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Need help getting first scope - found deals need help sorting out :)


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Hi guys! So, I'm looking into getting a scope. I enjoy astrophotography, my cam setup is fine at the moment for wide field (A6400 + samyang 12mm f2.0) untracked photos. I have found quite a few things I could buy within my budget so I'll just lay everything out below (in bold and underlined), with a TLDR list of things+prices at the end if you don't feel like reading my ramblings.

 

At first I thought the best thing to do was just to get something like a Skywatcher Adventure 2i kit for astrophoto (388€) so I could have tracked photos. Thing is, my lens has such a wide FOV I don't think that makes much sense.  Also, this mount seems to be a bit limited on the weight department, and I like the idea of getting a scope for visual that might also work ok if I hooked up my camera to it, so I think I would pass the weight pretty quickly.

 

Then I started to look for used mounts that would allow me to have an astrophoto setup that also allowed me to use a scope+camera. I found a used NEQ3 mount with the synscan goto installed for 325€

Looking around a bit more, I found on local marketplaces used Skyscan 2001 mounts(as low as 60€), which seem to be EQ3-2 according to my search on the internet. These, obviously, do not have any motors installed. Are these a better deal than the NEQ3 if I can get it motorized? Anyone know if they can even be motorized to begin with, and around what price I can expect the kit to cost?

 

On the tube side of things, I seem to have hit the mother of deals and found a Pentaflex 76/700 for 20€ which I'm praying to god is OK when I go down to see it in person later this week because goddamm that's cheap. I bought a sbvony collimator to bring with me to check the collimation just in case.

This would make a pentaflex 76/700 + skyscan 2001 mount setup for around 80€.

 

 

I also found interesting ''all in one'' type deals for used Nexstar scopes locally, dunno if these would overall give me a better bang for my buck:

114/1000 nexstar + barlow5x + solar filter + 1.5x erecting lens+ original tripod = 225€

Skywatcher 130 + EQ2 mount = 150€

celestron 127 SLT with a nexstar SE mount instead of the original, this mount has a built-in wedge to use as EQ= 400€

nexstar 4GT = 340€

nexstar 127 SLT with case (the case looks amazing tbh haha) = 400€

nexstar 127 SLT scope only = 220€

skywatcher 130/900 + skyscan 2001 + 2 random ass eyepieces I'll most likely change = 125€

EQ3-2 mount with goto = 300€ (this is is the only item that would be shipped, kinda worried about that)

(adding back the other deals in the 'hard to read' part)

skywatcher adventure 2i full kit = 388€

NEQ3 + synscan goto = 325€

sky scan 2001 mount = 60€

pentaflex 76/700 = 20€

 

I would like to have a setup with good upgrade potential. 

Can anyone help me sort through this mess? haha

 

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Whats your budget?

Astrophotography is very expensive, so this has to be said before advice can be given. But looking at the list of gear you have laid out its not a good look for telescope astronomy. Out of these your best bet would be the SW star adventurer and maybe a lens for your existing camera. Or the EQ3-2 with GO-TO and hook your camera + lens to that with a few adapters in between, but the EQ3-2 is also not really future proof .

49 minutes ago, drkztan said:

I would like to have a setup with good upgrade potential.

This rules out most of the items in the list, except for maybe the star adventurer. But the star adventurer is also limited in capacity and really shouldn't be used with gear other than a camera + lens or a small telescope.

The EQ-2 class of mounts are un-usable for astrophotography, and honestly a bit painful to use for visual too. The reason you also see many EQ3 class mounts for sale is that they are not wanted, and also mostly unsuitable for astrophotography. You can image with an EQ3 class mount but the telescope would have to be small and still there would be trouble ahead. The nexstar 127 is the closest to a telescope you could use for imaging and visual, but this being a maksutov is also limited in its usage as a photography telescope. Not impossible but you will have a small field of view and will get quite small resolution images in the end. But for smaller objects out there it could be used. Also for planetary and lunar photography it would work great, although preferably with another camera.

The 76mm newtonians dont have a good rep and the pentaflex is being sold for 20e for a good reason = the owner just wants to get rid of it. Not a telescope you want to have for visual or astrophotography.

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Bare minimum for anything serious in long exposure AP would be:

Eq5 manual mount

Single stepper motor with controller for tracking (can easily be DIY if you have basic skills, or purchased as separate kit)

130PDS

Coma corrector

That is already close to 1000e

If you don't have the budget - maybe look into getting a star tracker or DIY-ing one (look for barn door tracker) and getting some longer FL lens. Samyang 85mm and 135mm are very good for AP.

You can also check here:

https://www.teleskop-express.de/shop/index.php/cat/c270_Travel-mounts-for-astro-imaging.html

if you don't want to mess with DIY - there are some fairly basic solutions based on EQ1/EQ2 mount and small trackers. Do note that none of these are capable of handling telescopes or longer focal lengths.

