish to try narrow-band imaging in the future.

My unmodded, straight-out-of-the box (no tuning, tweaking, changing stuff, buying upgrades) HEQ5 will gives me 15 minute guided subs even after 3 years of use.

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Hi Pete,

That's a very interesting point. I just noticed that RVO sell already ROWAN modded HEQ5's at a very reasonable price, less than it would cost to DIY a new mount (I just fancy the belt mod!).

So one of these you think, plus the guider is money better spent than the DFO tuning? There's a few quid knocked off already...thanks :)

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An EQ mount is definitely a must, but you already know that.. I found that a OAG is best for SCT (especially high FL) imaging. 

Its a good re-start plan, but as with everything the proof is in the pudding.... once you start to do long exposure imaging, than that's when you find all of the teething problem that need to be ironed out...

One bit of advise I can give is get a OAG, I have been able to get very good 30 minute subs and longer with it...

Good luck


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-1 for the eq mount.

If you are able to can you not leave the mount outside for several night so that you do no have to setup-strip down every session.

A heq5 neq6 mount or even a az eq mount depending on funds.

I really would suggest you use a laptop with a eqdir lead and with free software like php2 you can use the built in drift align with a guide cam as this make things so much easier. The rest of the software will then just come along and really does work out of the box. I find that its when I start messing with multiple things at the same time causes me to run into trouble.

I would not upgrade the mount just yet. Get it, run it, work your way up and you will soon notice if things need to be changed. Why spend hundreds on the mount just because you think it needs it. That money could go towards your guide cam and scope which will flatten out may tracking issues anyway or some other bit of kit.

I guess I had the laptop to begin with so I started from there but a laptop or pc is the easiest route (for me).

Do also consider looking at the second hand market.


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