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Hi,

I'm thinking of treating myself to a new telescope and would be very grateful if someone could help me settle the debate I'm having with myself. The question I can't seem to answer is whether to get a pretty decent telescope with a decent mount, or go for the wifi option and get a lesser scope/mount but have the goto and tracking functionality.

The scope I have now isn't great; the mount isn't very solid and it's hard to focus on something without the scope moving and losing sight of what ever object I'm trying to look at. So I'm very keen to make sure that as a minimum I get a decent mount which isn't as susceptible to moving. Something I would also like is the ability to take decent photos of the planets and objects in space, although this is more of an aspiration than a requirement.

With a budget of around £300 to £400 I had thought about getting something like a Sky-watcher Skyliner 200p. I feel like this would deliver on the decent scope and decent mount requirement, but not so much on taking photos. I always had in mind that to get a decent mount with goto/tracking that I'd be looking at paying upwards of £1000. But whilst searching I found a Sky-Watcher az-gti mount, which feels massively exciting as it's well within my price range. So, now what I'm wondering is whether to get either the Skywatcher Skymax 102 AZ-GTi or the Skywatcher Startravel 102 AZ-GTe and be able to use wifi and hopefully get some slightly better shots.

I wouldn't say that I'm new to astronomy, but I'd definitely class myself as a beginner. I've got an SLR camera already and whilst I'd love to get some decent photos, I'm doubtful that anything in my price range would work with the weight of an SLR camera. As a sort of hybrid solution I thought I could use my GoPro on night mode/30 second exposure so that I'd at least be tracking objects for 30 seconds while the camera does its stuff.

If anyone has any advice I'd be very grateful.

Thanks,

Mat

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Posted (edited)

Hi Mat,

Welcome to SGL. A lot of people including myself start with the Skywatcher 200P and it is a great telescope for the price, easy to set up and gives fantastic views. Depending on which way you want to go, either AP or visual will decide what type of scope and mount you need. I am only a visual observer and I still use my 200P along with a 127 Mak and a ST 120 refractor which are both on manual mounts. My venture into Goto was not what I was expecting as I spent more time setting up and operating than observing. Lots of people use Goto and are very successful but for observing I find it more satisfying using a manual mount.

Edited by banjaxed
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I've lost count of the number of people who bought go-to because they thought it would make things easier. I've watched as they've struggled along, often in the dark, getting more and more stressed as they fight with technology. Meanwhile my friends and I sailed effortlessly from one object to another in complete relaxation. I'd go for the Dobsonian or a simply mounted ED refractor and sit back and enjoy the ride doing visual, with the occasional snap shot. 

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A go-to and tracking mount is not necessarily a photographic mount. On a modest budget I would forget photography and buy a nice basic Dob. (This is an astrophotographer speaking, by the way.)

Olly

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had a goto dob and its a lot of faffing around with the initial alignment and I spent too much time looking at a screen and loosing any dark adaptation i found you dont actually observe properly

from experience and owning a 200p i would go for the 200p and the larger aperture

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I've been planning to get a goto-mount. Not really for the goto, but tracking. It just seems that there are very few mount that just track and without goto.

My reason is that low objects (if I even bother to try due to the atmospherical dispersion) pass my 12"/1200mm FOV in 48 secvonds if I use 333x magnification.

And my dobson is a bit sticky - quite hard to direct accurately.

Dobsons are not good for photographing except for planets, when the exposure times are short. Then again, for real AP, if you wand a bigger aperture, start from the mount. The OTA is much cheaper. I'd say, roughly,  1500 € for OTA, 3500 for the mount.

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If you have darkish skies then the 200P Dobsonian is a fine scope and will give many hours of enjoyment. You cannot really take photos with it apart from short exposure shots of the moon or lucky imaging of planets.

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Welcome to SGL Mat 🙂

If I had my time again, knowing what I know now, I'd get the biggest dob that I could afford and take outside easily. You'll see so much more than you would if a portion of your budget goes on motors and electronics.  You'll also spend a lot more time observing and less time setting up and messing on.  In my opinion, edging your bets between visual and AP will always be a compromise.

All the best,

Mark

 

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And bear in mind the mounts you mention are AZ, not EQ, so not good for DSO long exposure. 

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A lot of people in favour of dobs and I can understand why but one question that hasn’t been asked is “how dark are your skies” none GoTo dobs will probably involve star hopping which is fine if you’re under reasonably dark skies. If, like me, you have heavily light polluted skies then star hopping can be difficult and that’s where GoTo is a God send

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I have an EQ2 with RA motor, EQ5 with goto and one with no motors. A lot of the time with the goto I just sit the mount pointed reasonably north and use it to track rather than the full goto functionality. Saves the setup time. The EQ2 while not as stable also works reasonably with the clock drive, tracking the SW130 on the target, just makes for more relaxed viewing without having to tweak slomo controls and waiting for the wobbles to settle out. This far I don't do "proper" photography but may one day give it a go, just phone snaps at the eyepiece on occasion.

