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AbsolutelyN

Seeking astrophotography setup advice

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Posted (edited)

Hi

I'm getting back into astrophotography after a long break and am thinking of upgrading my setup. The aim is for the mount to be permanently setup (or mostly permanently setup) and covered with a telegizmo 365. I have power and USB wired to mount location so I can remotely control mount and camera from inside. I have bortle 5 skies and have just acquired a optelong lpro filter to see if this helps but it's been cloudy since that arrived.

Current setup:
Mount is an AZ-EQ6
Current scope is an old Vixen ED80 SF (with skywatcher flattener)
Camera is a Sony A7R3 which I use for daytime. Not modified and don't want to modify as I use it too much for daytime work. 
I also have a 200PDS ota

Target wise I'm looking mostly at wide-ish field for nebula's but am also interested in imaging galaxies. 

Scope wise I'm after a refractor, particularly interested in the Esprit line with the 100 and 120 but cannot settle on which one. 
Camera wise I'm not sure if I should stick with the A7R3 or go for a dedicated cooled camera. I'm interested in mono but worry it may be adding too much complexity too fast. The ZWO 1600 looks great but I'm wondering it it's about to be replaced. One shot colour looks like possibly an easier option but cannot figure out which one is best suited or how much of an improvement they may be over the A7R3 which likely has a better chip, just lacking cooling + full spectrum. 

Any thoughts appreciated!
Absn
  

 

 

 

 

Edited by AbsolutelyN

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Posted (edited)

Hi Hi,

I would advice to invest in Mono astrocam setup... You have scopes already and I guess, the next one can wait a bit...

I was afraid of Mono also... But the permanent setup gives lots of advantages, one of them, -  you will not need to do new flats each session per filter.

I went from Canon to ASI1600MM-Pro with Baader NB, and the results are like Day and Night, - ASI opened the dark veil of the sky for me...

Post processing is a bit longer, but you will get used to it Very fast.

I also thought about color astro cam initially, as I was not happy to cut off so much £££ from my budget for the filters and etc... However.... after 6 months of thinking, I was sure, sooner or later, I will decide to try Mono anyway and I would simply waste £££ and the most precious time on the color cam...

If you will decide going color, - buy with cooling only... It enables to keep the library of the Darks, so you will save lots of time as you do not need to do them each session, plus, imaging at -20C or -15C seriously lowers the noise. 

 

Edited by RolandKol
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Hmmm, not sure I would jump straight into mono...I would get a decent OSC camera to start with, even a modified DSLR and see how you get on and enjoy it...mono, although produces superb images, is a steep Learning curve and can put people off if they don’t get it right first time, besides the fact it’s far more expensive...

But of course these are just my opinions and from my experience.. :)

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Posted (edited)

My two cents from my experience - OSC cameras and DSLRs like dark skies. If your imaging site is well located, then OSC camera can do great work. If the LP is significant (like you cannot spot Milky Way even in zenith), I would consider mono camera. 

Edited by drjolo
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2 minutes ago, LightBucket said:

Hmmm, not sure I would jump straight into mono...I would get a decent OSC camera to start with, even a modified DSLR and see how you get on and enjoy it...mono, although produces superb images, is a steep Learning curve and can put people off if they don’t get it right first time, besides the fact it’s far more expensive...

But of course these are just my opinions and from my experience.. :)

I would take a mono instead of color in any situation. Mono will be easier to process and the learning curve is nothing compared to the frustration of processing the color data from OSC.

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I don't have an observatory, but wanted a fixed setup, so I organised a 75x75cm block of concrete to be laid and then had my mate make a pier up for me to my own design.

