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EQ5 Manual or GOTO Tracking - Astrophotography


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Hi Community,

Sorry if this question has already been asked and I haven't seen it.

I'm a complete beginner into the world of telescope astrophotography.

Having spent time outside with a tripod and a zoom lens/APS-C camera getting some nice photos, I'm looking to up my game and move onto the next step.

My birthday is coming up so I'm hoping for a Skywatcher Explorer 150PDS with an EQ5 (if the budget permits!) mount.

My question is, for astrophotography do I need to get the EQ5 pro GOTO or will the manual EQ5 mount with minor adjustment knobs work just fine?

Ideally, I'd be focusing more on deep space photography rather than close planetary observation.

Thanks in advance 😃.

Sam

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Thanks.

Costing it up, I think the 150PDS and EQ5 GOTO might be a bit out of my price range....especially since its my first beginner telescope.

Are there any alternatives around the £400 - £500 mark? Such as maybe the Celestron Nexstar 130 SLT?

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25 minutes ago, Sam23 said:

Thanks.

Costing it up, I think the 150PDS and EQ5 GOTO might be a bit out of my price range....especially since its my first beginner telescope.

Are there any alternatives around the £400 - £500 mark? Such as maybe the Celestron Nexstar 130 SLT?

The SLT isn't a good choice for astrophotography. Alt-azimuth mounts such as the SLT track across the sky in a zig-zag motion, equatorial mounts track in a smooth arc, meaning that exposure times with alt-az mounts are limited.  take a look at the no-eq challenge thread to see what can be done without an equatorial mount.

 

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30 minutes ago, Sam23 said:

Thanks.

Costing it up, I think the 150PDS and EQ5 GOTO might be a bit out of my price range....especially since its my first beginner telescope.

Are there any alternatives around the £400 - £500 mark? Such as maybe the Celestron Nexstar 130 SLT?

The Nexstar 130 SLT is a reasonable choice as a beginner scope outfit for visual use.  I have a SLT mount and can assure you that it is entirely unsuitable for astrophotography of any sort.  You need a much more substantial mount for any sort of astrophotography..

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not being in the imaging game, but would not the EQ5 with an RA motor provide a low-entry level starting point?

That way the scope would track once you've manually acquired the target of interest, albeit not as accurately as a guided rig but then you're looking at lots more kit and cost. You could get the dual-motor non-goto kit and that'd be able to slew the scope but that's not so important. You would need to get levelling and polar alignment as accurate as you can though but that seems pretty much a basic requirement for imaging anyway.

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So would it be better to invest in the 150PDS and manual EQ5 and then add power functions once I've saved up the funds?

I'm guessing it is still possible to take passable DS photos without power controls? Maybe not as good as tracked, but still suitable?

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8 minutes ago, Sam23 said:

So would it be better to invest in the 150PDS and manual EQ5 and then add power functions once I've saved up the funds?

I'm guessing it is still possible to take passable DS photos without power controls? Maybe not as good as tracked, but still suitable?

I would suggest that is a false economy. If you get bitten by the bug, you will soon be sticking the EQ 5 in the loft (or selling it) and upgrading to the HEQ5 or higher. 

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I'd get the opinions of those that do image Sam, I was just suggesting a way the EQ5 might be able to work as a cheaper option. A lot will depend on how much you are loading the mount and what you want to image, esp as this could mean long exposures where accurate tracking will be critical. I've 2 EQ5's one manual and the other SynScan goto, the goto is easier viewing as I don't need to adjust anything it just follows the target so I can relax and enjoy. The other needs an overhaul as its sticky on the axes having been unused in a long time before I acquired it. You can always add the full goto rig on a manual EQ5 later on if you want to, but they're £200+ on top.

Depending on how soon you want to be jumping in, certainly worth keeping an eye on the used market, you might be able to get one (HEQ5/6) that way at less cost.

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Do you want to image or observe?

You do not need a large telescope to image, if you had a good amount you could start with the camera and lens you already have to start learning with that. It might be something like the skywatcher staradaventurer fits your imaging desires and later you add a small telescope to it if you have no observing wishes, or if you are more planets then DSO you'll need a larger mount and pickup a telescope later as you'll probably want a longer focal length.

There's no rush, make a decision that best fits your aims.

