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Jkulin

Autoguiders - Opinions please?

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Its been a while since I have used my SW Adventurer, but I am yearning this summer for some widefield images and I rather like the sound of using an Autoguider with it.

The LACERTA M-GEN Stand Alone Autoguider pops up fairly regularly as does the Sky-Watcher Synguider Autoguider II

What else is out there and how good are they in comparison to a guidescope with PHD2? I know with the SA that I can only guide using the ST4 port on the RA, but sometime in the future I will probably upgrade my remote setup to include a small iOptron mount whilst maintaining portability but with the ability to guide on both axis.

Probably the longest focal length I will use with it will be my Esprit 80 - 400mm FL, but much more likely to be with my 14mm and 135mm with the 200mm thrown in for good measure.

Some of the claims really do sound exceptional, so I'd be interested to hear from who uses one and how good are they?

Thanks as always for your input 😎

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Lacerta Mgen is very good in terms of portability and tracking success.  I find that re-calibrating every time you lock on to a new object is better for overall accuracy..    Moon glow and sky brightness can cause a 'no-stars-detected' with Mgen which can leave you a bit stuck, especially in the Summer months,  but you do have options of gain and sensitivity.    There is not a great deal between Mgen and PHd2 in terms of performance without going to the milli-pixel resolution.

Maybe the Mgen just edges it with a smaller tracking square, but Phd has a more user friendly GUI, but that necessitates the laptop.     I am not sure if you can swap cameras with the Mgen which means you might have to use their own chip, and although sensitive it does have a small FOV.

Both methods have worked for me when necessary.   I'm sure somebody more erudite than me will come along and give you more technicals.

 

Sean.

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Thanks Sean, appreciate your thoughts.

Just a little confused with regards to the MGen as the Bumf says it comes with a camera, so the idea for me is just for using in portable mode.

I indeed have no plans to replace PHD2 on my main setups, only for widefield or travelling, that's why it appealed to me as I don't need to set up my laptop, though will probably anyway for PA.

I bought some time ago a QHY Mini Guide Scope, so that would be perfect weight wise.

Have you any experience or thoughts on the SW autoguider?

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The standalone guiders may seem like a painless way into guiding but all your eggs are in one basket and if it plays up you might wish you could change baskets! Personally I think they solve a problem which doesn't exist and risk introducing new ones which do. Reading the threads over the years some people find they work fine, others struggle.

Personally I'd just go for a finder-guider, ST4-equipped camera and PHD2 on the laptop (assuming you have the necessary USB ports.) PHD2 will auto calibrate and you can refine this by using the Guiding Assistant after that. You'll need to disable the Dec guiding facility or it will refuse calibration, but that's in the 'Brain' section of PHD.

Olly

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I've used the Lacerta MGEN for 4 years now without any problems at all.  I started using it with HEQ5, various DSLR's and a TS Imaging Star 71.  For the last 12 months it has been used with my observatory set up on NEQ6, Takahashi 106ed and mono Atik 460 ex.  Am not particularly tech minded so all I can say is that it has enabled me to keep things simple (as far as is possible with deep sky imaging), have good guiding up to the 20 min exposures I have done and I've rarely not been able to find a guide star.  As far as I can tell the guiding has always been excellent.

 

Annie

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1 hour ago, oldannie said:

I've used the Lacerta MGEN for 4 years now without any problems at all.  I started using it with HEQ5, various DSLR's and a TS Imaging Star 71.  For the last 12 months it has been used with my observatory set up on NEQ6, Takahashi 106ed and mono Atik 460 ex.  Am not particularly tech minded so all I can say is that it has enabled me to keep things simple (as far as is possible with deep sky imaging), have good guiding up to the 20 min exposures I have done and I've rarely not been able to find a guide star.  As far as I can tell the guiding has always been excellent.

 

Annie

Me too! I use SBIG SG-4 standalone for the sake of simplicity, and it gave 20 minutes exposures without problems at all. 

I am putting up for sale now as I will be moving to a remote observatory.  

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8 hours ago, ollypenrice said:

The standalone guiders may seem like a painless way into guiding but all your eggs are in one basket and if it plays up you might wish you could change baskets! Personally I think they solve a problem which doesn't exist and risk introducing new ones which do. Reading the threads over the years some people find they work fine, others struggle.

Personally I'd just go for a finder-guider, ST4-equipped camera and PHD2 on the laptop (assuming you have the necessary USB ports.) PHD2 will auto calibrate and you can refine this by using the Guiding Assistant after that. You'll need to disable the Dec guiding facility or it will refuse calibration, but that's in the 'Brain' section of PHD.

Olly

Hi Olly, thanks for your thoughts, I'm not looking for a replacement for my main imaging, as PHD2 works very nicely, I'm looking for an option to guide without my laptop for widefield with my SA and Sony A7RIII with a few lenses, I could use the 500 rule and go unguided, or like I did a couple of years ago where I got 450sec subs with no guiding and hardly any discernable trails, but I would like to keep things simple when travelling and really without a laptop would be a blessing due to my bad back.

