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which mount for decent astrophotography on the cheap ?


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Hi, so i have been dabbling in astronomy and astrophotography .. i have a skywatcher Explorer 130 and i have a motor with hand control.
its ok.. but it is an EQ2 mount and i dont think its good enough for photography really..
its not as stable as i would like, getting non drifting, stable longish exposures seems very difficult .. im using a micro four thirds camera and eyepiece projection with as 20mm eyepiece ( very similar to DSLR)
i do take great care to make sure it is polar aligned but being an EQ2 i have no hole for a polar alignment scope etc. so all done by eye..
anyway, what im asking i guess is, what can i get that wont cost the earth and will allow me to get decent photography images DSO, lunar and planetary ?
what are the differences in mounts ? i dont really want a goto mount, just something stable that tracks well and is pretty solid, any thoughts appreciated
cheers Rob

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Edited by rob12770
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3 hours ago, rob12770 said:

astrophotography, just something stable that tracks well and is pretty solid,

Rob, sorry, but those three things do not combine with cheap... 
The cheapest way to get some decent results would be an EQ5 mount, though the sailing effect of your Explorer 130 may ask for a HEQ5. I realize this answer is not what you are waiting for, In order to to use the few opportunities to get images a go-to mount is a 'must' I believe. You do not want to waste your precious time with searching for objects you can't see.. That brings you to the realm of HEQ5-Pro synscan. With tripod that will cost you close to a 1000 new (many 2nd hand available, though)... But you will be able to make stunning images instead of getting frustrated

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The best one you can afford! 

Alternatively drop the big scope and maybe try a star adventure and second hand DSLR and lens first? It may be a bit more forgiving whilst you get up to speed with everything else.

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7 hours ago, rob12770 said:
Hi, so i have been dabbling in astronomy and astrophotography .. i have a skywatcher Explorer 130 and i have a motor with hand control.
its ok.. but it is an EQ2 mount and i dont think its good enough for photography really..
its not as stable as i would like, getting non drifting, stable longish exposures seems very difficult .. im using a micro four thirds camera and eyepiece projection with as 20mm eyepiece ( very similar to DSLR)
i do take great care to make sure it is polar aligned but being an EQ2 i have no hole for a polar alignment scope etc. so all done by eye..
anyway, what im asking i guess is, what can i get that wont cost the earth and will allow me to get decent photography images DSO, lunar and planetary ?
what are the differences in mounts ? i dont really want a goto mount, just something stable that tracks well and is pretty solid, any thoughts appreciated
cheers Rob

 

 

You don't mention what camera you have, but it might be worth checking if there are Ascom drivers available for it - I have seen there are some available for the  lumix. If you can find some drivers, you could use Sharpcap (£10) to improve your polar alignment - the free version will allow you test whether your camera works with any driver you find and show you how good (or bad) your alignment is, but not guide you to improving it.

The alternative as mentioned is to get a skyguider or star adventurer and do some widefield astrophotography with your existing camera and lens.

It is possible to do astrophotography on a budget, but what you save in cost you will have to make up for with patience! If you could mention your budget it would help people give better suggestions - I see some of the above are already at £1000!

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Decent and least expensive I suggest means the EQ5, and get the Goto variant as adding motors afterwards will likely be around a similar cost. The goto's are steppers and the aftermarket is I understand simple DC motors, and so likely less accurate.

Unfortunately Decent, Cheap and Astrophotography do not go together.

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Hi an HEQ5 is the start mount for astrophotography  they do come up second-hand but your need to move fast they don't hang about long if I remember right the HEQ5 will carry 15kg max , try and get one that's had the Rowan belt convention done  , the belt kit used to be about £99 prices may have gone up 

You could put up a wanted add on here and Astro buy and sale you may get lucky and one come up for sale within a short time 

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8 hours ago, rob12770 said:
Hi, so i have been dabbling in astronomy and astrophotography .. i have a skywatcher Explorer 130 and i have a motor with hand control.
its ok.. but it is an EQ2 mount and i dont think its good enough for photography really..
its not as stable as i would like, getting non drifting, stable longish exposures seems very difficult .. im using a micro four thirds camera and eyepiece projection with as 20mm eyepiece ( very similar to DSLR)
i do take great care to make sure it is polar aligned but being an EQ2 i have no hole for a polar alignment scope etc. so all done by eye..
anyway, what im asking i guess is, what can i get that wont cost the earth and will allow me to get decent photography images DSO, lunar and planetary ?
what are the differences in mounts ? i dont really want a goto mount, just something stable that tracks well and is pretty solid, any thoughts appreciated
cheers Rob

 

 

Rob,  from experience getting into imaging isn't cheap.  To get a mount that is stable, tracks well and is solid then you're looking at best part of a grand for an HEQ5 as the entry level.  Granted there are posts where people have used EQ3 and EQ5 goto mounts, and have got some exceptional results, but the hoops they jump through to get there can make the process frustrating.  Best analogy is comparing a basic 1000cc car and a 3ltr audi.  Both can do 70 on the motorway, but in the Audi its' less work and the result is smooth and refined.   Whilst you are not looking for goto - it really makes thing easy and if you opt for DSO's that need guiding then the precision of the HEQ5 comes into its own.  Imaging on an undriven mount would be impractical.