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Budget is 500€, can stretch a bit if the difference is worth it.

I thought the 76mm Newtonian was a pretty good deal tho? That sucks, i thought i had found something nice and cheap, i found similiar tubes going for much more used.

Would the ''upper tier'' of gear for this budget be something like a Skywatcher NEQ5 ( 390€ ) + AR motor for it for around 100€ to have something upgradeable that can fit larger stuff? Maybe throw in the 20€ 76mm tube just to have something while I save up for more stuff? haha

The NEQ3 with a goto already installed for 325€ would get me most of the way though, is there nothing I can pair this with to get a nice visual setup while using the NEQ3 for astro without scopes or with small scopes?

Edited by drkztan
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A good general rule to START astrophotography is to go at least one size up on the mount from the standard package offered with a scope.

Considering a mount only. You need something that is rigid and tracks well.

To put it into perspective, a full moon is about 1/2 degree diameter. Or 30 arc minutes.
If your mount + scope sways in the breeze by this amount, which is almost nothing by 'daylight photo' standards, you have lost the target.

If you want a photo of Jupiter for the cloud bands, and the moons. You have a similar rigidity issue.
Jupiter is around 30 arc seconds diameter. That is 1/60 of a full moon size.

With either target you can use a short exposure time and just keep trying if you get a blurred result.
But for Jupiter think in terms of a couple or more seconds exposure if you have something like 500mm focal length.

Everything else (well almost) is dimmer and exposure times are much longer.

For those looking at my numbers.....
I realise the apparent size of both targets varies with time, and that exposure time depends on the objective size and camera performance.
I am only trying to give a general illustration of the problem.

So your mount has to be good solid lump. How well does it track an object?
A basic motor drive on one axis will follow the object at 360 degrees of rotation over 24 hours.
So if your mount is EXACTLY aligned for your latitude, you can run all night.
However, drives are 'lumpy' The gear trains have periodic error and have speed errors, and backlash.......
Oh and your exact latitude setting (polar alignment) is never spot on.
All of this limts the exposure time before the object slides over too many pixels.
How much and how long depends on how many $$££ you spend on the mount.

I know a solution, I will add guiding to overcome the mount limitations.
Now spend on a 2nd scope and 2nd camera.
But this increases the package weight. Off now to buy a bigger mount - again.

OK. Take lots and lots of short exposures.
Throw away the poor pictures. Stack the good pictures to align position & rotation errors.
Then do all the other image processing tricks.
This all works better if you also take blank light and dark images to compensate for camera performance issues.
Don't expect to 'see' much until you have spent hours on image processing.

As you can see. Astrophoography is a money and time pit.
Yes it can give lots and lots of enjoyment and you can produce stunning images.
But as a general rule, once you go beyond a couple of hundred mm focal length, and a DSLR on a tracking mount. the ££££££££££££££££££ run away.

Sorry if this sounds negative. Hopefully I'm being realistic.

David.

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59 minutes ago, Carbon Brush said:

As you can see. Astrophoography is a money and time pit.

Yeah, I'm familiar with ''infinite upgrade'' hobbies. I'm a software dev, i'm into 3D printers and robotics. Actually, I work at a robotics company haha I'm fully aware that there will always be a 'next big upgrade' you can get for virtually anything, I'm just trying to find out what is the best combination of parts for this particular budget bracket. If that means a visual-first oriented setup then that's fine, at the end of the day it seems any mount that can do eq tracking is enough to hold just my camera to do some tracked shots without telescopes, and these mounts can hold a visual oriented scope when i'm not shooting.

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@vlaivs suggestions are sound IMO. The skywatcher 130PDS is perhaps the cheapest entry level scope to buy and mount that has use both visually and photographically. I think you could mount one on an EQ3 but it wont be fun and you will want to upgrade the mount soon. I would aim for the EQ5 myself.

The best option, one that you wouldnt have to regret later would in my opinion to save up first instead of buying lacking gear now and then saving.

But for visual only you can get a nice scope for around 500. The heritage 150P, a dobsonian is a popular first scope for 320e https://www.teleskop-express.de/shop/product_info.php/info/p12279_Skywatcher-Dobson-Telescope-Heritage-150P-Flextube---150-mm-Aperture.html

That leaves some money for upgraded eyepieces and extra trinkets. Dobsonians are manual mount/telescope combos in one so tracked long exposure will not be happening with one, but you could image the Moon with it.

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1 hour ago, drkztan said:

Yeah, I'm familiar with ''infinite upgrade'' hobbies. I'm a software dev, i'm into 3D printers and robotics. Actually, I work at a robotics company haha I'm fully aware that there will always be a 'next big upgrade' you can get for virtually anything, I'm just trying to find out what is the best combination of parts for this particular budget bracket. If that means a visual-first oriented setup then that's fine, at the end of the day it seems any mount that can do eq tracking is enough to hold just my camera to do some tracked shots without telescopes, and these mounts can hold a visual oriented scope when i'm not shooting.

