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Hi All,

apologies in advance as i'm sure this is asked all the time!

Been looking at purchasing a Telescope recently, this is going to be a gift for my partner to stargaze.

I'm at a loss as what to get!, i know we'll be taking it around hiking and the likes - i don't mind lugging it if it means better quality images.

I believe a refractor type would be good for our uses, With an EQ mount over AZ - i'm a professional photographer by trade and as such may want to use this to then venture into astrophotography also.

I've been looking at the Celestron Astromaster line - more so the 90 and the 102 - i think the 102 only comes with AZ mounting however - also been considering the skywatcher 707.

Any help or suggestions would be much appreciated.

Budget £1-200 

will most likely travel with it

want to be able to view the moon at good detail - planets, constellations, galaxies - i realise this is almost everything to be seen and that my expectations will have to lower - potentially purchase more telescopes should we use this one often enough!

Durable, we like to hike and will no doubt go out our way to get to the best viewing locations - this is one choice that led me to refractors also, it maybe that they just look more durable?

thanks in advance for any help and suggestions offered,

Stephen.

Edited by sw89
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Hi Stephen and welcome to SGL.

Yes a small-ish short tube refractor is good for carrying. 80mm or 100mm sort of size.
It will though start to show chromatic aberration on moon and planets, unless you buy a more expensive scope and/or spend on a violet cut filter and the like.

A longer FL refractor will be better for high magnification (planets) but the long tube will be more demanding of the mount.

As an indication a good photo tripod might move 0.5degrees and can be ignored. That is the diametere of the full moon.
The camera may be heavy, but it is a compact block. A long tube is a different proposition and can be sail in the wind.

Alternatively a maksutov type scope will give you high magnification in a short tube.
But it is not so good for photography.

However, you might be better off concentrating on visual and a quick and easy alt-az mount for now.

As soon as you talk about astrophotography mounts you go up a size or two what is usually considered OK for visual.
This goes against being portable and gets expensive.

Take a look around SGL. There are lots of threads covering from refractors, grab and go setups, etc.

As a professional phographer, you should have a good idea of junk vs good kit if you are looking at used or new with your eyes.
But deciding on the basis of web pages is more difficult.

If you decide to buy new, use a proper astro retailer. Not amazon, Currys, etc. You want the post sales help and you don't want to buy junk.
If you buy used kit. The sale section on SGL will be open to you after a post time/count is reached. Alternatively UK Astrobuysell is generally good.
Avoid ebay like the plague. There is a lot of stuff that is really landfill quality.

Others will no doubt be along with their two pennorth.

Enjoy the journey.

David.

 

Edited by Carbon Brush
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Hi Stephen, welcome ,  and do make a post in the 'welcome' section to make a general hello.

As an ex pro photographer myself I understand the way you are thinking, but would you expect to get any sort of decent, fixed focus lens for £100 - £200 ? Let  alone a good lens plus the vital decent tripod and head needed to support and smoothly pan something you want to give you a view of maybe 200 x magnification .

I'm not trying to put you off, honest, but any telescope and tripod you can get for £200 is just not going to do what you want . I think the closest you could come to an acceptable 'scope at that price would be a heritage 130,

https://www.firstlightoptics.com/heritage/skywatcher-heritage-130p-flextube.html

which would show you plenty of astronomical wonders but not be rucsac portable or particularly useful for photography (as in you could, but it won't be easy )

If you already own decent tripods , you could mount one of these https://www.firstlightoptics.com/startravel/skywatcher-startravel-80-ota.html to any standard 1/4" tripod head screw using one of these adaptors https://www.firstlightoptics.com/dovetails-saddles-clamps/baader-vixen-style-dovetail-clamp.html which would be relatively  portable, and give OK wide field views , but comes with a delightful violet rind of chromatic aberration around bright targets , because it is an achromatic refractor . So, again, not ideal for photography. For further information do a search on here for the term 'st80' (short tube 80mm) in the search box top right. The ST80 is a fun wide field, cheap 'scope , loads of similar ones by various manufacturers, all 80mm aperture , and 400mm focal length (f5 in photographic terms) You can buy them on mounts for around £200, but those mounts are cheap, wobbly, and will not pack down as small as a photo tripod.