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If the mount is manual and using a telescope the best you might get is one second exposures before star trails are just too obvious which is very frustrating for DSO.

Planets are different and may be just doable if the entire planet fits on the frame, it's fiddly as to get anything if they don't as really you want video for planets

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Hi Sam,

I was faced with a very similar position and budget as you last year and thought I'd pass on a little of my journey as well as what I would do differently in retrospect.

As of today I have a Skywatcher 130PDS which is an extremely well regarded compact imaging newtonian mounted on an EQ5 that I "tuned' myself using a few different guides and converted from manual to fully Goto using the open source OnStep system. I've been working on a little blog site that explains the process I went through to get it all working and you can see my recent results on Astrobin.

All that being said with the benefit of hindsight I would look at perhaps a slightly more compact and lighter scope with the EQ5 for astrophotography as I'm really pushing it with the 130PDS. I will likely be upgrading to an EQ6 or similar quite soon to better cope with the weight and give me tighter guiding which averages 1.4 to 0.9 arc seconds RMS depending on the night. I will then likely put a smaller, shorter focal length and lightweight refractor on the OnStep EQ5 which it should be better suited for.

If I were going into it again with the EQ5 as my only option I would still pursue OnStep as it has clear benefits as an overall system than the stock EQ5 Synscan system and even some off the shelf Goto mounts owing to the active and open source nature of its development. The caveats here are is it requires some DIY knowledge and a bit of a delve into electronics as well. I would also probably look at a shorter basic refractor as a starting point, something well regarded for imaging at a budget like a 72ED or similar at ~half the weight versus the 130PDS with mandatory tube rings which add almost half the weight of the OTA on top.

Another option if you're just starting and already have some lenses for your DSLR is have a look for a fast prime lens on the second hand market and mount the DSLR to the EQ5 directly with a basic dovetail/saddle and you might not even need to guide under 2-3 minutes if you're lucky. The benefits of shorter focal lengths let you tackle bigger targets like nebulae and a full shot of Andromeda as well as being more tolerant to coarse guiding which you get with the EQ5 no matter how hard you tune it as it's just made cheaper and lacks things like a proper DEC axis bearing, instead relying on teflon washers over a proper bearing.

Of course the safest and likely most sensible option is to save up for an HEQ5 or EQ6 class mount or hope you get lucky on the second hand market (difficult in these COVID19 times) and work your way up with the mount capacity already in hand as most of the work in taking good astrophotos is down to the mount alone and I'm sure many others have ended up in a situation where they feel 'undermounted' and wishing they had more payload capacity from the beginning. You can always upgrade incrementally as budget allows but spending once on a mount is something that will be a net benefit overall and your future self will thank you for it.

The question is do you want a challenge and to learn something new as you go on your astrophotography journey, or do you want to avoid the hassles and get to decent and reliable imaging ASAP? I certainly know far more about how mounts, worm drives, gear reductions, periodic error, soldering, stepper motors and microcontrollers than I did a year ago that's for sure and I look at it as an invaluable learning experience that taught me so many new things and skills I never would have had the confidence to even attempt not so long ago. Since then I've build my own regulated power distribution hub, electronic focuser, peltier cooler for my DSLR, light box for taking flat images, a DIY dew shield from a yoga mat and even removed the IR filter from my 400D to make it 'Astro-modified' for better Ha response.

Hopefully that's some help to you as somebody who had similar thoughts and was in a similar position as you almost exactly a year ago! Just remember this is a what can be done and not in any way what should be done; I'm not suggesting you follow the same path as me unless you intend to get the same experiences and challenges out of it!

Just be aware that you'll probably be like me and looking at cooled mono cameras, bigger mounts and more OTAs on your shopping list as the bug bites you down the line... But I don't think that's a rare phenomenon in this world as many would agree.

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This is the cheapest compromised solution I can see. Could you stretch to this? It has fairly accurate stepper motors, goto, and the ali tripod vibrations can be mitigated with anti vibration pads and placing a bit of weight such as a power supply on the tripod spreader tray. I had an EQ3 Pro in my old obsy for a while and it wasn't a bad mount considering the price :) 

https://www.firstlightoptics.com/reflectors/skywatcher-explorer-130p-ds-eq3-pro-goto.html

Edited by Lockie
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6 hours ago, Phobos 226 said:

Hi Sam,

I was faced with a very similar position and budget as you last year and thought I'd pass on a little of my journey as well as what I would do differently in retrospect.