As others have said tho, a lot of the funds would be eaten by getting the full GoTo setup unless you land lucky in the used market as I was fortunate enough to. Perhaps a mount that you can add an RA motor would do as a starting point, so long as you can manually find the target you want then the mount would track. Not good enough for long exposure DSO perhaps, but enough for planets tho I'm not sure if the AZ mounts can have an RA-only type function since these would need to tweak both alt & az to stay on target unless you use a wedge?

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Hi all,

Thanks very much for the thought provoking replies.

I had totally not considered the config time for using a wifi mount, or that the mounts I've found so far would have issues with long exposure shots with not being equatorial.

I'm feeling more convinced that I should go back to my initial requirement of buying a better scope without tracking, for this purchase at least.

One other thing that occurred to me whilst looking at the more portable scopes, I had thought that it'd pretty good to take my scope on my travels. Like if I went camping to Kielder, or somewhere darker than Cheshire where I live. Is there a more portable scope with a robust mount anyone can recommend which would still deliver on good views, but be carry-able on a short hike away from a campsite?

Thanks again.

Mat

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I have a Skymak 127 which I use on either a AZ3 or a SW stainless steel tripod. The AZ3 is very light and portable and can be carried with the Skymak very easily but is not as solid as the SS tripod.

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I love my NexStar 8se goto.

I added StarSense Auto align once I have added my location it stays in the mount, and can be setup in five minutes.

I bring scope out plug in set date/time and away it goes, I don't like staring at laptop/iPhone so don't use wifi anymore as I have learnt so much about the sky.

So for me using hand control, I Sky tour or tap in Messier objects and just sit there studying those for quite some time.

If portability is what your after then as banjaxed stated a 127 Mak would be ideal.

 

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GoTo or no GoTo is a personal choice. 

A few notes: GoTo does not equal wifi. You can use a handset.  The ease of setup varies hugely depending on the exact design and software - setting up a Nexstar alt-az mount with GPS is quick and easy, while an equatorial Synscan (without GoTo) will be much more demanding.

GoTo is particularly useful for finding faint objects and/or finding objects in urban skies.  I have experienced the frustration of having an 8" manual Newtonian and being able to find hardly anything with it.

A GoTo mount is not necessarily an astrophotography mount. If you want to do astrophotography, buy a telescope and mount suitable for astrophotography, otherwise you wil be limiting what you can do in this direction.

At the entry level, mounts may be manual, motorized or GoTo (and often rather wobbly). Beyond that, you can buy well-made manual mounts, and a few mounts, notably the Sky-watcher EQ3-2 and EQ-5, are still available in a choice of manual, driven, and GoTo form, but otherwise makers assume that you will want GoTo on a heavy duty mount.

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Both the Az-Gti and Az-Gte are alt azimuth mounts , but, can be reconfigured into EQ  mounts  with the addition of the skywatcher Wedge . Thus enabling more precise astro imaging . Of course you will need a stable tripod ... a steel one would be better , although you could use a weighed down aluminium one . So the wedge and tripod adds over £ 100 to the price !! ( it all gets a bit expensive the deeper you go ) . So for that money , as has been suggested , i would go for a 200 or 250 dob ... easy to set up , large aperture , less hassle , fairly easy to transport to darker skies . .. I've been down both "roads" and still i'm not sure whats best for me :( .

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I started with an AZGTI goto mount. Initially found using the phone really tiresome. Glasses on for phone off to view. Then can't find in the dark. I bought the handset  but for me that wasn't much better. Sold it all for a manual skytee mount on eq6 tripod. Get it out plonk it down and view. No electronic distraction.

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As @Cosmic Geoff has said it really is a personal choice. I would now only consider GoTo and I started out manually. I’ve seen objects that I would never have seen manually, objects that don’t even feature in the Synscan handset but by manually inputting the coordinates can be found in minutes. Personally I’d rather be observing than searching 

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Posted (edited)

I just love the simplicity and, ruggedness of my Vixen GP mount (manual). Having owned a couple of tracking mounts, i found they were fun for a period of time but, i soon grew tired of having to consider a heavy battery every time i wanted to use the scope. Aside from this, the noise was a game changer, finding myself cringing every time the scope slewed at 2 am in my back garden with neighbours windows just feet away was nerve wracking.

Edited by Sunshine
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1 minute ago, Sunshine said:

I just love the simplicity and, ruggedness of my Vixen GP mount (manual) i have head a couple of Goto mounts. They were fun for a period of time but, i soon grew tired of having to consider a heavy battery every time i wanted to use the scope. Aside from this, the noise was a game changer, finding myself cringing every time the scope slewed at 2 am in my back garden with neighbours windows just feet away was nerve wracking.

Certainly agree with the noise issue ... its surprising how loud those motors are in the "dead of night" . Also i find that the setting up of such mounts become tiresome , having to force yourself outside to set up a GOTO mount .. especially when its partially cloudy , freezing cold  and you  are not sure how long you can observe for . Astronomy for most is primarily about looking at the night sky , using optical aids ... thats why a simple set up can be so rewarding . ( I'm actually convincing myself to change my own set up :) )

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1 minute ago, Stu1smartcookie said:

Certainly agree with the noise issue ... its surprising how loud those motors are in the "dead of night" . Also i find that the setting up of such mounts become tiresome , having to force yourself outside to set up a GOTO mount .. especially when its partially cloudy , freezing cold  and you  are not sure how long you can observe for . Astronomy for most is primarily about looking at the night sky , using optical aids ... thats why a simple set up can be so rewarding . ( I'm actually convincing myself to change my own set up :) )

 You’ve mentioned some points that I forgot about but, recall them being an issue, also.