Maksutovs ( usually abbreviated to maks) are similar to the catadioptric lenses which had a brief popularity in the . what, 1980s? so might seem a viable proposition, but the only one in your budget would be the 102mm (just the 'scope, no mount etc https://www.firstlightoptics.com/maksutov/skywatcher-skymax-102-ota.html ) and while it is a dinky little thing, and could fit (with an adaptor) on a DSLR , it has a focal length of 1300mm , and aperture of 102mm, so is f12 . Imagine a camera lens at 1300mm, how hard it would be to keep it still , aim it accurately , find a tiny target in the sky ?

For something genuinely portable , with decent quality instruments available well  within your price range, I'd suggest some 10/50 binoculars and a monopod / ball or trigger head are the logical choices.

Heather

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3 minutes ago, Carbon Brush said:

Others will no doubt be along with their two pennorth.

Enjoy the journey.

David.

 

I agree with David's simultaneous posting and penn'orth 🙂

And I absolutely agree about the last paragraph, use a proper retailer, ask them questions before buying, they know their stuff .And surprisingly perhaps, they are often cheaper than , e .g . , Amazon

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50 minutes ago, sw89 said:

I believe a refractor type would be good for our uses, With an EQ mount over AZ - i'm a professional photographer by trade and as such may want to use this to then venture into astrophotography also.

If you want cheap, portable, suitable for visual and suitable for astrophotography, please be aware that you can only achieve one or at most two of these aims at once.

'Cheap and portable' works.

'Astrophotography' and any other of those aims, particularly 'cheap' may not work.

EQ mounts are not required except for long exposure deep space astrophotography. For anything else, the extra complication is a liability.

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Hi Stephen, welcome to SGL.

First of all I agree with Heather's comment that with a budget of £100 - 200, it's pretty much impossible to get anything decent for astrophotography.

My advice is going to be similar to the others. That is to focus on visual first.

Any decent newtonian reflectors (130mm upwards) aren't going to be backpack portable for hiking, so your choice of refractors or maks is good. As you're a pro photographer, I assume you've already got quite a few decent photo tripods and heads around. So the ST80 or the Skymax 102 suggested in the previous comments are both viable options within your budget. You will need to pick up this: https://www.firstlightoptics.com/dovetails-saddles-clamps/astro-essentials-mini-vixen-style-dovetail-clamp.html to use them with your existing photo tripods and heads.

If you could stretch your budget a little further, try to get this: https://www.firstlightoptics.com/pro-series/sky-watcher-evostar-72ed-ds-pro-ota.html. This is a refractor with an ED element in its lens, so the chromatic aberration found in achromatic refractors like the ST80 will be greatly reduced. The scope can then be used for astrophotography later on when you're ready to purchase a tracking EQ mount.

Edited by KP82
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1 hour ago, sw89 said:

I believe a refractor type would be good for our uses, With an EQ mount over AZ - i'm a professional photographer by trade and as such may want to use this to then venture into astrophotography also.

I've been looking at the Celestron Astromaster line 

The astromaster line is unfortunately mostly suitable for landfill use, and would be a frustrating experience for all but the most dedicated beginners. I got one as my first telescope and even as a complete novice was able to point out several issues at a glance. They look convenient because they come with everything: OTA, mount, tripod, accessories. But this means everything is poor quality to make the price they are sold at.

Others have suggested good options already: the small maksutovs or tabletop dobsonians, which fit your needs except for the photography one. Astrophotography is not really happening with your budget, other than eyepiece to mobile phone camera type shots. You can get a nice shot of the moon and perhaps the planets if youre lucky but no deep sky yet.

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Hi,

Thanks for your replies! i felt the want of astrophotography would be at a loss with this so will purely go for a visual use only approach - that will after all be the main use of this telescope for the beginning. if she then wants photos we'll invest in more suitable kit, i'll be sure to check out and reply more in depth tonight (currently on a break and typing this up quickly!) 