But it also depends on what imaging you want to do.  You have lumped DSO's in with luna and planetary.  No one scope (and certainly not the 130) will fit all.  The 130 would be fine for luna imaging, either with a single shot DSLR, or CCD camera.  Planetary work needs a lot of magnification and aperture.  Using barlow lenses to increase focal lengths will dull the image of Mars, Jupiter and Saturn, so you might get dissatisfied with the results.  You could get some decent results with  a DSLR for DSO's but due to the long exposures you will need to use guiding, so this then puts you in the realms of computer control, running PHD2, EQMOD and using an EQDIR to connect the mount.... so you could find yourself  the deep end, and needing deep pockets, which is why having a decent mount that works well such as the HEQ5 is worth the investment. 

I'm speaking from experience.  I started with a 200P on an EQ5 goto.  I then wanted to venture into imaging as light pollution at the time was making visual observing difficult.  I connected a webcam (Philips SPC900) and used a cheap netbook to capture the Moon and then processed the result in a free stacking application.  I was happy with the result, but when I tried the same on Jupiter the results was underwhelming - I stacked two barlows to increase the focal ratio to f20 and whilst the disk of Jupiter was now larger, it was very dull.  It also meant the detail was poor as the camera lacked the pixel count to give a decent image.  I then switched to using a canon 400D to try DSO's and soon found that I couldn't get longer than 60s exposures before tracking errors spoilt the image.  It was at this time that I invested big time and upgraded to an HEQ5, with a ST80 and QLY5  guidecamera, and built a RPR observatory to house it in.  Now I can be up and taking my first image in less than 15 minutes.  In hindsight I wish I had opted for the HEQ5 /200P option at the start, as I ended up selling the EQ5 mount and tripod for a loss.

 

 

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Wise words said above: in the end astrophotography means steadiness (for effective guiding), and steadiness can only be reached by an adequate payload/mount capability rate. Therefore, I would calculate the payload and choose a proper mount accordingly. For AP, you shouldn’t go over 60% of the mount’s maximum weight capacity.

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Posted (edited)

Hi guys, thanks for all your replies, very helpful, 👌 i am working my way through them and doing lots off googling as i go lol..

I use a Micro four thirds Panasonic Lumix GH2 camera and   have dabbled with eyepiece projection, im  waiting on rings for my meade 90 800 refractor to try some prime focus..

im doing things on the cheap ATM because 1 im not rich ans 2 i dont want to sink loads of cash in just yet :O)

i dont like the idea of goto mounts, ( im old fashion i guess )  i just want something solid that tracks well,  has the ability to accept a polar scope and can handle a decent payload, time will tell, but please do keep suggestion forthcoming, im researching them all..

Many Thanks Rob  😃

 

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14 hours ago, rob12770 said:

Hi guys, thanks for all your replies, very helpful, 👌 i am working my way through them and doing lots off googling as i go lol..

I use a Micro four thirds Panasonic Lumix GH2 camera and   have dabbled with eyepiece projection, im  waiting on rings for my meade 90 800 refractor to try some prime focus..

im doing things on the cheap ATM because 1 im not rich ans 2 i dont want to sink loads of cash in just yet :O)

i dont like the idea of goto mounts, ( im old fashion i guess )  i just want something solid that tracks well,  has the ability to accept a polar scope and can handle a decent payload, time will tell, but please do keep suggestion forthcoming, im researching them all..

Many Thanks Rob  😃

 

In this day and age, this is going to be difficult.  To get a mount that has the precision to track well, takes a decent payload and is solid it will be goto.  By that I mean it will be driven and have the ability to be controlled by a handset or computer.  You don't have to use the handset / PC to slew (goto) targets, but it is required to enable tracking.  Something has to send the command to the mount to start tracking and to track in sideral rate.   30 years ago you could get mounts that had motor drives that constantly drove the RA axis at sidereal rate as soon as the power was applied  so you positioned the scope at the target manually and then locked the clutches and away it would go... but with the advent of cheaper components and advancement in technology that evolved into the modern goto computerised systems we see today and is now commonplace on higher end mounts ( you can't get a new HEQ5 without goto for example). 

However for mounts like the EQ5 there are still options to drive the scope without having the computerised goto system.  such as this dual axis kit , but whilst the EQ5 is a nice mount, it may not tick the boxes for payload and stability (as previously described ).

I guess we have all been there... wanting to dip a toe into the water but not wanting to waste lots of money, but equally not wanting to buy something that doesn't perform. 

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1 hour ago, malc-c said:

In this day and age, this is going to be difficult.  To get a mount that has the precision to track well, takes a decent payload and is solid it will be goto.  By that I mean it will be driven and have the ability to be controlled by a handset or computer.  You don't have to use the handset / PC to slew (goto) targets, but it is required to enable tracking.  Something has to send the command to the mount to start tracking and to track in sideral rate.   30 years ago you could get mounts that had motor drives that constantly drove the RA axis at sidereal rate as soon as the power was applied  so you positioned the scope at the target manually and then locked the clutches and away it would go... but with the advent of cheaper components and advancement in technology that evolved into the modern goto computerised systems we see today and is now commonplace on higher end mounts ( you can't get a new HEQ5 without goto for example). 