As of today I have a Skywatcher 130PDS which is an extremely well regarded compact imaging newtonian mounted on an EQ5 that I "tuned' myself using a few different guides and converted from manual to fully Goto using the open source OnStep system. I've been working on a little blog site that explains the process I went through to get it all working and you can see my recent results on Astrobin.

All that being said with the benefit of hindsight I would look at perhaps a slightly more compact and lighter scope with the EQ5 for astrophotography as I'm really pushing it with the 130PDS. I will likely be upgrading to an EQ6 or similar quite soon to better cope with the weight and give me tighter guiding which averages 1.4 to 0.9 arc seconds RMS depending on the night. I will then likely put a smaller, shorter focal length and lightweight refractor on the OnStep EQ5 which it should be better suited for.

If I were going into it again with the EQ5 as my only option I would still pursue OnStep as it has clear benefits as an overall system than the stock EQ5 Synscan system and even some off the shelf Goto mounts owing to the active and open source nature of its development. The caveats here are is it requires some DIY knowledge and a bit of a delve into electronics as well. I would also probably look at a shorter basic refractor as a starting point, something well regarded for imaging at a budget like a 72ED or similar at ~half the weight versus the 130PDS with mandatory tube rings which add almost half the weight of the OTA on top.

Another option if you're just starting and already have some lenses for your DSLR is have a look for a fast prime lens on the second hand market and mount the DSLR to the EQ5 directly with a basic dovetail/saddle and you might not even need to guide under 2-3 minutes if you're lucky. The benefits of shorter focal lengths let you tackle bigger targets like nebulae and a full shot of Andromeda as well as being more tolerant to coarse guiding which you get with the EQ5 no matter how hard you tune it as it's just made cheaper and lacks things like a proper DEC axis bearing, instead relying on teflon washers over a proper bearing.

Of course the safest and likely most sensible option is to save up for an HEQ5 or EQ6 class mount or hope you get lucky on the second hand market (difficult in these COVID19 times) and work your way up with the mount capacity already in hand as most of the work in taking good astrophotos is down to the mount alone and I'm sure many others have ended up in a situation where they feel 'undermounted' and wishing they had more payload capacity from the beginning. You can always upgrade incrementally as budget allows but spending once on a mount is something that will be a net benefit overall and your future self will thank you for it.

The question is do you want a challenge and to learn something new as you go on your astrophotography journey, or do you want to avoid the hassles and get to decent and reliable imaging ASAP? I certainly know far more about how mounts, worm drives, gear reductions, periodic error, soldering, stepper motors and microcontrollers than I did a year ago that's for sure and I look at it as an invaluable learning experience that taught me so many new things and skills I never would have had the confidence to even attempt not so long ago. Since then I've build my own regulated power distribution hub, electronic focuser, peltier cooler for my DSLR, light box for taking flat images, a DIY dew shield from a yoga mat and even removed the IR filter from my 400D to make it 'Astro-modified' for better Ha response.

Hopefully that's some help to you as somebody who had similar thoughts and was in a similar position as you almost exactly a year ago! Just remember this is a what can be done and not in any way what should be done; I'm not suggesting you follow the same path as me unless you intend to get the same experiences and challenges out of it!

Just be aware that you'll probably be like me and looking at cooled mono cameras, bigger mounts and more OTAs on your shopping list as the bug bites you down the line... But I don't think that's a rare phenomenon in this world as many would agree.

 

6 hours ago, Lockie said:

This is the cheapest compromised solution I can see. Could you stretch to this? It has fairly accurate stepper motors, goto, and the ali tripod vibrations can be mitigated with anti vibration pads and placing a bit of weight such as a power supply on the tripod spreader tray. I had an EQ3 Pro in my old obsy for a while and it wasn't a bad mount considering the price :) 

https://www.firstlightoptics.com/reflectors/skywatcher-explorer-130p-ds-eq3-pro-goto.html

I'm not sure i want to try my hand a astro DIY just yet...ask the misses, my DIY track record isnt great!

Another option would be to go down the Skywatcher Evostar 72ED DS Pro route with a SW Star Adventurer?

At least i'd would be able to dual purpose the Star Adventurer for timelapses etc using my mirrorless camera?

Thoughts?

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