As long as i can get a scope and my partner can see the objects closer up i'll be happy and put the photography on the back burner! (I have plenty of other stuff keeping me occupied there anyways!, be nice to have a new hobby that doesn't revolve around it).

Many thanks again!,

Stephen.

 

 

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2 minutes ago, sw89 said:

Hi,

Thanks for your replies! i felt the want of astrophotography would be at a loss with this so will purely go for a visual use only approach - that will after all be the main use of this telescope for the beginning. if she then wants photos we'll invest in more suitable kit, i'll be sure to check out and reply more in depth tonight (currently on a break and typing this up quickly!) 

As long as i can get a scope and my partner can see the objects closer up i'll be happy and put the photography on the back burner! (I have plenty of other stuff keeping me occupied there anyways!, be nice to have a new hobby that doesn't revolve around it).

Many thanks again!,

Stephen.

 

 

Wise decision, Heritage 130 then, and (staying within budget) a copy of 'Turn Left at Orion' for about £20 and the universe awaits* 🙂

https://www.firstlightoptics.com/heritage/skywatcher-heritage-130p-flextube.html

If you want to read loads of info about what folk have seen with this 'scope, or what modifications and tweaks can be done to it, there's a vast thread about it under the name of one of the US editions of it as the 'OneSky' here https://www.cloudynights.com/topic/463109-onesky-newtonian-astronomers-without-borders/

Quite a lot of information on the slightly bigger 150 heritage (which I own and love ) you can find on here  applies just as much to the 130.

Heather

*clouds permitting

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I started with a SW 102. Actually still have it. I got it as a package with a az gti and tripod.

prices have gone up, but imho its still a great start for both visual AND imaging if you want to stretch the budget. it is about 100 quid more than it was last year, and more that double your budget, but it is portable, and though I know you don't mention it - you are going to find finding stuff to be a real PiTA and wish you got a goto mount. This way you start with one.

you'll get close moon shots, and with a barlow, you'll see jupiter and saturn as more than dots. 

You get nothing for free, as folk have said above - its F13 what with being quite powerful and small, but I never regretted starting with it.

And the benefit is, when you outgrow it, or decide that a more widefield visual or whatever thing is required, you keep the az-gti.

Also of course, you can fit cameras directly to the az-gti.. I do this with my canon 6d and 300mm F4 lens for example - sometime using with canon 1.4 or 2x extender. this gets me great pics with the same mount.

And of course, buy used it you can, and that will get you closer to that 200 quid point... though prob still over it.

a used 102 goes for around 80 quid. a used az-gti maybe about 200 quid (with tripod). so not that much over your budget.

I've got both of those thing spare to bo honest.. if interested in a deal (though mine is modified for EQ mount at present).. though that might taint all the above advice - but believe me I wrote it all till I got to the end, then realised they are sitting on a shelf now. 🙄

 

Edited by powerlord
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32 minutes ago, KP82 said:

Hi Stephen, welcome to SGL.

First of all I agree with Heather's comment that with a budget of £100 - 200, it's pretty much impossible to get anything decent for astrophotography.

My advice is going to be similar to the others. That is to focus on visual first.

Any decent newtonian reflectors (130mm upwards) aren't going to be backpack portable for hiking, so your choice of refractors or maks is good. As you're a pro photographer, I assume you've already got quite a few decent photo tripods and heads around. So the ST80 or the Skymax 102 suggested in the previous comments are both viable options within your budget. You will need to pick up this: https://www.firstlightoptics.com/dovetails-saddles-clamps/astro-essentials-mini-vixen-style-dovetail-clamp.html to use them with your existing photo tripods and heads.

If you could stretch your budget a little further, try to get this: https://www.firstlightoptics.com/pro-series/sky-watcher-evostar-72ed-ds-pro-ota.html. This is a refractor with an ED element in its lens, so the chromatic aberration found in achromatic refractors like the ST80 will be greatly reduced. The scope can then be used for astrophotography later on when you're ready to purchase a tracking EQ mount.