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Posted (edited)

I would say the first aspect is to understand that the "Goto mount" is exactly that. It will goto a target. It is not automatic, it will not set itself up. It will not generally get its own data. You, the operator have to do that. And that is where "problems" occur. People attempt to cut corners.

The Az GTi is a small mount, I would not put a 102mm on it. I have steadily watched the maximum size scope used increase. An 80mm ED refractor (or achro) I might try on it, however only might.

It is also a bit odd in that it started as a simple Alt/Az mount and Skywatcher added an equitorial operation and suddenly it became an equitorial AP mount. I suggest you stay with the idea that it is an Alt/Az mount. People do use it as an equitorial and I have seen some "outstanding" claims made for it. Honestly have read 4 minutes and 5 minutes images claimed as taken, and on a mount that cannot actually be polar aligned overly well. With that ability who needs a guide camera, or solid equitorial mount with polar scope or software.

Goto is nice, with the application of common sense, and the understanding of what it can and cannot do. Maybe people are too used to a phone and PC that basically do everything for them and expect a goto mount to be the same level.

If you go manual then look for something that is in effect wide field and easy to use. You have to find everything, you also have to track everything. The tracking of a goto is I would suggest the big bonus. Getting something in the centre may take a minute, but then just tracking it for 3 to 5 minutes is really the nice aspect. Remembering that as magnification goes up your field of view goes down and so objects drift out quicker.

The tracking with a Dobsonian mount is "easier" in a way as you are generally attached to the scope and eyepiece. So as you look you learn to follow at the same time. However it has to be learnt and that takes time. Sometimes little other times lots.

Would also suggest you add a location for yourself as the darker nights are coming, restrictions are being relaxed, clubs will start meeting and someone near you may have the mount to look at and get an idea of its operation.

Edited by PEMS
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8 minutes ago, PEMS said:

I would say the first aspect is to understand that the "Goto mount" is exactly that. It will goto a target. It is not automatic, it will not set itself up. It will not generally get its own data. You, the operator have to do that. And that is where "problems" occur. People attempt to cut corners.

The Az GTi is a small mount, I would not put a 102mm on it. I have steadily watched the maximum size scope used increase. An 80mm ED refractor (or achro) I might try on it, however only might.

It is also a bit odd in that it started as a simple Alt/Az mount and Skywatcher added an equitorial operation and suddenly it became an equitorial AP mount. I suggest you stay with the idea that it is an Alt/Az mount. People do use it as an equitorial and I have seen some "outstanding" claims made for it. Honestly have read 4 minutes and 5 minutes images claimed as taken, and on a mount that cannot actually be polar aligned overly well. With that ability who needs a guide camera, or solid equitorial mount with polar scope or software.

Goto is nice, with the application of common sense, and the understanding of what it can and cannot do. Maybe people are too used to a phone and PC that basically do everything for them and expect a goto mount to be the same level.

If you go manual then look for something that is in effect wide field and easy to use. You have to find everything, you also have to track everything. The tracking of a goto is I would suggest the big bonus. Getting something in the centre may take a minute, but then just tracking it for 3 to 5 minutes is really the nice aspect. Remembering that as magnification goes up your field of view goes down and so objects drift out quicker.

The tracking with a Dobsonian mount is "easier" in a way as you are generally attached to the scope and eyepiece. So as you look you learn to follow at the same time. However it has to be learnt and that takes time. Sometimes little other times lots.

I have had a couple of those mounts and actually preferred using it in its original configuration ... mainly because its difficult to accurately polar align when using it in EQ mode ( it was for me , anyway ) .. I certainly agree with the issues of overloading this mount . I had a zs61 and to be honest when a camera and the extras are added the weight shoots up . 

 

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Seems the OP has opened up an interesting thread ... Mathew , I hope all the above are seen as relevant to you . You will decide whats best for you , of course . I wish you good luck and Clear Skies .

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Posted (edited)
19 hours ago, MathewRimmington said:

I'm thinking of treating myself to a new telescope and would be very grateful if someone could help me settle the debate I'm having with myself. The question I can't seem to answer is whether to get a pretty decent telescope with a decent mount, or go for the wifi option and get a lesser scope/mount but have the goto and tracking functionality.

I would start with the Purpose (viewing vs imaging), and then take the approach of prioritising each of these in terms of importance - scope, mount, convenience of Go-To, wifi.

Reading what you have posted already, I would have gone for the decent scope + mount. Whilst considering the mounts look for those that have the ability to add on encoders for RA & DEC axis. So you can add tracking and then Go-To at later stage when budget permits. HTH.

Edited by AstroMuni

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