My mount remains out 365days a year, originally I had just a Telegzizmo 365 over it, but it leaked like a sieve, so I sent that back to FLO for a replacement and thankfully no harm was done but I was really disappointed with the Telegizmo as I had only had it since July, I have since purchased a breathable waterproof cover from ENS https://ensoptical.co.uk/index.php?_route_=tempest-med-cover which had already proved it self with a much larger one that I use to cover my setup when doing multiple nights imaging without having to take everything down, I put this under the Telegizmo for extra protection (once bitten...) I sometimes like in the photo leave my 12v/Cat5 feeds out in a sealed bag in the birds nest of the pier as it saves me keep rolling up the cables when they are frozen and potentially cracking the outer sleeve.

I can normally be up and running in about 15 minutes from this: -

 

image.png.3756e38b97e208a4a8d8a21f09e947f5.png

to this: -

image.png.b6170a3ea60bd878b2c5ec1732943cb4.png

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My opinion is that you will never get a definitive answer as there isn't one.  Many people have success with, and are very happy with, OSC or cooled DSLR's, and many of us are happy with mono.  Personally I think mono has enough advantages over OSC to make it worthwhile investing a little time in learning the processing side, which isn't difficult.  However, this isn't ruling out OSC if you prefer to not have to get filters and wheel etc.  Don't fall in to the trap of thinking that processing OSC data is much easier than mono, it isn't.

Mono doesn't need to be much more expensive, and there are currently some good deals to be had on filters and wheels on ABS, with some good used cameras also available.

I have a Telegizmo 365 cover and actually really rate it.  Not cheap, but for me I haven't had any leaking issues as noted by John.  I guess with anything you can get a duff, but the design seems pretty good.  If leaving out all year round I would add some form of condensation control or heating under it as there can be a significant build up of condensation which could be problematic in the long-term.

As far as your choice of OTA goes, I don't think you will be disappoint with either the 100 or 120 Esprit.  Both are excellent and I guess the choice of which will depend on your budget, mount and final choice of camera and required FOV.

Good luck with your visit back to AP.

 

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Many thanks for so many thoughts, much appreciated. 

I think as RayD states, there is no definitive answer on colour vs mono. For me I think imaging under moonlight with narrow band is one of the biggest draws to it. Does anyone know if the ZWO filters with their ASI1600 bundles are any good? Processing is not something I'm too concerned about for mono, debayering colour sounds harder, I'm more concerned on time to get all the exposures with each filters with british weather. 

John - many thanks foe the link to the scope cover, looks perfect, I think I'll go with that one. It's currently under a much cheaper cover and I was going to soon upgrade to the Telegizmo but have never liked white, it stands out like a sore thumb and I don't want to draw attention to it. On a tangent, could I ask how you are powering your equipment? 




 

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Posted (edited)
27 minutes ago, AbsolutelyN said:

Many thanks for so many thoughts, much appreciated. 

I think as RayD states, there is no definitive answer on colour vs mono. For me I think imaging under moonlight with narrow band is one of the biggest draws to it. Does anyone know if the ZWO filters with their ASI1600 bundles are any good? Processing is not something I'm too concerned about for mono, debayering colour sounds harder, I'm more concerned on time to get all the exposures with each filters with british weather. 
 

You will save time in the Long run... Mono camera collects around x4 time more data than OSC and if you will use the same brand filters you can set up to image 1 shot per filter during the session.

As per Moon... I had quite "usable" results further away from the Moon with my Baader HA 7nm (London LP), - as per  OIII and SII = waste of time.

Cannot compare them to ZWO ones, had none...

While I was in the same boat as you, I read a lots of topics in this forums about those brands.

 As I recall, my conclusion was, -  they both are more or less the same price range and I would Not expect huge difference in the performance,

ZWO were quite new, so I was afraid to spend money on them.
 

Edited by RolandKol

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, AbsolutelyN said:

John - many thanks foe the link to the scope cover, looks perfect, I think I'll go with that one. It's currently under a much cheaper cover and I was going to soon upgrade to the Telegizmo but have never liked white, it stands out like a sore thumb and I don't want to draw attention to it. On a tangent, could I ask how you are powering your equipment? 