I'd agree with the 72 ED as a possible useful later step into photography, but note that it is not only £300 for the 'scope only (no mount or tripod) but doesn't come with a diagonal , or finder, or eyepieces ... probably another £100 ( at least) to add those ...

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18 minutes ago, powerlord said:

a used 102 goes for around 80 quid. a used az-gti maybe about 200 quid (with tripod). so not that much over your budget.

I've got both of those thing spare to bo honest.. if interested in a deal (though mine is modified for EQ mount at present).. though that might taint all the above advice - but believe me I wrote it all till I got to the end, then realised they are sitting on a shelf now. 🙄

 

£80 for a 102mm ? Have his hand off if he's offering, , that's half what they have been going for recently ! 🙂

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Oh, sorry my bad - for some reason I thought I'd seem em at that. But yeh.. its more like 160-180.

 

well, ignore that bit of my advice then. But I would still got for a second hand az-gti. As a photographer, you can stick your kit on it for your imaging. you don't really want or need lots of FL for imaging - just long subs and lots of em. Have a look at the beginners imaging 135mm thread for examples. And have a look at the AZ thread for examples people have captured with the az-gti in az mode, rather than the modified EQ mode - which would be a lot less portable if hiking,etc what with the bar, weights, etc.

 

So that gives you a solid goto mount, battery powered and controlled by your smartphone. Get that now, do some imaging with what you've got camera wise, then later add a scope ? If it's just for visual, you don't need fancy APO ones that don't distort colours like the 72ED. Instead, you can get a cheap achromatic job - and you can definately pick one of those up for 50 quid or so ?

stu

 

Edited by powerlord
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24 minutes ago, Tiny Clanger said:

£80 for a 102mm ? Have his hand off if he's offering, , that's half what they have been going for recently ! 🙂

Oh, hang on, I thought that was a sw 102 REFRACTOR ... if it's the 102 mak, it's just 2/3 of what they go for ...

If you are thinking of the mak, this page has some useful comparisons, and photos taken through it http://www.waloszek.de/astro_sw_mak102_e.php

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I don''t have many pics from that time with the skymax 102, as I sort of got on to new kit..and it got left on the shelf... but here is IC434 shot with my canon 1200d, mak 102 and az gti mount.

bear in mind I'd only been imaging for about 1 month and didn't really know what I was doing.

that's 30 odd 30 second exposures stacked. Which frankly at the time I though was absolutely frecking awesome.

1517237616_IC434.newaftertutorials.thumb.jpg.2607ea8a510ff33adbf0e507ea1baa55.jpg

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The going rate for ST80s second hand on here is around £80, and they last seconds at that price before being snapped up .

But this is a gift, and to be honest, something second hand really may not be what the OP wants to to present their partner with ...

Nope, my vote is still for a visual only, heritage 130 , brand new, 130mm aperture, no CA , no wobbly mount , wide field so easy to find targets, easily wrapped, big cuboid box to stick under the xmas tree (or beside birthday breakfast table ... ) . The heritage could potentially be removed from the tabletop dob mount, and used on a sturdy photo tripod by using an adaptor, which might make it portable in, say a 45l rucsac I guess , or (I think, but am not 100% sure so do check) there may be a threaded hole in the 130 base, allowing the whole shebang to be put on a tripod .

All for under £200

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Hi @sw89 & partner and welcome to SGL. :hello2:

Just to give you a comparison of the aperture diameter... 

post-17337-133877406639_thumb.jpgpost-4682-0-18335100-1394160258_thumb.jpg

Above are two images of my TeleVue Ranger [obj: 70mm - f/l: 480mm] and a 're-modded' Meade ETX105 [obj:105mm - f/l: 1470mm].

Of the two, the Ranger is lightest of the two. The ETX can be transported in a padded camera bag or rucksack with a few eyepieces and
accessories.