However for mounts like the EQ5 there are still options to drive the scope without having the computerised goto system.  such as this dual axis kit , but whilst the EQ5 is a nice mount, it may not tick the boxes for payload and stability (as previously described ).

I guess we have all been there... wanting to dip a toe into the water but not wanting to waste lots of money, but equally not wanting to buy something that doesn't perform. 

Some of the issues can be addressed without too much spend and accepting some compromises (along with a bit of patience). Some stability can be added to the set up by hanging a heavy weight (5kg bag of spuds?) below the mount. With a Lumix camera, Sharpcap and the Lumix ascom driver can be used to improve polar alignment, which would help with some of the exposure lengths.  Moving to widefield astrophotography with the camera, lens and the mount is another way to improve exposure times and counter some of the smaller issues with tracking. The compromise here is a different selection of targets.

I agree none of these are perfect solutions  but they they provide a cheaper option to increase the success rate for a beginner and to me make a bit more sense for someone who is dabbling and does not or cannot  spend £1000 on a new mount.

 

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On 07/04/2021 at 07:29, PeterCPC said:

The AVX might be a cheaper alternative - you can pick them up used. Love mine.

+1 for AVX, mine works fine with 8” short tube such as RASA, SCT. Not so well with 200P-DS if there’s a breeze due to it’s length.

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1 hour ago, Shimrod said:

Some of the issues can be addressed without too much spend and accepting some compromises (along with a bit of patience). Some stability can be added to the set up by hanging a heavy weight (5kg bag of spuds?) below the mount. With a Lumix camera, Sharpcap and the Lumix ascom driver can be used to improve polar alignment, which would help with some of the exposure lengths.  Moving to widefield astrophotography with the camera, lens and the mount is another way to improve exposure times and counter some of the smaller issues with tracking. The compromise here is a different selection of targets.

I agree none of these are perfect solutions  but they they provide a cheaper option to increase the success rate for a beginner and to me make a bit more sense for someone who is dabbling and does not or cannot  spend £1000 on a new mount.

 

Oh I totally agree... An EQ3, with simple RA Drive, and a telephoto lens and camera is an ideal start into wild field imaging... and wouldn't brake the bank.   But again is a different "category" of imaging, and may be something the OP might want to add to their list of things to check out.    But getting back to the OP's original post, 

 

On 07/04/2021 at 03:36, rob12770 said:

what im asking i guess is, what can i get that wont cost the earth and will allow me to get decent photography images DSO, lunar and planetary ?

I took this to mean either using his 130 (ignoring the spherical mirror issue), or upgrading the complete rig.  And by decent planetary images, took that to mean close up images rather than wide field.

I guess it might help if the OP gave us a budget and defined what it is that they are hoping to achieve in terms of end results.

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A lot of very good advice from the earlier posts.
I think I can summarise by suggesting you consider two things - already mentioned, but in a different presentation.

First a shed/observatory of some sort. You can leave kit setup, at outside temperature.
No tripod alignment to do. Pull off the roof, power up and away you go. Whether visual or imaging.
When you get cold, or tired, or it rains. Roof back on, pull the power plug and go indoors. No packing away.

Second. The mount type.
If you get the biggest/best you can afford, you will have flexibility on scope choice in the future.
Regard your wallet as the first limit. But the right mount is going to be a keeper.
Go as large or heavy duty as your back and journey outside can handle.
Of course if you take up suggestion 1, this is irrelevant.
I have a 35Kg (from memory) Alter D6 mount, that would use a similar weight tripod. Hardly a grab n go setup.
But it sits on a concrete pier in the shed. Usually holding 20Kg of Intes MN78. It can carry much more.

The shed build, and a decent mount were both very good astro spends.
The money spent being soon forgotten.

HTH, David.

I'm not suggesting my choice of scope and mount. Only the idea of a flexible or upgradeable package.

Edited by Carbon Brush
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You might find some tips on here to polar align with what you already have.

https://stargazerslounge.com/topic/362486-how-to-get-quick-and-easy-polar-alignment-and-add-a-push-to-finder-screen-to-an-eq2-mounted-scope-all-for-£20/

Your refractor I think is worth having a go with for the Moon and planets as well as trying prime focus with your explorer as both those targets will benefit from using a barlow and exposures would be short if not video rather than single exposures.

What camera lenses do you already own with your Panasonic?

Just the camera and lens would be much lighter for your mount and for aiming you could use a flash shoe mounted red dot finder.

Many DSO are large and you might be surprised what you could do with what you already own. Generally taking many exposures and stacking them to bring out faint details. 

If you can remove the lens from your camera DSLR I would look at prime focus if using one of your telescopes. Look for a T Ring and a T Mount to use with your DSLR.

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