Steve at ENS recommended to use both, the waterproofness of his covers and the aluminium foil lined cover of the Telegizmo to stop heat build up in the summer.

For power I have two of these, one powers my laptop and the other powers everything else, the supply never really dips below 13.1v and I have more than enough Amps to handle to draw on everything: - https://www.nevadaradio.co.uk/amateur-radio/amateur-radio-power-supplies/nevada-psw-30

I run 3 lengths of 2.5mm cable out from a shed/lean to at the side of my home about 22metres, one for my laptop, one for the Mount and the other to my Pegasus UPB, although I could feed the mount from the Pegasus, but the iOptron has the feed in the base, so there was a risk of snagging, so just easier to feed it on it's own cable. The red cable is my Cat5.

I then use a pop up tent like this (latest one is green and only about £12) which takes seconds to erect to keep my laptop dry from dew and to stop on stray light hitting the optics during imaging, they wear out after about 2 years as I don't collapse them, I just fold it flat and leave it down the side of the home.: - https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Outdoor-Portable-Instant-Changing-Pop-Up-Tent-Toilet-Privacy-Shower-Room-Camping/223305248557?hash=item33fe07af2d:g:XXQAAOSwYYpcKdFc:rk:13:pf:0

HTH

NB. Like Ray, I highly rate the Esprits and I have two, the 80 and the 100, only because I got one of them at a real bargain, love them both and they are a pleasure to use. I think Steve at ENS has a SH 80 for £900 with the Flattener which is a fair price, but you might screw him down a little but he's away until the 16th.

Edited by Jkulin
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Posted (edited)

Brilliant John, thank you. I'm currently running the mount off a Tracer battery which is good but not enough power for all night, especially with dew heaters. I never even thought of running off a power supply like that as it would need to be indoors, but it could be done with a 20 meter cable. Where did you get such a long cable with the right power connectors?  
Thanks to all who have input here, it's given me loads of ideas and lots to think about. 

 

Edited by AbsolutelyN

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On 07/01/2019 at 11:46, AbsolutelyN said:

Current setup:

Mount is an AZ-EQ6
Current scope is an old Vixen ED80 SF (with skywatcher flattener)
Camera is a Sony A7R3 which I use for daytime. Not modified and don't want to modify as I use it too much for daytime work. 
I also have a 200PDS ota

Target wise I'm looking mostly at wide-ish field for nebula's but am also interested in imaging galaxies.

 

 

What you already have sounds absolutely fine. I'd just get out there and use it!
If the urge for new toys is irresistible 😁, I'd probably go for a scope upgrade. Have you considered something like TS's 86mm F5.4 flatfield APO?
How do you intend to guide? Getting all the stuff for that should provide enough of new experiences and complexity to keep a person busy for a good long while.

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To be honest, whilst I am a mono imager and would not consider OSC having previously used a DSLR and tried a OSC CCD camera  But since you already own a Sony A7R3 albeit unmodified, why not give it a try?  If it's anything like the Sony A7S then it will be a great camera for imaging.  You can always get a mono camera as well/later and speed up the imaging time by combining the colour data from the Sony with Mono Luminance or Ha.

If you were starting out with no camera at all, then I would definitely recommend Mono and filters. 

Just a thought.

Carole 

Edited by carastro
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I'm guiding with a asi224 through a 50mm guidescope with phd which is working well. I can get under 1" guiding with it and I'm new to phd. 

On the A7R3 I have been working with that for astro and am getting good results with it. One of my big issues with it is actually having the camera outdoors overnight due to a previous bad experience. It's a 3k camera and I previously had a huge repair bill for a Canon pro DSLR left out imaging which failed with dew getting inside. The sony is less weatherproofed than the canon and I just can't afford to lose that camera. The sony software for remote control is ok but I'd like to be using sequence generator pro. 