Ok, so there you go - start with EQ5 and look at DIY kits for full goto mount solution.

Get a pair of stepper motors, 3d print brackets to mount them, 3d print hand controller. Get arduino and stepper drivers to drive the mount. There are few already made open source DIY solutions that you can look into.

https://www.astroeq.co.uk/about.php

https://onstep.groups.io/g/main/wiki

All those small newtonians have issues and won't be anywhere near suitable for astrophotography.

They all have very flimsy/cheap 1.25" focusers. There is no coma corrector available in 1.25" format - you would have to build one yourself (I've found once design for it - you need to order two particular lenses and assemble them in some sort of housing that will fit into 1.25" - spacing is very important).

Focus point is not optimized for imaging with those scopes and most won't even reach focus with DSLR type camera.

Cheapest / smallest option is really 130PDS. It has nice dual speed focuser (which you can later upgrade with DIY auto focus unit once you get hooked :D )

Alternatively - print your own EQ mount?

If you are into programming / robotics and 3d printing - than this will be a challenge for you:

And maybe start small - with camera and lenses rather than telescope.

Purchase one of those nice dobsonian telescopes for visual ...

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4 hours ago, vlaiv said:

Ok, so there you go - start with EQ5 and look at DIY kits for full goto mount solution.

Get a pair of stepper motors, 3d print brackets to mount them, 3d print hand controller. Get arduino and stepper drivers to drive the mount. There are few already made open source DIY solutions that you can look into.

https://www.astroeq.co.uk/about.php

https://onstep.groups.io/g/main/wiki

All those small newtonians have issues and won't be anywhere near suitable for astrophotography.

They all have very flimsy/cheap 1.25" focusers. There is no coma corrector available in 1.25" format - you would have to build one yourself (I've found once design for it - you need to order two particular lenses and assemble them in some sort of housing that will fit into 1.25" - spacing is very important).

Focus point is not optimized for imaging with those scopes and most won't even reach focus with DSLR type camera.

Cheapest / smallest option is really 130PDS. It has nice dual speed focuser (which you can later upgrade with DIY auto focus unit once you get hooked :D )

Alternatively - print your own EQ mount?

If you are into programming / robotics and 3d printing - than this will be a challenge for you:

And maybe start small - with camera and lenses rather than telescope.

Purchase one of those nice dobsonian telescopes for visual ...

Yeah thanks, this is somewhat what I wanted, i must have missed your first comment. I looked for a DIY solution but all I found was flimsy mounts, this one is by far the sturdiest i've seen, i'll see if I can do something of my own. Personally knowing NEMA motors, I won't even begin to try to design an enclosure that can hold a lot of weight, as this requires mechanical engineering that I'm not trained in for the gearing ratios and stuff for amplifying strength. I'll definitely try making something that can hold smaller stuff, like just the camera tho.

I went down to my local shop and I can grab an EQ5 manual mount and a 150PDS which the guy at the shop told me would be decent enough for both some astro and visual for a bit more than my original budget. I'll worry about getting a DIY kit to make the EQ5 track later on, i've seen them for around 100€. Does the 150PDS sound right? It is this kit:  here

Edited by drkztan
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57 minutes ago, drkztan said:

Yeah thanks, this is somewhat what I wanted, i must have missed your first comment. I looked for a DIY solution but all I found was flimsy mounts, this one is by far the sturdiest i've seen, i'll see if I can do something of my own. Personally knowing NEMA motors, I won't even begin to try to design an enclosure that can hold a lot of weight, as this requires mechanical engineering that I'm not trained in for the gearing ratios and stuff for amplifying strength. I'll definitely try making something that can hold smaller stuff, like just the camera tho.

Yes, gearing is essential for this sort of thing and by far the most difficult part to get right as it must be machined with very tight tolerances in order to track properly for AP.

If you still want to try DIY-ing star tracker - take a look here for some ideas about gearing:

 

1 hour ago, drkztan said:

I went down to my local shop and I can grab an EQ5 manual mount and a 150PDS which the guy at the shop told me would be decent enough for both some astro and visual for a bit more than my original budget. I'll worry about getting a DIY kit to make the EQ5 track later on, i've seen them for around 100€. Does the 150PDS sound right? It is this kit:  here

That is another good combination. 150PDS is just a bit bigger version of 130PDS (they share design and focuser - just larger aperture and focal length).

I would say it is a bit more geared towards visual than 130PDS and a bit less for imaging. Actually it is very good imaging scope - but it is larger and heavier.

All that makes it a bit harder to work with as longer FL makes all tracking imperfections easier to see and more weight puts more strain on the mount.

On the other hand - larger aperture gathers more light so it will show slightly brighter images visually and will show a bit more objects.

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