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8 hours ago, Jkulin said:

Hi Olly, thanks for your thoughts, I'm not looking for a replacement for my main imaging, as PHD2 works very nicely, I'm looking for an option to guide without my laptop for widefield with my SA and Sony A7RIII with a few lenses, I could use the 500 rule and go unguided, or like I did a couple of years ago where I got 450sec subs with no guiding and hardly any discernable trails, but I would like to keep things simple when travelling and really without a laptop would be a blessing due to my bad back.

Ah, then if you want to dispense with the laptop it will have to be a standalone guider. Probably worth a punt in that case. I'd just check that the one you go for will allow single axis guiding. I don't know the guiders in question well enough to be sure about this.

Olly

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2 hours ago, ollypenrice said:

Probably worth a punt in that case. I'd just check that the one you go for will allow single axis guiding.

Thanks Olly, indeed that would be my main concern with the SA, not so much a problem if I go for a newer mount that will guide on both access, so that is something I have to make sure of.

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The Lacerta MGEN can guide in RA only. I’ve been using one for about 7 years now and I’m very content with it. In fact, I love it! It also controls the camera (Canon and Nikon DSLRs, not sure about other brands) as a remote shutter and it supports dithering which is essential for reducing noise patterns when using a DSLR.

Stay away from the Synguider and LVI smartguider. I don’t have first hand experience with these standalone autoguider, but I’ve heard a lot of people struggling in order to get theme to work.

There’s a new interesting player on the market developed by a Dutch team of astrophotographers: the StarAid. Check staraid.ai for info. It is quite an expensive unit though and it doesn’t support camera control and dithering yet. 

If you plan to use the StarAdventurer for wide field imaging only (lenses with a focal length of 85 mm max) you probably don’t have to (auto)guide. Just take extra time for proper polar alignment. 

Edited by mftoet
Typos...
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Im no expert but have used a SW synguider for several years with no problems. Yes it takes a little setting up at first but once that is sorted it has worked well. I wouldnt say stay away from it, like many things once you have got it in your head how it works it becomes second nature.

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Thanks Maurice, some interesting thoughts.

I've used my Nikon D800 and My Leica previously with the SA and used my Samyang 14mm on the Nikon and my 11-23 on the Leica, on the Nikon I guided for 450 secs, this was unguided, but I stupidly didn't adjust the ISO high enough, there were other things wrong as well, but this was a 450sec sub unguided on the SA with the Samyang 14mm: -

GOOD_LIGHT_450s_160iso_2-8_20170618-00h40m33s018ms(900x600).png.e212d448ec1b76c42bdd282799e48b54.png

I've not done anything with this apart from a light stretch.

I had a look at the Star-Aid but without dithering it's a waste especially with Musk's latest escapade with all those Satellites.

I plan to try and get more images this summer with the SA using the 14mm and Samyang 135mm and possible later in the year with Orion as I can't get it properly from my home setup

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I would not touch stand alone guiders. Too temperamental and insufficient control. 

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2 minutes ago, Adam J said:

I would not touch stand alone guiders. Too temperamental and insufficient control. 

The point is Adam, that is exactly what I want, I don't want to use a laptop for widefield out in remote locations, I have no intention of it replacing my PHD2/OAG/Guide Scopes at home, only when using my Sony AR7III DSLR

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10 minutes ago, Jkulin said:

The point is Adam, that is exactly what I want, I don't want to use a laptop for widefield out in remote locations, I have no intention of it replacing my PHD2/OAG/Guide Scopes at home, only when using my Sony AR7III DSLR

I understand about ease of use...but simplicity and reliability are not the same thing. Have you considered the ASI air I think it added DSLR support recently maybe not sony mind you. Guess I have just heard lots of stories of frustration with stand alone guiding. 

Edited by Adam J

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Hi Adam, I have heard nothing but praise about the MGEN, indeed I am aware of the ASIAIR, but it's not the direction I want to go down and I'm not sure it will support the Sony either.

The only problem with going down the MGEN route is the cost, thus why I am looking at alternatives.

With the Sony you have a live view, so that ticks my first box, the MGEN would probably only be controlling exposures of probably up to 5 mins, I just want to keep things as light and fuss free as possible adding extra's will only escalate the problem with my spine, but thanks for your suggestions.

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On 05/06/2019 at 18:33, mftoet said:

The Lacerta MGEN can guide in RA only. I’ve been using one for about 7 years now and I’m very content with it. In fact, I love it! It also controls the camera (Canon and Nikon DSLRs, not sure about other brands) as a remote shutter and it supports dithering which is essential for reducing noise patterns when using a DSLR.

Stay away from the Synguider and LVI smartguider. I don’t have first hand experience with these standalone autoguider, but I’ve heard a lot of people struggling in order to get theme to work.

There’s a new interesting player on the market developed by a Dutch team of astrophotographers: the StarAid. Check staraid.ai for info. It is quite an expensive unit though and it doesn’t support camera control and dithering yet. 

If you plan to use the StarAdventurer for wide field imaging only (lenses with a focal length of 85 mm max) you probably don’t have to (auto)guide. Just take extra time for proper polar alignment. 

I tested the StarAid. An interesting development, but be aware it's in the beta-test phase. Ask quantitive specs and proof before buying. It's not cheap.

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