I think my interest in osc is that I know I can get good images with the unmodified sony so a dedicated cooled camera I'm thinking will better it and automate better. Is's also not quite as valuable bit of kit to leave outside.

Edited by AbsolutelyN

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On 07/01/2019 at 13:04, LightBucket said:

Hmmm, not sure I would jump straight into mono...I would get a decent OSC camera to start with, even a modified DSLR and see how you get on and enjoy it...mono, although produces superb images, is a steep Learning curve and can put people off if they don’t get it right first time, besides the fact it’s far more expensive...

But of course these are just my opinions and from my experience.. :)

I disagree. I went straight into mono when I started and had minimal IT experience at the time as well. It isn't that hard. Bortle 5 cries out for narrowband which will give a far better result on nebulae, and processing will be much easier.  OSC in Bortle 5 will be a constant fight with colour gradients and the separation of signal from noise. Although I haven't any personal experience of this, I read that many suburban imagers find LRGB easier to deal with than OSC. However, I would make it narrowband and, therefore, mono.

Olly

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1 hour ago, ollypenrice said:

I disagree. I went straight into mono when I started and had minimal IT experience at the time as well. It isn't that hard. Bortle 5 cries out for narrowband which will give a far better result on nebulae, and processing will be much easier.  OSC in Bortle 5 will be a constant fight with colour gradients and the separation of signal from noise. Although I haven't any personal experience of this, I read that many suburban imagers find LRGB easier to deal with than OSC. However, I would make it narrowband and, therefore, mono.

Olly

As I said my opinions.. :)

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2 hours ago, LightBucket said:

As I said my opinions.. :)

Of course. Finding two astrophotographers who agree on anything at all is pretty rare! 😁

Olly

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Whatever equipment you have / get the biggest most helpful thing for good images is dark skies, so location , location , location :grin:

Dave

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I can only suggest you go straight in for a mono cooled camera. This make calibration a breeze and the ability to shoot narrowband means more time using the kit than looking at it. Yes dealing with the extra data is a little more complex, but what else are you going to do during those many cloudy night we get here in the UK? :) 

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Have a few tries with the camera you have already got and get used to your equipment and decide what is holding you back and what sort of targets you want to image.

This WILL influence what you choose to do.

Rarely mentioned is that most affordable astro cameras (even the ASI1600) are smaller than APSC, often much smaller, and lower pixel count. This means they suit different scopes for the same targets.

I fancy trying a cooled mono astro camera. If funds allow I will probably go for the ASI1600 as I already have a 1.25" filter wheel and RGB filters and accept the risk of a little vignetting to be dealt with by flats.

I will try some trials with my small-sensor mono planetary cam first, just to check how I get on with this approach.

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13 hours ago, Stub Mandrel said:

Have a few tries with the camera you have already got and get used to your equipment and decide what is holding you back and what sort of targets you want to image.

This WILL influence what you choose to do.

Rarely mentioned is that most affordable astro cameras (even the ASI1600) are smaller than APSC, often much smaller, and lower pixel count. This means they suit different scopes for the same targets.

I fancy trying a cooled mono astro camera. If funds allow I will probably go for the ASI1600 as I already have a 1.25" filter wheel and RGB filters and accept the risk of a little vignetting to be dealt with by flats.

I will try some trials with my small-sensor mono planetary cam first, just to check how I get on with this approach.

Our widefiled rig has a roughly 23% drop-off in illumination corner-to-centre and flats deal with it.

Olly

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Thanks for all the input provided. Still not come to any firm conclusion about mono vs osc. However here is an image taken with the sony a7r3 which is proving to be rather good with astro. I lost track of exposure time, but measured in hours with a canon 300 2.8 @ f4 (won't stop down again as don't like the diffraction likes around stars).  I can't help thinking if the unmodified dslr can manage this then surely something like the asi294 should be-able to do better? Will stick with the dslr until I can come to a conclusion.

m42.jpg

Edited by AbsolutelyN
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