Edited by Philip R
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aye fair enough, tatty second hand not much good as shiny gifts. well, over to the OP. I know last well.. this time last year.. that's what I started looking at to buy - then decided to up it to the az-gti/skymax102 bundle. Frankly personally I've found goto undispensible, but I am a lazy git and just didn't want to have to learn to start hop.

Let us know what you decide Stephen and how the pressie goes down of course!

stu

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Hello All!

Wow! you've all gave me so much to think about! sorry for the late reply!, you've all be so incredibly helpful! - glad i found this place and im sure ill be using it alot more!

Been looking over suggestions and from what i can ascertain is the below:

Great budget / starter scope : Heritage 130 as suggested by @Tiny Clanger

@KP82 Suggestion of : Evostar 72Ed : https://www.firstlightoptics.com/pro-series/sky-watcher-evostar-72ed-ds-pro-ota.html has got my interest - i'm aware this will need further expense however it seems this will be a bit more future proof ? i'm willing to spread the budget a bit further to future proof.

Suggestions of the ST80 ( https://www.firstlightoptics.com/startravel/skywatcher-startravel-80-ota.html ) and Skymax 102 (https://www.firstlightoptics.com/maksutov/skywatcher-skymax-102-ota.html) also seem viable.

Thanks for @ONIKKINEN Honest review of the astromaster lines as i had almost pulled the trigger on those!

@powerlord really given me to loads to think of there! https://www.firstlightoptics.com/beginner-telescopes/sky-watcher-startravel-102-az-gte.html - i assume this is similar to what you was talking about?

Suggestions of secondhand although appreciated is correct by @Tiny Clanger, if it wasn't be bought for a gift or myself i would snap secondhand up in a heart beat.

@Philip R thanks for the photo! it does help to see size of items in a location when considering transporting them all!

At present it seems my choices go as follow:

Evostar 72ED - will require more expense but i feel may last longer? - how does this hold up as starting out a visual only scope - this will be its main intention after all, but from further research it appears this is a decent intro to the whole astrophotography also, i'm aware ill have to purchase more additions to have this go as it isn't straight out the box useable. https://www.firstlightoptics.com/pro-series/sky-watcher-evostar-72ed-ds-pro-ota.html

Heritage 130 - does what it says on the tin, well for a decent entry price. https://www.firstlightoptics.com/heritage/skywatcher-heritage-130p-flextube.html

ST80 - again appears budget friendly, i do have photo tripods i could put this onto. https://www.firstlightoptics.com/startravel/skywatcher-startravel-80-ota.html

SW 102 - https://www.firstlightoptics.com/beginner-telescopes/sky-watcher-startravel-102-az-gte.html

Links for my own references when coming back, apologies!

Appreciate i started this question posing it to have a lower budget however, Like everything we want to start in i severely underestimated it, it seems!, although you have given me great options, now starting to feel i may need to take the budge a bit further to not have re-investment further down the line (if that makes any sense!) suppose it's a tad like photography you can spend as little or as much as you'd like, depending on your requirements etc.

Would just like to thank you all once again, you've been incredibly helpful and i have alot to think about and the required information now to make a better decision.

if anyone could weigh in on the capabilities of the Evostar 72ED they'd be much appreciated, first being the point above, how well does this work as a visual only to start with? i know my partner would like to be able to see the moon up close - will this similar to other scopes i've seen show craters etc in detail?

I am willing to still knock the idea of astrophotography on the head and get a dedicate setup for that further down the line, however the 72ED seems a nice entry level to both visual and astro?

I'll be sure to let you all know what one i purchased and how the gift was received.

Many thanks,

Stephen.

 

 

 

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Out of those 4 options you've narrowed down so far their visual capabilities can be ranked as follows:

Heritage 130 > 72ED > ST102 > ST80

The 130 heritage dob wins simply because of the shear difference in aperture. The ST80 and ST102 short tube refractors are primarily used for wide star fields. Here the ST102 can show slightly more dimmer stars than the 72ED again due to aperture advantage. However both of them being fast achromats lose out to the 72ED when it comes to lunar and planetary performance.

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https://astronomy.tools/calculators/field_of_view/?fov[]=1945|104|||1||&solar_system=moon

just saying.. still reckon if you want to be awed with big magnification, consider the skymax 102.

and it comes with a number of EPs ready to use usually.

that view is with a 13mm which will take the whole view up with the moon.

and a cheap barlow will be usable and get you right in close.

At the end of the day it depends what you want to look at. big bright things(moon), big dark things(constillations, clusters) , small bright things (planets).

Looking through the 72ED or 130 at the moon will be like a good pair of binos. or super zoom camera.

Looking at it with a skymax 102 is the sort of thing that awed me when I started. however, all good choices.

Edited by powerlord
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6 minutes ago, KP82 said:

Out of those 4 options you've narrowed down so far their visual capabilities can be ranked as follows:

Heritage 130 > 72ED > ST102 > ST80

The 130 heritage dob wins simply because of the shear difference in aperture. The ST80 and ST102 short tube refractors are primarily used for wide star fields. Here the ST102 can show slightly more dimmer stars than the 72ED again due to aperture advantage. However both of them being fast achromats lose out to the 72ED when it comes to lunar and planetary performance.

I'll agree with that.

My vaguely relevant experience is of a heritage 150 dob, 102mm achro. and ST80 . The refractors (being achromats) show CA, the ST80 is easy to mount securely because it is short and light and widefield. The 102mm 'frac is still wide field, but needs a far more steady mount and tripod to avoid it trembling like a leaf , it is heavier and longer (mine is 80cm nose to  tail, I  just checked) so it can wag around.

The heritage tabletop dob stand is sturdy and vibration free (I didn't even see any vibration in a 'scope when I owned just the heritage)  but needs careful 'nudging' to aim it at high magnification.

I can see faint targets (for example the Ring Nebula M57),  in my little dob which are entirely invisible through the ST80 , just because of the greater aperture of the 150mm.  I have been able to see M57 in the 102 mm refractor , but it was considerably less clear, and if I'd not already seen it in the dob I might have scanned right past it . I'm in suburbia, so my sky is rather light polluted .

The 72mm ED will be better for photography, lacking the CA you get with cheap refractors , and fine for visual work on bright targets like the Moon, Jupiter and Saturn, but less good for faint visual targets.

So, it depends where your priorities lie. Most people who get into observing tend to own more than one 'scope, precisely because there is no single type or size that does it all ! I thought all  I'd ever buy would be the 150 dob :evil4: it didn't quite work out like that 🙂 . It was, however, a great 'scope to start out with, and continues to be the one I choose for DSOs on Moonless nights .

 

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Hi ... i have the Evo 72ED and at this point only use it for visual ... in my opinion ( which will be a bit biased ) the views of stars and planets are tack sharp with very no CA , even on the brightest objects 

Planets whilst being sharp are obviously small , but i find i can boost magnification to close to maximum on planets and get very good views . Of course this scope excels at widefield ... i actually use mine as a finder for my long F11 frac on the SkyTee mount , and it works a treat . 

Look , its not a cheap scope and as others have commented , you just get the scope ( and case ) . So you do have to weigh up the costs , but , as in most things in life you do get what you pay for , but , there are bargains to be had ( buying used ) . 

One thing you can be sure of , if you buy a used scope from people on this site you can almost guarantee that the equipment has been well looked after , and the seller nearly always points out even the slightes defect , ie paint chips 

Stu

 

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23 hours ago, powerlord said:

I don''t have many pics from that time with the skymax 102, as I sort of got on to new kit..and it got left on the shelf... but here is IC434 shot with my canon 1200d, mak 102 and az gti mount.

bear in mind I'd only been imaging for about 1 month and didn't really know what I was doing.

that's 30 odd 30 second exposures stacked. Which frankly at the time I though was absolutely frecking awesome.

1517237616_IC434.newaftertutorials.thumb.jpg.2607ea8a510ff33adbf0e507ea1baa55.jpg

brilliant pic Stu 

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